The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Trump plans counter-programming in battleground states during Democratic convention
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to hit the road next week as counter-programming to the Democratic National Convention, traveling to several battleground states in an effort to generate competing coverage, according to two officials involved in the planning.
While the plans are fluid, as of now Trump will head to Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday, Arizona on Tuesday and Pennsylvania on Thursday. In Pennsylvania, he's slated to visit Scranton, the hometown of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in an effort to taunt the former vice president on his own turf. Trump plans to make the case that Biden shouldn’t be treated as a native son of the city since he hasn’t lived there in decades.
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Wisconsin on Thursday and will expected to accuse Democrats of “abandoning” the state for pulling most of their convention from Milwaukee, just hours before Biden accepts the Democratic nomination in Delaware. Biden announced earlier this month he would accept the nomination virtually, rather than in Milwaukee, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump made counter-programming a hallmark of his strategy during the Democratic primaries, scheduling rallies in all the early voting states to, in his words, “troll” the opposing party.
While the pandemic has eliminated any large, traditional campaign events from happening during this battleground state tour, the president will still likely be met with several hundreds of supporters at each stop. It’s unclear how much social distancing and mask wearing will be enforced.
It’s also unknown exactly how many of these events will be categorized as White House events rather than campaign events.
Trump campaign returns to airwaves in WI, still dark in MI and PA
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign returned to the Wisconsin airwaves on Tuesday, marking the first time the campaign aired significant TV or radio advertising in the state in almost two weeks.
Trump’s campaign spent $110,000 there Tuesday, and it’s slated to spend the same on Wednesday, according to data from Advertising Analytics. It had been dark there since July 29.
But while the campaign has returned to Wisconsin airwaves, it has been off the air in both Pennsylvania and Michigan for at least two weeks (since July 29 in PA and July 22 in Michigan, and even before then, its spending in Michigan had been dwindling).
But while the campaign isn't spending on TV or radio ads there, it has had some outside help. Since the campaign dropped off the air, the GOP group Restoration PAC has spent $2.4 million on ads in Michigan, and America First Action super PAC has spent $2.9 million in Pennsylvania.
The Trump campaign announced last month it would briefly pull ads to review its ad strategy, and it returned to the air days later touting a new focus on North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Arizona ahead of early voting.
But that new strategy so far hasn’t included the Great Lakes states key to Trump’s victory in 2016, states he won by the narrowest of margins.
Poll: Few parents say their children will be attending full, in-person school in the fall
WASHINGTON — Less than a fifth of American parents say their children will be attending school “fully in-person” this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.
Just 17 percent of American adults with kids say that their children’s schooling will take place fully in-person while 41 percent (a plurality) say that their kids’ will be learning only online. Twenty-seven percent say there will be a mix of in-person and online instruction and 15 percent of adults say they didn’t know what their children’s school situation would be yet.
President Trump has been pushing for schools to fully reopen this fall, but with the continued high transmission rate and positive case results of coronavirus, schools across the country are rethinking their instruction plans.
After a school in Georgia made headlines for packed hallways when schools fully reopened, several students and teachers tested positive for coronavirus. The school was forced to go fully remote temporarily while the school underwent deep-cleaning.
States that have taken a more conservative approach to reopening, like New York, have announced that schools can reopen for in-person instruction as long as their plans are approved by the state’s health and education departments – but even then reopenings won’t be uniform across the state. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a mix of in-person and remote instruction, and some teachers are threatening a “sickout” instead of returning to in-person work.
Minority parents are far more likely to report that their kids will be taking classes exclusively online, while white parents are more likely to say their children will be returning to full, in-person schooling.
Fifty-eight percent of Black parents, 49 percent of Hispanic parents and 47 percent of Asian parents say all of their child’s learning will be conducted online, compared to 33 percent of whites who say the same.
Parents are divided when it comes to how they rank the quality of education their children are receiving. Just 22 percent of adults say they’d rate the education quality as an “A”, 31 percent grade the quality a “B”, 28 percent say “C”, 10 percent D and 7 percent say “F”.
