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Meet the Press Blog Archive

Catch up with Meet the Press blog posts from past years leading up to May 17, 2022
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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AARP launches ads in W.Va. urging Manchin to support reconciliation bill

WASHINGTON — AARP, the advocacy group for Americans over fifty, is launching new cable and broadcast TV ads in West Virginia urging centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to support a budget reconciliation bill that includes a major prescription drug savings policy.

The new TV ad, first reported by NBC News, is slated to run in West Virginia starting this Wednesday through at least July 5. An AARP spokesperson said it is part of a multi-million-dollar ad campaign that will include radio and print ads.

"Everybody knows Joe Manchin cares about West Virginians. And he knows too many of us are struggling to pay for our medicine. That's why he supports letting Medicare negotiate lower drug prices," says a narrator in the ad, which ends with: "Joe Manchin, keep fighting to lower drug prices."

It focuses on a priority of AARP's: allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which Manchin has publicly endorsed. And it comes at a crucial stretch: In recent weeks, the senator has held private negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about a bill that can bypass Republicans, who oppose the idea of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

“We know we have the votes to pass Medicare negotiation through reconciliation, and we are committed to pushing back whenever PhRMA and their allies try to mislead the public and block Congress from lowering prescription drug prices," said Nancy LeaMond, the chief advocacy officer for AARP.

Manchin has said he would be open to a package that includes drug savings, energy investments and tax hikes on high earners and corporations.

The recent Manchin-Schumer negotiations have been tight-lipped and the West Virginia Democrat, who scuttled the House-passed Build Back Better Act, is facing conflicting pressures on striking a narrower reconciliation deal over tax and spending policy that can bypass the filibuster. The new AARP ad campaign is designed to push back on drug industry opposition to the savings policy and aims to give Manchin political cover to support the bill.

David Perdue lags far behind Gov. Kemp in ad spending Georgia's GOP primary

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Ahead of Georgia’s May 24 primary, former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is falling behind in the race for the state's GOP gubernatorial nomination. 

He’s spent no money on ads since April 29, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. In total, he’s spent $1.2 million on ads, a relatively low amount for that race. 

Perdue is backed by former President Donald Trump and is challenging Gov. Brain Kemp, who drew ire from Trump in 2020 when he refused to overturn the results of the presidential election in the state, which was carried by President Joe Biden.

So far this cycle, Kemp has spent over $5 million on ads. He’s recently pivoted his focus to the general election this fall, where Democrats are leading in ad spending by the millions, rather than spending money against Perdue.

Recent polls show that Kemp not only leads Perdue, but he also could clear 50 percent of the primary vote, meaning he would avoid a runoff election. A runoff would take place on June 21 if neither candidate clears that 50 percent threshold.

If he wins outright, Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 election, where Abrams lost by less than two percentage points. Abrams is already the de facto Democratic nominee, facing no challengers in the primary contest.

On top of Kemp’s ad spending, the Republican Governors Association has spent on his behalf, pouring over $4.6 million on the airwaves to back Kemp.

But Abrams and her allies are far and away the leaders in ad spending in the race so far. Abrams’ campaign has spent $7.8 million on the airwaves and Fair Fight Action has spent an additional $6.6 million on ads supporting Abrams.

Midterm Roundup: A busy primary night

Tuesday's primaries across the country featured some key races in places like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Oregon, Idaho and North Carolina. In Oregon, President Joe Biden's endorsement doesn't seem to have helped Rep. Kurt Schrader. Though the race hasn't been called yet, he's trailing his challenger, Jamie McLeod-Skinner by over 20 percentage points.

And in Pennsylvania, former President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate for Senate, Mehmet Oz, hasn't run away with it. The race is still too close to call, and former hedge fund manager David McCormick is trailing Oz by only 0.20 percentage points.

Image: Mehmet Oz
Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pa., waves while speaking at a primary night election gathering in Newtown, Pa., on May 17, 2022.Seth Wenig / AP

Here are some other key results from Tuesday’s wild primaries, with NBC News’ projection in parentheses, as they stand now: 

Here are some other key results from Tuesday’s wild primaries, with NBC News’ projection in parentheses, as they stand now: 

Kentucky-03 (Democratic): Morgan McGarvey 63.3 percent (winner), Attica Scott 36.7 percent. 

Idaho-02 (GOP): Mike Simpson 54.6 percent (winner), Bryan Smith 32.7. 

North Carolina-01 (GOP): Sandy Smith 30.7 percent, Sandy Roberson 26.1 percent (race has not been called). 

North Carolina-13 (GOP): Bo Hines 32.1 percent (winner), DeVan Barbour 22.7 percent. 

North Carolina-13 (Democratic): Wiley Nickel 51.7 percent (winner), Sam Searcy 23 percent. 

North Carolina-14 (Democratic): Jeff Jackson 86.4 percent (winner), Ram Mammadov 13.8 percent. 

Oregon governor (Democratic): Tina Kotek 57.4 percent (winner), Tobias Read 33 percent. 

Oregon governor (GOP): Christine Drazan 23.5 percent, Bob Tiernan 20 percent. 

Oregon-04 (Democratic): Val Hoyle 65.3 percent (winner), Doyle Canning 15.5 percent. 

Oregon-04 (GOP): Alek Skarlatos ran unopposed. 

Oregon-05 (GOP): Lori Chavez-DeRemer 42.2 percent, Jimmy Crumpacker 30.5 percent (race has not been called). 

Oregon-06 (Democratic): Andrea Salinas 37.8 percent (winner), Carrick Flynn 19 percent. 

Pennsylvania-01 (GOP): Brian Fitzpatrick 65.5 percent (winner), Alex Entin 34.5 percent.

Pennsylvania-08 (GOP): Jim Bognet 68.8 percent (winner), Mike Marsicano 31.2 percent.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: 

Oklahoma Senate: The Daily Beast is reporting that Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who is running in the crowded GOP Senate primary, plans to introduce a bill to expunge Trump’s impeachment 

Pennsylvania Senate: NBC’s Mike Memoli reports that Rep. Conor Lamb faced long odds with President Biden, a key supporter of his marquee 2018 House race, sitting on the sidelines

New York governor: Gov. Kathy Hochul is up with a new spot centered on protecting abortion access

Los Angeles Mayor: There were a few big developments in the race for mayor — actor Danny Trejo cut an ad for Councilman Kevin de León, rapper Snoop Dog endorsed businessman Rick Caruso, and City Attorney Mike Feur dropped his bid to endorse Rep. Karen Bass

Two neighboring Pa. districts tell the tale of changing terrain for Democrats

Dante Chinni

MONACA, Pa. — If you want a sense of the challenges Democrats face in 2022’s House races, look no further than two districts that share a common border in western Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's 12th District, which includes Pittsburgh as well as suburbs to the east and south looks to be solidly Democratic. A deep blue stronghold, the district is home to Democratic candidate Summer Lee, who has built her campaign around environmental justice and income inequality.

The state's 17th District, which holds some of Pittsburgh’s suburbs and all of rural/exurban Beaver County, looks much more like a toss-up. The district is home to Democratic candidate Chris Deluzio, who focuses on his veteran status and his work to help unionize the University of Pittsburgh’s faculty.

Both districts include parts of Allegheny County, the home of Pittsburgh, but the two offer very different terrains for Democrats.

Not long ago, this entire area was Democratic. In the 2000 presidential race, Democrat Al Gore carried Allegheny County by 16 points, while carrying Beaver by 9 points. But 2020 showed how the map had changed. Joe Biden carried Allegheny by 20 points, but Donald Trump carried Beaver by 18 points.

What happened? Pittsburgh, still considered the “steel city” by many Americans, has morphed into a medical and tech center. About 43 percent of the 25-and-over population has a bachelor’s degree. But many of the suburbs around the city, like those in Beaver, are still rooted in the area’s industrial past; about 26 percent of adults in Beaver have a bachelor’s degree.

The emerging differences are clear to see on the ground.

Last week in Pittsburgh, we met with Jasiri X, the co-founder and CEO of 1Hood, a community organizing group in the city. His concern is whether Democrats are doing enough on the issues that Black voters face on a day-to-day basis.

“2018 was this very pivotal year for Pittsburgh,” he said. “We had a very high profile police killing of a young man named Antwon Rose. ... We also had the Tree of Life massacre later on that year."

"It began to be like, ‘OK, well, protesting by itself isn't enough," he continued. "Can we move to come together to actually create and change laws?’” He says that these voters haven’t seen the return on their investment and want Democrats to push harder on progressive policies instead of being “passive.”

An hour drive away from the city, in the far northern reaches of the northwestern Pittsburgh suburbs — the United Steelworkers Local 1016 held a meeting in Wheatland, Pennsylvania. There, we heard a very different message of what the country needs: Trump’s new brand of union workers were more worried about issues like the emerging Supreme Court decision on abortion.

United Steelworkers District 10 Director Bernie Hall studied his crowd of union leaders closely, taking stock of what political questions arose. A Biden voter himself, he was worried about candidates increasingly going to “extremes.” If the Supreme Court can overturn a law like Roe v. Wade from 1973, what about the 1935 Wagner Act that said employees have a right to establish a union?

“We’ll have dozens of these [meetings] across the state,” he said. “I'm concerned that people aren't getting facts in general, not only about President Biden but just about the political process and issues that face our country.” 

In Aliquippa, after the local steel mill shut down, nature is slowly reclaiming empty homes and many of residents of this hard-hit African-American community are well beneath the poverty line.

Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker (D) urged Democrats to unite the rural voters and urban progressives. The way forward in Western Pennsylvania, he says, is to remind people the area is the birthplace of the unions.

“There’s 72,000 Democrats [here that are] ‘light blue’ [Reagan Democrat]” he said. “But they’ll vote Republican just based off the message. The message just has to be claimed.” 

Oz and McCormick backers have dominated ad spending but pro-Barnette group made late push

Groups backing businessman David McCormick and television doctor Mehmet Oz alone make up 88 percent of all ad spending in Pennsylvania's GOP Senate primary, data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics shows. 

But a late push by a powerful ally of Republican activist Kathy Barnette meant that she and her allies actually outspent the pro-Oz effort in the race's final week. 

Overall, the pro-McCormick effort has spent $32.8 million on ads through Tuesday, with $16.9 million coming from the Honor Pennsylvania super PAC and $12 million from McCormick's campaign alone (two other super PACs added another $3.9 million). 

While Oz's campaign spent $13.2 million, more than McCormick's campaign, he had a far smaller, $4.3 million push from super PACs, bringing the pro-Oz ad spending total to $17.5 million. 

And Barnette's campaign, which has spent just $210,00 on ads, was boosted by a $2.1 million, last-minute ad buy from Club for Growth Action. 

While Pennsylvanians have been inundated with ads for McCormick and Oz for months, that late push by the Club, coming amid Barnette's late surge, made her competitive with her rivals on the airwaves for the final week. The pro-McCormick effort still led the pack with $4 million spent over the last seven days, but the Club's spending pushed the pro-Barnette effort into second place for the final week with $2.2 million in ad spending, followed by the pro-Oz $1.4 million. 

Where is Trump’s endorsement power on the line in Tuesday’s primaries?

Trump has endorsed 25 candidates in Tuesday’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Idaho, with a handful of races testing the former president's power over the GOP.

All but six of those endorsements are incumbent lawmakers who are typically favored to win their primaries. Trump has backed eight candidates in North Carolina, eight in Pennsylvania, six in Kentucky and three in Idaho. 

The most closely-watched tests of Trump’s endorsements will come in statewide contests, particularly in Pennsylvania. There Trump has backed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the open Senate race, but conservative commentator Kathy Barnette has surged late in the race as she tries to capture grassroots enthusiasm. Trump made a last-minute endorsement in the governor’s race, backing controversial state Sen. Doug Mastriano over the weekend after Mastriano emerged as a frontrunner

Former President Donald Trump speaks in Austin, Texas, on May 14, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump speaks in Austin, Texas, on May 14, 2022.Brandon Bell / Getty Images

Trump has also weighed in on North Carolina’s open Senate race, backing GOP Rep. Ted Budd over former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker. Budd has also benefited from $11.8 million in outside spending from Club for Growth Action, which has launched ads attacking Budd’s opponents, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

In Idaho, Trump has backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in a primary against GOP Gov. Brad Little. Trump didn’t mention LIttle in his statement backing McGeachin in November, when he described the lieutenant governor as someone who has been “a true supporter of MAGA since the very beginning.” Little has outspent McGeachin on the airwaves, spending $945,000 to McGeachin’s $215,000, per AdImpact. 

Trump has also weighed in on a handful of notable House races. He backed controversial GOP Rep Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina’s 11th District. Cawthorn’s opponents, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards, have painted Cawthorn as an attention-seeker who hasn’t prioritized his district. 

The GOP primary in North Carolina’s 13th District will also test Trump’s endorsement after he decided to back law student Bo Hines in the competitive, open seat race. Club for Growth has spent nearly $1.3 million boosting Hines, who faces self-funding attorney Kelly Daughtry, veteran Kent Keirsey, and former Rep. Renee Ellmers in the primary. 

In Pennsylvania’s 8th District, Trump has backed political consultant Jim Bognet to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright. Bognet lost to Cartwright by nearly 4 points in a district Trump would have won by 3 points had the new congressional map been in place in 2020. Bognet faces former Hazleton Mayor Mike Marsicano, who is also a former Democrat, in the GOP primary.

Outside group launches $6 million ad campaign supporting Ron Johnson

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

One Nation, a super PAC with ties to the conservative Senate Leadership Fund, is launching a $6 million ad campaign to back Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., today.

The group’s first ad will run for eight weeks in Wisconsin and highlights Johnson’s efforts to curb inflation. 

“Gas, groceries, rent. Everything costs more. Senator Ron Johnson is fighting back,” a narrator in the ad says.

The narrator adds, “The D.C. liberals' spending spree is out of control.  Jacking up inflation on Wisconsin families. Wiping out wage gains and making it harder for families to make ends meet.”

Johnson is running for a third term this year and while he faces no significant primary challenge, Democrats are eyeing his seat as one they can flip in November. So far, there are three main candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Senate — state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, businessman Alex Lasry and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 26, 2022.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 26, 2022.Bonnie Cash / Pool via Getty Images file

Wisconsin’s primary election is August 9.

So far, Lasry has spent the most on ads of any candidate, spending $5.6 million on the airwaves, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Johnson himself has spent over $5.1 million on ads.

Godlewski and Barnes trail, with Godlewski having spent $1.9 million on ads so far and Barnes having spent under $100,000 on ads.

Barnes, however, has racked up significant progressive endorsements, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., planning to campaign for him soon, according to NBC News’ Shaq Brewster.

One Nation, however, will be competing against an anti-Johnson outside group, Opportunity Wisconsin. The group hasn’t explicitly backed any of the Democratic candidates, but they have been running ads against Johnson since early this year.

The commercials allege Johnson used loopholes in legislation he supported to make money for himself. So far, the group has spent the most of any candidate or group on the airwaves, spending $6.4 million.

Like One Nation, Opportunity Wisconsin is an advocacy organization that does not have to disclose its donors, though the group’s website claims they’re, “made up of a diverse group of leaders who span the urban/rural divide and live and work in communities and industries through Wisconsin.”

Barnette says she won't support "globalist" candidates if she loses Pa. GOP primary

Republican Kathy Barnette, who has been surging in the final days before the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary race, threw cold water on the idea of her backing rivals Mehmet Oz or David McCormick if she loses the primary election. 

"I am not a globalist, both of them are. They have very strong ties to the World Economic Forum. I've heard McCormick several times espouse the glowing benefits of ESG scores --environmental social governance scores. If you just look at who they are, Mehmet Oz is not only an American but also Turkish as well. That's a very important distinction," Barnette said during an interview with SiriusXM's Breitbart News Daily. 

When asked subsequently if she'd back the eventual GOP nominee if she loses Tuesday, Barnette replied: "I have no intention of supporting globalists."

"I don't think we have room to just vote for any old warm body with an 'R' next to their name. I think we can do better than that." 

During the interview, Barnette went onto criticize Oz and McCormick as not authentic conservatives, as well as criticizing the idea that they're electable because they have deep pockets to loan to their campaigns. 

"I have been an America First individual long before I decided to run for this race. And now, these two particular men, because it's convenient, because we have this seat open, they are now presenting themselves as Trump, card-carrying members of the Patriot Party," Barnette said.

"That's not how they've lived their life prior to stepping into this role."

In recent interviews with NBC News, both Oz and McCormick raised questions about Barnette's candidacy.

"He's not been transparent. And every time she answers a question, she raises a lot more," Oz told NBC's Dasha Burns last weekend before saying he would support her if she wins. 

And Monday, McCormick criticized Barnette for losing her 2020 congressional bid. 

"I've gotten to know Kathy on the campaign trail, I respect her personal story. She's been tested, she was tested 18 months ago when she ran for Congress and lost by 20 percentage points," McCormick said.

Dasha Burns contributed

Poll: Democrats are becoming more progressive, while most Republicans want Trump to lead GOP

Mark Murray

Ahead of a slew of notable primary races taking place over the next two weeks, the latest NBC News poll finds that the Democratic primary electorate has become more progressive since 2020. 

It also shows a majority of Republican primary voters wanting Trump to continue leading their party.

Now neither development should be that surprising to anyone who follows politics. But it’s instructive to see them backed up by numbers.

Per the poll, 63 percent of Democratic primary voters say they prefer a candidate who proposes larger-scale policies even if they cost more and might he harder to pass, versus 33 percent who prefer a candidate who proposes smaller-scale policies that cost less and might be easier to pass.

That’s a jump from Feb. 2020 — during the height of the Democratic presidential primary season — when 53 percent wanted candidates proposing larger-scale policies, versus 41 percent who wanted candidate with smaller-scale policies.

NBC News poll

As for Republican primary voters, 55 percent believe the party should continue to be led by former President Donald Trump; 33 percent say he was a good president but it’s time for new leaders; and 10 percent say he was a bad president, and it’s time to move on.

On a separate question, however, 34 percent of Republicans in the poll identify themselves as more supporters of Trump, while 58 percent consider themselves more supporters of the party. 

