The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Priorities USA drops new ad criticizing Trump on Affordable Care Act
WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, which has been blitzing the airwaves for weeks with ads focused on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, is expanding its campaign with a focus on the administration’s efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act.
The Democratic super PAC's new campaign comes as former Vice President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks about the fate of the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement, which faces another Supreme Court test as the White House is set to file brief urging justices to strike down the law.
A new broadcast television ad targeting voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan says that “even now,” amid the ongoing pandemic crisis, the president is "trying to end the Affordable Care Act.”
“Health care costs would skyrocket, and insurance companies would again be allowed to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions,” the spot warns, saying Trump is “failing America.”
Priorities is also debuting a pair of digital ads about the healthcare law and the consequences of its potential undoing. The PAC says it is spending $2 million per week on the new campaign.
“Even as the American people continue to fight for our lives in the battle against this deadly pandemic, Donald Trump and his Republican allies are in court as we speak trying to terminate the Affordable Care Act, tearing protections away from millions of Americans at the moment they need them most,” Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement.
Democrats up and down the ballot campaigned aggressively in 2018 on protecting Obamacare, mainly focused on its requirement that insurers cover individuals with preexisting health conditions.
Biden’s campaign has continued that messaging, even in the Democratic primaries as it warned that efforts to pursue a single-payer system could jeopardize the hard-fought ACA protections. Priorities has committed to spending $200 million on the presidential race, and announced this week it has raised $173 million toward fulfilling that goal.
Polls: Biden expands lead in Wisconsin, tight race emerges in Ohio
Joe Biden has expanded his lead in Wisconsin, according the a new Marquette Law School poll of registered voters in the state. Biden is leading President Trump by 8 points — 49 percent to 41 percent. That's an expansion of his three-point lead in May when the presumptive Democratic nominee and the president brought in 46 and 43 percent support respectively.
Wisconsinites have also soured on the president's job approval. Forty-five percent of registered Wisconsin voters approve of the job the president is doing, while 51 percent disapprove — it's Trump's lowest marks in the Marquette poll this year.
The biggest change among voters in the state has come from Republicans and independents. In Marquette's May poll, Republicans supported the president in a Trump-Biden match-up 93 to 1 percent, and independents broke for Trump in the state with 34-27 percent support. Now, Republicans support the president 83 to 8 percent, and more independents are breaking for Biden. Biden leads Trump in independent voters 38 to 30 percent.
The poll is part of a larger pattern that shows the president's support slipping in key states he'd need to win November. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by just over 22,000 votes — and the Cook Political Report has Wisconsin listed as a toss-up state for the 2020 election.
A Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday showed a tightening race in Ohio with Biden leading Trump 46 to 45 percent among registered voters. The president carried the state in 2016 by 8 percent.
The Marquette poll was taken between June 14 and 18, and has a 4.3-point margin of error, and the Quinnipiac poll was taken between June 18 and 22, with a 2.9-point margin of error.
Trump trails Biden by 14 points in latest national poll
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is leading President Trump by 14 points, 50 to 36 percent, in the latest general election poll by The New York Times and Siena College. The poll is the most recent of several national surveys that have shown Biden ahead of Trump by double digits.
The New York Times/Siena College poll also shows Biden leading or tied with the president among all age demographics. Biden and Trump both poll at 44 percent support with those aged between 45 and 64, and Biden is within the 3-point margin of error in his 47-45 percent lead among those 65-years-old and older.
It's a similar story across education levels of voters — the president trails Biden with voters who completed some high school and/or trade school, as well as with those who hold bachelors degrees and graduate degrees. Trump and Biden are tied with those who have completed "some college" with 43 percent support each. And it's the latest poll to show that Trump's 2016 support among blue-collar workers and white voters has ebbed. Trump and Biden are statistically tied with white voters with the president up one point at 44-43 percent.
However, this poll doesn't suggest a surge in support for Biden. Only 26 percent of registered voters said they found Biden "very favorable" — another 26 percent said they found him "somewhat favorable", and a combined 42 percent of registered voters said they find Biden either "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable.
While that isn't a ringing endorsement for Biden, it may be all he needs to curry favor with an electorate that, according to this poll, finds Trump more unfavorable. A similar 27 percent of registered voters said Trump was "very favorable", but 50 percent of them found the president "very unfavorable".
Trump's disappointing poll numbers come at a time when a majority of voters have said they disapprove of the job he's doing in handling the coronavirus pandemic and after an underwhelming crowd in Tulsa, Okla. showed up for the president's first official campaign event since the pandemic began. According to this poll, 58 percent of registered voters disapprove of Trump's handling of the pandemic.
The New York Times/Siena College poll of registered voters took place between June 17 and 22.