But a significant majority of adults, 66 percent, say that teachers are paid too little in their community. Only 26 percent say teachers are paid the right amount, and 6 percent say teachers are paid too much.
The data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted August 3-9, 2020 among a national sample of 44,601 adults in the U.S. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.
Democratic outside groups booking more than $10 million in new August Senate TV ads
WASHINGTON — Outside groups linked to Senate Democratic leadership are upping the ante in the race for the Senate majority, injecting another $10.3 million into key states.
The moves from Senate Majority PAC and an affiliated non-profit, Duty and Honor, first reported by NBC News, represent an increased investment in ad spending across five states: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Montana and Georgia. And they come after the top GOP-aligned Senate super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, announced last week it would start running ads in August too.
The nonprofit Duty and Honor is adding $3 million in TV spending to Maine, $1.5 million in North Carolina, $1.7 million in Montana and $1.4 million in Georgia.
Senate Majority PAC is adding $2 million in North Carolina, as well as $500,000 in Iowa and $200,000 in Maine.
All of the spending augments existing ad buys through August.
"Less than 90 days until Election Day and momentum and grassroots energy are on the side of Democratic candidates who have built strong campaigns across our offensive battlefield,” J.B. Poersch, Senate Majority PAC's president, said in a statement.
“Our latest investment will keep Senate Republicans on their heels as they are forced to defend their weak incumbents who are trailing in fundraising and in public polling."
The bulk of the outside group's ad spending has already been earmarked for the fall — in March, SMP announced plans to spend almost $70 million in TV ads in North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, Maine and Colorado, with other spending planned by its allies.
But Democratic effort, which also includes the allied Majority Forward, has also been spending in primaries and over the summer as it looks to soften up Republican incumbents ahead of the fall.
Democrats are bullish on their chances in the fall because the majority of competitive races are in states where Republicans are currently in office.
But Republicans have been shoring up their resources this summer too, as Senate Leadership Fund, the GOP group, launched a new, $21.3 million August TV and radio campaign — $6.6 million in Georiga, $6.1 million in Montana, $4.1 million in Iowa, $2.6 million in North Carolina, and $1.9 million in Arizona.
SLF had already announced plans to spend $90 million in ads starting after Labor Day.
Top GOP super PAC backing House Republicans books $45 million for fall ads
WASHINGTON — The top GOP super PAC boosting House Republicans’ efforts to take back the lower chamber in November announced Monday that it’s reserving another $45 million for an ad campaign launching this fall, with sizable investments dedicated to 40 different media markets.
Congressional Leadership Fund’s multi-million dollar commitment includes spending for broadcast and cable TV spots as well as efforts on digital platforms and direct mail. According to a CLF spokesperson, the majority of the buy is dedicated to television and ads from the new reservations will air starting after Labor Day.
CLF’s latest buy narrows in on several critical 2020 battleground states and media markets where House Republicans are hoping to either win back Democratic-held seats or defend their districts.
The largest portion of the $45 million purchase targets Iowa, where Democrats currently hold three of the state’s four House districts, with $3.5 million being invested there.
CLF is dedicating $3.4 million to the upstate New York and New York city areas each. About $2 million of New York city’s allotment will go towards defending the GOP-held seat of retiring Rep. Peter King in Long Island while $1 million is focused on the state’s 11th House District, which Democratic Rep. Max Rose flipped in 2018.
The recent buy also includes about $3 million for ads in Dallas, Houston, and Miami each, plus $2.9 million divided between New Mexico’s Albuquerque and Texas’ El Paso media markets.
Minnesota ($2.5 million) and Montana ($500,000) are among the list of states CLF is investing in for the fall, and other top cities the PAC has booked ads in include Los Angeles ($2.3 million) — home to California 25th District, which Republican Mike Garcia won in a May special election — Salt Lake City ($2.3 million), Philadelphia ($2.1 million), Atlanta ($1.7 million), and Las Vegas ($1 million).
The newly-announced reservations mark CLF’s second wave of ad spending for the November elections, more than doubling its first commitment of $43 million in April to about $90 million.
