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New poll finds majority of Americans disagree with Trump on meaning of 'defund the police'
WASHINGTON — As President Trump is launching new ads attacking calls to "defund the police" and stoking racial and cultural division on Twitter, a new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans don't agree with the way the president is framing the police-reform movement.
The new survey from Monmouth University found that 77 percent of American adults say that "defund the police" means to "change the way the police departments operate," not to eliminate them. That view is shared by 73 percent of white, non-college educated Americans and two-thirds of Republicans, Trump's core voters.
Just 18 percent of Americans say the movement wants to "get rid of police departments," a view shared by only 28 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of independents.
The president has criticized those calling to "defund the police," addressing it when he signed an executive order on policing last month.
"I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we've achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history," Trump said. "Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos. Without law, there is anarchy. And without safety, there is catastrophe."
Trump's re-election campaign has attempted to leverage the issue into an attack on former Vice President Joe Biden, spending more than $3 million in less than a week running television ads both in English and Spanish that imagines a police department that's been defunded and unable to respond to serious, violent crimes.
Biden does not support blanket cuts to police budgets. He told The Daily Show on June 11 that he supported linking federal dollars to fundamental changes in police departments including abiding by a national use-of-force standard and releasing police misconduct data.
Sixty-two percent of Americans say that Trump's handling of the recent protests on reforming policing has made the "current situation worse," with just 20 percent saying he's made it better. Sixty-five percent say that the actions of protestors in recent months were justified, with 29 percent saying the actions were not justified.
On the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, 71 percent of Americans say that the movement has "brought attention to real racial disparities in American society," but a plurality, 38 percent say that the movement has made racial issues in America worse, compared to 26 percent who say the movement has made racial issues better.
Trump has heavily leaned into stoking racial division in recent weeks, blasting the push to take down Confederate statues as about erasing "our heritage" He called on NASCAR's only full-time Black driver to apologize after an investigation into a door-pull rope shaped like a noose found in his garage ruled out a hate crime. And he retweeted a video of supporters shouting "white power" before deleting it a few hours later.
Monmouth University polled 867 adults in the United States between June 26 and June 30. The margin of error in the poll is +/- 3.3 percentage points.
Analysis: Trump makes school reopening a referendum on Trump
WASHINGTON — Barreling into the complex and sensitive policy conversation over reopening schools, President Trump made clear this week he wants in-person classes back full-time and said efforts to do otherwise are “political,” even as his administration’s school plans remain murky.
On Tuesday, the White House held a series of calls and events on reopening in which Trump said he would “put pressure on governors and everybody else” to fill classrooms. His campaign has accused teachers unions, some of which have expressed concerns about staff safety, of slowing the process.
"We hope that most schools are going to be open. We don't want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons — they think it's going to be good for them politically so they keep the schools closed. No way," Trump said at a Tuesday White House event, adding that re-opening schools is "very important for the wellbeing of the student and the parents."
One day earlier, Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory that officials would try to keep schools from opening in order to boost Joe Biden’s candidacy, even as national Democrats have called for hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to implement reopening plans.
Biden’s coronavirus response plan calls school re-openings "perhaps the single most important step to get parents back to work” and he's backed an unspecified amount of federal aid, more research, and a national clearinghouse to share best practices on safety.
Trump appears to be betting that angry parents will blame more cautious Democrats for any disruption while former Vice President Joe Biden and national Democrats are betting that their early push for federal aid to schools and emphasis on safety will resonate.
Public health experts are torn on how to approach the issue and state and local officials in many places have warned parents to expect a “hybrid" of in-person classes and remote learning, which could further disrupt family’s work and child care plans.
A June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 50 percent of voters with children under 18 are still “uncomfortable” sending their children to school or daycare in the fall.
“I think it's clear what the administration wants to do, I'm not certain how much the event from today provides more clarity or any advice or information that’s actionable,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy at the American Association of School Administrators.
Some school advocates were puzzled by the White House’s abrupt shift towards a full reopening, in part because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already had issued recommendations for reopening plans that include keeping children at least six-feet apart "if feasible." There are concerns whether that can be done without reducing the number of kids in the building, which has helped drive plans that would shift some students online part-time.
“This is really going to put schools in a tough spot because the CDC guidelines made it clear social distancing should be the goal,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. “There's no way you can do that at full capacity.”
White House officials said Tuesday that they never intended their recommendations to be interpreted this way, citing less strict recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics — rather than their own agencies — calling for in-person learning.
"Nothing would cause me greater sadness than to see any school district or school use our guidance as a reason not to reopen," CDC Director Robert Redfield said.
At the White House event, one California principal praised Trump’s leadership and said he planned to reopen in August, but added the school was also considering a “hybrid” plan with 2 class days a week. The president replied that he hoped the school would be able to hold full, five-day weeks — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slammed a Virginia school district for its "hybrid" plan earlier Tuesday.
But the issue doesn't start and end with the White House — there have been calls throughout the summer for Congress to help schools too.
The previous CARES Act included $13.5 billion for K-12 education, but education advocates have called for a massive infusion of federal aid to help schools retain and hire staff and implement new safety procedures.
The HEROES Act, which was passed by the House in May but has not received a vote in the Senate, contained $58 billion for schools.
Senate Democratic leaders are backing a $430 billion education bill by Senator Patty Murray of Washington. But the White House and broader GOP’s full position on aid is still unknown and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he wants to address the next round of relief when the Senate returns on July 20, just weeks before schools start to reopen.
Democratic challengers announce big fundraising hauls as party looks to take back Senate
WASHINGTON — As Republicans nervously watch President Donald Trump’s slide in the presidential polls, Democratic candidates for Senate are raking in record sums for their bids to unseat GOP incumbents and take back control of the upper chamber.
South Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Jaime Harrison is the latest to announce a monster haul as he seeks to oust Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s staunchest allies. For the second-quarter fundraising period running from April to June, Harrison's campaign says it raked in almost $14 million, nearly double his fundraising total from the previous quarter.
As of Tuesday morning, Graham had not released his fundraising total for the quarter, and had raised more than $26 million through June 20, according to his most current report with the Federal Election Commission.
Despite his fundraising prowess, though, Harrison still faces an uphill battle in a race in a state that voted for Trump by a 14-point margin in 2016.
The staggering South Carolina sum was the latest in a string of buoying news for Senate Democrats hoping to harness anti-Trump sentiment to flip red seats blue in November. Challengers in at least three other high-profile Senate races — in Montana, North Carolina and Maine — have also announced impressive totals for the quarter.
All three races are rated by the Cook Political Report as toss-ups.
In Maine, state House speaker Sara Gideon raised $9 million in the second quarter, another eye-popping sum from a candidate who has put up strong fundraising numbers since she jumped into the race to take on Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Gideon is the favorite to win the state's July 14 primary, and whichever Democrat wins will also be the beneficiary of the millions of dollars raised pegged to Collins' support for confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, money that was earmarked for her eventual Democratic opponent.
Maine's Senate race is already setting up to be costly — there's been more than $36.7 million spent on the airwaves in the race so far, according to Advertising Analytics, more than in any other Senate race. Collins had raised $16.2 million through June 24, while Gideon had raised $23 million by that point.
In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock set a single-quarter record for a Senate candidate in the state with his $7.7 million total. Bullock, a two-term governor of the state, hopes to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines. Through March, Daines had raised $9.4 million for his re-election bid.
And in North Carolina, State Sen. Cal Cunningham's campaign announced Monday that it had raised $7.4 million in the second fundraising quarter, a quarterly total more than any candidate has raised for a Senate bid in North Carolina since at least 1979. That's the earliest year from which the Federal Election Commission makes campaign finance reports available.
Cunningham had raised $7.7 million through March, compared to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis' $11.7 million raised over the same period.
Most of the fundraising data released so far does not include context like total spending, cash on hand or loans to the campaigns. A fuller picture of each candidate’s fundraising will be available when candidates file official paperwork to the FEC, which they are not required to do until later this month.
The strong fundraising quarter comes as Democrats try to expand their pathways to winning back the Senate majority. The party needs to gain a net of four seats in November to win control of the Senate (or three plus the presidency, since the vice president breaks ties in the Senate). But far more Republican-held seats are expected to be in play in November than Democratic-held ones.
Sen. Ernst releases first campaign ad of 2020 cycle with China center stage
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined a chorus of GOP candidates making tough-on-China pitches this cycle, releasing her first 2020 campaign ad Monday centered on the “supply chain threat” posed by the country.
“We rely on communist China for far too much, from technology to medicine. So I’m fighting to bring it home,” Ernst says in the 30-second spot. “Saving America starts with made in America.”
Ernst is considered one of the more vulnerable Republican senators heading into November, with polling suggesting the Iowa race is more competitive than initially thought and heavy Democratic spending in the state. Since Ernst’s opponent Theresa Greenfield won the Democratic primary last month, Democrats have spent about $3.7 million on TV and radio ads in the Senate contest compared to $3 million by Republicans, according to Advertising Analytics.
Ernst's campaign has about $825,000 booked through the end of the month, compared to $480,000 booked by Greenfield's campaign. But outside groups have, and will continue, to play a big role in this race on both sides.
The new spot, “All Over,” represents the latest example of Republican candidates making China central to their messaging this election season.
President Trump's reelection campaign and his super PAC, America First Action, have accused his Democratic rival Joe Biden of failing to hold China accountable in past ads — a theme that has trickled down to races across the country and employed in Senate ads in Arizona and Kansas. The National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated a memo to GOP campaigns in April detailing how to best make China an issue this cycle, POLITICO reported.
—Ben Kamisar contributed.
Previewing the New Jersey primary contests
Voters will head to the polls Tuesday for primary contests in New Jersey, where election administrators have promoted mail-in voting as the state seeks to avoid a second major surge in coronavirus cases.
In recent weeks, all registered Democratic and Republican voters have received a ballot in the mail, while unaffiliated and inactive voters have received absentee ballot applications. Additionally, every municipality in the state will open at least one polling location.
Mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be accepted through the July 14, so it's likely that some races will not be called on Tuesday night.
New Jersey-2: Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who changed his party affiliation in 2019, is facing his first serious primary with challengers. On the Democratic side, the frontrunners are political scientist Brigid Callahan Harrison — who’s won the backing of both of the state’s senators as well as key local union groups and politicians — and Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher who is the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy and the daughter-in-law of former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
New Jersey-3: Republicans Kate Gibbs and David Richter are jostling for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Kim, the only current member of Congress of Korean descent, represents a heavily white district that supported Donald Trump in 2016, even though Kim flipped the district blue in his 2018 election.
New Jersey-7: An array of Republicans, including N.J. state Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., are fighting for the GOP nomination. The winner will take on first-term Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, a prolific fundraiser who is uncontested in his party’s primary.
New Jersey-8: Democratic Rep. Albio Sires is facing a formidable primary challenge from lawyer Hector Oseguera, who is backed by major progressive groups including the Sunrise Movement and Our Revolution. In this deep-blue district, the winner of the Democratic primary is all but guaranteed a seat in Congress.
U.S. Senate: Democratic Sen. Cory Booker is also facing a progressive primary challenger, and a number of Republicans are competing for the chance to challenge him this fall. But Booker is unlikely to be threatened on either front.
The races reflect some of the push-and-pull dynamics seen on the national level (and which will come to a head in November). Republicans are looking to win back seats in traditionally conservative strongholds, while Democrats hope to capitalize on the “blue wave” gains made in the 2018 midterms and hold onto control of the House.
Tipton the latest incumbent to lose party's nomination
WASHINGTON — There was a big surprise in Tuesday’s primary elections — five-term incumbent Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton lost to Lauren Boebert, a gun-rights activist and restaurant owner who flouted coronavirus regulations and has spoken favorably about a fringe conspiracy theory.
Incumbents rarely lose, especially in a primary. But Tipton joins a handful of other incumbents whose parties voted them out so far this cycle. (Two other longtime Democratic incumbents, Reps. Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney, may also be bracing to join that group as New York continues to count mail-in ballots from the state’s June 23 primary election.)
Here’s a look at the House incumbents who have already lost their party's nomination, and how they went down.
llinois Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski
The writing was on the wall for Lipinski, one of the only House Democrats who had supported anti-abortion rights legislation.
While nonprofit executive Marie Newman fell just a few thousand votes short to Lipinski in 2018, Newman was able to get over the hump and take Lipinski down in the 2020 primary.
Newman had a lot of progressive allies in her corner — a group affiliated with EMILY’s List spent about $1 million on TV ads to boost her, and several influential progressive groups, including NARAL, backed her primary bid.
Illinois’ third congressional district, which includes a portion of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, is considered a safely-Democratic one, as 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won it by double-digits. So Newman is expected to join Congress in 2021.
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King
King’s loss came after a series of racist and controversial comments cost him support within his own party.
House Republicans stripped King of his committee assignments in 2019, after he asked in a New York Times interview: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" That left King without much of a say in Congress, something his rivals used against him in the 2020 primary.
While largely steering away from King’s rhetoric on race, state Sen. Randy Feenstra bludgeoned King over the fact he couldn’t serve on committees in Congress, arguing that he could not adequately serve the district or defend President Trump with a muted voice in Congress.
And groups like the Republican Main Street Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce made similar arguments as they rallied around Feenstra, who ultimately emerged victorious in June’s Republican primary.
King represented the rural district for years, and the district backed Trump by almost 30 points in 2016 (according to the Cook Political Report). But the district might not be as solidly red anymore. In 2018, Democrats were able to get within just a few points of King with Democrat J.D. Scholten. And Scholten's running again in 2020, although it may be harder for Democrats to flip the seat without having the advantage of running against King and his baggage.
Virginia Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman
Riggleman’s time in Congress will be short, as the former Air Force officer-turned-distiller will be kicked to the curb after taking office in 2019.
That controversy is one main reason why Bob Good, the former athletics director at Liberty University, ultimately emerged victorious in June during a drive-through convention, a method Riggleman argued stacked the deck against him.
This is another seat that could see a competitive race in November, as Democratic nominee Cameron Webb significantly outraised Good during the primary. And Riggleman had a relatively close race in 2018, when he won the sprawling Virginia district that's larger than a handful of U.S. states by 6 points.
Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton
Tipton is the latest incumbent to fall in a primary after Boebert came hard-charging from his right, Tipton he wasn’t conservative enough to represent the western Colorado district.
Boebert is a familiar face in the district, she co-owns Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., where servers open carry guns (click here to watch a 2014 interview with Boebert on NBC about that decision).
But she’s made headlines more recently for more controversial positions — she flouted coronavirus regulations to keep Shooters Grill open despite local orders and she spoke supportively about the fringe Qanon conspiracy theory.
Despite her comments about Qanon, the campaign arm of House Republicans has said it will still back her as the party looks to hold onto the seat Trump won by 12 points in 2016. But Democrats hope that the controversy around Boebert can help them win the seat back two years after Diane Mitsch Bush, who is running again, lost by 8 points.
Biden VP Watch: Spotlight on Harris, Duckworth and Rice
WASHINGTON — While Joe Biden’s self-imposed deadline to announce his vice presidential pick is just about a month away, Biden allies continue to press him to pick a woman of color.
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary set the stage for Biden’s comeback in South Carolina and Super Tuesday. So when Clyburn said in April that it “would be great for him to select a woman of color”, many saw that as a signal of the direction Biden would go.
Clyburn reinforced those comments this week, but added that the only “must” of this campaign is to win.
“It would be a plus to have an African American woman,” Clyburn said in an interview with The Guardian. “And I’ll reiterate I have never said it is a must. The only must is to win this campaign. That’s a must, not just for Black people but for the country."
Heading into Fourth of July weekend, here’s how some of the women being vetted for the job are stacking up:
Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator has long been seen as a frontrunner for the veep job given her personal history with the Biden family and her ability to debate and bring in supporters. But those debate skills could also be her Achilles heel in the vetting process.
During the first Democratic primary debate, Harris went after Biden for his comments on segregationists and his opposition to mandated busing in the ‘70s. In March, former second lady Jill Biden called the attack a “punch to the gut.” But now, she's saying the past is the past, an important development from one of the most important voices in Biden's inner circle.
“It's politics. You get over it. You just move on. You have to, right? I mean you can't just keep harboring ill will. So, I mean, it's just part of what politics is,” Biden said on The View this week.
It’s unlikely the presumptive Democratic nominee would pick a running mate without the thumbs up from Jill Biden – and this could be the go-ahead he’s looking for.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth: Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who received the Purple Heart, has flown under the radar in the veepstakes — but now the progressive group VoteVets has thrown its support behind the Illinois senator.
VoteVets put out a video this week saying that a Biden-Duckworth ticket would “inspire” the country.
“Tammy’s tough and will take it to the coward in chief,” the video narrator says. They add, “Tammy Duckworth opens doors to new voters, winning swing voters and sweeping to victory in the Midwest the same year Trump was elected.”
Earlier this week on MSNBC, Duckworth was asked about whether she’s answered questions for the Biden vetting team.
"I answer questions all the time,” Duckworth said. “So, at this point, the vetters – they have got their whole process at the Biden camp. I'm not going to interfere with that. I'm, again, focused on getting Joe Biden elected."
Susan Rice: This week, reports surfaced that the United States gathered intelligence that Russia offered the Taliban a bounty to kill American soldiers. That kind of foreign policy debacle could raise the stakes for a potential vice presidential pick — and former U.N. Ambassador and national security adviser Susan Rice could fill that gap, although she drew the ire of many Republicans during the fallout from the 2012 attack in Benghazi.
Rice published an op-ed this week in which she detailed what would have happened had she received that intelligence as national security adviser. Rice wrote, “At best, our commander in chief is utterly derelict in his duties." She added, "At worst, the White House is being run by liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical president who is actively advancing our arch adversary’s nefarious interests.”
This week on MSNBC, Rice said there isn’t a “higher imperative” than getting Biden elected and that she is “humbled and honored” to be considered.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
President Trump expected to host fundraiser in Florida despite coronavirus spike
WASHINGTON — President Trump is expected to travel to Florida next week to host a high-dollar, in-person fundraiser on July 10 for his re-election effort, according to a Republican familiar with the event.
The dinner is set to take place at a private home in Hillsboro Beach, Fla. and will raise money for Trump Victory, the joint fundraising effort between the campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Ticket prices for the event are $580,600 per couple, and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel are slated to co-host.
Due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, all donors will have to test negative for the virus on the day of the fundraiser and the will also have to pass temperature checks and fill out a wellness questionnaire before the event. Test costs will be covered by Trump Victory.
Florida has seen a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks — the state has had about 113,000 new cases since June 1, about two-thirds of the state's 169,106 cases, according to NBC News analysis.
This will be the president's first high-dollar fundraiser in July. In June, Trump hosted two multi-million, in-person fundraisers: one at a private residence in Dallas and one in Bedminster, N.J. at his golf resort.
The fundraiser comes after presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic National Committee outraised the GOP entities for the second consecutive month.
It’s unclear whether the president will do anything else while he is in Florida. He hasn’t been to the state, which is now technically his official residence, since the weekend of March 6 when he hosted the Brazilian delegation at his Mar-a-Lago club. Several members of that group later tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the resort to close down much of its business for several months.
The Trump campaign later halted all in-person events because of the pandemic, but held its first in-person rally in Tulsa, Okla. and several fundraisers in recent weeks.
Despite the spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, Vice President Pence is schedule to travel to Florida on Thursday.