The NBC News poll was conducted May 5-7, 9-10 of 1,000 adults — including 750 on their cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

The margin of error for the poll’s 259 Democratic primary voters is plus-minus 6.09 percentage points, and the margin of error for the poll’s 247 Republican primary voters is plus-minus 6.24 percentage points.

Fetterman won't appear at campaign's primary night event after last week's stroke

Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won't attend his Senate campaign's primary-election night event on Tuesday after suffering a stroke late last week. 

In a press release Monday, the campaign said Fetterman's wife and "other special guests" will deliver remarks, while Fetterman himself "will not be in attendance on Tuesday as he will remain in the hospital resting and recovering."

Fetterman Sunday that he had suffered a stroke Friday, but he said that he didn't suffer "cognitive damage" and insisted he is "well on my way to full recovery." The Democrat is considered the frontrunner in the Democratic primary bid, where he's running against Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. 

In Pennsylvania, Mastriano rises to top of GOP field despite little ad spending

State Sen. Doug Mastriano has established himself as a frontrunner in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania governor despite being vastly outspent on the airwaves. 

Mastriano’s campaign has spent just $332,000 on ads ahead of Tuesday’s primary, accounting for just over 1 percent of the $22.7 million spent on the governor's race by the total GOP primary field, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

Mastriano, who has championed former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, has been the target of a $1.1 million ad campaign from Pennsylvania Patriots for Election Integrity. The group has knocked Mastriano for supporting a 2019 law expanding mail voting in the state (which Mastriano has said he would reverse if elected). 

Image: Doug Mastriano
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a campaign rally at The Fuge on May 14, 2022 in Warminster, Pa.Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Despite minimal spending on campaign ads, Mastriano has established himself as a frontrunner in the crowded race and he picked up Trump’s endorsement over the weekend. 

Trump’s endorsement in the final days of the primary race came after he encouraged his supporters last month to reject former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, calling McSwain a “coward” for not investigating election fraud. 

Half of all ad spending in the GOP race — $11.1 million — has bolstered McSwain. But Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which has spent millions supporting McSwain, announced over the weekend that it is instead backing former Rep. Lou Barletta in an attempt to consolidate behind one Mastriano opponent. 

The group’s decision comes after two other candidates, state Sen. Jake Corman and former Rep. Melissa Hart, dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Barletta, whose campaign has spent $967,000 on ads.

Aside from McSwain, the top spender in the race has been former Delaware County Councilman David White’s campaign, which has dropped nearly $5.7 million on ads so far. The conservative Club for Growth Action has spent $801,000 on an ad campaign opposing White.

Rep. Mike Simpson is seeking to fend off primary challenger in Idaho

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, will be defending his seat Tuesday when he faces a challenge from personal injury attorney Bryan Smith in Idaho's 2nd district GOP primary.

The two have been engaged in an intense ad war, running over a dozen unique ads combined this cycle. Most of those ads have been on the offensive, with Smith attacking Simpson over his decision to vote in favor of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Simpson has attacked Smith for his debt collection practices, featuring families in his ads who were sought after by Smith’s business to pay back small amounts.

Smith has spent over $450,000 on his ads, while Simpson has spent just over $368,000 on the airwaves, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. 

However, Simpson has been defended by outside groups, including the Defending main street Super PAC, which has run ads supporting him. That group has spent over $460,000 on ads in Simpson’s favor. 

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, speaks at the Capitol on July 22, 2020.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, speaks at the Capitol on July 22, 2020.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

Defending Main Street is the political arm of the Republican Main Street Partnership and is spending in House GOP primaries across the country, including in Ohio and Minnesota.

Smith has had the backing of an outside group, too. America Proud PAC has poured $405,000 into ads supporting him in the district, accusing Simpson of being a “career politician” and a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The group is largely funded by Boise real estate developer Joe C. Russell, according to FEC filings.

Simpson has been serving in this seat since 1999, and it’s the second time he’s faced a primary challenge from Smith. In 2014, Smith ran against Simpson, but Simpson earned 61.6 percent of the vote on election night, compared to Smith’s 38.4 percent.

Though former President Donald Trump has endorsed against some members of Congress who voted in favor of the January 6 commission, he has not publicly supported either candidate in this race.

Data Download: The number of the day is… -19 percentage points.

Mark Murray

Bridget Bowman and Mark Murray

That’s the net-negative rating for the Democratic Party in the latest national NBC News poll, with 50 percent of adults saying they had negative feelings about the Democratic Party and 31 percent saying they had positive feelings about the party. That’s also the highest net-negative rating the Democratic Party has seen in 30 years of the survey. 

Adults surveyed in the poll gave the Republican Party a net negative rating of minus 11 percent, with 46 percent viewing the party positively and 46 percent viewing the party negatively. 

The results are yet another warning sign for Democrats heading into a difficult midterm election, with the Democratic Party’s image struggling across the country. Among registered voters in the suburbs, the Democratic Party had a net negative rating of minus 24 percent, which is nearly three times their negative rating among suburban voters in 2018. 

The party also had a 2 percent net-positive rating among urban voters, a sizable drop from a plus 15 percent rating in 2021. Rural voters have increasingly reported negative feelings about the Democratic Party, giving the party a rating of minus 32 percent. 

 Here's the positive/negative ratings – from most popular, to least popular – for all the politicians or institutions the NBC News poll measured:

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy: 62 percent positive, 9 percent negative (+53)
  • Disney: 33 percent positive, 30 percent negative (+3)
  • Ron DeSantis: 28 percent positive, 26 percent negative (+2)
  • The US Supreme Court: 36 percent positive, 35 percent negative (+1)
  • The Republican Party: 35 percent positive, 46 percent negative (-11)
  • Joe Biden: 37 percent positive, 51 percent negative (-14)
  • Donald Trump: 36 percent positive, 51 percent negative (-16)
  • Kamala Harris: 31 percent positive, 48 percent negative (-17)
  • The Democratic Party: 31 percent positive, 50 percent negative (-19)

PACs funded by crypto executives face first tests in Tuesday’s primaries

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

The crypto executives behind multiple super PACs this cycle will get their first chances at victory next week in a handful of House primaries as they flood Democratic races with cash.

The super PACs Protect Our Future and Web3Forward have spent a combined $8 million on ads in next week’s primaries so far, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact.

The bulk of that spending has been focused on Oregon’s 6th District, Protect Our Future has spent over $6.5 million on ads supporting former government contractor Carrick Flynn’s election. The 6th District is brand new, created due to population gain during redistricting in the state.

Protect Our Future is a new group funded by crypto executives including Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the crypto currency exchange FTX. The PAC has endorsed nearly a dozen candidates and lawmakers and claims to be focused on candidates who take long--term stances on certain legislation, particularly related to pandemic preparedness.

The amount of money spent on Flynn significantly outweighs the money spent on any other candidate in the race, which include veteran and businessman Cody Reynolds, internal medicine Dr. Kathleen Harder, and former state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who has the support of BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. House Majority PAC, a group tied to top congressional Democrats, has also spent in Flynn’s favor. 

Protect Our Future has also spent significantly in two other open Democratic primaries in deep blue districts – Kentucky’s 3rd District and North Carolina’s 4th district.

In North Carolina, the group has spent $625,000 on ads supporting state Sen. Valerie Foushee, who’s running to replace retiring Democratic Rep. David Price. She’s been endorsed by EMILY’s List, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and other members of Congress.

Her most notable opponent is Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, who’s been endorsed by progressive lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is also running.

In Kentucky, Protect Our Future has poured $591,000 into ads supporting state Sen. Morgan McGarvey. McGarvey faces one opponent, state Rep. Attica Scott, in his bid for an open seat to replace retiring Rep. John Yarmuth. 

Another crypto-backed super PAC has spent heavily on the open seat race in Oregon’s 4th District. 

Rep. Peter DeFazio is retiring, leaving a reliably Democratic seat open. He and Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have endorsed Val Hoyle, Oregon’s Labor Commissioner.

Web3 Forward, which is tied to another PAC funded by crypto executives from companies like Coinbase and FTX, has spent $286,000 on ads supporting Hoyle. The PAC “supports Democratic candidates committed to making the next generation internet more secure, open and owned by the users,” according to the group’s website.

Web3Forward so far endorsed three Democratic candidates in primaries – Hoyle, Sydney Kamlager in California and Jasmine Crockett in Texas, who’s facing a primary runoff later this month.

Super PACs target Kathy Barnette in Pennsylvania Senate race

A pair of super PACs launched two new TV ads Friday morning attacking conservative commentator Kathy Barnette as she surges in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary. 

The ads come as former President Donald Trump, who has backed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the race, and Barnette’s opponents target her as she has turned the race between Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick into a three-way contest. 

Honor Pennsylvania, a pro-McCormick super PAC that’s spent $16.1 million largely attacking Oz, launched an ad where a narrator asks, “What do we really know about Kathy Barnette?” 

The spot goes on to accuse Barnette of supporting the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd and of saying, “I was not a Trumper,” citing her Twitter feed and her book.  

Another super PAC, USA Freedom Fund, launched a new ad blasting Barnette for supporting the building of a statue of former President Barack Obama.

The ad starts by mentioning comments Obama made about conservatives in 2008, saying some conservative voters are bitter and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them.”

“Remember how that made you feel?” the ad’s narrator asks. He adds, “One candidate for Senate doesn't care. In fact, Kathy Barnette wants to build a statue of Barack Obama right next to the one of Abraham Lincoln on Capitol Hill.”

The ad references a petition that appears to be written by Barnette, advocating for erecting statues of Obama, his family and abolitionist Frederick Douglas in Washington, D.C. The petition was written two years ago. NBC News hasn’t independently verified whether Barnette was indeed the person who wrote the petition.

USA Freedom Fund previously supported former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel’s unsuccessful run for Senate.

New ads target GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn in primary race

A super PAC supporting one of GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn's primary challengers launched two new ads targeting the controversial congressman ahead of next week’s primary in North Carolina. 

Cawthorn, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, has been at the center of numerous scandals. 

The first-term congressman, who faced sexual harassment allegations in his first bid, drew criticism for his repeated lies and aggressive rhetoric about the 2020 election; he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug” and he said that he had been invited to drug-fueled sex parties by other lawmakers. And he’s also been the subject of leaked photos and videos of a sexual nature that attempt to paint Cawthorn in a negative light. 

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., attends the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., attends the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post / via Getty Images file

The new spots from the outside group Results for NC slam Cawthorn for falsely claiming an accident prevented him from attending the Naval Academy, even though he had already been rejected prior to the accident. 

One of the new ads labels Cawthorn an untrustworthy “playboy politician,” and flashes one of those leaked images. The other spot features a woman veteran who is backing state Sep. Chuck Edwards in the May 17 primary. 

Results for NC has spent the most on the airwaves of any campaign or outside group in the 11th District so far, dropping $739,000 on ads, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

Edwards has picked up endorsements as Cawthorn has racked up headlines. North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is supporting the state senator. 

If no candidate wins more than 30 percent of the primary vote on Tuesday, the top two contenders head to a primary runoff in July.

Beasley internal poll shows dead heat in North Carolina Senate general election

North Carolina Democrat Cheri Beasley's internal campaign polling shows her in a statistical tie with the two Republican frontrunners squaring off in next week's Senate primary. 

In a new polling memo shared with NBC News, Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, is tied with Republican Rep. Ted Budd at 45 percent in a general election matchup with 10 percent undecided. Beasley trails former Gov. Pat McCrory in a separate matchup with McCrory at 45, Beasley at 44 and 11 percent undecided. 

The live-caller poll of 800 likely general election voters taken from April 28 through May 4 has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent, meaning that the polling shows Beasley in a statistical dead heat with either of the two Republicans. The poll tested head-to-head matchups, which don't capture third-party candidates that may be on the ballot (last cycle, conservative third-party candidates pulled about 4 percent of the vote in the Senate race). 

The memo includes favorability ratings for all three candidates, suggesting that the raucous GOP primary may have affected how voters view McCrory and Budd, even while Beasley remains known to a smaller portion of the general electorate. 

McCrory, who served four years as the state's governor, has a favorable rating in the poll from 33 percent of the likely general electorate, compared to a 45 percent unfavorable rating. Budd has a 28 percent favorable rating and a 30 percent unfavorable rating. 

By comparison, Beasley has a 30 percent favorable rating and a 15 percent unfavorable rating in the poll.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley, center, laughs with husband Curtis Owens, right, while son Matthew Owens, watches, before she speaks with reporters at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 24, 2022.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley, center, laughs with husband Curtis Owens, right, while son Matthew Owens, watches, before she speaks with reporters at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 24, 2022.Gary D. Robertson / AP file


The memo also suggests Beasley leads Budd with suburban voters and white college-educated voters, but the full crosstabs of the poll were not included. 

Most public polls show a tight contest in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 2008 but did elect a Democratic governor in 2016, when Roy Cooper defeated McCrory. Former President Donald Trump won the state in the 2020 presidential election, defeating President Biden by a margin of 50 percent to 49 percent. 

The race is expected to draw tens of millions in ad spending — the GOP backed Senate Leadership Fund has $22 million of ad time booked in the race already after primary day, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. And Politico reported Thursday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is buying $6.5 million in advertising time in the state with ads starting Friday. 

Biden's influence to be tested in Oregon on Tuesday

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Most high profile primary elections this cycle have been viewed at least partially as a test of former President Trump’s power of the Republican Party through the success of candidates he's endorsed. But on Tuesday, we’ll have the first chance to see how far President Joe Biden’s power extends as his first endorsed candidate faces a challenge in Oregon’s Democratic primary for the 5th congressional district.

Biden is backing Rep. Kurt Schrader as he faces a challenge from public official Jamie McLeod-Skinner who has attacked Schrader for taking “millions in corporate PAC money” as he “sold out to big pharma.” 

Schrader has defended himself on the airwaves, citing his record fighting for lower prescription drug prices and affordable healthcare.

He’s spent over $1.8 million on ads already, with five days to go until the primary. Two groups — Center Forward and Mainstream Democrats — have also spent money on the airwaves to support Schrader and attack McLeod-Skinner. They’ve spent a combined $1.3 million, according to AdImpact.

Center Forward in particular has run ads highlighting the fact that McLeod-Skinner was fired from a position as city manager in Phoenix, Oregon, in 2018 for being too antagonistic.

McLeod-Skinner has spent just over $250,000 on ads. She also trails Schrader in fundraising, raising almost $700,000 so far this cycle compared to the over $2 million Schrader has raised, according to the FEC

She’s also run for Congress before. In 2018, she ran for and won the Democratic nomination for Oregon’s 2nd district, but was defeated in the general election by then-Rep. Greg Walden.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates this district as Lean Democratic, but there's a chance Republicans could flip the seat in November. On that side of the aisle, Jimmy Crumpacker and Lori Chavez-DeRemer are engaged in a tight primary. 

Crumpacker ran for the state’s 2nd district in 2020, but came fourth in the GOP primary. Chavez-DeRemer served as mayor of Happy Valley from 2010 to 2018.

Chavez-DeRemer has raised $669,000 so far this cycle, while Crumpacker trails slightly, having raised $541,000, according to the FEC. He also slightly trails her in ad spending. According to AdImpact, Chavez-DeRemer has spent $286,000 on ads so far, while Crumpacker has spent $254,000.

Club for Growth goes in for Barnette in late Pennsylvania Senate primary push

The Club for Growth is coming to the aid of conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, whose Pennsylvania GOP primary candidacy has gained steam in recent days, with a new $2 million ad buy hoping to magnify her surge. 

It's the Club's first expenditure of the primary, a biographical spot that features Barnette talking about her roots growing up on a rural pig farm and serving in the military before pivoting to her attacking Democrats.

"Kathy Barnette is a principled conservative and a fighter who will take on the socialists in Washington to preserve the American Dream for generations to come,” David McIntosh, the president of Club for Growth Action, said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting Barnette in her race to become the next Senator from Pennsylvania.”

The spending push is good enough to make the Club the top spender in the race's final week, a shake-up on airwaves that have long been dominated by the efforts supporting celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and businessman David McCormick. 

Up until this point, the pro-Barnette effort has been virtually non-existent on the airwaves. The pro-McCormick and Oz outfits alone have outspent Barnette's campaign (she's had no outside help until this week) by a margin of more than 328-to-1. 

It's also another marquee race where the Club is breaking from former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Oz. The Club's preferred candidate in Ohio's recent Senate race, former Treasurer Josh Mandel, lost to author J.D. Vance, Trump's pick. But the two were aligned in Tuesday's West Virginia primary, backing Rep. Alex Mooney over Rep. David McKinley. 

McCormick dodges Trump question ahead of Pennsylvania primary

Former hedge fund manager David McCormick would rather not get into how he plans to win Pennsylvania's GOP Senate primary next week without former President Donald Trump's support. 

McCormick is trying to win over Republican voters ahead of the May 17 contest, while Trump has endorsed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the race. 

Asked after a campaign event in Tunkhannoc, Pa., how he plans to win without Trump, McCormick responded, "Listen, I'm not doing any more interviews." 

The dodge underscores the challenge McCormick faces in trying to win over the Trump faithful without the former president's backing. On Monday McCormick launched a new TV ad featuring footage of Trump praising McCormick and images of Trump and McCormick together. 

On Tuesday Ozreleased his own ad rebutting McCormick's spot, featuring footage of Trump calling McCormick "a liberal Wall Street Republican." 

For more coverage of Pennsylvania's Senate race, tune into Meet the Press Daily's special report from the Keystone State at 1 pm E.T on MSNBC.

Infrastructure vote threatens one House Republican. What about the others?

Former President Donald Trump has promised to exact revenge on Republicans who supported the bipartisan infrastructure package. And one of his best chances to do so comes Tuesday in West Virginia’s 2nd District. 

“If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way,” Trump warned in a July statement as senators were negotiating the package. 

On the same day President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure package into law in November, Trump announced he was backing West Virginia GOP Rep. Alex Mooney in his primary against GOP Rep. David McKinley, who voted for the package. Mooney and McKinley were forced to run for the same seat due to redistricting, since the Mountain State lost a House seat. 

