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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Flashback: LBJ's advice to Humphrey for running mate included a surprising name

At 10:41 in the morning on Aug. 29, the day that Vice President Hubert Humphrey chose his running mate for the 1968 presidential race, outgoing President Lyndon Johnson offered some advice about the decision on a call, including this: consider Daniel Inouye.

Johnson felt the first term senator from Hawaii, whose name was not on the four-person short list in that day’s New York Times, had two key attributes: combat wounds and brown skin.

Listen to the call here, with Johnson discussing Inouye at the 09:25 mark:

“He answers Vietnam with that empty sleeve,” Johnson said. “He answers your problems with Nixon with that empty sleeve. He has that brown face. He answers everything in civil rights, and he draws a contrast without ever opening his mouth."

Inouye got his “empty sleeve” as a second lieutenant during World War II, when a German grenade took his right arm in Italy. Shot and severely wounded, Inouye continued to lead his segregated platoon of fellow Japanese Americans — some of whom came from internment camps — “until enemy resistance was broken,” according to his belated Medal of Honor citation.

Johnson spoke of that courage, Inouye’s ability to stay on message (“He’s as loyal as a dog”) and the historic nature of the choice: “He ought to appeal to the world. It would be fresh and different. He’s young and new.”

As for putting the first racial minority on a national ticket after the civil rights battles of the 1960s, Johnson only saw advantages.

“The Southern boys,” Johnson said. “They all love Inouye. I don’t know why … I think one thing is that they just look at him and see that he — they can’t fuss at him and say, ‘He doesn’t love peace.’ God knows, he wants peace more than anybody, and it’s quite a contrast with Agnew … In other words, the South can’t get mad at him because he’s colored, and he would appeal to every other minority because he is one."

After Humphrey asked Johnson about other candidates, the president asked, “Inouye doesn’t appeal to you?”

Sen. John O. Pastore of Rhode Island, right, talks with Joe Biden as Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii speaks with Sen. Philip A. Hart of Michigan, partially hidden behind Pastore, prior to a caucus of Senate Democrats on Oct. 12, 1973 in Washington.Henry Griffin / AP file

“Well, I just don’t believe so,” Humphrey replied. “I guess maybe it just takes me a little too far, too fast. ‘Old conservative Humphrey,’” he joked.

The tape recording of Johnson and Humphrey’s conversation remained sealed until 2008. At the time, a spokeswoman for Inouye said he was aware he had been under consideration, but was “content” as a senator, the job he held until his death in 2012.

However, Inouye did take part in at least one presidential announcement during those years: introducing Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware as he kicked off his first presidential campaign in 1987.

“The fact of the matter is,” Biden said with Inouye and his empty sleeve behind him, “the man of courage on this stage today is you.”

Elizabeth Warren requests investigation into relief funds

WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is asking the newly confirmed head of Coronavirus relief oversight to investigate millions of dollars of relief funds that went to companies who employed lobbyists with close ties to the Trump administration.

Warren, who has been publicly skeptical about the Trump administration's oversight efforts, made her request in a letter to Brian Miller, President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel who was appointed to oversee more than $2 trillion of already-allocated federal funding for pandemic relief.

In her letter, Warren cites a report by the public interest organization Public Citizen that found clients of more than 40 lobbyists with ties to the president have received more than $10 billion of relief grants, loans and bonds from the federal government, according to government lobbying disclosure records and other information.

NBC News reported in April that firms with ties to the president received at least $100 million in small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a television news interview during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol on Jan. 27, 2020.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Public Citizen report mentions business entities highlighted in the NBC reporting, including Ashford Inc., an asset management company in the hospitality industry and Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc., a real estate investment trust company it advises. 

According to the report, lobbyists with Miller Strategies, LLC, a firm founded and run by Jeff Miller , a Trump campaign fundraiser, “have combined to lobby, or registered to lobby,” for the Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc. and at least 11 other clients. As the report notes, Miller was the vice chairman of President Trump’s inaugural committee and has raised “millions of dollars” for the Trump campaign and the GOP.

The report cites lobbying records showing that another lobbyist for Ashford Inc. is Roy Bailey, also a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Bailey was a national co-chair of Trump Victory Committee has lobbied Congress on COVID-19 economic relief legislation, according to the Public Citizen report.

“This special interest lobbying by former Trump administration and campaign insiders presents serious concerns about real and perceived conflicts of interest and merits important oversight by your office,” Warren writes in the letter.