Police union head lashes out at AFL-CIO leadership over police reform comments
LOS ANGELES — The International Union of Police Associations, a major police union under fire by activists for its protection of its members, lashed out at the AFL-CIO in a June letter over comments made by the AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on police reform measures. The police union called them "ridiculous" and "disgraceful."
In a letter to Trumka, obtained by NBC News, Sam Cabral, president of the International Union of Police Associations, said Trumka's comments condemning “America’s long history of racism and police violence against black people” were both “inflammatory” and “patently false.”
Cabral added, “Your call to end racial profiling and to 'demilitarize”'police forces makes assumptions that are, again, ridiculous. Racial profiling is already banned in every police agency I am aware of.”
Cabral’s letter came in response to a larger statement from the AFL-CIO announcing proposals on ways to encourage reform in police unions and law enforcement departments after George Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. That officer has been charged with second-degree murder for his actions. Trumka’s comments came as part of that statement.
The AFL-CIO declined to push police unions from their federation, saying that “the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage our police affiliates rather than isolate them.”
Cabral said he and other police officers had been “shocked and saddened” by what happened to Floyd, but rejected the idea that all police officers should be painted in a negative light.
“It is disgraceful that you would dishonor all of law enforcement based on the act of one, or the extreme few,” Cabral wrote.
Cabral’s letter was first reported by labor magazine, In These Times. The AFL-CIO and IUPA did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.
Recently, NBC News reached out to all 55 affiliated members of the AFL-CIO to gauge their view of police unions. Many did not respond or declined to comment, and only one, the Writer’s Guild of America East, called for the expulsion of police from the labor federation. Several said police and other law enforcement unions needed to be open to reform, but not at the expense of labor solidarity.
However, many smaller local unions across the U.S. are calling for police to be removed from the labor federation, or are actively demanding police unions acknowledge their role in resisting reform.
Cabral acknowledged those pressures, but pointed to the support police unions received from others in the federation as approval to stay in the AFL-CIO.
“I hear no call to remove the police officers, deputy sheriffs, and corrections officers from the dozen of other internationals which represent them,” wrote Cabral. “We are more than willing and even anxious to discuss how we can improve" what "we believe are misconceptions that cause fear in some members of our communities.”
“We will not, however, sit down with those that march the streets calling for our death or those with a loud voice that have already indicted 850,000 men and women based on one horrible incident,” added Cabral, referring to Floyd’s death, omitting numerous other incidents in recent years.
This isn't the first time labor leaders have clashed over policing. In 2014, after Michael Brown was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., Trumka signed a letter to President Obama advocating for police reform.
Cabral dismissed that letter as well, writing at the time that police “are not the cause of the problems facing the black communities in America.”
“[Police] are not responsible for the single parent families, the unemployment, the school dropout rate or its attendant unacceptable literacy among black youth,” wrote Cabral in 2014. “They are not responsible for the gangs, black on black crime, or the infant mortality rate.”
NRCC will back Colorado candidate who has expressed support for fringe theory
WASHINGTON — The House Republican campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Wednesday it would back a Colorado candidate who toppled one of its incumbents but has faced criticism for comments supporting the fringe, QAnon conspiracy theory.
Lauren Boebert, a gun-rights activist and restaurant owner, defeated five-term Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in a defeat most didn't see coming, and one that could significantly shift the contours of the general election in the district.
But Boebert made news earlier this spring after her decision to flout coronavirus regulations and operate her Shooters Grill (in Rifle, Colo.) despite local orders.
(Watch a 2014 interview with Boebert below, where she spoke with NBC's Craig Melvin about her decision to allow servers at her restaurant to open carry.)
But her decision to defy coronavirus-related restrictions isn't the only controversy about Boebert — during an appearance on an internet show, Boebert said she's "familiar" with the QAnon conspiracy theory and that "I hope that this is real. Because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values."
QAnon is primarily a conspiracy theory that argues an anonymous, high-ranking government official, "Q," is sharing breadcrumbs on the internet alluding to a war between President Trump and the "deep state."
As NBC's Dareh Gregorian wrote in a recent NBC article about Qanon-promoting candidates: "The conspiracy posts, first shared through the website 4chan in 2017, also hint at a much darker plot in which many of those figures control a worldwide child sex-trafficking ring."
After facing numerous questions about whether the NRCC would still back Boebert, the group's chairman, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, said it would in a statement congratulating her.
"Lauren won her primary fair and square and has our support. This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat as Nancy Pelosi and senior House Democrats continue peddling their radical conspiracy theories and pushing their radical cancel culture," he said.
"With Lauren’s win, we now have more female nominees than at any other point in the history of the Republican Party and that is a point that should be celebrated.”
Democrats criticized the NRCC for not disavowing Boebert, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasting out a press release recounting many of her controversial comments. Robyn Patterson, , a DCCC spokesperson, said in a statement that "choosing to stand behind this dangerous and despicable nonsense is a new level of recklessness."
Democrats are also hopeful that the surprise could improve their chances in the district.
Tipton beat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in the district by 8 points in 2018 —Mitsch Bush is the Democratic nominee for the district and has vastly outraised Boebert so far this cycle.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
With Klobuchar out, the V.P. pool narrows for Biden
WASHINGTON — The V.P. field narrowed Thursday night when Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar withdrew from the vetting process.
“America must seize on the moment and I truly believe — as I actually told the V.P. last night when I called him — that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” Klobuchar said in an interview on MSNBC.
Biden responded to her decision on Twitter, saying Klobuchar has the “grit and determination” to take on any challenge and help “beat Donald Trump.”
But as Klobuchar noted, calls for Biden to put a woman of color on the ticket are only growing. Here are the moves vice presidential contenders still in the veepstakes made this week:
Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris was among a group of senators to put forward a bill to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Harris is one of four Black women known to be advancing to a more comprehensive vetting stage with the Biden campaign. She joins Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Florida Rep. Val Demings and former national security adviser Susan Rice.
Harris’ stock in the veepstakes has remained steady since Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee. She has defended her past as a prosecutor — an issue that dogged her in the primary race with progressives — and her personal relationship with the Biden family could make her more likely to appear on the ticket than those with less name recognition.
Rep. Val Demings: Demings may have not considered herself a possible contender for Biden’s running mate originally, but as she said this week, sometimes “the situation chooses you.”
The Florida congresswoman hasn’t been hesitant to promote her qualifications to be vice president. On “The View” this week, Demings said that this moment in time is what makes her the best candidate.
“Sometimes the situation chooses you. And I do believe this is one of those moments,” she said, hinting at her background as the former Orlando police chief.
Demings added, “I believe I have the on the ground experience, the credibility and the political will and courage to get this done.”
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor has dominated national headlines recently following the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in her city, amplifying her bully pulpit as mayor and raising her profile as a veep contender.
And during a Women for Biden call Thursday, Lance Bottoms credited Biden for proving to her in the early days of their relationship that he values the Black and other minority communities.
“It was not lost on me that this was an older white man who was willing to stand alongside, and quite often behind, a younger African American man to lead our country,” Bottoms said, noting that “representation is everything” for her.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Despite Klobuchar’s decision to drop out of the veepstakes Thursday, Warren — who like Klobuchar, is white — continues to pursue her running mate ambitions.
The Massachusetts senator helped Biden rake in a whopping $6 million dollars Monday, the most money raised in a single Biden fundraiser. Warren previously vowed to not take part in high-dollar fundraisers during her presidential run, saying on the trail, “we’re tearing this democracy apart” by involving big money in politics.
But during the event, Biden praised Warren for her “fearless work” standing up to Wall Street and teased that he’s still working to get her on his side. Biden has emphasized in the past that he needs a veep who shares his approach to leadership but who is willing to challenge his positions.
And early this week, dozens of Warren allies wrote a letter to the presumptive Democratic nominee urging him to choose her, pointing to her policy expertise, working-class background, and ability to unite the party.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Multiple bills in the works to make Juneteenth a federal holiday
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., told MSNBC on Thursday that she will announce legislation as soon as the end of this week to make Juneteenth, the annual June 19 commemoration of the end of slavery, a national holiday.
Harris said she will sponsor the legislation with Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
In the wake of nationwide anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, dozens of companies have announced they intend to make June 19 a holiday for employees. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, also recently announced he would make Juneteenth as a state holiday.
There are additional efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson signaled Thursday during his visit to the National Archives with first lady Melania Trump that making it a holiday has been a part of White House discussions.
Because the holiday has Texas roots, memorializing the 1865 announcement by a Union general to approximately 250,000 enslaved Africans in Galveston that had no idea that their freedom had been secured, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also announced on Thursday he intends to file a bill making it a national holiday. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said earlier this week she plans to file a similar bill in the House.
Cornyn and Lee sponsored a bill earlier this year for a federal study of creating a National Emancipation Trail from Galveston to Houston, which would follow the path of slaves freed on June 19, 1865, to spread the news. Trump signed that into law in January.
Biden campaign debuts first general election ads in $15 million effort across key states
WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign debuted its first general election ads after months off the air Thursday morning in part of a five-week, $15 million ad campaign targeting several battleground states that President Trump won in 2016.
The first 60-second spot, “Unite Us,” features remarks from Biden’s recent speech in Philadelphia, and largely emphasizes the need to bring the country together, which Biden implies Trump is failing to do.
“The county is crying out for leadership,” Biden says, vowing not to “fan the flames of hate.”
The third 60-second spot is in Spanish with the aim of reaching out to Latino voters, and likewise focuses on the state of the economy. In it Biden touts his role in handling the 2008 recession under the leadership of President Obama.
Announcing the effort in a statement, the Biden team said that the latest spots are part of a $15 million campaign that includes TV, digital, radio, and print advertising in six critical states ahead of November. They also note that the ads will air on national cable, including Fox News.
The states targeted include Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona, all of which Trump won in 2016.
The Biden campaign has been able to stay off the air since April — when the former vice president became the Democratic nominee — instead relying on two supportive super PACs to carry the Democrat's message through the spring.
Priorities USA, which has mainly driven Trump contrast messaging on the novel coronavirus, and Unite The Country, which recently turned to positive Biden spots with an economic focus, have been active on the air for Biden. The DNC also went on the air this week.
The Trump campaign has been blitzing key states. Republicans have outspent Democrats on television and radio ads in the presidential race $33.7 million to $19.7 million since April 8, the day Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, data from Advertising Analytics shows.
President Trump's campaign is responsible for $25.2 million of that spending, while the top Democratic group, the Priorities USA super PAC, has spent $10.6 million.
—Ben Kamisar contributed.
Nebraska Democratic Party calls on Senate nominee to withdraw after 'sexually inappropriate comments'
WASHINGTON — The Nebraska Democratic Party is calling on its party's Senate nominee to step down after he made what it calls "sexually inappropriate comments" about a campaign staff member.
A former staffer of Omaha baker and Democratic Senate nominee Chris Janicek sent the party a formal complaint about Janicek, turning over a copy of the text message containing the remarks. That prompted the state party to privately demand Janicek's decline the party's nomination by Monday, as state party officials have the power to replace him on the ballot if he withdraws by Sept. 1.
But upon learning Janicek would not step down, the party's executive committee voted unanimously to strip him of all party resources and released a statement publicly calling for him to step aside.
“Our Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment,” Jane Kleeb, the state party chair, said in a statement.
“Our party will not extend resources or any type of support to any candidate that violates our code of conduct and doesn’t treat men and women with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The Omaha World-Herald reported Tuesday that Janicek sent the text in a group message to at least five others, where he made a sexual comment directed at the former female staffer. That staffer was also a part of the group text.
Janicek and his campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment from NBC News. But he told the World-Herald that "This is a moment in time where I made a terrible mistake in a text message."
And a spokesman, Scott Howitt, told the paper that Janicek apologized to all of the staffers he sent the message minutes after he made the comments.
Janicek is running against Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who won his 2014 election by more than 30 percentage points.
DNC launches ad campaign on Trump 'descent'
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee is beginning its general election offensive against President Donald Trump Tuesday, with a new television and digital ad campaign running in battleground states.
The effort marks the five year anniversary of Trump’s 2016 presidential candidacy, which he announced after a ride down a golden escalator at Trump Tower. The opening DNC ad, titled “Descent,” revives that image, tying it to the decline of American jobs, health care, race relations, and immigrant rights.
“Five years ago — Donald Trump descended to the basement of Trump Tower. And for the last five years, he’s brought America down with him,” says the ad provided to NBC News.
It’s the first television ad campaign the DNC has run in four years, and signifies a more visible role for the organization following the turmoil in 2016 that culminated in the resignation of former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the party convention. That year, a Russian-led hack of DNC computer servers unearthed internal emails suggesting staff unfairly favored the candidacy of former Senator Hillary Clinton over her then-challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In an effort to demonstrate unity across the party, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive voice who competed for the Democratic nomination this year and is under consideration to be Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate, will help kick off the campaign in a press call on Tuesday and join DNC Chair Tom Perez for a battleground state tour.
Perez will also team with other party leaders, including Florida Rep. Val Demmings, who's also on Biden’s short list of potential vice presidential contenders.
The ad campaign will run for five weeks, and will focus on holding Trump accountable “for four years of failures driven by his own ego and self-interest and defined by his incompetence as a leader,” according to a memo shared with NBC News. The committee declined to provide a specific price tag but said it would be a “six figure television buy.”
The Biden campaign hasn’t aired any TV ads since March, when the former vice president effectively secured the nomination. Before that, the campaign spent some $12 million on ads ahead of the primaries in Michigan, Florida, Missouri and Illinois. It’s now prioritizing digital ads, leaving it to super PACs and the DNC to battle on the airwaves.
One of the DNC ads will focus narrowly on Trump’s trade dispute with China, which the committee claims has cost an estimated 300,000 jobs. Another will zero in on Trump’s early reassurances that China had the coronavirus under control and that it would just go away on its own.
The spots preview a general election messaging strategy, arguing that Trump’s supposed strength as a businessman, honed over decades in real estate and reality TV, has in fact been a weakness.
Amy McGrath books big ad buy against Charles Booker as Senate primary heats up
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath is booking a flury of ads with one week before her Senate primary faceoff with state Rep. Charles Booker, flexing the muscle of one of the best-funded Senate campaigns in history.
As of Monday afternoon, McGrath has $1.4 million in TV and radio ads booked before the June 23 primary. Booker has $335,000. So far this week, Booker has primarily run a spot calling himself a "real Democrat" and contrasting with McGrath's past comments supportive of President Trump's agenda. McGrath meanwhile has run a smattering of ads that focus on general election issues and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
While Booker has caught fire in recent days — winning endorsements from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as from prominent newspapers in the state — McGrath is still raking in the cash.
She's raised $41.1 million through June 3, according to the most recent fundraising filings, and had $19.3 million by that point. Booker, by comparison, raised $793,000 and had $285,000 banked away at that point, which was before the endorsements from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, who weild significant strength in the grassroots-fundraising space.
So as Booker has snagged the recent headlines, McGrath continues to overwhelm him on the airwaves.
Biden and DNC say they raised more than $80 million in May
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign announced that it raised $80.1 million in May in partnership with the Democratic National Committee, the most the joint effort has brought in to date and marking a turnaround in fundraising momentum.
The May total marks another improvement from April, when the Biden-DNC joint haul was $60.5 million. The campaign has raised more in the month of May than it did the first three months of the year, which totaled $74 million in the first quarter.
In an email to supporters Monday, Biden said that more than half of its May donors gave for the first time. Full results will be available once the campaign files its required monthly report by June 20.
The campaign is crediting its fundraising haul to the growth of small-dollar donors, which they say has tripled since February. And the uptick comes after the campaign established a joint-fundraising committee with the DNC, which allows the campaign to raise money in tandem with the national party.
In potential foreshadowing for June’s fundraising numbers, the campaign announced that they’ve brought in 1.5 million new supporters in just the last two weeks alone.
It's a significant turnaround since pre-South Carolina primary days, when the campaign struggled with online and small-dollar fundraising. It also proves that the campaign can bring in significant amounts of money after facing criticism that virtual fundraisers may not have the same appeal as courting large-dollar donors in-person.
“I’m in awe of this sum of money. Just a few months ago, people were ready to write this campaign off. Now, we are making huge dents in Donald Trump’s warchest. Every single dollar is going to make sure he is only a one-term president,” Biden said in an email to supporters.
The largest donation sum to date for the presumptive Democratic nominee occurs even as the campaign has been approaching online fundraising more delicately during the COVID-19 pandemic and national protests on criminal justice.
Earlier this month, fundraising emails specified that the campaign was not soliciting donations from supporters with ZIP codes in areas with significant demonstrations for one week. All fundraising emails now give recipients the option of pausing solicitations for two weeks noting that it is “a difficult time for our country” and “it may be an especially difficult time for many of you personally.”
Relying solely on virtual fundraisers due to the coronavirus pandemic has forced the campaign to get creative with their large-dollar and grassroots fundraising. As of late, Biden has held fundraisers alongside A-list celebrities, called on endorsers to hold cooking and yoga classes and began to court grassroots supporters directly.
Biden held his first grassroots fundraiser alongside Pete Buttigieg last month that raised over $1 million. On Monday night, he is holding a virtual finance event with Elizabeth Warren, who he’s previously tasked with calling small-dollar donors to thank them for supporting Biden.
Meanwhile, President Trump has restarted his own in-person fundraising in recent days and his reelection effort raised more than $27 million in a span of four days that covered an extensive digital fundraising effort as well as two in-person fundraisers.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorses Biden
WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political wing of Planned Parenthood, announced its endorsement of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president Monday, praising him for his record of expanding health care for women.
“Joe Biden is the only candidate in this race who will stand up for our health and our rights,” the group's acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement, noting that President Trump has “attacked access to abortion and reproductive health care” along with “the people that Planned Parenthood health centers serve,” like women, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Responding to the endorsement in a statement, Biden said: "As President, I’m going to do everything in my power to expand access to quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care. I'm proud to stand with Planned Parenthood in this fight."
In both the group's statement and a video announcing the endorsement, Planned Parenthood Action Fund applauds the former vice president for his work on the Affordable Care Act, which expanded birth control access for women nationwide, and for sticking up for abortion rights. The statement even goes on to point out that Biden is committed to repealing the Hyde Amendment, which largely bans federal funds from being used for most abortions. Critics argue that the Hyde Amendment unfairly reduces access to abortions for low-income, minority women who rely on Medicaid.
But Biden’s views on abortion, and particularly on the Hyde Amendment, have changed over time. It was just one year ago that Biden reversed his long-maintained support of the Hyde Amendment, saying last June at a DNC gala that he could no longer "justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need.”
"If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code,” he added.
Biden's faith has also clouded his views. The former vice president revealed in his 2007 book “Promises to Keep” that as a Roman Catholic, he personally opposes abortion and grapples with the issue though he said he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.
Trump re-elect brings in $27 million in four-day fundraising spree
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election effort raised more than $27 million in the span of four days after an extensive digital fundraising effort and resumption of in-person fundraising.
The team announced it raised $14 million online on Sunday in a push to mark the president’s 74th birthday, resulting in its largest single-day fundraising total to date. The GOP's last digital fundraising record took place back in October 2016 when they raised $10 million in a day.
And late last week, the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee resumed in-person fundraising, raking in $10 million at a private home in Dallas and $3 million in Bedminster, N.J. over the weekend.