Rep. Alex Mooney, Republican candidate in West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, attends a "Save America" rally in Greensburg, Pa, on May 6, 2022.
Rep. Alex Mooney, Republican candidate in West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, attends a "Save America" rally in Greensburg, Pa, on May 6, 2022.Gene J. Puskar / AP

The two congressmen are in a hotly contested race that’s attracted a few million dollars in ad spending from their campaigns and outside groups. But the other six House Republicans who bucked their party to vote for the infrastructure package, and are still running for re-election, aren’t facing similar contests.

Trump has not yet endorsed primary challengers against those House members, even as he’s made his displeasure known. 

At a rally in Nebraska earlier this month, Trump called GOP Rep. Don Bacon a “bad guy,” and wished his primary challenger “good luck.” But Trump stopped short of endorsing the challenger, roofer Steve Keuhl.  Bacon’s primary is also set for Tuesday, but Keuhl has only raised $5,000 and didn’t have any money left in his campaign account as of March 31.

Trump has said he still supports New York GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis despite her vote for the package. But her race is still uncertain with New York’s congressional lines in flux. Fellow New York GOP Rep. Andrew Gabarino also voted for the infrastructure package. 

Two New Jersey Republicans — Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew — also voted for the bill. So did Pennsylvania Rep. Brain Fitzpatrick, whose primary is set for May 17, but he does not face any well-funded challengers from the right. 

Of course Trump could still try to elevate a primary challenger against one of these Republicans, but so far the West Virginia race is his best opportunity to take down a GOP lawmaker who crossed the aisle.  

Five of the House Republicans who voted for the package — New York Reps. John Katko and Tom Reed, Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and Michigan Rep. Fred Upton — are not running for re-election. Another Republican who voted for the package, Alaska Rep. Don Young, died in March.

Data Download: Big money flooded into Tuesday's West Virginia Republican primary clash

The GOP primary in West Virginia's 2nd District is the crown jewel of the state's primary on Tuesday — the member-on-member clash has drawn $4.1 million in ad spending, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

Voters head to the polls there today to choose between two GOP congressmen, David McKinley and Alex Mooney, in the first incumbent vs. incumbent primary of the year.

Mooney’s campaign has spent nearly $1.5 million on the airwaves, while McKinley’s campaign has spent $1.2 million. Outside groups have also jumped into the race, with Club for Growth Action and School Freedom Fund dropping a combined $931,000 to bolster Mooney. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Defending Main Street super PAC have spent a combined $423,000 supporting McKinley.

Rep. David McKinley
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., speaks at his town hall meeting on the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., on April 25, 2022.Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP

Both candidates reference former President Donald Trump in their closing ads, although Mooney has Trump’s endorsement. In Mooney’s closing spot, a narrator says, “President Trump warned us about RINOs, sellouts and known losers. David McKinley proved him right,” knocking McKinley for supporting the bipartisan infrastructure package and a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

McKinley’s latest ad on the airwaves goes after the Club for Growth’s spending, with a narrator saying, “Mooney and his Washington special interest group are spending millions lying about David McKinley. Just like they did about President Trump.”

Club for Growth faces tests of its sway in May primaries

The conservative Club for Growth’s sway in GOP primaries will face key tests in May, with half of the candidates being backed by its PAC so far in 2022 facing primaries this month. The contests also come as the group’s past opposition to former President Donald Trump has faced new scrutiny. 

So far the Club for Growth’s independent expenditure arm, known as Club for Growth Action, has spent $25.9 million on ads to support its candidates in May primaries, with the most of that spending centered on three Senate races, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

Image: A voter fills in her ballot during primary voting on May 3, 2022 in Lordstown, Ohio.
A voter fills in her ballot during primary voting on May 3, 2022 in Lordstown, Ohio.Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

The group did not succeed in helping one of its preferred Senate candidates, former Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, win the GOP nod. Author J.D. Vance, who had Trump’s endorsement, won the primary last week instead. 

That race sparked a clash between Trump world and the Club, which has been a staunch Trump ally after initially opposing Trump’s candidacy in 2016. 

That past has even popped up in races where both the Club and Trump are backing the same candidate. In West Virginia, GOP Rep. David McKinley highlighted the group’s past opposition to Trump to push back on the Club’s involvement in the 2nd District race in which he is facing fellow GOP Rep. Alex Mooney. Trump and the Club are both backing Mooney in the contest. 

McKinley launched a new ad this week saying the Club, which has spent $571,000 on ads boosting Mooney, was “lying about David McKinley, just like they did about Trump.”  

Club for Growth spokesman Joe Kildea wrote in an email to NBC News that the group has “no concerns” that its past opposition to Trump will become a more prominent issue in GOP primaries. 

“We are confident that we will win most of our races this month,” Kildea wrote.

Ohio isn’t the only place where the Club is at odds with the former president. 

In Alabama’s Senate race, the Club has stuck by GOP Rep. Mo Brooks even after Trump withdrew his support. So far Club for Growth Action, has spent $4.3 million on ads to bolster Brooks. 

And in Georgia’s 6th District, the Club is backing Rick McCormick, the 2020 nominee, in the May 24 primary, although the group has not yet spent on the airwaves. Trump endorsed another candidate in that race, attorney Jake Evans, on Thursday.

But the Club is largely aligned with Trump in other key primaries. So far the group has spent $11 million on ads backing GOP Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina’s Senate primary, set for May 17. The Club has also spent nearly $1.1 million ads to support Trump-backed law student Bo Hines in the open seat race in North Carolina’s 13th District.

Wisconsin Senate politics to make appearance in Game 4 of Bucks-Celtics

When the Milwaukee Bucks face off against the Boston Celtics on Monday night in Game 4 of an intense playoff series, some viewers will be reminded of another contest — Wisconsin's competitive Democratic Senate primary.

A new ad from Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, first obtained by NBC News, takes aim at Alex Lasry, the wealthy former Bucks executive who’s rising in the polls and easily outspending his opponents in TV and digital ads.

In it, Nelson, competing against Lasry, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski for the chance to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in the fall, criticizes the $250 million of public money that went into building Fiserv Forum, the home of the Bucks.

Wearing a sweatband and a green jersey with the number 34 on it, the number worn by Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nelson says he's rooting for his home team.

“What I’m not rooting for is using your tax dollars to make billionaires richer,” Nelson says in the ad. “We paid a quarter of a billion dollars for the Fiserv Forum, even more than Foxconn, every dollar spent was taken from schools, roads, tax relief, things that benefit all of us.” 

Lasry, thanks in part to his deep pockets, is quickly becoming a threat in a race in which Barnes had long been considered the favorite and Nelson has been trying to gain steam when he's been vastly outspent. In recent days he has been ramping up his attacks on Lasry, calling on the Lasry family to refund taxpayers. 

Lasry has defended the investment, pointing to evidence that the arena has quickly become an economic driver for Milwaukee.

A Marquette Law School poll in late April had Barnes leading Lasry by just 3 points, with Treasurer Sarah Godlewski following with 7 percent support and Nelson with 5 percent. 

In 2015, the state approved a $250 million investment in a funding deal to help build Fiserv Forum. At the time of the deal, then-Bucks head coach Jason Kidd made a prediction.

“Will the new arena be hosting NBA Finals games within a few years? I`m not one to predict, but I think we look forward to our future,” Kidd said, according to a report by Fox News Milwaukee in 2015. “We have a chance to grow, get better each day, and our goal is to hold that gold trophy in that new arena.” 

When the prediction came true last year, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s editorial page applauded the state’s investment, noting the arena now draws tens of thousands of fans to Milwaukee’s downtown, who then pour into nearby restaurants and bars.  

“All of Wisconsin has a share in the Bucks’ remarkable rise from small-market doormat to NBA champions,” read an editorial in the Journal-Sentinel just after the Bucks claimed the NBA championship last year. “None of it would have happened without a new arena, built with $250 million of public money.”

Pompeo joins McCormick campaign to criticize Oz on Turkish vote

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Pennsylvania Republican David McCormick's Senate campaign Friday to criticize McCormick's top rival, Mehmet Oz, over new reporting that he voted in the 2018 Turkish elections and claiming it raises questions about his priorities should he be elected. 

"He engaged in the Turkish political process — and that raises, in my mind, lots of judgments about his priorities. And we need to get him and his team to explain why he had time and energy and focus to vote in a Turkish election, but not in an American election," Pompeo said. 

"And you stack that up with some of the work that he has done. Some of the political involvement he's had with Turkey. And I think that the campaign owes the people of Pennsylvania, the Mehmet Oz campaign, owes the people of Pennsylvania an explanation for this."

David McCormick, U.S. Republican Senate candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Danville, Pa., on April 20, 2022.
David McCormick, U.S. Republican Senate candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Danville, Pa., on April 20, 2022.Hannah Beier / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

ABC News reported this week on Oz's 2018 vote, and his dual citizenship (which he has said he would relinquish if he wins) has been a target of criticism from political opponents like McCormick. But Pompeo stressed repeatedly on Friday's call that his comments are "separate and apart from politics." 

Brittany Yanick, an Oz spokesman, defended the decision by Oz to keep his dual citizenship as made to help him take care of his mother and criticized the attacks as baseless. 

"These are pathetic and xenophobic attacks on Dr. Oz by David McCormick, who should be ashamed of himself. Now that he lost President Trump’s endorsement, he’s resorted to sad and desperate attacks that are no different than the tropes used against Catholics and Jews," she told NBC in a statement.

"Dr. Oz has already said when elected to the Senate he would renounce his citizenship. There is no security issue whatsoever, and David McCormick knows that Dr. Oz has maintained his dual citizenship to make it easier to help care for his mother who has Alzheimer’s and lives there."

—Dasha Burns contributed

More than a dozen states appeal to DNC for early primary position

The Democratic National Committee wanted to shake up its presidential primary system and so far, there are plenty of states signaling that they are willing to join the effort.  

As of Friday afternoon, nearly 20 states and territories have notified the DNC they’re interested in holding a first-in-the-nation primary or be considered somewhere among the early window of primary contests in 2024. Those requests are required to be sent by the end of the day Friday.

Sources tell NBC News that once the next phase begins — which entails submitting an application and making a pitch before the Rules and Bylaws Committee — those numbers are expected to drop off. There are also some states that have significant hurdles, including Republican legislatures that dictate their primary dates or costly media markets that price out candidates who aren’t independently wealthy.

The panel has said it intends to make a decision by the beginning of August.

The DNC recently scrapped its early state system that long allowed Iowa and New Hampshire to kick off the presidential primary contests followed by Nevada, then South Carolina. They are asking those states to reapply and make their case to be considered in the early window, while allowing other states to try to move up the primary calendar as well.

The dynamic has already set off some backroom brawling. Much of the push for change was prompted by a caucus debacle in Iowa in 2020, where a technological failure delayed revealing results. 

Charges have also mounted that the electorates in Iowa and New Hampshire are too white and should not have such an outsized role in dictating the Party’s nominees. Nevada is making an aggressive push to supplant New Hampshire, while New Hampshire is making its case to remain the first-in-the-nation primary. 

Here are the states that have so far sent letters of interest to the DNC: Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Nebraska, New Jersey, Texas, Washington, New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, Puerto Rico, Maryland, Delaware. (This list will be updated).

Democratic group aims to flip key state legislatures

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is targeting Republican majorities in three state legislatures this year. 

Minnesota’s Senate, Michigan’s House and Senate, and New Hampshire’s House and Senate are where the DLCC sees vulnerable Republican majorities that could be nabbed by Democrats this fall.

Additionally, the group plans to invest to defend Democratic majorities in five state legislatures — ​​Colorado’s House and Senate, Maine’s House and Senate, Minnesota’s House, Nevada’s Assembly and Senate and New Mexico’s House. 

DLCC finalized their list of state targets before a Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to Politico earlier this week, the group’s president Jessica Post said in a virtual press briefing on Friday.

However, Post said she was “absolutely horrified about the future of Roe,” and they are motivated to gain Democratic majorities in Minnesota and Michigan to help protect reproductive rights in those states. 

In Michigan, a law restricting abortion from the 1930s is still on the books and could go into effect once a Supreme Court Decision overturning Roe is handed down.

Michigan State Capitol Building
The Michigan State Capitol Building in Lansing, Mich.Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images file

And in Minnesota, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has so far vowed to protect abortion access in the state. But, he faces a tough reelection fight to keep the governor’s mansion blue this fall. 

“Roe has the ability to change the landscape dramatically,” Post said. She added later, “Michigan is at the top of our target list.”

Specifically, the group plans to use their resources in their target states this year to support local candidates, provide polling data and candidate-specific research and potentially finance early campaign investments.

“It takes a lot to support state legislative candidates,” especially if they’re still working full-time, Post said.

Pa. Senate's GOP frontrunners have relied mostly on self-funding, new reports show

A little more than a week before the pivotal Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, new fundraising reports show how Mehmet Oz and David McCormick have heavily relied on their own personal wealth to boost their bids. 

Oz loaned his campaign more than $12 million through April 27, the latest campaign finance reports show, the vast majority of the $15 million he's raised so far. McCormick loaned his campaign $11 million of the $16 million he's raised. 

Not only are the candidates giving to their campaigns at relative parity, but they've spent almost exactly the same — about $14.1 million — so far (this includes all campaign spending reported to the Federal Election Commission, not just ad spending). 

But just looking at ad spending, the pro-McCormick team is outspending the pro-Oz team largely thanks to big super PAC spending. 

McCormick's campaign has spent $10.4 million on advertising, per AdImpact, with his allied super PACS Honor Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Conservative Fund spending $14.2 million and $2.6 million respectively.

Oz has spent $12.1 million, with the anti-McCormick American Leadership Action spending another $3.2 million. 

Jessica Cisneros warns Henry Cuellar could be the “Joe Manchin of the House”

Progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros is warning Democratic primary voters that her primary opponent, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, could block the party's priorities if he’s re-elected, likening Cuellar to a certain influential Democratic senator from West Virginia. 

“There's so many key issues where he's always standing with Republicans, and he could become the Joe Manchin of the House,”  Cisneros said Thursday on MTP Daily. “We don't want Henry Cuellar to be the deciding vote on the future of our fundamental freedoms and rights in this country. We just can't risk that."

Cisneros faces Cuellar in a primary runoff on May 24 after neither candidate won a majority of the primary vote on March 1. Cisneros has made abortion a central issue in the race following a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision signaling the court was preparing to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. 

Cuellar is the lone Democrat in the House who opposes abortion rights, and he has said his stance reflects his heavily Latino, more socially conservative, district in South Texas. But Cisneros pushed back on that characterization, telling MTP Daily that her close primary race in March and her close primary challenge to Cuellar in 2020 show the district is not as conservative as Cuellar claims. 

“People have just taken Henry Cuellar’s word that this district is conservative as it is when it comes to this issue,” Cisneros said.

“I know that it's important to voters because I've been out there talking to them myself,” Cuellar added on the abortion issue. She recalled holding a phone bank shortly after Cuellar was the only Democrat who voted against a measure to codify abortion rights into federal law. 

“The first few voters that I got on the line were talking about — they were telling me about how upset they were that Henry Cuellar had sided with Republicans on this issue,” she said.

Cuellar has had support from House leadership in his primary race. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., traveled to the district this week to stump for the nine-term congressman. Clyburn said Wednesday that Cuellar “gives us a much better chance of winning their seat than anybody else." 

Cisneros responded to Clyburn’s statement, saying, “People in this district aren't voting for me because I am progressive. They're voting for me because I'm putting forth policies that are actually going to enact change in this district … I really hope that the Democratic leadership doesn't stand in the way of the change that South Texans want to see.”

Republicans are targeting the seat in November. President Joe Biden would have carried the 28th District by 7 percentage points had the new congressional map been in place in 2020. The Cook Politico Report rates the race a Toss Up.

Poll: Fetterman holds large lead in Pennsylvania, while GOP race is a dead heat

Mark Murray

Less than two weeks until Pennsylvania’s key Senate primaries, Lt. Gov John Fetterman has jumped out to a nearly 40-point lead in the Democratic contest, while the Republican race is neck-and-neck between celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund executive David McCormick.

That’s according to a new Franklin and Marshall poll of the state that was conducted April 20 to May 1, and which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.4 percentage points.

In the Democratic race, Fetterman leads U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., by 39 points among Democratic voters, 53 percent to 14 percent, with state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 4 percent.

Twenty-two percent say they’re undecided or unsure.

Last month, the poll had Fetterman ahead of Lamb by 24 points, 41 percent to 17 percent.

In the Republican race, Oz — whom former President Donald Trump has endorsed — gets support from 18 percent of GOP voters, McCormick gets 16 percent and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette gets 12 percent.

A whopping 39 percent are undecided or unsure.

Unlike Ohio’s Senate contest, where Trump’s endorsement of J.D. Vance changed the contours of that primary Vance won, this poll shows Trump’s endorsement of Oz hasn’t really shifted this GOP race.

Last month’s Franklin and Marshall poll — which was conducted mostly before Trump’s endorsement — had Oz at 16 percent and McCormick at 15 percent, with 43 percent undecided.

Ad watch: Abortion politics

Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, one of the Democrats running to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, is going up with a new TV ad filmed in the aftermath of the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. 

“We’re at the Supreme Court where it looks like Ron Johnson is going to get exactly what he wants: Overturning Roe v. Wade, reinstating Wisconsin’s cruel abortion ban and putting doctors in jail,” Godlewski says in the ad, shared first with NBC News, which was filmed in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.  

“But that’s not what Wisconsinites want,” Godlewski adds. “We don’t want politicians making health care choices for women.”

The 30-second spot is part of a six-figure statewide television ad buy, per Godlewski’s campaign, and the portion in front of the Supreme Court was shot on an iPhone. Godlewski, the only high-profile woman in the Democratic primary, has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which backs women candidates who support abortion rights. 

Primary turnout so far is another warning sign for Democrats

Republicans have an edge in enthusiasm so far in 2022, voter turnout suggests, a possible trend that should be concerning for Democrats.  Watch NBC News' Steve Kornacki break it down here: 

Abortion emerged among top themes in April's midterm election ads

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Out of 462 political ads in House, Senate and gubernatorial races in April, inflation, immigration, election integrity and abortion topped the list of issues mentioned by candidates and outside groups.

