Meet the Press Blog: Latest news, analysis and data driving the political discussion

Smart political reporting and analysis, including data points, interesting national trends, short updates and more from the NBC News political unit.
Image: The Meet The Press Live Blog Illustration
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE

The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Poll: 57 percent of registered voters think government should be doing more to solve problems

WASHINGTON — The share of voters who say that the government should do more to solve Americans’ problems has reached new heights throughout President Donald Trump’s time in office, with the latest NBC News / WSJ poll showing the sentiment just shy of its all-time high. 

Fifty-seven percent of registered voters want the government to solve more problems. Just 38 percent think the government is doing too much, tied for the lowest share since the poll began asking the question in 1995. 

Simultaneously, the share of voters who think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses or individuals has remained at an all-time low. 

During past presidencies, public demand for the government to do more — and to do less — has fluctuated. Under former President Barack Obama, these sentiments oscillated around the high forties and low fifties, with both sides hitting majority support over Obama’s eight years in office.

But at the beginning of the Trump presidency, public opinion sharply diverged in favor of governments doing more. By early 2018, 58 percent felt that the government should do more and 38 percent felt the government should be doing less. That 20-point gap decreased slightly in 2019, only to increase again in 2020. 

While Republicans have historically called for smaller government, Trump at times has bucked that convention. 

During Trump’s 2015 campaign announcement speech, he said he wanted to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts.”

The president’s 2020 budget proposal aimed to make hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. But after facing pushback, Trump reversed course, tweeting, “I will totally protect your Medicare & Social Security!” 

Anxieties over the cost of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, along with other government programs and benefits, could be further exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic. There have been more than 2 million coronavirus cases in America, and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus. 

Congress has passed a handful of coronavirus relief bills, including direct payments to Americans and the Paycheck Protection Program, loans that would be forgiven provided businesses kept on employees and used the money for certain, approved expenses. 

There have been disagreements among lawmakers as to whether more help is needed, with many Senate Republicans wanting to wait and see before discussing new aid. 

Breaking the latest data down by party, the starkest divide is among Democrats, with 86 percent saying the government is doing too little and 11 percent saying it is not doing enough. 

A slim majority, 51 percent, of independents agree that the government is under-involved. 

The GOP divide on the question of government involvement is less unequivocal than it is for Democrats, but not by much. Twenty-five percent of Republicans wish the government was doing more and 77 percent feel the government is doing too much. 

Ahead of November’s election, some of the key voting groups that led Trump to victory in 2016 are calling for more government involvement. 

For example, 57 percent of white women want the government to be doing more, a group Trump won over Clinton by 9 percent, according to exit polls

Fifty-one percent of working-class whites want the government to do more, along with 52 percent of white voters and 57 percent of those who live in swing states. 

NBC and the Wall Street Journal polled 1000 registered voters between May 28 and June 2. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent. 

Georgia Republican poised to make House runoff after comparing pandemic punishments to socialism

WASHINGTON — In April, we took a look at how three Republican candidates running in for a Republican-leaning open seat in Georgia were messaging on coronavirus.

One highlighted his Air National Guard service to help his community respond to the virus, another blasted "weak Republicans" and "deranged Democrats" before shooting a sign labeled "COVID-19.", and one called fines for violating social-distancing orders "Chinese-style socialism."

So with votes still coming in across the after an election plagued by issues, the Associated Press is projecting that the two candidates with the more fiery messaging of the three will advance to a runoff.

With no candidate hitting the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, the AP is projecting that Marjorie Taylor Greene and John Cowan will advance to a runoff in August (while a significant portion of the statewide vote is still outstanding, all but one precinct has reported in the 14th Congressional District, according to the AP's figures). 

Taylor Green, a business owner who was endorsed by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, ran the ad decrying the "Chinese-style socialism" of punishing people for violating coronavirus-related restrictions.

In the final days before the primary, her messaging largely focused on socialism and criticizing "antifa." She ran a TV ad blasting "antifa terrorists" who were "declaring war on our cities," before appearing to chamber a round and telling them to "stay out of northwest Georgia."

And she ran a spot where triggered explosives by shooting at them with a rifle as she rattled off ideas she wanted to stop in Congress, including gun control, the Green New Deal, open borders and socialism. 

