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Obama and Harris are country's two most popular political figures
WASHINGTON — Tonight’s main speakers at the Democratic convention — former President Barack Obama and V.P. nominee California Sen. Kamala Harris — happen to be the two most popular political figures in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll when it comes to their net-positive ratings (though Obama is much more popular than Harris is).
Digging inside Obama’s 54 percent positive, 34 percent negative rating (+20), the former president gets high marks among Black voters (84 percent to 6 percent), Latinos (63 percent to 19 percent), women (60 percent to 29 percent), voters 18-34 (59 percent to 24 percent), independents (51 percent to 23 percent), and he even breaks even with white women without college degrees (44 percent to 44 percent).
Compare those numbers with Biden’s among those same subgroups: Black voters (65 percent to 10 percent), Latinos (38 percent to 31 percent), women (47 percent to 36 percent), independents (25 percent to 42 percent), voters 18-34 (30 percent to 43 percent), and white women without college degrees (36 percent to 53 percent).
The NBC News/WSJ Poll was conducted between Aug. 9-12, with a margin of error of +/-3.3%
Biden leads Trump in recent TV and radio spending across virtually the entire 2020 battleground
WASHINGTON — Over the past week, former Vice President Joe Biden has had a significant edge in TV and radio advertising spending over President Trump in the presidential battleground, outpacing the incumbent in virtually every state that's key to winning the presidency.
From Aug. 11 through Aug. 17, the Biden campaign outspent the Trump campaign in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin, according to NBC analysis of TV and radio advertising data provided by Advertising Analytics.
Biden is also outspending Trump in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada, four states where the Trump campaign hasn't run any TV or radio ads in at least two weeks.
On the flip side, the Trump campaign is outspending Biden in Georgia and New Mexico, states where neither Biden nor his top affiliated outside groups have spent significant money on TV or radio ads.
Overall, across all states and on national television, the Biden campaign outspent the Trump campaign over that week by more than a two-to-one margin, $16 million to $7.4 million.
The Trump campaign briefly paused its TV and radio advertising at the end of July, a move they said was aimed at re-evaluating the campaign's media strategy.
But in the two weeks since it returned to the airwaves, the Trump campaign has effectively leveled off spending in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and North Carolina, while increasing its spending in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has increased its spending over the same two-week span in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Pennslyvania, growing the spending disparity there. The Biden campaign dropped its TV and radio advertising in Wisconsin from Aug. 10 through Aug. 17, but it still outspent Trump by a factor of four.
Jill Biden to go back to her teaching roots for prime-time DNC speech
Whenever Joe Biden discusses his wife’s work, he’ll inevitably say that teaching “isn’t what she does, it’s who she is.” So, as Jill Biden considered where to deliver her prime-time speech in this unorthodox Democratic National Convention, there was an obvious answer: the classroom.
The former second lady and potential future first lady will deliver Tuesday’s keynote address live from Brandywine High School in her hometown of Wilmington, a city where she taught English in the early 1990s. The choice is a signal of how the self-described reluctant political spouse has always forged her own professional path even as her husband’s career has taken him just shy of the White House.
A lifelong educator with two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education, Biden continued to teach at a community college in Northern Virginia while her husband served as vice president, a decision her staff initially thought was a nonstarter. She has said she hopes to continue teaching if they move to the White House next year.
“How great would that be?" she asked in an interview with NBC News from the campaign trail last fall. "What would that say about teachers? Wouldn't that lift up the profession and celebrate who they are? It would be my honor.”
Biden has often talked on the campaign trail about how teaching at community college has been particularly important to her, given that her students come from all walks of life. In an introductory video, the country will hear rare testimonial from one of her former students.
“She gave 100% of her energy to the students,” the student, Yvette Lewis, says.
Perez says no more Democratic caucuses
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said Monday that the handful of 2020 presidential caucuses should be the last the party ever holds.
He didn’t specifically name Iowa, which for decades has led off the nominating calendar, but his position would represent a seismic shift in the party’s traditions.
Perez’s term as chair will end before the 2024 nominating calendar is determined.
But he told The Associated Press on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention that he plans to “use the bully pulpit as a former chair to make sure we continue the progress” of changes after the bitter 2016 primary fight between nominee Hillary Clinton and runner-up Bernie Sanders.
Michelle Obama speech will stress Biden's empathy
When Michelle Obama headlines the Democratic convention Monday night, she will stress how Biden's character, empathy and faith has made him the necessary leader for the moment as Americans look for honest guidance amid a trio of crises.
In a clip of her speech released earlier Monday, the former first lady points to the losses Biden has overcome as proof he can relate to those suffering from the broken economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
"His life is a testament to getting back up and he’s going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up. To help us heal and guide us forward," she says.
The brief clip also serves as the first look at what Americans will see during the virtual convention, which kicks off tonight. Obama, like so many people speaking to a camera during the pandemic, sits casually on a chair in front of a bookshelf.
Obama is also expected to revive her famous line from the Democrats' 2016 convention— "When they go low, we go high"— redefining what exactly it means to take the higher road when confronted by ideologies Democrats do not agree with.
"Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top," she is expected to say. "Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences."
The former first lady remains one of the nation’s most popular political figures, but one who has used her political influence sparingly. She said in her recently-launched podcast that she has been feeling "some form of low-grade depression” amid the quarantine, racial strife following the death of George Floyd and “just seeing this administration.”
Senate Dems call on Postal Service Board to reverse changes amid concerns about mail-in voting
WASHINGTON – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other top Senate Democrats are increasing pressure on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to “reverse changes” enacted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy amid concerns those changes could hurt the Postal Service's ability to handle mail-in votes this fall.
The letter expands scrutiny of the Postal Service beyond DeJoy and to the six-member Board of Governors, all of whom were appointed by President Donald Trump.
“You have the responsibility to reverse those changes and the authority to do so,” the senators wrote.
The letter sent to the Board of Governors Monday morning and provided to NBC News is the latest effort by Congressional Democrats to halt and reverse the policy and operating directives implemented by DeJoy.
The Board of Governors has the authority to intervene in decisions made by the postmaster general. The group selected DeJoy for the position n May.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed House members this past weekend that they should expect to return to Washington to vote on legislation by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to prevent any changes made to the Postal Service until the coronavirus pandemic is over. That vote is expected to take place on a rare Saturday session this week.
The Postal Service has been plagued with reports of delayed mail delivery as DeJoy has cut employee overtime, overhauled the management structure at USPS, removed street-corner mailboxes and dismantled mail sorting machines, causing Democrats to accuse the Trump-appointee and donor of attempting to “sabotage” the upcoming election, which is expected to have a major increase in vote-by-mail.
“It is time to use your full power and authority on behalf of the Postal Service, the American people, and the ‘public interest’ you are required to represent,” the lawmakers wrote. “We ask that you immediately take action to reverse any and all changes put in place by Mr DeJoy that degrade or delay postal operations and the delivery of the mail.”
