The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Trump campaign focuses cable TV buys on Fox News, while Biden makes a wider play
WASHINGTON — Since April 8 — the day Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — President Donald Trump's re-election campaign has spent 52 percent of its cable TV ad spending on ads airing on Fox News, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
That differs from the Biden campaign's cable TV buys, which have directed nearly 22 percent for ads airing on Fox News, 23 percent on CNN and 10 percent on MSNBC.
Trump has spent just 9 percent of his cable TV buys on CNN, and 6 percent on MSNBC.
And the two candidates are spending drastically different amounts on cable TV — Trump has spent about $15 million, while Biden has spent about $2.5 million.
Cable TV buys don't show the full picture of either campaign's TV investments — both have spent millions of dollars on traditional network TV ads, and the president has far outspent Biden at most advertising turns ($71 million overall since April 8 compared to $19.3 million for Biden).
But the glimpse at how the candidates are approaching cable TV buys is one of many examples of Trump playing to his base — while Fox News enjoys strong ratings across the board, polling also shows Fox News viewers are far more likely to support the president.
As much of the president's strategy zeroes in on maximizing enthusiasm and ginning up turnout among those who may already support him, recent polling has shown an increasingly difficult landscape for his reelection. The latest NBC News/WSJ poll showed that 50 percent of registered voters said there is "no chance" they will vote for Trump. And 52 percent of registered voters said they were "very uncomfortable" with his candidacy.
Of course, that doesn't mean voters feel assured that Biden will win. While Biden carried support from a majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania in a recent Monmouth University poll, 57 percent of Pennsylvania voters said there is a "secret" group of voters who will support Trump but not tell anyone.
Trump won Pennsylvania by fewer than 70,000 votes in 2016.
Many of the president's ads have focused on painting Biden as a socialist, and accusing Biden of wanting to defund and abolish police. But recent polling has Biden leading even on issues that Trump sees as a strength.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 50 percent of adults said the trusted Biden more than Trump when it comes to crime and safety, and 58 percent of adults said they trust Biden more on race relations.
Voting access groups push for election funding in a new pandemic relief bill
WASHINGTON — As the Senate prepares to take up the next coronavirus relief bill, two voting access groups are launching a $500,000 digital ad campaign urging lawmakers to provide funding for expanded voting, including mail-in voting, in November.
The three digital ads urge voters to call their senators to pressure them to include money for elections in the next relief bill, saying that amidst a pandemic people shouldn’t have to choose between their health and voting.
The ad campaign, launched by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and Let America Vote, is focusing on 13 states, including those with Republican incumbents are at risk of losing their re-election races, including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and Texas.
The House passed $3.6 billion in election funding for states in the Heroes Act that is expected to be used to implement mail-in voting in November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to unveil the Senate’s Coronavirus relief bill early this week. It is unclear if he will include election funding and if so, how much.
President Donald Trump continues to sows distrust in mail-on voting, saying on Fox News Sunday that “it is going to rig the election.”
While a majority of people would prefer to vote in person, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Republican voters are much more likely to say that fraud is possible in mail-in voting with 73 percent of Republicans saying fraud is possible while 66 percent of Democrats deem it safe.
Small matters get attention as Biden gets closer to choosing a running mate
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is getting closer to making his vice presidential pick, and this week said that background checks on the contenders are “coming to a conclusion within the next week to 10 days.”
The Biden team has said they’ll go public with their choice around the first week of August, but until then, here are some of the tea leaves from this week for those on Biden's short list:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator and Biden haven’t always been “simpatico.” The two have disagreed over bankruptcy laws, and during a primary debate argued over who deserved credit for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But Warren had one message for voters this week who were on the fence about Biden: vote for him anyway.
“Vote like your life depends on it. Why? ‘Cause it does. Pick any issue you care about. I guarantee it is on the line in this election and Joe Biden has a vision for how to make change,” Warren said during a virtual campaign event.
Warren, who’s considered the most progressive politician on the veep shortlist, could help Biden’s enthusiasm problem with more liberal voters. In the latest NBC News/WSJ poll, just 14 percent of voters said they were “enthusiastic” about Biden — but 80 percent of Democrats said they had a high interest in the election. And those voters could be warmed by a Warren pick.
Susan Rice: The former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser continued to underline her qualifications for the job this week, pointing to her experience at the highest echelons of the federal government.