Nancy Mace, GOP House candidate in South Carolina, tests positive for COVID-19
WASHINGTON — South Carolina state Rep. Nancy Mace, the GOP's nominee for the state's First Congressional district has tested positive for COVID-19.
Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, her general election opponent, recovered from the virus earlier this year.
Mace revealed the diagnosis in a Tuesday night statement, where she said she was tested after she discovered her campaign team may have been exposed. She's said that while she's felt mild symptoms such as fatigue, body ache and a stuffy nose, "that is kind of normal on the campaign trail," and that she and her campaign staff will be quarantining.
And Mace also added that she's been reaching out to her close contacts to inform them of her diagnosis, and that she paid for her staff and volunteers to be tested.
Cunningham sent his best wishes to Mace on Twitter Tuesday night.
The seat is one of the more competitive ones in the country. Cunningham narrowly won his 2018 race despite President Trump winning the district by almost 13 percentage points two years earlier.
Lincoln Project to endorse Democratic Senate candidate in new ad
WASHINGTON — The Lincoln Project, a super PAC founded by a group of veteran Republican strategists, is best known for its viral anti-Trump ads spread across social media and even aired on television. And while the group has also targeted individual GOP senators up for re-election this cycle for supporting President Trump, it’s inserting itself more directly into upcoming races by endorsing a Senate candidate for the first time — Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
“We’re known for our independence, our open spaces and our strength,” the spot narrator says of Montanans over picturesque scenes of the state. “Governor Steve Bullock did a hell of a job for Montana, and in the U.S. Senate, he'll show 'em what Montana strong looks like.”
The 30-second ad, titled “Strong,” continues to say that, “With everything going wrong in Washington, do nothing, say nothing politicians won't cut it” as a photo of Daines appears on the screen.
The Lincoln Project says it's spending north of a $100,000 dollars on the ad, which is set to air across several Montana media markets on both broadcast and cable television from Wednesday through the end of the week. The spot will also be released on digital and social platforms.
According to Lincoln Project communications director Keith Edwards, the group’s decision to support Bullock represents the first time it has backed a candidate for Senate.
“We chose Steve Bullock because he's a competent, moral leader who thinks of his constituents first,” Edwards told NBC News in an email. “Steve Daines is just another rubber stamp for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.”
The group’s co-founder, Reed Galen, echoed that sentiment in an interview with NBC News, explaining that Bullock, a moderate Democrat, can garner support from GOP and Independent voters, even though doing so would mean they cross party lines.
The Lincoln Project hopes to mobilize these GOP and Independent voters across the country against Trump come November. Asked if the group is concerned about appearing too Democratic and alienating those voters with the latest ad, its past attacks on Republican lawmakers, and its endorsement of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president, Galen said: “I don’t think so.”
“If there’s a candidate that we believe, like a Joe Biden or in this case a Steve Bullock, who is an absolutely worthy replacement for the current incumbent, then you know, we believe that the folks who believe as we do, that you've got to take Trump and Trumpism out of the system.”
As to whether the group plans to release more ads endorsing Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races in the future, Galen responded that: “You’ll have to wait and see.”
The final spending disparity in Kentucky's Democratic Senate primary: Nine-to-one
WASHINGTON — We've been following the massive spending disparity in Kentucky, where Democrat Amy McGrath has brought in money hand-over-fist for her Senate bid.
While she was initially expected to cruise through Tuesday's primary to a matchup with Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, her top Democratic opponent, state Rep. Charles Booker, has caught fire as of late.
Even though Booker has kicked up his fundraising and spending in recent weeks, he's still been massively outspent on the airwaves.
As of Tuesday, McGrath has spent $12.1 million on TV and radio ads compared to Booker's $1.3 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
Now the question is: can McGrath leverage her massive resource advantage into holding onto a primary win, or can Booker overcome the huge spending disparity to score an upset?
Hogan Gidley, White House spokesman, to move to Trump reelection campaign
WASHINGTON — White House spokesman Hogan Gidley will join the Trump campaign as its new national press secretary starting next week, the campaign announced Tuesday.
Gidley has been with the White House since October of 2017 and has served in several communications capacities, most recently as the principal deputy press secretary. Gidley will technically replace Kayleigh McEnany, who became the current White House press secretary when she left the role of the campaign's national spokesperson in April.
“Hogan Gidley has been at the President’s side for three years and now he joins the fight to re-elect him,” Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, said in a statement.
“He is a talented advocate and defender of the President and his policies and is never afraid to go into battle with hostile reporters and television hosts. Hogan is a great addition to the team and makes us even stronger.”
It’s the latest example of crossover and overlap between the White House and the outside re-elect effort as the incumbent president seeks a second term.
The move has been in the works for several weeks, according to a source familiar with the discussions, but was accelerated after Trump and his top aides were disappointed with low turnout at the Tulsa, Oklahoma rally.
