The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Trump campaign scraps idea of Alabama rally ahead of Senate runoff
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign has scrapped the possibility of holding a rally in Alabama ahead of this month's Senate Republican primary runoff.
While the Trump campaign never formally announced a rally in Alabama, officials familiar with the potential event told NBC News they had been exploring venues for a mass gathering there in the coming weeks.
That plan has now been scrapped partially due to concerns over rising coronavirus cases and it's unlikely the president will travel to the state before the Republican runoff between his former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.
Trump has endorsed Tuberville, accusing Sessions of letting the country down in his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Tuberville has been running ads aimed at amplifying that message.
Sessions has pushed back on the president's criticism, arguing his decision to recuse was ultimately beneficial to Trump.
In March, Trump formally endorsed Tuberville over Sessions, the first senator to back his presidential bid in 2016. Tuberville and the president were last together on June 11 in Texas. The former football coach met with the president on Air Force One during a trip to Dallas.
The Alabama Republican Senate runoff election is Tuesday, July 14.
After the lower than expected turnout during the president's Tulsa rally earlier this month, and with subsequent advance staffers and Secret Service personnel contracting the virus while on the ground, the re-elect team effort was under higher pressure to ensure the next mega-rally would go off without a hitch, these officials said.
But with no way to know how cases would rise in Alabama and whether large gatherings would be permitted, the 2020 team decided not to announce an event with Tuberville after all.
“We never comment on rally planning and no rally had been announced,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said.
A senior Alabama Republican operative who’s been advising the Tuberville campaign reiterated the message from Murtaugh, saying that no pre-runoff rally with the candidate and president had ever been confirmed or finalized.
The official, who spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity so as to not get ahead of the Trump campaign, added that the campaign is eager to get Tuberville on the trail with the president, should he become the nominee, and are hoping for opportunities to do so either in late summer or fall.
Officials from the Tuberville campaign would not comment publicly on this report when contacted by NBC News.
On Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended the state’s “Safer at Home” order in response to a rising number in coronavirus cases.
The order, which was set to expire today, requires places like gyms, daycares, salons, barber shops, and entertainment venues to follow social distancing guidelines. There remains no statewide order to wear a mask, but many businesses and local governments require them. The renewed order will now expire on July 31.
MoveOn endorses Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — MoveOn, a prominent progressive group, endorsed Joe Biden for president on Wednesday, after what the group said was an overwhelming vote of its membership. The group called the presumptive Democratic nominee's agenda “the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history."
Biden won 82.4 percent of votes cast online and by text message as part of the group’s endorsement process, officials told NBC News, making him just the third non-incumbent MoveOn has backed for president since it was founded more than two decades ago.
MoveOn members voted to endorse Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2008, the group backed Barack Obama over Clinton in the height of the nomination fight. A spokesperson from MoveOn tells NBC News that the organization did not hold an endorsement vote among its members for the 2016 general election.
MoveOn said its 2020 endorsement process was delayed until June due to the coronavirus pandemic. An early straw poll of its members at the start of the nomination contest found former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke as an early favorite, but just ahead of Biden, followed by Sanders.
“MoveOn’s millions of members are ready to mobilize together in support of Joe Biden, working to turn out voters in key states and ensure that Donald Trump is a one-term president,” MoveOn political action executive director Rahna Epting said in a statement. “Biden is a leader who listens, who is running on the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history, and whose election would create an opportunity for the big, structural changes this country needs. MoveOn members are proud to mobilize to support him.”
MoveOn, whose roots come from an organic campaign opposing former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, has since been a leading voice for liberal causes. The group announced in February it would mobilize its members against Trump’s reelection and in support of a Democratic Senate —committing to spend $20 million through November with emphasis on states with key Senate races and key to winning the Electoral College.
MoveOn is focused on maximizing turnout among groups Biden struggled with during the Democratic primaries: young voters, people of color and infrequent voters. And the former vice president is welcoming their efforts.
