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

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

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

919d ago / 8:20 PM UTC

Democratic super PAC wades into New Mexico GOP primary

WASHINGTON — A Democratic super PAC is inserting itself into a contentious GOP primary in New Mexico, spending so much that it’s set to be the top TV ad spender in the race’s final week.

Patriot Majority PAC has booked $150,055 worth of ads set to hit the television airwaves between Tuesday and next week’s June 2 Republican primary in New Mexico’s second House District, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

A recent ad from the group depicts former state legislator Yvette Herrell as loyal to President Trump and criticizes her GOP rival, oil executive Claire Chase, for once labeling the president “unworthy of the office.” 

Image: Claire Chase
Republican House candidate Claire Chase campaigns in Los Lunas, N.M. on Feb. 13, 2020.Russell Contreras / AP file

“She's 100 percent loyal to Trump, backed by 11 pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump, and she's even for Trump's border wall,” a narrator says of Herrell, ticking through some popular characteristics among Republican voters. 

By underlining Herrell’s pro-Trump credentials and attacking Chase as disloyal, the Democratic group is echoing Herrell’s own strategy in the primary.

The spot has come under fire from some Republicans, including Chase, who suggested in a letter issued Sunday that the Democratic group is attempting to boost the GOP candidate they view as weaker against Democratic incumbent Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who flipped the seat as part of the 2018 blue wave. Torres Small narrowly defeated Herrell that year.

“The group has a history of meddling in GOP primaries to support candidates they view as less electable in general elections,” the letter reads, according to the Associated Press. 

Herrell disavowed the spot, per the AP, saying in a statement that, “Liberal Super PACs have no business getting involved in this primary, and they should stop immediately.”

Patriot Majority PAC’s heavy spending comes as the contest has gotten more controversial — and personal.

Earlier this month, Chase demanded that her opponent drop out of the contest after spreading what Chase argues are false rumors about her first marriage. 

Herrell denied the accusations and stressed that she’d stay in the race. 

The contest has drawn significant outside spending. GOP super PAC Defending Main Street, which is backing Chase, has booked $85,200 to spend in the race’s final week. Another anti-Herrell group, Citizens for a United New Mexico, has booked approximately $61,000 for the final week, with the anti-Chase Make New Mexico Great PAC and House Freedom Action booking about $61,000 and $56,000 respectively. 

The campaigns of Herrell and Chase are scheduled to spend only $26,000 and $24,000 on TV and radio waves during the culminating week of the primary respectively, Advertising Analytics shows. However, it’s possible more money may pour into the heated race in its final days.

—Ben Kamisar contributed.

919d ago / 4:00 PM UTC

The NBC Political Unit's Senate primaries and run-offs to watch

WASHINGTON — The battle for control of the Senate is on in November, but before vulnerable senators have to defend their seats, there are a few more primaries to watch out for this summer. 

Here are the Senate races that the NBC News Political Unit has eyes on over the next few months. 

June 2

  • Iowa Senate Democratic Primary: Who will take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst in the fall? Theresa Greenfield is the favorite, but the Des Moines Register has endorsed rival Mike Franken, and there are three other candidates on the ballot, too. If Greenfield doesn’t get to 35 percent support, the nomination will be decided by a party convention later in June.
  • Montana Senate Democratic Primary: How much strength will Gov. Steve Bullock show in his likely lockup of the nomination to face GOP Sen. Steve Daines?

June 9

  • Georgia Senate Democratic Primary: Former special House election candidate Jon Ossoff competes against former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, former Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico, and others for the chance to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. If no one gets 50 percent, there’s a runoff August 11.
  • South Carolina Senate Democratic Primary: Jaime Harrison hopes for a strong showing as he preps for an expected run against GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

June 23

  • Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary: Well-funded Democrat Amy McGrath wants a solid performance in the primary as she prepares a general election run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

June 30 

  • Colorado Senate Democratic Primary: Former governor and onetime White House hopeful John Hickenlooper is the heavy favorite against progressive and past Senate and House candidate former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.

July 14 

  • Alabama Republican Senate Run-off: Jeff Sessions wants his old Senate seat back, but President Trump endorsed former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner takes on vulnerable Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. 
  • Maine Senate Democratic Primary: State House Speaker Sara Gideon is the favorite for the nod to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Susan Collins.
  • Texas Senate Democratic Run-off: Deep-pocketed M.J. Hegar is fighting against longtime state Sen. Royce West before taking on Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

August 4 

  • Arizona Senate Democratic Primary: Mark Kelly has to dispatch a challenge from his left in order to face Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the cycle’s marquee races.
  • Kansas Senate Republican Primary: Some Republicans fear that if polarizing candidate Kris Kobach wins the Republican primary, they risk losing this open seat in November. The likely Democratic nominee is a state senator and former Republican, Barbara Bollier.
  • Michigan Senate Republican Primary: Republicans think likely nominee John James is a rising star in the party. He’ll likely take on Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in a state where coronavirus has had a huge impact.

August 6

  • Tennessee Senate Republican Primary: This contest will likely decide Tennessee’s next senator in a reliably red seat. The frontrunner to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander is former ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty.
919d ago / 3:03 PM UTC

The NBC Political Unit's House primaries to watch

WASHINGTON — While the pandemic has upended the primary calendar this election season, there are still a whole lot of interesting primary races that will either set the stage for high-profile general election battles or effectively decide who will join Congress. 

Here's a breakdown of the House primaries that the NBC Political Unit is watching. 

June 2 

  • IA-01: Republicans are looking for a candidate to knock off freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, with current state Rep. Ashley Hinson backed by the state's Republican governor and lieutenant governor. 
  • IA-04: Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is fighting for his political life, with his opponents hoping Randy Feenstra can end King's political career. 
  • NM-02: The fight between Republicans Yvette Herrell and Claire Chase has gotten nasty and personal. The winner faces Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

June 9 

  • GA-14: In this crowded field for a solidly Republican open seat, the contest has featured some vastly different messaging on the coronavirus pandemic
  • SC-01: Democrat Joe Cunningham unexpectedly flipped this seat blue in 2018. A handful of Republicans want to be the one to win it back, including state Rep. Nancy Mace, an author endorsed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing, backed by former Sen. Jim DeMint
  • NV-03: In another swing district, a crowded field of Republicans faces off for the chance to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee.
  • NV-04: Incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who recently admitted to an extramarital affair, faces a handful of challengers in the Democratic primary as well as a group of Republicans looking to defeat him in November. 

June 13

  • VA-5 GOP convention: This Republican district convention will decide an ugly contest between challenger Bob Good and incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman, who took heat with conservatives for officiating a same-sex marriage. 

June 23 

  • KS-04: Incumbent GOP Rep. Thomas Massie was publicly blasted by President Trump for holding up an early coronavirus relief bill. His primary opponent, Todd McMurtry, is an attorney who represented Covington Catholic High School in a defamation suit against CNN.
  • NY-14: Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aims to bat down a primary challenge from former CNBC reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and others.
  • NY-16: Progressive challenger and high school principal Jamaal Bowman hopes to topple longtime incumbent Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel.  

June 30

  • OK-05: Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn shocked political observers by flipping this seat in 2018. The GOP primary decides who will face her in November.

July 7 

  • NJ-02: After Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched parties to join the GOP, Democrats are eager for revenge. They just have to pick a candidate first.  

August 4 

  • KS-03: A handful of Republicans are vying to take on Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids.
  • MI-13: “Squad” member Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib faces a rematch against Brenda Jones, who briefly held this seat in 2018.

August 11 

  • MN-05: Another “Squad” member, Rep. Ilhan Omar, faces a field that includes political newcomer Antone Melton-Meaux, who argues he’d offer more low-key representation for the district. 
  • MN-07: Republicans have been unable to unseat Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson despite his district going for President Trump by 30 points in 2016. Who will take him on in 2020?
923d ago / 7:15 PM UTC

While some veep contenders confirm they're being vetted, others make subtler moves

WASHINGTON — The selection process — and competition — for the vice presidential slot on the ticket with apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden intensified this week with several contenders confirming that they’re being vetted for the job. Though some potential picks were forthcoming about their ambitions, others made subtler moves hinting at possible interest in the job or further cooperation with the Biden camp.

In the past week alone, NBC News and other outlets have reported that the Biden campaign has asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, both New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and Florida Rep. Val Demings to provide the team with information required for the veep review process.

Image: Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., greets supporters at her caucus night campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 2020.Nati Harnik / AP

Shaheen and Demings left little to the imaginative race when Shaheen announced she declined Biden's offer to be vetted, while Demings claimed to be on the "shortlist."

Other rumored picks for the job haven’t been as outspoken about their running mate ambitions, if existent. Here’s a roundup of the past week’s veepstakes developments that went under the radar.

Harris: California Senator and Biden's former primary opponent Kamala Harris has long been floated as a possible VP pick, performing well in polling and proving to be a popular choice for the former vice president. Though Harris is set to headline an upcoming Biden fundraiser and has repeatedly voiced her support for the apparent Democratic nominee, she hasn’t publicly clamored for the job.

Tuesday however, the Biden campaign hired Julie Chávez Rodríguez — who once served as Harris’ 2020 co-national political director — as an adviser for Latino outreach. Notably, Rodríguez will continue serving as a Harris consultant while simultaneously working with Biden’s team. The hiring shouldn’t be read into too much but could signal further cooperation between the Harris and Biden camps. 

Warren: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has expressed in the past that she’d agree to be on the ticket with Biden if asked and this week, she raised eyebrows by appearing to shift away from her position on Medicare for All — a primary policy focus of her 2020 campaign — and closer towards Biden’s health care plan. 

Image: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren eats lunch at Tacos El Gordo in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren eats lunch at Tacos El Gordo in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters

"I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act," she said at a virtual University of Chicago Institute of Politics event.

Warren added that she hopes the United States will have a single payer health care system in the future, but the move could be viewed as an attempt to adopt a more moderate health care policy that builds on the Affordable Care Act instead of overhauling it, a position Biden backs and that Warren has previously criticized for not being ambitious enough.

Duckworth: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said one week ago that his fellow Illinois colleague in the Senate, Tammy Duckworth, will interview for the vice presidential slot soon, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

"I support Tammy Duckworth. She’s spectacular, a great colleague and I hope that she fares well in this interview, which I think is going to take place soon,” Durbin said.

Duckworth, while a less high-profile contender compared to Warren and Harris, brings a unique perspective to the table as an Asian-American woman and Iraq War veteran who lost both legs after her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Duckworth hasn’t answered questions about whether she’d accept the veep offer directly but Durbin’s statement about the veteran could be considered meaningful given that he’s a longtime ally of Biden’s. In 2016, he publicly honored the former vice president before he left office.

Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.

923d ago / 3:06 PM UTC

Most Americans favor mail-in voting, here's how states are adapting

Sixty-three percent of registered voters favor mail-in voting for the November election due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Fox News poll. While President Trump has argued that mail-in voting would lead to fraudulent ballots, several states already allow all mail-in ballot elections, and even more states have loosened absentee voting rules due to the pandemic.

Here's the breakdown on how to vote by mail in each state:

Mail-in voting allowed 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, 34 states, plus Washington D.C., already allowed mail-in voting or no-excuse absentee voting. In states like ColoradoHawaiiOregon and Washington every registered voter is automatically sent a mail-in ballot to fill out if they don't want to head to the polls. 