Cowan, a neurosurgeon who ran the ad attacking "weak Republicans" and shooting a mock-up of the virus, continued to run that one spot down the stretch.  

Priorities USA electoral projection puts Biden over 300, while cautioning election still volatile

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, the major Democratic super-PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden, has the Democrat leading President Trump in its electoral college projection 305 votes to 204.

Florida is the only state on the map considered a toss-up in the analysis, which the group considers a state where the candidates have between 49.5 and 50.5 percent of the vote. The group's analysis is culled in part from its recent battleground and national polling and is based on where the race stands today, not a projection for the November election. 

Priorities’ current polling has Biden ahead in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as in Arizona and North Carolina. Recent public polls have shown Biden up in many battleground states as well. 

But Priorities also points out that just a 3-point drop for Biden – among both white working-class voters and minority voters – would narrow the Democrat’s advantage over Trump to 259 to 248, with Trump winning Florida and North Carolina, and with Arizona and Pennsylvania moving to the “toss-up” category.

Before this recent surge by Biden, Priorities says the overall Trump-vs.-Biden race has been fairly close over the past year. This is the first time in the group's projection Biden eclipsed the 300 electoral vote mark. 

"We have seen some significant movements over the course of the last four weeks in particular, in Arizona and North Carolina, although those states are still within 2 points," Priorities chairman Guy Cecil told reporters during a Wednesday media briefing. 

"Structurally, while we’ve seen improvements, this race continues to be close."

Priorities’ polling also shows Trump’s current job rating (at 41 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove) at one of the lowest levels of his presidency.

"We are very quickly approaching the -17 points that we saw immediately following the shutdown at the beginning of last year. This is among the worst approval ratings in our internal data has shown since Donald Trump became president," Cecil said. 

Trump approval rating drops 10 points in Gallup poll

WASHINGTON — President Trump's approval rating dropped 10 points from May to June among adults, according to Gallup's latest poll. 

The new numbers, which show Trump's approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 57 percent, is one of the largest dips in a single-month period for the president in Gallup's tracking. In May, Gallup showed Trump's approval and disapproval ratings nearly even at 49 and 48 percent respectively. 

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House on May 30, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The dip comes as more Americans take issue with the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests across the country against police brutality. In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 80 percent of registered voters said they felt things in the U.S. were "out of control." Additionally, President Trump continues to struggle in national and state polls against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

A group of Fox News polls released last week show Trump trailing Biden in Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio. Trump won those states handedly in 2016, and those states could be must-win for the president in November. 

The president met with senior advisers and campaign officials last week to discuss concerning internal polling in reliably Republican states like Texas. But on Twitter, Trump has argued that publicly released polling hasn't been accurate. On Monday Trump announced he hired an outside polling group to analyze polls he "felt were fake." 

Republican senators launching ads attacking Joe Biden

WASHINGTON — Two Republican senators have launched ads attacking former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrat continues to lead President Trump in recent polls. 

Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally has aired two ads in recent days evoking Biden as a foil, alongside likely Arizona Democratic nominee Mark Kelly.

And Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has a new digital spot blasting Biden as "too confused to lead." 

The McSally spots aim to tie Biden to Kelly — one argues the pair won't be able to hold China accountable (Republicans have hit Kelly on the airwaves for his business ties to China), while another says that Kelly will "help Joe Biden pass a new government-controlled health insurance system" (Both Kelly and Biden support a public option, not Medicare-for-All). 

McSally was down big in Fox News’ recent poll of the Senate race (trailing Kelly 50 to 37 among registered voters). And Biden led Trump by 4 points in that same poll of the state that Trump won by 3.5 points in 2016.

While that Biden lead is within the margin of error, there are signs that there could be trouble in Arizona at the top of the ticket, as Democratic groups are pushing into the once reliably Republican state. 

Meanwhile, Cotton, who has no Democratic opponent in the fall, just released a new digital ad attacking China for "lies" that "spread the China virus across the world," as well as Biden by rounding up a complication of his recent missteps to argue he's "too confused to lead." 

The spot, first reported by Breitbart News, will run in Michigan and Iowa as part of an initial, five-figure buy. 

Cotton's political website features another anti-Biden video, one from March that calls Biden "weak on China." 