Trump defended DeJoy's actions last Saturday as a way to turn around the agency, denying the moves were meant to discourage mail-in voting.
"The steps that he is taking are trying to stop the tremendous losses that have taken place for many, many years. He’s trying to streamline the Post Office and make it great again," Trump said.
The letter is led by Sen. Warren, who has been actively engaged in oversight of the USPS and signed by Sen. Schumer; Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee Gary Peters of Michigan; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee; as well as Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Also on Monday, Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Ted Lieu of Calif, asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to “evaluate” if DeJoy or the Board of Governors broke any laws.
“If their intent in doing so was to affect mail-in balloting or was motivated by personal financial reasons, then they likely committed crimes,” the lawmakers wrote.
First Biden digital ad featuring Harris targets Hispanic voters in key states
WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden's presidential campaign Saturday released its first ad featuring the ticket's vice presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as part of an ongoing paid media buy in key battleground states.
The 30 second digital ad targeting Hispanic voters in Arizona and Florida on YouTube stresses how Joe Biden and Harris have devoted their careers to uplifting others, particularly noting how the presumptive Democratic nominee has long lived by the Spanish belief that who you surround yourself with defines who you are as a person.
“Now Joe confirmed he’s walking with perfect company,” the narrator says in English before the bilingual ad unveils Harris’ image for the first time in a paid media ad. “An ally and a fighter for the Latino community for years, Kamala is the final piece of the puzzle. Together Biden and Harris will rebuild the American dream and ensure a future for everyone.”
Tying Harris to the Hispanic community is a notable push by the campaign as they continue to strengthen their direct outreach. Her historic nomination as the first biracial woman to be picked as vice president has already enthused coalitions across the Democratic Party.
The Biden campaign has devoted $44 million to TV, radio and print ads this week and next, rolling out five new ads including two that target the Latino community. Late last month the campaign announced their $290 general election paid media investment beginning in September, which will include an eight-figure investment in Spanish-language ads across Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Virginia.
In a press call announcing the large media buy, senior campaign advisers stressed that Biden’s vice presidential pick will play a notable role in their advertising. The campaign will continue to present the Biden-Harris ticket as one that shares the same values of the Latino community.
Hamilton-inspired rap aims to get out the vote for 2020
The six-minute music video released Friday blends together video performances from dozens of dancers, professional musicians and other performers, set to the tune of “The Constitution Song.”
The song traces the history of democratic rights in the U.S. starting with the American Revolution and continuing through the protest movements that expanded voting access to Blacks and women. The lyrics encourage Americans to “add your voice” to an evolving understanding of equality and justice under the Constitution.
“Our founding generation thought the king was a disaster. They fought to make a country where the people would be master. So if you think your country isn’t acting as it should be, register and vote to make your country what it could be,” the lyrics go.
The song is the creation of Johnny Butler, a saxophonist and musical creator who has worked with Beyonce and Stevie Wonder, and Peter Shane, who teaches constitutional law at The Ohio State University. The university’s Moritz College of Law is supporting the project.
Republican Jewish Coalition provides new details on $10 million in general election commitment, largely to help Trump
WASHINGTON — The Republican Jewish Coalition expects to spend "millions of dollars on television" as part of its $10 million independent expenditure campaign for November's elections, with the lion's share coming to support President Trump's re-election.
Matt Brooks, the group's executive director, touted Trump's policies on anti-Semitism and on Israel to reporters on a conference call Thursday, hours after the administration touted a deal to normalize relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The group added more details about its spending plans for the fall which includes TV and digital ads as well as voter mobilization and turnout programs augmented by an investment into building out a strong voter file on Jewish American voters.
Brooks estimated that around 90 percent of the money would go toward helping Trump in key states like Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, but that the work would also act as a "force multiplier to make sure these same voters support our Republican candidates" in down-ballot races.
And he said that the group will be messaging on a variety of issues — including Israel, but also law and order, energy independence, the economy and fossil fuels — because the American Jewish community is not a "monolith."
Trump has been a strong ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has been harshly critical of the world nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump pulled out of to Israel's praise. His administration has also offered a broader Middle East peace deal, which stalled after a tepid response from Arab nations, and signed an executive order he said was aimed at combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses.
But Trump has faced criticism from other prominent Jewish groups and Jewish politicians as well both for his policies as well as his comments. Last year, Trump said that "any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat" shows "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called those comments anti-Semitic.
Pointing to Thursday's deal with the UAE and Israel, former Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, the national chairman of the RJC's board of directors, framed Trump as a steadfast ally of Israel and said he hoped the deal would help Jewish voters side with him in the fall.
"President Donald J. Trump is owed a debt of gratitude for the role he’s played today," Coleman said. "Our hope is American jews will be wise enough to see on Election Day that this accomplishment has really been part of a process of what Donald J. Trump has delivered and will continue to deliver."
Kushner confirms Kanye West meeting: A 'great discussion'
WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a top adviser, confirmed Wednesday that he met with rapper Kanye West amid the superstar's presidential bid that's been aided by Republicans.
Asked about the meeting during a Thursday White House briefing, Kushner said he's known West for about 10 years and that they met when they both "happened to be in Colorado."
"We had a great discussion about a lot of things. He has some great ideas for what he'd like to see happen in the country, and that's why he has the candidacy that he's been doing," Kushner said.
"There's a lot of issues that the president's championed that he admires, so it was great to have a friendly discussion."
The meeting, first reported on by the New York Times, comes as West's quixotic presidential bid has not filed to appear on enough ballots to compete for the presidency, but has filed to be on the ballot in a handful of states that are typically key presidential battlegrounds.
West so far will be on ballots in Colorado and Oklahoma, while his campaign awaits verification in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, where he's submitted the required paperwork and state election officials will rule on whether he met those states' standards
West's candidacy has been aided by Republican operatives or those connected to Republican politics in a variety of states, including Wisconsin, where Vice first reported that West's signatures were delivered by an election lawyer who had previously advised the state Republican Party and represented Trump's re-election campaign in a lawsuit against a local NBC affiliate.
Those ties between West's candidacy and Republicans have raised concerns among Democrats that people are using West's campaign in an attempt to siphon votes away from former Vice President and apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Poll: Nearly half of registered voters concerned voting will be difficult this fall
WASHINGTON — As voters grapple with the pandemic and with President Trump’s assertion — without evidence — that voting by mail is riddled with fraud, a new survey finds that about half of all registered voters believe it will be difficult to vote in November.
According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of registered voters say they think it will be easy to vote and 49 percent say it will be difficult.