Additionally, in Arizona and New Jersey, registered voters can select to be placed on a permanent mail-in voting list so they are sent a ballot for all future elections. 

In the other 16 states, registered voters need to provide an excuse, such as illness or temporarily living out of state, in order to qualify for an absentee ballot. Each state also has its own deadlines on how long before an election an absentee ballot must be requested. In a state like Georgia, which has no-excuse absentee voting, a voter must request their ballot 180 days before the election. 

Image: A poll worker sorts vote-by-mail ballots in Renton, Wash., on March 10, 2020.
A poll worker sorts vote-by-mail ballots in Renton, Wash., on March 10, 2020.Jason Redmond / AFP - Getty Images file

Pandemic changes 

Several states have changed their absentee ballots rules for rescheduled primaries and/or the general election in November. In the 16 states that require excuses, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia lifted restrictions on what qualifies a voter for an absentee ballot for either the rescheduled primaries in June and July or for statewide elections in the same time period. 

And in Georgia, while there's never an excuse needed, all registered voters were sent a mail-in ballot application for the state's May 19 primary. Similarly in Maryland and Delaware, all voters will receive a ballot for their new primaries. 

In New Hampshire, restrictions have been lifted for the November election as well. 

That leaves 7 states — Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri — that have not made any changes to their absentee voting rules during the pandemic. 

Ongoing fights for mail-in voting

While some states have yet to go forward with updating their absentee voting rules, there are many ongoing efforts to open up voting possibilities. In Texas, a federal judge ruled that all registered voters should qualify for a mail-in ballot during the pandemic — the state Attorney General is reviewing the order. 

The Connecticut Secretary of State said they would send every registered voter an absentee ballot, however the state law has not been modified to allow those ballots to be counted if the voter doesn't have an excuse (like illness, age or temporary relocation) listed. 

923d ago / 10:58 AM UTC

New Biden digital ad compares Trump to a 'deer in the headlights' on coronavirus

Joe Biden's presidential campaign Friday launched a new digital ad charging that President Donald Trump has reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights" and has been "too scared to act, too panicked to tell the truth, too weak to lead."

The one-minute ad, targeted to voters living in key battleground states, blasts Trump's reaction to the pandemic since its onset, charging that the president was “unprepared, indecisive, frozen” in place and “paralyzed by fear” to act against the Chinese government and risk ongoing trade deal negotiations.

“Panicked at the thought of what a stock market collapse could mean to his re-election, he failed to act and the virus got out of control and shut down the nation and crushed the economy,” the narrator says as images of frontline workers and Americans in masks waiting to get tested flash on the screen.

The ad will play across key battleground states including Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

This is the third consecutive digital ad in which the Biden campaign has honed in on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a message senior campaign aides announced last week is one of the defining pillars of their general election strategy.  

The campaign has not run television advertisements since the March 17th primaries, pivoting its investments towards online spending in an effort to catch people on their laptops and phones while they stay-at-home.  

In an effort to unlock the best way to immediately draw in viewers and keep them interested enough to watch the entirety of an ad, the campaign employed a new advertising technique called “micro-teasing” foe this new ad that they adopted from the entertainment industry.

The first five seconds are devoted to hooking in the viewer by previewing their core argument and contrasting the look of those first moments to the rest of the ad. “When the coronavirus came, Trump froze like a deer in the headlights,” a narrator says as the ad opens.

The campaign says it will continue to test different advertising strategies like this one in an effort to improve its video completion rates as it tries to find lasting ways to engage with supporters in the digital campaign era. 

924d ago / 7:23 PM UTC

Conservative group launches new ads calling to 'reopen America now'

WASHINGTON — FreedomWorks, the conservative think tank based in Washington D.C., is running a new digital ad campaign aimed atginning up public support to "liberate" states and "reopen society." 

The group started running four different ads on Hulu Wednesday as part of a $50,000 digital ad buy targeting Republicans and independents across the country while also focusing on D.C. 

The ads are all similar. They largely begin by arguing that the mortality rates for COVID-19 infection are significantly lower for those under the age of 65 and without pre-existing conditions, before issuing a call to action for the young and healthy to push for a reopening. 

"This disease is horrible, and it is our American duty to take care of the vulnerable. If you are healthy, it's time to demand we get back to work to support our families and communities," the woman speaking to camera in one ad says.

"Let's be brave and we'll get through this together. Start making a difference by telling your governor to liberate your state and reopen society," she adds, directing viewers to text a message of support for reopening. 

The spot comes as the political pressure on reopening is ramping up — President Trump has repeatedly called on Democratic governors to "liberate" their states, and there have been a handful of protests in states calling for governors to relax coronavirus-related restrictions amid record unemployment numbers.

Recent polling from Gallup shows that social-distancing has decreased as states begin to move toward relaxing some restrictions.

But that even so, 73 percent of adults say it's better for healthy adults to stay home "as much as possible to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus," compared to the 27 percent who say it's better to "lead their normal lives as much as possible and avoid interruptions to work and business."

924d ago / 6:40 PM UTC

Jeanne Shaheen takes herself out of veepstakes

and

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., declined a request from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to be vetted as a potential running mate, a source with direct knowledge told NBC News. She cited her “commitment to New Hampshire” as she runs for her third Senate term this year.

It’s the latest indication that Biden’s vetting work is well underway. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the first possible candidate to publicly disclose this week that she has been in touch with Biden’s team. During a "Today" interview she said, “it was just an opening conversation.” Biden has said he expects the vetting process to take five to eight weeks, which would point to an announcement occurring no sooner than July.

“They're now in the process of thoroughly examining a group of women, all of whom are capable in my view of being president. And there's about a dozen of them,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser last week. "We're keeping the names quiet because if anyone isn't chosen I don't want anybody to think it’s because there was something that was a — some liability that existed." 

Image: Senate Armed Services Nomination hearing for Braithwaite, Anderson and Brown in Washington, DC
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen,D-N.H., during a hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2020.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Reuters

The Biden team's interest in Shaheen was first reported by WMUR political reporter John DiStaso, who has also reported that Maggie Hassan, the state’s other Democratic senator, has agreed to be vetted by the Biden campaign, something NBC News has not confirmed.

NBC News learned that there were multiple conversations between Shaheen and Biden representatives over the last two weeks — specifically with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who are part of the Biden vetting operation

While Shaheen, who also served three terms as New Hampshire's governor, hasn't been listed as a top possibility, Biden mentioned her multiple times as one of women he might consider. At a campaign event in Iowa last November, Biden cited “the two senators from New Hampshire” as possibilities.

However, there are key factors as to why Shaheen may have declined the opportunity: At 73-years-old, she does not offer an obvious generational balance to the ticket and she's ideologically more moderate. Additionally, if Shaheen were to be Biden's running mate, and Biden were to win in November, the Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu would appoint her replacement. This could hurt Democrats' chances at winning back the Senate. 

Shaheen and Biden have known each other for decades. Shaheen's husband endorsed Biden before the New Hampshire primary and was an active local surrogate for him. Shaheen endorsed Biden in April once he became the apparent Democratic nominee. 

Even though Shaheen will not be campaigning for Biden as a potential vice president, Biden will likely Biden depend on the strength of Shaheen’s formidable and time-tested political operation in New Hampshire. His campaign said last week that as they continue to build up their state-by-state operations, they would be seeking to supplement the work of strong Senate candidates rather than set up their own operations from scratch. 

Marianna Sotomayor contributed. 

924d ago / 2:13 PM UTC

A pandemic campaign is a lean campaign, and other campaign finance takeaways

WASHINGTON — Wednesday marked another monthly campaign finance deadline, where presidential campaigns and many committees filed their latest fundraising report through April.

Here are a few takeaways from the Political Unit. 

A pandemic campaign is a lean campaign

There are real concerns among political strategists that the massive job losses and belt-tightening caused by the pandemic may leave campaigns strapped for cash. 

But one benefit — the lack of a real campaign schedule is allowing former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump to stockpile cash away ahead of the fall. 

Biden’s campaign raised $43.7 million and spent just $12.9 million, a healthy burn rate that allowed its cash-on-hand to swell from $26.4 million in March to $57.1 million at the end of April. 

And the Trump campaign raised $16.9 million and spent $7.7 million, closing April with $107.7 million (Team Trump is also supported by a handful of other authorized groups as well). 

Those numbers show Biden’s fundraising kicking into a steady gear as he knocked out his Democratic presidential rivals (he raised $46.7 million in March). And they show how the pandemic is allowing both sides to build up their resources. 

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus outbreak, at the Hotel Du Pont March 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Del.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Loeffler’s husband cuts big check for pro-Trump group

It’s been a busy few months in the news for Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

She’s been dogged by criticism of stock sales around the coronavirus pandemic. She’s argued her portfolio is handled by outside advisers, and a spokeswoman revealed last week that she had turned over information to the Justice Department about those sales. 

All the while, she’s running in a competitive Senate primary where her opponent, Rep. Doug Collins, has repeatedly highlighted the controversy. 

On Wednesday, FEC reports showed that Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher (the chairman of both the New York Stock Exchange and the Intercontinental Exchange), donated $1 million to the pro-Trump super PAC America First on April 29.

That was the second-largest individual check to the group (New Hampshire businessman Timothy Mellon gave $10 million). 

The battle for Congress

New reports from the House and Senate campaign committees provide a temperature check on the race for both bodies come November. 

Republicans have the slight cash edge on the Senate side — the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $11.5 million in April and has $37.8 million banked away. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $9 million and has $28.8 million in the bank. 

On the House side, both groups virtually tied in fundraising, but it’s the Democrats with the big advantage in the bank. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised just over $11.4 million, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee coming in just under that amount. 

But the Democrats have $82.5 million banked away, while the Republican group has $52.3 million cash on hand.

Sanders still has a nice chunk of change

He may no longer be actively seeking the Democratic presidential nomination (even though his campaign has argued he’s still seeking delegates), but Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders still has a lot of money banked away from his presidential bid. 

Sanders' April report shows he closed the month with almost $8.8 million in cash on hand, and that's after spending more than $1 million refunding donations to supporters. 

He, and other presidential candidates can do a lot with leftover campaign cash, including — keep it for a future presidential election; refund more money to donors; spend it to wind down the campaign; donate to a charity that doesn't directly benefit him; contribute (within limits) to other campaigns/committees; make an unlimited transfer to local, state or the national party; or transfer the money to his Senate account.  

925d ago / 2:33 PM UTC

Man who helped thwart train attack in 2015 poised to win GOP nomination in Oregon House district

WASHINGTON — Alek Skarlatos, the former National Guardsman who famously stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train in 2015, appears to have won the GOP's nomination for Oregon's 4th Congressional District, setting him up for a clash against an 18-term Democrat. 

Skarlatos racked up a huge lead in Tuesday night's primary, winning almost 87 percent of the primary vote with almost 77,000 mail-in ballots counted, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's office. 

While more mail-in ballots are likely to be counted, Skarlatos' sizable lead prompted groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee to refer to him as the winner. 

Skarlatos, who served a nine-month tour in Afghanistan for the Army National Guard, was one of three Americans who rushed a gunman on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, ultimately subduing the gunman before anyone was killed. After the attack, Skarlatos received the Soldier's Medal, one of the Army's highest honors, as well as a major award from the French government

He later played himself in the Clint Eastwood movie "The 15:17 to Paris," which portrayed the train episode, appeared on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and lost a close commissioner race in Douglas County, Ore. in 2018 before launching his congressional bid. 