The president had halted in-person fundraising back in March due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. And their fundraising was slightly dented due to that change. But the Republican war chest remains well-funded. Going into last month, Trump Victory – the joint fundraising committee for President Trump's re-election had $255 million cash on hand.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee announced in May they raised $60 million in April, which was just under what the Trump campaign and RNC brought in that month at $61 million. But the Biden team hasn't done any in-person fundraising since March 9th, and there's no indication he'll be doing any in-person fundraisers anytime soon.
In order to attract more donors virtually, Biden is doing more fundraisers with big-name headliners like John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and Barbra Streisand.
The president is set to resume his signature large-scale rallies this weekend in Tulsa, Okla., with more tentatively scheduled in Florida, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina. Trump normally holds fundraisers ahead of each rally appearance.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed.
Black women take center stage hedging for Biden's veep slot
WASHINGTON — Even as protests and demands for police reform grow greater in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden told CBS that recent events aren’t impacting who he’ll pick as his running mate. Symone Sanders, Biden’s senior adviser, clarified that Biden “hears the concerns” of those who want an African American running mate.
However, Black women hedging for the veep slot have been out front this week on issues of police brutality and institutional racism.
Here are this week’s most significant veepstakes developments from the NBC News political unit:
Stacey Abrams: Abrams has been highly visible this week after widespread voting problems plagued Georgia’s primaries on Tuesday — but that hasn't gotten her a call from the Biden camp.
“I have said many times that if called I will answer, but I have not received any calls,” Abrams said of her contact with the Biden team during an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.
Despite confirming she has not yet been vetted, Abrams made clear that she believes voting problems are directly related to racial inequality.
“We can't divorce today from what we're seeing happening across this country in response to the murder of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the litany of names that is too long to be held by memory,” she said Tuesday.
Sen. Kamala Harris: Unlike Abrams, Harris hasn’t been particularly vocal about where she stands in the veep vetting process, instead opting for subtler moves throughout the week that could make her a strong V.P. choice.
On Tuesday, one day after Biden flew to Houston to meet with George Floyd’s family, Harris led a virtual fundraiser with Biden and raked in $3.5 million — the most a V.P. contender has raised for the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Biden repeatedly praised Harris during the event, calling her “a fighter and a principled leader,” and said he’d never forget Harris voicing her love for Biden’s deceased son, Beau, to him. And given Biden’s insistence on being “simpatico” with his veep pick, that close bond could seal the deal.
Like Biden, Harris has also met with a member of the Floyd family and based on NBC News’ reporting is the only V.P. contender to do so. At a town hall Thursday, the California senator confirmed she was with Floyd’s brother, Philonise, in Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C. after he testified on the Hill about police brutality.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Rep. Val Demings: The Atlanta mayor and the Florida congresswoman appeared on Axios’ HBO documentary show this week where Demings again confirmed she’d want to serve as vice president, while Lance Bottoms hedged.
“I can tell you, COVID had me thinking a lot less about a V.P. conversation and with what's been happening with the murder of George Floyd and so many others,” Lance Bottoms said. “I've not given it a lot of thought at all. But you know, if the vice president felt that I would be the person to help him win in November and I would be best suited, it is certainly something I would give serious consideration to.”
Demings, who is a former police chief, appeared to struggle this week in discussing the newly-formed “defund the police” movement. While Biden has also come out against defunding the police, Demings said on CBS, “I do believe there is opportunity here for the police and the community to come together and kind of spread, look at the responsibility, things that police are taking on, that they were never supposed to take on in the first place, and come out with a better plan.”
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
American Federation of Teachers launches $1 million ad campaign for HEROES Act
WASHINGTON — The American Federation of Teachers launched a $1 million ad buy on Friday to support the HEROES Act, the House-passed legislation on coronavirus aid. The Senate has not yet moved on the bill which was passed on May 15.
The new ad, entitled "Essential", will run for two weeks on Facebook, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in 10 states plus Washington D.C.: Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania, Montana and North Carolina.
The 30-second ad, focuses on two teachers and a food services manager providing students with meals and teaching virtual classes. The campaign also includes a 15-second ad version. The AFT argues that as coronavirus cases begin to increase as states relax restrictions, a second wave could lead to massive layoffs and leave essential workers more at risk to contracting the virus.
“If the HEROES Act fails to pass, and states and schools don’t get the support they need to reopen safely, then they’ll stay shut and the economy will stall — it’s that simple,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion piece of legislation that included another round of stimulus checks for Americans, pay raises for frontline workers, an extension of the $600-per-week unemployment compensation and additional state and local aid. Republicans have called it a "liberal wish list", and President Trump called the bill "dead on arrival."
Weingarten added, “There are no magic fixes — the only path to recovery is a stimulus package that funds, rather than forfeits, our future. We urgently need the federal dollars included in the HEROES Act to help states, cities, towns and schools weather this rolling storm."
It's unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up any other further pandemic relief until mid-July, after the July 4 recess. After a better-than-expected jobs report in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said future relief bills would have to be more "focused".
"As Senate Republicans have made clear for weeks, future efforts must be laser-focused on helping schools reopen safely in the fall, helping American workers continue to get back on the job, and helping employers reopen and grow. We must keep the wind in our sails, not slam the brakes with left-wing policies that would make rehiring even harder and recovery even more challenging," McConnell said last week.
New Biden digital ad hits Trump for reaction to protests
WASHINGTON — For the second time in the past month, Joe Biden's campaign is accusing President Donald Trump for acting like a “deer in the headlights” as he's tries to deal with two major crises.
The campaign’s latest digital ad focuses on the use of force used on protestors in Washington last week to clear the way for Trump’s walk across the street from the White House for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church.
“The nation marches for justice and like a deer in the headlights, he’s paralyzed with fear. He doesn’t know what to do so he hides in his bunker,” the narrator says in between images of peaceful protestors chanting George Floyd’s name.
“Then, he’s afraid he looks too weak so he has tear gas and flash grenades used on peaceful protestors, just for a photo-op,” the narrator continues. “Where is Donald Trump? Too scared to face the people. Too small to meet the moment. Too weak to lead.”
The Biden campaign has tried to define the two major crises of the year — the pandemic and nationwide protests against police mistreatment of African Americans — as moments that show stark contrasts between the president and the presumptive Democratic nominee. In the past week alone the campaign has released two digital ads using Biden’s civil unrest speech in a Philadelphia that highlight his promise not to “fan the flames of hate” like Trump and commitment to support protestors urging progress towards a more equal America.
The latest ad builds on one played across five battleground states last month, where they first made the charge that Trump reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights” at a time when the economy was worsening and the death toll climbing. It will target voters on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube across Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
This is the campaign’s sixth digital ad since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March that targets social media users in key battleground states. They have exclusively left TV ad spending to pro-Biden Super PACs.
Poll: 57 percent of registered voters think government should be doing more to solve problems
WASHINGTON — The share of voters who say that the government should do more to solve Americans’ problems has reached new heights throughout President Donald Trump’s time in office, with the latest NBC News / WSJ poll showing the sentiment just shy of its all-time high.
Fifty-seven percent of registered voters want the government to solve more problems. Just 38 percent think the government is doing too much, tied for the lowest share since the poll began asking the question in 1995.
Simultaneously, the share of voters who think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses or individuals has remained at an all-time low.
During past presidencies, public demand for the government to do more — and to do less — has fluctuated. Under former President Barack Obama, these sentiments oscillated around the high forties and low fifties, with both sides hitting majority support over Obama’s eight years in office.
But at the beginning of the Trump presidency, public opinion sharply diverged in favor of governments doing more. By early 2018, 58 percent felt that the government should do more and 38 percent felt the government should be doing less. That 20-point gap decreased slightly in 2019, only to increase again in 2020.
While Republicans have historically called for smaller government, Trump at times has bucked that convention.
During Trump’s 2015 campaign announcement speech, he said he wanted to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts.”
The president’s 2020 budget proposal aimed to make hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. But after facing pushback, Trump reversed course, tweeting, “I will totally protect your Medicare & Social Security!”
Anxieties over the cost of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, along with other government programs and benefits, could be further exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic. There have been more than 2 million coronavirus cases in America, and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus.
Congress has passed a handful of coronavirus relief bills, including direct payments to Americans and the Paycheck Protection Program, loans that would be forgiven provided businesses kept on employees and used the money for certain, approved expenses.
There have been disagreements among lawmakers as to whether more help is needed, with many Senate Republicans wanting to wait and see before discussing new aid.
Breaking the latest data down by party, the starkest divide is among Democrats, with 86 percent saying the government is doing too little and 11 percent saying it is not doing enough.
A slim majority, 51 percent, of independents agree that the government is under-involved.
The GOP divide on the question of government involvement is less unequivocal than it is for Democrats, but not by much. Twenty-five percent of Republicans wish the government was doing more and 77 percent feel the government is doing too much.
Ahead of November’s election, some of the key voting groups that led Trump to victory in 2016 are calling for more government involvement.
For example, 57 percent of white women want the government to be doing more, a group Trump won over Clinton by 9 percent, according to exit polls.
Fifty-one percent of working-class whites want the government to do more, along with 52 percent of white voters and 57 percent of those who live in swing states.
NBC and the Wall Street Journal polled 1000 registered voters between May 28 and June 2. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.
Georgia Republican poised to make House runoff after comparing pandemic punishments to socialism
WASHINGTON — In April, we took a look at how three Republican candidates running in for a Republican-leaning open seat in Georgia were messaging on coronavirus.
One highlighted his Air National Guard service to help his community respond to the virus, another blasted "weak Republicans" and "deranged Democrats" before shooting a sign labeled "COVID-19.", and one called fines for violating social-distancing orders "Chinese-style socialism."
So with votes still coming in across the after an election plagued by issues, the Associated Press is projecting that the two candidates with the more fiery messaging of the three will advance to a runoff.
With no candidate hitting the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, the AP is projecting that Marjorie Taylor Greene and John Cowan will advance to a runoff in August (while a significant portion of the statewide vote is still outstanding, all but one precinct has reported in the 14th Congressional District, according to the AP's figures).
Taylor Green, a business owner who was endorsed by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, ran the ad decrying the "Chinese-style socialism" of punishing people for violating coronavirus-related restrictions.
In the final days before the primary, her messaging largely focused on socialism and criticizing "antifa." She ran a TV ad blasting "antifa terrorists" who were "declaring war on our cities," before appearing to chamber a round and telling them to "stay out of northwest Georgia."
And she ran a spot where triggered explosives by shooting at them with a rifle as she rattled off ideas she wanted to stop in Congress, including gun control, the Green New Deal, open borders and socialism.
Cowan, a neurosurgeon who ran the ad attacking "weak Republicans" and shooting a mock-up of the virus, continued to run that one spot down the stretch.
Priorities USA electoral projection puts Biden over 300, while cautioning election still volatile
WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, the major Democratic super-PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden, has the Democrat leading President Trump in its electoral college projection 305 votes to 204.
Florida is the only state on the map considered a toss-up in the analysis, which the group considers a state where the candidates have between 49.5 and 50.5 percent of the vote. The group's analysis is culled in part from its recent battleground and national polling and is based on where the race stands today, not a projection for the November election.
Priorities’ current polling has Biden ahead in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as in Arizona and North Carolina. Recent public polls have shown Biden up in many battleground states as well.
But Priorities also points out that just a 3-point drop for Biden – among both white working-class voters and minority voters – would narrow the Democrat’s advantage over Trump to 259 to 248, with Trump winning Florida and North Carolina, and with Arizona and Pennsylvania moving to the “toss-up” category.
Before this recent surge by Biden, Priorities says the overall Trump-vs.-Biden race has been fairly close over the past year. This is the first time in the group's projection Biden eclipsed the 300 electoral vote mark.
"We have seen some significant movements over the course of the last four weeks in particular, in Arizona and North Carolina, although those states are still within 2 points," Priorities chairman Guy Cecil told reporters during a Wednesday media briefing.
"Structurally, while we’ve seen improvements, this race continues to be close."
Priorities’ polling also shows Trump’s current job rating (at 41 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove) at one of the lowest levels of his presidency.
"We are very quickly approaching the -17 points that we saw immediately following the shutdown at the beginning of last year. This is among the worst approval ratings in our internal data has shown since Donald Trump became president," Cecil said.
Trump approval rating drops 10 points in Gallup poll
WASHINGTON — President Trump's approval rating dropped 10 points from May to June among adults, according to Gallup's latest poll.
The new numbers, which show Trump's approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 57 percent, is one of the largest dips in a single-month period for the president in Gallup's tracking. In May, Gallup showed Trump's approval and disapproval ratings nearly even at 49 and 48 percent respectively.
The dip comes as more Americans take issue with the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests across the country against police brutality. In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 80 percent of registered voters said they felt things in the U.S. were "out of control." Additionally, President Trump continues to struggle in national and state polls against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
A group of Fox News polls released last week show Trump trailing Biden in Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio. Trump won those states handedly in 2016, and those states could be must-win for the president in November.
The president met with senior advisers and campaign officials last week to discuss concerning internal polling in reliably Republican states like Texas. But on Twitter, Trump has argued that publicly released polling hasn't been accurate. On Monday Trump announced he hired an outside polling group to analyze polls he "felt were fake."
Republican senators launching ads attacking Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Two Republican senators have launched ads attacking former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrat continues to lead President Trump in recent polls.
Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally has aired two ads in recent days evoking Biden as a foil, alongside likely Arizona Democratic nominee Mark Kelly.
And Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has a new digital spot blasting Biden as "too confused to lead."
The McSally spots aim to tie Biden to Kelly — one argues the pair won't be able to hold China accountable (Republicans have hit Kelly on the airwaves for his business ties to China), while another says that Kelly will "help Joe Biden pass a new government-controlled health insurance system" (Both Kelly and Biden support a public option, not Medicare-for-All).
McSally was down big in Fox News’ recent poll of the Senate race (trailing Kelly 50 to 37 among registered voters). And Biden led Trump by 4 points in that same poll of the state that Trump won by 3.5 points in 2016.
While that Biden lead is within the margin of error, there are signs that there could be trouble in Arizona at the top of the ticket, as Democratic groups are pushing into the once reliably Republican state.
Meanwhile, Cotton, who has no Democratic opponent in the fall, just released a new digital ad attacking China for "lies" that "spread the China virus across the world," as well as Biden by rounding up a complication of his recent missteps to argue he's "too confused to lead."
The spot, first reported by Breitbart News, will run in Michigan and Iowa as part of an initial, five-figure buy.
Cotton's political website features another anti-Biden video, one from March that calls Biden "weak on China."
And Cotton's not the first Republican without a Democratic challenger in the fall to try to give his party air cover by attacking Biden. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., bought TV time ahead of the Iowa caucuses to criticize Biden and defend the president during impeachment.
While Cotton is running for reelection this year, the Democrats couldn't field a challenger to run against him after one candidate dropped out shortly after the filing deadline.
Multiple states hold key primaries as coronavirus pandemic, Floyd protests continue
WASHINGTON — On the day of George Floyd's funeral in Houston and as coronavirus cases continue to rise, several states are holding primaries to determine which candidates will represent their parties come November.
Here are the races the NBC News political unit are paying closest attention to:
Georgia Senate: The top primary contest to watch is in Georgia, where several Democrats are running for the right to challenge Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in the fall.
The favorite in this Democratic primary is 2017 congressional nominee, Jon Ossoff, and his top challengers are former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico. The Cook Political Report lists the race as “Lean Republican” for November.
If none of the candidates break 50 percent, the Top 2 will advance to an Aug. 11 runoff.
South Carolina Senate: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Democrat Jaime Harrison receive nominal primary opposition ahead of their expected November showdown in the Palmetto State. Harrison has raked in significant fundraising ahead of today's contest.
Nevada 3rd District: Republicans will pick their nominee in Nevada to face Democratic Congresswoman Susie Lee, D-Nev., in the competitive Nevada district.
Nevada 4th District: Also in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who recently admitted to having an affair with a former Senate staffer, is receiving a primary challenge from multiple Democrats, as well as Republicans who are trying to reclaim the seat.
For the contests in both the third and fourth House districts in the state, it's important to note that Nevada secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, has sent mail-in ballots to all of Nevada's registered voters.
—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Dem group American Bridge launches $20 million battleground state ad buy
WASHINGTON — American Bridge is rolling out a $20 million ad campaign over 10 weeks in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the hopes of softening up President Trump in the blue wall states he flipped to secure his 2016 victory.
The first spots feature voters who backed Trump in 2016 explaining why they are now backing former Vice President Joe Biden.
In one Wisconsin spot, a Vietnam veteran named John argues that the "Trump economy" isn't working for the working class.
"This time, I'm voting for Joe Biden because I think that Joe Biden has the good of the country in his heart," he says.
"To compare Donald Trump with Joe Biden — I can bet my life on most of what Joe Biden has to say. I wouldn't bet my life on the next three things that come out of Donald Trump's mouth, because one of them will probably be a lie."
In another spot airing in Pennsylvania, a Westmoreland County voter named Janie said that she's "disappointed" in Trump, while "Joe Biden understands how the government works, and I trust him."
The new buy runs through the end of August, and will include TV, radio and digital ads. The group is targeting a smattering of markets across the state, including many of the Trump-leaning areas that the president's campaign recently targeted with its recent ad buy.
Trump campaign seizes on calls for Dems to support 'defund the police' movement
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign is seizing on mounting calls to defund police by calling out prominent Democrats who are supportive of the movement after the death of George Floyd, who was killed when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The Trump re-elect effort held a call with reporters on Monday to criticize the “left’s radical proposals to defund the police,” specifically pressuring apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden to speak out in opposition to the idea.
Minutes later, the Biden campaign issued a statement doing so.
“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” spokesman Andrew Bates said, stressing Biden supports the “urgent need for reform.”
On the call, the Trump campaign slammed members of the so-called “Squad,” including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, for being open to defunding and disbanding police.
“It is consuming the entire Democrat party as the most extreme elements have the loudest voices and demand acquiescence,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said, also name-checking notable Democrats such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Rep. Val Demings — who is currently being vetted as a possible running mate for Biden.
Murtaugh jabbed at Bowser for not stepping in and stopping activists from adding the words “DEFUND THE POLICE” to the existing city-commissioned “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural on 16th St., near the White House.
The campaign also had two surrogates on the call with reporters to attack Democrats: former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell and former Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh.
They both argued it was impossible to operate cities “without local law enforcement” and took the extreme view of the concept in terms of disbanding police, seemingly ignoring one of the larger ideas of the movement in terms of allocating resources differently.
“Should law enforcement be accountable? Absolutely,” Welsh conceded, but the idea of dismantling police “will do nothing but create chaos and anarchy” she claimed.
Asked about whether any of the people on the call believe systemic racism exists in policing, Murtaugh said: “No one hates a bad cop worse than a good cop. I think that there are people who have bad attitudes … in all organizations.” The others referred to a “few bad apples,” which is something top Trump administration officials have echoed in the last few weeks.
The campaign could not comment on any particular policy proposals that would be forthcoming on the larger issue of police reform from the president and deferred to the White House on that.
If the president’s feed is any indication, this issue will continue to be highlighted by both him and the campaign this summer. The re-elect effort has already sent fundraising list emails this weekend, saying: “We can’t stand by while the Left tries to DEFUND THE POLICE.”
Biden campaign launches turnout effort targeting LGBTQ voters
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Monday announced the launch of a robust get-out-the-vote effort targeting LGBTQ voters.
The effort, called, “Out for Biden,” will be aimed at turning out a record number of LGBTQ voters in November by fostering “relationships with pro-equality partners to register and mobilize LGBTQ+ voters around the country, with an emphasis on key battleground states,” the campaign said in a statement.