A Pew Research Center Survey ahead of the 2018 midterm elections asked the same question and just 15 percent anticipated that it would be difficult to cast their ballot.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s supporters are more pessimistic than President Trump’s when it comes to the ease of voting. Sixty percent of voters who say they are supporting Biden believe it will be difficult to vote, while just 35 percent of Trump voters say the same.
Black voters are particularly unlikely to believe it will be “easy” to vote.
The survey comes as concern grows over mail delays resulting from the newly-installed Postmaster General’s implementation of what he calls cost-cutting measures, which voting advocates worry will gum up the processing of absentee ballots. President Trump said Thursday morning that the Post Office would need millions in emergency funds — which he is blocking — in order to manage “universal mail-in voting.”
The poll also finds a partisan split in how Trump and Biden voters prefer to cast their ballots.
Most voters who support Trump — 80 percent — want to vote in person, either on Election Day (60 percent) or early in-person voting (20 percent.)
But a majority of Biden voters — 58 percent — say their preference is to vote by mail.
That same feeling was found in the latest NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll. In that poll, 55 percent of adults said they are very or somewhat likely to vote by mail in November.
And in the NBC|SurveyMonkey poll, 55 percent of American adults want to allow all Americans to vote by mail in the fall, and 55 percent of adults say they’re very or somewhat likely to mail-in their vote in November. But just 33 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they were somewhat or very likely to vote by mail, and 79 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said were likely to cast their ballot by mail.
The Pew poll also measured a head-to-head matchup between Trump and Biden, finding the Democratic candidate leading the incumbent by eight points, 53 percent to 45 percent.
Biden, Harris raise $34.2 million in day and a half after announcing ticket
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden's selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris to join his Democratic presidential ticket has led to a massive fundraising boost for the campaign.
From the time Harris was announced as the vice-presidential pick on Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, the campaign brought in over $34.2 million, including from more than 150,000 first time contributors, the campaign announced.
The campaign saw its best digital fundraising hour from the moment she was announced Tuesday afternoon, a record that was broken just one day later, after Harris and Biden appeared publicly together for the first time in Wilmington, Del.
“The response has been overwhelming," Biden said during the ticket’s first grassroots fundraiser Wednesday, where he added that the campaign saw 150,000 first-time contributors over the short span.
"It's really palpable the excitement because there is so much at stake."
Long before Joe Biden would choose Harris as his running mate, he stressed his wish to tap someone who would be a partner in governing and campaigning. On Tuesday, Biden described the financial support his campaign saw in the wake of the announcement as proof he made the right choice.
“You know, it seems Americans all across this nation, at least at the outset here, agree with me,” Biden said after describing Harris as the “right person” to serve as his vice president if elected.
After the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee outraised the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee for two consecutive months, the Trump effort re-gained the upper hand with its July fundraising.
But the Biden campaign and the DNC have seen a massive influx of cash since Biden became the apparent Democratic nominee in April. They strategically spent less during those months, redirecting spending to digital during the coronavirus pandemic, which helped them virtually erase the Trump effort's cash-on-hand advantage.
Harris spent her first 24 hours as the newly-minted running mate trying to enthuse her party's base stressing repeatedly at Wednesday’s events that supporters must show up to vote or regret not participating in historic “inflection moment.”
“What I know, based on who you are and why you're here right now is that when you look back at them, you're not going to just talk about how you feel. You're going to talk about what you did. You're going to talk about the fact that you participated. You were activated, you were involved in electing Joe Biden President of the United States,” she said during a grassroots fundraiser.
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.
Trump campaign requests adding another presidential debate
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's campaign Wednesday asked the Commission on Presidential Debates for a fourth debate to be added earlier than the first CPD-sanctioned one scheduled for Sept. 29. In a letter to the CPD, the Trump campaign argued an earlier date is needed between the president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden before early voting in any states started.
"For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country’s future before millions of votes have been cast," Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani wrote in the letter.
The letter also requested that one of the currently scheduled debates be moved earlier if the CPD wouldn't add an additional debate.
Currently, the three debates are scheduled for Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, Oct. 15 at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Florida and Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Tennessee. Two of the debate venues have already had to change due to the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana withdrew from hosting the first debate, and the University of Michigan dropped out of hosting the second debate.
The vice presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 7 at the University of Utah.
The Biden campaign has agreed to three debates with the president and in response to Trump's ask, the Biden team only affirmed that Biden would appear at the debates already sanctioned by the CPD.
"We have said all along, including in a letter to the commission in June, that Joe Biden will appear on the dates that the commission selected and in the locations they chose. Donald Trump has not, continually trying to insert his choice of friendly moderators, now including one who just published an op-ed offering 'the case' for Trump's reelection. Joe Biden will be there," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said.
The Trump team's letter also included a list of journalists and commentators that they would prefer moderate the debates. The CPD has not yet announced who would moderate any of the presidential debates, and they have not yet responded to the Trump team's latest ask.
Kanye West files signatures in hopes of getting on ballot in Ohio and Colorado
WASHINGTON — Music superstar Kanye West's presidential campaign has filed petitions to gain ballot access in Colorado and Ohio, the latest attempt by the musician's team to get on the presidential ballot in key states.
Spokespeople for both the Ohio and Colorado Secretary of State's office confirmed Wednesday that West's representatives filed the necessary paperwork aimed at winning West a spot on the presidential ballot.
West isn't guaranteed a spot on the ballot, as officials will need to certify that his signatures are valid before granting him ballot access. That process is currently ongoing in the other states where West has filed — Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The only state where West has made the ballot so far is Oklahoma, where he only needed to send a check in lieu of petition signatures.
And West has had issues with his petitions before — his representatives dropped their bid to get the rapper on the ballot in New Jersey after a complaint was raised by a local lawyer. And citizens in Illinois have filed three challenges to his petitions signatures there.
But there are signs that Republican operatives and people connected to GOP politics are working to get him onto ballots — a Missouri Republican operative is listed as a point-of-contact on West's Arkansas application, and Vice both identified a woman delivering West's petitions in Wisconsin as a veteran elections lawyer who has advised the state Republican Party and obtained an email of a veteran Colorado GOP strategist soliciting signatures for West.
A record number of all-woman congressional matchups are set for November
WASHINGTON — The 2020 general election will feature a record-breaking number of congressional races in which two women candidates will face one another, a mark reached after Tuesday’s primaries according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University.
Data released by CAWP Wednesday shows that there are officially 38 woman-versus-woman contests at the congressional level this cycle, a new high surpassing the previous record of 33 all-female races set during the 2018 midterms.
“When we began tracking women candidates, having even one woman in a congressional or gubernatorial race was rare,” CAWP Director Debbie Walsh told NBC News. “General election contests with two women competing for a seat show just how much progress has been made."
"I look forward to the day when a woman vs. woman race is as commonplace as when two men run against each other," she added.
The unprecedented number of female match-ups comes after notable primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri produced more women nominees from both parties Tuesday.