In Miller’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, he said in response to a question by Warren that he would investigate companies that received funds by lobbying Congress or the White House.

The Public Citizen report includes other examples of former Trump Administration and Trump campaign officials lobbying on coronavirus relief funding issues. 

The report notes that, Jason Miller, Trump’s former communications director, registered to lobby for a consulting company in April on the Paycheck Protection Program, on behalf of a client, Fountainhead Commercial Capital, a lender participating in the program. And, the report points out that Jared Sawyer, a former deputy assistant secretary in theTreasury Department, lobbied for financial industry clients including OnDeck Capital, Inc., another lender in the PPP program.

Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal, is one of 27 companies listed in the report as having received “Federal COVID Money Flowing to Clients of Trump Connected Lobbyists” — in Comcast’s case, in the form of purchases of its corporate bonds on what’s called the “secondary market.”  Comcast says that they did not receive any direct money from the government and says the report is ‘misleading.’”

The author of the Public Citizen report says they stand by their report.

Warren, who's rumored to be on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's vice presidential shortlist, made anti-corruption legislation a key point in her 2020 presidential run. Prior to ending her presidential bid, Warren said she would create a task force in the Department of Justice to investigate corruption by government officials in the Trump administration. 

New filings show prominent Dem group funded anti-Romanoff ads in Colorado Senate primary

WASHINGTON —A mysterious group that aired TV adds hammering Democrat Andrew Romanoff in the final weeks of Colorado’s Senate primary was funded by a Democratic outside group with ties to the super PAC backing his rival, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, new campaign finance filings show. 

Let's Turn Colorado Blue, which spent $1.3 million during the primary and ran ads hitting Romanoff on immigration, was funded by Majority Forward, according to a new filing made public on Thursday.

Majority Forward is the non-profit arm of Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC aligned with Senate Democratic leadership. Senate Majority PAC spent more than $3 million on ads of their own during the primary defending Hickenlooper and attacking Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Experts expected Hickenlooper to cruise through the primary. Despite a handful of hiccups during the primary (including a state ethics board finding he violated state's gift ban while in office), Hickenlooper defeated Romanoff by a double-digit margin

Because Let's Turn Colorado entered the fray so late, it did not have to disclose its donors until after the primary ended. 

It's far from the first time an outside group formed in the final weeks of a campaign is ultimately revealed as a shell for a larger group's ambitions. It's a tactic both parties have relied upon in recent years, with many recent, high-profile examples coming from Democrats. 

In the 2017 Alabama Senate special election, a group ultimately revealed to have been funded primarily by Senate Majority PAC spent millions hammering Republican Roy Moore, who ultimately lost to Democrat Doug Jones.

In 2018, a Senate Majority PAC-funded outfit attacked GOP Rep. Martha McSally during her primary campaign for Senate. She ultimately won that primary but lost the November election before being appointed to fill the state's other Senate seat shortly after.  

This cycle, groups backed by major Senate super PACs of both parties waded into the North Carolina's Senate primary, which Cal Cunningham, the Democratic Party's preferred candidate, ultimately won. 

And now, another mysterious, Democratic-linked group is running ads in Kansas seeming to boost Republican Kris Kobach in that state's GOP Senate primary, amid concerns from national Republicans he could jeopardize the party's hold of the seat. It's unclear who is funding that group, which won't have to disclose its donors until after the early August primary. 

County-to-County: COVID-19 not sparing key counties to 2020 election

WASHINGTON — As COVID-19 cases accelerate across much of the country, the counties in NBC's County-to-County project have not been spared. 

In all five counties — Wisconsin's Milwaukee County; Michigan's Kent County; Pennsylvania's Beaver County; Florida's Miami-Dade County; and Arizona's Maricopa County— local government officials have put out troubling numbers in recent weeks on key metrics like positivity rate, hospitalizations and/or new daily cases.

Those metrics mesh with the reality that communities across the country are struggling to control the spread of the virus. 

Miami-Dade County, Fla. 

As Florida's caseload has exploded in recent weeks, Miami-Dade has seen some dismal numbers

July started with 1,141 new positive cases on the first of the month — ballooning to 3,576 cases on July 12 and settling a bit to 2,090 on July 14. 

The 14-day average of positive tests over that period was almost 26.6 percent, the number of ventilators available for deployment dropped by 83 and the county considers its ICU bed capacity a "red-flag" situation. After a nine-day stretch of at least 10 deaths to start July, the number of deaths briefly dipped to three on July 10. But the county saw nine deaths on July 12 and six on July 13. 