And Cotton's not the first Republican without a Democratic challenger in the fall to try to give his party air cover by attacking Biden. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., bought TV time ahead of the Iowa caucuses to criticize Biden and defend the president during impeachment.

While Cotton is running for reelection this year, the Democrats couldn't field a challenger to run against him after one candidate dropped out shortly after the filing deadline. 

Multiple states hold key primaries as coronavirus pandemic, Floyd protests continue

WASHINGTON — On the day of George Floyd's funeral in Houston and as coronavirus cases continue to rise, several states are holding primaries to determine which candidates will represent their parties come November.

Here are the races the NBC News political unit are paying closest attention to:

Georgia Senate: The top primary contest to watch is in Georgia, where several Democrats are running for the right to challenge Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in the fall.

The favorite in this Democratic primary is 2017 congressional nominee, Jon Ossoff, and his top challengers are former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico. The Cook Political Report lists the race as “Lean Republican” for November.

If none of the candidates break 50 percent, the Top 2 will advance to an Aug. 11 runoff.

Jon Ossoff delivers his concession speech to supporters at his election night watch party in Atlanta on June 20, 2017.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

South Carolina Senate: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Democrat Jaime Harrison receive nominal primary opposition ahead of their expected November showdown in the Palmetto State. Harrison has raked in significant fundraising ahead of today's contest. 

Nevada 3rd District: Republicans will pick their nominee in Nevada to face Democratic Congresswoman Susie Lee, D-Nev., in the competitive Nevada district. 

Nevada 4th District: Also in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who recently admitted to having an affair with a former Senate staffer, is receiving a primary challenge from multiple Democrats, as well as Republicans who are trying to reclaim the seat. 

For the contests in both the third and fourth House districts in the state, it's important to note that Nevada secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, has sent mail-in ballots to all of Nevada's registered voters. 

—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

Dem group American Bridge launches $20 million battleground state ad buy

WASHINGTON — American Bridge is rolling out a $20 million ad campaign over 10 weeks in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the hopes of softening up President Trump in the blue wall states he flipped to secure his 2016 victory. 

The first spots feature voters who backed Trump in 2016 explaining why they are now backing former Vice President Joe Biden. 

In one Wisconsin spot, a Vietnam veteran named John argues that the "Trump economy" isn't working for the working class. 

"This time, I'm voting for Joe Biden because I think that Joe Biden has the good of the country in his heart," he says.

"To compare Donald Trump with Joe Biden — I can bet my life on most of what Joe Biden has to say. I wouldn't bet my life on the next three things that come out of Donald Trump's mouth, because one of them will probably be a lie." 

In another spot airing in Pennsylvania, a Westmoreland County voter named Janie said that she's "disappointed" in Trump, while "Joe Biden understands how the government works, and I trust him." 

The new buy runs through the end of August, and will include TV, radio and digital ads. The group is targeting a smattering of markets across the state, including many of the Trump-leaning areas that the president's campaign recently targeted with its recent ad buy. 

Trump campaign seizes on calls for Dems to support 'defund the police' movement

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign is seizing on mounting calls to defund police by calling out prominent Democrats who are supportive of the movement after the death of George Floyd, who was killed when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The Trump re-elect effort held a call with reporters on Monday to criticize the “left’s radical proposals to defund the police,” specifically pressuring apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden to speak out in opposition to the idea. 

A protester holds a sign that reads, "Defund the Police" during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 7, 2020.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Minutes later, the Biden campaign issued a statement doing so.

“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” spokesman Andrew Bates said, stressing Biden supports the “urgent need for reform.”

On the call, the Trump campaign slammed members of the so-called “Squad,” including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, for being open to defunding and disbanding police.

“It is consuming the entire Democrat party as the most extreme elements have the loudest voices and demand acquiescence,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said, also name-checking notable Democrats such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Rep. Val Demings — who is currently being vetted as a possible running mate for Biden.

Murtaugh jabbed at Bowser for not stepping in and stopping activists from adding the words “DEFUND THE POLICE” to the existing city-commissioned “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural on 16th St., near the White House.

The campaign also had two surrogates on the call with reporters to attack Democrats: former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell and former Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh. 

