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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Heading into July, women of color dominate Biden VP speculation

WASHINGTON — While there are reports that the search for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate is beginning to wrap up, there’s still a long list of contenders whose moves are being closely watched. 

Biden has pledged to pick a woman as his running mate and the calls that he select a woman of color continue to grow louder. The Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2016, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., recently told NBC News that Biden choosing a woman of color “would make me really happy.” 

Here are this week’s most notable veepstakes developments from the NBC News political unit:

Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris’ name continues to make veepstakes headlines, and Friday afternoon, she appeared with Jill Biden for the first time during a virtual event targeting Wisconsin voters. The former V.P.’s wife is a longtime adviser heavily involved with the Biden campaign but previously voiced that she was shocked when the California senator went after her husband’s record in the presidential primary. 

"Our son Beau spoke so highly of her and, you know, and how great she was. And not that she isn't. I'm not saying that. But it was just like a punch to the gut," Jill Biden said in March.

Her joint appearance with Harris Friday could represent an effort to work more closely with her husband’s potential veep pick. 

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, right, consoles Rayshard Brooks' widow Tomika Miller, at the conclusion of his funeral in Ebenezer Baptist Church on in Atlanta on June 23, 2020 .Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: As the Atlanta mayor continues to grapple with the fallout from the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in her city, her national name recognition continues to rise. Lance Bottoms was one of the few elected officials who attended Brooks’ private funeral Tuesday, a testament to her connection to the issue of police brutality and its victims.

And just one night prior, the Democratic National Committee announced Lance Bottoms would chair its Platform Drafting Committee, which is charged with developing policy points for the party. While we can expect that the eventual veep choice will also be involved in this process, it speaks to Lance Bottom’s credentials that the party is giving her this position. 

Stacey Abrams: Even though Abrams, also a Georgian, hasn’t said much about her communication with the Biden team since she said earlier this month she hadn’t been vetted, she was also one of few politicos at Brooks' funeral this week and continues to push for widespread reform to correct racism in the U.S.

Abrams also appeared on MSNBC Wednesday and stressed that “there's a signal that can be sent by having a Black woman on the ticket.” 

Rep. Val Demings: Demings’ résumé and identity as a Black woman previously serving in law enforcement continues to drive speculation that she could meet the moment as Biden’s running mate — and the Florida congresswoman hasn’t been shy about promoting that idea.

“I'm not sure I want the job as much as the job may want me,” she said in an interview on Monday.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., during a hearing to discuss police brutality and racial profiling at the Capitol on June 10, 2020.Greg Nash / Pool via AFP - Getty Images file

Demings was also open about her own experiences in dealing with racism, which she hinted could be a valuable perspective for Biden. 

“I know what discrimination feels like. I know what racism feels like,” she said. “If given that opportunity, and that's clearly Joe Biden's decision, or if I'm not the one chosen, I will continue to work hard to unify this country.”

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

Progressive PAC launches $5 million digital ad buy in battleground states

WASHINGTON — American Bridge PAC, a progressive group, launched a $5 million digital ad campaign Friday aimed at white, blue-collar voters in battleground states. The campaign, which complements the group's $20 million TV and radio buy from earlier this month, showcases President Trump's lagging support with his key base in 2016. 

Bradley Beychok, president of American Bridge, said that this effort is part of their "swing county project" to identify up to 80 counties with voters who may have given Trump a chance in 2016, but are switching their vote to Joe Biden this time around. 

"They’re people from the local community talking about why they gave Donald Trump a chance," Beychok said of the unscripted ads. He added, "It’s really important that there’s pro-Biden content which you’re seeing from the Biden campaign and groups like Unite the Country. And with us there’s a slight contrast — here’s what Trump people are saying." 

The ads are running in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, like the campaign's TV and radio buys, and will run through Labor Day. 

One of the ads running in Pennsylvania features a 2016 Trump voter who says the economy, which Trump often touts as his biggest accomplishment, is only working well for the wealthy. 

"I voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because he was going to help the working people. This time I'm voting for Joe Biden because I think that he has the good of the country in his heart. I can bet my life on most of what Joe Biden has to say," the voter said. 

Beychok said American Bridge has over 2,500 videos from voters across the country who voted for Trump in 2016. Beychok said the goal is to "create a permission structure in these communities for other people to make these journeys" rather than shame voters for voting for Trump. 

"Clearly white voters without a degree were really the lynch pin of Trump’s coalition, and he’s losing support from all sectors of white voters, and that feels really seismic," Beychok said. 

Recent polling shows Trump slipping with his key bases. A New York Times/Siena College poll from earlier this week showed Trump trailing Biden across most education demographics, and statistically tied with Biden with white voters. Similar polls have also showed Trump behind in the battleground states that carried him to victory in 2016. 

According to Beychok, American Bridge's theory for 2020 is that while expanding the Democratic vote to new states (like Arizona and North Carolina) would be great, but winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — or at least two of the three states — would give the Biden campaign more avenues to beat Trump in November. 

