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Meet the Press Blog Archive

Catch up with Meet the Press blog posts from past years leading up to May 17, 2022
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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GOP primary ads use Romney as cudgel

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney isn't running for president. He's not even up for re-election this cycle.

But the Utah senator is still showing up on the airwaves as campaigns try to use him as a wedge in the Republican Party.

The only Republican senator to vote for an impeachment article in President Trump's Senate trial earlier this year, and one of the few Republican senators who has consistently criticized Trump's conduct or his administration, Romney is certainly no stranger to intra-party criticism (the Club for Growth bought some ad time in Utah to hammer him for his impeachment vote). 

But Romney is being evoked in contentious primary races in which he's playing no part, and even a Missouri state senate primary down the ballot. 

Image: Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks on Capitol Hill on July 27, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

One good example is in Tennessee's GOP Senate primary, which is pitting former Ambassador Bill Hagerty against Dr. Manny Sethi (among other candidates). The battle between the two men has grown contentious in recent weeks, with both sides lobbing brutal charges that the other one isn't conservative enough for Tennessee. 

But a group supporting Sethi tries to make that point by depicting Hagerty shape-shifting out of Romney, as part of an ad that frames Hagerty's original sin as associating with the Republican Party's 2012 nominee. 

A similar dynamic is playing out in the GOP primary for Florida's 19th Congressional District, and even in some state legislative primaries across the country too.  

And it seems likely Democrats are trying to seize on the divide in the party over Romney, too — about a month after the Club for Growth evoked Romney’s image to attack Roger Marshall, the mysterious group (with ties to Democrats) meddling in Kansas’ GOP Senate race started attacking Marshall for having backed a “Mitt Romney-like candidate” for president (John Kasich, for those of you scoring at home).

As campaigns use these loyalty tests to ask primary voters to repudiate their party’s 2012 nominee to support their new standard-bearer, it’s yet another reminder of how the GOP has been fashioned in the image of President Trump.

Giffords PAC launches anti-Gardner ad amid new, $7.5 million push toward November

WASHINGTON — Former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' political action committee, Giffords PAC, is launching a $1.25 million ad campaign against Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., portraying him as a politician bucking the interests of Coloradans in order to stand by President Trump.

The spot is the opening salvo of the at least $7.5 million Giffords PAC and its affiliated non-profit is budgeting for the general election, NBC has learned, aimed at backing its candidates up and down the ballot, hitting President Trump on guns (the group has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden) and messaging on gun safety. 

"Instead of protecting our families from gun violence, Cory Gardner would rather protect Donald Trump," the narrator says in the new Colorado ad. 

The ad will run starting Tuesday through the end of August on broadcast and cable in the state. 

Giffords PAC, Brady PAC and Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund have all endorsed Gardners opponent, former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. 

Those groups have applauded Hickenlooper for state laws enacted during his tenure on issues like background checks and limiting magazine capacity and they've hit Gardner for not supporting similar measures in the Senate.

Gardner told an audience in Aspen that he didn't "support gun control" last year and has pointed to "focusing on mental health services and stopping dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms" as a way to prevent future mass shootings.

He voted in favor of a 2016 Republican-led measure that would have delayed those on a terror watch list from buying a gun for three days while law enforcement looked into the situation. Democrats panned that delay as too weak, and Gardner voted against a more expanded bill offered by Democrats. 

Giffords PAC has backed a lengthy list of candidates in serious federal races this cycle, including: Biden; incumbent Democratic lawmakers like Iowa's Abby Finkenauer, New Jersey's Andy Kim, and Virginia's Abigail Spanberger; Democratic House challengers like Illinois' Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Washington's Carolyn Long and Virginia's Cameron Webb; and Democratic Senate challengers North Carolina's Cal Cunningham and Kentucky's Amy McGrath. 

It is also backing two Republican congressmen — Pennsylvania's Brian Fitzpatrick and New Jersey's Chris Smith. 

"NRA lobbyists and gun lobby leaders still enjoy too many open doors in Washington. Their influence has prevented us from being able to protect the safety of kids and communities with safer gun laws like universal background checks," Peter Ambler, Giffords' executive director.

"Voters have the choice and the chance this year to elect leaders who will listen to experts, ignore special interests, and pass stronger gun laws.” 

Jason Phelps, a Giffords PAC spokesperson, told NBC News that while the group is focused on federal and local races across the country, its "top focus" is on races for Congress and the White House to win the ability to pass legislation expanding background checks. Phelps added that "the most emphasis" will be on Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa and North Carolina. 

A new committee wants to help Biden fulfill pledge to have Muslim American voices in his administration

Former Vice President Joe Biden committed last week to having Muslim American voices in his administration should he win the White House in November. Now, a new committee is working toward screening candidates to fill those slots.

Emgage PAC announced Tuesday it is coordinating the "Muslim American Executive Selection Committee," which it said will help to "identify, evaluate and endorse highly qualified Muslim American candidates for a potential Biden administration."

Speaking last week before Emgage's advocacy group, Emgage Action, Biden said he would be a president who "recognizes and honors" contributions of Muslim Americans in U.S. society.

"I'll be a president seeks out listens to  corporate the ideas and concerns of Muslim Americans on everyday issues that matter most to our communities," he said. "That will include having Muslim American voices as part of my administration."

Biden also pledged to remove President Donald Trump's travel ban, which involves several majority-Muslim nations, on "day one" as president.

In announcing the screening committee, Wa'el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage PAC, told NBC News he is confident there will be "much better" Muslim American representation in a potential Biden administration than under Trump.

"And we expect" Biden to make that so, Alzayat said. "And we will hold him to it."

Alzayat, who worked in the State Department for a decade, entering under President George W. Bush and leaving during the Obama administration, said that although there was not a "huge" number of Muslims working in presidential administrations during his time serving, there was a "noticeable increase year after year," something he said came to a halt after Trump took office.

The screening effort will include both the opportunity for perspective candidates to pass along their credentials as well as a recruiting effort by the committee to target talent.

Alzayat said this upcoming election presents a unique backdrop for Muslim Americans and Muslim American voters, a constituency that could be the deciding factor in lifting a candidate to victory in a closely-fought swing state like Michigan, should the race again come down to the wire. 

Meanwhile, the election comes "at a time of unprecedented islamophobia and attacks against that community," he said.

Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary heats up one month out

WASHINGTON — With just over a month remaining before the Massachusetts Senate primary on Sept. 1, incumbent Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III are locked in a tight race with no clear frontrunner.

Kennedy and Markey — both progressives — have few major policy disagreements. But Kennedy, the 39-year old grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is framing himself as a youthful, energetic alternative to his 74-year old rival. Markey and his backers tout the senator’s long record of advocacy, paint Kennedy as “a progressive in name only,” and accuse the Kennedy campaign of wasting resources on a safely blue seat as Democrats attempt to capture a Senate majority this fall.