If his lead holds, Skarlatos will face off against Rep. Pete DeFazio, the longtime Democratic congressman who chairs the House Transportation Committee.

DeFazio has regularly cruised to victory over the years, but in 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump in the district by just 0.1 percentage points, according to the Cook Political Report's analysis. 

925d ago / 2:44 AM UTC

Senate Democrats still looking for answers on agency cooperation with probes

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is asking the heads of four government agencies if President Donald Trump is “weaponizing” federal agencies by forcing them to cooperate with investigations into Trump’s 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

In a letter to the heads of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Treasury and the National Archives, obtained by NBC News, Murphy asks if they are “applying different standards” to congressional requests for documents and information, suggesting that the agencies are cooperating with Republican investigations while stonewalling probes into the president. 

“I am troubled that President Trump may be weaponizing the executive branch in advance of the 2020 elections by directing agencies to comply with congressional investigations designed to hurt his political opponents," Murphy wrote, "while stonewalling legitimate oversight investigations into the actions of his own administration.”  

Image: Chris Murphy
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., conducts a meeting before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on April 30, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP file

The letter is Murphy's second attempt to receive the information. The senator wrote to the inspectors general of the four agencies in March, asking them the same questions. Three IGs — from State, Treasury, National Archives — told Murphy that his request was not in their purview but that agencies should reply to his request. 

Treasury Inspector General Joseph Cuffari wrote that the Treasury “can provide the factual information underlying your concern” and then-State Department Inspector General Steve Linick wrote that the State Department “may have relevant information” related to his request. 

Trump fired the State Department IG, Steve Linick last Friday at the urging of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Democrats have pointed to the refusal of the executive branch to comply with congressional requests under President Trump, particularly during the impeachment process last year. 

In contrast, the State Department has handed over thousands of pages of documents to Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of committees investigating Hunter Biden’s work on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. The National Archives has promised to hand over thousands more documents.  

Johnson’s committee, the Homeland Security Committee, is expected to take a significant step in its investigation Wednesday and hold a vote to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm who worked with Burisma when Hunter sat on the company’s board. 

In a separate Republican-led investigation into the “unmasking” by Obama administration officials of Michael Flynn during the Trump transition, Sens. Grassley, Johnson and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released an email of Obama’s former national security aide Susan Rice declassified by the Acting Director of National Intelligence Director Richard Grenell at their request.

926d ago / 6:18 PM UTC

Attack ads and bear hugs of Trump dominate airwaves in Tuesday's contested Oregon House GOP primary

WASHINGTON — While the coronavirus pandemic has upended elections across the country, it's business as usual in Tuesday's Oregon primary — that's because the state has voted entirely by mail since 2000. 

The most competitive federal election Tuesday is the GOP primary for the state's 2nd Congressional District, where a crowded croup of Republicans are looking to replace the retiring Rep. Greg Walden. 

It's been busy on the airwaves in the sprawling district that covers most of Eastern Oregon, with $1.7 million spent on television and radio through Tuesday, according to Advertising Analytics. 

Two candidates have spent significantly more than the rest of the field — Knute Buehler (the GOP's 2018 nominee for governor) and Jimmy Crumpacker (an energy investor).

And those ads have gotten fierce — Buehler calls Crumpacker "a fraud with a trust fund" in one ad and a "Portland pretender" in another, hits fellow primary candidates Cliff Bentz (a former state lawmaker) and Jason Atkinson (a former state senator) as "Portland-loving liberals" in a third ad, and Bentz a "tax-and-waste politician" in a fourth.

Besides trying to rhyme his last name with "Trump-backer," Crumpacker has gone on offense too. He calls Buehler, Atkinson and Betnz as allies of "Never Trumpers" in one spot and  Buehler a "career politician" who campaigns on "liberal lies" in a second. 

Bentz's ads play him up as a "conservative Republican" who helped to "lead" one of the walkouts of Oregon Republican lawmakers aimed at frustrating legislative efforts on gun control and vaccines. 

And Atkinson's ad strategy has largely centered on framing him as against abortion and someone who is more down-to-earth than a typical politician. 

A handful of outside groups have jumped into the race too, lobbing bombs and promoting the top candidates. 

So now all that's left is deciding who will be the GOP's nominee, who will have the inside track for the Republican-leaning seat. 

926d ago / 3:34 PM UTC

Federal appeals court orders New York to hold Democratic presidential primary

and

A federal appeals court ordered Tuesday that New York’s presidential primary be reinstated, and that the names former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders be among those allowed on the presidential primary ballot. 

The new order is the latest, and possibly final, development in a months-long fight between members of the New York State Board of Elections and a handful of former presidential candidates like Yang and Sanders over whether a candidate who has suspended their campaign should be allowed to remain on a ballot and thereby eligible to collect delegates to the Democratic National Convention. 

The New York State Board of Elections confirmed to NBC News they do not plan to appeal this morning's decision, setting the stage for the presidential primary to return to ballots for the state's June 23 primary. 

Last month, the board removed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders from the ballot, pointing to his decision to drop out of the presidential race and a recent law that gave the board the power to remove candidates from the ballot after they dropped out.

That move effectively canceled the state's Democratic presidential primary. 

But Sanders' lawyers had argued against removing him, arguing that he was still fighting for convention delegates to have influence at the convention despite having ended his quest for the nomination. 

Yang brought a lawsuit against the board over the decision, and the Sanders camp hired a lawyer and penned a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the challenge. 

A federal circuit court judge disagreed with the board's decision, ruling on May 5 that the primary proceed with the candidates who were on the ballot as of April 26. This includes Sanders, Yang, Michael Bennet, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

And on Tuesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court that covers New York, upheld the lower court's decision. 

In a tweet responding to the decision, “America’s Promise,” a super PAC formed by former senior Sanders advisors after his campaign ended, wrote “Democracy prevails.”

926d ago / 10:10 AM UTC

Democratic super PAC Priorities USA says it's on track to spend more than $200 million in 2020

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, one of the chief outside groups working to boost Democrats’ hopes for recapturing the White House this November, says it is on pace to exceed its $200 million budget for the 2020 cycle — and is putting that cash to use with a new set of ads blasting President Trump for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The super PAC said Tuesday it has obtained commitments for more than $25 million since April on top of the $126 million it already raised for November, with the pace of fundraising picking up in May. Priorities says it is already outspending the Trump campaign online and on air in targeted battlegrounds, and will look to expand its role to “go toe-to-toe with the Trump disinformation machine.”

Image: Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an event in Wilmington, Delaware
Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, March 12, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

"Donald Trump and his allies have started advertising in battleground states and it's imperative that Priorities gives Joe Biden the air cover he needs as he builds his general election campaign," Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement to NBC News. "This election is going to be very close and this early period will be key to a Biden victory.”

While another pro-Biden super PAC, Unite The Country, has turned toward positive advertising promoting Biden’s middle class message, Priorities’ newest ad continues its focus on countering the president, accusing him of “failing America."

“With over 90,000 Americans dead, Donald Trump continues to downplay the threat, ignoring experts who warn of a larger second wave with more death and devastation to our economy," one of two new ads says, featuring Trump recently saying the coronavirus would “go away without a vaccine.”

That spot will air in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania on broadcast and cable television, part of the previously announced $65 million reservation through Election Day. 

927d ago / 4:47 PM UTC

Trump and Pence opt for battleground states as backdrop to coronavirus response

and

WASHINGTON — In the last six weeks, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have prioritized key 2020 battleground states to highlight their administration’s coronavirus pandemic response, sidestepping some hot spots that have been hardest hit by the health crisis. 

The president has traveled to Pennsylvania and Arizona this month and will head to Michigan later this week. Pence has toured more extensively, visiting Wisconsin, Virginia, Minnesota and Iowa since the outbreak exploded and he’s slated to speak in Florida on Wednesday. 

As the traditional campaign trail has effectively come to a halt, White House advisers see a two-fold opportunity in picking swing states as the backdrop for official events: touting their own efforts to re-open the country while reaching critical voters who could sway the election, all while earning important regional media coverage that the Trump campaign amplifies at every opportunity.

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump takes the stage following a tour at medical equipment distributor Owens & Minor in Allentown, Pa., on May 14, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

Trump and Pence haven’t yet been to any of the states with the most cases and deaths of coronavirus, partially because it may not be safe to do so: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts and California. None of them are considered battlegrounds, though the president has hosted the Democratic governors of New York and New Jersey in the Oval Office. Pence has also traveled to his home state of Indiana, which is not considered to be in play for 2020.

The White House doesn’t comment on upcoming travel and internal deliberations when it comes to the president and vice president’s schedules, but an official noted Trump and Pence wouldn’t go to counties that are still considered “hot zones” and the trips are mostly meant to “highlight the next phase of this recovery, showing states that have come out of the worst of it and are on a path to move toward safely reopening.”

The political strategy is not necessarily unique to this incumbent, even though the scale of the pandemic may be. Former President Barack Obama also strategically visited important places in his official capacity when he was running for re-election.   

But Trump has often more obviously blurred the lines between the two entities. During remarks at a medical equipment factory in Allentown, Pa. last week, attendees would be forgiven for confusing the official event for a campaign one. The familiar rally playlist was blasting and Trump attacked “Sleepy Joe Biden,” which was met with scattered laughter in a somewhat muted reaction from the crowd.

Neither Trump nor Pence has participated in an official re-elect fundraiser since early March, which has presented a challenge to their massive war chest efforts. It’s unknown when either will return to the trail for any conventional travel. The Trump campaign, for its part, is eager to take advantage of any visits that help elevate their re-election pitch in key states.

“Americans want to see their president out front and leading in a crisis and that’s exactly what President Trump is doing. He is in command and looking to get the economy reopened as soon as possible. It’s a very positive sign for all Americans that he’s getting out into the country again,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to NBC News.

Senior officials concede large rallies are likely impossible to hold until August, at the earliest, and it’s unclear what those would look like with health officials warning about the safety risks of mass gatherings. The president himself has said it “loses a lot of flavor” to have people socially distanced in large venues.

927d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

GOP governors balk at being used in ad by Kentucky Democrat

WASHINGTON — Two GOP governors evoked by Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath in a new campaign ad are criticizing the senate candidate for using their likeness in an ad that attacks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

The spot, which launched Saturday, points to Republican Govs. Larry Hogan, Md., and Mike DeWine, Ohio, along with Democratic governors to argue that "they're all showing us what real leadership is, and political party has nothing to do with it."

Then, she pivots toward an attack on McConnell, specifically pointing to his past comments about preferring to see states struggling with coronavirus-related budget gaps declare bankruptcy instead of receiving what his office later called "blue state bailouts." 

McConnell's comments about state aid initially drew bipartisan criticism from governors, and Hogan told ABC at the time McConnell "probably would regret making that comment."

The Kentucky Republican later said that he would be "open to discussing" more aid to states

Hogan registered his disappointment with the ad in a tweet, saying that "campaign ads politicizing the coronavirus response are not constructive." 

And DeWine called for McGrath to "remove my image from her advertising" in a statement, which added that McConnell "is focused, as I am, on the crisis and I appreciate his leadership." 

McGrath is expected to win the Kentucky Senate Democratic primary in June. 