In Kansas, where several general election contests are considered competitive, every congressional nominee on the Democratic side is a woman, CAWP data highlights. And Amanda Adkins' victory in the GOP primary in the state's 3rd House District sets up a high-profile all-woman race with incumbent Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids.
Republican Lisa McClain and Democrat Kimberly Bizon won their respective parties' nominations in Michigan's 10th District, likewise setting up a woman-versus-woman faceoff.
And in Missouri’s 1st House District and Arizona’s 6th House District, November wins for newly-crowned Democratic nominees, Cori Bush and Hiral Tipirneni, would guarantee each of their states’ their first women of color representatives in Congress.
The latest peak in the number of all-female congressional races is part of a larger trend involving women in politics. In the 2020 cycle, there’s been a record number of women candidates who have filed to run for the House and Senate, with both Democrats and Republicans eclipsing their previous highs on the House side.
And with primaries in about a dozen states still to come before Election Day, the newly-set record for all-female congressional races could be broken again.
Less than three months from Election Day, five states hold competitive primaries Tuesday
WASHINGTON — With less than three months left until Election Day, five states — Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington — are holding down-ballot primaries Tuesday.
Here are the contests the NBC News political unit has its eyes on:
Kansas Senate: One of the most pivotal primaries left on the calendar, some Republicans fear that if polarizing candidate Kris Kobach wins the GOP primary, they risk losing this open seat in November to Barbara Bollier, the likely Democratic nominee who is a state senator and former Republican. Kobach recently lost the gubernatorial race in 2018 to Democrat Laura Kelly and a group tied to Democrats is spending big in the race in the hopes of boosting him. If Bollier is victorious in the fall, she'd be the first Democrat to represent Kansas in the Senate since the 1930s.
Kansas 2nd District: Many Republicans have sounded the alarm on Republican Rep. Steve Watkins for months, actively encouraging the primary playing out Tuesday. Watkins was charged with voter fraud last month, but calls the charge politically motivated. He has a serious primary challenger in state Treasurer Jake LaTurner who scuttled his Senate bid to run for this seat after the former governor urged him to primary Watkins, well before the charges were filed.
Kansas 3rd District: The GOP will determine who gets to face off against Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids in a Republican seat then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly carried in 2016.
Michigan 13th District: Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a member of the progressive “Squad” faces a rematch against Brenda Jones, the Detroit City Council President who briefly represented the district in 2018 after beating Tlaib in a special election to fill the seat (Tlaib won the primary for the full two-year term starting in 2019 on the same ballot). Tlaib has declined to back presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and Jones has the backing of the other candidates who ran in 2018.
Missouri 1st District: One of the biggest progressive versus establishment Democrat clashes left on the calendar, registered nurse Cori Bush is trying to knock off Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo. Clay beat Bush last time, but Bush now has the backing of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Arizona 6th District: Republican Rep. David Schweikert has been dogged by allegations he violated campaign finance laws for years, but Democrats haven’t been able to capitalize on them to defeat him. Those attacks could stick better now that the House Ethics Committee punished Schweikert last week after finding he did violate House and campaign finance rules. The Democratic candidates vying to replace him include Hiral Tipirneni, the well-funded doctor who ran and lost in the 2018 special election to replace GOP Rep. Trent Franks.
Arizona 1st District: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran has been a constant target for Republicans in an R+2 district Trump won by 1 point. Before the moderate Democrat gets the chance to defend his seat in a general election he will have to defeat Eva Putzova, a former local councilwoman who is attacking O’Halleran from his left and supports policies like Medicare for All.
Arizona and Michigan Senate: While these primaries are less competitive, the races will determine which challengers will face incumbents in states critical for Republicans to hold onto in order to maintain their Senate majority. In Arizona, Democratic astronaut Mark Kelly is expected to win the nomination to take on GOP Sen. Martha McSally while in Michigan, veteran Republican businessman John James will win the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.
Maricopa County Sheriff: While not a national race, Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff pardoned by President Trump after violating a court order related to his immigrant crackdown, is running for his old position Tuesday.
—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Pro-Biden super PAC launches new ad on Trump's pandemic leadership
As President Donald Trump’s campaign returns to the airwaves tying Joe Biden to his party’s progressive flank, the Democrat’s allies are providing air cover by connecting the fragile economy to the president's handling of the pandemic.
Priorities USA, a leading pro-Biden super PAC, will spend more than $1 million a week on its new ad on cable and broadcast television in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona.
“He downplayed the virus, ignored experts, insisted everything was going to be OK,” a narrator says. “Now, cases are surging and he’s making the same mistakes again.”
The spot closes with Biden’s recent remarks, saying Trump “hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: To fix the economy, we have to get control over the virus.”
The spot also hits airwaves as the president, who has been unable to hold large public campaign rallies, has resumed nightly press briefings ostensibly about the pandemic.
“There is no case for a second term for Donald Trump. That’s why his campaign is scrambling to find new ways to spread misinformation and lie to the American people to cover up his obvious failures,” Priorities USA Action executive director Patrick McHugh said in a statement.
Conservatives warn GOP senators they risk angering voters by backing coronavirus aid package
WASHINGTON — Polling prepared for the conservative Club for Growth found Republican senators could risk endangering enthusiasm among their supporters if they back some provisions of the latest proposed coronavirus aid package.
The poll was conducted in seven states where incumbent Republican senators are facing strong challengers and found voters collectively were more inclined to back Democratic candidates, according to a copy of the polling memo exclusively provided to NBC News.
“If Republican Senators vote for a package including these provisions, it is likely to reduce Republican turnout and make the already challenging task of maintaining control of the Senate even harder,” the memo argues, pointing to unemployment and school spending proposals.
Congressional leaders continue to negotiate $1 trillion in additional assistance for those affected by coronavirus, including whether to continue the $600 federal weekly unemployment benefit that expired at the end of July.
Republicans in the Senate are split over the package. Senators facing re-election in November have largely backed the continued jobless benefits and increased state aid, hoping to leverage more funding to sway voters.
Conservative groups like Club for Growth and a group of senators not facing re-election this year are opposed, arguing that Republican voters would be discouraged if their lawmakers back more spending.
On the question of unemployment benefits, the poll found 36 percent of voters were less likely to support the Republican senate candidate if they voted in favor of continued boosted jobless benefits that “pays people to stay unemployed even when they could take available jobs in their area.” Of those polled, 14 percent said they support for the provision would make them more likely to vote for the Republican.
The poll found that 38 percent are less likely to support a Republican who votes for school funding that doesn’t include money for parents who are conducting homeschooling or hire private tutors. The poll found 13 percent were more likely to support the candidate who backed that provision.