“The investments we’re making today are a second down payment in key races where we can make a real difference in the battle for the House,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a press release out Monday. “The hard work CLF put in from the outset has allowed us to keep Democrats where we want them: on defense. This reserve positions us well for the fall battle and it won’t be our last.”
The new ad campaign was first reported by POLITICO.
The blueprint progressives hope will move Democrats ‘beyond' the Trump Era
WASHINGTON — While the top issue to many Democratic voters is ousting President Donald Trump at the ballot box in November, key groups in the party’s left flank are out with a new report Monday, presenting a long term vision for the progressive movement while also pressing the need to prioritize key issues.
“We all agree the top priority is getting Trump out,” Leah Hunt-Hendrix, a co-founder of the progressive group Way to Win, told NBC News. “Trump was not just an aberration he was a symptom, so it’s imperative we use the next four years to address the roots of those problems.”
The report from Way To Win, in tandem with Data For Progress and input from pollsters, activists, and staffers across politics, makes the case for the popularity of progressive policies like Medicare For All, while also calling for better donor structures and apparatuses to better fund progressive candidates. It’s a reminder that while the Democratic party appears to have coalesced behind Biden to win in November, he’ll have intraparty policy battles to contend with if elected.
“The purpose of this report is to say ‘the work doesn’t stop,’” Hunt-Hendrix added. “We’re all fighting for November and the work doesn’t stop there...What Dems do when they're in power is just as important as electing Democrats to power.”
The report’s release comes after weeks of summer elections that saw progressives win in upset races. Jamaal Bowman, in New York’s 16th congressional district, unseated longtime Rep. Elliott Engel in an upset race in July. In Missouri last week, Cori Bush — a leader of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that were sparked by the police shooting of Michael Brown — bested Rep. William Lacy Clay, ending his family’s nearly half-century-long political dynasty there. Both won primaries for safely blue Congressional seats, all but assuring them a ticket to Washington.
To Max Berger, a staffer on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, the report is a blueprint for a progressive wing of the party now seeing tangible electoral gains and stepping into its own. “A big part of [this] is getting serious about what it takes to build power and win...and to drill down on what’s keeping us from getting there,” he told NBC.
DNC spotlight's Trump's pandemic leadership in new digital video
WASHINGTON — As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States passes the five million mark, the Democratic National Committee’s rapid response arm is out with a new digital video highlighting President Donald Trump’s oft-repeated contention that the coronavirus pandemic will “disappear” and “go away.”
The video features the president's comments juxtaposed against the cautionary words of the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s Dr. Deborah Birx.
The ad, which will appear unpaid on DNC social media platforms, is part of the larger push the committee is making to contrast Trump’s record with the plans presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he will offer when it comes to the coronavirus. “As we reach this horrible milestone of 5 million cases, we’re holding him accountable for still not having a plan to control the virus, even as more than 160,000 Americans have died and millions have lost their jobs,” Lily Adams, DNC War Room senior spokesperson told NBC News.
In July, the DNC began its first TV ad campaign of the 2020 cycle, marking the five year anniversary of the announcement Trump’s 2016 candidacy and his now-famous ride down that Trump Tower escalator. That ad, titled “Descent,” focuses on the decline of American jobs, health care, race relations, and immigrant rights.
Anticipation over Biden's running mate pick builds ahead of decision
WASHINGTON — Despite presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s pledge to announce his running mate by the first week of August, the political world still awaits his decision as the clock ticks down to the formal party nomination.
NBC News reported Monday that Biden planned to whittle his vice presidential list down to three or four candidates this week and have in-person meetings with his top contenders.
But Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, assured that an announcement was coming soon.
“We're close,” she said in an interview on Fox News on Tuesday. “He's close, he's got to make the final decision.”
With the highly-awaited choice just around the corner, here’s what some of the contenders have been up to this week.
Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator has been highly visible over recent days, continuing to put herself in the public eye as a top pick. And Biden himself confirmed that Harris remains in the veepstakes amid reports that some of his aides were pushing against her as the choice.
