The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
DNC launches ad campaign on Trump 'descent'
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee is beginning its general election offensive against President Donald Trump Tuesday, with a new television and digital ad campaign running in battleground states.
The effort marks the five year anniversary of Trump’s 2016 presidential candidacy, which he announced after a ride down a golden escalator at Trump Tower. The opening DNC ad, titled “Descent,” revives that image, tying it to the decline of American jobs, health care, race relations, and immigrant rights.
“Five years ago — Donald Trump descended to the basement of Trump Tower. And for the last five years, he’s brought America down with him,” says the ad provided to NBC News.
It’s the first television ad campaign the DNC has run in four years, and signifies a more visible role for the organization following the turmoil in 2016 that culminated in the resignation of former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the party convention. That year, a Russian-led hack of DNC computer servers unearthed internal emails suggesting staff unfairly favored the candidacy of former Senator Hillary Clinton over her then-challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In an effort to demonstrate unity across the party, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive voice who competed for the Democratic nomination this year and is under consideration to be Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate, will help kick off the campaign in a press call on Tuesday and join DNC Chair Tom Perez for a battleground state tour.
Perez will also team with other party leaders, including Florida Rep. Val Demmings, who's also on Biden’s short list of potential vice presidential contenders.
The ad campaign will run for five weeks, and will focus on holding Trump accountable “for four years of failures driven by his own ego and self-interest and defined by his incompetence as a leader,” according to a memo shared with NBC News. The committee declined to provide a specific price tag but said it would be a “six figure television buy.”
The Biden campaign hasn’t aired any TV ads since March, when the former vice president effectively secured the nomination. Before that, the campaign spent some $12 million on ads ahead of the primaries in Michigan, Florida, Missouri and Illinois. It’s now prioritizing digital ads, leaving it to super PACs and the DNC to battle on the airwaves.
One of the DNC ads will focus narrowly on Trump’s trade dispute with China, which the committee claims has cost an estimated 300,000 jobs. Another will zero in on Trump’s early reassurances that China had the coronavirus under control and that it would just go away on its own.
The spots preview a general election messaging strategy, arguing that Trump’s supposed strength as a businessman, honed over decades in real estate and reality TV, has in fact been a weakness.
Amy McGrath books big ad buy against Charles Booker as Senate primary heats up
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath is booking a flury of ads with one week before her Senate primary faceoff with state Rep. Charles Booker, flexing the muscle of one of the best-funded Senate campaigns in history.
As of Monday afternoon, McGrath has $1.4 million in TV and radio ads booked before the June 23 primary. Booker has $335,000. So far this week, Booker has primarily run a spot calling himself a "real Democrat" and contrasting with McGrath's past comments supportive of President Trump's agenda. McGrath meanwhile has run a smattering of ads that focus on general election issues and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
While Booker has caught fire in recent days — winning endorsements from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as from prominent newspapers in the state — McGrath is still raking in the cash.
She's raised $41.1 million through June 3, according to the most recent fundraising filings, and had $19.3 million by that point. Booker, by comparison, raised $793,000 and had $285,000 banked away at that point, which was before the endorsements from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, who weild significant strength in the grassroots-fundraising space.
So as Booker has snagged the recent headlines, McGrath continues to overwhelm him on the airwaves.
Biden and DNC say they raised more than $80 million in May
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign announced that it raised $80.1 million in May in partnership with the Democratic National Committee, the most the joint effort has brought in to date and marking a turnaround in fundraising momentum.
The May total marks another improvement from April, when the Biden-DNC joint haul was $60.5 million. The campaign has raised more in the month of May than it did the first three months of the year, which totaled $74 million in the first quarter.
In an email to supporters Monday, Biden said that more than half of its May donors gave for the first time. Full results will be available once the campaign files its required monthly report by June 20.
The campaign is crediting its fundraising haul to the growth of small-dollar donors, which they say has tripled since February. And the uptick comes after the campaign established a joint-fundraising committee with the DNC, which allows the campaign to raise money in tandem with the national party.
In potential foreshadowing for June’s fundraising numbers, the campaign announced that they’ve brought in 1.5 million new supporters in just the last two weeks alone.
It's a significant turnaround since pre-South Carolina primary days, when the campaign struggled with online and small-dollar fundraising. It also proves that the campaign can bring in significant amounts of money after facing criticism that virtual fundraisers may not have the same appeal as courting large-dollar donors in-person.
“I’m in awe of this sum of money. Just a few months ago, people were ready to write this campaign off. Now, we are making huge dents in Donald Trump’s warchest. Every single dollar is going to make sure he is only a one-term president,” Biden said in an email to supporters.
The largest donation sum to date for the presumptive Democratic nominee occurs even as the campaign has been approaching online fundraising more delicately during the COVID-19 pandemic and national protests on criminal justice.
