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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

812d ago / 9:09 PM UTC

GOP scales down pandemic relief proposal but new bill lands with a thud

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WASHINGTON — The Senate this week will vote on a new, slimmed down COVID relief bill put forward by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which includes just a fraction of what Democrats are demanding and is much smaller in size and scope than what Senate Republicans introduced as their starting offer in July. 

The proposal comes as negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration remain stalemated, but it will do little to break the log jam. 

Democrats immediately rejected the latest maneuver, dismissing it as a political stunt and far too insignificant to address the economic needs of the country. 

Image: Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell listens to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on July 27, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

In his search for 51 Republican votes in his divided conference, McConnell’s latest bill is estimated to cost around $300 billion. At least half a dozen vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in November are anxious to vote on a new bill —which would require 60 votes to pass — to provide relief to voters, but a faction of the GOP conference has been opposed to new spending, forcing McConnell to move ahead on a proposal that is far less than the $1 trillion bill that he introduced in July.  

With the election upcoming, he is also challenging Democrats to vote against relief. 

“It's easy to tell in Washington whether somebody's end goal is political posturing or getting an outcome. One way or another, what Democrats do will be revealing,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I'll make sure our democratic colleagues get a chance to walk the walk. Every senator who has said they want a bipartisan outcome for the country will have a chance to vote for everyone to see. Senators will vote this week, and the American people will be watching.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Thursday, where McConnell will attempt to fill a symbolic void to the stalled negotiations between Democratic leaders and the Trump administration where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has rejected returning to the negotiating table until the administration agrees to spending at least $2 trillion. The White House this week has signaled that it is willing to move it’s topline number to $1.5 trillion, moving closer to the Democrats’ position. 

The GOP measure includes the leader’s biggest priority, liability protection for businesses operating amid the pandemic. It also institutes another round of the small business Paycheck Protection Program and provides a $300 weekly federal unemployment insurance, which is less than the $600 people received until the benefit expired at the end of July. In addition, it provides $105 billion for education, $16 billion for COVID testing as well grants for private and religious schools and tax credits for homeschool. 

It doesn’t include another round of direct stimulus payments, which Republicans had previously supported.  It also doesn’t include Democratic priorities of food assistance, rental assistance and money for states. 

“The Republican skinny bill is less than a skinny bill. As Senator Schumer and I have said, it’s an emaciated bill. It falls short of meeting the needs of the American people,” Pelosi told NBC News. 

812d ago / 7:44 PM UTC

Trump campaign looks to ease concerns amid fundraising warning signs

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WASHINGTON — With concerns swirling about President Trump's evaporating cash-on-hand advantage over Democratic nominee Joe Biden, as well as the Democratic nominee's recent television spending blitz, the president's current campaign team is promising more spending than Trump's 2016 campaign did. 

While Trump entered April with a $182 million cash-on-hand advantage over Biden, that edge had all-but evaporated by July. Now, after Biden reported raised over $360 million in August, Trump's campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters during a call on Tuesday that the campaign plans to spend "by a factor of two or three times" what it did in 2016 from this time to Election Day.

And earlier on Tuesday, President Trump defended his campaign team's fundraising efforts and blamed a potential loss in the cash race with Biden on the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also said on Twitter that if the campaign needs more money, he will personally provide funding. 

The campaign also tried to lessen the fundraising blow with reporters by saying that the cash haul isn't everything, and Trump's ability to raise money isn't what put him over the finish line in 2016. 

“If money was the only factor in determining winners and losers in politics Jeb Bush would have been the nominee in 2016, and we'd have a second President Clinton right now in the Oval Office,” Stepien said. 

The Trump campaign also said that its incumbent advantage allowed the campaign to make early investments in states while Biden was still campaigning for the nomination. 

Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP
President Donald Trump speaks on the environment at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Jupiter, Florida on Sept. 8, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

But in recent months, the Trump campaign has taken multiple pauses from the airwaves. And it's been Biden who has been winning the ad wars in key states. Since July, the Democrat has outspent Trump on the TV and radio waves in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Michigan, Florida and Arizona, according to Advertising Analytics. 

During Tuesday's press call, Stepien did announce a new radio ad targeting Black voters and airing in 11 urban markets like Detroit, Mich., Flint, Mich., Raleigh, N.C., and Charlotte, N.C. The ad hits on several points featured during the Republican National Convention regarding lower rates of Black unemployment before the pandemic and Biden having "47 years" of government service without producing results. 