"Our campaign’s decision to launch Out for Biden in the shadow of historic protest elevates the power of the moment and encourages deep — and sometimes difficult — dialogue within our LGBTQ+ community as Pride month begins,” said Reggie Greer, the Biden campaign’s LGBTQ+ vote director. “LGBTQ+ people of color are central to the fabric of our communities. We must elect a government that will center their voices and celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ people everywhere,” Greer added.
Trump campaign touts May job gains in new TV ad
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign dropped a new TV spot over the weekend that spikes the football on Friday’s surprising job numbers.
“The Great American Comeback has begun. A record 2.5 million new jobs in May, and we're just getting started,” the spot’s narrator begins.
“Before the pandemic. President Trump made our economy the envy of the world. Now he's doing it again, bringing devastated industries back, working to build factories here instead of China, getting direct cash relief to families.”
Team Trump has long wanted to pivot the message away from the coronavirus and to the economy. So it’s no surprise they’re trumpeting the good news from Friday’s report.
But unemployment is still in the double-digits (and while white unemployment dropped, black unemployment did not); the economy lost eight times the jobs in April than it gained in May; and the CBO predicted the coronavirus would kneecap economic growth over the long term.
Democrats are spending millions trying to lay the pandemic (and the pandemic economy) at Trump’s feet, setting up a clear dynamic that will continue into the fall.
Mask-wearing habits could indicate how you'll vote
WASHINGTON — The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that a person's mask-wearing habits could indicate how they'll vote in the 2020 presidential race.
Sixty-three percent of registered voters said they "always" wear a mask when they're in public — like when they go shopping, go to work or be around other people outside of their house. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, leads President Trump by 40 points among those voters: 66 percent to 26 percent.
And voters who don't wear a mask are nearly just as likely to vote for the president as mask-wearers are to vote for Biden.
Twenty-one percent of voters said they "sometimes" wear a mask — and Trump leads those voters by 32 points: 62 percent to 30 percent.
Perhaps most unsurprisingly, the voters who say the never or rarely wear a mask are nearly all in support of the president. Just 15 percent of registered voters said they don't tend to wear a mask — the president leads Biden with those voters 83-7 percent.
Biden and Trump have sparred on whether it's appropriate to wear a mask. The president has forgone wearing a mask in nearly all of his public appearances since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to suggest Americans wear masks in public, especially when social distancing is not possible. Biden, meanwhile, has been photographed with a mask nearly every time he has left his Delaware home.
The president retweeted conservative media hosts criticizing Biden's decision to wear a mask, while saying publicly that Biden "can wear a mask" but that it's "unusual" the former vice president isn't seen wearing one indoors. Biden has called said Trump doesn't wear a mask in an effort to look "macho."
Protests put spotlight on women of color as potential Biden running mate
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, Biden’s longtime friend and early endorser, said on Tuesday picking a person of color “would speak to this moment in a powerful and effective way.” Others are echoing the sentiment.
Here’s how some of Biden’s possible vice presidential contenders responded to this week’s events:
Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris has been highly visible and vocal in recent days as protests persist in D.C. The California senator joined protests against police brutality in the district, and less than one week after fellow veep contender, Florida Rep. Val Demings, wrote an attention-grabbing op-ed about the need for police reform, Harris released her own, writing in Cosmopolitan, "in times like this, silence is complicity.”
Harris was also busy on Capitol Hill Thursday, making an emotional speech on the Senate floor about the urgency to pass anti-lynching legislation she helped craft. Harris is one of just three sitting black senators.
Rep. Val Demings: Demings appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres show on Friday and said that being considered to be the first black woman vice president is an honor.
"The idea that I am seriously being considered for such a critical position during such a critical time is exactly the kind of opportunities that I'm working hard for and others who join me. That's the kind of opportunities we're working hard for in this country and so it's an honor," Demings said.
Demings' national profile rose when she was chosen as one of the House's impeachment managers earlier this year, and she previously served as Orlando's police chief — giving her, and potentially Biden as a joint ticket, a unique perspective on relationships between police and people of color.
Stacey Abrams: Abrams said on Thursday that her “responsibility is to fix the systems” to provoke change, rather than joining protestors and possibly distracting from their efforts. Like Harris, Abrams also wrote an op-ed about systemic racial injustice.
The New York Times op-ed stressed the need for those dismayed by the latest displays of police brutality to vote as “a first step in a long and complex process.”
Abrams also plugged her experience as “the first black woman ever to win a primary for governor for a major political party in American history” in 2018. Increasing minority voter turnout, particularly in states like Georgia, could be highly valuable for the Biden campaign.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has dealt with renewed criticism of her time as a prosecutor in Hennepin County, Minn. — where George Floyd was killed.
This week she inserted herself into the public calls for more charges against the police officers involved in Floyd’s death. Klobuchar announced the harsher charges on the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck before Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison did, as well as the charges against the three other officers present at the scene.
While Klobuchar has called for justice in this case, it may not do much to keep her in top consideration for the veep slot, especially when last week, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn said, "We are all victims sometimes of timing, and some of us benefit tremendously from timing. This is very tough timing for Amy Klobuchar, who I respect very much."
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: The Michigan governor, who Biden has routinely praised for her coronavirus response, has been scrutinized for her extensive lockdown decisions amid the pandemic but was seen attending a large protest this week.
In May, Whitmer said that anti-lockdown protests, which included armed men and women in the state Capitol, were “not an exercise of democratic principles where we have free speech.”
However, on Thursday, she marched in a police brutality protest and told protestors, “elections matter," and, "we cannot be defeated. We must move forward together. When we do that, we cannot be defeated.”
On Tuesday, Whitmer defended her strict enforcement of keeping private businesses shut in a New York Times op-ed.
“Fighting the coronavirus isn’t only a matter of public health. It is a matter of civil rights,” Whitmer wrote.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
State ethics board votes to hold Hickenlooper in contempt after refusing to testify at hearing
Colorado's state ethics commission voted to hold former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in contempt for refusing to testify at an ethics hearing Thursday despite a subpoena, even after the former governor's lawyer ultimately announced Hickenlooper would relent and testify later this month.
The governor did not attend Thursday's hearing, an almost six-hour proceeding held online because of the coronavirus. He had argued for an in-person hearing, warning that a virtual one into whether he violated the state's gift ban while in office would violate his right to due process.
A local district court judge declined to quash the subpoena on Wednesday.
As Thursday's meeting crept toward a close, Hickenlooper's lawyer, Mark Grueskin, announced that Hickenlooper would relent and appear, although not on Thursday. He offered June 16 as a possible date on which the governor would appear.
"The governor hears the gravity of the concerns and is very much committed to the commission process. And it is not his first choice, as you know, but he has indicated to me he will comply with the subpoena," Grueskin said.
But that reversal did not quell a frustrated commission. Elizabeth Espinosa Krupa, the group's chair, told Grueskin that she wasn't "willing to wait until the 16th."
William Leone, the commission's vice-chair, criticized Hickenlooper for his "disrespect for the circumstances," as well as the waste of time and money he said the former governor's refusal to appear caused the commission and others.
Ultimately, the five-member commission unanimously voted to hold Hickenlooper in contempt and pick back up with the hearing on Friday. The commission didn't decide on any punishment for its finding of Hickenlooper in contempt, but raised possibilities like imposing fines and other process consequences.
It's unclear whether Hickenlooper will appear Friday, although Melissa Miller, a Hickenlooper spokesperson, said in a statement "he remains ready to appear."
"As reported, today’s meeting was a 'massive technical mess,' confirming concerns we’ve raised for months. In order to put an end to the partisan political circus orchestrated by a dark money Republican group, Governor Hickenlooper offered to testify, and though that was rejected, he remains ready to appear," she said.
The ethics complaint that prompted the hearing centers on whether Hickenlooper violated the state's gift ban over the course of a handful of trips taken while governor. It was originally filed by the nonprofit Public Trust Institute — Frank McNulty, a former Republican state House speaker, is the group's director who signed the complaint. The former governor could face a fine if the commission finds he violated the ban.
Hickenlooper and his attorneys have denied the charges, and they say the decision to initially defy the subpoena was based on concerns about the virtual format not affording him his rights, not an unwillingness to testify.
"[Hickenlooper] has made clear he will testify in person. Today's debacle of a hearing has made clear that WebEx doesn't work for a legal proceeding like this. We will be opposing the motion to enforce the subpoena," Miller tweeted Thursday before the governor's reversal.
The commission did face a number of technical glitches during Thursday's virtual hearing, including witnesses interrupted by audio and internet connectivity issues, as well as background noise, including an unknown virtual attendee's dog barking.
Hickenlooper is running to oust Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, and faces a primary challenge from former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
Republican groups, both local and national, criticized Hickenlooper's lack of testimony in a flurry of statements Thursday.
"It’s a huge slap in the face to Coloradans that Hickenlooper doesn’t have enough respect for our laws to show up at his own hearing. Someone who uses every legal trick in the book to avoid testifying, like Hickenlooper has, doesn’t give the impression of innocence," Colorado Rising PAC executive director Michael Fields said in a statement.
Colorado Rising is affiliated with the national America Rising PAC, a conservative group that primarily does opposition research on Democratic candidates.
Trump super PAC launches multi-million dollar ad campaign in three battleground states
WASHINGTON — President Trump's top allied super PAC, America First Action, has begun airing three new ads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as part of a $7.5 million ad campaign aimed at chipping away at former Vice President Joe Biden in key swing states.
The group hits Biden in Michigan and Wisconsin on the loss of manufacturing jobs to China.
And the Pennsylvania ad warns Biden's climate plan would cost fossil fuel jobs in the state.
The super PAC is spending $1.75 million in Michigan's Traverse City, Flint and Grand Rapids markets; $2.25 million in Wisconsin's Wausau, La Crosse/Green Bay and Milwaukee markets; and $3.5 million in Pennsylvania's Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Erie and Wilkes-Barre markets. Those spending figures also include digital and mail ads, as well as television advertising, from Thursday through the July 4th weekend.
Many of those markets cover places Trump won significantly in 2016, and will need to perform well in again to hold the pivotal states in 2020. The Trump campaign just finished a $5 million TV buy that flooded the airwaves in many of those markets too.
Republicans have significantly outspent Democrats over the past week in the presidential race— $5.3 million to $1.9 million on TV and radio between May 27 and June 3, according to Advertising Analytics. With the Biden campaign dark on the airwaves, the top Democratic spender over that span has been the pro-Biden Priorities USA super PAC.
Biden campaign releases digital ad on Floyd protests, swipes at Trump
The one-minute digital ad, released both in English and Spanish, features portions of Biden’s recent speech on civic unrest and though it does not mention President Donald Trump explicitly, Biden suggests that he’s failing to lead at a pivotal moment as the ad shows images of the president, including him holding the Bible.
“I promise you this, I won't traffic in fear and division. I won't fan the flames of hate,” Biden says in the ad over photos of Trump. “I'll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use it for political gain.”
The ad continues with Biden vowing to take responsibility as president, saying that the job is about the American people, not just him.
When Biden says it’s incumbent on Americans to “build a better future,” something that he describes as “the most American thing we do,” pictures of Biden from his meetings with African American leaders in Wilmington and Philadelphia are shown to contrast what he has done in the days after the killing of George Floyd with the recent actions of Trump.
The Biden campaign says the ad will play statewide in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and target “key constituencies that we need to persuade and turn out like younger and more diverse voters in these battleground states.”
While this is the campaign’s fourth digital ad in battleground states since they pivoted to a digital-only approach due to the pandemic, it’s the first ad to discuss Biden’s leadership outside of the coronavirus lens. The campaign has not spent any money on TV ads, leaving the spending to numerous pro-Biden Super PACs.
Gun violence grows during coronavirus pandemic group's data shows
WASHINGTON — A Family Dollar Store security guard murdered in a dispute over wearing a face mask. A coronavirus researcher in Pennsylvania gunned down in an apparent murder suicide. A woman shooting up an Oklahoma McDonald’s after being told the dining area was closed.
Those incidents — all happening within the last month — underscore new data showing that the nation’s gun violence epidemic has grown since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The new data also shows those statistics could soar even higher amidst the protests over George Floyd's killing.
Firearm fatalities increased significantly in April (16 percent) and May (15 percent) compared to the same months in 2019, even while many Americans spent their days sheltered at home, according to new data from the Gun Violence Archive compiled exclusively for NBC News. Those deaths followed unprecedented spikes in gun purchases in March, a trend that continued in April.
"May 2020 has officially had the highest number of mass shootings (56) of any month since we started tracking mass shooting data in 2013,” the Gun Violence Archive said on May 31. The study defines mass shootings as four or more shot and/or killed in a single event.
The group’s data shows that the increase in gun violence is particularly ravaging communities in urban areas.
“You have increased unemployment, the stress of the virus, the stress of having to be at home in communities with high infection rates,” said Igor Volsky, director of Guns Down America. “All of that is like a pressure cooker.”
In some places, it’s even complicating emergency room efforts to treat coronavirus patients, according to Dr. Bellal Joseph, a trauma division chief at the College of Medicine in Tucson, Arizona.
“COVID-19 and gun violence are like super infections. Together they are more deadly,” Joseph said in a new video calling on Congress to close loopholes in the background check system and provide more funding for domestic violence services in the next round of coronavirus relief.
The video is part of an effort organized by Volsky’s group — a broad coalition of organizations including March for Our Lives, Bishops United and the Women’s March galvanizing the legislative push.
“We see many of these patients get infected with COVID-19 while they’re in the hospital,” Joseph said of victims of gun violence.
And some cities are being hit especially hard. In Cincinnati, homicides are more than doubling what they were in 2019. In Louisville, shootings are up 82 percent from 2019. The week after its stay-at-home order took effect, Philadelphia saw 40 shooting incidents, about twice what it typically sees. And Jacksonville, Fla. experienced 17 homicides in March, making it the deadliest March in 15 years.
The House passed legislation with new funding for suicide and domestic violence prevention, but the bill did not include additional funds for frontline violence prevention workers or public education “panic-buying” during the pandemic or loopholes in the gun background check system. It is also unclear whether the Senate will take any of the bill up in session.
According FBI data, there were 3.7 million background checks done in March — which is the most for a single month since the system began in 1998. And federally licensed firearm dealers requested over one million more background checks than they did in March 2019. The trend continued in April, with a 72 percent increase in estimated total number of gun sales-related background checks from April 2019.
The rush of new gun purchases coincided with reports of major increases in domestic violence calls to local police departments and domestic abuse hotlines. Forty-eight states are reporting increases in calls to police or domestic violence hotlines, with some counties seeing spikes as high as 70 percent (Los Angeles County) and 80 percent (Florida’s Treasure Coast) compared to the same month last year.
In April, three researchers warned that the nation is "primed for a suicide epidemic triggered by COVID-19."
“This continued surge in gun sales is bringing new risks into American homes that will linger long after the pandemic,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. “The risks are particularly high for the millions of kids in homes with unsecured guns, women sheltering in place with abusers and anyone who is struggling psychologically during this crisis.”
On March 28, the Department of Homeland Security deemed gun stores essential businesses, issuing and advisory to states. On April 10th, the administration issued a new rule allowing federally licensed firearm dealers to provide curbside service and sell guns through drive-throughs.
Now some states are even moving to loosen regulations. The Missouri legislature just voted to require all elementary and secondary schools to allow concealed guns in school by requiring each school to designate a “school protection officer.”
Joe Biden up 11 over President Trump in new poll
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump by 11 points, and wins support from a majority of registered voters, in a new national poll from Monmouth University.
The new poll, which has Biden with 52 percent support and Trump at 41 percent, shows an increase in Biden's lead over the past three months of Monmouth polling, albeit mostly within the margin of error. Biden led by 9 points in May, 4 points in April and 3 points in March.
While Trump and Biden have a strong hold on members of their own party (and those who identify as conservative and liberal respectively), Biden has clear, double-digit leads among independents and moderates.
Biden is winning majority or plurality support from most demographic breakdowns in the poll.
He holds majority support from Democrats, independents, liberals, moderates, women, voters between the ages of 18-34, voters between the age of 35-49, voters 65 years old and older, voters making less than $50,000, voters making more than $100,000 and non-white voters.
The Democrat also has a plurality with male voters and those making between $50,000 and $100,000.
Trump has majority support from Republicans, conservatives, voters between the ages 50-65, and non-Hispanic whites.
Fifty-seven percent of voters view Trump unfavorably, compared to 38 percent who view him favorably. For Biden, his unfavorable rating is 49 percent and his favorable rating is 42 percent. Both candidates have seen a dip in their favorability from recent Monmouth polls.
While most of the poll interviews took place before Trump's visit to St. John's Church, which came after protestors were forcibly cleared so that Trump could walk to the church from the White House, more voters have confidence in Biden to handle race relations than in Trump.
Fifty-two percent of voters say they have at least some confidence in Biden to handle race relations (17 percent say a great deal, 35 percent say some), while 40 percent say the same about Trump (22 percent say great deal, 18 percent say some).
“The race continues to be largely a referendum on the incumbent. The initial reaction to ongoing racial unrest in the country suggests that most voters feel Trump is not handling the situation all that well," Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institut director, said.
As America still tries to manage the coronavirus pandemic, the new poll finds voters split on how it will affect Trump's reelection chances, although voters are more pessimistic about the impact on Trump than they were in April's poll.
Thirty-eight percent of voters say Trump's handling of the outbreak makes it less likely for him to be elected, compared to 31 percent who felt that way in April. Eighteen percent said it makes Trump more likely to be elected, compared to 27 percent from April.
But a plurality, 41 percent, said the handling of coronavirus makes no difference as to Trump's reelection chances, up from 36 percent in April.
Monmouth polled 742 registered voters by phone from May 28 through June 1. The results have a +/- 3.6 percentage point margin of error.
New poll: Majority believe anger that led to George Floyd protests justified
WASHINGTON — A majority of Americans say that the anger that has led to nationwide protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd is justified, and nearly six-in-ten now say that police officers are more likely to use excessive force against a black person than a white one when faced with a dangerous situation, according to a new Monmouth poll.
The poll finds that 57 percent of Americans believe that protestors’ anger is “fully justified,” while another 21 percent say it is “partially justified.” Just 18 percent say the anger motivating the protests is not justified at all.
The public expresses more ambivalence about specific actions taken in those protests, which have included the burning of a police precinct as well as looting in major cities. Just 17 percent said protestors’ actions are “fully” justified, although another 37 percent say they are “partially” justified.
The poll also notably found a jump in the public’s belief that black people face unequal treatment at the hands of police. Fifty-seven percent — including 87 percent of black Americans and 49 percent of white Americans — say that police are more likely to use excessive force with a black person than with a white person in the same situation. That’s up from just a third of Americans who said the same in a Monmouth poll of registered voters in 2016.
Additionally, three-quarters of Americans — 76 percent — now say racial discrimination is a major problem in America, up from 68 percent in 2016.
President Donald Trump’s job approval rating in the new survey shows 42 percent of the public approving and 54 percent disapproving. That’s a downtick — although within the poll’s margin of error — from a 43 percent to 51 percent split in May.
The Monmouth poll was conducted from May 28 to June 1 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
D.C. mayor 'not concerned' about voting going past city-wide curfew
WASHINGTON — D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she doesn't expect voters to have issues voting until polls close at 8 p.m. despite the city being under a 7 p.m. curfew on Tuesday.