“I am grateful for the support of MoveOn members in our campaign to not just defeat Donald Trump, but rebuild a stronger, more inclusive and more resilient middle class,” Biden said in a statement to NBC News. "The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher and MoveOn members will be critical to mobilizing voters in communities across the country to go to the polls.”
While the group endorsed Biden's progressive platform, a January survey sent to MoveOn members found overwhelming support for some policies Biden has not fully embraced like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
Club for Growth targets Lincoln Project in new D.C. TV ad buy
WASHINGTON — Conservative super PAC, Club for Growth Action, released a new ad Tuesday slamming the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group founded by veteran Republican strategists, for mocking average Americans who back the president.
“They don't just hate him. They hate you,” the ad starts. It began airing exclusively on Fox News in the Washington D.C. market, costing the group $78,500, the Club’s Vice President of Communications, Joe Kildea, told NBC News in an email. And the spot comes as the opposing wings of the Republican party — divided over their support of Trump — continue to feud ahead of November, often on the airwaves.
The Club's latest ad criticizes the founders of the Lincoln Project as failed strategists who worked on the losing presidential campaigns of late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012 respectively.
“After watching their careers go up in flames, they've set up a Democrat PAC, a get rich quick scheme pushing Joe Biden for president,” the ad continues. “America pays the price. Higher taxes on the middle class, crushing regulations on small business, halting our economic recovery. If Biden wins, we lose.”
In a statement, the Club's President, David McIntosh, said that the Lincoln Project “has nothing to do with principle” as the group bills itself, and is “one of the least efficient ways for anti-Trumpers to spend their political dollars.”
The Lincoln Project did not respond to a request for comment but has barraged social media with viral anti-Trump content in recent weeks, and in statements, accused Trump of "blatant racism" and being "completely devoid of humanity and empathy." The group has received the ire of Trump on Twitter in the past for its ads antagonizing him, which have likewise targeted the D.C. area.
Asked if the Club hopes the president sees its latest commercial considering the Lincoln Project’s own strategy, spokesperson Kildea said, “The primary audience is the press and political prognosticators.”
The conservative super PAC and Trump didn’t always get along. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Club initially opposed his candidacy but later got behind him. In August, McIntosh lauded the president on NBC News for governing "as a free-market conservative."
Growing number of Black and Latino Americans are optimistic for future generations
WASHINGTON — Amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, a suddenly uncertain economy and mass protests against racial injustice in the United States, dissatisfaction about the current state of the country has reached record highs. But according to a new Pew Research Center poll, a key group — Black and Latino Americans — are also significantly more optimistic than they were last year that life will be better for future generations than it is now.
The Pew survey, which was conducted between June 16 and 22, found that a third of Black Americans — 33 percent — now say that future generations will be better off. While that’s far from a majority, it’s almost double the share who said the same in September 2019.
There was a smaller jump in optimism among Latinos, with 26 percent saying that future generations will be better off, compared with just 16 percent who said the same last fall.
The shifts come after the death of George Floyd sparked mass protests against police violence, racial profiling and injustice in law enforcement. Other public surveys since the protests began have found that some of the core messages of the demonstrations — including the belief that police are more likely to use deadly force in encounters with Black suspects — have quickly gained traction with the American electorate at large.
Among all white Americans, optimism for future generations remains unchanged since September 2019, with 22 percent expressing hope both then and now that future generations will be better off.
But there has been significant change among whites when partisan affiliation is considered. The share of white Democrats who say life will be better for future generations has doubled since last year from 12 percent to 24 percent, while the share of white Republicans who say the same has decreased from 30 percent to 21 percent.
Despite the shifts, half of Americans overall — 48 percent —still believe that younger generations face a worsening future. And an overwhelming 89 percent of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, up from 68 percent who said the same in April.
That dissatisfaction also serves as a backdrop for President Trump’s reelection efforts. The new poll shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by 10 points, 44 percent to 54 percent. And it shows Trump’s job approval rating falling to just 39 percent, down from 44 percent in April.
