The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Biden wins nod from all Democratic state attorneys general
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden earned the endorsement from the country’s Democratic attorneys general on Thursday, all citing his commitment to uniting the country and protecting key tenants of the party including the Affordable Care Act
In a letter obtained exclusively by NBC News, all 23 Democratic attorneys general say they are enthusiastically supporting Biden because they trust him “to guide us out of this unprecedented health, economic, and social justice crisis.”
Moreover, they credit Biden’s commitment to unite the country, his character and record compassionately upholding the rule of law as a major reason why they would place trust in him as president.
“As state attorneys general, each of us swore to discharge dual roles as both the chief counsel for the states we represent and the ‘people’s lawyer’ for our constituents. We ran for this office to protect the most vulnerable among us and to hold accountable those who would seek to harm and exploit them,” the attorney generals say in the letter.
They add, “We are proud of the work we have done to protect progress, but we are ready for the day when the federal government is our partner in seeking justice for our people, not a source of injustice against them. We are ready for experience, competence, compassion and decency in the White House. We are ready for Joe Biden.”
The letter, which was spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Democratic Attorneys General Association, particularly references the Trump administration and Republican attorney general lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is being filed to the Supreme Court Thursday.
Echoing remarks Biden himself has made, the Democratic AGs call Trump’s continued pursuit to undo the healthcare system during a pandemic “immoral and unlawful.”
Access to healthcare has remained a critical issue for voters ever since the Trump administration and Congress began dismantling the landmark healthcare law passed under the Obama administration.
The 2018 midterms saw a sweep of Democratic wins of Republican seats by candidates who ran on protecting the Affordable Care Act, including attorney generals in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin who were endorsed by Biden.
Biden also endorsed attorney generals in Ohio, Florida, Arizona and Delaware, where his son Beau Biden served as attorney general before his death in 2015.
Among the new endorsements today, Biden has earned the backing from Attorneys General in Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Partisan gap in coronavirus fears grows
WASHINGTON — As the country marks its highest single day of new coronavirus cases to date, a new poll from the Pew Research Center shows wide and growing partisan gaps in how Americans view the risks of transmitting the virus and the steps they are taking to prevent its spread.
The poll, which was conducted between June 16 and 22, found that Republicans are significantly more likely than their Democratic counterparts to believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, to feel comfortable attending social events and dining out, and to say they’re not worried about contracting the virus or spreading it unknowingly. They are also more likely to say that face masks should rarely or never be worn in public.
While a similar Pew poll in April found some partisan differences in how Republicans and Democrats viewed the evolving crisis, the new survey demonstrates how much larger the gaps have grown as states grapple with the economic reopening and — in many parts of the country — a new surge in cases.
Among Republicans, just 35 percent said they are very or somewhat concerned about contracting the virus and requiring hospitalization, down from 47 percent in April. But among Democrats, 64 percent are very or somewhat concerned, virtually unchanged from two months ago.
The gap is even wider when it comes to Americans’ worries about spreading the virus unknowingly to others, with 77 percent of Democrats but just 45 percent of Republicans voicing their concern.
Republicans are also far more optimistic about the future of both the pandemic’s spread and the economic recovery. Six-in-ten, 61 percent, of Republicans say the worst of the virus is behind us, while just 23 percent of Democrats agree. And about half of Republicans — 46 percent — believe current economic conditions are excellent or good, while only 9 percent of Democrats say the same.
Asked about engaging in social activities that experts say may carry increased risk, Republicans are similarly less anxious. A third — 31 percent — now say they are comfortable attending a crowded party, up 20 points in the last two months. Fewer than 10 percent of Democrats agree, a share that is virtually unchanged from April.
Four-in-ten Republicans express comfort attending an indoor concert or sporting event, compared with just 11 percent of Democrats. And 65 percent of Republicans also say they feel comfortable dining at a restaurant, 37 points higher than the share of Democrats who say they would do the same.
As public health experts — but not President Trump — continue to urge Americans to wear face masks to mitigate risk, a majority of Americans overall — about seven-in-ten — say face masks should always or usually be worn in public.
But that figure includes just 52 percent of Republicans, compared with 86 percent of Democrats. Twenty-three percent of Republicans say that masks should never or rarely be worn, a sentiment shared by only four percent of Democrats.
The poll was conducted via online panel from June 16-22 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 1.8 percentage points.
Trump campaign staffers who traveled to Tulsa rally working remotely
WASHINGTON — All of President Trump's reelection campaign staff who were in Tulsa, Okla. for the rally last Saturday are currently working remotely and will be tested for coronavirus before returning to their Virginia headquarters, according to a senior campaign official.
While most of the Trump campaign staff came to work at the Rosslyn, VA headquarters in mid-June, there is now a much smaller presence there this week, given how many aides traveled to Oklahoma.
Trump's Tulsa rally came as the state was seeing an increase in coronavirus cases and as top members of his coronavirus task force warned against it.
Six member's of the campaign advance team, including Secret Service personnel, tested positive in the run-up to the rally. Two more tested positive after the rally, and the Washington Post reported Wednesday that dozens of Secret Service personnel who traveled to Tulsa have been told to self-quarantine after those positive tests.
The campaign says it is doing contact tracing, and has advised members who came into contact with the confirmed positive cases to self-monitor for any symptoms.
Everytown for Gun Safety pledges $5 million investment in North Carolina ahead of key presidential, downballot races
WASHINGTON — Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun-control group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plans to spend $5 million in North Carolina this election season aimed at helping Democrats win pivotal races in the fall.
The group also plans to push to "elect a gun sense majority" in the state's legislature.
The plan includes digital, television and mail ads as well as a grassroots field program that will run alongside Democratic efforts in the state, which alongside the presidential race has important elections for Senate, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Everytown is backing the Democratic candidates in all of those key statewide races, and Republicans won all of the group's targeted seats in 2018.
"With a fast-growing and increasingly diverse population, and competitive races, North Carolina is a pivotal battleground state that could decide who wins the presidency, who leads the U.S. Senate, and whether or not common-sense gun safety legislation moves forward at both the federal and state levels," Charlie Kelly, the group's senior political advisor, wrote in a memo released Wednesday.
"With changing demographics across the state, driven by dynamic economies in and around the Research Triangle and Charlotte, and the political realignment of the suburbs giving rise to an extraordinary level of grassroots activism to reduce gun violence in North Carolina, we believe there are opportunities to elect gun sense candidates up and down the ballot and across the state."
Everytown, co-founded by Bloomberg, has already pledged to spend $60 million this election cycle on races up and down the ballot in a variety of swing states. That total was twice what the group spent during the 2018 midterms, when Democrats flipped the House of Representatives and made big gains across the country.
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.”