The poll also tested whether voters would be swayed by a message about increased deficit — it found that 33 percent of those polled are less likely to support a Republican if they vote “to add another one trillion dollars in debt to be repaid by future tax increases, while over one trillion dollars from the last COVID relief bill previously authorized by Congress remains unspent.”
The online poll by WPAi of 800 voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina was conducted at the end of July and had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.
RNC still 'working through' press access for Charlotte convention events
WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee says it is still weighing whether press will be allowed to attend and cover Charlotte convention events in-person later this month.
“No final decision has been made and we are still working through logistics and press coverage options. We are working with the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events,” RNC communications director Michael Ahrens told NBC News in a statement.
“A livestream is one of the press coverage options we are considering,” Ahrens added.
As of now, it’s unclear whether the president will attend any convention business in North Carolina but there’s a possibility he will go to Charlotte on Aug. 24 to thank a smaller footprint of delegates in a private meeting, an RNC official said. It’s also still unknown where Trump will accept his re-nomination formally on Aug. 27.
The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, AP reporter Zeke Miller, called the possibility of a closed press convention “an ill-advised decision” and urged the GOP to open events in a tweet over the weekend.
“Hopefully they’ll give the American people the access they deserve,” he wrote.
Trump campaign returns to the airwaves in early-voting states
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign is getting back up on the airwaves after hitting pause on their TV ad spending last week for a campaign strategy review. On Monday, the campaign announced it is launching two new ads in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Arizona.
The campaign's new strategy is to target voters in early-voting states. North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Arizona all begin early voting in October, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The campaign did not disclose the exact amount being spent for the ad buy, but deputy national press secretary Ken Farnaso said it is in the "high seven figures."
“In many states, more than half of voters will cast their votes well before Election Day and we have adjusted our strategy to reflect that. Joe Biden is continuing to spend millions of dollars a week in states that won’t come online for two months and we encourage him to keep at it," Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
The two new ads, which will be running on local broadcast and cable outlets and on Spanish language channels, attack presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on raising taxes, immigration policy and trade deals.
The first ad, "Takeover", revisits a popular theme in Trump's rhetoric and advertising that Biden will reduce "police funding", and is a mouthpiece for the "radical left." However, Biden's police funding position is that he would increase funding to the Community Oriented Policing Services program and has suggested redirecting some police funding to social services and prison reform.
The second ad, entitled "cards", focuses on a voter who won't say she supports the president "out loud" making her a part of the "Silent Majority" the Trump campaign credits for delivering Trump his 2016 win. While it's unknown how many voters support the president and won't say it, in a recent Monmouth University poll of registered voters in Pennsylvania, 57 percent said they felt there was a "secret" Trump vote in their communities. Only 27 percent said they believed there was a secret vote for Biden.
Bass on work in Cuba: I 'don’t consider myself a Castro sympathizer'
WASHINGTON — California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, one of the women being considered by former Vice President Joe Biden as his running mate, said Sunday that she does not consider herself a "Castro sympathizer" and her work in Cuba in the early portion of her career was about humanitarian aid.
Bass told "Meet the Press" she may have been a bit naive, "as any 19-year-old would be" when she traveled to Cuba to build houses in her early 20s.
While she said she's "always believed in bridging the divide between our two countries" and that she's still working with the country on issues like bringing two promising medicines for diabetes and lung cancer to America, she argued that "doesn't excuse the fact that I know the Castro people has been a brutal regime to its people."
"When I went in my late teens and early twenties, you know, one of the reasons was to build relations with the Americans that were there, because there were over 100 young people that were there," she said.
"And all of us worked on different issues. Well, what's interesting is that we had the ability to come home and protest against our own government. But the Cuban people most certainly cannot do that. They couldn't do it then and they can't do it now."
When pressed on her 2016 statement on dictator Fidel Castro's death, where she referred to Castro as "Comandante en Jefe" (Spanish for commander-in-chief), Bass admitted she erred.
"I was expressing condolences to the Cuban people, to the people in Cuba, not Cubans around the world," she said.
"Lesson learned. Wouldn't do that again. Talked immediately to my colleagues from Florida and realized that that was something that just shouldn't have been said."
In a press release this weekend, President Trump's campaign referred to Bass as "Communist Karen," pointing specifically to her work in Cuba.
Just days before likely announcement, VP contenders stay busy
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is expected to make his vice presidential pick, and perhaps announce that pick, next week.
"I’m going to have a choice the first week in August and I promise I’ll let you know when I do," Biden told reporters on Tuesday.
Ahead of that announcement, Biden made a public in-person appearance with one of the women being vetted, California Rep. Karen Bass. The two were spotted in the Capitol after Biden paid his respects to late Georgia Rep. John Lewis who was lying in state. Biden even joked with NBC News correspondent Mike Memoli that he asked her to be his running mate "and she said no."
Here’s how some women up for the job spent their potential last week of vetting:
Rep. Karen Bass: Aside from her impromptu meeting with Biden in the Capitol, Bass spent the early part of this week cleaning up a part of her record: Comments she made about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro after his death. In 2016, Bass published a statement on Castro’s death, saying, “The passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.”
On Sunday, Bass said on MSNBC that she wouldn’t use those same words today.
“I have talked to my colleagues in the House about that and it's certainly something I would not say again,” Bass said.
She added, “I certainly understand the sensitivity, and to me saying that, the understanding that the translation in Spanish communicated something completely different. Lesson learned.”
Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator reportedly drew ire from former Sen. Chris Dodd — a member of Biden’s V.P.-search committee. According to a POLITICO report, Dodd felt Harris has shown “no remorse” for her and Biden’s first debate altercation during the Democratic primary.
While Biden has said repeatedly that he has moved on from the incident, and that he doesn’t hold a grudge against Harris, the event could be what keeps Harris from getting the VP nod.
But Biden’s campaign manager may have put some of those rumors that there’s bad blood between Biden and Harris to rest. When attacks over Harris’ ambitiousness came out this week, Jen O’Malley Dillon tweeted:
Susan Rice: Rice’s veep stock has consistently risen over the last few weeks. But her lack of campaigning experience coupled with never holding elected office could be a strain on her chances of being picked.
During an interview on MSNBC last weekend, though, Rice said her other strengths would outweigh her lack of miles on the trail.
“I have not run for elective office, even though I've worked on behalf of others on three presidential campaigns and I feel like I've run on other people's behalf. But my comparative strength,” Rice said, “is my many years of service at the high levels of the executive branch. I know how to make government work and produce results that will be beneficial for the American people.”
Of course, a Rice choice could reignite the Benghazi investigation for Republicans — Rice served as former President Obama’s National Security Adviser during the crisis.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth: The Iraq veteran and Illinois senator has also seen a boost in her national name recognition over the last few weeks of the veepstakes. And on Thursday, she made headlines when she confirmed that she has been interviewed for the V.P. slot by the Biden camp.