"We know that people have been voting in this primary, which is today, since May 22. They know the hours, they have 22 voting locations all across the District of Columbia that they can go to, and polls are open until 8 p.m., and you won't have any problems going to vote," Bowser said.
Bowser's remarks come a day after peaceful protests in D.C. were aggressively broken up before the same 7 p.m. curfew went into effect on Monday night. According to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham, protestors were forcefully dispersed around the White House by federal police, not by D.C. police.
Bowser added that she is "not concerned about voters feeling scared" to vote at any point during the day.
The D.C. Board of Elections chose to focus on mail-in ballots and limiting the amount of in-person voting sites due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bowser said.
"There have been heavy requests for mail-in ballots, and a lot of people across the District of Columbia have voted," Bowser said. She also noted that early in-person voting has been open since May 22.
Because of the emphasis on mail-in ballots, Bowser also cautioned that it would be unlikely for D.C. to announce election winners on Tuesday night.
Rep. Steve King on the ropes and other Tuesday races to watch
WASHINGTON — Amid the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests following the death of George Floyd, primary contests will take place Tuesday in eight states, as well as the District of Columbia.
The race that has generated the most buzz is in Iowa’s 4th Congressional district where controversial GOP Rep. Steve King is getting a primary challenge from state Sen. Randy Feenstra. With all of the news and discussion about race in America, the verdict of Iowa Republicans will be significant. But there are several other notable down-ballot primaries occurring outside of the Hawkeye State’s fourth House district.
Here are the contests on the NBC News political unit’s radar:
Iowa Senate: Democrats will pick their Senate nominee Tuesday to face GOP Sen. Joni Ernst in the fall. The favorite is businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, and national Democrats feel confident that she’ll get the 35 percent-plus needed to avoid a party convention to decide the nomination.
Montana Governor: In Montana’s race to replace term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock (who’s running for Senate), Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte — who assaulted political reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017 — is competing in the GOP gubernatorial primary against state Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski. The Democrats running for governor are Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and businesswoman Whitney Williams.
New Mexico’s 2nd District: Republicans Yvette Herrell and Claire Chase are competing in a GOP primary for the right to take on Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small — who flipped the seat in 2018 — in the fall. A Democratic group has been airing TV ads in the race in an apparent attempt to put a thumb on the scale for Herrell and against Chase.
New Mexico’s 3rd District: Former CIA officer Valerie Plame is running in a crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (who’s running for the Senate). EMILY’s List has endorsed Teresa Leger Fernandez.
—Ben Kamisar and Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Biden vows to address institutional racism if elected
In the midst of the nationwide demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd while being knelt on by a Minneapolis police officer, former Vice President Joe Biden promised to address the protestors' anger by combating institutional racism and providing steps for their economic mobility if he’s elected in November.
Wearing a blue paper mask, Biden spent roughly an hour listening and taking notes on the concerns expressed by black community leaders gathered in Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., Monday. Though all fourteen leaders expressed support for Biden, they did not hold back on criticizing his role in passing the 1994 crime bill and in the Obama administration for not charting the path for the community to reach economic prosperity.
In response, Biden promised he would make sure that an economic relief package he tries to pass within the first 100 days of his presidency would correct the “institutional structures” and “economic structures” that the black community needs to succeed. Though he did not provide specifics, the apparent Democratic nominee said he will soon deliver “very serious national speeches” on how to revive the economy for everyone and lay out specific plans to address housing, education and access to capital.
He also committed himself to establishing a national police oversight board in his first 100 days to “fundamentally change” training and stamp out bias within the ranks.
The nationwide protests sparked by the tragic death of 46 year-old George Floyd has brought Biden more to the forefront of the conversation both literally and figuratively as he tries to broadcast himself as a possible consoler and listener-in-chief. Overnight protests in Wilmington this weekend prompted Biden to leave his home for the second time that week to visit the aftermath on Sunday. It also moved him to hold his first in-person campaign event Monday so he could be close enough to hear leaders concerns.
“You're the ones who trained me, I'm not being facetious, you really are. And so it's a good place for me to start," Biden said of why he chose to learn from members of his hometown rather than fly to protest hotspots.
Members of the community stressed to Biden that while they’re ready to help him, he needs to acknowledge that they are expecting something in return for their votes that helped springboard him to become the apparent Democratic nominee. Two people suggested that he start by choosing a black woman as his vice president.
While Biden did not commit to choosing a black running mate, he tried to reassure the community he would make the right choice because Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, the state’s first black female representative, is leading his vice presidential vetting committee.
Before wrapping his roughly 35 minute remarks, Biden acknowledged that fully stamping out racism to the community’s liking may be difficult to do under the terms of his presidency, if elected. He reminded listeners that changing the systemic racism in the judicial system requires voters electing a Democratic Senate so they can start appointing judges to balance the dozens of conservative ones that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shepherded through confirmation.
Biden then asked the community for help, acknowledging how they had always “given me hell when you thought I screwed up” and set him on the right course to best uplift black America.
“I know I make mistakes, but to quote an old Talmudic expression, 'what comes right from the heart goes straight to the heart' and it's going to come from the heart but I need help,” Biden said. “I need help and advice as we go along as to what I should, you think I should be doing.”
Kansas Senate primary field set as Pompeo sits race out
WASHINGTON — The field is set for the Republican Senate primary in Kansas, and it doesn't include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Despite speculation that he could run, Monday's filing deadline came and went.
Now, Republicans are left with a field of candidates who have traded bitter exchanges amid concerns from Republicans that the acrimonious primary could jeopardize their party's control of the seat.
Pompeo seemed to flirt with the idea of a run in his home state throughout the year, holding official events in Kansas as reports said he spoke with conservative activist Charles Koch about the race.
With the field set, the top GOP primary candidates are former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the gubernatorial race in 2018, and Rep. Roger Marshall, who's been endorsed by former Sen. Bob Dole.
To try and get their arms around a large, and brutal primary, the Kansas GOP went so far as to ask two candidates, Kansas Senate president Susan Wagle and former Johnson County Commissioner Dave Lindstrom, to drop out (Wagle ultimately did).
The Republican candidate will likely face off against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier. Bollier, a former Republican, has outraised all of the Republican candidates. And the GOP hasn't been pleased that Kobach could be leading their ticket again. When Kobach announced his candidacy, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said he'd be putting the Senate majority at risk.
“Just last year Kris Kobach ran and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and Senate Majority at risk,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said at the time. “We know Kansans won’t let that happen and we look forward to watching the Republican candidate they do choose win next fall.”
Outside groups spending big for Greenfield in Iowa with primary a day away
WASHINGTON — With Iowa's congressional primary elections one day away, Democratic groups are spending big money to help Democrat Theresa Greenfield over the finish line.
Greenfield has some big names in her corner — the DSCC, NARAL, EMILY's List, the Brady PAC, BOLD PAC and former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack are among her backers. And some of her key allies are flooding the airwaves ahead of Tuesday's Senate primary, where Democrats look to find their nominee to face off against Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.
In the past seven days, Women Vote! (a PAC aligned with EMILY's List), Senate Majority PAC and Greenfield’s campaign have spent almost $1.8 million on TV, Advertising Analytics shows. Greenfield's top opponents, Michael Franken and Eddie Mauro, have spent just $165,000 combined.
Mauro's recent ads have taken aim at Greenfield's business record, but his spending has been just a drop in the bucket when compared to the pro-Greenfield spending.
Franken's ad messaging has centered on his Des Moines Register endorsement and his biography, and don't take jabs at his opponents.
The big spending and influx of attack ads aimed at boosting Greenfield come in a race that has an uncommon wrinkle — if no candidate reaches 35 percent of the vote on Tuesday, the party will choose its nominee at its convention.
So Greenfield and her allies are trying to flood the zone in the race’s final days in the hopes of wrapping things up for good on Tuesday.
Demings: 'Long overdue' for nationwide review to address police misconduct
WASHINGTON — Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief, called Sunday for all law enforcement agencies to re-evaluate standards and practices in order to address police misconduct, a call that came after protests across the country related to the death of a man in Minnesota police custody last week.
Demings joined "Meet the Press" to discuss the protests regarding the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody last Monday after an officer, who has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck.
“Before, as we dealt with misconduct involving police officers, we’ve always tried to deal with it as an individual department or an individual city or an individual state. But I do believe the time has certainly come, we are overdue for us to look at the problem as a nation," she said.
"Every law enforcement agency in this nation, whether they are 10 persons or 35,000 persons, need to review their hiring standards, their training standards, look at their de-escalation training that they are doing in their department, look at those officers who are training other officers."
The former police officer and Orlando Police chief has said she's being vetted as one of the candidates to be former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Demings asked her former police colleagues "What in the hell are you doing?"
"When an officer engages in stupid, heartless and reckless behavior, their actions can either take a life or change a life forever. Bad decisions can bring irrevocable harm to the profession and tear down the relationships and trust between the police and the communities they serve," she wrote.
Amid Floyd fallout, Clyburn says it's not the right time for Klobuchar to be named VP
WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Friday that he believes it’s not the right time to choose Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate in light of the developing events in Minnesota following the death of George Floyd.
While Clyburn acknowledged that Klobuchar “absolutely is qualified” to serve as vice president, he said that the protests that have erupted in her state this week have complicated her chances.
“We’re all victims sometimes of timing and some of us benefit tremendously from timing,” Clyburn said on a call with reporters Friday. “This is very tough timing for Amy Klobuchar, who I respect so much.”
Asked to clarify whether he believes her chances to be chosen are less likely today than they were a few weeks ago, Clyburn said: “That is the implication, yes.”
The senior congressman from South Carolina added that his belief is based on a “gut feeling,” not any personal conversations he has had with Biden or his campaign.
Klobuchar’s record as Hennepin County attorney has come under fire in recent days even though she has not been involved with the police officer who is being accused of killing Floyd. Even so, she has faced increased scrutiny from the African American community in numerous op-eds over the last week that say she should not be chosen as Biden’s vice president because of her lack of prosecuting police misconduct in Minnesota during her tenure.
Prior to ending her presidential campaign in early March, Klobuchar was forced to cancel a campaign event in St. Louis Park, Minn. because black activists overtook the stage to protest her decision to sentence a Minnesota teenager to life in prison for murder while serving as county attorney.
Clyburn, whose endorsement ahead of the South Carolina primary was credited with delivering a jolt of energy into Biden's campaign, did not say outright that this moment calls for Biden to pick an African American woman as his running mate.
However, Clyburn did speak highly of Democratic Florida Rep. Val Demings, who was formerly a police chief in Orlando.
“I think she's a very fine woman. I think she's a very qualified woman. She has the kind of compassion and sensitivity I would like to see in the last president,” he said.
President Trump to resume in-person fundraisers
WASHINGTON — After foregoing in-person fundraisers due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, President Trump is expected to resume the campaign staple in mid-June, according to a Republican National Committee official.
The president will participate in two high-dollar fundraisers next month: one on June 11 at a private home in Dallas — there will be approximately 25 guests and it will cost about $580,600 per couple to attend. The second will take place at Trump's Bedminster, N.J. golf club on June 13. There will also be about 25 attendees and each person will pay $250,000 to attend. POLITICO first reported the campaign's decision.
“Trump Victory’s top priority is ensuring the safety of President Trump and our attendees, and that includes testing all attendees as well as several other safety measures that align with CDC’s guidance,” the RNC official explained.
The White House Medical Unit and U.S. Secret Service will also evaluate all attendees in order for them to be admitted to the event. All attendees will have to test negative for coronavirus on the day of the fundraiser, complete a wellness questionnaire and pass a temperature screening.
The costs of the tests will be covered by Trump Victory, the joint fundraising committee that includes the Trump campaign, RNC and 22 state parties. Each event site will be “professionally cleaned and sanitized” prior to the fundraisers, according to the RNC official.
Trump last attended an in-person fundraiser on March 9 in Orlando, Fla.
Biden's VP list narrows and unrest in Minnesota enters discussion
WASHINGTON — Another week of veepstakes news and speculation is ending as apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he hopes to pick his running mate by Aug. 1 and that his team continues to be steeped in the vetting process.
While New Mexico Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina to be elected to the U.S. Senate, formally withdrew from the V.P. selection process Thursday, others vying for the job have put their markers out. Here are some of this week's developments.
Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris: Sens. Warren and Harris will have a chance to prove their ability to share a stage with Biden — albeit virtually — at the Texas Democratic convention next week where both are set to speak ahead of Biden’s concluding address.
The upcoming event could be seen as a trial run for Biden’s eventual nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Not only is there a possibility for the Democratic convention to be held virtually in August, it could be either Warren or Harris speaking before Biden as his running mate. Plus, any V.P. pick will be campaigning in places in Biden’s absence, and Texas could be a red state that his campaign looks to play.
Amy Klobuchar and Val Demings: The death of George Floyd in Minnesota this week, and the ensuing fallout, have also called attention to the resumes of two other veep contenders.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who represents Minnesota, also once served as chief prosecutor for Hennepin County — the county now charged with investigating Floyd’s death. While Klobuchar has not worked as an attorney for the county since 2007, upon her election to the Senate, the focus on the county’s police force renews criticism that she had a poor record on prosecuting police brutality cases.
During an MSNBC interview, Klobuchar was asked if she’d withdraw from the vetting process due to the crisis in Minnesota. Klobuchar left it up to Biden himself to decide.
“He's going to make the best decision for him, for our country, for the pandemic and the crisis we're facing,” Klobuchar said.
She added, “With his strong support and understanding of the African American community, he will make that decision.”
The latest in Minnesota has also put a spotlight on Florida Rep. Val Demings. Demings served as the chief of police in Orlando and could offer Biden unique insight as an African American woman with a law enforcement background. In an op-ed in The Washington Post Friday, Demings detailed her experiences as a black police officer and called for a nationwide review of police practices.
“As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?,” Demings wrote.
Michelle Lujan Grisham and Gretchen Whitmer: These two governors may have seen their stocks fall in the veepstakes this week after their personal activities during the coronavirus pandemic made for unappealing headlines.
In New Mexico, non-essential businesses, like retail stores, are still closed. But according to local news reports, Lujan Grisham purchased jewelry from a store over the phone in April and an employee left the purchase outside of the store for someone else to pick up. However, curbside pickup for retailers was not allowed until earlier this month. Lujan Grisham’s office says no laws were broken.
In Michigan, Gov. Whitmer’s husband reportedly used Whitmer’s status to try and get a business to place his boat in the water before Memorial Day Weekend. Whitmer called the name-drop a “failed attempt at humor.”
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Despite Trump's threats, Charlotte convention preparations continue
WASHINGTON — Despite President Donald Trump’s continued threats to yank the Republican National Convention from North Carolina, GOP officials and the state’s Democratic governor are preparing adjustments for the mass gathering to take place in Charlotte, as planned, and there haven’t been any serious discussions with new venues in other states yet, according to people involved in the discussions.
And NBC News obtained a letter from top Republican officials to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, dated Thursday, on proceeding with the convention, asking the governor to sign off on some “safety protocols,” including pre-travel health surveys and thermal scans of all mandatory attendees.
Once the state signs off on these proposals, the RNC says it will move forward to plan the event in Charlotte. “We are asking for a partner in leadership to make this happen,” the letter says, which requests a response from the state by Wednesday.
The president, however, remains frustrated that his re-nominating convention may turn into a pared back event — deprived of the massive crowds that fuel him — due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, per two people close to the White House.
Trump arbitrarily set an unofficial deadline for Tuesday in a Rose Garden press conference last week, asking Cooper’s office to put forward proposals for an alternate convention plan, in consultation with Republican officials.
“We are still waiting for a plan from the RNC, but our office will work with state health officials to review the letter and share a response tomorrow,” a spokeswoman for the governor said.
But none of that will seemingly satisfy the president, who wants a full-scale event with no modifications, including open restaurants and bars where thousands of his supporters can congregate and celebrate, according to these people.
Trump’s warning and demands even caught his own Republican officials working on the event off guard, according to those involved in the conversations. Trump later walked back the intimidation slightly, saying he would still like the event to take place in North Carolina.
“We still want this to work out in Charlotte,” one person said, echoing the preference not to uproot an event several years in the making.
Last week, these people said, Republican National Committee officials acknowledged they would need to come up with contingencies plans and the re-elect effort is currently working on a new set of proposals for what a scaled-down event would look like.
These same people were surprised the president is mandating that those ideas be finalized this week, though the conversations were already underway for a smaller and safer convention in late August. The president hasn’t been shy about telling his aides he rejects this concept, according to a Republican familiar with the discussions.
Cooper’s office was expecting the suggestions “in the coming weeks,” ranging from an entirely virtual convention — which the president and RNC have stated is out of the question — to an in-person, four-day spectacle. That timeline has now been accelerated by the president’s ask for a solution “very soon.”
The North Carolina governor has long said any final decisions about how the political conference will be held will depend on health data and science, not the president’s desires.
For months, Trump has told people he wants to see his supporters packed shoulder to shoulder, which officials involved in the planning have acknowledged is close to impossible given current health concerns over the virus.
But the conflict allows Trump to blame Democrats if he doesn’t get the event he’s hoping for, according to those people.
“He wants it to be Cooper’s fault,” one person said.
Republicans are making a political calculation based on a belief Cooper will “blink” according to a senior administration official, who predicted it would cost him “a ton of good will, if not votes.” Failing to come to an agreement with the opposing party could leave “thousands of North Carolina businesses, contractors in the lurch” and deprive them of tens of millions of dollars.
There is an emergency provision that would the RNC to move the convention under extenuating circumstances, according to a former Senior White House official, and that could still be triggered late in the process.
Meanwhile, “the preference is to go full steam ahead with an in-person convention in Charlotte,” according to a White House official, stressing that a move to a new state would be unlikely at this stage.
“Time is of the essence and we will need some answers sooner rather than later, or be forced to consider other options. Given the major financial investments and anticipated revenues to the city and state, it should be Charlotte. But it can’t be Charlotte or nothing,” the official said.
Trump campaign committee Facebook ad draws mask on Biden
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election committee ran a Facebook ad on Thursday featuring former Vice President Joe Biden in a drawn-on mask as the president continues to poke at his Democratic rival's decision to wear a mask in public, a decision based on public health guidance.
While Biden is depicted in front of a Chinese flag wearing the mask, which says "Sleepy Joe" on it, Trump is maskless and in front of the American flag.
Trump's campaign ran the ad from his verified account and was paid for by the "Trump Make America Great Again Committee," a joint fundraising committee affiliated with both the campaign and the Republican National Committee. Facebook data shows that the campaign spent less than $100 promoting the ad.
The president has not donned a mask during any public events, but did during a private portion of his recent trip to a Ford plant in Michigan. This week, he retweeted a photo mocking Biden wearing a mask during a Memorial Day ceremony. And he tweeted an article by The Federalist warning that masks are about "social control," adding the commentary "So many different viewpoints."
Biden has been supportive of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that says people should cover their mouth and nose with "a face cover" when around other people in order to slow the spread of the virus. He changed his Twitter picture to one of him in a mask after Trump's tweet, and he recently appeared in a TikTok social media video with The Washington Post promoting mask use.
As Kansas Republicans squabble in Senate primary, Democrat pitches herself a 'sensible centrist'
WASHINGTON — While the Kansas Republican primary has been dominated by attack ads, calls for candidates to drop out and other partisan tensions, Democrat Barbara Bollier is going up on the air seeking to present herself as above the partisan fray.
In a new ad released this week, the state senator's campaign pitches herself as "a sensible centrist; a leading moderate voice; independent."