Maricopa County, Ariz.

Arizona is also seeing an explosion in cases, the vast majority in Maricopa County.

The county has reported 86,483 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday afternoon, with 2,250 new daily cases. That makes Maricopa responsible for more than half the state's total cases and deaths. 

The county has 1,277 deaths attributable to the virus, with 79 new deaths on Wednesday. The county's total positivity rate is 12.9 percent, the fourth-highest rate in the state. 

Beaver County, Pa. 

Beaver has 858 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with almost one-quarter coming in the last two weeks. The spike in new cases, along with an increase in new positive tests, prompted local officials to question whether new restrictions on restaurants or bars would be necessary, according to the Beaver County Times

Data from the state also show that the positivity rate of PCR testing (one method of diagnostic testing) increased in Beaver County to 6.3 percent over the last seven days compared to 5.8 percent over the previous seven days. Average daily hospitalizations also increased to 1.7 over the last seven days from 0.4 over the previous seven days.  

Milwaukee County, Wis. 

Milwaukee has 14,807 cases so far, up from 12,102 to start the month. Over the first two weeks of July, the seven-day average of new positive cases grew from 137 to 222. 

By Tuesday, the seven-day average of positive test results was 9 percent— the county started the month at 7 percent. 

Wisconsin's dashboard also puts the state's hospital personal protective equipment stockpile at a "yellow" warning, meaning the county has between eight to 28 days of PPE supply for the majority of its hospitals. 

But like many places in the country, the seven-day average of new reported deaths has dropped to 0.4 by Wednesday, after starting the month at 1.6. 

Kent County, Mich.

Seventeen percent of Kent County's 5,483 confirmed coronavirus cases, 950 cases, have been reported between July 1 and July 14, according to county data. That's a big uptick from the first two weeks in June, when the county reported 339 cases over those two weeks. 

If that most recent, two-week average had stayed consistent from the first reported cases on March 17, the county would have more than 8,000 cases, a 47 percent increase compared to the current caseload. 

While the county's daily test positivity rate only eclipsed 5 percent once since July, it broke that threshold five times in June (the World Health Organization says a state should have a sustained positivity rate of 5 percent or lower before reopening).

Even so, Advance Local Media reported Tuesday that a federal COVID-19 Response Assistance Field Team is headed to the region to deal with the rising caseload in the area. 

Senate Democrats want $350 billion for minority communities in new pandemic relief bill

WASHINGTON — While Republicans work on drafting the parameters of the next coronavirus relief bill, Senate Democrats are proposing that hundreds of billions of dollars targeted toward minority communities be included in the next legislative effort.

Senate Democrats say their $350 billion proposal is “an important down-payment” to address systemic racism and “historic underinvestment in communities of color” and also provide relief the communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID.

In a one-page white paper on their proposal for underserved communities, Senate Democrats say the fund will help the “severe burden” the pandemic has had on minority communities.

"Long before the pandemic, long before this recession, long before this year’s protests, structural inequalities have persisted in health care and housing, the economy and education. Covid-19 has only magnified these injustices and we must confront them with lasting, meaningful solutions that tear down economic and social barriers, and reinvest in historically underserved communities,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

The proposal comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to unveil Senate Republicans' next relief bill as early as next week, setting up a clash with Democrats over a path forward as the economy still feels the impacts of pandemic.

McConnell has shed some light on what will be included in his bill, including money to help schools open amid the pandemic, liability protection for hospitals and businesses, assistance for small businesses, additional direct payments and more money for coronavirus testing.

A box of personal protective equipment items in Winter Garden, Fla., on June 26, 2020.Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

While Senate Democrats have not been involved in talks with McConnell about the next relief bill, they are unveiling their own priorities, including enhanced unemployment insurance, money for schools and the new Economic Justice Act.

The proposal would, in part, repurpose $200 billion of unused funds from the Federal Reserve’s lending program for large businesses from the first CARES Act.

It would also spend $50 billion on child care, $40 billion on community health care, $115 billion for affordable housing, education and high-speed internet, $15 billion on Medicaid expansion and $25 billion on rent relief.

PAC with Democratic ties weighs in on Kansas Senate GOP primary

WASHINGTON — A newly formed PAC with ties to Democrats is inserting itself into Kansas’ Senate GOP primary with a new ad hammering Rep. Roger Marshall — providing a not-so-subtle, de facto boost for failed 2018 gubernatorial nominee, Kris Kobach, who some Republicans fear could lose the party’s historically safe seat if nominated.