In a statement, McGrath said "I strongly stand by my ad," framing the criticism as "exactly what's wrong with politics." 

“Every comment is, unfortunately, examined through a red or blue lens. In this case, I'm pointing out that leadership doesn't depend on your political jersey color. It's about your actions. Governors on both sides of the aisle are doing important work. Governor DeWine is one of them. It is disappointing that he rejects sincere appreciation from a Democrat, and it shows how far we have strayed from our ideals as a nation," she said. 

But McConnell's press secretary, Katharine Cooksey, accused McGrath of politicking in a statement. 

“In the same 60 seconds, Amy McGrath claims the coronavirus pandemic response is not about politics while she exploits the image of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for her own political gain. Governors across the nation, as well as Leader McConnell, are focused on navigating their states through this unprecedented pandemic regardless of approval ratings. Extreme liberal McGrath makes clear that she is only interested in shamelessly cozying up to popular leaders like Governor DeWine to score cheap political points," she said. 

929d ago / 2:49 PM UTC

RNC plans in-person convention 100 days out

WASHINGTON — Despite warnings from health officials about the potential risks of mass gatherings this summer, the Republican National Committee says it's still planning an in-person convention for this August in Charlotte, N.C. The RNC expects as many as 50,000 visitors to gather to re-nominate President Trump. 

“This 5-star event will play an integral role in promoting local businesses and generating millions of dollars across the region. It will leave a lasting impact,” the group said on Saturday — Saturday also marks the 100-day countdown to the event.  

Image: Republican National Convention
The stage is left empty after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus left the stage during protests on the floor on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Earlier in May, the RNC announced it was adding a medical expert as a senior adviser to the convention planning team to develop “health and safety protocols.” That came after NBC News reported the group was considering alterations to the traditional four-day spectacle due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Democratic National Committee already pushed back their Milwaukee, Wis. convention from mid-July to August because of health concerns. The DNC has left open the possibility that parts of the convention will be held virtually, but officials expect a portion of the event will be held in-person.   

930d ago / 6:08 PM UTC

Biden veepstakes heat up with joint appearances, public backings

and

WASHINGTON — As the interest in who apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden will pick as his running mate grows more intense with each passing week, many of those whose names have been mentioned are also putting in some high-profile appearances while the political handicappers continue to dissect their strengths and weaknesses. 

Here are some of the notable developments from this past week:

Abrams: Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has repeatedly and publicly promoted herself as a strong candidate for the job and on Thursday night she even made her case in a joint appearance with Biden on MSNBC at Biden's invitation.

Stacy Abrams Weighs Her Future
Stacey Abrams on April 23, 2019 in Atlanta.Elijah Nouvelage / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

“Stacey Abrams has done more to deal with the fair vote and making sure there is a fair vote than anybody,” Biden said when asked if the interview was an audition for Abrams. “She has a great, great capacity to explain things and to lay out exactly why it will be so critically important in this election.”

And when Abrams was asked why she was willing to be vice president but not run for the U.S. Senate, she emphasized her interests were in getting Biden elected. For his part, Biden chimed in and said she was “capable of doing any or both" jobs.

"My interest is, no matter what, that I help make certain that Joe Biden is the next president of the United States, that we win every election up and down the ballot so that we can right-size our country and move our nation forward,” Abrams said. 

Rice:  While Susan Rice, President Obama’s former national security adviser and U.N. Ambassador, is one of Biden’s more under-the-radar contenders, she told PBS Thursday that she “would say yes” if Biden asked her to run with him. 

“I’m committed to do all I can to help him win and to help him govern. So I will do as I best can in whatever capacity makes most sense,” Rice said.  

Rice doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of Biden’s other choices, but their relationship could already be simpatico — a key metric for the former vice president. The two served together for eight years in the Obama administration, and she has several years of foreign policy and Washington experience.

Whitmer: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's national profile has risen during the coronavirus pandemic — making headlines for controversial statewide orders and mentions in President Trump’s tweets — and Biden has heavily praised her.

On Thursday, during a town hall with Whitmer and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, Biden told Whitmer, “Well look, you'd expect me to say this, I know because I think you're such a great governor, I think you've done one hell of a job.” 

And that comes after Whitmer defended Biden against sexual assault allegations and Biden said on MSNBC in March that Whitmer was always on his VP list, even before the coronavirus crisis.

“She didn't lengthen the list, she made the list in my mind two months ago,” Biden said. 

Warren: Though Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has been quieter in responding to speculation about Biden selecting her as his veep this week, there are signs that supporters of her former presidential primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, could unite around her.

California Rep. Ro Khanna, who served as Sanders’ national campaign co-chair, even tweeted Thursday that Warren “needs to be on the ticket” and listed examples of her legislative leadership throughout the pandemic. Khanna’s backing could signal a way for Biden to get progressives to coalesce around his candidacy. 

930d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

Projection: $6.7 billion could be spent on advertising in 2020 election

WASHINGTON — The spread of the coronavirus has halted live campaign rallies, door-to-door organizing and traditional sit-down interviews with candidates.

But it hasn’t stopped TV, radio and digital advertising.

Far from it.

Advertising Analytics projects $6.7 billion will be spent on advertising in the 2020 election cycle. And here are some other numbers to consider via Advertising Analytics: 

  • So far, a cumulative $2.19 billion has been spent during the 2020 cycle
  • This is over $1 billion more than what was spent at this point in 2016 and 2018
  • Excluding Michael Bloomberg, the $1.58 billion spent so far is nearly 2 times that of any other cycle
  • In 2016 and 2018, 54 percent of the cycle’s total cash was spent in the final 10 weeks
  • $443 million has already been reserved for the Fall of 2020
930d ago / 12:35 PM UTC

Progressive Super PAC targets Sanders supporters, urges support of Biden in new memo

and

Former senior advisors to Sen. Bernie Sanders are sounding the alarm about a significant portion of Sanders' supporters who remain unsupportive of the apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, calling it a "clear and dangerous trend" in a memo obtained by NBC News.

“Despite best intentions, the Biden campaign and the DNC are far behind on digital organizing, Latino outreach and progressive coalition building," former senior advisor Jeff Weaver wrote in the four-page document from his newly formed "America's Promise" PAC.

In an interview with NBC News, Weaver said that it is with these three priorities in mind that his Super PAC will spend the next six months persuading Sanders supporters to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November. 

“We have an opportunity in this election to elect somebody who certainly is not anywhere near as progressive as Bernie Sanders,” Weaver told NBC News, “but who will allow us to lock-in legislatively and institutionally, some of the gains that the progressive movement has earned through it's hard work of these last five or six years.”

US-VOTE-2020-DEMOCRATS-DEBATE-POLITICS
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in Houston, Texas on Sept. 12, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

While he said he is aware that not everyone who supported Bernie Sanders would be supporting Joe Biden, he pointed to issues including Biden’s support of a $15 minimum wage, making colleges and universities tuition free for families making less than $125,000 and expanding health care access as progress in the policy arena as common ground.

But it’s filling up the hypothetical arenas with Sanders supporters that Weaver’s super PAC is pledging to be laser-focused on, with recent polling of Sanders supporters showing less than favorable numbers for Biden. The super PAC’s memo points to an April USA Today/Suffolk University poll, which reported 1 in 4 Sanders supporters saying they would vote for a third party candidate, vote for President Donald Trump, not vote in November or were undecided about who to vote for, as a reason for the group to step in and provide support. 

Currently an eight-person operation, Weaver said he hopes for the Super PAC to be able to replicate the robust digital operation of Sanders’ presidential runs, in support of Joe Biden. “We cannot afford to have these constituencies ignored or talked to in an ineffective way during this process,” Weaver said. He told NBC News there have been internal discussions about the reservation of digital buys, focused towards the latino voting base. 

For Weaver, getting this super PAC off the ground was not without controversy. America’s Promise PAC was, until Tuesday, called “Future to Believe In” PAC. Sen. Bernie Sanders has famously been opposed to Super PACs and used his spokesperson to release a statement separating himself from this organization. He was unhappy with a name that mirrored his 2016 campaign slogan, leading to the renaming this week to “America’s Promise,” according to Weaver.

931d ago / 9:27 PM UTC

Tweet the Press: NBC's Ken Dilanian discusses Sen. Richard Burr and Chinese hacking

WASHINGTON — On this week's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News national security and intelligence correspondent Ken Dilanian about Sen. Richard Burr vacating his post as the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and reports that China is trying to hamper coronavirus vaccine development in the U.S.

The Republican senator from North Carolina announced Thursday that he's temporarily stepping aside from his post as the head of the powerful committee after the FBI seized his cell phone as part of a possible insider trading investigation. Dilanian explained that "the use of a search warrant means the FBI convinced a judge there was probable cause to believe a crime has been committed." Burr insists that his February stock sales were based on public information rather than classified information provided to Congress about the coronavirus.

On China, Dilanian tells us that the FBI and DHS "issued a rare public warning" that they have seen China attempting to hack government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and labs "seeking info about coronavirus vaccine and treatment research" amid the global race for a vaccine.

Click here to read the full conversation. 

931d ago / 7:19 PM UTC

Steve King committee flap comes as GOP primary opponents hammer him for absence

WASHINGTON — A renewed dust-up over whether House Republicans will restore Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's committee assignments comes as King's lack of standing on House committees has been a central issue in his primary race. 

King said Monday at a forum ahead of next month's primary that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told him he would "advocate" to Republican lawmakers that they restore positions stripped from him after his comments about white supremacy. 

But as prominent Republicans balked at the idea, a McCarthy spokesperson told NBC News that King's "past comments cannot be exonerated" and that King "will have the opportunity to make his case" to the committee that controls those assignments. 

While King had held his seat comfortably since he first took office in 2003, Democrat J.D. Scholten gave him a scare in 2018 in a race King won by just 3 points as King weathered the fallout from his comments and his lost assignments. 

Now, King faces another tough election, the 2020 primary, where his top opponent, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, has made King's lack of influence in the House a top issue. 

When President Trump faced impeachment in the House, Feenstra argued that because King lost his seat on House Judiciary, "King is unable to help due to his bizarre behavior and his removal from key committees," a move that left Iowans "without a seat at the table." 

In a recent ad sporting a delivery truck emblazoned with the words "Steve King Can't Deliver," Feenstra called King "the congressman who couldn't." 

And it's a message that outside groups opposing King have embraced too. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce dropped a recent ad criticizing King for getting kicked off the Agriculture Committee, "hurting our farmers." 

And the Republican Main Street Partnership, which has endorsed Feenstra, has used similar language in explaining their endorsement. The group's affiliated super PAC has said it is spending $100,000 on direct mail, phone calls and social media advertising in the primary. 

931d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

White House quietly sets up panel for possible Biden transition

and

WASHINGTON — Mark Meadows will helm the White House panel, required by law, to begin planning for a possible transition of power to a new Democratic administration, the Trump administration informed lawmakers on Wednesday.

A memo to House and Senate committee leaders from a representative in the General Services Administration was the first public acknowledgment by any administration official that the White House was fully complying with legal deadlines, only recently established, to ensure a smooth transfer of power in the executive branch.

Meadows, the new White House chief of staff and a former North Carolina congressman, will serve as chair of the White House Transition Coordinating Council. Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, will serve as vice chair. 

The panel will also include Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and other West Wing officials. There will also be a “transition representative for each eligible candidate” — this is likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.