Inflation was the top mentioned issue, with 46 unique ads — or 10 percent of all political ads tracked by NBC News in April — mentioning inflation or rising prices. Immigration and border security appeared as a theme in 35 ads. Election integrity or voting rights appeared as an issue in 31 commercials and abortion was mentioned in 30 spots.

Immigration and inflation topped the list in March, too, though the sheer number of ads in March (210)  was smaller than April. 

Abortion is an emerging issue in midterm ads, which are still largely focused on intra-party primary contests. The topic also fell strictly across party lines, with only Republican candidates highlighting anti-abortion rights stances and only Democrats vowing to protect abortion rights.

Most candidates just cited their stance on abortion among a list of other topics they are for or against. But some, like Nebraska state Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Brett Lindstrom, have run entire ads focusing on the issue.

“Like many Nebraskans, I've long prayed for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” Lindstrom says in one ad. “Nothing in the Constitution establishes a right to an abortion, and we have a moral obligation to protect life at every stage.”

On the Democratic side, Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn., ran ads highlighting his pro-choice stance, saying “If we don't win this Senate race, we're going to lose a lot more than just an election. Republicans are attacking the right to vote. They're attacking womens' right to choose. ... I've beaten Trump-backed candidates in Trump districts three elections in a row. I know how to win tough races.”

As Democrats and Republicans face each other this fall, it’s likely abortion will come into sharper focus as the midterm election cycle moves forward, particularly in light of a leaked draft Supreme Court decision obtained by Politico that would overturn Roe v. Wade this year. 

The only primary where abortion has become a focal point this cycle is in Texas’ 28th district, where progressive Jessica Cisneros has targeted Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who was the only Democrat in the House to vote against legislation that would enshrine the right to an abortion on the federal level.

Other issues mentioned where opinions and statements fell squarely among party lines was election integrity and voting rights. Six percent of ads mentioned the issue, with only Republicans vowing to strengthen election integrity and only Democrats promising to expand voting rights.

In Georgia’s 7th district, where two incumbents are facing each other due to redistricting, Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux each ran ads highlighting their stances on voting rights.

“My father pushed me in a stroller at the March on Washington. There's nothing more American than the right to vote,” McBath says in one ad before adding, “I'm fighting for my good friend, John Lewis' Voting Rights Act on the front lines to protect our right to vote.”

In her ad, Bordeaux says, “They say we can't pass a new Voting Rights Act, but if we stand together, it can be done.”

In previous months, NBC News ad analyses have also tracked the presence of “boogeymen” in political ads. Just like previous months, in April, President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and China topped the list of GOP boogeymen, or entities candidates target outside of their direct opponents.

A new boogeyman emerged in April among Republicans, though — Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. He was mentioned in four unique ads by outside groups like Buckeyes for a Strong Ohio, who attacked former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel for previously supporting Romney, a Republican senator known for bucking former President Donald Trump. Mandel ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. 

“While we struggle with high gas and grocery bills, Josh Mandel supported the politicians who got us here, endorsing Romney,” the ad’s narrator says.

While GOP groups and candidates have name checked Biden in ads all year, Democrats have just started to use Trump or “Trump Republicans” as boogeymen in their ads.

“Carrick will stand up to the Trump Republicans so we can tackle climate change head on and take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” an ad paid for by the House Majority PAC in favor of Carrick Flynn’s campaign for Oregon’s 6th district stated.

Democratic Governors Association booking $75 million for initial fall TV ad salvo

The Democratic Governors Association is reserving $75 million of television advertising time for the fall across eight states, NBC News has learned exclusively, as it looks to make early investments aimed at shoring up Democratic incumbents. 

The group's top three states as far as initial spending are ones featuring incumbents who flipped their states' governor's mansions blue in 2018 — Michigan ($23 million), Wisconsin ($21 million) and Nevada ($10 million).

The DGA is also booking $5 million in both Colorado and Maine, $4.5 million in Minnesota and $2.5 million in New Mexico. The DGA and its allies in Kansas are booking another $4 million in fall TV spending there, and have already been spending in other races too. 

“The DGA is all in to protect our incumbents. As the fight to defend our democracy and fundamental rights shifts to the states, ensuring Democratic governors are in office is more vital than ever,” DGA Executive Director Noam Lee told NBC in a statement. “Our track record of smart, strategic investments has helped us elect Democratic governors across the country, and it is how we are going to win this fall."

The heavy emphasis on Michigan and Wisconsin is no surprise — Govs. Gretchen Whitmer and Tony Evers, respectively, are the Democratic Party's only bulwark in those states against Republican-controlled legislatures. (That's the case in Kansas, with Gov. Laura Kelly, too.)

November's elections are expected to be tough for Democrats as President Joe Biden's approval rating languishes and Republicans have closed the gap on the generic ballot.

But Democrats are hopeful that their party can rebound as the pandemic wanes, particularly with a more empathetic message about the economy and by contrasting themselves with some high-profile Republican gubernatorial hopefuls who continue to spread echo lies about the 2020 election. Vulnerable Democratic governors have also responded to the recently leaked draft Supreme Court opinion on Roe v. Wade by promising to protect abortion access from their seat in power. 

Campaign organizations regularly make early, large advertising buys in order to lock in lower rates before advertising time gets more expensive. The DGA's Republican counterpart, the Republican Governors Association, released its list of first major television advertising buys in March — $31.4 million in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, states where Republicans largely hope to go on offense. Both groups, along with other outside groups, are expected to spend heavily in these races, and others, as Election Day draws closer. 

White House looks for political boost from high court's draft leak


Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Ali Vitali

The White House has for months been crafting a political and policy strategy for the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, cemented in the belief that such a move could dramatically change Democrats’ dim fortunes in November’s midterm elections.

On Monday night some of those plans were set in motion.

President Biden received a phone call from White House chief of staff Ron Klain informing him that Politico had just published a draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade. White House aides then got to work on a presidential statement on the matter, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters..

By Tuesday morning, Biden had signed off on a statement that made one of the key political points — “it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November” — and signaled there would be future policy moves by his administration.

A couple of hours later, the president hit on another part of the White House’s political strategy: Warning that abortion rights is just the beginning. “If the rationale of the decision as released were to be sustained, a whole range of rights are in question,” Biden said, citing same-sex marriage and contraception.

Politically, the Biden aide said, the “strategy is to set up a clear choice” in the midterms between Democrats who support abortion rights and Republicans who don’t. 

A decision by the Supreme Court isn’t expected until this summer and is unlikely to fundamentally change from the draft.

Even in draft form, however, the document is seen by the White House as potentially helping Democrats win back suburban women voters who were critical to Biden’s election but may be swayed by Republican arguments about issues such as government influence on decisions about their children’s education.

“It has the opportunity to galvanize the Biden coalition in ways that other issues don't,” the Biden aide said of the abortion decision. “That is women, of course. It is communities of color. It is young people across genders. And it is also suburban women and independent women in particular.” 

Republicans are poised to pick up seats in the midterms, with voters unhappy about inflation and high gas prices. Democrats have also been on the defensive over Biden’s handling of migrants at the southern border. 

With a lack of votes for legislation in Congress to codify protections in Roe v. Wade, even among Democrats, the policy possibilities under discussion in the White House involve possible executive action or using the bully pulpit to influence states.

While the senior Biden advisor was mum on specifics in the White House’s federally-focused strategy, the adviser also acknowledged that much of the work to shore up abortion rights and reproductive protections would fall to the states—and that that’s where the midterm battles would be waged, too.

Still, one ally close to the White House described the Supreme Court decision, politically, as “a gift.”

White House officials made clear the overturning of Roe v. Wade is not a fight they want to have. But the raw political calculation is that specific action by the Supreme Court is easier for Democrats to organize around than a theoretical threat, and that it gives voters something tangible besides economic issues to evaluate candidates on.

“They should feel empowered that they have an opportunity to do something about the Supreme Court's decision here, if it comes to pass, and that opportunity is to make their opinions and voice loud and clear and vote in November for pro-choice elected officials,” the Biden aide said.

Ad spending breakdown: DeWine and Whaley win gubernatorial nominations

NBC News has projected the Ohio gubernatorial general election matchup — Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Dayton Democratic Mayor Nan Whaley — two candidates who faced different ad spending environments on their way to the nomination. 

DeWine outspent every candidate and outside group on ads in the race on both sides of the aisle, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, $4.9 million. That's significantly more than the next-highest-spending Republican, former Rep. Jim Renacci, who spent $1.7 million.

Whaley, on the other hand, was narrowly outspent by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, spent on ads. Cranley spent $1.85 million, per AdImpact, while Whaley spent $1.54 million. 

Now DeWine and Whaley will face off in what could become an expensive general election matchup. 

Correction (May 4, 2022, 1:20 p.m): Due to a misreading of the ad-spending data, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated a lower figure for Whaley's ad spending. Her campaign spent $1.54 million on television ad spending, not $155,000.   

Record numbers for early voting in Georgia

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Early voting in Georgia's midterm primary election began Monday and voters turned out in record numbers. 

The Georgia Secretary of State's office said that 27,298 voters cast their votes yesterday, NBC News' Blayne Alexander and Charlie Gile report (the Secretary's office originally said that the number of early votes was 27,366 but have corrected the total).

On the first day of early primary voting in 2018, only 9,226 voters cast early votes. That's an increase of over 18,000 first-day early votes in four years.

The party breakdown of Monday's vote was: 14,731 Republican, 12,308 Democratic and 259 who were non-partisan.

Early voting began about three weeks ahead of the state's primary election, where voters will pick nominees for the major parties for governor, secretary of state and Congress.

Among the most notable races, Gov. Brian Kemp faces a challenge from Trump-endorsed former Sen. David Perdue in the race for the Republican nomination. Kemp has been polling ahead of Perdue in the state, but he needs to earn over 50 percent of the vote to clear a runoff.

Sen. Raphael Warnock is also on the ballot, though he's expected to easily coast through the Democratic ticket to the general election ballot, where he'll likely face former football star Herschel Walker in November.

Kathy Hochul appoints Rep. Antonio Delgado member as new lieutenant governor

Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., has tapped Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado to be her new lieutenant governor, replacing former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who resigned after he was indicted on bribery charges. 

 "We share a belief in working together to get things done for New Yorkers, and Representative Delgado has an incredible record of doing just that in Congress,” Hochul said in a Tuesday statement. “With Antonio Delgado by my side serving as Lieutenant Governor, we will both make history - and make a difference." 

Image: Kathy Hochul Assumes Office As Governor Of New York State
Kathy Hochul speaks after taking her ceremonial oath of office at the New York State Capitol on Aug. 24, 2021 in Albany, N.Y.Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Delgado will serve as Hochul’s running mate as she runs for a full term in November, according to The New York Times, leaving open his competitive Upstate New York House seat. 

Delgado, who is Black and Latino, was first elected to represent the competitive 19th District, which is largely white, in 2018, defeating former GOP Rep. John Faso after winning a competitive Democratic primary. He has proven to be a strong fundraiser and was potentially facing a tough re-election fight this year. New York’s congressional map is still in flux after the state Supreme Court tossed out the map as a partisan gerrymander late last month. 

It’s not immediately clear when Delgado will leave the House to take on his new role as lieutenant governor. But his impending exit would leave an even smaller majority for the Democratic Caucus. His exit would also make him the 31st House Democrat not running for re-election this year. 

More than $73 million has been spent on Ohio Senate primary ads

Roughly $73.3 million has been spent on ads in the Ohio Senate primaries, surpassing all other Senate races so far, with $69.9 million spent on the GOP primary alone. 

Wealthy candidates who funded their own campaigns led the pack of Republican candidates vying to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman, while outside groups also poured in millions, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

Image: Ohioans Vote Early In State's Primary Election
A voter casts a ballot early at the Franklin County Board of Elections on April 11, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.Gaelen Morse / Getty Images

Investment banker Mike Gibbons’ campaign spent the most of any candidate or outside group on ads, dropping $13.5 million on the race. Gibbons loaned and contributed a combined $16.8 million of his own money to his campaign. 

The super PAC Protect Ohio Values spent $10.4 million on ads to bolster “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance. The group, which is funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, has launched ads touting former President Donald Trump’s decision to endorse Vance. Vance’s own campaign spent $1.7 million on the airwaves. 

State Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, spent $9.3 million on ads. Dolan also largely self-funded his campaign with an $8 million contribution and a $2.6 million loan. 

Club for Growth Action, a conservative outside group backing state Treasurer Josh Mandel, spent $8.9 million on ads while Mandel’s campaign spent $6.2 million. USA Freedom Fund, which is also backing Mandel, has spent $4.8 million

Former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, who has Portman’s endorsement, spent $4.1 million on ads. She also had help from a pair of outside groups, Ohio Leads and Winning for Women Action Fund, which have spent nearly $3.7 million combined. 

Just $3.4 million has been spent in the Democratic primary, with $2.9 million coming from Rep. Tim Ryan’s campaign. Ryan is facing attorney Morgan Harper in the race. 

Dolan criticizes Vance for campaigning with and defending Gaetz

Ohio Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan criticized one of his fellow U.S. Senate hopefuls, author J.D. Vance, in an interview with NBC News over Vance's decision to campaign with, and defend, a congressman under  federal investigation

Dolan singled out Vance's decision to campaign with embattled Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, among other allies, over the past weekend. Sources familiar with the case tell NBC that Gaetz is being investigated for sex trafficking — the congressman has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime. The Columbus Dispatch reported that during a conversation with reporters on the trail, Vance commented on the allegations against Gaetz. 

“Being accused of a crime, as we’ve learned in the past four years in this country, is very often more about corrupt law enforcement than it is about anything anybody’s actually done," he said, per the Dispatch. "Do I think Matt Gaetz is a child sex predator? Of course I don’t."

Image: Josh Hawley Joins GOP Senate Candidate JD Vance On Ohio Campaign Trail
J.D. Vance, at a campaign rally on May 1, 2022 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Dolan blasted those comments in an interview Monday. 

"The weekend before the election, he's telling Ohio law enforcement officers: You are corrupt. Those are his words, not mine. And he's trying to demonstrate that a person from out of state who has come in to campaign for him, he has to prove that person's not a sexual predator?" Dolan told NBC News about Vance. 

"This is about who can go to Washington and reflect Ohio and fight for Ohio's concerns. If he's demeaning law enforcement and having, let's just say, questionable people supporting him from out of Ohio, Ohioans need to know that."

Dolan's campaign also released comments from the state's former Attorney General, Betty Montgomery, and the National Sheriffs’ Association President, Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, criticizing Vance over the comments. Both have endorsed Dolan. 

The Vance campaign did not respond to a request for additional comments about the decision to campaign with Gaetz, or about Dolan's criticism. 

While most of the candidates in the broad Ohio Republican Senate field have been moving toward the right of the party — Vance recently won former President Trump's endorsement — Dolan has struck out on a different path that's more reminiscent of the political career of the retiring Republican senator whose seat he hopes to replace, Sen. Rob Portman (Portman has endorsed former state GOP chair Jane Timken). 

In his interview with NBC, Dolan added that a victory on Tuesday would show that "Ohioans want somebody to go into battle in November representing Republican ideas, Republican values, but keeping Ohio and what's important to Ohio first and foremost."

UPDATE: Gaetz, who has called the investigation against him a "witch hunt," responded to Dolan's comments shortly after publication.

Midterm roundup: A big night for 'J.D. Mandel'

Former President Donald Trump traveled to Nebraska Sunday to rally supporters around his pick for governor, businessman Charles Herbster, who is also facing multiple groping allegations (which Herbster has denied). But Trump didn’t just focus on Herbster’s race in his 104-minute speech, NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard reports.

Trump flubbed J.D. Vance’s name, Trump’s preferred candidate in Ohio’s Senate race, instead calling him “J.D. Mandel,” an apparent mix-up with another candidate, state Treasurer Josh Mandel. (“We've endorsed J.P., right—J.D. Mandel,” Trump said.)

He also praised Missouri GOP Rep. Billy Long as Long continues to vie for Trump’s endorsement in the Show Me State’s Senate race.

And Trump criticized a series of other sitting Republicans, including Nebraska’s own Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Don Bacon, saying he would not endorse Bacon or Bacon’s primary challenger ahead of the May 10 primary. But he added that Bacon is a “bad guy” and wished his primary challenger “good luck.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Politico reports that state Attorney General Mark Brnovich appears to have lost his lead in the GOP Senate primary as other candidates in the race hit the airwaves.

Colorado Governor: Danielle Neuschwanger, who fell just short of the votes needed at the state GOP convention to qualify for the Republican primary ballot, will run a third-party candidacy.

Georgia Governor: Early voting starts today in Georgia ahead of the May 24 primary. GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue met again on the debate stage Sunday. Trump is holding a tele-rally for Perdue tonight.

Wisconsin Governor: Republican businessman Tim Michels booked another $117,000 in ad spending for this week as he rolls out his new gubernatorial bid.

Florida-27: Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell is ending his Democratic Senate bid to run for Congress against GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar

Ad Watch: Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin backs a Republican House candidate

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Just over one week ahead from West Virginia's primary election, a familiar face is backing Rep. David McKinley, R-W. Va., on the airwaves. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., is featured in a new ad supporting McKinley in his primary election.

Due to population loss, West Virginia was forced to downsize from three congressional districts to just two, leading McKinley to face another incumbent congressman, Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W. Va., in a primary.

Mooney is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Image: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 1, 2022.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 1, 2022.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters

Manchin opens the ad by highlighting the failure of Build Back Better, a tenet of President Joe Biden's agenda that failed in part due to Manchin's opposition of the plan. 

"I've always said if I can't go home and explain it, I can't vote for it, and that's why I opposed Build Back Better," Manchin says at the beginning of the ad.

"For Alex Mooney and his out of state supporters to suggest David McKinley supported Build Back Better is an outright lie," he adds. "David McKinley has always opposed reckless spending because it doesn't make sense for West Virginia."

Manchin isn't the first high profile West Virginian to support McKinley on the airwaves. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has also been featured in ads promoting McKinley.