The group plans to raise $90 million to help Biden defeat the president and will continue to roll out ads after Labor Day when the current ad buy expires. 

Virginia's 5th congressional district race shows widening political divide

Few congressional elections with the potential to flip a seat in November show the country’s widening political divide like Virginia’s fifth congressional district.

On Tuesday, Democrats in VA-5 nominated Dr. Cameron Webb, a doctor, lawyer and health policy expert at the University of Virginia, to lead their ticket. In November, he’ll face Republican Bob Good, a former Liberty University official who beat incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman. 

Webb and Good showcase the differences in the parties with a political environment laser-focused on the pandemic and the fight for racial justice — and it could put a long-held Republican seat in play. 

Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said Webb's win may have been being "the right candidate at the right moment" for Democrats. Webb beat out candidates with more institutional support like Claire Russo, who was supported by EMILY's List. 

Dr. Cameron Webb, seen here in 2019, won the Democratic primary in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District on Tuesday.Cameron Webb for Congress

And a similar story on the other side of the aisle may have held true. 

Republicans bucked their incumbent after Riggleman officiated a same-sex wedding. While a majority of Americans support gay marriage, the Republican committee tried to censure Riggleman and said online, “Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” That could have set up a win for Good — who in 2016 was a part of the Campbell County board of supervisors and voted in favor of a resolution that condemned the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, calling it “lawless”.

Good’s nomination also shows a larger trend among Virginia's Republican candidates. As the commonwealth has moved from red-purple, to purple-blue in recent years, Republicans running in the commonwealth have leaned further into President Trump's rhetorical style. 2018 Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart, for example, ran on points like protecting the state’s confederate statues.  

“Virginia Republicans are in a position where they used to dominate the state and now they clearly don't anymore and their reaction to this, in some instances — I think the Stewart nomination is a great example of this — is to move more to the right,” Kondik said.

It’s been a largely unsuccessful strategy in statewide races so far. But in Virginia’s 5th, a district that stretches from the North Carolina border to nearly D.C., the reliably red rural counties have outweighed the liberal stronghold of Charlottesville (where the University of Virginia is) and have guaranteed a Republican win since 2008.

The upcoming race could determine how Virginia's elected Republicans campaign going forward. After Good's primary win, the Cook Political Report changed the race's standing from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican." And the widening gap between Republican and Democratic candidates is already playing out in the state’s 2021 gubernatorial race.

State senator Amanda Chase is the only Republican who has filed to run in the state’s gubernatorial election next year as of now, and has already made headlines for her remarks on how removing confederate statues in Virginia is an effort to “erase all white history.”

Meanwhile, Virginia House Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan have filed to run as Democrats. If either Foy or McClellan is elected next year, she’d be the first Black woman governor in U.S. history. 

Trump campaign hits Biden on energy, trade around Pennsylvania speech

WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign warned that former Vice President Joe Biden would devastate Pennsylvania's economy if elected president, a warning given as Biden traveled to the state Thursday to give remarks on health care. 

In a phone call aimed at reporters who primarily cover Biden, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh, promised that “once Pennsylvanians find out that [Biden] wants to destroy the Pennsylvania economy by imposing the Green New Deal on everybody and eliminating the natural gas industry — and when they find out that he voted for NAFTA, which was an epic job killer, people will have a different view, and even the public polls will reflect that. Now we have confidence, the President is strong in Pennsylvania a second time.”

In Pennsylvania, Biden met with families who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, the signature piece of legislation during his time in the Obama administration. He also gave remarks criticizing the president's attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, as well as the president's recent remarks on coronavirus testing.

"He’s like a child who just can’t believe this has happened to him. It’s all whining and self-pity," Biden said, critiquing the president's coronavirus response.

"This pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us."

When pushed on polling — especially in Pennsylvania, where Biden is showing a considerable and consistent lead over Trump — Murtaugh defended the Trump campaign by saying that “the public polls are flawed, first of all, they're always registered voters and not likely voters, and the sample includes an under-sampling of Republicans.” 

The Trump campaign has levied similar charges at pollsters for weeks. But repeated public polling from multiple different outlets shows the president trailing Biden both nationally and in key swing states."

This is the first time the Trump campaign has held a press call with Biden reporters, which focused on his travel to Pennsylvania. Biden has been traveling to Pennsylvania since early June, but the Trump campaign had not held briefing calls for any of his previous three trips there.

During the call, the Trump campaign insisted that Biden’s “handlers” don’t want the presumptive Democratic nominee to do interviews or campaign events where he is vulnerable to reporters’ questions or making public gaffes. And Murtaugh said they were "confident" to compare Trump's record with "Biden's disastrous record." 

Marianna Sotomayor contributed.

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.”

Joe Biden speaks in Darby, Pa., on June 17, 2020.Matt Slocum / AP

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. 

People walk on the beach pier in Oceanside, Calif., on June 22, 2020.Mike Blake / Reuters

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. 

Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at a community center in Darby, Pa., on June 17, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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. 

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 23, 2020.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

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.