As he has in previous polls, although, Trump retains an enthusiasm advantage, and Biden’s lead appears to be largely linked to souring feelings about the incumbent president.
Among Trump voters, 76 percent say their vote is more about support for Trump rather than opposition to Biden. But among Biden voters, two thirds — 67 percent — say their vote choice is motivated by opposition to Trump.
The online panel poll was conducted June 16-22 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 1.8 percentage points.
Trump campaign reserves more than $95 million in TV time for the fall
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign has booked more than $95 million in broadcast television time this fall, as the re-election has been pushed onto the defensive in recent months in many states key to the president's success in November.
The campaign made the reservations throughout the day on Monday — reserving time earlier in the cycle helps to lock the investment in when there's less competition for the airwaves, but campaigns can add, subtract or shuffle their ad dollars around as the year draws on.
And while the outlay by team Trump is massive, it's not indicative of the final ad dollars that will ultimately be spent in the presidential race because former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign hasn't booked its fall TV time yet.
The investments run across six states that Trump won in 2016, but where recent polls have shown the president either tied with Biden or down — Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The new buys run from Sept. 8 through Election Day.
So far, the Trump campaign has reserved the most for Florida, where it's booked more than $32 million. The plurality of that spending is planned for the Tampa area, with Orlando close behind.
The next-largest investment is in Ohio, a state Trump won by 8 points in 2016, but one where two recent polls from Quinnipiac University and Fox News found Biden leading, albeit well within the margin of error. The majority of the $18.4 million booked there is split across the Columbus and Cleveland markets.
The re-elect is reserving $16.2 million in Pennsylvania, primarily in Philadelphia; $15.8 million in North Carolina, with Charlotte and Raleigh receiving more than half that investment; $7.4 million in Wisconsin, primarily in Milwaukee, the site of the Democrats' partially-virtual convention; and $5.2 million in Arizona, all in the Phoenix market.
A handful of other big groups have already reserved tens of millions in fall advertising time already — Priorities USA, the largest super PAC backing Biden, has almost $39 million booked, and the pro-Trump America First Action has almost $24 million booked. Future Forward, another Democratic group working with Priorities USA, has almost $20 million booked for the fall.
Liberal groups unveil seven-figure Spanish-language ad campaign in Ariz. Sen race
WASHINGTON — The Senate Majority PAC and SomosPAC are launching a new, seven-figure Spanish-language television and radio campaign to boost Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly
The ads will highlight Kelly's bio — he's a retired Navy Captain and former astronaut running against Republican Sen. Martha McSally. Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC aligned with Senate Democrats, and the progressive group SomosPAC will air the ads both statewide as well as in the Tuscon and Phoenix markets.
"Mark Kelly, retired Navy Captain, today has a new mission: fix Washington, working together to solve problems, protect health care for those with pre-existing conditions, and ensure equal rights for all," the narrator says (translated from Spanish) in the new television ad slated to hit the airwaves Tuesday.
In a statement shared with NBC News ahead of the ad's airing, SMP spokesman Matt Corridoni said that "the more Arizonans learn about Mark’s deep record of service and his commitment to protecting access to affordable health care, the more they will know that he’s the best choice to get things done in Washington.”
And Melissa Morales, the president and co-founder of SomosPAC, said that "Latino Arizonans respect service and honor – traits that Mark Kelly exemplifies and I’m proud to be supporting him in his mission to fix Washington, protect our healthcare, and secure our DREAMERS’ future in this country.”
The ad is SMP's first Spanish-language ad in the Arizona Senate general election, a pivotal race for Democrats that's turned into one of their top offensive opportunities. President Trump won the state by about 4 points in 2016, but recent public polling has shown Democrats with the edge there.
There's already been almost $21 million spent on the airwaves in the race, data from Advertising Analytics shows, with Democrats spending $12 million to the GOP's $8.6 million
Exit polls from 2016 did not include the proportion of the electorate that spoke Spanish, but 15 percent of the 2016 presidential electorate identified as Hispanic or Latino.