"Kris Kobach, he’s too conservative," the 30-second spot from Sunflower State begins — hardly a negative for Republican primary voters slated to choose their nominee early next month. 

"Roger Marshall's a phony," the ad continues. "After backing a Mitt Romney-like candidate for president, he’s been soft on Trump and weak on immigration. Marshall’s been both for and against the wall. He went easy on China, but now talks tough. Roger Marshall: Fake, fake, fake."

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a candidate for the U.S. Senate, awaits the start of a debate in Olathe, Kan., on Feb. 1, 2020.John Hanna / AP file

Sunflower State has booked about $900,000 in ad time through the Aug. 4 primary, data from Advertising Analytics shows. Kobach and Marshall lead a broad field of candidates competing in the Kansas Senate GOP contest to earn the right to face expected Democratic nominee, state Sen. Barbara Bollier, to win outgoing Sen. Pat Roberts’ seat.

Some Republicans worry that if Kobach — who lost the state’s 2018 gubernatorial contest to Democrat Laura Kelly — becomes their party’s nominee, the traditionally red seat could be up for grabs as Bollier continues to rake in sizable fundraising sums and the DSCC pushes her candidacy.

The GOP primary has been heated from the start. The NRSC spoke out against Kobach's candidacy when he launched his Senate run and a Republican-aligned group, Plains PAC, recently unveiled a multi-million dollar ad campaign opposing him. Marshall has likewise been attacked by outside players, targeted by an ad campaign from the conservative group, Club for Growth, earlier this year. 

And now Sunflower State, which only filed its FEC paperwork Monday, is wading into the race and unlike Plains PAC or Club for Growth, it's affiliated with Democratic players.

The new group's media buyer, Old Town Media, has been used by Unite the Country, a super PAC backing presumptive presidential Democratic nominee Joe Biden. And Sunflower State’s bank account is with Amalgamated Bank, which is also used by prominent Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC, the DNC, and Biden for President.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach speaks on Oct. 17, 2018, at the Kansas GOP headquarters in Topeka, Kansas.Chris Neal / The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP file

The PAC's move to weigh in on the GOP primary despite its Democratic ties isn’t a totally new campaign tactic. Groups backing candidates of one party have previously butt into the opposing party’s primaries, opting to promote the candidate they believe is weakest and therefore the most advantageous rival for their nominee. And for Sunflower State, that appears to be Kobach. 

Asked about its motivations behind the ad, the group told NBC News in an email that, "Sunflower State is focused on educating voters about the U.S. Senate race in Kansas and is operating in accordance with all Federal Election Laws."

Leading anti-immigration Republicans fall in the Trump era

WASHINGTON — A swath of anti-immigration conservatives who flourished politically in the age of former President Obama are fading in the era of President Trump.

Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general and U.S. senator, lost a Republican primary Tuesday for his old Alabama Senate seat. Steve King, a congressman from Iowa, was defeated in a renomination battle for his long-held seat last month.

The two were in some ways predictive of the rise of Trump with their outspoken nativism and successful efforts to stop President Obama from liberalizing the immigration system.

Sessions worked methodically to cut legal immigration and helped write Trump’s 2016 platform on what became the Republican presidential candidate’s signature issue. As attorney general, he was an architect of Trump’s controversial family separation policy.

Sessions' former communications director, Stephen Miller, became Trump's senior policy adviser and has been a driving force behind the administration's attempts to cut back on immigration.

Jeff Sessions pauses before speaking at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington on Dec. 4, 2017.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

King focused his ire on those who entered the country illegally, making inflammatory comments and landing in hot water last year for remarks on white supremacy.

Both were defeated this cycle without support from Trump.

The president endorsed Tommy Tuberville in Alabama, decrying Sessions as disloyal for failing to control the Russia investigation that dogged his presidency for two years. He declined to endorse King, after the Iowan fell out of favor with House Republicans, despite backing him in 2018.

In 2018, Republican restrictionist Kris Kobach proved so toxic he lost a governor’s race to a Democrat in deep-red Kansas. Some in the party are working to stop him from winning a Senate primary this year, worrying that it would compromise an otherwise safe seat.

Liberals say the trend means Americans are rejecting anti-immigration attitudes.