Image: Workers observe a moment of silence during a nationwide Strike for Black Lives in Boston
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., waits to speak to workers at a nationwide Strike for Black Lives in Boston on July 20, 2020.Brian Snyder / Reuters

Markey, who served in the House for more than 35 years before being elected to the Senate in 2013, appears to have the edge in the endorsement game so far. The incumbent has support from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has also won the backing of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (with whom Markey co-sponsored the Green New Deal legislation) and major environmental groups.

But Markey’s congressional support is far from unanimous. Kennedy has been endorsed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and several other well-known Democrats, including the late Rep. John Lewis. He’s also backed by several key labor unions. First elected to the House in 2012, Kennedy’s influence in the chamber has captured plenty of attention from Democratic leaders; in 2018, the party tapped him to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address.

Several Massachusetts statewide polls this spring showed Kennedy with a narrow but persistent lead over Markey, although no statewide public polls have been released since. However, second quarter fundraising numbers showed the two campaigns in a virtual fundraising tie. After each campaign raised about $1.9 million in the quarter, Markey’s campaign reported a total of $4.8 million in its account, while Kennedy’s campaign said it had about $4.7 million.

Kennedy vastly outspent Markey on advertising from April through June — $1.8 million versus just $52,000. The challenger has also blitzed Massachusetts airwaves, spending about $2.8 million on ads to date compared to less than $700,000 spent by Markey’s campaign and a super PAC backing him.

Image: Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., speaks to workers at a nationwide Strike for Black Lives in Boston
Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., speaks to workers at a nationwide Strike for Black Lives in Boston on July 20, 2020.Brian Snyder / Reuters

The online campaign has intensified in recent days. Incensed by Kennedy’s primary challenge against an environmentalist incumbent, a number of the senator’s Twitter supporters successfully pressured several Broadway stars to back out of a Kennedy fundraiser they were originally scheduled to headline. The event has been indefinitely postponed by the Kennedy campaign.

The two candidates, who last debated in early June, will debate a few more times before the primary election. NBC’s Boston affiliate hosted the first of the three matchups Sunday evening.

An early August veep pick would put VP front-and-center before the convention

WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s self-declared timeline for announcing his V.P. pick is inching closer. But if Biden sticks to the first week of August, he’ll be making his selection public about two weeks before the Democratic convention — that’s earlier than most recent nominees. 

Both former President Obama and President Trump announced Biden and Vice President Pence as their running mates just three days before the 2008 Democratic convention and 2016 Republican convention respectively. 

2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney made the decision a bit earlier: he named then-Rep. Paul Ryan on Aug. 10 and the convention began Aug. 27. 

The woman Biden chooses will make her address to the Democratic convention sometime between Aug. 17 and Aug. 20. The less time there is between the pick going public and that speech could mean less time for opposition research to drop, but also less time for party enthusiasm to build. 

Here’s what some contenders have been up to this week:

Sen. Kamala Harris: After Biden said on MSNBC that four Black women are on his shortlist (his campaign later clarified that that was not exhaustive), Harris also took to the airwaves. Asked if she’s one of those Black women, she deflected, saying, “I’m honored to be in the conversation.”

“I am not going to speak for the vice president,” she said Tuesday. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure Joe Biden is elected the next president of the United States.”

While Harris has been quieter than others in promoting herself for the job, she made clear Tuesday that she intends to be a strong part of the get-out-the-vote effort. 

“It concerns me when we see the polling and people get a little happy and at least a little comfortable with it,” she said. “We first have to win, and that’s going to be about encouraging people to vote, registering people to vote, fighting against those states that are suppressing voters’ ability to get to the polls.”

Rep. Karen Bass: While the California congresswoman doesn’t have the same name recognition as others on the short list, there’s been murmurings that she could be an alternative to Harris

On Friday, Bass weighed in on that idea and made it clear she wanted no part of it: 

“Senator Kamala Harris has spent her entire life fighting for the people. I would never want to be labeled the ‘anti-Kamala Harris.’ We’re fortunate to have had her as Attorney General and now as Senator. She would be an excellent VP and the same goes for anyone else on the list,” Bass tweeted. 

Asked about her own experience with the veep vetting process on MSNBC Tuesday, Bass kept her V.P. ambitions to herself, but said she’d like to see a woman of color on the ticket. 

“Of course I would love to see him appoint a woman of color as his running mate, but like he said, he is going to make sure that his administration on every level looks like America, and I think that that is absolutely important and sufficient at this time,” she said. 

Image: House Democrats Call For The Replacement Of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney Bust
Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference to discuss an upcoming House vote regarding statues on Capitol Hill on July 22, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator has had an undeniable impact on Biden’s policy plans since he became the presumptive nominee, most recently working with the Biden camp to formulate one of the pillars of his “Build Back Better” economic plan.  

And on Tuesday, Warren highlighted Biden’s ability to lead the country’s economic recovery through the coronavirus pandemic. 

“His plan is both economically sound and meets people where they are at a human level. It's Joe Biden at his best, in my view,” she said.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: Duckworth, a woman of color, went on offense against President Trump’s handling of race issues during an Everytown for Gun Safety forum this week and her willingness to do so could prove beneficial as a running mate.

“He is using racist rhetoric against Asian Americans to distract the American people from his utter failure to deal with this pandemic from the very beginning,” Duckworth said. “Don't fall for it, don't fall for his racist rhetoric and don't let people fall for it because he is trying to distract all of us.” 

On Tuesday during an interview on MSNBC, Duckworth also reaffirmed her commitment to help Biden in any way.

“If he said, ‘Tammy, go sweep floors in a V.A. hospital’, I would go do that because we have that many crises in front of us we have to address.” 

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

Biden, Obama discuss race relations, coronavirus, ACA in sit-down conversation

WASHINGTON — In their first known in-person side-by-side appearance together since Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee, former President Obama and his vice president discussed the challenges the U.S. is facing in a video released Thursday.

In a 15-minute “socially distant conversation” held in Obama’s Washington D.C. office earlier this month, the two discussed the coronavirus pandemic, the Affordable Care Act and race relations. This release was the full version of the conversation the Biden campaign teased on Wednesday.

Obama largely devoted his comments to validating Biden’s leadership and ability to tackle issues he’s faced criticism for, particularly whether he can help uplift the Black community. 

“The key right now, and this is why I have so much confidence in your administration, wanting to be a partner in harnessing that energy and bringing about concrete reforms, concrete steps, not just in the criminal justice system, not just with respect to policing, but with respect to investment, jobs, business development, is going to send a signal of decency," Obama said. 

Biden expressed his disbelief in President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and told his former boss that the biggest challenge will be creating jobs in the wake of the pandemic — Obama had begun the conversation by addressing how the duo handled the 2008 economic crisis and asked Biden how he is thinking of the economy now. 