Image: us-politics-trump-congress-republicans
President Donald Trump walks with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the White House on May 8, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

Four years ago, the Obama administration repeatedly touted the steps it was taking to help guide a new administration into office. In March 2016, then-chief of staff Denis McDonough convened a Cabinet meeting to outline the transition process and the steps agencies would be required to take throughout the year. The White House announced on May 6 that Obama signed an executive order establishing his White House Transition Council, two days ahead of that year’s initial deadline. 

More than two weeks ago, after NBC News first reported concern among Democrats about whether the administration would comply with both the letter and spirit of legal transition requirements, Vought issued a memo asking executive departments and agencies to identify senior career officials who would serve on a separate Agency Transition Directors Council. 

That council is led jointly by the Federal Transition Coordinator, Mary Gibert, and Michael Rigas, the acting deputy director of OMB, as specified under law. 

Vought’s memo said the first meeting of agency council would occur on May 27. It is unclear yet if the White House council would also meet, or whether President Trump has played a role in creating the panel. None of the 20 executive orders published in the Federal Register this year relate to the transition process. 

Biden said last month that he has already begun transition planning along with one of his closest and longest-serving aides, Ted Kaufman. Kaufman, who was appointed as a senator to fulfill the last two years of Biden's term in 2008, helped write the legislation that now guides these transition procedures. 

“You can't wait until you win if you win. You've got to start right now,” Biden told donors last week during a virtual fundraiser. “How do we go out and find 2,800 employees, 2,800 employees that need to be filled right away?”

There are no immediate deadlines for the Biden campaign to meet under law. But come September, Biden would be offered more robust government resources to aid its own preparatory work, including office space near the White House for a designated transition team to begin work. 

The GSA memo on Thursday identified the Department of Commerce headquarters as the location for such offices and said upgrades are now underway to the physical and IT infrastructure of that space.  

The memo also said that the GSA is “preparing to convene meetings” with the Justice Department, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to begin transition planning, which would include the facilitation of security clearance requests for key Biden advisors who would need access to classified information. In 2016, the Obama administration began providing intelligence briefings for Trump and Hillary Clinton representatives after the nominating conventions. 

The next legal deadline for the Trump administration will come after the parties’ nominating conventions, scheduled for August, when the administration has to enter into a formal memorandum of understanding with the Democratic nominee’s representatives, and also identify succession plans for federal agencies. 

931d ago / 10:59 AM UTC

New Planned Parenthood ad campaign seeks to show coronavirus’ abortion access impact

WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood Action Fund is launching an “accountability” campaign across eleven states, highlighting efforts to roll back, or expand, American’s access to reproductive healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $5 million buy, reported first by NBC News, includes digital, radio, mailers, and online organizing events in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Almost all of these states are battlegrounds in the coming November election. Some of the ads laud politicians for the work they’ve done; others urge voters to call their representatives to push back.

Image: Anti-abortion rights demonstrators outside the Supreme Court
Anti-abortion rights demonstrators outside the Supreme Court on March 4, 2020.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The awareness project is the first of several steps Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political arms will undertake in the next several months, Rachel Sussman, Vice President of State Policy and Advocacy for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told NBC News, calling it “a starting point to help connect the dots for people” about actions taken in their states during the pandemic.

Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, blue and red states have, unsurprisingly, responded to questions of reproductive health access in non-uniform fashion.

Some states, including Iowa, Ohio and Texas, classified abortions as non-essential procedures, counting them among the elective procedures suspended until the public health crisis abated. Activist groups challenged these decisions in court, resulting in varying rulings and appeals. But those states stand in contrast to rules set by governors in states like New York, Virginia, and Washington, where abortion was deemed essential and allowed to continue during the pandemic.

Other states have tried to legislate around reproductive issues during the pandemic, something PPAF and their state partners are seeking to highlight in the campaign.

Pennsylvania, for instance, has seen what once was a bipartisan push for expanded tele-health access grind to a halt because of the addition of an amendment that would prohibit doctors from prescribing certain kinds of pills used to induce abortion. Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed the bill, saying the added language “interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians,” while Democrats and Republicans continued to spar over the inclusion of the amendment. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan’s Health and Human Services Department has taken steps to increase access to reproductive health tools — including a campaign where condoms can be mailed to Michiganders who request them via email.

932d ago / 10:02 PM UTC

House Republicans balk at idea of giving Steve King back his committee assignments

WASHINGTON — Top House Republicans are voicing opposition to allowing Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King to get his committee assignments back, including the highest-ranking Republican woman.  

King was stripped of his spot on House committees last year after he made controversial comments about white supremacy and Western Civilization to the New York Times, which he claims were taken out of context by the newspaper.

A spokesperson for Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney told NBC News “Cheney does not support” giving King back his committee assignments.  She was the first Republican leader to condemn King’s comments and even called for him to resign from Congress.

At a forum on Monday night in Spencer, Iowa, King claimed that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was going to advocate for giving him his committee assignments back, as first reported by the Sioux City Journal.

“On April 20, Kevin McCarthy and I reached an agreement that he would advocate to the steering committee to put all of my committees back with all of my seniority because there is no argument against my fact-check document, I have disproven all of those allegations," King said at the republican forum Monday. 

“When Congress comes back into session, when the steering committee can get together, I have Kevin McCarthy’s word that then, that will be my time for exoneration."

In response, a McCarthy spokesperson told NBC News that "Congressman King’s past comments cannot be exonerated." But the spokesperson added that "committee assignments are determined by the steering committee and he will have the opportunity to make his case."

Former NRCC Chairman and Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, a current member of the Republican Steering Committee that controls the House GOP committee selection, wrote on social media Wednesday that he opposes restoring King to House committees. 

"As long as I am a member of the Steering Committee, I will not allow that type of person or that type of ideology to influence the legislation passed by Congress. He will not be serving on any committee. Steve King does more to hurt Republican and conservative caucuses than help.”

 

King criticized Stivers in a statement to NBC News, calling him "only one vote on Steering" and a "Never-Trumper."

King is facing a competitive primary in Iowa on June 2nd following his controversial comments. His opponents are running ads pointing to his absence from committees, arguing that means he can't properly serve the district. 

932d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

Michigan's Peters drops TV spot touting tough-on-China approach

WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is up with two new TV ads that highlight the unique position he's in as one of the few Democratic incumbents facing a tough challenge this cycle.

The first spot emphasizes Peters’ call for increased testing, employment protection and a focus on American manufacturing as he plans to get “Michigan back to work.” It's a message that's right in line with how Democrats are framing their priorities for a pathway forward as states push to re-open. 

But the second is focused entirely on China.

In it, Peters calls for a reopening that “puts Michigan first.” And he goes on to tick through how he’s “always been tough on the Chinese government, supporting the China travel ban, demanding the truth about the spread of COVI-19” as well as a push to move drug manufacturing from China to America.

That kind of messaging stands out amid the GOP's push to shift criticism surrounding the crisis toward China and away from President Trump. Peters' spot doesn't mention the president's name or litigate the debate over his response to the crisis, but it still highlights areas where they agree, all while embracing the "tough-on-China" approach. 

The new ads come days after Peters' likely Republican challenger, John James, released a bio ad of his own.

The seat is considered "lean Democrat" by the non-partisan election handicappers the Cook Political Report, the most competitive race featuring an incumbent Democrat outside of Alabama, where Sen. Doug Jones is trying to win reelection in very-Republican Alabama. 

There's already been a boatload of television spending in the state as both sides gear up for the fall, with Democrats having already spent almost $7.7 million on TV and radio to the GOP's $2.7 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

933d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

Democrats lay the groundwork for possible virtual convention

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee moved Tuesday to allow for a virtual 2020 convention if the party determines that to be necessary as the coronavirus continues to claim American lives.

A resolution approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee lets delegates vote and “participate in the Convention in person or by means that allow for appropriate social distancing.”

DNC Chairman Tom Perez said he still expects and hopes to see a full convention in Milwaukee, and that a “precise format” has not been decided.

“This will give the convention team the tools necessary to adapt and plan in order to ensure that every delegate is able to accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk – whether that be participating in person or by other means to allow for social distancing,” he said.

The Milwaukee convention had already been pushed from July to the week of August 17.

Also on Tuesday, the DNC panel approved waivers by states seeking to move their primary dates as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

933d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

Nebraska Democratic House primary pits Medicare-for-All candidate against one calling for more 'realistic' plan

WASHINGTON — Voters are voting Tuesday (or, in many cases, have already sent in their mail-in ballots) in special elections in California and Wisconsin, but also in an interesting primary in Nebraska. 

That state's 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary features two top candidates who both have a history in the district. 

Ann Ashford is the wife of Brad Ashford, the former congressman who flipped the seat for Democrats in a 2014 midterm election year that was otherwise tough for the party. Brad Ashford served for just one term before losing to Republican Don Bacon in 2016, who still holds the seat to this day. 

The former congressman tried to win the seat back in 2018, but lost to Democrat Kara Eastman in the primary — and Eastman went onto narrowly lose to Bacon that fall. 

So this Tuesday's Democratic primary pits Eastman against Ann Ashford, who despite considering a run in 2018 has never run for federal office before. 

Eastman and Ashford represent two different wings of the Democratic Party.

Eastman supports Medicare-for-All and has the backing of prominent progressive Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal. 

And she's running an ad arguing she's not "afraid of a fight." 

Ashford's endorsements include two former Nebraska Democratic Senators, Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey. And she's been running ads attacking Eastman both for her loss in 2018, arguing Eastman's loss proves she can't win. And Ashford has criticized Eastman's health-care stance as unrealistic (Ashford supports expanding coverage through a public option but not universal government coverage). 

933d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

Trump slightly outraises Biden in April, maintains large cash on hand

WASHINGTON — President Trump, apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the umbrella of party organizations backing them raised over $60 million in April, according to the two campaigns. The Trump team reported a $61.7 million cash haul, while the Biden camp brought in just slightly less with $60.5 million. 

On top of money raised by their campaigns, the pro-Trump effort includes fundraising from the Republican National Committee as well as other groups affiliated with his re-election effort. And Biden's effort includes the Democratic National Committee as well.

This is the first monthly filing period in which both teams are reporting their fundraising from their joint fundraising committees. April is also the first month in which Biden was the sole Democratic candidate for the majority of the reporting period. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the primary race on April 8. 

Image:
President Donald Trump arrives on May 5, 2020 at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport during his first trip since lockdowns went into effect.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

While Biden and the Democratic National Committee have not released their cash on hand numbers, the president's campaign says it has over $255 million in the bank — and that juggernaut may be Biden's greatest financial weakness. The last officially reported numbers, filed for March, showed Biden and the DNC with just over $62 million on hand. 

The two campaigns have had to shift their fundraising appeals due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden and his surrogates have been holding virtual fundraisers — one held by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar brought in $1.5 million in one night. And according to Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale, since shifting to virtual efforts, "Trump Victory, the joint field effort between the RNC and the campaign, has added over 300,000 new volunteers and made over 20 million voter contacts." 

Both campaigns will report their full fundraising filing for April on May 20. 

934d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

First competitive special House elections in coronavirus age set for Tuesday

WASHINGTON — With the coronavirus pandemic forcing candidates off of the traditional campaign trail, the 2020 election season gears up Tuesday when the first competitive House special elections since the start of the crisis will take place and produce two new members of Congress representing Wisconsin and California.