Mooney and McKinley have been locked in an intense, months-long ad war as the two head to a primary on May 10. The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates this district as Solid Republican, meaning whoever wins the primary is likely to keep the seat in November's general election. 


AIPAC super PAC spends over $1.6 million in four races

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

A new AIPAC-backed super PAC is spending big in Democratic congressional primaries. United Democracy Project is running a combined $1.6 million in four races — one in Pennsylvania, another in Texas and two in North Carolina.

In Pennsylvania, UDP has spent $472,000 so far in ads opposing state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive candidate backed by Justice Democrats, the same group who backed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-N.Y., first run for Congress. Lee is seeking the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania’s 12th district. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Penn., decided not to run again after the district became more Democratic following redistricting.

The UDP ads against Summer Lee feature a narrator who attacks her for not supporting Biden. 

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Summer Lee speaks on stage during a keynote discussion of the Netroots Nation progressive grassroots convention in Philadelphia on July 13, 2019.
Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Summer Lee speaks on stage during a keynote discussion of the Netroots Nation progressive grassroots convention in Philadelphia on July 13, 2019.Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

“Summer Lee attacked Biden's character, said he'd take us backwards and Lee refused to support Biden's infrastructure plan that's now rebuilding bridges and roads in Western Pennsylvania,” the ad's narrator says.

"Summer Lee, more interested in fighting Democrats than getting results,” the ad intones.

In Texas’ 28th district, where progressive Jessica Cisneros is facing Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, in a runoff primary at the end of May, UDP has spent $128,000 so far running ads against Cisneros.

The ad’s narrator tells viewers, “Jessica Cisneros would cost us thousands of jobs in south Texas,” pointing to her plan to cut the number of border patrol agents and reassign them to other functions.

“Jessica Cisneros is backed by groups who want to cut police funding, too, costing us even more jobs. Jessica Cisneros: a risk to our jobs, and our safety,” the narrator adds.

In North Carolina, UDP is running positive ads, supporting state Sen. Don Davis in the state’s first district and state Sen. Valerie Foushee in the state’s 4th district. Foushee faces seven other candidates in the Democratic primary for retiring Rep. David Price’s, D-N.C., seat. 

The group has already spent over $577,000 on ads supporting Foushee.

The ads in her favor highlight her life story and her time in the state Senate, “where she stood with Roy Cooper to improve education, stop Republican attacks on voting rights and protect a woman's right to choose,” the ad’s narrator says.

Davis is running for retiring Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s seat and the ads in his favor highlight his life story and his record in the state Senate.

“Davis voted to raise teacher pay, invest in maternal health, and when Republicans tried to gut Medicaid, Don Davis took them on,” the ad’s narrator says.

UDP has spent $444,000 on ads supporting Davis so far.

Nebraska governor’s race heats up ahead of Trump rally

UPDATED 4:20 p.m. | Former President Donald Trump is heading to Nebraska on Sunday to boost his preferred candidate for governor, businessman Charles Herbster. And the rally comes as the race has heated up on the airwaves. 

Herbster, who is expected to speak at the rally, faces a crowded field of candidates, including Jim Pillen, a businessman and livestock producer, and state Sen. Brian Lindstrom. Those three candidates have outspent the rest of the field on the airwaves, spending a combined $11.1 million on ads, per the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

Trump’s rally also comes as Herbster is facing sexual misconduct allegations, with eight women, including a state senator, accusing him of groping, according to a report in the Nebraska Examiner.

Herbster has denied the allegations and launched a TV ad accusing his Pillen and GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has backed Pillen in the race, of conspiring to lie about Herbster. The ad compares Herbster to Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas, who respectively faced allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. 

Charles Herbster
Charles Herbster, Republican gubernatorial candidate for Nebraska, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. on Feb. 27, 2022.Tristan Wheelock / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Herbster’s campaign has outspent his opponents on the airwaves, spending $5.2 million as of Friday. Pillen has spent $4.3 million on ads, while Lindstrom has spent $1.5 million. One outside group known as Conservative Nebraska has spent $848,000 on anti-Herbster ads. Another outside group known as Restore the Good Life has spent $510,000 to boost Marine veteran Michael Connely. 

Whoever wins the GOP primary on May 10 is expected to win the general election. Trump won the Cornhusker State by 19 percentage points in 2020 and the Cook Political Report rates the Nebraska governor’s race Solid Republican.

This post has been updated to reflect that Trump postponed his rally from Friday to Sunday due to inclement weather.

Midterm roundup: Ohio Senate GOP primary is down to the wire

With the Ohio primary just four days away, outside groups are hitting the airwaves in the competitive GOP Senate contest. Protect Ohio Values, the Peter Thiel-backed super PAC supporting author J.D. Vance, is running a new spot attacking former Treasurer Josh Mandel as a “moderate,”noting his endorsement of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  

Meanwhile, Drain the DC Swamp PAC has a new ad supporting Mandel, spanning a range of issues including Mandel’s support for the controversial Arizona audit of the 2020 election. Ohio Leads, a super PAC backing former state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, is up with a new spot highlighting Vance’s anti-Trump comments.   

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., will hit the campaign trail for Vance on Sunday and Monday, along with Turning Point Action founder Charlie Kirk. And investment banker Mike Gibbons is hosting a tele-town hall on Monday with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla. 

U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel
U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel addresses supporters at a campaign rally at Mapleside Farms in Brunswick, Ohio on Apr. 21, 2022.Dustin Franz / Getty Images file

Elsewhere on the trail ... 

GA-SEN: Republican Kelvin King is running his first television ad, a bio spot that criticizes incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock on inflation.   

OK-SEN: GOP Sen. James Lankford is putting $312,000 behind a new ad buy that spans virtually all of June ahead of the state’s June 28 primary, per AdImpact.  

AZ-GOV: Democrat Aaron Lieberman’s first TV ad takes aim not just at GOP gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, but also Democratic frontrunner Katie Hobbs, criticizing her over an employment discrimination case.  

HI-GOV: Punchbowl is reporting that Hawaii Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele is leaving Congress to run for governor.  

GA-GOV: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a handful of controversial education bills into law Thursday.  

MD-GOV: Fox 45 in Baltimore has a new story noting other times when Democrat Wes Moore did not correct interviewers who misrepresented his biography. The good news for Moore: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is endorsing him.  

IL-5: Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley says he won’t run for mayor of Chicago.  

Read more in today's First Read, the daily briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Sign up for First Read here. 

Data Download: Biden, Harris have only had two private lunches this year

The First Read number of the day is two, the number of times that President Biden and Vice President Harris have had private lunches this year. 

That’s a significant decrease from the 21 times the two lunched in 2021, after Biden said he wanted to forge a similar relationship with his second-in-command as then-President Obama forged with him over regular, private lunches.  

At this point during Biden's second year as vice president, he had 13 private lunches with Obama. 

When asked about the infrequency of their lunches, Deputy White House Press Secretary Chris Meagher said: “The president and vice president are in constant touch with each other, and he relies on her counsel, partnership, and friendship as they work together to continue to grow the economy, cut costs for working families, rally the world in the face of Russia’s aggression, and make historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk to the Oval Office after and event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Apr. 11, 2022.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

Both Biden and Harris have had separate overseas trips this year while also ramping up their domestic travel schedules. Harris also worked remotely for a period in mid-March after her husband, Douglas Emhoff, tested positive for COVID. 

But Biden and Harris’ schedules overlapped often this year, with joint public or private events on 39 days, making the absence of weekly lunches more conspicuous. 

Biden has had other private lunches as well this year, including one for old time’s sake with Obama. Harris later joined them for a public event about expanding the Affordable Care Act.

Read more in today's First Read, the daily briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Sign up for First Read here. 

Watch: DeSantis stumps for Senate candidate in early primary state of Nevada

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to Nevada to campaign for GOP Senate candidate Adam Laxalt Wednesday night and provided some material for the 2024 speculation surrounding the governor. Watch the "MTP Daily" report: 

Trump backs Clark County sheriff for Nevada governor

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in the crowded GOP primary to take on Nevada’s Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. 

“As Governor, Joe will fiercely Protect our under-siege Second Amendment, Oppose Sanctuary Cities, Support our Law Enforcement, Veto any Liberal Tax Increase, Protect Life, and Secure our Elections,” Trump said in a Thursday night statement.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks to reporters at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters on Oct. 3, 2017 in Las Vegas.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

The GOP primary, which is set for June 14, also features North Vegas Mayor John Lee, venture capitalist Guy Nohra, and former Sen. Dean Heller, who Trump supported in 2018 after pressuring Heller to vote to repeal the 2010 health care law. Heller lost re-election that year by 5 percentage points.

In statements to the Las Vegas Sun, Lee said Trump “made the wrong decision” while Nohra said he would “work hard to earn every vote as I have promised." Heller’s campaign manager Jack Finn said Trump’s endorsement is “not going to change our approach one bit.” 

Democrats used Trump’s decision to weigh in on the race as an opportunity to blast Lombardo. 

“After months of flailing on the campaign trail and getting pummeled on the airwaves by his opponents, Joe Lombardo’s campaign is on life support and desperately called on the one person he claimed he wouldn't seek out,” Nevada Democratic Victory spokesperson Mallory Payne said in a statement. Payne was referring to Lombardo’s pushback on reporters’ questioning whether he would seek Trump’s endorsement. 

Nevada is a top target for Republicans in November. President Joe Biden carried the state by just 2 points in 2020 after Hillary Clinton won the Silver State by the same margin in 2016.

Super PAC hits Vance on Ukraine war comments

A super PAC backing former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is up with a new ad criticizing author J.D. Vance as "weak" on Ukraine because of past comments about his ambivalence to the war's outcome. 

The ad quotes Vance saying "I gotta be honest with you, I don't really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another." The spot goes on to call Vance's comments "music to Putin's ears," evoking the state's Ukrainian population. 

"Wrote a book trashing Ohioans as hillbillies, then sold his story to Hollywood. J.D. Vance, liberal elite, not for Ohio," the ad ends. 

The clip comes from an interview with Steve Bannon, who was previously a top aide to former President Donald Trump. In it, Vance added that "I do care about the fact that in my community right now the leading cause of death among 18-45 year olds is Mexican fentanyl that’s coming across the southern border.”

Image: BESTPIX- GOP Senate Candidate JD Vance Campaigns In Ohio Ahead Of Primary
J.D. Vance, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, speaks during a campaign event at Grove City Brewing Company on April 27, 2022 in Grove City, Ohio.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Vance subsequently put out a statement calling "Russia’s assault on Ukraine is unquestionably a tragedy," and saying that America "must avoid blundering our way into the conflict there."

But the Republican's primary opponents have used Vance's comments against him — state Sen. Matt Dolan wrote in a subsequent op-ed that "The misguided and shameful notion that we, as Ohioans and Americans, shouldn’t care about what happens in Ukraine is wrong."

Poll: Wisconsin Senate Democratic primary in dead heat

A new poll of Wisconsin's Senate Democratic primary shows two candidates at the top of the field — Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry — but almost a majority of likely Democratic primary voters unsure of who they support. 

Marquette University's poll found Barnes with support from 19 percent, with Lasry close behind at 16. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is at 7 percent and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson with 5 percent. The margin of error for the poll, conducted between April 19-24 of 363 likely primary voters, is 6.6 percent. 

The results represent a downtick in support for Barnes since Marquette's February poll — down from 23 percent. Lasry has seen a slight improvement from 13 percent in April, and Godlewski's support grew from 3 percent to 7 percent. 

Lasry has spent markedly more than the the rest of the field on advertising: $5.6 million, per AdImpact. Godelwski has spent $1.6 million, while Barnes has spent just $94,000. 

In the other big primary in the state, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads the GOP gubernatorial primary with 32 percent, with military veteran Kevin Nicholson at 10 percent and state Assemblyman Tim Ramthun at 5 percent. 

As far as voter enthusiasm ahead of November, Republicans and Democrats had similar levels of enthusiasm. Eighty-one percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats said they were either very or somewhat enthusiastic to vote in November. 

Maryland Democratic candidates for governor face Baltimore voters in forum

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

BALTIMORE — Seven of the ten Maryland Democrats running for governor gathered for an economic empowerment forum here on Tuesday night where they discussed the city's issues and laid out their positions on proposed solutions.  

For the candidates, it's a crucial city to court. In the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Baltimore City voters made up 14.3 percent of the primary electorate, the fourth largest county in the state by proportion of voters. 

And it has plenty of issues for candidates to talk about — the city is last in the state in high school graduation rate, has the highest rate of homelessness in the state and the highest rate of crime per 100,000 people of any other county in the state. And in eight years under Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore has seen a public transit plan for the city axed and funding withheld from some public schools.

It was with that backdrop that voters got a chance to scrutinize most of the candidates at Coppin State University in West Baltimore on Tuesday.

Maryland gubernatorial candidate forum
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Nonprofit Executive Jon Baron, State Comptroller Peter Franchot, former State Attorney General Doug Gansler, former Nonprofit Executive Wes Moore, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Philosophy Professor Jerome Segal at Coppin State University in Baltimore on Apr. 26, 2022.Alexandra Marquez

The candidates — former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, nonprofit leader Jon Baron, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, former state Attorney General Doug Gansler, former nonprofit executive Wes Moore, former U.S. Secretary of Education Tom Perez and philosopher Jerome Segal — discussed their plans to tackle criminal justice reform, economic inequality and expanding public transit.

Three candidates were not in attendance — former U.S. Secretary of Education John King, teacher Ralph Jaffe and Ashwani Jain, a former staffer in the Obama administration.

The candidates weighed in on their stances on the transit system, and explained their plans to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an education bill passed by the state legislature in 2021.

On criminal justice reform, the candidates agreed there was more to be done to reform Baltimore’s police department, which has been embroiled in multiple scandals in the last ten years, including the 2015 death of an unarmed Black man, Freddie Gray, in police custody.

Baker touted his record on police reform as a county executive, telling viewers, “by the time I left, we had not only reduced crime by 50 percent, we also had reduced arrests.”

He added, “Here’s the thing. In this city, we have had over 2,000 murders over the last eight years. That is unacceptable.”

There’s very little light between the candidates in this race — all tout relatively progressive stances on everything from funding for Maryland's four HBCUs, K-12 education, transit and criminal justice. But questions about electability in a general election are creeping in.

Maryland is a deeply Democratic state — President Joe Biden won the state by more than 30 points in 2020. But, Hogan, a Republican, won the governor’s mansion for two terms in a row.

Gansler was the only one to bring up the subject on Tuesday, arguing that someone who has won a statewide election would be the best bet in a general election.

"We just need a governor who cares about Baltimore, which is why it’s going to be so important to elect a Democrat that can actually win," he told voters.

All ten candidates have less than three months left until the July 19 primary that was was pushed back from June due to redistricting issues.

The Democratic nominee will face one of four Republican candidates for governor — state Rep. Dan Cox, former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schultz, attorney Robin Ficker and Joe Werner, who previously ran for office as a Democrat.

New poll shows warning signs for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’ Senate primary

Mark Murray

A new Monmouth University poll of Pennsylvania’s upcoming Senate primaries next month contains warning signs for Dr. Mehmet Oz in the GOP contest, despite the celebrity doctor recently receiving former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.  

Notably, the poll doesn’t have horserace numbers (this comes after Monmouth’s decision to stop election polling after erring in last year’s gubernational race in New Jersey). 

But the other numbers — favorable/unfavorable scores, more likely/less likely to vote) — show Oz faring worse than rival David McCormick. 

Favorable/unfavorable scores

  • David McCormick 51 percent favorable, 15 percent unfavorable.
  • Mehmet Oz 48 percent favorable, 37 percent unfavorable.
  • Jeff Bartos 28 percent favorable, 6 percent unfavorable.
  • Kathy Barnette 37 percent favorable. 5 percent unfavorable.

More likely/less likely to support

  • McCormick 61 percent likely to support (including 19 percent very likely) vs. 29 percent not likely to support.
  • Oz 51 percent likely to support (including 22 percent very likely) vs. 42 percent not likely to support.
  • Barnette 51 percent likely to support (including 18 percent very likely) vs. 33 percent not likely to support.
  • Bartos 45 percent likely to support (including 7 percent very likely) vs. 39 percent not likely to support.

Asked specifically about Trump’s endorsement of Oz, 22 percent of GOP voters say it gives them a more favorable view of Oz, 8 percent say a less favorable view, and 69 percent say it makes no difference.  

For the Democratic Senate primary, frontrunners Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Congressman Conor Lamb both enjoy positive numbers, but Fetterman’s are stronger. 

Favorable/unfavorable scores

  • John Fetterman 68 percent favorable, 5 percent unfavorable.
  • Conor Lamb 51 percent favorable, 6 percent unfavorable.
  • Malcom Kenyatta 32 percent favorable, 4 percent unfavorable.

More likely/less likely to support

  • Fetterman 74 percent likely to support (including 44 percent very likely) vs. 13 percent not likely to support.
  • Lamb 59 percent likely to support (including 23 percent very likely) vs. 24 percent not likely to support.
  • Kenyatta 40 percent likely to support (including 14 percent very likely) vs. 45 percent not likely to support.

The Monmouth poll of Pennsylvania was conducted April 20-25, and it has a maximum margin of error of plus-minus 4.9 percentage points.

Midterm roundup: Ad-Vance-ing in the polls

WASHINGTON — Next week’s Ohio primary will be the first big test of whether former President Donald Trump’s endorsement can propel a candidate to victory, and a new poll shows that it might.

Fox News released a poll of the GOP Senate primary showing Trump’s pick in the race, “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, at 23 percent among Republican primary voters — followed by former state Treasurer Josh Mandel at 18 percent, investment banker Mike Gibbons at 13 percent, state Sen. Matt Dolan at 11 percent and former state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken at 6 percent.

Importantly, Vance’s 5-point lead is within the poll’s margin of error, and 25 percent of GOP primary voters say they’re still undecided.