“For years, people like King, Sessions, and Kobach pushed a virulently anti-immigrant agenda,” said Tom Jawetz, the vice president of immigration policy at the Washington-based Center For American Progress. “Over the past 3.5 years, people have finally had a chance to see where that rhetoric and those policies actually lead... and they don't like it.”

“It doesn’t reflect the values of fairness and humanity that they hold dear. It doesn’t comport with their vision of what America stands for. It’s a dark, mean vision of the world and we want to believe we are better than that,” he said.

The disappointment in Sessions’ defeat among immigration-focused conservatives was palpable Tuesday after many of them sought to boost him in the primary.

Author and provocateur Ann Coulter, a Sessions supporter who has soured on Trump, tweeted: “Now that the polls are closed, I'll admit, this was always going to be a tough race for Sessions, thanks to the disloyal, narcissistic, blame-shifting ignoramus in the White House.”

Mark Krikorian, an activist and researcher working to cut immigration to the U.S., wrote in May in reference to Sessions: “Trumpism is too important to be left to Trump.”

Other Trump allies known for their immigration views were defeated in 2018.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a folk hero on the right for his aggressive policies that targeted migrants, was routed in an Arizona Senate primary.

Joe Arpaio speaks in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a Trump campaign rally in Phoenix on Aug. 31, 2016.Ralph Freso / Getty Images

Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., who won a stunning upset in 2014 against then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in part for Cantor's willingness to cut an immigration deal with Obama, was defeated by a Democrat in the 2018 midterm election.

And Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who once vowed to make his town of Hazelton “one of the toughest places in the United States” for unauthorized immigrants, suffered a double-digit loss for the U.S. Senate in a state that Trump narrowly won two years earlier.

Trump has directed military funds to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and used executive authority to halt immigration during the pandemic. But he has not passed major legislation or moved public opinion in his direction. Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who leads in recent surveys, has pledged to reverse his anti-immigration policies if elected president.

Gallup poll released this month found that that American public support for increasing immigration has eclipsed support for decreasing it for the first time since the question was asked in 1965.

Joni Ernst unveils new child care proposal amid tough re-election battle

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, unveiled a new proposal Tuesday to help ensure that child care is available for parents returning back to work after either being furloughed or working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal could appeal to women — a demographic she needs to win re-election this year. 

The legislation, which she co-authored with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chair of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, would authorize federal grants to states for child care centers and providers to help them stay open amid financial troubles during the pandemic. Child care has become more difficult to obtain for working parents as some child care centers close, or don't have the funds to operate under new health and safety requirements.  

“This pandemic has only made our child care crisis worse,” Ernst said in a statement. “This new effort will help relieve anxiety for families by ensuring our kids are in safe environments and stabilizing the child care sector as a whole.”

Sen. Joni Ernst speaks after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on March 3, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via AP

Ernst is locked in an increasingly competitive re-election effort in Iowa. Recent polls show her tied or slightly trailing her Democratic opponent Theresa Greenfield. Ernst’s numbers in the state have fallen alongside President Trump’s. Trump won Iowa by 10 points in 2016, but a recent poll shows he has lost his edge over presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.  

And Trump's falling support among independent voters, especially women, appears to also be taking a toll on Ernst. In a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll, Ernst trailed Greenfield by 20 points among women. Ernst fared even worse among white women without a college degree. 

While the proposal helps to ensure that child care is available, it does not address the cost of child care for families, which is also a challenge for parents who have lost jobs, lost wages or lost hours. And though the measure authorizes funding, it doesn't appropriate any new money. However, Ernst is calling for $25 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program that could also be used to help alleviate cost of child care.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee said the bill is akin to putting "out a fire with an empty bucket." 

"I’m very glad to see that my Republican colleagues have recognized that we need to do something about the child care crisis in this country — but their proposal doesn’t even invest a single dime in actually solving the problem. Frankly, it’s like they’re trying to put out a fire with an empty bucket," Murray said. 

MJ Hegar outspends Royce West on airwaves 102-to-1 ahead of Tuesday's primary runoff

WASHINGTON — As Air Force veteran MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West face off in Texas' Democratic Senate primary runoff today, it's worth noting the massive spending discrepancy between the two candidates. 

Hegar and her allies have flooded the airwaves in recent months, leaving West in the dust. Hegar’s campaign, Women Vote! (the EMILY’s List super PAC) and the DSCC have combined to spend $2.2 million on behalf of Hegar on TV and radio, according to Advertising Analytics.