Biden said there are three pieces to economic recovery: Keep people from "going under forever", make sure businesses can keep people on payroll and cover overheard and then building the economy "back better" – plugging his "Build Back Better" plan. 

"We have to change the way in which we deal with allowing people an opportunity to make a living. That includes childcare, that includes turning, making significant investments in infrastructure so people can make, not just a living wage but a union wage, making sure we have a build up an entire new public health system, and making sure everybody has health care," Biden said. 

Image: Barack Obama, Joe Biden
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk during a college basketball game between Georgetown Hoyas and the Duke Blue Devils at the Verizon Center in Washington on Jan. 30, 2010.Mitchell Layton / Getty Images file

During the his primary campaign, Biden consistently stressed his relationship with Obama and how he planned to build on the Affordable Care Act rather than create a Medicare for All or single-payer system. Obama endorsed that plan during the sit-down conversation. 

"I always used to say, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. It's like a starter house. It's the first house you get. And it, it's not the end of the process. It's the beginning of the process," Obama said. 

The two likened it to Social Security, with Biden saying that when the program was first passed it was narrow but "you kept building it out". 

Driving home his endorsement of Biden, Obama ended the conversation praising Biden's empathy and reiterated his confidence in his former vice president. 

"You are going to be able to reassemble the kind of government that cares about people and brings people together," Obama said.

Biden campaign goes on offensive against Sen. Ron Johnson’s Burisma probe

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Tuesday launched a highly personal broadside at Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, for pushing forward a committee inquiry into the presumptive Democratic nominee's past dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president. 

Among other things, the Biden campaign is accusing Johnson of being opaque about whether he is, in effect, “party to a foreign influence operation against the United States” by receiving materials from pro-Russian foreigners as part of the committee’s probe.

The memo, signed by Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield and shared with NBC News, accuses Johnson of “diverting” his committee’s resources away from oversight of the worsening coronavirus pandemic to promote “a long debunked, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory” about Biden in an attempt to assist President Trump’s re-election campaign.

Image: Democratic presidential candidate Biden holds campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware
Joe Biden speaks about modernizing infrastructure and his plans for tackling climate change during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware on July 14, 2020.Leah Millis / Reuters

At issue is Biden's attempt as vice president to sideline Viktor Shokin, the Russia-aligned former Ukrainian prosecutor general. Shokin at one point conducted an investigation into Burisma, an energy company in Ukraine where Biden’s son served on the board. Trump and other Republicans maintain, without evidence, that Biden pressed for Shokin’s dismissal to protect Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the company’s board. 

But Shokin’s ouster was the official policy of the U.S. government at the time, and numerous fact checks have shown that Shokin’s investigation of Burisma was dormant by the time Biden sought his ouster.

Trump's attempts to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine while pressing it to investigate Biden led Trump to become the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump of the charges, and allies including Johnson have vowed to press forward with investigations into the Bidens’ connections to Ukraine. Johnson has asked several former State Department officials to testify and could issue subpoenas as soon as this week if they refuse to voluntarily appear.

In recent media reports, pro-Russian Ukrainians said they’ve passed materials to the committee.

A committee staffer told NBC News it is “false” the committee has received any “oppo,” or opposition research, without responding directly to whether that covers any materials from foreign sources. 

The committee staffer said that the claims from both the Democrats and Ukrainians are “false, and the Democrats know this.”

Johnson, the Trump campaign, the White House, and the State Department “have all declined to comment on whether that is true — meaning that each are refusing to tell the American people whether they are party to a foreign influence operation against the United States,” the Biden campaign memo asserts.

“Senator Johnson should be working overtime to save American lives and jobs — but instead, he’s wasting taxpayer dollars on a blatantly dishonest attempt to help Donald Trump get reelected."

The memo also takes aim at comments Johnson has made downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Johnson said “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population,” which would total over 11 million people. This led to a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

That month, Johnson also wrote in USA Today, “Every premature death is a tragedy, but death is an unavoidable part of life.” 

The memo coincides with a letter Democratic leaders sent on Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray that included a classified attachment, according to Politico, citing the investigation led by Johnson as an example of how foreign disinformation campaigns are targeting Congress. They are calling for an urgent briefing before Congress breaks for the month of August. 

"It does a disservice to our election security efforts when Democrats use the threat of Russian disinformation as a weapon to cast doubt on investigations they don’t like but are silent when recently declassified intelligence revealed that Democrat-funded opposition research on the Trump campaign contained actual Russian disinformation,” the committee staffer said.

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said Wednesday that Johnson is "not only diverting" the committee from oversight, "not only engaged in total hypocrisy by virtue of his years-long support for the anti-corruption victory Vice President Biden delivered in Ukraine, and not only advancing the interests of Russia in a manner that is openly distressing to his Republican colleagues — but he has also revealed his complicity in a foreign attack on the very sovereignty of our elections." 

In economic speech, Biden blasts Trump's handling of the pandemic

WILMINGTON, DEL. — In remarks just outside his hometown Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden attacked President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and accused the president of not caring about the American people.

“For all his bluster about his expertise on the economy he is unable to explain how he'll actually help working families hit the hardest. You know, he's quit on you, and he's quit on this country,” Biden said. 

And Biden reiterated his belief that the election in November will be about uniting Americans, not about himself.

“It's about you. It's about what we'll do, what a president is supposed to do. A president’s supposed to care, to lead, to take responsibility, to never give up,” he said.  

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Speaks On His Economic Recovery Plan in Delaware
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery during a campaign event in New Castle, Del., on July 21, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Biden’s remarks came after he unveiled the third pillar of his “Build Back Better” economic agenda. This proposal, which is estimated to cost $775 billion, is devoted to training the next generation of educators and caregivers, and giving families and caregiving workers a better opportunity to make ends meet. The two other planks in his economic agenda cost $2.7 trillion. 

In an effort to relate to Americans facing financial and familial instability in the wake of the pandemic, Biden recalled becoming a single father to his sons after his wife and infant daughter died in a car crash at the beginning of his Senate career. He described feeling hopelessness, but promised Americans experiencing that now that it will be okay. 

“There's just that feeling, that sense, when you just don't know if everything’s going to turn out okay. And I'm here to tell you that it can be, and it will be,” he concluded.

The Biden campaign also kicked off a $15 million ad buy on Tuesday and released three new ads. Two of the ads focus on the coronavirus pandemic — one explaining why it's important to wear a mask, and the other touting Biden's experience handling the Recovery Act and the ebola crisis as proof he can also handle the pandemic. The third ad, which runs in Spanish, will be broadcast in Arizona and Florida and focuses on Biden's track record with immigrant families. 

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.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20, 2020.Sue Ogrocki / AP

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. 

Image: Democratic presidential candidates Biden and Warren pose together at the start of the fourth U.S. Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio U.S.
Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren at the fourth Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate at in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

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.

Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, on July 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.Patrick Semansky / AP

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?”

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.
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.

Image: Elizabeth Warren
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.
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.
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.

Image: Kris Kobach
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.

Image: Jeff Sessions
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.

Image: Donald Trump Speaks On Immigration At Rally In Phoenix
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.
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.

Image: Donald Trump, Arizona
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. 

Veepstakes roundup: Background checks intensify as time for pick nears

WASHINGTON — During a week of spiking coronavirus cases, high-profile Supreme Court decisions, and continued calls for racial justice reform, the guessing game over who Joe Biden will select as his vice presidential running mate continued to make headlines as well with the presumptive Democratic nominee’s self-imposed Aug. 1 deadline approaching

“The final deep dives have not been done,” Biden said of the V.P. vetting process Thursday. “They are doing the background checks — they've not been finished. And so, I can't tell you what that will be.”

With that next stage of the veep search yet to come, here are the most significant developments from this week:

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: The Illinois senator started out the week in a rough spot after she suggested in a CNN interview that there should be a “national dialogue” about whether statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington should be removed. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2020.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2020.Al Drago / Pool via AP

Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, was then questioned on her patriotism by conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and the Trump campaign argued that Duckworth was using her military service to “deflect” — moves that spurred Duckworth to write an op-ed and for Biden to come to her defense. 

“He attacks the senator from Illinois who is a literal hero, combat veteran, lost both legs fighting for her country, and he says she’s not a patriot. Folks we cannot let this stand,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser Tuesday. 

In a New York Times op-ed Thursday, Duckworth clarified her remarks on CNN, writing, “our founders’ refusal to blindly follow their leader was what I was reflecting on this Fourth of July weekend, when some on the far right started attacking me for suggesting that all Americans should be heard, even those whose opinions differ from our own.” 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Even as Democrats call for a woman of color to join the ticket, the Massachusetts senator and former Biden primary rival still appears to have a spot in the veepstakes. 

Warren was a loud surrogate for Biden this week, appearing on multiple prime-time cable shows and participating in a campaign event Thursday with one of Biden’s most trusted advisers — his wife, Jill Biden — who will likely have a say in who Biden chooses as a running mate.

Both Warren and Jill Biden are educators — Warren was a public school teacher, and later a law professor, and Biden is a professor at a community college — and used their shared experiences to discuss school reopenings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a fellow educator and advocate and as a senator, you have been an inspiration to so many people across our country for many, many years,” Biden praised Warren.

The Massachusetts senator was also reportedly a major player in formulating Biden’s new “Build Back Better” economic proposal, which could suggest that the presumptive Democratic nominee’s team considers her a valuable policy voice. 

Sen. Kamala Harris: While Harris’ name continues to be whispered about as an obvious V.P. choice to some, there also seems to be some overlap between Harris’ 2020 team and the Biden campaign. The Biden camp announced its new Florida leadership team Monday and Brandon Thompson — who was Harris’ director of national campaigns — is now the coordinated director for Biden’s Florida strategy. 

As Harris’ name has grown more popular though, her Wikipedia page has come under scrutiny. According to some reports, Harris’ page saw a surge of activity over the week which were comparable edits to those made on Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine’s page before he was announced as the 2016 Democratic V.P. pick, and on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s page before she was chosen in 2008. 

Even though it’s just one sign that the page may be getting more traffic, it adds to the flurry of assumptions that Harris’ background and relationship with Biden shoots her to the front of the pack.

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

Biden releases new digital ads on restoring empathy

WASHINGTON — A day after Joe Biden lambasted President Trump as "exactly the wrong person to lead us," the presumptive nominee's campaign released a new digital ad, with three different versions, building off of the message of restoring core American values in the White House.

The ads don't mention the president’s name directly but instead hone in on their candidate’s commitment to family in an effort to stress his kitchen table values that have guided him throughout the trials and joys of life.

The Biden campaign unveiled their first digital ad narrated by actor Jeffrey Wright, who describes how the then-senator of Delaware commuted four hours on Amtrak from Wilmington to the nation’s capital to be with his two sons every night following the death of his wife and infant daughter weeks before he was sworn in to the U.S. Senate. 

“People in Washington didn’t get why Joe Biden would travel all that way. But in neighborhoods all over this country, there’s no distance parents won’t go for their kids,” Wright stresses in the minute-long ad. “When Joe Biden traveled those four hours, he wasn’t just going home for his kids, he was going to work for them too, just like he will for yours.”

Biden and his campaign have long pointed to his sense of empathy following numerous tragic losses in his life as a way for the former vice president connects with voters suffering personal and economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign hopes to build a message Biden stressed in a Dunmore, Penn. speech Thursday where he mentioned how his own life experiences guided him to personally connect with voters who have dealt with loss.  

“You know, you see growing up rich and looking down on people is a bit different than how I grew up here,” he said in a dig toward Trump. 

The new digital ads — which are part of a $15 million investment in battleground states the campaign announced last month — bring back messages Biden has long stressed throughout his campaign, including in the primary where he sought to contrast himself from Democratic opponents who fought for a more far-reaching approach on health care.

In the two shorter digital ads, that will also be played on social channels including YouTube, Hulu and other channels, the Biden campaign emphasizes their candidate’s personal journey with the health care system and his promise to protect American’s health care as if it were his family’s own.

Steve Bannon, former top Trump aide, applauds Biden "Buy American" event

DUNMORE, Pa. — A former top adviser to President Donald Trump is warning that Joe Biden’s bid Thursday to wrest away one of his few remaining advantages in the 2020 race — the economy — could prove a success.

Steve Bannon, who played a lead role in the closing months of Trump’s 2016 campaign and then in the early stages of his presidency, told NBC News that the former vice president appeared to be “stealing notes from [the] 2016 playbook.”

Biden on Thursday, near his hometown of Scranton, rolled out the first plank of his “Build Back Better” economy plan, focused on attempting to revive American manufacturing through a significant infusion of federal dollars to buy American-made products, while also investing heavily in domestic research and development. 

In a blistering speech, Biden said that the president had failed to live up to the promises he made to working-class voters in communities like the ones near his hometown of Scranton, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Image: Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Delivers Remarks In Pennsylvania
Joe Biden stops in front of his childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania on July 9, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

"The truth is: Throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and NASDAQ. Not you, not your families,” he said. "If I'm fortunate enough to be elected president, I'll be laser-focused on working families, the middle-class families that I came from here in Scranton, not the wealthy investor class.”

To Bannon, it was an effective approach — “run as a populist and economic nationalist to keep Bernie voters.”

"By doing it in Scranton, [it] shows that his people get what he has to sell and where he has to sell it,” Bannon said.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried Lackawana County, where Biden spoke. But neighboring Luzerne County saw one of the biggest swings in the country from Obama’s 2012 vote share to Trump’s four years later — more than 20 points.