Earlier this month, fundraising emails specified that the campaign was not soliciting donations from supporters with ZIP codes in areas with significant demonstrations for one week. All fundraising emails now give recipients the option of pausing solicitations for two weeks noting that it is “a difficult time for our country” and “it may be an especially difficult time for many of you personally.”
Relying solely on virtual fundraisers due to the coronavirus pandemic has forced the campaign to get creative with their large-dollar and grassroots fundraising. As of late, Biden has held fundraisers alongside A-list celebrities, called on endorsers to hold cooking and yoga classes and began to court grassroots supporters directly.
Biden held his first grassroots fundraiser alongside Pete Buttigieg last month that raised over $1 million. On Monday night, he is holding a virtual finance event with Elizabeth Warren, who he’s previously tasked with calling small-dollar donors to thank them for supporting Biden.
Meanwhile, President Trump has restarted his own in-person fundraising in recent days and his reelection effort raised more than $27 million in a span of four days that covered an extensive digital fundraising effort as well as two in-person fundraisers.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorses Biden
WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political wing of Planned Parenthood, announced its endorsement of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president Monday, praising him for his record of expanding health care for women.
“Joe Biden is the only candidate in this race who will stand up for our health and our rights,” the group's acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement, noting that President Trump has “attacked access to abortion and reproductive health care” along with “the people that Planned Parenthood health centers serve,” like women, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Responding to the endorsement in a statement, Biden said: "As President, I’m going to do everything in my power to expand access to quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care. I'm proud to stand with Planned Parenthood in this fight."
In both the group's statement and a video announcing the endorsement, Planned Parenthood Action Fund applauds the former vice president for his work on the Affordable Care Act, which expanded birth control access for women nationwide, and for sticking up for abortion rights. The statement even goes on to point out that Biden is committed to repealing the Hyde Amendment, which largely bans federal funds from being used for most abortions. Critics argue that the Hyde Amendment unfairly reduces access to abortions for low-income, minority women who rely on Medicaid.
But Biden’s views on abortion, and particularly on the Hyde Amendment, have changed over time. It was just one year ago that Biden reversed his long-maintained support of the Hyde Amendment, saying last June at a DNC gala that he could no longer "justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need.”
"If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code,” he added.
Biden's faith has also clouded his views. The former vice president revealed in his 2007 book “Promises to Keep” that as a Roman Catholic, he personally opposes abortion and grapples with the issue though he said he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.
Trump re-elect brings in $27 million in four-day fundraising spree
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election effort raised more than $27 million in the span of four days after an extensive digital fundraising effort and resumption of in-person fundraising.
The team announced it raised $14 million online on Sunday in a push to mark the president’s 74th birthday, resulting in its largest single-day fundraising total to date. The GOP's last digital fundraising record took place back in October 2016 when they raised $10 million in a day.
And late last week, the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee resumed in-person fundraising, raking in $10 million at a private home in Dallas and $3 million in Bedminster, N.J. over the weekend.
The president had halted in-person fundraising back in March due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. And their fundraising was slightly dented due to that change. But the Republican war chest remains well-funded. Going into last month, Trump Victory – the joint fundraising committee for President Trump's re-election had $255 million cash on hand.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee announced in May they raised $60 million in April, which was just under what the Trump campaign and RNC brought in that month at $61 million. But the Biden team hasn't done any in-person fundraising since March 9th, and there's no indication he'll be doing any in-person fundraisers anytime soon.
In order to attract more donors virtually, Biden is doing more fundraisers with big-name headliners like John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and Barbra Streisand.
The president is set to resume his signature large-scale rallies this weekend in Tulsa, Okla., with more tentatively scheduled in Florida, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina. Trump normally holds fundraisers ahead of each rally appearance.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed.
Black women take center stage hedging for Biden's veep slot
WASHINGTON — Even as protests and demands for police reform grow greater in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden told CBS that recent events aren’t impacting who he’ll pick as his running mate. Symone Sanders, Biden’s senior adviser, clarified that Biden “hears the concerns” of those who want an African American running mate.
However, Black women hedging for the veep slot have been out front this week on issues of police brutality and institutional racism.
Here are this week’s most significant veepstakes developments from the NBC News political unit:
Stacey Abrams: Abrams has been highly visible this week after widespread voting problems plagued Georgia’s primaries on Tuesday — but that hasn't gotten her a call from the Biden camp.
“I have said many times that if called I will answer, but I have not received any calls,” Abrams said of her contact with the Biden team during an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.
Despite confirming she has not yet been vetted, Abrams made clear that she believes voting problems are directly related to racial inequality.
“We can't divorce today from what we're seeing happening across this country in response to the murder of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the litany of names that is too long to be held by memory,” she said Tuesday.
Sen. Kamala Harris: Unlike Abrams, Harris hasn’t been particularly vocal about where she stands in the veep vetting process, instead opting for subtler moves throughout the week that could make her a strong V.P. choice.