Facing off in California’s now-empty 25th House District, where the GOP hopes to reclaim the seat won by Democratic Rep. Katie Hill in 2018, are Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith and former Navy pilot, Republican Mike Garcia.

In Wisconsin's 7th House District, a historically Republican district that President Trump won by 20 points in 2016, Democrat Tricia Zunker and Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany are vying for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Sean Duffy.

For more about the two races and what they could could mean for effectively campaigning and winning elections in the coronavirus era, read the breakdown from NBC News' political unit here.

Also check out the First Read analysis of how the scandal surrounding former congresswoman Katie Hill could increase Republican chances of taking back the district by looking at the history of scandal-induced special elections.

935d ago / 3:10 PM UTC

Lamar Alexander: DOJ argument to repeal Obamacare 'flimsy'

WASHINGTON — Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said Sunday he was disappointed with President Trump's decision to move forward with a lawsuit aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

Last week, Trump reiterated his administration's support for a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the landmark health-care law. The federal government has joined a group of states arguing that Congress rendered the entire legislation unconstitutional in 2017 when the GOP-led Congress effectively removed the "individual mandate" that taxed anyone who did not have health insurance. 

"I thought the Justice Department argument was really flimsy," Alexander said when asked about the case.

"What they're arguing is that when we voted to get rid of the individual mandate we voted to get rid of Obamacare. I don't know one single senator that thought that."

The Supreme Court has said it would hear the case in its fall term, which begins in October. 

937d ago / 8:25 PM UTC

Debate over reopening gets heated in a key 2020 county

WASHINGTON — The debate over how quickly to reopen businesses without accelerating the spread of coronavirus is happening in every part of America — and it’s gotten heated in one of the key places where the 2020 election could be decided: Beaver County, Pennsylvania. 

The county, which sits northwest of Pittsburgh and borders Ohio, is one of five that NBC’s "Meet the Press" is tracking as part of its County-to-County project. There, President Trump’s reelection campaign will aim to turn out the high share of blue-collar voters who charged to the polls for him in 2016, lifting him to a 19 point victory in a county Mitt Romney only won by 8 points in 2016. 

According to new guidance from the state’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, Beaver County will remain in a locked-down “red” phase next week despite neighboring counties being moved to a less stringent “yellow” classification. In the red phase, only “life-sustaining businesses” can remain open and stay-at-home orders remain in place.

But local officials are bristling at the decision, with the county’s district attorney saying Friday that his office will not prosecute businesses that reopen despite the governor’s order. And County Commissioner Daniel Camp called the governor's move “unwarranted and irrational.”  

As of Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 479 confirmed cases in the county and 78 deaths. But local officials argue that the governor’s office is unfairly targeting the entire county based on nursing home outbreaks, where the lion’s share of those cases are. 

In Beaver County, where the median income was significantly lower and unemployment has already been higher than national numbers, anger at a Democratic governor over the economy may prove difficult for Joe Biden to navigate as Trump touts his party’s efforts to reopen the country quickly. 

“From Day One, nursing homes across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were set up to fail by this administration and its Department of Health,” Camp said Friday. “Because of these failures, Beaver County residents, workers and businesses are being sucker-punched — and being sentenced to economic punishment — not for anything done by the great people of this county.”

Dante Chinni contributed. 

937d ago / 7:43 PM UTC

How Michigan could affect the 2020 battle for the Senate

WASHINGTON — In some of the most competitive Senate races across the country, Democratic candidates — both incumbents and challengers — have outraised their Republican opponents, often by significant margins. 

But one exception is in Michigan, where GOP challenger John James has raked in more money in the past three fundraising quarters than incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. 

In the first quarter of 2020, from January to March, James raised $4.8 million to Peters' $4.1 million – both campaigns including committee transfers. However, Peters has slightly more in the bank: $8.8 million to $8.6 million. 

Republicans face a difficult election map this cycle as they cling to their three-seat Senate majority. Plus, most of the competitive races in the 2020 Senate fight have a Republican incumbent. 

However, Democrats have to hold on to their most vulnerable Senate incumbents like Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones and win in battlegrounds like Michigan if they want to take control of Congress' upper chamber. And as of now, Peters may be able to hold on to his Democratic seat in Michigan. 

Image: John James
John James campaigns at the Johnstone Supply Picnic at Adison Oaks County Park on Aug. 5, 2018 in Leonard, Mich.Bill Pugliano / Getty Images file

An April Fox News poll found Peters ahead of James by 10 points (46 percent to 36 percent), and that's up from a February Quinnipiac University poll which showed Peters with a 6-point lead: 45-39 percent. And the Cook Political Report dubbed the race a "lean" Democratic contest. 

But Republicans see James — an army veteran who, if elected, would become the second African-American Republican in the Senate — as a star candidate.

James first stepped into politics in 2018, when he ran to unseat Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. He lost to the Democratic incumbent by 6 points, but it was Stabenow's closest margin since she first won her seat in 2000.  

“Without question, this is a competitive race,” said James' campaign spokesperson Abby Walls. “John has outraised the incumbent three quarters in a row.”

“It’s obvious that Democrats are worried,” Walls added.

However, Peters' campaign is pointing to the senator's track record of winning tough elections to show he's able to pull off another win. In 2014, Peters was the only non-incumbent Democrat to win his seat while the party lost its Senate majority.

“Gary Peters has a clear record of delivering results for Michigan, and working in a bipartisan manner to get the job done,” Dan Farough, Peters' campaign manager, said in a statement. 

Of course, a major factor in this race, that Stabenow didn't contend with against James in 2018, is the President Trump's name at the top of the ticket — Trump won Michigan in 2016, but recent polling shows former Vice President Joe Biden ahead. In 2018, aside from keeping their Senate seats blue, Democrats picked up two House seats in Michigan and won the governorship. 

937d ago / 2:10 PM UTC

Democratic super PAC, Trump campaign launch new ad campaigns

and

WASHINGTON — Unite the Country, a super PAC that supports apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and President Trump's campaign are spending big money ahead of the parties' conventions this summer.

Unite the Country's $10 million ad campaign launched Friday and will last until the Democratic convention. Their first ad of this campaign, entitled "Deserve", focuses on rebuilding the economy and Biden retelling his family's story of leaving Pennsylvania for work opportunities during the 2012 Democratic convention.  

“A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity, it’s about respect, it’s about your place in the community," Biden said in 2012. 

Unite the Country was formed by Biden allies in October to support his candidacy during the Democratic primaries. Now, it is one of several super PACs working to boost Biden in the general election. While this ad signals a positive message, another prominent super PAC, Priorities USA, has been spending heavily on Biden’s behalf with spots strongly critical of President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the Trump campaign came out with its own 60-second ad attacking the former vice president on China. Like past ads the campaign and PACs supporting the president have run against Biden, the ad alleges Biden would be soft on China. 

The new ad, which is a part of an expected $10 million comprehensive ad buy, focuses on past Biden remarks where he called the Chinese "not bad folks", and footage of Biden meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he was vice president. 

937d ago / 9:00 AM UTC

Harris, Sanders, Markey push $2,000 monthly payments during coronavirus

and

WASHINGTON — Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., rolled out legislation Friday that would provide monthly payments of up to $2,000 for U.S. residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill also includes an extra $2,000 per child on top of the initial monthly payment and would begin to phase out for individuals who make more than $100,000 and married couples earning $200,000, according to the 10-page text reviewed by NBC News. The payments would zero out for individuals making at least $120,000 or couples making twice that. 

The payments would be retroactive from March. Recipients would not require Social Security numbers, making undocumented people and certain legal residents eligible after they were excluded from the one-time payments of up to $1,200 in the CARES Act, which passed in late March.

The legislation comes as the Senate returns to Washington and considers the next phase of coronavirus relief. While it faces long odds in the Republican-controlled chamber, the bill carries political undertones, as two of its sponsors ran for president against the apparent Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. Harris is a potential running mate, and Sanders has been nudging him in a progressive direction.

"The CARES Act gave Americans an important one-time payment, but it's clear that wasn't nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis," Harris said in a statement. "Bills will continue to come in every single month during the pandemic and so should help from government."

recent CNBC poll shows that a majority of voters in presidential battleground states support "sustained" direct payments from the federal government while the pandemic continues to affect the economy.

938d ago / 6:54 PM UTC

RNC adds public health expert to convention team

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee added Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge to its convention team as a "senior advisor for health and safety planning.” The addition comes as the Republican Party has promised an in-person convention in Charlotte, N.C. this summer, but as the RNC has begun to consider alternative plans. 

“We are committed to hosting a safe and successful 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, and Dr. Runge’s background and expertise will be instrumental as we continue to map out our plans that ensure the health safety of all convention participants and the Charlotte community,” said RNC convention president and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly.

Image: Delegates hold signs at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.
Delegates hold signs at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images file

Last month, the RNC said was it moving "full steam ahead" in planning their August convention, but some involved in the planning now say the convention may look drastically different than past conventions. Some alternative considerations include only having delegates and alternate delegates attend the convention and to have less parties and gatherings on the sidelines of the convention. 

938d ago / 1:05 PM UTC

Republican Jewish Coalition backs Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King's primary opponent

WASHINGTON — The Republican Jewish Coalition is endorsing Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's primary opponent, Randy Feenstra, NBC News has learned, a rare rebuke from an organization that almost never gets involved in intra-party races.

"Rep. Steve King's record includes inflammatory rhetoric condoning white supremacists and anti-Semites. He has also met with and endorsed extremist foreign leaders," RJC’s executive director Matt Brooks said, calling King’s record “egregious” enough to warrant the unusual move.

The RJC’s political action committee has cut a $5,000 check to Feenstra and plans to fundraise for him, according to Brooks.

The organization contributed more than half a million dollars to help Republicans in the 2018 elections, according to the nonpartisan Center For Responsive Politics.

King, a congressman since 2003 who’s known for his crusade against illegal immigration, was removed from House committees last year after he questioned whether “white supremacist” was an offensive term. 

King has said he was treated unfairly by a "political lynch mob" and told NBC News last year: "I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It's not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology."

Other GOP groups have come out to back Feenstra, a state senator, including the Republican Main Street Partnership. Feenstra has argued that King's diminished stature in Congress makes him an ineffective representative for the district. 

939d ago / 1:51 PM UTC

Biden appeals to progressive groups to unite party

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden's campaign is making inroads with key progressive groups in an effort to keep the former vice president's pledge and unite the factions of the Democratic Party. The campaign hopes that finding common ground on policy with these groups will strengthen their ability to defeat President Trump in November.

Biden earned notable endorsements from grassroots to legacy organizations in recent weeks, like Let America Vote and End Citizens United. Some of the groups backed Biden after the campaign engaged them to discuss policy interests and how to best utilize their vast networks to efficiently turnout voters in the general election.  

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Biden on the eighth anniversary of Biden pre-empting President Barack Obama and announcing his support for legalized gay marriage on “Meet the Press.” The group cited his career-long commitment to fight for LGBTQ rights, and his promise to pass the Equality Act in the first 100 days of his presidency.  

“Joe Biden has said publicly and to us directly that the Equality Act will be a priority in his administration,” HRC president Alphonso David said on MSNBC on Wednesday. He added that Biden also promised to address the high violence rates faced by the transgender community.

Biden also earned the backing of the Progressive Turnout Project on Wednesday after pledging to support nationwide same-day registration and restoring voting rights to those previously incarcerated. 