But for Biden, Scranton is more than just his hometown, it’s central to his political identity. Allusions to the lessons he learned from family here have been a staple of his public speeches for decades. To reinforce that, Biden even visited that home briefly after delivering remarks at a metalworks factory here.

"You know you see growing up rich and looking down on people is a bit different than how I grew up here,” Biden said, making a direct contrast between his upbringing and Trump’s. "Wall Street bankers and CEOs didn't build this country. …  You can look around your neighborhood or your kitchen table and see who built this country. It was at my grandfather Finnegan's kitchen table in Green Ridge that I learned money doesn't determine your worth."

Pro-Tuberville effort outspending Sessions with days to go before Alabama Senate primary runoff

WASHINGTON — As Alabama's heated and closely-watched Republican Senate primary runoff nears, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and his allies have significantly outspent former Attorney General and Sen. Jeff Sessions on the airwaves. 

Through Thursday, Tuberville's campaign has spent $762,000 on TV and radio ads since the March primary, when the two men advanced to a head-to-head runoff after no Republican candidate reached 50 percent support. The Club for Growth, which has endorsed Tuberville, has spent about $615,000, while Grit PAC, a super PAC backing the former football coach, has spent another $73,000. 

Sessions, meanwhile, has spent $660,000 over the same period in a bid to win his old Senate seat back. 

Team Tuberville also has the edge in future spending — he and his allies have another $200,000 booked from Friday through Tuesday's primary, while Sessions has $75,000 booked. 

This spending data is courtesy of the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

Tommy Tuberville
Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville walks off the field after the team's NCAA college football game against Memphis on Nov. 18, 2016, in Cincinnati.John Minchillo / AP

The primary will decide who has the right to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the heavily Republican seat, making it a coveted slot amid a year where Republicans have few chances to go on offense in Senate races. 

In recent weeks, Tuberville has been leaning heavily on his endorsement from President Trump, echoing the president's rhetoric to call Sessions weak for recusing himself in the Russia investigation as attorney general. A recent Sessions spot cribs some footage from that ad to call Tuberville "Washington's choice" and take aim at his football career by saying he's "quit or been fired from every job he's ever had."

Biden rolls out economic proposals to boost manufacturing with spending and investment

SCRANTON, Penn. — Joe Biden is returning to his roots Thursday, kicking off what his campaign says will be a multi-week economic policy rollout with a focus on reviving American manufacturing near his home town of Scranton.

Even as Biden has built a consistent lead in national and most key battleground state polls, surveys also continue to find President Trump enjoying one advantage with voters with his handling of the economy. And so after weekly public events primarily focused on the administration’s response to the COVID-19, the presumptive Democratic nominee will begin to flesh out how a Biden administration would try and restart the economy — both by addressing the immediate needs triggered by the pandemic, and longer-term trends he will argue Trump has failed to address, or even made worse in office.

Where Trump vowed four years ago to “Make America Great Again,” a slogan that proved successful in swing counties like nearby Luzerne County that saw one of the biggest flips in the country from President Barack Obama to Trump, Biden’s team is billing his agenda as designed to “Build Back Better,” by prioritizing small business workers and addressing ongoing inequalities that prevent minorities from reaching a fair economic playing field. 

Previewing Biden’s remarks at a metal works facility in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, three campaign officials argued that despite Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, outsourcing of American jobs has only grown as he has weakened America’s standing internationally. 

Building on a plan released earlier this week focused on rebuilding American supply chains, his “Build Back Better” manufacturing initiative calls for directing $400 billion in federal procurement spending on American-made products while tightening enforcement of so called “Buy American” provisions, and investing another $300 billion on research and development initiatives aimed at developing new technologies that could be marketed globally. 

“Vice President Biden truly believes that this is no time to just build back to the ways things were before with the economy's same old structural weakness and inequalities still in place. This, he believes, is the moment to imagine and build a new American economy for our families and next generations,” a senior campaign official said in a press call with reporters Wednesday.

In coming weeks, Biden will lay out additional initiatives that would both provide a needed boost to the economy while also addressing other challenges — specifically climate change and the pandemic. Next week, aides say, Biden will offer new details on what it calls a “clean energy and infrastructure plan,” followed by a plan creating a 21st century caregiving and education workforce, recognizing a shortage in healthcare providers that has been exacerbated during the pandemic. 

Finally, Biden will discuss an economic agenda focused on closing racial wealth gaps and expanding affordable housing, investing in minority entrepreneurs, and advancing policing and criminal justice reform.

In addition to Biden’s remarks Thursday, the campaign has planned six “Build Back Better” themed roundtable discussions with surrogates across the country in key battleground states Friday that include vice presidential hopefuls Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as well as former primary rivals. 

Campaign officials would not specify Wednesday how Biden’s new spending would be paid for — a shift from the Democratic primaries when the campaign regularly detailed how he would generate new funding — one significant source being a rollback of some Trump tax cuts. 

Instead, a second official signaled that the administration would consider some of these new initiatives as essential stimulus measures that would not be offset by spending cuts or new taxes — as Congress has already done this year, and as Biden himself oversaw in the 2009 Recovery Act. 

“He wants to retain some flexibility,” the adviser said. “This year alone, we've seen a $3 trillion Cares Act now we're talking about another trillion or two to come in. And the pandemic trajectory is not looking particularly positive. So what's going to be required in terms of additional stimulus spending early next year is a little bit hard to figure.”

Republican outside groups book millions in ad time to defend Georgia, Kentucky Senate seats

WASHINGTON — Republican-affiliated groups are preparing to spend more than $25 million on new TV ads aimed at shoring up GOP-held seats in Georgia and Kentucky. 

The new buys in typically safe Republican states come as Democrats push to expand the map to challenge Republicans for the Senate majority. 

Two affiliated groups, the non-profit One Nation and super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, are making the ad buys this week, spokesman Jack Pandol confirmed. 

In Georgia, One Nation plans to spend about $8.65 million in August and Senate Leadership Fund plans to book roughly $13.5 million in television ads to start after Labor Day. 

There, Republicans have to play defense in two seats the party currently controls — in a special election to replace former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, and in Republican Sen. David Perdue's re-election. 

Perdue is set to face off against Democrat Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who built up his name recognition and a strong fundraising network during a failed bid in a 2017 congressional special election. 

And in the special election, Republicans are in the middle of a brutal primary battle between incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, while Rev. Raphael Warnock is the Democratic frontrunner. 

A recent Fox News poll found former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump by 2 points (the same poll found Perdue leading Ossoff by only 3 points). A down-ballot drag for Republicans, plus infighting in the Republican special election, could make Georgia more competitive in the fall. 

One Nation also plans to spend $4.3 million on a four-week television buy in Kentucky that starts on August 4. There, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has to fend off Democrat Amy McGrath, who won a tight primary against the more progressive state Rep. Charles Booker, but has an unprecedented warchest for a Democratic Senate challenger who isn't self-funding. 