"At a time like this, we need a reasonable voice like hers in the U. S. Senate," the narrator says, adding she'll "work with both parties" on issues like health care and jobs.
Bollier, a former Republican, has raised the most money of any candidate on either side of the race so far — almost $3.5 million through March. And she is the far-and-away favorite to win the August Democratic Senate primary and face off against whoever wins the heated Republican primary.
That GOP primary has gotten chippy.
Some Republicans believe that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would cost their party the race if he wins the primary, pointing to his 2018 gubernatorial loss. And they're running ads to that effect.
But opponents of Rep. Roger Marshall are piling onto him too, as the state party chairman has called for a handful of other candidates to drop out so that voters can have a more clear choice. That's rubbed some people the wrong way.
The whole back and forth prompted state Sen. President Susan Wagle, one of those candidates asked by the chairman to drop out, to release an ad of her own framing her as above the "food fight" herself.
Biden condemns death of George Floyd, says black lives are 'under threat'
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden publicly condemned the “horrific killing” of George Floyd, which he says serves as a reminder to all Americans that racism still courses deeply through the country’s bloodstream.
“George Floyd’s life matters. It mattered as much as mine. It matters as much as anyone's in this country. At least it should have,” Biden said during a Wednesday livestream, expanding on his initial statement made in a Tuesday evening tweet.
He acknowledged that watching the video of 46-year-old Floyd being pinned down to the ground by a police officer’s knee triggered the memory of Eric Garner who also died at the hands of police. Though both black men died almost six years apart, Garner and Floyd each repeatedly told police that they could not breathe while being pinned to the ground, ultimately playing a role in their deaths that reignited public outcries of racist-motivated police attacks.
Biden said Floyd’s passing is the latest “tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but a part of an ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country.”
“It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and in dignity, and it sends a very clear message to the black community and to black lives that are under threat every single day,” he added.
The apparent Democratic nominee’s condemnation of Floyd’s death came during a virtual discussion with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who endorsed him ahead of the state’s primary next Tuesday. Besides discussing Floyd’s death, they also spoke about the persistent inequalities in the U.S. that have been exposed to a greater degree as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If some of us can't count on our freedom, some of us are not free. None — none of us is,” Wolf said. “And we have got to make sure that is something that all of us, every single American, recognizes is something that gets to the heart of our self-interest.”
While Biden applauded the Minneapolis mayor’s decision to fire the officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, he said the move wasn’t enough and that an investigation by the FBI and DOJ is necessary to “ensure that the Floyd family received the justice they are entitled to.”
Biden, who recently faced renewed criticism for how he speaks about the African American community, has regularly mentioned the need to get the country to a place where black parents can feel confident that their children — regardless of age — can walk safely on the streets without having to worry about them getting stopped or even killed by police.
“I don't think we can move forward unless we take aggressive action to rip out the insidious race-based inequalities that corrupt every part of our society,” Biden said.
The most expensive 2020 Senate races so far, by ad spending
WASHINGTON — As Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, the political calendar shifts to a smattering of primaries that will set the stage for the key Senate races this cycle.
But while voters haven't chosen nominees in many contests yet, there's already been more than $133 million spent on TV and radio advertising in Senate races so far, according to Advertising Analytics.
Here are the top ten most expensive Senate races so far, by ad spending:
- Maine: $25.6 million
- North Carolina: $20.9 million
- Iowa: $13.3 million
- Michigan: $13 million
- Kentucky: 12.4 million
- Georgia (special election for the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson): $10.1 million
- Arizona: $9.3 million
- Alabama: $6.1 million
- Colorado: $5.4 million
- Texas: $4.2 million
Joe Biden nabs AFL-CIO endorsement
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee, earned the AFL-CIO's endorsement on Tuesday.
The organization, which says it has about 12.5 million members across 55 union groups, said in a press release announcing the endorsement that it plans to draw contrasts between Biden and President Trump's union records up until the general election.
"Joe Biden is a lifelong supporter of workers and has fought his entire career for living wages, health care, retirement security and civil rights,” president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka said in the statement. “Our members know Joe has done everything he could to create a fairer process for forming and joining a union, and he is ready to fight with us to restore faith in America and improve the lives of all working people.”
The group highlighted "Trump’s record of slashing rules designed to protect us on the job, cutting workplace health and safety inspectors to their lowest level in history, and taking away overtime pay from millions of workers" as points they intend to make against the president.
Trump and Trumka traded jabs in September 2019 when Trumka criticized the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. The president responded that union members should stop paying their dues in protest. The president has made a play for union workers both during the 2016 election and the 2020 election, and has made recent trips to factories in battleground states producing personal protective and medical equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden's campaign has often touted the former vice president's support for unions — and it's usual for him to use lines like, "The country wasn't built by Wall Street, CEOs and hedge fund managers, it was built by you, the American middle class and the middle class is built by unions," at rallies and events.
—Marianna Sotomayor contributed.
Democratic super PAC wades into New Mexico GOP primary
Patriot Majority PAC has booked $150,055 worth of ads set to hit the television airwaves between Tuesday and next week’s June 2 Republican primary in New Mexico’s second House District, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
A recent ad from the group depicts former state legislator Yvette Herrell as loyal to President Trump and criticizes her GOP rival, oil executive Claire Chase, for once labeling the president “unworthy of the office.”
“She's 100 percent loyal to Trump, backed by 11 pro-gun sheriffs and Cowboys for Trump, and she's even for Trump's border wall,” a narrator says of Herrell, ticking through some popular characteristics among Republican voters.
By underlining Herrell’s pro-Trump credentials and attacking Chase as disloyal, the Democratic group is echoing Herrell’s own strategy in the primary.
The spot has come under fire from some Republicans, including Chase, who suggested in a letter issued Sunday that the Democratic group is attempting to boost the GOP candidate they view as weaker against Democratic incumbent Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who flipped the seat as part of the 2018 blue wave. Torres Small narrowly defeated Herrell that year.
“The group has a history of meddling in GOP primaries to support candidates they view as less electable in general elections,” the letter reads, according to the Associated Press.
Herrell disavowed the spot, per the AP, saying in a statement that, “Liberal Super PACs have no business getting involved in this primary, and they should stop immediately.”
Patriot Majority PAC’s heavy spending comes as the contest has gotten more controversial — and personal.
Earlier this month, Chase demanded that her opponent drop out of the contest after spreading what Chase argues are false rumors about her first marriage.
Herrell denied the accusations and stressed that she’d stay in the race.
The contest has drawn significant outside spending. GOP super PAC Defending Main Street, which is backing Chase, has booked $85,200 to spend in the race’s final week. Another anti-Herrell group, Citizens for a United New Mexico, has booked approximately $61,000 for the final week, with the anti-Chase Make New Mexico Great PAC and House Freedom Action booking about $61,000 and $56,000 respectively.
The campaigns of Herrell and Chase are scheduled to spend only $26,000 and $24,000 on TV and radio waves during the culminating week of the primary respectively, Advertising Analytics shows. However, it’s possible more money may pour into the heated race in its final days.
—Ben Kamisar contributed.
The NBC Political Unit's Senate primaries and run-offs to watch
WASHINGTON — The battle for control of the Senate is on in November, but before vulnerable senators have to defend their seats, there are a few more primaries to watch out for this summer.
Here are the Senate races that the NBC News Political Unit has eyes on over the next few months.
- Iowa Senate Democratic Primary: Who will take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst in the fall? Theresa Greenfield is the favorite, but the Des Moines Register has endorsed rival Mike Franken, and there are three other candidates on the ballot, too. If Greenfield doesn’t get to 35 percent support, the nomination will be decided by a party convention later in June.
- Montana Senate Democratic Primary: How much strength will Gov. Steve Bullock show in his likely lockup of the nomination to face GOP Sen. Steve Daines?
- Georgia Senate Democratic Primary: Former special House election candidate Jon Ossoff competes against former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, former Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico, and others for the chance to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. If no one gets 50 percent, there’s a runoff August 11.
- South Carolina Senate Democratic Primary: Jaime Harrison hopes for a strong showing as he preps for an expected run against GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.
- Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary: Well-funded Democrat Amy McGrath wants a solid performance in the primary as she prepares a general election run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- Colorado Senate Democratic Primary: Former governor and onetime White House hopeful John Hickenlooper is the heavy favorite against progressive and past Senate and House candidate former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.
- Alabama Republican Senate Run-off: Jeff Sessions wants his old Senate seat back, but President Trump endorsed former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner takes on vulnerable Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
- Maine Senate Democratic Primary: State House Speaker Sara Gideon is the favorite for the nod to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Susan Collins.
- Texas Senate Democratic Run-off: Deep-pocketed M.J. Hegar is fighting against longtime state Sen. Royce West before taking on Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
- Arizona Senate Democratic Primary: Mark Kelly has to dispatch a challenge from his left in order to face Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the cycle’s marquee races.
- Kansas Senate Republican Primary: Some Republicans fear that if polarizing candidate Kris Kobach wins the Republican primary, they risk losing this open seat in November. The likely Democratic nominee is a state senator and former Republican, Barbara Bollier.
- Michigan Senate Republican Primary: Republicans think likely nominee John James is a rising star in the party. He’ll likely take on Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in a state where coronavirus has had a huge impact.
- Tennessee Senate Republican Primary: This contest will likely decide Tennessee’s next senator in a reliably red seat. The frontrunner to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander is former ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty.
The NBC Political Unit's House primaries to watch
WASHINGTON — While the pandemic has upended the primary calendar this election season, there are still a whole lot of interesting primary races that will either set the stage for high-profile general election battles or effectively decide who will join Congress.
Here's a breakdown of the House primaries that the NBC Political Unit is watching.
- IA-01: Republicans are looking for a candidate to knock off freshman Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, with current state Rep. Ashley Hinson backed by the state's Republican governor and lieutenant governor.
- IA-04: Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is fighting for his political life, with his opponents hoping Randy Feenstra can end King's political career.
- NM-02: The fight between Republicans Yvette Herrell and Claire Chase has gotten nasty and personal. The winner faces Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.
- GA-14: In this crowded field for a solidly Republican open seat, the contest has featured some vastly different messaging on the coronavirus pandemic.
- SC-01: Democrat Joe Cunningham unexpectedly flipped this seat blue in 2018. A handful of Republicans want to be the one to win it back, including state Rep. Nancy Mace, an author endorsed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing, backed by former Sen. Jim DeMint.
- NV-03: In another swing district, a crowded field of Republicans faces off for the chance to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Susie Lee.
- NV-04: Incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who recently admitted to an extramarital affair, faces a handful of challengers in the Democratic primary as well as a group of Republicans looking to defeat him in November.
- VA-5 GOP convention: This Republican district convention will decide an ugly contest between challenger Bob Good and incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman, who took heat with conservatives for officiating a same-sex marriage.
- KS-04: Incumbent GOP Rep. Thomas Massie was publicly blasted by President Trump for holding up an early coronavirus relief bill. His primary opponent, Todd McMurtry, is an attorney who represented Covington Catholic High School in a defamation suit against CNN.
- NY-14: Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aims to bat down a primary challenge from former CNBC reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and others.
- NY-16: Progressive challenger and high school principal Jamaal Bowman hopes to topple longtime incumbent Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel.
- OK-05: Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn shocked political observers by flipping this seat in 2018. The GOP primary decides who will face her in November.
- NJ-02: After Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched parties to join the GOP, Democrats are eager for revenge. They just have to pick a candidate first.
- KS-03: A handful of Republicans are vying to take on Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids.
- MI-13: “Squad” member Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib faces a rematch against Brenda Jones, who briefly held this seat in 2018.
- MN-05: Another “Squad” member, Rep. Ilhan Omar, faces a field that includes political newcomer Antone Melton-Meaux, who argues he’d offer more low-key representation for the district.
- MN-07: Republicans have been unable to unseat Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson despite his district going for President Trump by 30 points in 2016. Who will take him on in 2020?
While some veep contenders confirm they're being vetted, others make subtler moves
WASHINGTON — The selection process — and competition — for the vice presidential slot on the ticket with apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden intensified this week with several contenders confirming that they’re being vetted for the job. Though some potential picks were forthcoming about their ambitions, others made subtler moves hinting at possible interest in the job or further cooperation with the Biden camp.
In the past week alone, NBC News and other outlets have reported that the Biden campaign has asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, both New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and Florida Rep. Val Demings to provide the team with information required for the veep review process.
Shaheen and Demings left little to the imaginative race when Shaheen announced she declined Biden's offer to be vetted, while Demings claimed to be on the "shortlist."
Other rumored picks for the job haven’t been as outspoken about their running mate ambitions, if existent. Here’s a roundup of the past week’s veepstakes developments that went under the radar.
Harris: California Senator and Biden's former primary opponent Kamala Harris has long been floated as a possible VP pick, performing well in polling and proving to be a popular choice for the former vice president. Though Harris is set to headline an upcoming Biden fundraiser and has repeatedly voiced her support for the apparent Democratic nominee, she hasn’t publicly clamored for the job.
Tuesday however, the Biden campaign hired Julie Chávez Rodríguez — who once served as Harris’ 2020 co-national political director — as an adviser for Latino outreach. Notably, Rodríguez will continue serving as a Harris consultant while simultaneously working with Biden’s team. The hiring shouldn’t be read into too much but could signal further cooperation between the Harris and Biden camps.
Warren: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has expressed in the past that she’d agree to be on the ticket with Biden if asked and this week, she raised eyebrows by appearing to shift away from her position on Medicare for All — a primary policy focus of her 2020 campaign — and closer towards Biden’s health care plan.
"I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act," she said at a virtual University of Chicago Institute of Politics event.
Warren added that she hopes the United States will have a single payer health care system in the future, but the move could be viewed as an attempt to adopt a more moderate health care policy that builds on the Affordable Care Act instead of overhauling it, a position Biden backs and that Warren has previously criticized for not being ambitious enough.
Duckworth: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said one week ago that his fellow Illinois colleague in the Senate, Tammy Duckworth, will interview for the vice presidential slot soon, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"I support Tammy Duckworth. She’s spectacular, a great colleague and I hope that she fares well in this interview, which I think is going to take place soon,” Durbin said.
Duckworth, while a less high-profile contender compared to Warren and Harris, brings a unique perspective to the table as an Asian-American woman and Iraq War veteran who lost both legs after her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Duckworth hasn’t answered questions about whether she’d accept the veep offer directly but Durbin’s statement about the veteran could be considered meaningful given that he’s a longtime ally of Biden’s. In 2016, he publicly honored the former vice president before he left office.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Most Americans favor mail-in voting, here's how states are adapting
Sixty-three percent of registered voters favor mail-in voting for the November election due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Fox News poll. While President Trump has argued that mail-in voting would lead to fraudulent ballots, several states already allow all mail-in ballot elections, and even more states have loosened absentee voting rules due to the pandemic.
Here's the breakdown on how to vote by mail in each state:
Mail-in voting allowed
Before the coronavirus pandemic, 34 states, plus Washington D.C., already allowed mail-in voting or no-excuse absentee voting. In states like Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington every registered voter is automatically sent a mail-in ballot to fill out if they don't want to head to the polls.
In the other 16 states, registered voters need to provide an excuse, such as illness or temporarily living out of state, in order to qualify for an absentee ballot. Each state also has its own deadlines on how long before an election an absentee ballot must be requested. In a state like Georgia, which has no-excuse absentee voting, a voter must request their ballot 180 days before the election.
Several states have changed their absentee ballots rules for rescheduled primaries and/or the general election in November. In the 16 states that require excuses, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia lifted restrictions on what qualifies a voter for an absentee ballot for either the rescheduled primaries in June and July or for statewide elections in the same time period.
And in Georgia, while there's never an excuse needed, all registered voters were sent a mail-in ballot application for the state's May 19 primary. Similarly in Maryland and Delaware, all voters will receive a ballot for their new primaries.
In New Hampshire, restrictions have been lifted for the November election as well.
Ongoing fights for mail-in voting
While some states have yet to go forward with updating their absentee voting rules, there are many ongoing efforts to open up voting possibilities. In Texas, a federal judge ruled that all registered voters should qualify for a mail-in ballot during the pandemic — the state Attorney General is reviewing the order.
The Connecticut Secretary of State said they would send every registered voter an absentee ballot, however the state law has not been modified to allow those ballots to be counted if the voter doesn't have an excuse (like illness, age or temporary relocation) listed.
New Biden digital ad compares Trump to a 'deer in the headlights' on coronavirus
Joe Biden's presidential campaign Friday launched a new digital ad charging that President Donald Trump has reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights" and has been "too scared to act, too panicked to tell the truth, too weak to lead."
The one-minute ad, targeted to voters living in key battleground states, blasts Trump's reaction to the pandemic since its onset, charging that the president was “unprepared, indecisive, frozen” in place and “paralyzed by fear” to act against the Chinese government and risk ongoing trade deal negotiations.
“Panicked at the thought of what a stock market collapse could mean to his re-election, he failed to act and the virus got out of control and shut down the nation and crushed the economy,” the narrator says as images of frontline workers and Americans in masks waiting to get tested flash on the screen.
The ad will play across key battleground states including Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
This is the third consecutive digital ad in which the Biden campaign has honed in on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a message senior campaign aides announced last week is one of the defining pillars of their general election strategy.
The campaign has not run television advertisements since the March 17th primaries, pivoting its investments towards online spending in an effort to catch people on their laptops and phones while they stay-at-home.
In an effort to unlock the best way to immediately draw in viewers and keep them interested enough to watch the entirety of an ad, the campaign employed a new advertising technique called “micro-teasing” foe this new ad that they adopted from the entertainment industry.
The first five seconds are devoted to hooking in the viewer by previewing their core argument and contrasting the look of those first moments to the rest of the ad. “When the coronavirus came, Trump froze like a deer in the headlights,” a narrator says as the ad opens.
The campaign says it will continue to test different advertising strategies like this one in an effort to improve its video completion rates as it tries to find lasting ways to engage with supporters in the digital campaign era.
Conservative group launches new ads calling to 'reopen America now'
WASHINGTON — FreedomWorks, the conservative think tank based in Washington D.C., is running a new digital ad campaign aimed atginning up public support to "liberate" states and "reopen society."
The group started running four different ads on Hulu Wednesday as part of a $50,000 digital ad buy targeting Republicans and independents across the country while also focusing on D.C.
The ads are all similar. They largely begin by arguing that the mortality rates for COVID-19 infection are significantly lower for those under the age of 65 and without pre-existing conditions, before issuing a call to action for the young and healthy to push for a reopening.
"This disease is horrible, and it is our American duty to take care of the vulnerable. If you are healthy, it's time to demand we get back to work to support our families and communities," the woman speaking to camera in one ad says.
"Let's be brave and we'll get through this together. Start making a difference by telling your governor to liberate your state and reopen society," she adds, directing viewers to text a message of support for reopening.
The spot comes as the political pressure on reopening is ramping up — President Trump has repeatedly called on Democratic governors to "liberate" their states, and there have been a handful of protests in states calling for governors to relax coronavirus-related restrictions amid record unemployment numbers.
Recent polling from Gallup shows that social-distancing has decreased as states begin to move toward relaxing some restrictions.
But that even so, 73 percent of adults say it's better for healthy adults to stay home "as much as possible to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus," compared to the 27 percent who say it's better to "lead their normal lives as much as possible and avoid interruptions to work and business."
Jeanne Shaheen takes herself out of veepstakes
WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., declined a request from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to be vetted as a potential running mate, a source with direct knowledge told NBC News. She cited her “commitment to New Hampshire” as she runs for her third Senate term this year.