On Tuesday, one day after Biden flew to Houston to meet with George Floyd’s family, Harris led a virtual fundraiser with Biden and raked in $3.5 million — the most a V.P. contender has raised for the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Biden repeatedly praised Harris during the event, calling her “a fighter and a principled leader,” and said he’d never forget Harris voicing her love for Biden’s deceased son, Beau, to him. And given Biden’s insistence on being “simpatico” with his veep pick, that close bond could seal the deal.
Like Biden, Harris has also met with a member of the Floyd family and based on NBC News’ reporting is the only V.P. contender to do so. At a town hall Thursday, the California senator confirmed she was with Floyd’s brother, Philonise, in Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C. after he testified on the Hill about police brutality.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Rep. Val Demings: The Atlanta mayor and the Florida congresswoman appeared on Axios’ HBO documentary show this week where Demings again confirmed she’d want to serve as vice president, while Lance Bottoms hedged.
“I can tell you, COVID had me thinking a lot less about a V.P. conversation and with what's been happening with the murder of George Floyd and so many others,” Lance Bottoms said. “I've not given it a lot of thought at all. But you know, if the vice president felt that I would be the person to help him win in November and I would be best suited, it is certainly something I would give serious consideration to.”
Demings, who is a former police chief, appeared to struggle this week in discussing the newly-formed “defund the police” movement. While Biden has also come out against defunding the police, Demings said on CBS, “I do believe there is opportunity here for the police and the community to come together and kind of spread, look at the responsibility, things that police are taking on, that they were never supposed to take on in the first place, and come out with a better plan.”
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
American Federation of Teachers launches $1 million ad campaign for HEROES Act
WASHINGTON — The American Federation of Teachers launched a $1 million ad buy on Friday to support the HEROES Act, the House-passed legislation on coronavirus aid. The Senate has not yet moved on the bill which was passed on May 15.
The new ad, entitled "Essential", will run for two weeks on Facebook, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in 10 states plus Washington D.C.: Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania, Montana and North Carolina.
The 30-second ad, focuses on two teachers and a food services manager providing students with meals and teaching virtual classes. The campaign also includes a 15-second ad version. The AFT argues that as coronavirus cases begin to increase as states relax restrictions, a second wave could lead to massive layoffs and leave essential workers more at risk to contracting the virus.
“If the HEROES Act fails to pass, and states and schools don’t get the support they need to reopen safely, then they’ll stay shut and the economy will stall — it’s that simple,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion piece of legislation that included another round of stimulus checks for Americans, pay raises for frontline workers, an extension of the $600-per-week unemployment compensation and additional state and local aid. Republicans have called it a "liberal wish list", and President Trump called the bill "dead on arrival."
Weingarten added, “There are no magic fixes — the only path to recovery is a stimulus package that funds, rather than forfeits, our future. We urgently need the federal dollars included in the HEROES Act to help states, cities, towns and schools weather this rolling storm."
It's unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up any other further pandemic relief until mid-July, after the July 4 recess. After a better-than-expected jobs report in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said future relief bills would have to be more "focused".
"As Senate Republicans have made clear for weeks, future efforts must be laser-focused on helping schools reopen safely in the fall, helping American workers continue to get back on the job, and helping employers reopen and grow. We must keep the wind in our sails, not slam the brakes with left-wing policies that would make rehiring even harder and recovery even more challenging," McConnell said last week.
New Biden digital ad hits Trump for reaction to protests
WASHINGTON — For the second time in the past month, Joe Biden's campaign is accusing President Donald Trump for acting like a “deer in the headlights” as he's tries to deal with two major crises.
The campaign’s latest digital ad focuses on the use of force used on protestors in Washington last week to clear the way for Trump’s walk across the street from the White House for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church.
“The nation marches for justice and like a deer in the headlights, he’s paralyzed with fear. He doesn’t know what to do so he hides in his bunker,” the narrator says in between images of peaceful protestors chanting George Floyd’s name.
“Then, he’s afraid he looks too weak so he has tear gas and flash grenades used on peaceful protestors, just for a photo-op,” the narrator continues. “Where is Donald Trump? Too scared to face the people. Too small to meet the moment. Too weak to lead.”
The Biden campaign has tried to define the two major crises of the year — the pandemic and nationwide protests against police mistreatment of African Americans — as moments that show stark contrasts between the president and the presumptive Democratic nominee. In the past week alone the campaign has released two digital ads using Biden’s civil unrest speech in a Philadelphia that highlight his promise not to “fan the flames of hate” like Trump and commitment to support protestors urging progress towards a more equal America.
The latest ad builds on one played across five battleground states last month, where they first made the charge that Trump reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights” at a time when the economy was worsening and the death toll climbing. It will target voters on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube across Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
This is the campaign’s sixth digital ad since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March that targets social media users in key battleground states. They have exclusively left TV ad spending to pro-Biden Super PACs.
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.