Kansas' Bollier joins ranks of Senate Democratic challengers raising big money in second quarter

WASHINGTON — Kansas Senate Democratic contender Barbara Bollier broke the record for the largest reported single-quarter fundraising filing of any federal, state, or local candidate in the state’s history, her campaign said Wednesday.

Bollier, endorsed by the DSCC and widely viewed as the favorite to win the August 4 Democratic primary, raised $3.7 million in the second quarter, lasting from April through June, with over $4 million in cash on hand according to her team. That’s over $1 million more than the $2.35 million she raised in the first quarter of 2020. 

The campaign also said that almost 81 percent of those contributions were from first-time donors in a press statement. 

Kansas State Sen. Barbara Bollier speaks at the Statehouse in Topeka on April 26, 2018.
Kansas State Sen. Barbara Bollier speaks at the Statehouse in Topeka on April 26, 2018.John Hanna / AP file

The current state senator’s sizable cash haul is just one example of Senate Democratic challengers raking in big fundraising totals in the second quarter as the party tries to take back the Senate majority. Democrats aiming to unseat GOP Senate incumbents in Maine, the Carolinas, and Montana recently released their own eye-popping fundraising sums.

Bollier, a former Republican herself, hopes to become the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since 1932. But despite the state’s history of red representation in Congress, the Senate seat left open by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is considered winnable for Democrats under the right conditions with some Republicans worried that if former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach becomes their party’s nominee, the seat could be in play. 

Kobach, who lost the state’s 2018 gubernatorial contest to Democrat Laura Kelly, does not have the support of one of the most important trappings of the GOP establishment — the NRSC.

“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," NRSC spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said last year after Kobach launched his bid. "We know Kansans won’t let that happen and we look forward to watching the Republican candidate they do choose win next fall.

Kobach's GOP rival, Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall, has racked up a number of significant endorsements and the Republican-aligned group, Plains PAC, also launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign Tuesday opposing Kobach’s candidacy.

And even though Kobach continues to make headlines, the Republican field ahead of next month’s primary remains crowded with almost a dozen candidates vying to advance to an expected general election match-up with Bollier in November.

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. 

Image: People gather during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
A protester holds a sign that reads, "Defund the Police" during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 7, 2020.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

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. 

Image: President Trump Participates In National Dialogue On Safely Reopening Nation's Schools
President Donald Trump, flanked first lady Melania Trump by Vice President Mike Pence, from left, participate in an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely re-open schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic in the East Room at the White House on July 7, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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. 

U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon speaks at campaign event on Feb. 19, 2020 in Skowhegan, Maine.
U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon speaks at campaign event on Feb. 19, 2020 in Skowhegan, Maine.Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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. 

Cassidy-Sinema Parental Leave Plan
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., conducts a news conference introducing legislation that would help offset expenses incurred by new parents in the Capitol on Dec. 4, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

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. 

Local Republican activists bristled at his decision to officiate a same-sex wedding, a move that sparked a county Republican Party to censure him and another to give him a vote of no confidence

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."

Image: SC Rep. James Clyburn Announces Endorsement For Presidential Candidate
Joe Biden and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., embrace as Clyburn announces his endorsement for Biden in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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. 

President Donald Trump speaks during a fundraiser in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sept. 7, 2018.
President Donald Trump speaks during a fundraiser in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sept. 7, 2018.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

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.”

Image: A boy rides a scooter past signs outside the boarded-up entrance to AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington
A boy rides a scooter past signs outside the boarded-up entrance to AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington on June 6, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP file

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. 

Image: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Biden speaks at campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden answers questions during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, June 30, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

“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.

The one-minute spot, titled “We Lose,” claims the Lincoln Project is an elitist Democratic super PAC that sees "tens of millions" of President Trump's supporters as "stupid.” 

“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.  

Image: Joint LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter march in New York City
People hold a sign as they take part in a joint LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter march on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City on June 28, 2020.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

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

A recent Siena College/New York Times Upshot poll found Kelly up 9 points over McSally, and a recent Fox News poll found Kelly up by 13 points. 

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. 

Image: Delegates dance during the final day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016.
Delegates dance during the final day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016.John Locher / AP file

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump campaign hits Biden on energy, trade around Pennsylvania speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianna Sotomayor contributed.

Biden wins nod from all Democratic state attorneys general

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden earned the endorsement from the country’s Democratic attorneys general on Thursday, all citing his commitment to uniting the country and protecting key tenants of the party including the Affordable Care Act

In a letter obtained exclusively by NBC News, all 23 Democratic attorneys general say they are enthusiastically supporting Biden because they trust him “to guide us out of this unprecedented health, economic, and social justice crisis.” 

Moreover, they credit Biden’s commitment to unite the country, his character and record compassionately upholding the rule of law as a major reason why they would place trust in him as president.

“As state attorneys general, each of us swore to discharge dual roles as both the chief counsel for the states we represent and the ‘people’s lawyer’ for our constituents. We ran for this office to protect the most vulnerable among us and to hold accountable those who would seek to harm and exploit them,” the attorney generals say in the letter.

They add, “We are proud of the work we have done to protect progress, but we are ready for the day when the federal government is our partner in seeking justice for our people, not a source of injustice against them. We are ready for experience, competence, compassion and decency in the White House. We are ready for Joe Biden.”

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

The letter, which was spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Democratic Attorneys General Association, particularly references the Trump administration and Republican attorney general lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is being filed to the Supreme Court Thursday.

Echoing remarks Biden himself has made, the Democratic AGs call Trump’s continued pursuit to undo the healthcare system during a pandemic “immoral and unlawful.”

Access to healthcare has remained a critical issue for voters ever since the Trump administration and Congress began dismantling the landmark healthcare law passed under the Obama administration.

The 2018 midterms saw a sweep of Democratic wins of Republican seats by candidates who ran on protecting the Affordable Care Act, including attorney generals in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin who were endorsed by Biden.

Biden also endorsed attorney generals in Ohio, Florida, Arizona and Delaware, where his son Beau Biden served as attorney general before his death in 2015.

Among the new endorsements today, Biden has earned the backing from Attorneys General in Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

Partisan gap in coronavirus fears grows

WASHINGTON — As the country marks its highest single day of new coronavirus cases to date, a new poll from the Pew Research Center shows wide and growing partisan gaps in how Americans view the risks of transmitting the virus and the steps they are taking to prevent its spread. 

The poll, which was conducted between June 16 and 22, found that Republicans are significantly more likely than their Democratic counterparts to believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, to feel comfortable attending social events and dining out, and to say they’re not worried about contracting the virus or spreading it unknowingly. They are also more likely to say that face masks should rarely or never be worn in public. 