Meanwhile, the race has pitted Trump against Club for Growth Action, threatening their alliance, per The New York Times. The group, which is backing Mandel, launched a new ad with footage of Vance describing himself as a “Never Trumper.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Georgia Senate: Former football player Herschel Walker reserved $1 million in airtime in his first major TV buy of the Georgia Senate race tracked by AdImpact. Walker is Trump’s pick in the race, and he is favored to win the May 24 GOP primary. His first TV ad is a 30-second bio spot that also touts Trump’s endorsement.

Utah Senate: Republican Sen. Mike Lee is out with a new spot framing him as someone who hasn’t been changed by Washington.

Florida Governor: The Dispatch reports that Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist has only voted in person four days of this House session, with his spokeswoman saying “the proxy offers a great way to ensure his constituents’ voices continue to be heard” while he’s running for governor.

Kansas Governor: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is up with a new spot where she literally stands in the middle of the road to argue she’s “not too far right, or too far left.”

Maryland Governor: At an economic empowerment event in Baltimore last night, seven of 10 candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor discussed their plans for criminal justice reform, the implementation of new public transit and education.

North Carolina 11: Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn had a rough news day, first accused of bringing a gun to the airport before a new report from the Washington Examiner questioning whether he improperly touted a cryptocurrency based on the “Let’s Go Brandon” meme.

Texas 28: South Carolina Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn is heading to Texas to stump for Rep. Henry Cuellar before next month’s Democratic primary runoff.

McCormick hits Oz over Trump endorsement in new ad

Mark Murray

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Mark Murray and Alexandra Marquez

After Monday night’s Republicans debate in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, where Mehmet Oz touted his endorsement from former President Donald Trump, rival David McCormick has released a new TV ad directly addressing Trump’s endorsement of Oz.

“I like Trump,” says one voter in ad.

“I love Trump,” says another.

 “But not his Senate pick,” says a third voter.

“Trump made a mistake on this,” says a fourth.

McCormick struck the same themes in Monday night’s debate, where he told voters, “the reason Mehmet keeps talking about President Trump’s endorsement is because he can’t run on his own positions and his own record.”

Dave McCormick, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, campaigns on April 20, 2022 in Danville, Pa.
Dave McCormick, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, campaigns on April 20, 2022 in Danville, Pa.Mark Makela / Getty Images

Oz did tout his endorsement from Trump multiple times on the debate stage Monday night. At one point he said, "Mr. McCormick approached President Trump ... but was unable to pull the wool over his eyes. President Trump saw right through him. He therefore did not endorse Mr. McCormick, he did endorse me."

This commercial is the latest in an ad war between Oz and McCormick, who have spent over $20 million combined on the airwaves so far, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm.

Oz and McCormick are neck-and-neck in the race and have been at a near tie in recent local polling. The state’s primary is just three weeks away, on May 17.

Cisneros attacks Cuellar on abortion ahead of May runoff

Texas Democrat Jessica Cisneros has launched her first new ad ahead of her runoff election against Repp. Henry Cuellar, a spot that criticizes the incumbent for his 2021 vote against expanding abortion access. 

The ad's narrator begins the spot by mentioning Texas' strict abortion law, which went into effect last year and is being challenged in court. It goes on to note that Cuellar, shortly after the state law passed, voted against a federal law that aimed to codify abortion rights protections. 

Cuellar was "the lone Democrat against a woman's right to make her own decisions," the narrator says. 

"On May 24, you can have the last word. Jessica Cisneros is the pro-choice candidate who will fight for our health care and always protect our right to make our own decisions." 

Cuellar has long been to the right of his party's base on emotional issues like immigration and abortion, something that has fueled progressives like Cisneros to oppose him. But the longtime congressman has defended himself from those attacks for years, arguing he's representing the will of his constituents and that he delivers for the district. 

The latter is the focus of a new Cuellar ad, where a woman says: "Henry helps us with prescriptions and Social Security benefits. If we lose him in Congress, we lose everything." 

Pa. Democratic Senate primary to see increased ad spending as challengers try to catch Fetterman

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

With just a few weeks left before Pennsylvania’s midterm primary election, candidates have started to target the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has led in the polls and was dominating the campaign ad airwaves up until a few weeks ago. One of the first outside groups to attack him, a pro-Rep. Conor Lamb group called Pennsylvania Progress, drew ire from establishment Democrats for calling Fetterman a “silver spoon socialist.”

Image: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on April 4, 2022.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on April 4, 2022.Matt Rourke / AP

Since then, Fetterman has had to engage in two debates with his rival candidates — Lamb, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Jenkintown Borough Council member Alexandria Khalil — where he’s been questioned about a 2013 incident where he pointed a firearm at an unarmed Black jogger. The incident was briefly mentioned again at the most recent debate Monday night where Fetterman again denied the allegation that he pointed the gun at the man's chest, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

His candidacy has also been criticized as being too progressive to win a general election in Pennsylvania. and in Monday's debate, he flashed some progressivism by arguing that government spending packages passed under the Biden administration didn't contribute to rising inflation. 

The contest is about to expand to the airwaves. Through Tuesday, Fetterman has spent the most on TV ads of all the Democratic candidates and groups — over $3.5 million according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Lamb has spent over $1.4 million and Kenyatta trails at less than $100,000. 

Outside groups have spent less than Fetterman as well, with Pennsylvania Progress, the group that called him a socialist, having spent $1.2 million before today.

But looking ahead, Fetterman could be outspent in the remaining days leading up to the May 17 primary. For the period between Tuesday and May 17, Lamb has secured $1.3 million worth of ad space and Fetterman has only secured $714,000 worth, according to AdImpact. 

Pennsylvania Progress has also already planned over $230,000 worth of ad time.

Oregon Democrat touts Biden endorsement in new TV ad

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., has launched a new TV ad touting President Joe Biden’s endorsement ahead of the May 17 primary. 

The 30-second spot features footage of Biden praising Schrader earlier this month, saying the seven-term congressman has "played a key part in the progress we've made as a nation on jobs, economic growth and clean energy. And he's [a] strong and consistent voice to make sure we modernize infrastructure and help Oregon and everyone all across America." 

Schrader is a member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, and he led the group's political arm. Schrader has broken with Biden on some high-profile votes, including as one of two Democrats who voted against Biden's so-called American Rescue Plan for pandemic relief. He also opposed a proposal that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. 

U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) speaking at a press
Rep. Kurt Schrader speaks at a press conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Jun. 6, 2019.Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images file

Schrader is now trying is trying to fend off a primary challenge from his left in the newly drawn 5th District. He faces former Talent City Manager Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who has been endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Roughly $2.5 million has been spent on ads in the race, which has divided national and local Democrats. A trio of outside groups, including two with ties to the pharmaceutical industry, has spent a combined $1 million on ads supporting the congressman, according to the ad tracking firm, AdImpact. McLeod-Skinner has only spent $100,000 on the airwaves. 

Midterm roundup: Peach State poll

A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Georgia Gov. Brain Kemp with a significant lead over his GOP primary challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, despite Perdue running with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. A majority of likely GOP voters — 53 percent — back Kemp, while 27 percent support Perdue.

Kemp needs to win a majority of the May 24 primary vote to avoid a runoff.

Trump, for his part, is sticking by Perdue, saying in a statement last night, “it is not easy to beat an incumbent, however, if our voters turn out, David Perdue will win in a landslide.”

The poll also finds 66 percent of likely primary voters supporting former football player Herschel Walker, who has Trump’s backing in the Senate race, while the other candidates polled in the single digits. Roughly 23 percent said they were undecided.

The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs conducted the poll, surveying 866 likely primary voters from April 10-22. The survey had margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Colorado Senate: Republican Joe O’Dea is up with a new ad touting his business career, highlighting his support for the military and police, as well as a promise to “stop inflation.”

Ohio Senate: Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel has a new ad that features footage of Trump-backed candidate J.D. Vance saying he’s a “never-Trumper.”

Florida Governor: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a new bill that creates an election police unit for the state that will investigate voter fraud and other election-related crimes.

Pennsylvania Governor: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the top Democrat in the gubernatorial race, is up with his first TV ads with a minute-long bio spot and an ad highlighting his work against predatory student loan companies.

Texas Governor: Democrat Beto O’Rourke tested positive for Covid, and says his symptoms are mild.

Wisconsin Governor: GOP businessman Tim Michels launched his gubernatorial bid Monday that he says he will fund primarily with his own personal wealth.

Ohio 11: The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC goes after former Bernie Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner in a new ad as Turner takes on Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown in a primary rematch.

Kansas redistricting: A district court judge rejected the GOP legislature’s congressional map, ordering the legislature to draft another one that is less partisan and does not dilute the power of minority groups.

Climate agenda: NBC’s Julie Tsirkin reports that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski organized a bipartisan meeting to discuss the possibility of a bipartisan climate and energy security bill, including seven GOP senators, eight Democratic senators and three House members.

Young Americans sour on Biden, politics broadly

Young Americans could still turn out in droves in the midterms, but they’re souring on President Joe Biden and politics writ large, according to a new online poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics. The new survey comes amid Democratic fears that a depressed youth turnout could hurt their chances in November.  

A majority of 18 to 29 year-olds surveyed in the poll agreed that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing.” Just 41 percent of young Americans approved of Biden, which is down from a similar survey conducted in the late fall, which found 46 percent of young Americans approved of Biden. 

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on April 25, 2022.Stefani Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images

The online poll, which had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, did find that young voters expressed interest in the upcoming midterm elections, with 36 percent saying they will definitely vote. That figure was at 37 percent during the 2018 midterms, which saw record high youth turnout for a midterm. 

Young Americans also still tend to favor Democrats, with 55 percent saying they preferred Democratic control of Congress, and 34 percent saying they preferred GOP control. B

But Young Republicans reported an increase in enthusiasm about the election, while Democratic enthusiasm dropped compared to 2018. 

That year, 51 percent of Democrats said they were more likely to vote, while 46 percent now say the same. Meanwhile 43 percent of Republicans said they were more likely to vote, an increase from the 36 percent who said the same in 2018. 

"While this is an off-year election; there’s no evidence in this survey that young Americans are off the grid,” IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe said in a statement. “Their contempt for a system that favors the elite and is overwhelmingly partisan is clear, but at the same time they see a role for government and are unlikely to abandon those most in need.”

The poll surveyed 2,024 18 to 29 year-olds online from March 15 through March 30. 

Ad Watch: Democratic senate candidate hits both parties in new spot

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Republicans appear to have a midterm strategy to win over voters this year — attack President Joe Biden and Democrats over inflation and immigration. On top of those issues, Democrats are also facing a stalled agenda, and a war between Russia and Ukraine as they have struggled to settle on a unified message.

In North Carolina, Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, is trying out one message she hopes will resonate with voters: Blame both parties.

In a new ad out Monday, Beasley tells voters, "Looking at Washington, I think both parties are doing the job wrong. Instead of focusing on what people care about, they get caught up in political games."

Cheri Beasley
Cheri Beasley, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks with the owners of Zwelis, a Zimbabwean restaurant, in Durham, N.C., on July 7, 2021.Allison Lee Isley / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Beasley is not the only candidate distancing herself from both parties to gain favor with voters. Earlier this month, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, ran an ad in his campaign for U.S. Senate where he said, “We can't afford to be Democrats and Republicans. Right now, we have to be Americans first."

Both Beasley and Ryan are running in states with incumbent Republican senators. Ryan is running to fill Sen. Rob Portman's, R-Ohio, seat when he retires at the end of his term. Beasley is looking to flip Sen. Richard Burr's, R-N.C., seat when he retires at the end of his term.

In Georgia, too, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., has struggled to find a message to entice voters after just one year in office, where Democrats failed to pass any major piece of President Biden's agenda. In a recent ad, he highlighted just that — his newness to the Senate.

"In just a year in the Senate did I think I could fix Washington? Of course not," he says in the ad, trying to convince voters that he needs a full term to make a big difference. 

NRSC targets Mark Kelly on immigration

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is targeting Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., in a new ad campaign in the senator’s home state.

While Arizona Republicans won’t have an official nominee to replace Kelly until after the August 3 primary, the NRSC — the campaign arm for Senate Republicans — is filling the void when it comes to attacking the Democrat.  

The ad's narrator claims that “Kelly votes 97% with Biden. He voted for sanctuary cities, for benefits to illegals and against a border wall.”

Image: Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., at a hearing in Washington on March 16, 2021.
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., at a hearing in Washington on March 16, 2021.Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call via AP Images file

“Tell Senator Kelly stop voting with Biden and against Arizona,” the ad continues.

Kelly has voted with Biden’s agenda 97.7 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. But he's also  opposing the president on at least one major immigration issue — the administration’s plan to lift Title 42, a pandemic-era rule that prohibited migrants seeking asylum from crossing the border. 

Kelly and a bipartisan group of senators even introduced a bill to delay the lifting of Title 42, which is currently set to end on May 23.

The NRSC is running ads targeting Kelly in English and Spanish, hoping to appeal to Arizona’s large Spanish-speaking population. 

“This will continue to be an important theme in both English and Spanish advertising,” Chris Hartline, the NRSC’s communications director told NBC News.

This particular commercial is part of a seven-figure ad buy, Hartline added.

He also said that the group will continue to attack Kelly on other themes, too, including inflation and his past in business.

David Perdue’s 2022 gubernatorial bid has been mostly about 2020

Jessica Nix

In Georgia’s upcoming Republican gubernatorial primary, former Sen. David Perdue has relied — almost entirely — on Donald Trump and relitigating the former president’s discredited claims about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, according to an analysis of Perdue’s ads, speeches and tweets in his contest against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp. 

All five of Perdue’s television ads have mentioned the 2020 election or election security, and they all prominently feature Trump’s endorsement.

“Kemp is just another establishment politician who fought Trump,” Perdue says in his most recent ad. “I'll make sure our elections are never stolen again,” he continues, arguing that Kemp shouldn’t have certified the 2020 presidential election results after Joe Biden defeated Trump in the Peach State by more than 11,000 votes.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., attends a rally with Vice President Mike Pence in support of both he and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., on Dec. 4, 2020 in Savannah, Ga.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., attends a rally with Vice President Mike Pence in support of both he and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., on Dec. 4, 2020 in Savannah, Ga.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

In Perdue’s five-minute speech at Trump’s rally in Commerce, Ga., in March, all five minutes were dedicated to Trump’s presidential record, the 2020 election and Perdue’s top campaign issue of establishing an election law enforcement agency and eradicating Dominion voting machines.  

“In the state of Georgia, thanks to Brian Kemp, our elections in 2020 were absolutely stolen,” Perdue said

And of Perdue’s nearly 70 tweets since March 1, 17 have mentioned Trump; four have mentioned Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.; eight have mentioned 2020 election theories or allegations of fraud; and only four mention other issues — like eliminating the state income tax and education.

“President Trump endorsed me because he knows Kemp can’t defeat Abrams in November. Kemp abandoned conservatives, divided our party, and can’t pull us together,” Perdue, the former senator who lost his seat in Jan. 2021, tweeted back in March

“Georgia conservatives have been abandoned by Kemp, and he cannot pull the party together to win the general election," Perdue’s campaign said in a statement to NBC News.

“While David Perdue continues to run a failing campaign based on lies about Brian Kemp's record, Gov. Kemp will continue to tell the truth, [and] share his record with Georgia voters," said Cody Hall, Kemp's communications director, responds. 

Polls have consistently shown Kemp leading Perdue in the May 24 primary, with one Fox News poll from March putting the incumbent governor ahead by double digits. 

Still, Charles Bullock, a political-science professor at the University Georgia, points to recent polling finding that nearly half of Republican voters believe Trump’s endorsement is very or somewhat important, as well as three-quarters of them saying that widespread voter fraud took place in 2020.

In fact, Perdue allies point to how Trump’s endorsement of Kemp in 2018 catapulted him to the governor’s mansion four years ago. 

If no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote next month, this GOP gubernatorial primary will head to a June 21 runoff, and the winner will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. 

Rivals confront Fetterman at debate over 2013 gun incident

Pennsylvania Senate Democratic hopefuls Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta pushed Lt. Gov. John Fetterman onto the defensive during Thursday's primary debate over questions about a 2013 incident when Fetterman confronted an unarmed Black jogger with a shotgun after saying he heard gunshots.

Asked if he would do anything differently about the incident today, Fetterman recounted the situation and said that: "It's not it's certainly not a situation that anyone would want to be involved with with gun violence. But I'd like to point out that I'm the only Democrat on this stage that has successfully confronted crime and gun violence and has been in charge of a police department."

He quickly clashed with his rivals over the question of whether he pointed his gun at the jogger, Christopher Miyares. Miyares has said that Fetterman pointed the gun at his chest, but Fetterman has repeatedly denied that charge. When the lieutenant governor describes the incident, he has said he had his gun but never pointed it at Miyares

“Not only will John not admit that to pointing, he won't admit that he was pointing the gun at this person," Lamb said during the debate. 

"He also won’t really answer your question as to whether he did anything wrong and should have done it differently. And I just think that's disqualifying for any of us who have to work hard to gain the trust of the black community.”

Then state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is Black, repeatedly asked Fetterman if he would apologize for the incident. After Fetterman denied pointing the gun at the man and repeated his comments that he "successfully confronted gun violence" in his town while mayor, Kenyatta replied: "You're the only Democrat who used a shotgun to chase down an unarmed black man."

While the conversation about the incident may have been the flashpoint of the debate, the three candidates mixed it up on a variety of other issues. 

Lamb and Kenyatta came out against suspending the federal gas tax, something Fetterman said he'd support. Lamb and Fetterman supported extending the Title 42 pandemic border policy that has blocked asylum on the Southern border, and split on Philadelphia's recent, and brief, reimposition of its indoor mask mandate (Fetterman and Kenyatta against it, with Lamb supportive of it). 

And the group tangled over Fetterman's support for a tax on the wealthiest individuals. Fetterman responded to a question from the moderator about what income levels he'd want a wealth tax to apply for by saying "you know it when you see it." 

That prompted both Lamb and Kenyatta to attack, criticizing Fetterman for offering a lack of specifics. 

The race for Indiana's ninth district heats up on the airwaves

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Indiana’s primary election is less than two weeks away, and the Republican fight for the state’s ninth Congressional District is heating up on the airwaves.