Trump campaign hits Biden in first Spanish-language TV ad of general election
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign dropped its first Spanish-language television ad of the general election over the weekend, a new spot identical to a recent, English, spot that claims former Vice President Joe Biden doesn't have the "mental capacity" to lead.
The ad relies on footage of misstatements made by Biden on the trail to get to the conclusion that Biden lacks the energy and capacity to serve as president.
(The link to the English-language spot is above, and the Spanish version is embedded below)
The campaign began running the spot on Friday and it's spent more than $660,000 since airing it, according to Advertising Analytics. The ad has run more than 150 times each in the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, FL television markets, as well as in Phoenix, Arizona. But it's also run on national television, as well as in key swing states like Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania too.
While this is the first Spanish-language TV ad from the Trump campaign of the general election, the campaign has been running some digital ads in the language.
The Trump campaign has sought to reach out to Latino voters through "Latinos for Trump," a coalition with 21 advisory board members that pitches the president to Latinos. "Latinos for Trump" held an online event last week, which included an appearance from Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's congressional delegate.
In a statement to NBC News, Ali Pardo, the Trump campaign's deputy communications director, accused Biden of pushing "false promises to America's Latinos."
"His pro-China, anti-worker, globalist policies shipped our jobs overseas. His support for illegal immigration depressed American workers’ wages, making it harder for everyone, including legal immigrants, to achieve the American Dream," she said.
"Many Latinos support President Trump because they understand that his policies actually help families like theirs. The President doesn’t make empty promises – he supercharged America’s economy once, and he will do it again.”
Biden held a significant lead over Trump with registered Latino voters in the June NBC/WSJ poll, with support from 57 percent to Trump's 33 percent.
The Democrat's campaign has been aggressively courting Hispanics and has already run a handful of Spanish-language television ads so far (most of which came during the Democratic primary, when Biden was looking to win support from the constituency).
He's currently up with a Spanish TV spot that criticizes the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy with a bit of wordplay to argue that as bills are piling up, the president is telling stories.
And the Biden campaign is also running a digital spot that goes on to evokes his call to "dominate the streets" amid recent protests to compare Trump to Latin American dictators like the late Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
Biden addressed the Trump campaign's message during a CNN interview on May 26 by pushing it back onto the president.
"I mean, talk about a guy who is missing a step. He's missing something," Biden said of Trump.
"I don’t want to get down in the nicknames, but this is a fellow who looks like he's having trouble controlling his own emotions. ... He seems to get more erratic, the more he feels like he's behind the curve."
—Marianna Sotomayor contributed.
GOP convention will abide by mask-wearing rules, if still in effect
WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee announced on Monday that its convention in Jacksonville, Fla. would comply with any health regulations, including mask-wearing measures, that the city has imposed. On Monday, the city announced that masks will be mandatory indoors and in public places where social distancing is challenging.
It's not clear that those rules will still be in effect during the Republican convention in late August.
“The RNC is committed to holding a safe convention that fully complies with local health regulations in place at the time," an RNC spokesperson told NBC News. "The event is still two months away, and we are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available PPE, aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing."
The new mask measure comes when Florida is seeing a surge in positive coronavirus cases as reopening guidelines have relaxed, and indoor dining and group gatherings have resumed. President Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, and the Trump campaign did not mandate people to wear masks during their indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla. earlier this month.
The GOP convention was originally supposed to take place in Charlotte, N.C. but officials moved it after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wouldn't promise to lessen pandemic restrictions for convention attendees. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he'd be "honored" for his state to host the convention.
While the RNC is still planning an in-person convention despite health concerns, Democrats have changed their plans for their convention. The Democratic convention in August will be nearly all virtual, with delegates planning to conduct their business from home. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is still expected to accept the nomination in Milwaukee, Wisc.
"After consulting with public health officials about the COVID-19 pandemic, convention organizers are announcing today that they have determined state delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should plan to conduct their official convention business remotely," the DNC said in a statement last week.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.