“She's very much in contention,” he said during an interview Thursday.
Harris remained vague, however, telling reporters on Capitol Hill, “You probably know more than I do!”
“Sometimes you get cut, sometimes it hurts, but it is worth it,” she added.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: After falling out of the headlines in recent weeks, NBC News reported Thursday that the Michigan governor is still a serious contender.
Whitmer serves as a co-chair for the Biden campaign and has earned the presumptive Democratic nominee’s praise for leading Michigan, a critical 2020 battleground state, through the coronavirus crisis.
And though many have called for Biden to choose a woman of color, Whitmer has voiced her demands for racial justice reform and declared racism a public health crisis this week in an executive order.
Rep. Karen Bass: With more national name recognition comes more scrutiny.
In the past week, there’s been extensive reporting on the California representative’s controversial comments about Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, and her decision to eulogize Oneil Marion Cannon, a high-ranking member of the Communist Party USA, in remarks entered into the congressional record in 2017.
Bass disputed claims that she’s a socialist or communist this week.
And on a more personal level, Bass opened up about an experience she shares with Biden and has discussed with him — losing a child.
“The most difficult part of it was and it was the same with him, is when those accidents happened, both of us were in public life,” she said during an interview on Sunday. “You don't have an opportunity to grieve privately, the world is watching you as you're grieving.”
Susan Rice: Rice’s leadership during the Benghazi attacks continued to make headlines this week with some suggesting that Rice as Biden’s running mate would make her a “lightning rod” for President Donald Trump’s base.
But in interviews, Rice has largely avoided those criticisms and instead has highlighted how her time in the Obama administration makes her qualified for the V.P. job.
“I think what I would bring is almost 20 years of deep experience at the senior-most ranks of the executive branch,” she said during an interview with CBS News Tuesday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Warren has already made herself a key policy-making partner to Biden, and her increasingly close relationship with him could signal that the two are “simpatico” — a must for the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Multiple outlets have reported that Biden and Warren speak regularly, which could be an encouraging sign for progressives who view Biden as too moderate.
And during a recent fundraiser that raised almost $2 million from over 50,000 grassroots donors, Biden spoke highly of the Massachusetts senator.
“Her fearless work for a just America has transformed lives and inspired millions, including me," Biden said of Warren. "She is something else. You all know her.”
Warren returned the compliment.
“I wake up every single day with a heart full of hope and here is why: Vice President Biden is meeting the moment,” Warren said.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Phoenix has become the top individual advertising market in the 2020 White House race
WASHINGTON — Phoenix has been the hottest advertising market in the 2020 presidential race, and this has nothing to do with the city’s blazing summer temperatures.
According to TV and radio ad spending data from Advertising Analytics, pro-Donald Trump and pro-Joe Biden advertisers have spent nearly $14 million in the Phoenix market from April 1 to Aug. 6.
That’s more than any other individual advertising market, and it’s a recognition of Arizona’s battleground status, as well as the importance of populous Maricopa County (where Phoenix is) in winning the state.
The second-biggest individual advertising market is Pittsburgh at $12.4 million, and the state of Pennsylvania has three in the overall Top 10 markets (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York).
Florida has two markets in the Top 10 (Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, and Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota), and so does Wisconsin (Green Bay/Appleton and Milwaukee).
But the largest overall market in the 2020 presidential race has been for national broadcast and cable buys — at $25 million.
That’s a significant departure from the 2016 race, which saw far less national and cable spending.
The Top 10 Advertising Markets in the 2020 Presidential Election Since April 1, according to data from Advertising Analytics:
- National: $25.3 million
- Phoenix: $13.7 million
- Pittsburgh: $12.4 million
- Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, Fla: $10.6 million
- Detroit: $9.9 million
- Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota, Fla.: $9.5 million
- Philadelphia: $8.4 million
- Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York, Penn.: $8.1 million
- Green Bay/Appleton, Wisc.: $7.1 million
- Milwaukee: $7.1 million
Club for Growth pushes Biden on school reopening in new battleground ad buy
WASHINGTON — The conservative Club for Growth is launching a $5 million media campaign with a new television spot that attacks former Vice President Joe Biden on the issue of reopening schools as President Trump pushes for in-person schooling this fall.