It’s the latest indication that Biden’s vetting work is well underway. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the first possible candidate to publicly disclose this week that she has been in touch with Biden’s team. During a "Today" interview she said, “it was just an opening conversation.” Biden has said he expects the vetting process to take five to eight weeks, which would point to an announcement occurring no sooner than July.
“They're now in the process of thoroughly examining a group of women, all of whom are capable in my view of being president. And there's about a dozen of them,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser last week. "We're keeping the names quiet because if anyone isn't chosen I don't want anybody to think it’s because there was something that was a — some liability that existed."
The Biden team's interest in Shaheen was first reported by WMUR political reporter John DiStaso, who has also reported that Maggie Hassan, the state’s other Democratic senator, has agreed to be vetted by the Biden campaign, something NBC News has not confirmed.
NBC News learned that there were multiple conversations between Shaheen and Biden representatives over the last two weeks — specifically with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who are part of the Biden vetting operation.
While Shaheen, who also served three terms as New Hampshire's governor, hasn't been listed as a top possibility, Biden mentioned her multiple times as one of women he might consider. At a campaign event in Iowa last November, Biden cited “the two senators from New Hampshire” as possibilities.
However, there are key factors as to why Shaheen may have declined the opportunity: At 73-years-old, she does not offer an obvious generational balance to the ticket and she's ideologically more moderate. Additionally, if Shaheen were to be Biden's running mate, and Biden were to win in November, the Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu would appoint her replacement. This could hurt Democrats' chances at winning back the Senate.
Shaheen and Biden have known each other for decades. Shaheen's husband endorsed Biden before the New Hampshire primary and was an active local surrogate for him. Shaheen endorsed Biden in April once he became the apparent Democratic nominee.
Even though Shaheen will not be campaigning for Biden as a potential vice president, Biden will likely Biden depend on the strength of Shaheen’s formidable and time-tested political operation in New Hampshire. His campaign said last week that as they continue to build up their state-by-state operations, they would be seeking to supplement the work of strong Senate candidates rather than set up their own operations from scratch.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed.
A pandemic campaign is a lean campaign, and other campaign finance takeaways
WASHINGTON — Wednesday marked another monthly campaign finance deadline, where presidential campaigns and many committees filed their latest fundraising report through April.
Here are a few takeaways from the Political Unit.
A pandemic campaign is a lean campaign
There are real concerns among political strategists that the massive job losses and belt-tightening caused by the pandemic may leave campaigns strapped for cash.
But one benefit — the lack of a real campaign schedule is allowing former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump to stockpile cash away ahead of the fall.
Biden’s campaign raised $43.7 million and spent just $12.9 million, a healthy burn rate that allowed its cash-on-hand to swell from $26.4 million in March to $57.1 million at the end of April.
And the Trump campaign raised $16.9 million and spent $7.7 million, closing April with $107.7 million (Team Trump is also supported by a handful of other authorized groups as well).
Those numbers show Biden’s fundraising kicking into a steady gear as he knocked out his Democratic presidential rivals (he raised $46.7 million in March). And they show how the pandemic is allowing both sides to build up their resources.
Loeffler’s husband cuts big check for pro-Trump group
It’s been a busy few months in the news for Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
She’s been dogged by criticism of stock sales around the coronavirus pandemic. She’s argued her portfolio is handled by outside advisers, and a spokeswoman revealed last week that she had turned over information to the Justice Department about those sales.
All the while, she’s running in a competitive Senate primary where her opponent, Rep. Doug Collins, has repeatedly highlighted the controversy.
On Wednesday, FEC reports showed that Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher (the chairman of both the New York Stock Exchange and the Intercontinental Exchange), donated $1 million to the pro-Trump super PAC America First on April 29.
That was the second-largest individual check to the group (New Hampshire businessman Timothy Mellon gave $10 million).
The battle for Congress
New reports from the House and Senate campaign committees provide a temperature check on the race for both bodies come November.
Republicans have the slight cash edge on the Senate side — the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $11.5 million in April and has $37.8 million banked away. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $9 million and has $28.8 million in the bank.
On the House side, both groups virtually tied in fundraising, but it’s the Democrats with the big advantage in the bank.
The National Republican Congressional Committee raised just over $11.4 million, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee coming in just under that amount.
But the Democrats have $82.5 million banked away, while the Republican group has $52.3 million cash on hand.
Sanders still has a nice chunk of change
He may no longer be actively seeking the Democratic presidential nomination (even though his campaign has argued he’s still seeking delegates), but Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders still has a lot of money banked away from his presidential bid.
Sanders' April report shows he closed the month with almost $8.8 million in cash on hand, and that's after spending more than $1 million refunding donations to supporters.
He, and other presidential candidates can do a lot with leftover campaign cash, including — keep it for a future presidential election; refund more money to donors; spend it to wind down the campaign; donate to a charity that doesn't directly benefit him; contribute (within limits) to other campaigns/committees; make an unlimited transfer to local, state or the national party; or transfer the money to his Senate account.
Man who helped thwart train attack in 2015 poised to win GOP nomination in Oregon House district
WASHINGTON — Alek Skarlatos, the former National Guardsman who famously stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train in 2015, appears to have won the GOP's nomination for Oregon's 4th Congressional District, setting him up for a clash against an 18-term Democrat.
Skarlatos racked up a huge lead in Tuesday night's primary, winning almost 87 percent of the primary vote with almost 77,000 mail-in ballots counted, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's office.
While more mail-in ballots are likely to be counted, Skarlatos' sizable lead prompted groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee to refer to him as the winner.
Skarlatos, who served a nine-month tour in Afghanistan for the Army National Guard, was one of three Americans who rushed a gunman on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, ultimately subduing the gunman before anyone was killed. After the attack, Skarlatos received the Soldier's Medal, one of the Army's highest honors, as well as a major award from the French government.
He later played himself in the Clint Eastwood movie "The 15:17 to Paris," which portrayed the train episode, appeared on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and lost a close commissioner race in Douglas County, Ore. in 2018 before launching his congressional bid.
If his lead holds, Skarlatos will face off against Rep. Pete DeFazio, the longtime Democratic congressman who chairs the House Transportation Committee.
DeFazio has regularly cruised to victory over the years, but in 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump in the district by just 0.1 percentage points, according to the Cook Political Report's analysis.
Senate Democrats still looking for answers on agency cooperation with probes
WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is asking the heads of four government agencies if President Donald Trump is “weaponizing” federal agencies by forcing them to cooperate with investigations into Trump’s 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
In a letter to the heads of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Treasury and the National Archives, obtained by NBC News, Murphy asks if they are “applying different standards” to congressional requests for documents and information, suggesting that the agencies are cooperating with Republican investigations while stonewalling probes into the president.
“I am troubled that President Trump may be weaponizing the executive branch in advance of the 2020 elections by directing agencies to comply with congressional investigations designed to hurt his political opponents," Murphy wrote, "while stonewalling legitimate oversight investigations into the actions of his own administration.”
The letter is Murphy's second attempt to receive the information. The senator wrote to the inspectors general of the four agencies in March, asking them the same questions. Three IGs — from State, Treasury, National Archives — told Murphy that his request was not in their purview but that agencies should reply to his request.
Treasury Inspector General Joseph Cuffari wrote that the Treasury “can provide the factual information underlying your concern” and then-State Department Inspector General Steve Linick wrote that the State Department “may have relevant information” related to his request.
Trump fired the State Department IG, Steve Linick last Friday at the urging of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Democrats have pointed to the refusal of the executive branch to comply with congressional requests under President Trump, particularly during the impeachment process last year.
In contrast, the State Department has handed over thousands of pages of documents to Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of committees investigating Hunter Biden’s work on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. The National Archives has promised to hand over thousands more documents.
Johnson’s committee, the Homeland Security Committee, is expected to take a significant step in its investigation Wednesday and hold a vote to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm who worked with Burisma when Hunter sat on the company’s board.
In a separate Republican-led investigation into the “unmasking” by Obama administration officials of Michael Flynn during the Trump transition, Sens. Grassley, Johnson and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released an email of Obama’s former national security aide Susan Rice declassified by the Acting Director of National Intelligence Director Richard Grenell at their request.
Attack ads and bear hugs of Trump dominate airwaves in Tuesday's contested Oregon House GOP primary
WASHINGTON — While the coronavirus pandemic has upended elections across the country, it's business as usual in Tuesday's Oregon primary — that's because the state has voted entirely by mail since 2000.
The most competitive federal election Tuesday is the GOP primary for the state's 2nd Congressional District, where a crowded croup of Republicans are looking to replace the retiring Rep. Greg Walden.
It's been busy on the airwaves in the sprawling district that covers most of Eastern Oregon, with $1.7 million spent on television and radio through Tuesday, according to Advertising Analytics.
Two candidates have spent significantly more than the rest of the field — Knute Buehler (the GOP's 2018 nominee for governor) and Jimmy Crumpacker (an energy investor).
And those ads have gotten fierce — Buehler calls Crumpacker "a fraud with a trust fund" in one ad and a "Portland pretender" in another, hits fellow primary candidates Cliff Bentz (a former state lawmaker) and Jason Atkinson (a former state senator) as "Portland-loving liberals" in a third ad, and Bentz a "tax-and-waste politician" in a fourth.
Besides trying to rhyme his last name with "Trump-backer," Crumpacker has gone on offense too. He calls Buehler, Atkinson and Betnz as allies of "Never Trumpers" in one spot and Buehler a "career politician" who campaigns on "liberal lies" in a second.
Bentz's ads play him up as a "conservative Republican" who helped to "lead" one of the walkouts of Oregon Republican lawmakers aimed at frustrating legislative efforts on gun control and vaccines.
A handful of outside groups have jumped into the race too, lobbing bombs and promoting the top candidates.
So now all that's left is deciding who will be the GOP's nominee, who will have the inside track for the Republican-leaning seat.
Federal appeals court orders New York to hold Democratic presidential primary
A federal appeals court ordered Tuesday that New York’s presidential primary be reinstated, and that the names former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders be among those allowed on the presidential primary ballot.
The new order is the latest, and possibly final, development in a months-long fight between members of the New York State Board of Elections and a handful of former presidential candidates like Yang and Sanders over whether a candidate who has suspended their campaign should be allowed to remain on a ballot and thereby eligible to collect delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
The New York State Board of Elections confirmed to NBC News they do not plan to appeal this morning's decision, setting the stage for the presidential primary to return to ballots for the state's June 23 primary.
Last month, the board removed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders from the ballot, pointing to his decision to drop out of the presidential race and a recent law that gave the board the power to remove candidates from the ballot after they dropped out.
That move effectively canceled the state's Democratic presidential primary.
But Sanders' lawyers had argued against removing him, arguing that he was still fighting for convention delegates to have influence at the convention despite having ended his quest for the nomination.
Yang brought a lawsuit against the board over the decision, and the Sanders camp hired a lawyer and penned a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the challenge.
A federal circuit court judge disagreed with the board's decision, ruling on May 5 that the primary proceed with the candidates who were on the ballot as of April 26. This includes Sanders, Yang, Michael Bennet, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.
And on Tuesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court that covers New York, upheld the lower court's decision.
In a tweet responding to the decision, “America’s Promise,” a super PAC formed by former senior Sanders advisors after his campaign ended, wrote “Democracy prevails.”
Democratic super PAC Priorities USA says it's on track to spend more than $200 million in 2020
WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, one of the chief outside groups working to boost Democrats’ hopes for recapturing the White House this November, says it is on pace to exceed its $200 million budget for the 2020 cycle — and is putting that cash to use with a new set of ads blasting President Trump for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The super PAC said Tuesday it has obtained commitments for more than $25 million since April on top of the $126 million it already raised for November, with the pace of fundraising picking up in May. Priorities says it is already outspending the Trump campaign online and on air in targeted battlegrounds, and will look to expand its role to “go toe-to-toe with the Trump disinformation machine.”
"Donald Trump and his allies have started advertising in battleground states and it's imperative that Priorities gives Joe Biden the air cover he needs as he builds his general election campaign," Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement to NBC News. "This election is going to be very close and this early period will be key to a Biden victory.”
While another pro-Biden super PAC, Unite The Country, has turned toward positive advertising promoting Biden’s middle class message, Priorities’ newest ad continues its focus on countering the president, accusing him of “failing America."
“With over 90,000 Americans dead, Donald Trump continues to downplay the threat, ignoring experts who warn of a larger second wave with more death and devastation to our economy," one of two new ads says, featuring Trump recently saying the coronavirus would “go away without a vaccine.”
That spot will air in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania on broadcast and cable television, part of the previously announced $65 million reservation through Election Day.
Trump and Pence opt for battleground states as backdrop to coronavirus response
WASHINGTON — In the last six weeks, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have prioritized key 2020 battleground states to highlight their administration’s coronavirus pandemic response, sidestepping some hot spots that have been hardest hit by the health crisis.
The president has traveled to Pennsylvania and Arizona this month and will head to Michigan later this week. Pence has toured more extensively, visiting Wisconsin, Virginia, Minnesota and Iowa since the outbreak exploded and he’s slated to speak in Florida on Wednesday.
As the traditional campaign trail has effectively come to a halt, White House advisers see a two-fold opportunity in picking swing states as the backdrop for official events: touting their own efforts to re-open the country while reaching critical voters who could sway the election, all while earning important regional media coverage that the Trump campaign amplifies at every opportunity.
Trump and Pence haven’t yet been to any of the states with the most cases and deaths of coronavirus, partially because it may not be safe to do so: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts and California. None of them are considered battlegrounds, though the president has hosted the Democratic governors of New York and New Jersey in the Oval Office. Pence has also traveled to his home state of Indiana, which is not considered to be in play for 2020.
The White House doesn’t comment on upcoming travel and internal deliberations when it comes to the president and vice president’s schedules, but an official noted Trump and Pence wouldn’t go to counties that are still considered “hot zones” and the trips are mostly meant to “highlight the next phase of this recovery, showing states that have come out of the worst of it and are on a path to move toward safely reopening.”
The political strategy is not necessarily unique to this incumbent, even though the scale of the pandemic may be. Former President Barack Obama also strategically visited important places in his official capacity when he was running for re-election.
But Trump has often more obviously blurred the lines between the two entities. During remarks at a medical equipment factory in Allentown, Pa. last week, attendees would be forgiven for confusing the official event for a campaign one. The familiar rally playlist was blasting and Trump attacked “Sleepy Joe Biden,” which was met with scattered laughter in a somewhat muted reaction from the crowd.
Neither Trump nor Pence has participated in an official re-elect fundraiser since early March, which has presented a challenge to their massive war chest efforts. It’s unknown when either will return to the trail for any conventional travel. The Trump campaign, for its part, is eager to take advantage of any visits that help elevate their re-election pitch in key states.
“Americans want to see their president out front and leading in a crisis and that’s exactly what President Trump is doing. He is in command and looking to get the economy reopened as soon as possible. It’s a very positive sign for all Americans that he’s getting out into the country again,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to NBC News.
Senior officials concede large rallies are likely impossible to hold until August, at the earliest, and it’s unclear what those would look like with health officials warning about the safety risks of mass gatherings. The president himself has said it “loses a lot of flavor” to have people socially distanced in large venues.
GOP governors balk at being used in ad by Kentucky Democrat
WASHINGTON — Two GOP governors evoked by Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath in a new campaign ad are criticizing the senate candidate for using their likeness in an ad that attacks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The spot, which launched Saturday, points to Republican Govs. Larry Hogan, Md., and Mike DeWine, Ohio, along with Democratic governors to argue that "they're all showing us what real leadership is, and political party has nothing to do with it."
Then, she pivots toward an attack on McConnell, specifically pointing to his past comments about preferring to see states struggling with coronavirus-related budget gaps declare bankruptcy instead of receiving what his office later called "blue state bailouts."
McConnell's comments about state aid initially drew bipartisan criticism from governors, and Hogan told ABC at the time McConnell "probably would regret making that comment."
The Kentucky Republican later said that he would be "open to discussing" more aid to states.
Hogan registered his disappointment with the ad in a tweet, saying that "campaign ads politicizing the coronavirus response are not constructive."
And DeWine called for McGrath to "remove my image from her advertising" in a statement, which added that McConnell "is focused, as I am, on the crisis and I appreciate his leadership."
McGrath is expected to win the Kentucky Senate Democratic primary in June.
In a statement, McGrath said "I strongly stand by my ad," framing the criticism as "exactly what's wrong with politics."
“Every comment is, unfortunately, examined through a red or blue lens. In this case, I'm pointing out that leadership doesn't depend on your political jersey color. It's about your actions. Governors on both sides of the aisle are doing important work. Governor DeWine is one of them. It is disappointing that he rejects sincere appreciation from a Democrat, and it shows how far we have strayed from our ideals as a nation," she said.
But McConnell's press secretary, Katharine Cooksey, accused McGrath of politicking in a statement.
“In the same 60 seconds, Amy McGrath claims the coronavirus pandemic response is not about politics while she exploits the image of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for her own political gain. Governors across the nation, as well as Leader McConnell, are focused on navigating their states through this unprecedented pandemic regardless of approval ratings. Extreme liberal McGrath makes clear that she is only interested in shamelessly cozying up to popular leaders like Governor DeWine to score cheap political points," she said.
RNC plans in-person convention 100 days out
WASHINGTON — Despite warnings from health officials about the potential risks of mass gatherings this summer, the Republican National Committee says it's still planning an in-person convention for this August in Charlotte, N.C. The RNC expects as many as 50,000 visitors to gather to re-nominate President Trump.
“This 5-star event will play an integral role in promoting local businesses and generating millions of dollars across the region. It will leave a lasting impact,” the group said on Saturday — Saturday also marks the 100-day countdown to the event.
Earlier in May, the RNC announced it was adding a medical expert as a senior adviser to the convention planning team to develop “health and safety protocols.” That came after NBC News reported the group was considering alterations to the traditional four-day spectacle due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic National Committee already pushed back their Milwaukee, Wis. convention from mid-July to August because of health concerns. The DNC has left open the possibility that parts of the convention will be held virtually, but officials expect a portion of the event will be held in-person.
Biden veepstakes heat up with joint appearances, public backings
WASHINGTON — As the interest in who apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden will pick as his running mate grows more intense with each passing week, many of those whose names have been mentioned are also putting in some high-profile appearances while the political handicappers continue to dissect their strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some of the notable developments from this past week:
Abrams: Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has repeatedly and publicly promoted herself as a strong candidate for the job and on Thursday night she even made her case in a joint appearance with Biden on MSNBC at Biden's invitation.
“Stacey Abrams has done more to deal with the fair vote and making sure there is a fair vote than anybody,” Biden said when asked if the interview was an audition for Abrams. “She has a great, great capacity to explain things and to lay out exactly why it will be so critically important in this election.”
And when Abrams was asked why she was willing to be vice president but not run for the U.S. Senate, she emphasized her interests were in getting Biden elected. For his part, Biden chimed in and said she was “capable of doing any or both" jobs.
"My interest is, no matter what, that I help make certain that Joe Biden is the next president of the United States, that we win every election up and down the ballot so that we can right-size our country and move our nation forward,” Abrams said.
Rice: While Susan Rice, President Obama’s former national security adviser and U.N. Ambassador, is one of Biden’s more under-the-radar contenders, she told PBS Thursday that she “would say yes” if Biden asked her to run with him.