“I know how to make things work and how to get stuff done,” Rice said in a radio interview Friday, echoing a talking point often used by many veepstakes contenders.
But unlike other possible running mate choices, Rice wasn’t shy about expressing her desire to take on the man whose job she hopes to have — a quality the Biden camp could find useful on the trail.
When the prospect of debating her potential rival, Vice President Mike Pence, came up, Rice simply replied, “Bring that one on, that's all I'll say.”
Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris, who has spent less time in the federal government than others on Biden's shortlist, unveiled two new proposals this week. The California senator proposed a housing plan that would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and she announced a new initiative focused on anti-bias and anti-racism training in health departments and for health care professionals.
Harris’ focus on policy this week could be an attempt to beef up her policy chops ahead of Biden picking a running mate. Biden has made it clear that his first priority with a veep is picking someone who could be president on day one — and Biden came to the job in 2008 with decades of Senate experience.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor’s name recognition has soared as her fight with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp goes to the courts. This week, Kemp signed an order forbidding municipal officials from declaring mask-wearing orders — and sued Lance Bottoms for her executive order that required facial coverings in public.
Lance Bottoms recently tested positive for coronavirus, and said during an interview on “Today,” “The governor has simply overstepped his bounds and his authority, and we'll see him in court.”
The mayor also reaffirmed that she would serve as vice president if asked.
“I am a leader with proven leadership,” Lance Bottoms said earlier this week. “That being said, this decision will be left up to Vice President Biden and I trust that he will make the decision that is best for our country as a whole.”
Rep. Val Demings: Like Lance Bottoms, Demings’ public profile has risen amid the coronavirus crisis and the persisting calls for racial justice reform.
The Florida congresswoman has been outspoken about her ambitions to serve on the ticket with Biden and continues to promote her resume, personal life experiences, and ability to meet the moment in media appearances.
Demings has also been brazen in criticizing President Trump and his coronavirus response as her home state of Florida quickly becomes the pandemic’s new epicenter.
“In the absence of leadership, bad things happen and good things don’t happen enough,” she said on “The Tonight Show” this week.
Considering Biden’s need to get the Democratic base enthusiastic about his candidacy, choosing a Black female running mate who’s unafraid to be tough on Trump could do just the trick.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Biden releases five-step 'roadmap' to safely reopen schools
WASHINGTON — In response to the Trump administration’s push to fully reopen schools across the country as coronavirus cases continue to climb, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has released a five-step “roadmap” to safely guarantee children can go back to school in the fall, arguing that the administration has not provided adequate guidelines.
The five page plan released Friday stresses the former vice president’s message to safely reopen the economy, pointing out that the first step to give Americans confidence to sending their kids back to school is getting the virus under control by ramping up testing and protective protection equipment.
Biden also says that as president, he would empower local decision-making while still setting clear national safety guidelines for them to follow given that the “Trump administration’s chaotic and politicized response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own.”
“Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick. Forcing education students back into a classroom and areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous,” Biden said standing alongside his wife Dr. Jill Biden in a new video.
Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime educator, stressed other parts of her husband’s plan like pumping funding into broadband and other resources to ensure students can access remote learning online. Biden said that if he were president today, he would have already sent a bill to Congress asking for emergency public schools funding, estimating roughly $30 billion for safe supplies and $4 billion for upgrading technologies.
Biden initially laid out a plan to revitalize the economy last month that included steps on how best to reopen schools and child care programs safely. But the latest roadmap specifically addressing school reopening comes after the president threatened to cut federal funding for schools that do not reopen, leaving many educators scrambling to figure out the best ways to reopen safely.
“President Trump doesn’t have the authority to cut the funding,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser earlier this week. “We should send him back to school for a while so he learns about the constitution and he learns about the power he does and doesn’t have.”
The plan also comes one day after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a press briefing that “science should not stand in the way of [schools reopening]” when asked what the president would tell parents who are considering taking their kids out of school due to the coronavirus spread to instead learn online.
“And I was just in the Oval talking to him about that," she said. "When he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this,” she said.
In response, Biden stressed that while the president has “waved the white flag and given up” on finding the safest solutions to reopen the economy and schools, he plans on addressing the educational disparities that have been brought to light amid the pandemic.
“Every single student should be able to access high quality distance learning,” he said. “We can’t allow the pandemic to further exacerbate the educational disparities that already exist in this country. We need a White House that’s laser focused on closing those gaps.”
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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.