They both argued it was impossible to operate cities “without local law enforcement” and took the extreme view of the concept in terms of disbanding police, seemingly ignoring one of the larger ideas of the movement in terms of allocating resources differently.   

“Should law enforcement be accountable? Absolutely,” Welsh conceded, but the idea of dismantling police “will do nothing but create chaos and anarchy” she claimed. 

Asked about whether any of the people on the call believe systemic racism exists in policing, Murtaugh said: “No one hates a bad cop worse than a good cop. I think that there are people who have bad attitudes … in all organizations.” The others referred to a “few bad apples,” which is something top Trump administration officials have echoed in the last few weeks. 

The campaign could not comment on any particular policy proposals that would be forthcoming on the larger issue of police reform from the president and deferred to the White House on that. 

If the president’s feed is any indication, this issue will continue to be highlighted by both him and the campaign this summer. The re-elect effort has already sent fundraising list emails this weekend, saying: “We can’t stand by while the Left tries to DEFUND THE POLICE.”

Biden campaign launches turnout effort targeting LGBTQ voters

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Monday announced the launch of a robust get-out-the-vote effort targeting LGBTQ voters.

The effort, called, “Out for Biden,” will be aimed at turning out a record number of LGBTQ voters in November by fostering “relationships with pro-equality partners to register and mobilize LGBTQ+ voters around the country, with an emphasis on key battleground states,” the campaign said in a statement.

"Our campaign’s decision to launch Out for Biden in the shadow of historic protest elevates the power of the moment and encourages deep — and sometimes difficult — dialogue within our LGBTQ+ community as Pride month begins,” said Reggie Greer, the Biden campaign’s LGBTQ+ vote director. “LGBTQ+ people of color are central to the fabric of our communities. We must elect a government that will center their voices and celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ people everywhere,” Greer added.

Trump campaign touts May job gains in new TV ad

WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign dropped a new TV spot over the weekend that spikes the football on Friday’s surprising job numbers.

“The Great American Comeback has begun. A record 2.5 million new jobs in May, and we're just getting started,” the spot’s narrator begins.

“Before the pandemic. President Trump made our economy the envy of the world. Now he's doing it again, bringing devastated industries back, working to build factories here instead of China, getting direct cash relief to families.”

Team Trump has long wanted to pivot the message away from the coronavirus and to the economy. So it’s no surprise they’re trumpeting the good news from Friday’s report.

But unemployment is still in the double-digits (and while white unemployment dropped, black unemployment did not); the economy lost eight times the jobs in April than it gained in May; and the CBO predicted the coronavirus would kneecap economic growth over the long term.

Democrats are spending millions trying to lay the pandemic (and the pandemic economy) at Trump’s feet, setting up a clear dynamic that will continue into the fall. 

Mask-wearing habits could indicate how you'll vote

WASHINGTON — The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that a person's mask-wearing habits could indicate how they'll vote in the 2020 presidential race. 

Sixty-three percent of registered voters said they "always" wear a mask when they're in public — like when they go shopping, go to work or be around other people outside of their house. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, leads President Trump by 40 points among those voters: 66 percent to 26 percent. 

And voters who don't wear a mask are nearly just as likely to vote for the president as mask-wearers are to vote for Biden. 

Twenty-one percent of voters said they "sometimes" wear a mask — and Trump leads those voters by 32 points: 62 percent to 30 percent. 

Giagnna Mendez, originally from Peru, wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus participates in a swearing in ceremony to become an American citizen held at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's Kendall office on June 4, 2020 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Perhaps most unsurprisingly, the voters who say the never or rarely wear a mask are nearly all in support of the president. Just 15 percent of registered voters said they don't tend to wear a mask — the president leads Biden with those voters 83-7 percent. 

Biden and Trump have sparred on whether it's appropriate to wear a mask. The president has forgone wearing a mask in nearly all of his public appearances since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to suggest Americans wear masks in public, especially when social distancing is not possible. Biden, meanwhile, has been photographed with a mask nearly every time he has left his Delaware home. 

The president retweeted conservative media hosts criticizing Biden's decision to wear a mask, while saying publicly that Biden "can wear a mask" but that it's "unusual" the former vice president isn't seen wearing one indoors. Biden has called said Trump doesn't wear a mask in an effort to look "macho."