“I have been interviewed, yes,” she said during a live interview with The Washington Post. “I'm on Team Biden and it really doesn't matter what position I play as long as we get Joe Biden elected.”
While Duckworth described the interview as “positive,” she wouldn’t go into much more detail, declining to say whether she’s had a private conversation with the presumptive Democratic nominee.
But on Wednesday when the Democratic National Convention schedule was released, the Illinois senator was listed as a convention co-chair — a title that could signal she’s no longer a veep contender, though NBC News has not confirmed that.
As a veep pick nears, Republican groups are starting to weigh in on how they could attack the Biden campaign’s choice. The Committee to Defend the President, a Republican group that supports President Trump, released a new ad on Friday attacking Biden for not picking a Latina as his V.P.
Of course, Biden hasn’t made his choice yet, and while the ad says Biden “promised” to pick a Black woman it should be noted that Biden only promised to pick a female candidate and has said there are at least four Black women on his short list. Other women of color have also been in talks with the Biden campaign like Duckworth and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Check out the political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Everytown for Gun Safety launches $2 million ad campaign
Two political action committees under the Everytown for Gun Safety umbrella announced a $2 million ad campaign on Thursday targeting Latino voters. The new campaign marks the one-year anniversary of the El Paso shooting when 20 people were killed by a shooter.
The bilingual digital and TV ads will air in 2020 battleground states and media markets like Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach in Florida, Maricopa County in Arizona and El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston in Texas.
The group also rolled out its first digital ad on Thursday. Entitled, "We have not forgotten", is playing statewide in Texas and was a five-figure spend for Everytown. It focuses on the lack of gun control action taken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. The English version of the ad can be found here.
Alongside its paid media campaign, Everytown released a new poll conducted by Equis Research and Global Strategy Group of registered Latino voters to show how gun control has become a key issue to Latino voters.
“The one-year milestone of the mass shooting in El Paso is a tragic reminder of the toll gun violence takes on the Latino community," president of Everytown John Feinblatt said in a statement.
He added, “It should come as no surprise that Latino voters are fed up with lawmakers who refuse to take action, and are planning to vote for candidates who will make keeping their families safe from gun violence a top priority.”
The poll shows that 66 percent of Latino voters said they wouldn't support a candidate who doesn't support a background check on all gun sales — that's on par with Latino voters' feelings on racial equality, health care and job creation. And 47 percent of Latino voters said they became more supportive of stronger gun control legislation since the El Paso shooting.
Other statewide polls have shown President Trump trailing or on par with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Florida, Texas and Arizona, and a Pew Research Center survey found that Latino voters could be the largest non-white share of the vote in November. Everytown for Gun Safety endorsed Biden in March.
Health care groups look to boost Democrats again in 2020
WASHINGTON — A number of doctor and nurses groups are backing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as health care becomes a main focus of the presidential campaign, these groups are are making the bet that they can help Biden over the finish line like the issue helped House Democrats in 2018.
Biden has support from health care groups like the Committee to Protect Medicare (a coalition of over 400 doctors across 40 states), National Nurses United, Be a Hero (the group affiliated with health care activist Ady Barkan) and the American Federation of Teachers which includes has over 112,000 health professionals as members.
But the groups aren't just offering support, they're also taking their message to the airwaves.
The Committee to Protect Medicare launched a six-figure ad buy in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona on Wednesday tying Biden’s understanding of loss to the struggle frontline health care professionals are in with coronavirus. Its message mirrors that of the Biden campaign: aside from Biden’s health care plans, his empathy is what should set him apart from President Trump.
Executive director of Committee to Protect Medicare and Michigan emergency room doctor Dr. Rob Davidson compared Biden’s empathy to a doctor’s bedside manner in the midst of this crisis.
“There’s a lot of pain and suffering and I think having someone in charge who understands that, someone who has lived it but also can look into someone else’s eyes and sort of walk in their shoes and understand their suffering and pain goes a long way to healing,” Davidson said.
When Democrats won the House in 2018, 41 percent percent of voters said health care was the most important issue facing the country, according to NBC News’ exit polls. When broken down by party, 75 percent of Democrats said health care was the most important issue. Democrats who flipped seats in the House like Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger ran on expanding the Affordable Care Act — just like Biden has.
And outside groups are pushing for Democratic-led health care legislation again this November.
The American Federation of Teachers launched a $1 million ad campaign in June to push support for the House’s HEROES Act, and National Nurses United and Be a Hero dropped a six-figure digital ad campaign lambasting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not bringing the HEROES Act to the Senate floor.
The Senate Republican conference announced their coronavirus relief proposal on Monday — a proposal that National Nurses United and Be a Hero reject.
In 2010, Democrats lost their House majority after passing the Affordable Care Act. And Republicans have successfully campaigned on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act for nearly a decade — but they’ve yet to pass a new health care bill since regaining control of the White House and having control of both chambers of Congress for the first two years of President Trump's current term. The president hasn’t released a new health care proposal this calendar year, but teased that a proposal would be coming soon.
The Trump administration joined a Texas lawsuit in June to permanently overturn the ACA, and has faced criticism for the move saying it would strip away health care from people in the midst of a pandemic.
“We're getting rid of it because we're going to replace it with something much better,” Trump said in response to that criticism during an interview on Fox News Sunday.
And while Trump is defending his handling of the coronavirus and his lawsuit efforts, health care will be front and center in November.
According to a June Pew Research Center survey, 58 percent of adults said the coronavirus outbreak is a big issue facing the country and 57 percent said the affordability of health care was a big problem. And prior to the coronavirus pandemic, a January Gallup poll found that health care was ranked as the most important issue for adults.
When asked what he’d say to voters who may be concerned about a larger government presence in health care — a common point in Republican health care advertising — Davidson said voters should remember that Biden’s plan isn’t the same as socialized medicine.
“They have been certainly influenced by an ad campaign from the insurance industry and drug companies that want to keep the status quo as long as they can, because they are the ones who profit off this and patients are the ones who suffer,” Davidson said.
He added, “The plans that Biden’s talking about, and even Medicare for All isn’t [socialized medicine], it’s publicly funded but privately delivered and I think that little mantra probably should be something that messaging should be focused around.”
Biden campaign launches first TV ads in Ohio
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is expanding its paid media effort into Ohio with a message focused on his new economic agenda, a sign of the campaign’s increasingly bullish view of the battleground map and a shot at President Donald Trump on the issue he's counted on to keep him in the White House.
Until Thursday, the Democratic nominee’s campaign has focused most of its advertising on six states Trump carried in 2016 — Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Earlier this week, it added battleground Nevada to a new $14.5 million in ad spending across those battleground states.
And now the Biden campaign is adding a new, seven-figure campaign focused exclusively on the Buckeye State. Airing in the Toledo and Youngstown markets through the Democratic National Convention next month, Biden's new advertisement actually spotlights his hometown of Scranton.