While a similar Pew poll in April found some partisan differences in how Republicans and Democrats viewed the evolving crisis, the new survey demonstrates how much larger the gaps have grown as states grapple with the economic reopening and — in many parts of the country — a new surge in cases. 

Among Republicans, just 35 percent said they are very or somewhat concerned about contracting the virus and requiring hospitalization, down from 47 percent in April. But among Democrats, 64 percent are very or somewhat concerned, virtually unchanged from two months ago. 

The gap is even wider when it comes to Americans’ worries about spreading the virus unknowingly to others, with 77 percent of Democrats but just 45 percent of Republicans voicing their concern. 

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

Republicans are also far more optimistic about the future of both the pandemic’s spread and the economic recovery. Six-in-ten, 61 percent, of Republicans say the worst of the virus is behind us, while just 23 percent of Democrats agree. And about half of Republicans — 46 percent — believe current economic conditions are excellent or good, while only 9 percent of Democrats say the same. 

Asked about engaging in social activities that experts say may carry increased risk, Republicans are similarly less anxious. A third — 31 percent — now say they are comfortable attending a crowded party, up 20 points in the last two months. Fewer than 10 percent of Democrats agree, a share that is virtually unchanged from April.

Four-in-ten Republicans express comfort attending an indoor concert or sporting event, compared with just 11 percent of Democrats. And 65 percent of Republicans also say they feel comfortable dining at a restaurant, 37 points higher than the share of Democrats who say they would do the same.

As public health experts — but not President Trump — continue to urge Americans to wear face masks to mitigate risk, a majority of Americans overall — about seven-in-ten — say face masks should always or usually be worn in public. 

But that figure includes just 52 percent of Republicans, compared with 86 percent of Democrats. Twenty-three percent of Republicans say that masks should never or rarely be worn, a sentiment shared by only four percent of Democrats. 

The poll was conducted via online panel from June 16-22 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 1.8 percentage points.

Trump campaign staffers who traveled to Tulsa rally working remotely

WASHINGTON — All of President Trump's reelection campaign staff who were in Tulsa, Okla. for the rally last Saturday are currently working remotely and will be tested for coronavirus before returning to their Virginia headquarters, according to a senior campaign official.

While most of the Trump campaign staff came to work at the Rosslyn, VA headquarters in mid-June, there is now a much smaller presence there this week, given how many aides traveled to Oklahoma.

Trump's Tulsa rally came as the state was seeing an increase in coronavirus cases and as top members of his coronavirus task force warned against it.

Six member's of the campaign advance team, including Secret Service personnel, tested positive in the run-up to the rally. Two more tested positive after the rally, and the Washington Post reported Wednesday that dozens of Secret Service personnel who traveled to Tulsa have been told to self-quarantine after those positive tests. 

The campaign says it is doing contact tracing, and has advised members who came into contact with the confirmed positive cases to self-monitor for any symptoms.

 

  

Everytown for Gun Safety pledges $5 million investment in North Carolina ahead of key presidential, downballot races

WASHINGTON — Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun-control group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plans to spend $5 million in North Carolina this election season aimed at helping Democrats win pivotal races in the fall. 

The group also plans to push to "elect a gun sense majority" in the state's legislature. 

The plan includes digital, television and mail ads as well as a grassroots field program that will run alongside Democratic efforts in the state, which alongside the presidential race has important elections for Senate, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. 

Everytown is backing the Democratic candidates in all of those key statewide races, and Republicans won all of the group's targeted seats in 2018. 

"With a fast-growing and increasingly diverse population, and competitive races, North Carolina is a pivotal battleground state that could decide who wins the presidency, who leads the U.S. Senate, and whether or not common-sense gun safety legislation moves forward at both the federal and state levels," Charlie Kelly, the group's senior political advisor, wrote in a memo released Wednesday. 

"With changing demographics across the state, driven by dynamic economies in and around the Research Triangle and Charlotte, and the political realignment of the suburbs giving rise to an extraordinary level of grassroots activism to reduce gun violence in North Carolina, we believe there are opportunities to elect gun sense candidates up and down the ballot and across the state."

Everytown, co-founded by Bloomberg, has already pledged to spend $60 million this election cycle on races up and down the ballot in a variety of swing states. That total was twice what the group spent during the 2018 midterms, when Democrats flipped the House of Representatives and made big gains across the country. 

Priorities USA drops new ad criticizing Trump on Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, which has been blitzing the airwaves for weeks with ads focused on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, is expanding its campaign with a focus on the administration’s efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act.

The Democratic super PAC's new campaign comes as former Vice President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks about the fate of the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement, which faces another Supreme Court test as the White House is set to file brief urging justices to strike down the law. 

A new broadcast television ad targeting voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan says that “even now,” amid the ongoing pandemic crisis, the president is "trying to end the Affordable Care Act.”

“Health care costs would skyrocket, and insurance companies would again be allowed to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions,” the spot warns, saying Trump is “failing America.”

Priorities is also debuting a pair of digital ads about the healthcare law and the consequences of its potential undoing. The PAC says it is spending $2 million per week on the new campaign. 

“Even as the American people continue to fight for our lives in the battle against this deadly pandemic, Donald Trump and his Republican allies are in court as we speak trying to terminate the Affordable Care Act, tearing protections away from millions of Americans at the moment they need them most,” Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement.

Democrats up and down the ballot campaigned aggressively in 2018 on protecting Obamacare, mainly focused on its requirement that insurers cover individuals with preexisting health conditions.

Biden’s campaign has continued that messaging, even in the Democratic primaries as it warned that efforts to pursue a single-payer system could jeopardize the hard-fought ACA protections. Priorities has committed to spending $200 million on the presidential race, and announced this week it has raised $173 million toward fulfilling that goal.

Polls: Biden expands lead in Wisconsin, tight race emerges in Ohio

Joe Biden has expanded his lead in Wisconsin, according the a new Marquette Law School poll of registered voters in the state. Biden is leading President Trump by 8 points — 49 percent to 41 percent. That's an expansion of his three-point lead in May when the presumptive Democratic nominee and the president brought in 46 and 43 percent support respectively. 

Wisconsinites have also soured on the president's job approval. Forty-five percent of registered Wisconsin voters approve of the job the president is doing, while 51 percent disapprove — it's Trump's lowest marks in the Marquette poll this year. 

Image: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Biden speaks during campaign event in Darby, Pennsylvania
Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at a community center in Darby, Pa., on June 17, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The biggest change among voters in the state has come from Republicans and independents. In Marquette's May poll, Republicans supported the president in a Trump-Biden match-up 93 to 1 percent, and independents broke for Trump in the state with 34-27 percent support. Now, Republicans support the president 83 to 8 percent, and more independents are breaking for Biden. Biden leads Trump in independent voters 38 to 30 percent. 

The poll is part of a larger pattern that shows the president's support slipping in key states he'd need to win November. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by just over 22,000 votes — and the Cook Political Report has Wisconsin listed as a toss-up state for the 2020 election. 

A Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday showed a tightening race in Ohio with Biden leading Trump 46 to 45 percent among registered voters. The president carried the state in 2016 by 8 percent. 

The Marquette poll was taken between June 14 and 18, and has a 4.3-point margin of error, and the Quinnipiac poll was taken between June 18 and 22, with a 2.9-point margin of error. 

Trump trails Biden by 14 points in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is leading President Trump by 14 points, 50 to 36 percent, in the latest general election poll by The New York Times and Siena College. The poll is the most recent of several national surveys that have shown Biden ahead of Trump by double digits. 

The New York Times/Siena College poll also shows Biden leading or tied with the president among all age demographics. Biden and Trump both poll at 44 percent support with those aged between 45 and 64, and Biden is within the 3-point margin of error in his 47-45 percent lead among those 65-years-old and older. 

It's a similar story across education levels of voters — the president trails Biden with voters who completed some high school and/or trade school, as well as with those who hold bachelors degrees and graduate degrees. Trump and Biden are tied with those who have completed "some college" with 43 percent support each. And it's the latest poll to show that Trump's 2016 support among blue-collar workers and white voters has ebbed. Trump and Biden are statistically tied with white voters with the president up one point at 44-43 percent. 

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

However, this poll doesn't suggest a surge in support for Biden. Only 26 percent of registered voters said they found Biden "very favorable" — another 26 percent said they found him "somewhat favorable", and a combined 42 percent of registered voters said they find Biden either "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable. 

While that isn't a ringing endorsement for Biden, it may be all he needs to curry favor with an electorate that, according to this poll, finds Trump more unfavorable. A similar 27 percent of registered voters said Trump was "very favorable", but 50 percent of them found the president "very unfavorable". 

Trump's disappointing poll numbers come at a time when a majority of voters have said they disapprove of the job he's doing in handling the coronavirus pandemic and after an underwhelming crowd in Tulsa, Okla. showed up for the president's first official campaign event since the pandemic began. According to this poll, 58 percent of registered voters disapprove of Trump's handling of the pandemic.

The New York Times/Siena College poll of registered voters took place between June 17 and 22. 

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. 

In an ad obtained by NBC News and set to be released Wednesday, the group gives its endorsement to Bullock in his race against Republican Sen. Steve Daines.

“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.

Its release comes just days after the Cook Political Report changed its rating of the contest from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.” 

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. 

Inauguration Of Donald Trump As 45th President Of The United States
Vice President Joe Biden speaks with President Barack Obama during the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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.

Joe Biden during the Democratic presidential primary debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.
Joe Biden during the Democratic presidential primary debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file

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 new group, Let's Turn Colorado Blue, just popped on the scene last week and has begun running an ad attacking Hickenlooper's primary opponent, former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff.

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

Joe Biden Holds Campaign Event Ahead Of Super Tuesday
Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, applauds as Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, speaks during a campaign event for Biden in Dallas, Texas, on March 2, 2020.Dylan Hollingsworth / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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.”

In the second ad, “My Commitment,” the apparent Democratic nominee focuses more on the economy and how he plans to raise the country out of the recession provoked by the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

But even without spending any money on the airwaves, Biden has enjoyed a healthy lead over Trump in virtually all national and state polls conducted in recent weeks.

—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.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University in Dover on June 5, 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University in Dover on June 5, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images

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.

Image: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Philadelphia
Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event devoted to the reopening of the U.S. economy during the coronavirus disease pandemic in Philadelphia, on June 11, 2020.Bastiaan Slabbers / Reuters

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. 

Joe Biden at the We Decide: Planned Parenthood Action Fund 2020 Election Forum to Focus on Abortion and Reproductive Rights event in Columbia, S.C. on June, 22 2019.
Joe Biden at the We Decide: Planned Parenthood Action Fund 2020 Election Forum to Focus on Abortion and Reproductive Rights event in Columbia, S.C. on June, 22 2019.Adam Schultz / Joe Biden Campaign via Facebook

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. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., on June 14, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

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." 

Image: Teacher Instructs Remotely From Empty Classroom
Joanne Collins Brock, a second grade teacher at St Francis School (Goshen) , teaches online in her empty classroom on April 15, 2020 in Goshen, Ky.Andy Lyons / Getty Images file

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. 

Image: President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House on May 30, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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.

Image: Jon Ossoff
Jon Ossoff delivers his concession speech to supporters at his election night watch party in Atlanta on June 20, 2017.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

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. 

Image: People gather during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
A protester holds a sign that reads, "Defund the Police" during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 7, 2020.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

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. 

Image: Giagnna Mendez, originally from Peru, wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus participates in a swearing in ceremony to become an American citizen held at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's Kendall office
Giagnna Mendez, originally from Peru, wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus participates in a swearing in ceremony to become an American citizen held at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's Kendall office on June 4, 2020 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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

WASHINGTON — Pressure is mounting on apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden to pick a woman of color as his running mate, as protests continue to erupt following the killing of George Floyd.

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.

Harris has steadily risen to be a top choice for Biden and her latest actions could boost her prospects. 

Image:
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during a moment of silence to honor George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol on June 4, 2020.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

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. 

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 Biden campaign has released a new digital ad in light of the George Floyd protests, which is now playing on social media platforms across six battleground states.

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.

TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-PROTEST-GUN-VIOLENCE
Protesters take part in a rally of Moms against gun violence and calling for Federal Background Checks on Aug. 18, 2019 in New York.Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty Images file

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.

Image: Muriel Bowser
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks June 1, 2020, in Washington, during a news conference to announce a new 7 p.m. curfew for the city for the next two nights.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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. 

The D.C. mayor put a 7 p.m. curfew on the city for Monday and Tuesday night on Monday morning after Sunday evening protests led way to fires and looting across the city. 

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.

Image: Steve Bullock
Steve Bullock speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party Liberty & Justice dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 1, 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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.

Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to members of the clergy and community leaders at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., on June 1, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AP

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.

President Donald J. Trump
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a briefing in response to the coronavirus pandemic at The White House on April 8, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

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. 

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach votes on Aug. 7th, 2018, at the Lecompton City Hall. Kobach is running for his party's nomination for governor.Thad Allton / The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP file

“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.

In the two Women Vote! ads captured by Advertising Analytics, the PAC takes aim at both Franken and Mauro, framing Franken as a carpetbagger and Mauro as not adequately supportive of abortion rights. 

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.

Image: Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., claps for Joe Biden at a primary event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., claps for Joe Biden at a primary event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

“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. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion with industry executives on reopening the country, in the State Dining Room of the White House on May 29, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

“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.

Image: Val Demings
Val Demings speaking about the Senate impeachment trial on Jan. 28, 2020 in Washington.Michael Brochstein / Barcroft Media via Getty Images file

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'