“I’m committed to do all I can to help him win and to help him govern. So I will do as I best can in whatever capacity makes most sense,” Rice said.
Rice doesn’t have the same name recognition as some of Biden’s other choices, but their relationship could already be simpatico — a key metric for the former vice president. The two served together for eight years in the Obama administration, and she has several years of foreign policy and Washington experience.
Whitmer: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's national profile has risen during the coronavirus pandemic — making headlines for controversial statewide orders and mentions in President Trump’s tweets — and Biden has heavily praised her.
On Thursday, during a town hall with Whitmer and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, Biden told Whitmer, “Well look, you'd expect me to say this, I know because I think you're such a great governor, I think you've done one hell of a job.”
“She didn't lengthen the list, she made the list in my mind two months ago,” Biden said.
Warren: Though Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has been quieter in responding to speculation about Biden selecting her as his veep this week, there are signs that supporters of her former presidential primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, could unite around her.
California Rep. Ro Khanna, who served as Sanders’ national campaign co-chair, even tweeted Thursday that Warren “needs to be on the ticket” and listed examples of her legislative leadership throughout the pandemic. Khanna’s backing could signal a way for Biden to get progressives to coalesce around his candidacy.
Projection: $6.7 billion could be spent on advertising in 2020 election
WASHINGTON — The spread of the coronavirus has halted live campaign rallies, door-to-door organizing and traditional sit-down interviews with candidates.
But it hasn’t stopped TV, radio and digital advertising.
Far from it.
Advertising Analytics projects $6.7 billion will be spent on advertising in the 2020 election cycle. And here are some other numbers to consider via Advertising Analytics:
- So far, a cumulative $2.19 billion has been spent during the 2020 cycle
- This is over $1 billion more than what was spent at this point in 2016 and 2018
- Excluding Michael Bloomberg, the $1.58 billion spent so far is nearly 2 times that of any other cycle
- In 2016 and 2018, 54 percent of the cycle’s total cash was spent in the final 10 weeks
- $443 million has already been reserved for the Fall of 2020
Progressive Super PAC targets Sanders supporters, urges support of Biden in new memo
Former senior advisors to Sen. Bernie Sanders are sounding the alarm about a significant portion of Sanders' supporters who remain unsupportive of the apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, calling it a "clear and dangerous trend" in a memo obtained by NBC News.
“Despite best intentions, the Biden campaign and the DNC are far behind on digital organizing, Latino outreach and progressive coalition building," former senior advisor Jeff Weaver wrote in the four-page document from his newly formed "America's Promise" PAC.
In an interview with NBC News, Weaver said that it is with these three priorities in mind that his Super PAC will spend the next six months persuading Sanders supporters to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November.
“We have an opportunity in this election to elect somebody who certainly is not anywhere near as progressive as Bernie Sanders,” Weaver told NBC News, “but who will allow us to lock-in legislatively and institutionally, some of the gains that the progressive movement has earned through it's hard work of these last five or six years.”
While he said he is aware that not everyone who supported Bernie Sanders would be supporting Joe Biden, he pointed to issues including Biden’s support of a $15 minimum wage, making colleges and universities tuition free for families making less than $125,000 and expanding health care access as progress in the policy arena as common ground.
But it’s filling up the hypothetical arenas with Sanders supporters that Weaver’s super PAC is pledging to be laser-focused on, with recent polling of Sanders supporters showing less than favorable numbers for Biden. The super PAC’s memo points to an April USA Today/Suffolk University poll, which reported 1 in 4 Sanders supporters saying they would vote for a third party candidate, vote for President Donald Trump, not vote in November or were undecided about who to vote for, as a reason for the group to step in and provide support.
Currently an eight-person operation, Weaver said he hopes for the Super PAC to be able to replicate the robust digital operation of Sanders’ presidential runs, in support of Joe Biden. “We cannot afford to have these constituencies ignored or talked to in an ineffective way during this process,” Weaver said. He told NBC News there have been internal discussions about the reservation of digital buys, focused towards the latino voting base.
For Weaver, getting this super PAC off the ground was not without controversy. America’s Promise PAC was, until Tuesday, called “Future to Believe In” PAC. Sen. Bernie Sanders has famously been opposed to Super PACs and used his spokesperson to release a statement separating himself from this organization. He was unhappy with a name that mirrored his 2016 campaign slogan, leading to the renaming this week to “America’s Promise,” according to Weaver.
Tweet the Press: NBC's Ken Dilanian discusses Sen. Richard Burr and Chinese hacking
WASHINGTON — On this week's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News national security and intelligence correspondent Ken Dilanian about Sen. Richard Burr vacating his post as the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and reports that China is trying to hamper coronavirus vaccine development in the U.S.
The Republican senator from North Carolina announced Thursday that he's temporarily stepping aside from his post as the head of the powerful committee after the FBI seized his cell phone as part of a possible insider trading investigation. Dilanian explained that "the use of a search warrant means the FBI convinced a judge there was probable cause to believe a crime has been committed." Burr insists that his February stock sales were based on public information rather than classified information provided to Congress about the coronavirus.
On China, Dilanian tells us that the FBI and DHS "issued a rare public warning" that they have seen China attempting to hack government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and labs "seeking info about coronavirus vaccine and treatment research" amid the global race for a vaccine.
Click here to read the full conversation.
Steve King committee flap comes as GOP primary opponents hammer him for absence
WASHINGTON — A renewed dust-up over whether House Republicans will restore Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's committee assignments comes as King's lack of standing on House committees has been a central issue in his primary race.
King said Monday at a forum ahead of next month's primary that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told him he would "advocate" to Republican lawmakers that they restore positions stripped from him after his comments about white supremacy.
But as prominent Republicans balked at the idea, a McCarthy spokesperson told NBC News that King's "past comments cannot be exonerated" and that King "will have the opportunity to make his case" to the committee that controls those assignments.
While King had held his seat comfortably since he first took office in 2003, Democrat J.D. Scholten gave him a scare in 2018 in a race King won by just 3 points as King weathered the fallout from his comments and his lost assignments.
Now, King faces another tough election, the 2020 primary, where his top opponent, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, has made King's lack of influence in the House a top issue.
When President Trump faced impeachment in the House, Feenstra argued that because King lost his seat on House Judiciary, "King is unable to help due to his bizarre behavior and his removal from key committees," a move that left Iowans "without a seat at the table."
In a recent ad sporting a delivery truck emblazoned with the words "Steve King Can't Deliver," Feenstra called King "the congressman who couldn't."
And it's a message that outside groups opposing King have embraced too.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce dropped a recent ad criticizing King for getting kicked off the Agriculture Committee, "hurting our farmers."
And the Republican Main Street Partnership, which has endorsed Feenstra, has used similar language in explaining their endorsement. The group's affiliated super PAC has said it is spending $100,000 on direct mail, phone calls and social media advertising in the primary.
White House quietly sets up panel for possible Biden transition
WASHINGTON — Mark Meadows will helm the White House panel, required by law, to begin planning for a possible transition of power to a new Democratic administration, the Trump administration informed lawmakers on Wednesday.
A memo to House and Senate committee leaders from a representative in the General Services Administration was the first public acknowledgment by any administration official that the White House was fully complying with legal deadlines, only recently established, to ensure a smooth transfer of power in the executive branch.
Meadows, the new White House chief of staff and a former North Carolina congressman, will serve as chair of the White House Transition Coordinating Council. Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, will serve as vice chair.
The panel will also include Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and other West Wing officials. There will also be a “transition representative for each eligible candidate” — this is likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.
Four years ago, the Obama administration repeatedly touted the steps it was taking to help guide a new administration into office. In March 2016, then-chief of staff Denis McDonough convened a Cabinet meeting to outline the transition process and the steps agencies would be required to take throughout the year. The White House announced on May 6 that Obama signed an executive order establishing his White House Transition Council, two days ahead of that year’s initial deadline.
More than two weeks ago, after NBC News first reported concern among Democrats about whether the administration would comply with both the letter and spirit of legal transition requirements, Vought issued a memo asking executive departments and agencies to identify senior career officials who would serve on a separate Agency Transition Directors Council.
That council is led jointly by the Federal Transition Coordinator, Mary Gibert, and Michael Rigas, the acting deputy director of OMB, as specified under law.
Vought’s memo said the first meeting of agency council would occur on May 27. It is unclear yet if the White House council would also meet, or whether President Trump has played a role in creating the panel. None of the 20 executive orders published in the Federal Register this year relate to the transition process.
Biden said last month that he has already begun transition planning along with one of his closest and longest-serving aides, Ted Kaufman. Kaufman, who was appointed as a senator to fulfill the last two years of Biden's term in 2008, helped write the legislation that now guides these transition procedures.
“You can't wait until you win if you win. You've got to start right now,” Biden told donors last week during a virtual fundraiser. “How do we go out and find 2,800 employees, 2,800 employees that need to be filled right away?”
There are no immediate deadlines for the Biden campaign to meet under law. But come September, Biden would be offered more robust government resources to aid its own preparatory work, including office space near the White House for a designated transition team to begin work.
The GSA memo on Thursday identified the Department of Commerce headquarters as the location for such offices and said upgrades are now underway to the physical and IT infrastructure of that space.
The memo also said that the GSA is “preparing to convene meetings” with the Justice Department, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to begin transition planning, which would include the facilitation of security clearance requests for key Biden advisors who would need access to classified information. In 2016, the Obama administration began providing intelligence briefings for Trump and Hillary Clinton representatives after the nominating conventions.
The next legal deadline for the Trump administration will come after the parties’ nominating conventions, scheduled for August, when the administration has to enter into a formal memorandum of understanding with the Democratic nominee’s representatives, and also identify succession plans for federal agencies.
New Planned Parenthood ad campaign seeks to show coronavirus’ abortion access impact
WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood Action Fund is launching an “accountability” campaign across eleven states, highlighting efforts to roll back, or expand, American’s access to reproductive healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic.
The $5 million buy, reported first by NBC News, includes digital, radio, mailers, and online organizing events in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Almost all of these states are battlegrounds in the coming November election. Some of the ads laud politicians for the work they’ve done; others urge voters to call their representatives to push back.
The awareness project is the first of several steps Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political arms will undertake in the next several months, Rachel Sussman, Vice President of State Policy and Advocacy for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told NBC News, calling it “a starting point to help connect the dots for people” about actions taken in their states during the pandemic.
Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, blue and red states have, unsurprisingly, responded to questions of reproductive health access in non-uniform fashion.
Some states, including Iowa, Ohio and Texas, classified abortions as non-essential procedures, counting them among the elective procedures suspended until the public health crisis abated. Activist groups challenged these decisions in court, resulting in varying rulings and appeals. But those states stand in contrast to rules set by governors in states like New York, Virginia, and Washington, where abortion was deemed essential and allowed to continue during the pandemic.
Other states have tried to legislate around reproductive issues during the pandemic, something PPAF and their state partners are seeking to highlight in the campaign.
Pennsylvania, for instance, has seen what once was a bipartisan push for expanded tele-health access grind to a halt because of the addition of an amendment that would prohibit doctors from prescribing certain kinds of pills used to induce abortion. Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed the bill, saying the added language “interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians,” while Democrats and Republicans continued to spar over the inclusion of the amendment.
On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan’s Health and Human Services Department has taken steps to increase access to reproductive health tools — including a campaign where condoms can be mailed to Michiganders who request them via email.
House Republicans balk at idea of giving Steve King back his committee assignments
WASHINGTON — Top House Republicans are voicing opposition to allowing Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King to get his committee assignments back, including the highest-ranking Republican woman.
King was stripped of his spot on House committees last year after he made controversial comments about white supremacy and Western Civilization to the New York Times, which he claims were taken out of context by the newspaper.
A spokesperson for Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney told NBC News “Cheney does not support” giving King back his committee assignments. She was the first Republican leader to condemn King’s comments and even called for him to resign from Congress.
At a forum on Monday night in Spencer, Iowa, King claimed that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was going to advocate for giving him his committee assignments back, as first reported by the Sioux City Journal.
“On April 20, Kevin McCarthy and I reached an agreement that he would advocate to the steering committee to put all of my committees back with all of my seniority because there is no argument against my fact-check document, I have disproven all of those allegations," King said at the republican forum Monday.
“When Congress comes back into session, when the steering committee can get together, I have Kevin McCarthy’s word that then, that will be my time for exoneration."
In response, a McCarthy spokesperson told NBC News that "Congressman King’s past comments cannot be exonerated." But the spokesperson added that "committee assignments are determined by the steering committee and he will have the opportunity to make his case."
Former NRCC Chairman and Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, a current member of the Republican Steering Committee that controls the House GOP committee selection, wrote on social media Wednesday that he opposes restoring King to House committees.
"As long as I am a member of the Steering Committee, I will not allow that type of person or that type of ideology to influence the legislation passed by Congress. He will not be serving on any committee. Steve King does more to hurt Republican and conservative caucuses than help.”
King criticized Stivers in a statement to NBC News, calling him "only one vote on Steering" and a "Never-Trumper."
King is facing a competitive primary in Iowa on June 2nd following his controversial comments. His opponents are running ads pointing to his absence from committees, arguing that means he can't properly serve the district.
Michigan's Peters drops TV spot touting tough-on-China approach
WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is up with two new TV ads that highlight the unique position he's in as one of the few Democratic incumbents facing a tough challenge this cycle.
The first spot emphasizes Peters’ call for increased testing, employment protection and a focus on American manufacturing as he plans to get “Michigan back to work.” It's a message that's right in line with how Democrats are framing their priorities for a pathway forward as states push to re-open.
But the second is focused entirely on China.
In it, Peters calls for a reopening that “puts Michigan first.” And he goes on to tick through how he’s “always been tough on the Chinese government, supporting the China travel ban, demanding the truth about the spread of COVI-19” as well as a push to move drug manufacturing from China to America.
That kind of messaging stands out amid the GOP's push to shift criticism surrounding the crisis toward China and away from President Trump. Peters' spot doesn't mention the president's name or litigate the debate over his response to the crisis, but it still highlights areas where they agree, all while embracing the "tough-on-China" approach.
The new ads come days after Peters' likely Republican challenger, John James, released a bio ad of his own.
The seat is considered "lean Democrat" by the non-partisan election handicappers the Cook Political Report, the most competitive race featuring an incumbent Democrat outside of Alabama, where Sen. Doug Jones is trying to win reelection in very-Republican Alabama.
There's already been a boatload of television spending in the state as both sides gear up for the fall, with Democrats having already spent almost $7.7 million on TV and radio to the GOP's $2.7 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
Democrats lay the groundwork for possible virtual convention
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee moved Tuesday to allow for a virtual 2020 convention if the party determines that to be necessary as the coronavirus continues to claim American lives.
A resolution approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee lets delegates vote and “participate in the Convention in person or by means that allow for appropriate social distancing.”
DNC Chairman Tom Perez said he still expects and hopes to see a full convention in Milwaukee, and that a “precise format” has not been decided.
“This will give the convention team the tools necessary to adapt and plan in order to ensure that every delegate is able to accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk – whether that be participating in person or by other means to allow for social distancing,” he said.
The Milwaukee convention had already been pushed from July to the week of August 17.
Also on Tuesday, the DNC panel approved waivers by states seeking to move their primary dates as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Nebraska Democratic House primary pits Medicare-for-All candidate against one calling for more 'realistic' plan
WASHINGTON — Voters are voting Tuesday (or, in many cases, have already sent in their mail-in ballots) in special elections in California and Wisconsin, but also in an interesting primary in Nebraska.
That state's 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary features two top candidates who both have a history in the district.
Ann Ashford is the wife of Brad Ashford, the former congressman who flipped the seat for Democrats in a 2014 midterm election year that was otherwise tough for the party. Brad Ashford served for just one term before losing to Republican Don Bacon in 2016, who still holds the seat to this day.
The former congressman tried to win the seat back in 2018, but lost to Democrat Kara Eastman in the primary — and Eastman went onto narrowly lose to Bacon that fall.
So this Tuesday's Democratic primary pits Eastman against Ann Ashford, who despite considering a run in 2018 has never run for federal office before.
Eastman and Ashford represent two different wings of the Democratic Party.
Eastman supports Medicare-for-All and has the backing of prominent progressive Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
And she's running an ad arguing she's not "afraid of a fight."
Ashford's endorsements include two former Nebraska Democratic Senators, Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey. And she's been running ads attacking Eastman both for her loss in 2018, arguing Eastman's loss proves she can't win. And Ashford has criticized Eastman's health-care stance as unrealistic (Ashford supports expanding coverage through a public option but not universal government coverage).
Trump slightly outraises Biden in April, maintains large cash on hand
WASHINGTON — President Trump, apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the umbrella of party organizations backing them raised over $60 million in April, according to the two campaigns. The Trump team reported a $61.7 million cash haul, while the Biden camp brought in just slightly less with $60.5 million.
On top of money raised by their campaigns, the pro-Trump effort includes fundraising from the Republican National Committee as well as other groups affiliated with his re-election effort. And Biden's effort includes the Democratic National Committee as well.
This is the first monthly filing period in which both teams are reporting their fundraising from their joint fundraising committees. April is also the first month in which Biden was the sole Democratic candidate for the majority of the reporting period. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the primary race on April 8.
While Biden and the Democratic National Committee have not released their cash on hand numbers, the president's campaign says it has over $255 million in the bank — and that juggernaut may be Biden's greatest financial weakness. The last officially reported numbers, filed for March, showed Biden and the DNC with just over $62 million on hand.
The two campaigns have had to shift their fundraising appeals due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden and his surrogates have been holding virtual fundraisers — one held by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar brought in $1.5 million in one night. And according to Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale, since shifting to virtual efforts, "Trump Victory, the joint field effort between the RNC and the campaign, has added over 300,000 new volunteers and made over 20 million voter contacts."
Both campaigns will report their full fundraising filing for April on May 20.
First competitive special House elections in coronavirus age set for Tuesday
WASHINGTON — With the coronavirus pandemic forcing candidates off of the traditional campaign trail, the 2020 election season gears up Tuesday when the first competitive House special elections since the start of the crisis will take place and produce two new members of Congress representing Wisconsin and California.
Facing off in California’s now-empty 25th House District, where the GOP hopes to reclaim the seat won by Democratic Rep. Katie Hill in 2018, are Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith and former Navy pilot, Republican Mike Garcia.
In Wisconsin's 7th House District, a historically Republican district that President Trump won by 20 points in 2016, Democrat Tricia Zunker and Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany are vying for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Sean Duffy.
For more about the two races and what they could could mean for effectively campaigning and winning elections in the coronavirus era, read the breakdown from NBC News' political unit here.
Also check out the First Read analysis of how the scandal surrounding former congresswoman Katie Hill could increase Republican chances of taking back the district by looking at the history of scandal-induced special elections.
Lamar Alexander: DOJ argument to repeal Obamacare 'flimsy'
WASHINGTON — Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said Sunday he was disappointed with President Trump's decision to move forward with a lawsuit aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Last week, Trump reiterated his administration's support for a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the landmark health-care law. The federal government has joined a group of states arguing that Congress rendered the entire legislation unconstitutional in 2017 when the GOP-led Congress effectively removed the "individual mandate" that taxed anyone who did not have health insurance.
"I thought the Justice Department argument was really flimsy," Alexander said when asked about the case.
"What they're arguing is that when we voted to get rid of the individual mandate we voted to get rid of Obamacare. I don't know one single senator that thought that."
The Supreme Court has said it would hear the case in its fall term, which begins in October.