Earlier this week, the progressive group "Indivisible" endorsed Biden after the apparent nominee incorporated policies championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The group is still working with the Biden campaign to adopt policies like D.C. statehood and country-wide vote by mail. 

While it isn't rare for organizations to coalesce around their party's apparent nominee, the Biden campaign's added effort to win over these groups shows a commitment to energizing supporters of Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — key constituencies of young and diverse voters who may remain hesitant to embracing his candidacy.

Two senior campaign advisers, Symone Sanders and Cristóbal Alex, and Biden’s policy director Stef Feldman continue working to engage groups that haven't endorsed Biden yet like Sunrise Movement.   

Lucas Acosta, a spokesperson for HRC told NBC News that their group's nationally recognized brand and community of 3.3 million members will allow them to promote Biden’s candidacy not just through social media activism, but in battleground states where they have already placed field organizing teams for the election.

“The campaign has made the strongest commitment to the community of any nominee in history and so we’re very confident in Joe Biden as an ally and are ready to start knocking on doors to make sure that we defeat Donald Trump,” Acosta said.

940d ago / 6:31 PM UTC

Biden campaign launches digital letter series

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has launched a new digital feature "Sincerely, Joe" which feature letters he has sent to Americans struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the first installation of “Sincerely, Joe,” Biden wrote to Susan Sahai, a food safety distribution manager from Ridgewood, N.J., who chronicled the numerous essential workers who are working overtime to ensure that the short supply of food is kept safe for consumption in the New York Metropolitan Area and for hospital workers.

Biden responded to her saying he hoped the pandemic will make the public realize the work she and many other essential workers do to keep food on their tables.

“I’ve said from day one of this campaign and throughout my career, American workers are the heart and soul of this nation and too often, we take them and the work they do for granted,” Biden wrote. “We have to not only acknowledge and thank you for your sacrifice, but also fight for your safety and economic security.”

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2019.Scott Morgan / Reuters file

The new digital series will highlight a sample of the “hundreds” of letters the Biden campaign says the former vice president receives on a weekly basis. The campaign also asked supporters to write their own submissions to share their “own stories during this time of uncertainty,” as Sahai noted in her letter.

The Bidens have privately reached out to frontline workers since self-isolating in their home in Delaware. The campaign is using what they describe as a “traditional format of communication” to highlight online the conversations between Biden and Americans who “are longing for empathetic leadership and a president who listens to and understands their problems.”

The letter series is the newest example of the digital campaign the apparent Democratic frontrunner is launching while working from home. To reach voters outside of virtual events and TV appearances, Biden has also launched a podcast, a weekly newsletter and is holding "virtual rope lines." Plus, the campaign hopes to build the series — and their digital content — by posting video exchanges or phone calls of these conversations on a regular basis.

940d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

Never-Trump group's 'mourning' ad gets presidential reaction

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took to Twitter overnight to attack the Lincoln Project — a PAC consisting of Never-Trump Republicans including George Conway, the husband of high-ranking White House advisor Kellyanne Conway — for their latest ad criticizing the president’s coronavirus response.

The group’s one-minute ad, titled “Mourning in America,” plays on President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 hopeful re-election campaign ad. In contrast with Reagan’s “Morning in America,” the new spot released Monday takes on a negative tone, pointing to the over 60,000 Americans who “have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored” and the more than 26 million Americans who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

“Under the leadership of Donald Trump, our county is weaker, and sicker and poorer,” the ad goes on, adding that Americans are now asking if America will exist if Trump wins reelection this fall.

In response, Trump tweeted: “A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan.”

The president continued in the thread that the anti-Trump group doesn’t care about GOP causes like tax cuts or the protection of gun rights.

“I didn’t use any of them because they don’t know how to win, and their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” Trump noted.

Trump called out several of the Lincoln Project’s members by name, including George Conway, who has been a vocal opponent of the president despite his wife’s work in the administration. Trump also singled out long-time Republican advisers John Weaver, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen and Jennifer Horn, some of whom have worked for GOP administrations or lawmakers.

The Lincoln Project has spent less than $37,000 on TV ads so far this cycle, according to Advertising Analytics, and another $36,000 is booked through the end of the month.

The group recently announced their endorsement of former Vice President and apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president despite their Republican backgrounds. 

940d ago / 3:53 PM UTC

New Montana poll shows Bullock ahead and Biden inching forward

WASHINGTON — A new online poll from Montana State University shows Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock leading incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines in Montana’s competitive Senate contest, 46 percent to 39 percent. However, that thin lead falls within the poll's 3.6-point margin of error.  

The poll, which was conducted between April 10 and 27, shows a closer-than-expected presidential race. President Trump leads apparent Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden 45-40 percent. 

Montana Governor Steve Bullock talks to patrons of the Ten Mile Brewery as he launches 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Helena, Montana
Montana Governor Steve Bullock talks to patrons of the Ten Mile Brewery as he launches 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Helena, Mont., on May 14, 2019.Jim Urquhart / Reuters file

Bullock's lead in the Senate race, and Biden's good showing in the poll, might track with how Montanans are viewing the parties' coronavirus responses. While 53 percent of Montanans approve of the president's coronavirus response, 70 percent of Montanans approve of Bullock's handling of the crisis. 

When that focused flipped to the incumbent senator, just 48 percent of those polled said they approved of Daines' response to the pandemic while 28 percent said they didn't know. And if those views stay in place, the race could help decide which party controls the Senate.

Democrats need to pick up a net of three Senate seats (plus the White House) in November to retake control of Congress' upper chamber, and a Montana win would put them on track to do just that. 

941d ago / 9:05 PM UTC

Biden calls for immediate $13 minimum wage increase for frontline workers

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden Monday called for an immediate $13 minimum wage increase for essential workers and criticized President Trump for viewing these front-liners as “disposable” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual town hall with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the apparent Democratic nominee proposed giving employees required to work through the public health crisis — many of whom are minorities and are working in a “war zone” — a $13 minimum wage increase on top of their current salaries to ensure that they can sustain their families, especially if they were to get sick on the job.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the LULAC National Convention in 2018.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the LULAC National Convention in 2018.LULAC

Biden already supports a $15 minimum wage for federal workers, but is calling for this extra amount just for essential employees working in virus hotspots like meatpacking plants and hospitals while the crisis continues. He said that Congress is considering adding a policy like his latest proposal in the new CARES Act.

During the town hall, the former vice president praised those on the frontlines, saying that the nation “would not survive” without their sacrifices. He stressed the need for essential employees to receive better pay, free coronavirus treatment regardless of their immigration status or health insurance, and paid sick leave during the outbreak.

“We can afford to do that,” Biden said.

Pre-empting the availability of a vaccine, Biden said the country must prepare now to ensure that all vaccines are free and accessible to everyone.

The candidate repeatedly swiped at President Trump and his administration for not empathizing with these workers, some of whom have died from exposure to the virus on the job. 

“They designate them as essential workers, then treat them as disposable,” Biden said. “It’s quite frankly inhumane and downright immoral because these workers are essential to our society. Not just in times of crisis, but always.”

At one point in the town hall, Biden dared Trump to “look one of these essential workers in the eye — the meat packers, delivery drivers, health care workers, grocery store clerks and tell them they don't deserve a livable wage, paid sick leave.”

As he’s often said throughout his virtual campaign, the former vice president emphasized that the teachable moment from this pandemic is that the country is recognizing how much it relies on minority workers. He hopes that this realization will lead to structural reforms in the system that reflects the dignity of their work.

—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed

941d ago / 1:39 PM UTC

New Trump coronavirus ad hits critics, argues America writing the 'the greatest comeback story'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's re-election campaign is out with its new coronavirus television ad aimed at coming to the president's defense on his handling of the virus. 

The new, 60-second spot blends optimism with Trumpian attacks.

It begins by recounting the spat over Nancy Pelosi's decision to rip up a copy of Trump's State of the Union and goes on to take swipes at both former Vice President Joe Biden as well as the media. 

"No matter how hard they try to stop us, they can't," Trump is quoted saying in the ad. 

Then the ad shifts to telling the story of the attempt at recovery, touting the resilience of the American economy, cheering first responders and highlighting praise of the federal response by blue-state governors. 

The campaign says the new spot will run as part of a seven-figure ad buy. 

But as we explored last week on the MTP Blog, the pro-Trump effort has already been significantly outspent by Democratic groups that frame the Trump administration as asleep at the wheel.

And recent polling, including from last month's NBC/WSJ poll, found a clear plurality of registered voters believe he has not taken the threat seriously and also the president lagging Biden on the question of who would handle the virus better. 

So it’s with messaging like this that the Trump administration hopes to turn those numbers around. 

945d ago / 10:26 PM UTC

Trump says Biden “should respond” to sexual assault allegation

and

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump Thursday said he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden should respond to the claim from a former staffer that the then-Delaware senator sexually assaulted her in the spring of 1993 even as he cast doubt on the veracity of the allegation.

“I don't know anything about it,” Trump said when asked by reporters Thursday evening about the allegation. “I don't know exactly. I think he should respond. It could be false allegations, I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times. There’s such a thing.”

More than a dozen women have alleged that Trump sexually harassed or assaulted them. The president denies their accounts. 

A former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, told NBC News that Biden — who at the time headed the Senate Judiciary Committee — penetrated her with his fingers under his skirt when she brought him a gym bag. She was a staff assistant in his office on Capitol Hill at the time.

Biden has not responded himself to Reade’s claims, but through his campaign has denied Reade’s account.

On Friday, Biden will conduct his first national news interview in two weeks with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

He has remained off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware since mid-March, as Reade’s allegation has slowly gained attention and scrutiny. Prominent Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several possible Biden vice presidential selections, have been asked about Reade’s claim, with most defending Biden.

“I have great sympathy for any woman who brings forth allegations. I do support Joe Biden,” Pelosi said in a CNN interview this week.

945d ago / 8:57 PM UTC

Tweet the Press: NBC's Kerry Sanders discusses coronavirus impacts in Florida, meat processing plants

WASHINGTON — On this week's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders about the coronavirus' impact in Florida and in meat processing plants. 

President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force meat processing plants to stay open amid the pandemic. Sanders told us that the concern for workers at this time is the virus is highly contagious and "workers were working elbow-to-elbow. There is now social distancing at plants but there is distrust between employees and employers." So despite the DPA, workers are reluctant to go to work.

Click here to read the full conversation. 

945d ago / 3:39 PM UTC

Trump campaign to hit airwaves with seven-figure coronavirus ad buy

and

WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign is preparing to spend seven figures on a national advertising buy that will tout the president’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to a senior campaign official. 

A new, 60-second television ad will start airing on Sunday and run for one week. This would mark the re-elect’s first major TV ad blitz of the general election, with just about six months to go.

“It’s an inspirational message about the unyielding resolve of Americans. It heralds the great American comeback,” the Trump campaign official said.

The announcement comes one day after the Trump campaign released a digital ad that includes Democratic governors praising portions of the administration's response to the pandemic. 

But the unified anti-Trump effort has already spent millions on attacking the Trump administration's handling of the virus, or praising former Vice President Joe Biden on the issue. 

Since March 1, the Democratic groups Priorities USA, American Bridge and Unite the Country have spent at least a combined $5 million on TV ads on broadcast and national cable that take on Trump or promote Biden on coronavirus, according to Advertising Analytics. 