Meanwhile, recent TV and radio ad spending figures from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics show Trump's campaign drastically ramping down its spending in Michigan, a state key to Trump's victory in 2016.
“Scranton is a long way from Wall Street. You won’t find skyscrapers or big-city bankers. Just hard-working people that make this country work. That’s where Joe Biden’s story starts,” the ad begins.
“Donald Trump? He ran for president for himself and for his friends on Wall Street.”
The ad then promotes Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, unveiled over the course of this month, to help “the backbone of this nation: working families.”
The Trump campaign has spent $3.5 million on the air in Ohio since April 1, the only other major spending there in that period in a state the president won by 8 points in 2016.
The Lincoln Project, a super PAC opposing Trump, has spent $376,000, while the pro-Trump American First Policies has spent $175,000.
As part of President Obama's ticket in both 2008 and 2012, Biden spent more time in Ohio than almost any other state — especially in the kind of blue-collar communities where his campaign is targeting his new economic message.
Ohio put President Obama over the top for his 2012 reelection, but swung dramatically toward Trump in his surprise 2016 victory. The state could again be decisive in 2020 — if Biden only carried the states that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and added Pennsylvania, the only battleground state in which he’s campaigned in since April, Ohio’s 18 electoral votes would put him right at 270 — the magic number to claim the White House.
On top of the Ohio ad, Biden's campaign is also promoting his "Build Back Better" plan in another new ad airing in the other seven battlegrounds, featuring his remarks as he kicked off the economic push at a metalworks plant near Scranton earlier this month.
—Ben Kamisar contributed
Lincoln Project hits Sen. Susan Collins as Trump 'stooge' as part of new $4 million ad buy
WASHINGTON — The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC founded by disaffected Republican strategists and known for its viral ads, is out with a new TV spot targeting Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who is up for re-election in November.
“Great, independent leaders rise from Maine’s hard soil. Always have and always will,” the ad begins over images of the state's past political leaders.
The narrator then pivots to criticizing Collins, labelling her a “Trump stooge.”
“Collins isn’t an independent. She’s a fraud,” the one-minute spot continues. “Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump control her voice. She makes excuses for corruption, for criminality, for cruelty, all while pretending she’s worried.”
“Susan Collins doesn’t work for Maine, she works for them. And Maine deserves a leader, not a Trump stooge,” the ad concludes.
The Lincoln Project’s latest spot is part of a broader $4 million buy focused on Maine, Alaska, and Montana with the Alaska and Montana ads backing Democratic challengers to the states’ GOP incumbent senators. It’s the group’s largest buy to date according to communications director Keith Edwards, with at least $1 million dedicated to each of the three states.
The ads will air on both broadcast and cable television in their respective states for seven to 10 days, the super PAC confirmed to NBC News.
In a statement announcing the Collins spot, the Lincoln Project said that, "Defeating Trump means defeating his network of enablers as well. Come November 3rd, it’s time for Senator Collins to go."
The ad comes just one day after the Collins' re-election campaign released its own one-minute spot, "Character," in which the Maine senator defends herself against the "outrageous attacks on [her] integrity."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cable TV buys don't show the full picture of either campaign's TV investments — both have spent millions of dollars on traditional network TV ads, and the president has far outspent Biden at most advertising turns ($71 million overall since April 8 compared to $19.3 million for Biden).
But the glimpse at how the candidates are approaching cable TV buys is one of many examples of Trump playing to his base — while Fox News enjoys strong ratings across the board, polling also shows Fox News viewers are far more likely to support the president.
As much of the president's strategy zeroes in on maximizing enthusiasm and ginning up turnout among those who may already support him, recent polling has shown an increasingly difficult landscape for his reelection. The latest NBC News/WSJ poll showed that 50 percent of registered voters said there is "no chance" they will vote for Trump. And 52 percent of registered voters said they were "very uncomfortable" with his candidacy.
Of course, that doesn't mean voters feel assured that Biden will win. While Biden carried support from a majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania in a recent Monmouth University poll, 57 percent of Pennsylvania voters said there is a "secret" group of voters who will support Trump but not tell anyone.
Trump won Pennsylvania by fewer than 70,000 votes in 2016.
Many of the president's ads have focused on painting Biden as a socialist, and accusing Biden of wanting to defund and abolish police. But recent polling has Biden leading even on issues that Trump sees as a strength.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 50 percent of adults said the trusted Biden more than Trump when it comes to crime and safety, and 58 percent of adults said they trust Biden more on race relations.
Voting access groups push for election funding in a new pandemic relief bill
WASHINGTON — As the Senate prepares to take up the next coronavirus relief bill, two voting access groups are launching a $500,000 digital ad campaign urging lawmakers to provide funding for expanded voting, including mail-in voting, in November.
The three digital ads urge voters to call their senators to pressure them to include money for elections in the next relief bill, saying that amidst a pandemic people shouldn’t have to choose between their health and voting.
The ad campaign, launched by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and Let America Vote, is focusing on 13 states, including those with Republican incumbents are at risk of losing their re-election races, including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and Texas.
The House passed $3.6 billion in election funding for states in the Heroes Act that is expected to be used to implement mail-in voting in November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to unveil the Senate’s Coronavirus relief bill early this week. It is unclear if he will include election funding and if so, how much.
President Donald Trump continues to sows distrust in mail-on voting, saying on Fox News Sunday that “it is going to rig the election.”
While a majority of people would prefer to vote in person, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Republican voters are much more likely to say that fraud is possible in mail-in voting with 73 percent of Republicans saying fraud is possible while 66 percent of Democrats deem it safe.
Small matters get attention as Biden gets closer to choosing a running mate
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is getting closer to making his vice presidential pick, and this week said that background checks on the contenders are “coming to a conclusion within the next week to 10 days.”
The Biden team has said they’ll go public with their choice around the first week of August, but until then, here are some of the tea leaves from this week for those on Biden's short list:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator and Biden haven’t always been “simpatico.” The two have disagreed over bankruptcy laws, and during a primary debate argued over who deserved credit for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But Warren had one message for voters this week who were on the fence about Biden: vote for him anyway.
“Vote like your life depends on it. Why? ‘Cause it does. Pick any issue you care about. I guarantee it is on the line in this election and Joe Biden has a vision for how to make change,” Warren said during a virtual campaign event.
Warren, who’s considered the most progressive politician on the veep shortlist, could help Biden’s enthusiasm problem with more liberal voters. In the latest NBC News/WSJ poll, just 14 percent of voters said they were “enthusiastic” about Biden — but 80 percent of Democrats said they had a high interest in the election. And those voters could be warmed by a Warren pick.
Susan Rice: The former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser continued to underline her qualifications for the job this week, pointing to her experience at the highest echelons of the federal government.