West’s campaign has spent a paltry $22,000 since the two advanced to the runoff, for an ad-spending ratio between the two campaigns of about 102:1.

That spending disparity, plus Hegar’s big-name backers and significant fundraising advantage, has given her an advantage going into the runoff as she runs a race reminiscent of the strategy that helped win Democrats many pivotal House seats in 2018, leaning in on health care issues and her military experience.

But West, a longtime state senator, has bristled at Hegar’s support from outside groups like the DSCC, and has played up his legislative career and work on issues like police reform amid the national upheaval on policing and racial injustice.

And he may have received a bit of a boost from an ad launched by Republican Sen. John Cornyn last week, which frames West as a "liberal politician," highlighting his positions on abortion, guns and taxes. The campaign has spent more than $100,000 on the ad, according to Advertising Analytics.  

But while the spot seems negative and could hurt West with general election voters, campaigns from opposing parties have long used these kinds of ads as a way to meddle in a primary and boost their preferred candidate amongst the opposing party's base by highlighting policies those voters support. 

Pro-Trump super PAC set to launch $23 million ad campaign in critical states next week

WASHINGTON — A top super PAC supporting President Donald Trump's re-election, America First Action, will launch a $23 million ad campaign targeting presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden next week in the key battleground states of Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the group confirmed to NBC News. 

The effort will kick off July 24 and last through Labor Day, with $5.6 million dedicated to Wisconsin and Arizona each, $7.5 million to Pennsylvania, and $4.5 million to North Carolina.

The majority — 52 percent — of the multi-million dollar purchase is invested in broadcast advertising while almost 20 percent of the buy is dedicated to cable TV. Fourteen percent will go to digital and mail advertising each.

President Donald Trump arrives to address a "Keep America Great" rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Feb. 20, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file

America First Action has spent a total of $5.5 million in Pennsylvania, $2.8 million in Wisconsin, and $2 million in Michigan on ads up to this point in the cycle, according to Advertising Analytics. The new buy appears to be the first time the group is actually spending money on spots in Arizona and North Carolina (though it has booked $26.6 million for Florida and North Carolina for the fall), signaling its expanding out its 2020 strategy.

“The President won AZ and WI by slim margins last cycle. All of the states we chose to invest in, Democratic outside groups are also investing in,” America First Action communications director, Kelly Sadler, told NBC News of the latest targets. “We're looking at the map and basing our investment decisions on the most reliable pathway to 270 electoral votes.”

America First Action’s previous spots have accused Biden of failing to hold China accountable and argued that his presidency would be bad for economic recovery — messaging the group will continue to deploy in its soon-to-come ads, which will be customized for specific groups and focus on different concerns within each state, per Sadler.

“The tone of these ads will be similar to what we've already run this cycle,” she said. “We're currently polling and focus grouping to help craft our next round of messaging.”

The ad campaign comes as recent 2020 polling shows presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leading President Trump nationwide by a sizable margin and in several critical states.

The group’s new ad buy was first reported by Axios.

—Ben Kamisar contributed.

Md. Gov. Hogan on school reopening: 'We're not going to be rushed into this'

WASHINGTON — Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday during an exclusive interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he will not be "rushed" into opening up schools and is working on a balance between providing students the "best education we can" in a safe way. 

"Everybody would like to get our kids back to school, as quickly as we can, but we also want to do it, and make sure that our kids are going to be as safe as possible. So, we're not going to be rushed into this," he said.

"From the beginning of this crisis, we've always been working very closely with our doctors, our scientists and our epidemiologists to make sure that we're doing the things that make the most sense." 

With the school year drawing closer, the number of daily, new positive tests continues to rise in the vast majority of American states. That's further complicated the already herculean task of deciding when and how to reopen schools, many of which open in a matter of weeks. 

President Trump has insisted that schools reopen in the fall, threatening retribution against schools that don't fully open and raising political concerns about the impact of reopening. 

During a Thursday event at the White House, he called the idea of not reopening schools "political nonsense." 

"They don’t want to open because they think it will help them on November 3rd.  I think it’s going to hurt them on November 3rd.  Open your schools," he said. 

Also on "Meet the Press," Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, said that his school system and others will likely need the federal government to earmark "additional resources" to help schools reopen while following best practices to keep the school community safe. 

"Our reopening plan has been, from the very beginning, informed by health experts, individuals who have distinguished themselves in the area of medicine and public health. And our plan, as we modify, will continue to be informed by those same individuals," he said.