The president seemed to tease the news himself Tuesday morning before he left for Arizona. Asked if there were any campaign staff shakeups being considered, Trump replied: “Yeah, Hogan Gidley, not for that reason.”
Obama-Biden event expected to bring in at least $4 million
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden will hold his first joint fundraiser Tuesday night with former President Barack Obama, and the grassroots fundraising event is expected to bring in at least $4 million, according to the Biden campaign.
If that holds true, tonight's fundraiser will be one of the biggest, but not the biggest, financial event in the coronavirus pandemic era of virtual events. A previous big-dollar event with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren brought in $6 million for the Biden war chest.
This will be Obama's first time holding a 2020 campaign event since he endorsed his former vice president over two months ago.
Ahead of the event, the Biden camp has been in overdrive pushing supporters for donations on their text and email lists. An email on Monday in Obama’s name offered donors a chance to have more private virtual meet and greet with both men. In a statement to NBC News, Obama spokesperson Katie Hill previewed the former president’s participation.
"President Obama will make a full-throated case for why Vice President Biden is the leader America needs at this turbulent moment. Joe Biden embodies strong, stable, empathetic leadership and has shown he'd be ready to hit the ground running in the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis," Hill said in the statement.
Hill added that Obama will also campaign and raise money for Democrats "up and down the ballot" like he did in 2018.
More than 120,000 people have paid to participate in tonight's fundraiser — making it one of the largest fundraisers yet with a campaign surrogate. Warren's fundraiser with Biden drew in 620 attendees, and a fundraiser with California Sen. Kamala Harris earlier this month had 1,400 participants and $3.5 million was raised.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed.
Biden campaign commits to three presidential debates amid reports Trump's team is pushing for more
WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign has officially committed its candidate to participating in no more than the three previously scheduled presidential debates set up for the fall, pre-emptively denying any potential requests from President Trump for more debates.
Although formal invites by the Commission on Presidential Debates will be sent out after the nominating conventions this summer, the Biden campaign also made clear that their yet to-be-announced vice presidential pick will also participate in their early October debate.
In a letter obtained by NBC News, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon tells the Commission that they hope President Trump and Vice President Pence will signal their willingness to participate rather than “make excuses” to dismiss the election tradition of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. The letter comes after recent reports circulated that the Trump campaign has signaled a desire to add more general election debates to the schedule — a reversal of the president's previous position on debates.
"Now that Donald Trump is trailing badly in the polls, and is desperate to change the subject from his failed leadership of the country, we are seeing reports that he has his own proposal for debates," O'Malley Dillon said in the letter. "No one should be fooled: the Trump campaign’s new position is a debate distraction."
The campaign manager also requested that the Commission confirm it's plans for holding a safe debate amid the coronavirus pandemic with measures like social distancing in place to ensure that the debates won't be cancelled.
New outside group drops big money to help Hickenlooper ahead of primary
WASHINGTON — With a little more than a week left before the June 30 Democratic Senate primary in Colorado, a new group is spending big money to help former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The group has about $800,000 booked on the airwaves right now between Monday and the primary, and spent a little more than $100,000 over the weekend.
It's not the only group coming to Hickenlooper's defense — the Senate Majority PAC's $1.4 million in spending booked through the primary. The Democratic super PAC launched an ad last week defending Hickenlooper after the state ethics board found he broke gift rules twice while serving as governor.
It's unclear who is funding Let's Turn Colorado Blue, as its late arrival onto the scene means it will not have to legally disclose its donors until after the primary.
Hickenlooper has been the favorite to move on to face Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., in one of the highest-profile Senate races of 2020. But Hickenlooper has been on the defensive in recent weeks.
Biden campaign releases two new ads focused on the Black community
WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign released two new digital ads focused on the Black community as a part of their $15 million, five-week ad buy in battleground states. The campaign started to run these digital ads on Juneteenth as well as radio and print advertisements as part of their “mid-six figure” investment in Black media in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina.
The one-minute ad titled “Always” recounts how Biden’s career has been shaped by wanting to “stand up and act” against injustices. It briefly touts his early career fighting for the Black community by combating housing discrimination to being chosen former President Obama’s vice president.
In a memo obtained by NBC News last week, the campaign’s director of paid media explained the ad would re-introduce voters to the former vice president at a time when the Trump campaign is trying to discredit his civil and voting rights record. Notably the ad does not mention Biden signing the 1994 crime bill.
The second one-minute digital ad stresses what’s “at stake” in this election, particularly in light of the civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd. The ad shows images of hurt protestors and armed officers as well as President Trump's now infamous walk to St. John's cathedral after police aggressively dispersed peaceful protestors.