On the GOP side, the pro-Trump America First Action has spent at least $1.2 million on broadcast and national cable spots over that same time period, with their ads largely attacking Biden through the lens of  China and the spread of coronavirus.

Amid the ad wars, recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling shows Biden with a 9-point edge over Trump on the questions of who would be better at responding to the coronavirus, or at handling a crisis.

A plurality of voters, 45 percent, say Trump "did not take the [coronavirus] threat seriously enough at the beginning and is still not handling it well."  Twenty percent say he didn't take it seriously to start but is handling it well now, and 30 percent say Trump took the threat posed by the virus seriously and "continues to handle it well." 

Thirty six percent of registered voters said they trust what Trump has said on the coronavirus, compared to 52 percent who do not. 

But the plurality of registered voters, 42 percent, say they aren't aware or have no opinion of what Biden has said on the issue. Twenty-six percent say they trust Biden's comments on the virus and 29 percent say they do not. 

The poll was conducted between April 13 through 15 with 900 registered voters and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 3.27 percent.

945d ago / 2:36 PM UTC

Amash's possible bid raises concerns about November implications

and

WASHINGTON — When Independent Michigan Rep. Justin Amash announced on Tuesday that he’s seeking the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, he joined a list of third-party candidates who aimed to provide a choice to voters outside of the two major parties. Amash, a frequent critic of President Trump, left the Republican Party in 2019 and supported Trump's impeachment. 

Although no third-party candidate has gone on to win the presidency, these candidates can impact elections and have been accused of spoiling the election for one of the two major party nominees.

In an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, Amash said it’s a “factual issue” to assume his candidacy affects how Americans would have voted come November if he weren't in the race.

“We don't know who people will vote for. It's impossible to say whether more people will vote for Biden or Trump if I'm in the race or not in the race. So I think there's a big, factual issue there,” Amash said. 

But electoral history tells a different story. Take Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. 

Nader’s Green Party run in 2000 is largely seen as one of the major reasons former Vice President Al Gore lost the general election. While the close 2000 election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, Florida’s valuable electoral votes could have been carried by Gore had Nader’s name not been on the ballot.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Bush carried 2,912,790 votes in Florida and Gore carried just slightly less with 2,912,253  — only a 537 vote difference. Nader held the significant balance of 97,488 votes. 

Bush’s win, perhaps with help from a more liberal third-party candidate, followed another Bush’s loss helped by Texas billionaire Ross Perot in 1992. Perot’s Independent run for the White House focused on utilizing cable TV — he announced his bid on the Larry King Live show — and used infomercials to sell his message. He ended up with about 19 percent of the vote in 1992 — and then-Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton won the election against President George H.W. Bush by just six points. 

Like Gore supporters in 2000, Democrats last election argued that Green Party candidate Jill Stein detracted votes from their nominee, resulting in Republican victories in key states. Stein received more votes than Trump’s margin of victory over 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. 

According to the Michigan Department of State, Stein garnered over 50,000 votes in Michigan  while Trump won just about 10,000 more votes than Clinton in the state. Official results from the Wisconsin Elections Commission show Trump beat out Clinton by just 23,000 votes — Stein received over 31,000 votes. And in Pennsylvania, where Clinton fell nearly 45,000 votes short of her Republican rival, Stein carried 49,941 votes per the Pennsylvania Department of State

It’s plausible that had the majority of Stein’s votes gone to Clinton, she would have carried those three once-Democratic strongholds. 

Perhaps unlike third-party spoilers in the past, Amash’s run has an opportunity to take votes from both parties’ nominees. On some issues, Amash may be able to run to the right of the president and pick up conservative votes. 

And in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he may be able to hinder moderates and Independents from coalescing around Biden.

945d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

Biden campaign announces vice presidential search committee

and

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has named a former Senate colleague, a trusted longtime aide, and two political allies to head up his vice presidential search committee, his campaign announced Thursday. 

Former Sen. Chris Dodd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Cynthia Hogan, a former counsel to Biden in the Senate and the White House, will lead the effort meant to advise Biden as he makes what is likely his most consequential political decision. The campaign says the four will “conduct conversations across the party” to inform the selection.

The inclusion of Garcetti, who is part Mexican, and Rochester, Delaware’s first black congresswoman, provides the kind of racial diversity on the panel that Democrats hope Biden will also consider as he rounds out the ticket.

Image: Joe Biden, Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Holds South Carolina Town Hall
Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College in Rock Hill, South Carolina on Aug. 29, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

Biden announced during his final primary debate against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in March that he would choose a woman as his running mate, considerably narrowing the field of possible choices. But he’s under some pressure from key Democrats to go further and select a woman of color in a bid to potentially energize the party’s base in the fall.

Separately, Biden campaign general counsel Dana Remus, former White House counsel Bob Bauer and former Obama administration Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco will oversee the rigorous background vetting process for all potential selections.

“Selecting a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions in a presidential campaign and no one knows this more than Joe Biden,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement making the announcement. "These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process.  We are grateful for their service to the campaign and for their leadership.”

Biden advisers have suggested that Thursday’s announcement will be the most they will say publicly about the process until the day the former vice president introduces the woman he hopes will be the next one. 

But Biden himself has talked often about the characteristics he is looking for most in a potential White House partner, including someone who is largely aligned with him ideologically, who could take on significant policy assignments, and with whom he enjoys significant trust. He’s also said that, as someone who would assume the presidency at 78 years old, he needs a vice presidential candidate that the country could accept as experienced enough to serve in the Oval Office themselves.

Biden has personally spoken with former President Barack Obama and some of the officials who helped guide his 2008 VP search committee — which, of course, ended with Biden on the ticket. That committee included Obama’s future attorney general, Eric Holder, and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president.

Biden told donors at a virtual fundraiser Wednesday that he hoped to have the vetting process completed in July. He’s previously said his campaign is discussing whether to announce his choice well before the Democratic National Convention in August. Obama announced his choice of Biden the weekend before the 2008 convention in late August; Hillary Clinton also announced her choice of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine just before the 2016 Democratic convention in July.

946d ago / 4:23 PM UTC

Top Senate campaign groups announce biggest early investment in North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa

WASHINGTON — Senate campaign committees and top super PACs are making their biggest investments on the airwaves in North Carolina, Arizona and Iowa, three states where Republican incumbents are looking to fend off Democratic attempts to win back the Senate in November. 

Now that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has released the breakdown of its initial round of television and digital investments, all four top committees in the battle for the Senate have sketched out early buy information — the DSCC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Leadership Fund (the Republican super PAC) and Senate Majority PAC (the Democratic super PAC). 

North Carolina is far and away the top target of that initial investment — $66.4 million between the four groups, $37.3 million from the blue team and $29.1 from the red team. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will face off against Democrat Cal Cunningham (with the Democrat leading by 5 points in a March NBC/WSJ poll, just inside the margin of error). 

That comes as North Carolina has seen the most television and radio spending already so far — $20.6 million, according to Advertising Analytics, with Maine a close second at $20.5 million. 

President Trump Holds Keep America Great Rally
Sen. Thom Tillis speaks during a rally for President Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. on March 2, 2020.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Then comes Arizona and Iowa in the second tier of spending, with $37 million and $35.6 million respectively between the four groups. The Democratic effort has the spending edge of these investments in both states — Democrats have booked $22.1 million in Arizona and $20.4 million in Iowa, with Republicans booking $14.9 million in Arizona and $15.2 million in Iowa. 

Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally is expected to face off against Democrat Mark Kelly in that state, while a handful of Democrats are facing off to win the right to run against Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (with Democrat Theresa Greenfield the best-funded of those options). 

Then there's Maine and Colorado bunched closely together — two states where those Republican groups are booking more initial advertising. Republicans are booking $12.3 million of the $21.9 million in initial reservations in Maine, and $11.9 million of the $17.1 million in Colorado. 

In those states, Democrats are looking to dethrone Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. 

In Montana, home to the clash between GOP Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, Democrats are booking $5.2 million compared to Republicans' $2.8 million. 

Then there are two states where only those Republican groups have decided to make initial investments in — SLF is putting $10.8 million into Kentucky, defending Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while the NRSC is spending $2.7 million in Michigan, where it hopes to knock off Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. 

The initial spending plans are just one piece of the puzzle — these groups are all expected to dump more money into the map; there are other outside groups either already running ads or that will in the coming months; and the candidates themselves will hit the airwaves depending on how much money they are able to raise. 

But now that the four big groups have released their initial plans, we can see where they believe their early money may go the furthest. 

947d ago / 6:26 PM UTC

Trump campaign touts virtual engagement as coronavirus turns campaign digital

WASHINGTON — Since starting nightly online broadcasts one month ago, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign says the virtual events have attracted nearly 300 million views across its social media platforms.

The large number could be an indication of voter interest while the re-elect effort continues to convert its traditional operation into a fully digital one with the coronavirus pandemic dramatically transforming the presidential race.

Last week alone, the Trump campaign told NBC it had more than 66 million views for their series of online discussions, which often feature top surrogates and staffers on a variety of topics, from veterans issues to women empowerment.

In the month of April so far, they’ve been watched more than 298 million times. 

“Team Trump’s unique, 7-nights-a-week online broadcasts are successful with dynamic guests, timely topics, and are a great way to stay involved in our 100% virtual campaign to re-elect President Trump,” deputy communications director Erin Perrine told NBC News in a statement. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office on April 28, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

Many of April’s cyber panels were slated to take place right after the president wrapped up his daily coronavirus press conferences. Perrine argued that the double-feature aspect is attractive to many Trump supporters who are craving more voter interaction directly from the president and the campaign.

 “Just like President Trump, these broadcasts are bold and hold back no punches on the fake news or Democrat attempts to spread lies about the president. They highlight the strong and growing enthusiasm for President Trump’s America First success," she said. 

Though they stream on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the main campaign website as well, Facebook attracts the most eyeballs, according to a senior campaign official.

The president, who is eager to get back on the campaign trail before November, has yet to participate in one of these livestreams.

And as millions of Americans have been confined to their homes, the Trump team and Republican National Committee say they’ve seen a surge of volunteers. More than 300,000 new people have raised their hands virtually since March 13 the day the campaign went all-virtual.

Since then, Trump Victory – the joint effort between the campaign and RNC – has made 20 million voter contacts, per this official. On particular target dates, Trump supporters have made as many as 4 million calls in one day to Americans nationwide, urging them to visit the CDC’s website and follow social distancing guidelines, while also touting the president’s accomplishments and pushing online voter registration.

Last week’s release of the new Trump 2020 mobile app has also allowed supporters across the country sign up for “Trump Talk,” which allows them to make recruiting calls from the comfort of their own homes.

The Trump and Biden campaigns haven’t held large in-person events since early March. Since then, former Vice President Joe Biden has been appearing from a studio in his Delaware home. 

In that time, the Biden campaign says more than 63 million people have engaged with their online content, including livestreams, speeches, press briefings and interviews. The apparent Democratic nominee has done 42 virtual events and appearances since entering self-isolation. 

Last Saturday, the Biden team hosted a “SOUL of the Nation” digital rally, which it says attracted 340,000 live views across their platforms.

The Trump campaign notes that while Biden and his digital operation use the three-time presidential hopeful’s Twitter account to reach supporters for their live programming, so far, the president hasn’t promoted his team’s online broadcasts with his more than 78 million followers.