The seat is up for grabs in the wake of Rep. Trey Hollingsworth’s decision not to seek another term, setting up a battle featuring nine candidates, three of whom have been spending on TV ads.

Stu Barnes-Israel, a veteran who’s running for the Republican nomination, has been up on the air for weeks. In an ad from March, he touts his “conservative plan” to “fight for freedom, lower gas prices and secure the southern border.” 

Barnes-Israel has also had an outside group, Hoosier Values, running ads in his favor.

In one such ad, the narrator says, “Hoosiers don't need another politician in Congress. We need a conservative outsider. Stu Barnes Israel.”

“Stu supports a strong military and opposes Biden's disastrous foreign policy,” the narrator adds later.

Barnes-Israel has also earned endorsements from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

His most prominent opponents are two candidates who have run for the seat before — businessman Mike Sodrel and former state Sen. Erin Houchin. Sodrel even served as the representative for this district for one term from 2005 to 2007.

Mike Sodrel
Mike Sodrel poses in the maintenance port of his trucking company Sodrel Holding Co. in Jeffersonville, Ind. in 2017.News and Tribune via AP file

Sodrel’s ads have focused on inflation, with a narrator telling voters “Mike Sodrel will work to get American energy independent again, stop inflation and lower prices at the gas pump.”

He’s also got an outside group running ads to support him and attack Houchin.

“Career politician Erin Houchin has failed us. It's time to drain the swamp,” a narrator says in an ad funded by the House Freedom Action. The group supports conservative candidates in congressional elections across the country. In Wyoming, they’re backing an opponent to Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and in Colorado, they support right wing Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.

Meanwhile, Houchin has been touting her record in state politics in an ad

“To save America, we have to fight,” she says. “I fought Biden's mandates, and won. After the 2020 election, I wrote the bill to require photo ID for everyone. I authored the ban on critical race theory and have been the state's number one defender of our law enforcement officers.” 

She adds, “I'm pro-life, pro-Trump, pro-Second Amendment.”

Of the candidates, Sodrel has spent the most on ads so far, dropping $225,000, per AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm. Houchin is behind him, having spent $133,000 and Barnes-Israel trails, with only $111,000 spent on ads.

Sanders advisor: Democrats need to use power, authority

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Faiz Shakir, a senior advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders and his former campaign manager called on Democrats to embrace a more progressive stance in the midterm elections in an interview with MTP Daily Thursday. 

Shakir discussed a memo he recently wrote to Sanders supporters, in which he argued that a progressive agenda is popular and can work to win elections.

“The Democratic Party is certainly losing some support,” Shakir said on Thursday. “Who are they losing support with? Young people, working class people, disaffected people who have become cynical about politics. Who speaks to them? How do you get people who aren’t already with you? And I think Senator Sanders’ vision does that.”

Watch the full interview: 

Outside group hits Alabama GOP's Mike Durant on gun comments

A new ad in Alabama's hotly contested GOP Senate primary uses old footage of Mike Durant talking about gun regulations to argue that he's a "RINO," or a Republican In Name Only. 

The new spot from Alabama RINO PAC, which popped up earlier this year to attack Durant, relies on recently unearthed footage of Durant in 2011, when he said: "From a military perspective, the first thing that needs to be done is to disarm the population. Let’s face it, if we could do that in some of our U.S. cities, that would be a pretty good step toward law and order. But, you ever ask yourself: Why don't we do it here? Because it's hard. It could result in rioting and widespread rebellion, making the situation worse." 

While the comments are more than a decade old, they were recently unearthed by the conservative media website Breitbart. In response, Durant told the Rightside Radio show that the comments were "mischaracterized" and that he's "absolutely pro-2nd amendment" with his "own collection of weapons." 

"I was an attack helicopter pilot in special aviation operations. I shoot more rounds every month than most people shoot in their lives. You know, this is just typical. If this is the best you can do ... my opponents can dig up something from 10 years ago that wasn’t really what I was saying, then, you know, I guess it’s part of the game. But to me, it’s really meaningless.”

Durant is running primarily against former GOP Senate aide Katie Britt and Rep. Mo Brooks, who had been endorsed by former President Trump before he rescinded his endorsement

Alabama RINO PAC has spent about $630,000 on ads in the race so far, far less than other outside groups — the Club for Growth, which is backing Brooks, has spent $3.5 million and Alabama's Future, which has opposed Brooks, has spent $3.7 million, per ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

Durant has spent more on advertising than any other candidate with $2.4 million, ahead of Britt's $1.9 million.

UPDATE: Durant launched an ad on Friday responding to the super PAC spot, calling it a "false attack ad."

March NBC poll found country split over transportation mask mandate

In light of the recent federal court decision that halted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask mandate on public transportation, NBC's last poll in March found a slight majority supported keeping the mandate in effect. 

FIfty-one percent said that the government should continue to require face masks on public transportation, with 46 percent saying that they wanted the government to end the requirement (within the poll's 3.1 percent margin of error). 

Out of those who wanted the mandate to continue, 38 percent wanted it to last longer than 6 more months, 28 percent wanted it to last between 4-6 months, 16 percent wanted it to last 2-3 more months and 3 percent said they wanted it to last for the next month. 

A passenger reads while riding the L train in New York on April 13, 2021.
A passenger reads while riding the L train in New York on April 13, 2021.Nina Westervelt / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The main fault lines on the issue were by political leaning and race. Eighty-four percent of Democrats supported keeping the mandate in place, but just 22 percent of Republicans. 

People of color (70 percent keep, 27 percent end mask mandate) were far more likely than whites (43 percent keep, 55 percent end) to support the mandate's extension. 

NBC polled 1,000 adults from March 18-23, about a month before this week's decision U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for the Middle District of Florida that the CDC lacked the authority to impose the mandate. The Justice Department is appealing the ruling, but right now, the mandate is not being enforced. 

Rep. Joe Wilson endorses primary challenger against fellow SC Rep. Nancy Mace

GOP Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., has endorsed Republican Katie Arrington in her primary bid against one of his own colleagues, fellow GOP South Carolina GOP Rep. Nancy Mace.

“Katie is a proven fighter for our conservative principles of limited government with expanded freedom which provides for a strong national defense and the safeguarding of our border,” Wilson said in a statement first reported by The State Newspaper. Wilson garnered national attention for shouting, "You lie!" during former President Barack Obama's 2009 State of the Union address. 

Katie Arrington
Former state Rep. Katie Arrington speaks to a crowd gathered to hear former President Donald Trump in Florence, S.C. on Mar. 12, 2022.Meg Kinnard / AP file

Mace responded by saying that Wilson is not sufficiently conservative and that he "is the reason we need term limits in Congress."

It’s unusual, but not unprecedented, for a House member to back a primary challenger taking on one of his or her colleagues. Four Democratic House members, for example, have endorsed attorney Jessica Cisneros over Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar. 

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Arrington in February, setting up the primary as a test of Trump’s influence in the party. Mace sharply criticized Trump after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, but she was not one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting an insurrection. 

Mace has argued that she is best positioned to win the 1st District in November. Arrington lost the 1st District in 2018 after defeating another Trump critic, former GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, in a Republican primary. The 1st District did become more Republican after redistricting, per 538. The Cook Political Report rates the 1st District race Solid Republican.

Like other Republicans facing Trump-backed primary challengers, Mace outraised Arrington in the first fundraising quarter of the year. Mace raised $863,000, ending the quarter with $2 million in her campaign account, while Arrington raised $814,000 and had $754,000 on hand. 

The South Carolina primary is set for June 14.

Bernie Sanders' campaign memo had advice for his candidates. So who has he endorsed?

Sen. Bernie Sanders' former campaign manager Faiz Shakir made headlines for a memo that pointedly reminded us all that the Vermont Independent hasn't ruled out another run for president in 2024.

The memo that caused all the stir, addressed to Sanders' "allies," was mainly directed at candidates on the ballot this year, detailing a list of suggestions for how Sanders' preferred candidates should respond to questions about his endorsement.

Yet Sanders has only endorsed eight candidates so far, and a majority are running in deeply Democratic areas. 

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington D.C. on Oct. 6, 2021.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

He's only backed one candidate for Senate  — Vermont Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for his home state's open Senate seat. Sanders has also backed two House candidates taking on Democratic incumbents in primaries: attorney Jessica Cisneros, who faces Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, in a May 24 primary runoff next month, and Nina Turner, his presidential campaign co-chair who is taking on Ohio Rep. Shontel Brown in a May 3 primary. 

Three Democrats running in solidly Democratic open House seats have also earned Sanders' endorsement. Former Austin City Councilman Greg Casar won the Democratic primary in Texas' 35th District in March, while state Rep. Jasmine Crockett is competing in a primary runoff on Texas' 30th District. Sanders has also endorsed state Rep. Summer Lee, who is running in the open 12th District race in Pittsburgh. Lee's primary is set for May 17. 

Democrat Lee Merritt of Texas had Sanders’ backing in his failed bid for Texas attorney general. Sanders has also endorsed Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo. 

Of these candidates, Cisneros has taken the most heat for her progressive policies. Shakir did provide some advice for candidates like Cisneros, encouraging them to embrace Sanders' endorsement.

"Sen. Sanders is putting forward an extremely popular vision for the Democratic Party that will win back critical support that we have lost," he wrote. 

Shakir also noted at the end of the memo that Sanders "is interested in endorsing more candidates."

Jonathan Allen contributed to this report.

Watch: Over 90 percent say Marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use

On 4/20/2022, just 12 states fully prohibit marijuana use, with 91 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for either medical or recreational use, according to a Pew poll. Watch the full breakdown below: 

Even small bipartisan efforts becomes baggage in GOP primary races

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Even Republican incumbents who seemingly made all the right moves to avoid an intra-party challenge in the 2022 midterm elections are finding that any hint of working across the political aisle can be fodder for attacks on their party purity.

Take, for example, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who recently became the subject of an attack ad from a super PAC called the Arkansas Patriot Fund — an ad which singled out Boozman's votes to confirm eight of President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominees early in his presidential term. 

Historically, bipartisan votes for presidential nominees have not been a flash point for primary contests unless a nominee is particularly controversial.  And Boozman is one of the most conservative members of the Senate, only voting with Biden’s agenda 34.1 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. Only 16 senators vote with Biden less often, according to the analysis.

Image: Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, during a hearing in Washington on Feb. 9, 2022.
Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, during a hearing in Washington on Feb. 9, 2022.Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

President Donald Trump has even endorsed Boozman, a move that’s usually considered a conservative seal of approval. But that hasn't stopped the Arkansas Patriots Fund from calling the senator “Biden's favorite Republican.”

Arkansas Patriots Fund is a PAC that supports Boozman's primary challenger, veteran Jake Bequette. It's funded by Republican mega-donor Richard Uihlein, the founder of shipping and packing supply company Uline. He's a donor to other conservative groups, including Club for Growth Action.

The GOP infighting over working with the other party has also popped up in Nevada, where one Republican primary candidate for governor, John Lee, is attacking another, Joe Lombardo, in a TV ad for being Nevada Democratic Gov. “Steve Sisolak's favorite Republican.” 

The narrator in the ad accuses Lombardo for being too liberal because he served on Sisolak’s transition team when he became governor. 

Lombardo and Sisolak are distant now, but originally became friends in the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas. At the time, Lombardo was the Clark County sheriff and Sisolak was head of the Clark County Commission.

The attacks reflect the more ideologically conservative primary electorate, said Dr. Lawrence Jacobs, the Director of the Center for the Study of Politics & Governance at the University of Minnesota and author of the book “Democracy under Fire: Donald Trump and the Breaking of American History.”

“It's a very small number of people who are involved in the primaries, and they are exercising enormous influence,” Jacobs said. 

Jacobs added that primary voters "tend to be much more ideologically extreme, whereas most Americans tend to be a bit more moderate and they're willing to look at compromise."

Nationally, a 2021 Morning Consult poll found that 71 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement, “the policies with bipartisan support are the best policies.” 

The same poll found that 78 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement, “I respect politicians more when they make efforts to get bipartisan support.” 

Midterm roundup: Granite State Grind

President Joe Biden traveled to New Hampshire Tuesday, where he was joined by two Democrats facing tough re-election fights: Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas. Both lawmakers also got shoutouts from the president for their work on the bipartisan infrastructure package, per NBC News’ Mike Memoli.

Their appearances at Biden’s event shows that some vulnerable Democrats may not be skittish about appearing with Biden, even as his approval ratings hit new lows — and especially when they can tout new infrastructure spending.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

California Senate: A tech executive is defending his quixotic Senate bid amid allegations it’s a personal vendetta (Dan O’Dowd’s first ad dropped this week, which attacks Tesla over its self-driving cars).

Georgia Senate: In Sen. Raphael Warnock’s new ad, the Democrat tells viewers that he knew he couldn’t “fix Washington” in just one year because he’s not a magician, but touts the work he has done since taking office.

North Carolina Senate: The Club for Growth, which is backing Rep. Ted Budd, is running a new spot where Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson criticizes Budd’s Senate GOP primary rival, former Gov. Pat McCrory, calling him “a nice guy, but he’s no conservative.”

Pennsylvania Senate: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has a new TV ad up in the Democratic primary responding to attack ads from a super PAC backing Rep. Conor Lamb. In the GOP primary, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headlining a campaign rally for former hedge fund manager David McCormick.

Vermont Senate: Democratic Rep. Peter Welch is up with his first TV spot of his Senate campaign, touting his work as the state’s at-large congressman. Welch’s campaign reserved $69,000 worth of airtime, per AdImpact.

Florida Governor: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked lawmakers to rescind a special carve-out for Disney that shields it from certain regulations and taxes amid conservatives’ anger at the company. Meanwhile, Democratic Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Freid is suing the federal government over a statute that bans marijuana users from owning firearms or getting concealed-carry permits.

Michigan 11: The Democratic primary between Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin has become a proxy war for the party’s ideological divides, particularly on Israel, NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reports from the 11th District.

Maryland Governor: The family of the incarcerated man that Maryland Democrat Wes Moore partially based his best-selling book off is accusing the Democrat of exploiting their relative’s life story.

Nebraska Governor: Republican Charles Herbster, who was accused of groping by eight women, will speak at Trump’s April 29 rally in Nebraska.

Tennessee 05: The Tennessee GOP kicked former State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus and two other candidates off the primary ballot for failing to vote in three recent GOP primaries and actively participating in the state or local parties. Ortagus, who has Trump’s endorsement in the 5th District race, said her team “is evaluating the options before us,” NBC News’ Allan Smith reports.

Why is Bidenism failing? The NBC News poll offers an answer

Mark Murray

Washington Post columnist Perry Bacon Jr. asked a provocative question: Why is Bidenism failing?

Noting President Biden's low poll numbers after more than a year into office — despite pursuing relatively popular policies and trying to be a more unifying president than Donald Trump was — Bacon pointed to centrist complaints that Biden has swung too far left, progressive criticism that he hasn't been progressive enough, and a structural explanation that growing polarization makes it nearly impossible for any president to be popular.

But our NBC News poll offers another answer: It's the leadership. Or at least the perceptions of Biden's leadership.

Biden's approval rating started off relatively strong despite the political polarization — 53 percent approve, 39 percent disapprove in April 2021 — and so did perceptions of his leadership

But by the end of the year — after the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, the Delta and Omicron surges, the end of "Build Back Better" negotiations, and growing signs of inflation — Biden's presidential qualities tumbled, even though the unemployment was falling below 4.0 percent and hundreds of thousands of jobs were being created each month.

Compared with past presidents on these qualities, Biden's numbers on "being easygoing and likeable" were worse than George W. Bush's and Barack Obama's, though far better than Donald Trump's.


But on a perceived Biden strength -- "uniting the country" -- Biden's net rating was lower than Trump's.


And Biden has tied Trump on "being a good commander-in-chief,” while significantly trailing Obama, Bush 43 and Bill Clinton on the same question. 


The thing about poll numbers is that they can change. Just ask Obama. Or even Trump (who did see his approval rating increase during the course of his presidency).

But to answer why Bidenism is failing — right now — those perceptions above help tell part of the story about Biden's presidency.

Latest fundraising wave shows handful of struggling incumbents in competitive districts

We've already told you about some of the biggest fundraisers of the quarter, but there's a flip-side of the latest round of Federal Election Commission reports — a handful of incumbents who got beat out by their challengers.

Two House members, one from each party, who are running Cook "toss up" races were outraised by challengers of the opposite party in the first fundraising quarter — Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee and Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot. 

Republican self-funder Paul Junge, who raised nearly $1.3 million (including a $1.1 million contribution from Junge himself), outraised Kildee and his $869,000. But Kildee did have more cash on hand, with $2.4 million in the bank to Junge’s $1.2 million.

And while Chabot raised raised $197,000 and had $582,000 banked away at the end of the quarter, the top Democrat in his race, Greg Landsman, raised $533,000 and had $419,000 in the bank.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., speaks during a news conference outside the Capitol on the on the Affordable Insulin Now Act vote in the House of Representatives on March 31, 2022.
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., speaks during a news conference outside the Capitol on the on the Affordable Insulin Now Act vote in the House of Representatives on March 31, 2022.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

In other competitive, but not "toss up" races: 

Iowa Republican Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks (who raised $440,000) was outraised by Democrat Christina Bohannan (who raised $514,000) in her "likely Republican" race. 

Former Democratic Rep. Max Rose outraised New York GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis ($706,000) in the "lean Democratic" seat. 

Indiana Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan ($178,000) was outraised by Republican Blair Milo ($208,000) in his "likely Democratic" seat. 

California Republican Young Kim, who had a strong $1 million quarter, was outraised by Democrat Asif Mahmood, who raised $1.4 million. 

And Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran ($579,000) was outraised by Republican Eli Crane ($650,000). 

A handful of incumbents in competitive seats were also outraised by their primary challengers as well. 

The most stark example was Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was massively outraised by his primary runoff opponent, Jessica Cisneros. Cisneros raised $1.7 million, spending $1.1 million and closing the quarter with more than $1 million. Cuellar raised $753,000, spent $586,000 and had $1.4 million on hand.