The new ad laments the possible developmental challenges of schools not returning to in-person classes in order to fight the virus, hitting Biden on his lack of support for school vouchers that the group says can help students find a school offering in-person learning if their public school is closed.
"A lost year is unacceptable, but four under Biden? That's a lost generation," the ad's narrator says.
The ads will begin running on Monday in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the group says, and that $5 million total includes both television and digital spots.
President Trump has pushed hard for schools to hold in-person classes in the fall, despite the recent spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.
Arguing that virtual school would make it harder for students to receive free and reduce meals, mental health services or have adults check in on them to be sure they're not being neglected at home, Trump said during a July White House briefing that "many school districts can now reopen safely, provided they implement mitigation measures and health protocols to protect families, protect teachers, and to protect students."
Recently released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses heavily on in-person schooling. Those guidelines were released weeks after Trump criticized the CDC for having "very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools" in a tweet.
The president has also threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don't reopen, accusing schools of making the decision based on politics.
Biden said during the presidential primary that he opposes school vouchers.
And his coronavirus school plan specifically calls for increased funding for public schools and child-care providers, alongside four other main planks: getting the spread of the virus under control, creating new national guidelines while allowing localities to make the ultimate decision, develop best practices on virtual and hybrid learning, and taking steps to ensure equal access to quality education during the crisis.
During a July 15 fundraiser, Biden criticized Trump's comments about cutting funding for schools that don't open. "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," he said.
Tennessee GOP Senate primary sets up another establishment vs. insurgent battle
WASHINGTON — After Tuesday's Kansas primary results gave Senate Republicans a sigh of relief after Kris Kobach's defeat, the Tennessee GOP Senate primary on Thursday also pits an establishment candidate against an insurgent. And both candidates are trying to brand the other as inauthentically conservative.
Bill Hagerty, a former private equity executive who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Japan, was long seen as a shoo-in for the seat after Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced his retirement last July. President Trump endorsed Hagerty almost immediately, even before Hagerty made his own campaign official. In a state where Trump won by a 26-point margin in 2016, that support initially made the primary seem like a snoozer.
But surgeon and first-generation American Manny Sethi appears to have surged in the closing weeks of a race that has become increasingly nasty and personal. While Hagerty has the financial advantage and the support of the president, a Sethi win could demonstrate the limits of Trump’s backing.
Public polling has been scarce, and Sethi’s internal numbers have shown a closer race than Hagerty’s, but both campaigns have ratcheted up negative attacks.
In a sign of how the GOP tide has turned against its 2012 presidential nominee, Sethi and his allies have lambasted Hagerty as “another Romney” because of his past role as national finance chair for Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. (Hagerty later served as Trump’s Tennessee Victory Chair in 2016, and he has distanced himself from Romney — even labeling him “weak-kneed” in a recent ad, and Romney has not publicly weighed in on the race.)
Sethi’s ads have also included warnings about “left-wing mobs,” and an “illegal immigrant invasion.” (That last claim came in a spot featuring his mother, who emigrated from India legally.) He’s also suggested that a conservative who objects to coronavirus lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests is automatically labeled “a racist [who] wants to kill Grandma.”
Hagerty’s ads have featured a veteran who says he doesn’t trust Sethi to stop flag-burners because he once donated to “a left-wing group that is bankrolling the rioters.” Sethi’s wife says this actually refers to a $50 donation to House Democratic candidate Tom Perriello in 2008 — made as a favor to a family friend — via the commonly-used online donation hub ActBlue.
Hagerty also called Sethi a “liberal elitist” for serving on a medical board that supported the Affordable Care Act and for failing to donate to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The contest has split Republican officials, with both Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., backing Sethi while Hagerty boasts backing from Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Whichever candidate wins, he will start with a big advantage over likely Democratic candidate and Army veteran James Mackler in the fall.
Ben Kamisar contributed.