“I know how to make things work and how to get stuff done,” Rice said in a radio interview Friday, echoing a talking point often used by many veepstakes contenders.
But unlike other possible running mate choices, Rice wasn’t shy about expressing her desire to take on the man whose job she hopes to have — a quality the Biden camp could find useful on the trail.
When the prospect of debating her potential rival, Vice President Mike Pence, came up, Rice simply replied, “Bring that one on, that's all I'll say.”
Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris, who has spent less time in the federal government than others on Biden's shortlist, unveiled two new proposals this week. The California senator proposed a housing plan that would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and she announced a new initiative focused on anti-bias and anti-racism training in health departments and for health care professionals.
Harris’ focus on policy this week could be an attempt to beef up her policy chops ahead of Biden picking a running mate. Biden has made it clear that his first priority with a veep is picking someone who could be president on day one — and Biden came to the job in 2008 with decades of Senate experience.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor’s name recognition has soared as her fight with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp goes to the courts. This week, Kemp signed an order forbidding municipal officials from declaring mask-wearing orders — and sued Lance Bottoms for her executive order that required facial coverings in public.
Lance Bottoms recently tested positive for coronavirus, and said during an interview on “Today,” “The governor has simply overstepped his bounds and his authority, and we'll see him in court.”
The mayor also reaffirmed that she would serve as vice president if asked.
“I am a leader with proven leadership,” Lance Bottoms said earlier this week. “That being said, this decision will be left up to Vice President Biden and I trust that he will make the decision that is best for our country as a whole.”
Rep. Val Demings: Like Lance Bottoms, Demings’ public profile has risen amid the coronavirus crisis and the persisting calls for racial justice reform.
The Florida congresswoman has been outspoken about her ambitions to serve on the ticket with Biden and continues to promote her resume, personal life experiences, and ability to meet the moment in media appearances.
Demings has also been brazen in criticizing President Trump and his coronavirus response as her home state of Florida quickly becomes the pandemic’s new epicenter.
“In the absence of leadership, bad things happen and good things don’t happen enough,” she said on “The Tonight Show” this week.
Considering Biden’s need to get the Democratic base enthusiastic about his candidacy, choosing a Black female running mate who’s unafraid to be tough on Trump could do just the trick.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Biden releases five-step 'roadmap' to safely reopen schools
WASHINGTON — In response to the Trump administration’s push to fully reopen schools across the country as coronavirus cases continue to climb, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has released a five-step “roadmap” to safely guarantee children can go back to school in the fall, arguing that the administration has not provided adequate guidelines.
The five page plan released Friday stresses the former vice president’s message to safely reopen the economy, pointing out that the first step to give Americans confidence to sending their kids back to school is getting the virus under control by ramping up testing and protective protection equipment.
Biden also says that as president, he would empower local decision-making while still setting clear national safety guidelines for them to follow given that the “Trump administration’s chaotic and politicized response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own.”
“Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick. Forcing education students back into a classroom and areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous,” Biden said standing alongside his wife Dr. Jill Biden in a new video.
Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime educator, stressed other parts of her husband’s plan like pumping funding into broadband and other resources to ensure students can access remote learning online. Biden said that if he were president today, he would have already sent a bill to Congress asking for emergency public schools funding, estimating roughly $30 billion for safe supplies and $4 billion for upgrading technologies.
Biden initially laid out a plan to revitalize the economy last month that included steps on how best to reopen schools and child care programs safely. But the latest roadmap specifically addressing school reopening comes after the president threatened to cut federal funding for schools that do not reopen, leaving many educators scrambling to figure out the best ways to reopen safely.
“President Trump doesn’t have the authority to cut the funding,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser earlier this week. “We should send him back to school for a while so he learns about the constitution and he learns about the power he does and doesn’t have.”
The plan also comes one day after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a press briefing that “science should not stand in the way of [schools reopening]” when asked what the president would tell parents who are considering taking their kids out of school due to the coronavirus spread to instead learn online.
“And I was just in the Oval talking to him about that," she said. "When he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this,” she said.
In response, Biden stressed that while the president has “waved the white flag and given up” on finding the safest solutions to reopen the economy and schools, he plans on addressing the educational disparities that have been brought to light amid the pandemic.
“Every single student should be able to access high quality distance learning,” he said. “We can’t allow the pandemic to further exacerbate the educational disparities that already exist in this country. We need a White House that’s laser focused on closing those gaps.”
Flashback: LBJ's advice to Humphrey for running mate included a surprising name
At 10:41 in the morning on Aug. 29, the day that Vice President Hubert Humphrey chose his running mate for the 1968 presidential race, outgoing President Lyndon Johnson offered some advice about the decision on a call, including this: consider Daniel Inouye.
Johnson felt the first term senator from Hawaii, whose name was not on the four-person short list in that day’s New York Times, had two key attributes: combat wounds and brown skin.
Listen to the call here, with Johnson discussing Inouye at the 09:25 mark:
“He answers Vietnam with that empty sleeve,” Johnson said. “He answers your problems with Nixon with that empty sleeve. He has that brown face. He answers everything in civil rights, and he draws a contrast without ever opening his mouth."
Inouye got his “empty sleeve” as a second lieutenant during World War II, when a German grenade took his right arm in Italy. Shot and severely wounded, Inouye continued to lead his segregated platoon of fellow Japanese Americans — some of whom came from internment camps — “until enemy resistance was broken,” according to his belated Medal of Honor citation.
Johnson spoke of that courage, Inouye’s ability to stay on message (“He’s as loyal as a dog”) and the historic nature of the choice: “He ought to appeal to the world. It would be fresh and different. He’s young and new.”
As for putting the first racial minority on a national ticket after the civil rights battles of the 1960s, Johnson only saw advantages.
“The Southern boys,” Johnson said. “They all love Inouye. I don’t know why … I think one thing is that they just look at him and see that he — they can’t fuss at him and say, ‘He doesn’t love peace.’ God knows, he wants peace more than anybody, and it’s quite a contrast with Agnew … In other words, the South can’t get mad at him because he’s colored, and he would appeal to every other minority because he is one."
After Humphrey asked Johnson about other candidates, the president asked, “Inouye doesn’t appeal to you?”
“Well, I just don’t believe so,” Humphrey replied. “I guess maybe it just takes me a little too far, too fast. ‘Old conservative Humphrey,’” he joked.
The tape recording of Johnson and Humphrey’s conversation remained sealed until 2008. At the time, a spokeswoman for Inouye said he was aware he had been under consideration, but was “content” as a senator, the job he held until his death in 2012.
However, Inouye did take part in at least one presidential announcement during those years: introducing Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware as he kicked off his first presidential campaign in 1987.
“The fact of the matter is,” Biden said with Inouye and his empty sleeve behind him, “the man of courage on this stage today is you.”