GOP Rep. Dave Schweikert, who has long been dogged by ethics issues, was also outraised by a primary challenger, Elijah Norton, because of his challenger’s loans to his campaign. Norton loaned his campaign $900,000, totaling almost $1.1 million in receipts for the quarter, while Schweikert, who loaned his campaign $200,000, ended with $380,000 raised for the quarter.

Other incumbents in safe seats were outraised by their primary challengers too, including Illinois Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, and New York Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jamaal Bowman. 

Pennsylvania, Ohio top Senate candidate spending

Almost half of Senate candidate spending in competitive races during the first three months of the year was concentrated in two states: Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

Senate candidates in the nine races the Cook Political Report rates as competitive spent a combined $111 million, according to fundraising reports filed Friday. Pennsylvania saw the most spending, with $25.7 million, with Ohio a close second with $24.7 million in spending. 

Both contests have competitive Republican primaries in May with wealthy candidates spending millions of their own money, while Pennsylvania is also hosting a contested Democratic primary. 

Former hedge fund manager David McCormick spent nearly $9.6 million from January through March, surpassing the rest of the GOP field ahead of Pennsylvania’s May 17 primary. McCormick was followed by celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who spent 6 million. Lt. Gov John Fetterman led the Democratic field, spending nearly $4.3 million.

Image: Mehmet Oz
Mehmet Oz speaks to members of the media following a campaign event at a restaurant in Greensburg, Pa., on Jan. 26, 2022.Nate Smallwood / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Ahead of Ohio’s May 3 GOP primary, investment banker Mike Gibbons has spent nearly $8.4 million, followed by state Sen. Matt Dolan, who has spent $6 million. Both have been self-funding their campaigns. 

Although Pennsylvania and Ohio saw the most combined spending from candidates, the candidate in a competitive race who spent the most campaign cash in the first quarter was Sen. Raphael Warnock. The Georgia Democrat spent $10.8 million from January through March as he runs for a full term in November. 

Warnock accounted for much of the $15.5 million that candidates spent in the Georgia race. In Arizona, candidates spent a combined $12.8 million, while contenders spent $12 million in Wisconsin. Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Val Demings spent $8.2 million in Florida, while Senate candidates in Nevada spent a combined $6.1 million. 

Senate races in North Carolina and Nevada saw the lowest amounts of candidates spending, with $4 million and $2.3 million spent in those races respectively.

Pro-impeachment Republicans outraise Trump challengers

All six of the Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol outraised their Trump-backed primary challengers in the first there months of 2022, new fundraising reports show. 

On average, a House incumbent facing a Trump-backed challenger raised nearly twice as much as the primary challenger and ended the quarter with more than three times as much cash on hand

One of the most high-profile Trump critics, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, outraised her primary opponent, Harriet Hageman, $2.9 million to $1.3 million. Cheney also ended the first fundraising quarter on March 31 with significantly more campaign cash. Cheney had $6.8 million in her campaign account, while Hageman’s campaign had nearly $1.1 million. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks during a hearing at the Capitol on July 27, 2021.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks during a hearing at the Capitol on July 27, 2021.Oliver Contreras / Pool via Getty Images file

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the only Republican senator up for re-election this year who voted to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection. She maintained a financial advantage in her race, where she faces Trump-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski raised  nearly $1.6 million in the first quarter and hand $5.3 million on hand, while Tshibaka raised $673,000 and ended the quarter with $968,999 on hand. 

Three other House Republicans who did not vote to impeach Trump, but who face Trump-endorsed challengers – Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, and West Virginia Rep. David McKinley – also raised more than their primary opponents during the first fundraising quarter, according to reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission. 

McKinley’s primary presents the first test of the power of Trump’s endorsement against a sitting House member. He faces fellow GOP Rep. Alex Mooney on May 10, after the pair of lawmakers were drawn into the same district after redistricting. 

McKinley narrowly outraised Mooney with a $482,000 haul to Mooney’s $465,000. But Mooney had more cash on hand, with $1.4 million in his campaign account to McKinley’s $1 million.

Former Obama campaign manager backs Arizona Democrat for governor

Former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced Monday that he is backing, and will informally advise, Marco Lopez, a Democratic candidate for governor of Arizona — a move which could give the underdog candidate some footing to gain ground on his primary opponent, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

“If we want Arizona to go blue in November, we need someone like Marco on the ticket who can excite Latinos and the diverse coalition that helped President Biden win Arizona in 2020,” Messina said in a press release from Lopez’s campaign. 

Lopez, the former mayor of Nogales, Arizona, served as the chief of staff to the United States Customs and Border Protection under the Obama Administration. But with four months until the Democrats’ August primary, Lopez must catch Hobbs.

Marco Lopez speaks during the 2017 Latino Impact Summit Meetings at the UN in New York on Dec. 1, 2017.
Marco Lopez speaks during the 2017 Latino Impact Summit Meetings at the UN in New York on Dec. 1, 2017.Luiz Rampelotto / Sipa USA via AP file

“We know there’s a large degree of undecided voters throughout the state of Arizona, and we encounter them,” Lopez said, adding about Hobbs: “They’re waiting for us to come in off the sidelines and make our case known.”

The Hobbs campaign did not respond to a request to comment on the record about the endorsement.

There is scant public polling in the primary, but the last credible poll released in early January in Arizona showed Hobbs, who also has maintained a fundraising advantage, with a sizable lead over Lopez and state Rep. Aaron Lieberman . But Hobbs has faced scrutiny in recent months, including losing a lawsuit over the treatment of a Black legislative aide and the subsequent firing of that aide in 2015.

“Steady as you go, stay focused and stay on message,” Lopez said, referring to Messina’s advice to him as he harkened back to Obama’s early rise as a largely-unknown candidate.

This fall, Democrats are facing an exceedingly-tough race to replace Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Former local news anchor Kari Lake, who is backed by Trump, continues to sit atop the GOP polls, but she is facing a stiff challenge from another well-financed Republican, Karrin Taylor Robson. 

Midterm roundup: Trump bets on JD Vance in Ohio Senate

A Good Friday announcement may not necessarily be the best way to maximize exposure, but former President Donald Trump’s decision to endorse author J.D. Vance in Ohio's Senate race late Friday afternoon shook up another crowded GOP primary.

The news came one day after NBC reported Trump had decided to endorse but had been facing pressure from others to hold off.

Just weeks from the May 3 primary, Vance now has a major selling point for GOP voters who may be on the fence. But his opponents aren’t backing down, and some are still emphasizing Vance’s past critiques of Trump and Trump supporters.

The big picture: After a slew of safe endorsements, Trump is stepping out onto the ledge with endorsements in crowded primaries, with several coming up in May. Wins in races like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina would help Trump keep hold on the power he has among Republicans, but the former president is taking risks that could hurt how he’s perceived if his candidates lose.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

North Carolina Senate: WRAL reports on how GOP Rep. Ted Budd, who’s running with Trump’s blessing, continues to avoid debating his top primary rival, former Gov. Pat McCrory.

Iowa Senate: Democratic Senate hopeful Abby Finkenauer will remain on the ballot, thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling regarding her nominating petition signatures.

Oklahoma Senate: Former EPA head Scott Pruitt, who resigned amid multiple ethics scandals, is running for Senate.

Florida Governor: Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist for governor in Florida, Politico reported. Crist faces Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Sen. Annette Taddeo in the Democratic primary to take on GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Georgia Governor: A federal judge ruled against Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams’ challenge to the state’s campaign finance laws.

Ohio 11: Democratic Majority for Israel PAC is up with a new spot touting Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown’s first few months in Congress weeks ahead of her primary rematch against Democrat Nina Turner. DMFI was a big Brown ally during Brown’s special election victory over Turner last year.

Midterm roundup: Campaign cash

The Federal Elections Commission fundraising reports for the first quarter of 2022 are due by midnight Friday and the political world will get a new look at which House and Senate contenders have financial advantages heading into another expensive midterm election cycle.

Some candidates have stepped up their fundraising, including Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. He raised $7.1 million in the first quarter, according to Fox News, ten times the $711,000 he raised in the final quarter of 2021. 

Senate Democrats have also announced eye-popping hauls ahead of the filing deadline. On Thursday Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., announced he raised a whopping $13.6 million in the first fundraising quarter, ending the quarter with $25.6 million on hand for his re-election. His chief GOP opponent, former football player Herschel Walker, announced Friday morning that he raised $5.5 million, but he did not release a cash on hand number. 

Ohio Senate: Former President Donald Trump is expected to endorse author JD Vance in Ohio’s Republican primary for Senate. The May 3 primary is just a few weeks away, but NBC News’ Marc Caputo and Vaughn Hillyard report that other leading candidates in the race, including former GOP Chair Jane Timken and former state treasurer Josh Mandel, are less than thrilled about Trump’s decision and are actively working to dissuade him from endorsing Vance.

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman slammed an ad from an outside group that called Fetterman a “democratic socialist” as “demonstrably a lie,” in an interview with NBC10 in Philadelphia. Fetterman described himself as “a good, solid Democrat.” Rep. Conor Lamb was also asked about the ad, which came from a group backing Lamb in the Senate primary, and said, “The Republicans will call any of us a socialist that gets the nomination. What we have to discuss as Democrats is who does that lael stick to and who it doesn’t.” 

Nebraska Governor: Several women, including a state senator, have accused GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster of groping them. Herbster, who has been endorsed by Trump, denied the allegations, calling them “a ridiculous, unfounded dirty political trick.”

South Carolina 01: GOP Rep. Nancy Mace launched her first TV ad of her primary, where she faces a Trump-backed challenger, Katie Arrington. Her opening spot focuses on border security and immigration, featuring Mace at the southern border saying, “Finish the wall and secure the border, once and for all.” Mace’s campaign spent $78,000 on broadcast and radio, per AdImpact.  

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar launches first ad of primary runoff race

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is out with the first ad of his runoff election against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros. 

Cuellar's campaign is re-airing an ad that originally ran in mid February, a few weeks before Texas’ March 1 primary. In it, he attacks Cisneros over her plans to become less dependent on law enforcement officials on the border, alleging, “she'd split Border Patrol in half, leaving us with open borders that would make us less safe and cost us thousands of jobs.”

Cisneros is an attorney and is running as a progressive alternative to Cuellar, who is one of the more moderate Democrats in the House. The two faced off in 2020, where Cuellar narrowly beat Cisneros in a primary.

Rep. Henry Cuellar
Rep. Henry Cuellar speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on Jul. 30, 2021.Lenin Nolly / NurPhoto via AP file

In the rematch this year, the presence of a third candidate prevented either Cuellar or Cisneros from getting over 50 percent of the primary vote, which was needed to avoid a runoff.

So far, both candidates have spent over one million dollars on ads, according to AdImpact, but that number is expected to rise as they get closer to the May 24 runoff.

A new issue that could impact voters in the runoff is the Biden administration’s plan to lift Title 42, a pandemic-era immigration policy that prevents migrants from entering the U.S. when seeking asylum. Title 42 is supposed to be lifted on May 23, the day before the runoff.

It will once again allow for migrants to present at the U.S.-Mexico border, claim asylum and be allowed into the U.S. pending an asylum hearing in front of a judge. During the pandemic, migrants were forced to wait in Mexico while waiting for their asylum case to be adjudicated, rather than enter the U.S.

Cuellar is one of a handful of House Democrats to already come out against the White House’s plan, telling Chuck Todd on MTP Daily yesterday, “why are we letting 100 people in – 100 percent of them, when we should only be saying ‘Bienvenidos’ to only 10 or 12 percent.”

“The system has to be at the border, it has to be more efficient. The way the administration, with all due respect, and we’ve given them very constructive ideas – is not the right way of handling the border situation,” Cuellar added.

Cisneros has previously advocated for the Biden administration to lift Title 42.

Watch: No matter how you slice it, most Americans oppose removal of Trump's Title 42

NBC News' Steve Kornacki joined Meet the Press Daily Thursday to break down the latest polling data showing that, no matter how you slice it, most Americans oppose the removal of President Donald Trump's Title 42 border rule.  Watch the conversation below: 

New ad highlights Stacey Abrams’ business experience in Georgia

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

In a new ad out Thursday, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams touts her business experience in a playful ad with her former business partner.

The ad begins with Abrams and Lara Hodgson, both co-founders of the invoice payment solutions company NowAccount, listing opposites about each other.

“Lara talks to anyone,” Abrams says.

“Stacey listens to everyone,” Hodgson says.

“Lara’s an independent,” Abrams quips.

“Stacey is a Democrat,” Hodgson responds.

“Lara’s more Star Wars,” Abrams says.

“Stacey's Star Trek,” Hodgson answers.

Eventually, the two discuss how they grew their company and how that experience would serve Abrams as governor.

“We built a company together to finance other small businesses,” Abrams says near the end of the ad. “That's how we're going to grow Georgia's economy,” she adds.

Image: NABTU Legislative Conference Held In Washington, DC
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks during the annual North America's Building Trades Union's Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel on April 6, 2022 in Washington, DC.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

This is a new commercial in a long string of recent ads from Abrams as Georgia voters approach their primary elections in May. Though Abrams is running unopposed and is the de facto party nominee, she’s gearing up for a tough general election battle with the eventual Republican nominee. 

Plus, Abrams has a lot of money to spend while she waits for Gov. Brian Kemp and his opponent, former Georgia Sen. David Perdue, to duke it out in the Republican primary. 

Abrams hasn’t yet reported how much she raised in the first three months of 2022, but at the end of January her campaign had already raised $9.2 million since the beginning of December, when she announced she would run for governor.

Abrams has already spent over $4.4 million on ads, more than any other candidate running for governor, including Kemp, who has spent $1.5 million, and Perdue, who has spent $920,000.

This is the first ad to tout Abrams' business experience with an old partner. Her other commercials have focused on how she helped Georgia families after the last election and her community organizing during the pandemic.

Rapahel Warnock raises $13.6 million in first fundraising quarter

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., raised a whopping $13.6 million in the first three months of the year as he gears up for a competitive re-election race, his campaign announced Thursday. 

Warnock ended the first fundraising quarter on March 31 with $25.6 million in his campaign account. His campaign claimed Warnock’s haul broke the record for the most money a Senate candidate has raised in the first quarter of an election year. 

“From fighting to cap the cost of insulin and lower prices at the gas pump to pushing for student loan debt relief, Reverend Warnock's commitment to serving the people of Georgia continues to drive the biggest grassroots fundraising effort in any Senate race this cycle,” Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks said in a statement.

Warnock’s chief GOP opponent, former football star Herschel Walker, has not yet announced his first quarter fundraising numbers. But he has also proven to be a strong fundraiser, pulling in $5.3 million in the last three months of 2021. Fundraising reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on Friday. 

Although Warnock starts the race with a financial advantage, the Georgia race is still expected to be close. President Joe Biden won the state by less than half a percentage point in 2020, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Georgia since 1992. And Warnock won a special election runoff by 2 points. He’s now running for a full term.

The Cook Political Report rates the Georgia Senate race a Toss Up

Climate group launches $3M ad buy in 5 swing states

A climate change advocacy group composed of scientists who are mothers is launching a $3 million ad campaign targeting voters in five key swing states on how they can personally take action on the issue.

The campaign – paid for by Science Moms, a nonpartisan climate group – will air in Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and encourages viewers to reach out to their elected officials to urge them to “stop big polluters.”

The ads are designed to enable viewers who are frustrated with government inaction on climate change with a to-do list to take action on the issue themselves, the group’s leaders told NBC News.

“We’re speaking up and asking our leaders how they plan to stop big polluters because it’s time for our representatives to represent our interests, like you know, our kids having a future,” says Dr. Joellen Russell, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona and a founder of Science Moms, in one of the group’s ads.

The ads, shared first with NBC News, also urge viewers to swap out carbon burning cars and appliances for better, environment-friendly alternatives, and to share information about climate change with friends and family in-person and on social media. The ads will run across digital platforms and steaming services. 

Science Moms launched in 2021 as a $10 million educational campaign of Potential Energy – a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition aiming to tackle climate change by targeting mothers.

The group has said it will be the largest climate change educational campaign since former vice president Al Gore’s $100 million effort around the issue in 2007.

Ahead of Tax Day, DNC launches ad campaign spotlighting one GOP tax proposal

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

The Democratic National Committee launched a new digital ad campaign Wednesday, targeting voters in swing states ahead of Tax Day.

The ads, which will run in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada, will put a spotlight on a tax plan released earlier this year by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., which could result in raising taxes for over half of Americans. 

The ads will appear in Google Search results when people in those states search for tax services. 

One ad says, “This Tax Day, don’t forget: Republicans want to raise YOUR taxes. Can you afford it? Millions of Americans could see a bigger tax bill if Republicans win control in DC.”

Scott, who is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said he released the plan by himself, independent of his leadership role within the party. Still, in this ad campaign, the DNC is tagging Republicans in general with having a plan to raise taxes on voters.

Image: Pedestrians walk past the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters in Washington on March 19, 2021.
Pedestrians walk past the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters in Washington on March 19, 2021.Samuel Corum / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The ad buy is part of a larger strategy heading into the fall midterm elections to highlight what Republicans could do if they took control of the House and Senate in November, a DNC aide told NBC News.

This isn’t the first digital ad campaign the committee has funded attacking Scott’s “plan to rescue America.” 

In February, the DNC targeted The Villages retirement community in Florida with digital ads highlighting Scott’s proposal. In March, they took over the homepage of the Louisville Courier Journal with ads telling viewers that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., planned to raise taxes and make health insurance more expensive.

McConnell and other Republicans have disavowed Scott’s proposal, with McConnell telling reporters, “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people.”

Klain: A challenge to get domestic message out while Ukraine 'dominates' public's attention

Alexandra Marquezis based in Washington, D.C.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain says the administration is facing challenges in getting their message out on the economy and other domestic issues at a time when the public’s focus is largely consumed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the continuing war.

“Obviously, what dominates the news, understandably, is the war in Ukraine," Klain told NBC News in an interview with the Chuck Toddcast.  "And I don't know how successful we were in getting all these domestic things … out to the American people to hear, given what's going on in Ukraine,” he said. 

But Klain promised a “robust”