816d ago / 11:03 PM UTC

Kanye West has spent almost $5.9 million on presidential bid, new filing shows

WASHINGTON — Rap superstar Kanye West has spent almost $5.9 million on his quixotic presidential campaign through August, a new filing shows, an effort funded almost exclusively by the rapper himself. 

West’s new fundraising report, filed with the Federal Election Campaign on Friday evening, shows that the Forbes-designated billionaire loaned his campaign $6.76 million. He raised another $3,850 from 8 additional donations. 

The bulk of West’s spending, $5.45 million, went to three consulting firms — Millennial Strategies LLC, Fortified Consulting and Atlas Strategy Group LLC. 

Gregg Keller, a Republican operative who has been working on West’s campaign, runs Atlas Strategy.  

Fortified Consulting shares an address with a firm co-founded by Meghan Cox, a consultant who has worked with a variety of Republican senators and who NBC News saw with the individuals who claimed to be dropping off petition signatures for West in Arizona. 

Millennial Strategies is based in Long Island, New York that's worked for a variety of Democratic clients. 

West announced his candidacy in mid-July, and candidates who spend at least $100,000 in a month are required to file their campaign finance reports with the FEC by the 20th of the subsequent month. The new filing shows that West spent almost $3.2 million through July, but his campaign did not file any fundraising reports until Friday. 

The rapper is currently on the ballot in a handful of states — Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Utah, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and Vermont — but will almost certainly not be on enough ballots in the fall to secure the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. 

His campaign has been denied ballot access in other states — including Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, Arizona, Virginia and Illinois — for various reasons including concerns over the veracity of the petition signatures he filed, concerns his petition-signers or presidential electors were duped into backing him, for missing deadlines, and because he is a registered Republican seeking a spot on the ballot as an independent or third-party candidate. 

In recent days, West’s lawyers have sued in the hopes of getting him on the ballot in Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia.   

The ties to Keller and Cox are among the many between West and Republican operatives and supporters. His lawyer in Ohio is a former 2016 Republican convention delegate, his lawyers in West Virginia have represented the state Republican Party, and his lawyer in Wisconsin is the past Secretary/Treasurer of the Minnesota GOP. 

And Keller and other Republicans have been playing key roles in West’s attempt to get on state ballots.

816d ago / 3:11 PM UTC

Conservative super PAC launches $3 million digital, $10 million TV ad buy

Club for Growth launched a new ad buy on Friday, spending $3 million on digital ads — the group's largest digital expenditure to date — and $10 million on a TV ad buy.

The conservative super PAC's effort is to boost six Republican candidates in competitive elections this cycle. 

The new ads will begin running on Sept. 8 and will target voters on digital platforms like Hulu and Sling, and internet placements on Pandora, iHeart Radio and direct podcasts. The $10 million traditional buy, which will play on broadcast, cable and satellite TV will air ads through Election Day. 

“Club for Growth Action is making a game-changing investment in these races,” Club for Growth Action president David McIntosh said in a statement. “We are using cutting-edge technology and techniques to reach voters who are often overlooked to ensure these pro-growth candidates are elected.” 

The six candidates the group is looking to boost are Montana Sen. Steve Daines, Texas Rep. Chip Roy, and then Republican challengers in three congressional districts: Rich McCormick in Georgia-7, Victoria Spartz in Indiana-5 and Matt Rosendale in Montana's at-large district and Nick Freitas in Virginia-7. 

Image: Steve Daines
Senator Steve Daines speaks at a news conference on Republican opposition to statehood for the District of Columbia at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on July 1, 2020.Erin Scott / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Daines is facing one of the hardest Democratic challenges in the Senate from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. While Daines has managed a slight lead in recent polling, the race is listed as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. It's one of several seats Republicans hope to keep in November in order to maintain majority control of the Senate. 

Texas Rep. Chip Roy is also facing a stiff challenge from Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis. Polls measuring the race have the two neck-and-neck, and Roy won the seat in 2018 by just under three points. 

817d ago / 8:52 PM UTC

Democratic House candidates tout endorsements from U.S. Chamber of Commerce

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a traditionally Republican-leaning lobbying group, has endorsed 23 House Democrats for re-election ahead of their competitive general election match-ups.

The Hill first reported the list of endorsements Tuesday, and a source familiar with the matter who is not authorized to speak about it publicly confirmed the endorsements to NBC News. The source added that the Chamber is backing 29 freshmen House Republicans as well.

While the business-oriented organization has not released its latest round of endorsements, several Democratic House candidates have publicly celebrated their support from the Chamber.

Moderate freshmen Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina’s First Congressional District, Sharice Davids of Kansas’ Third Congressional District, and Kendra Horn of Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District touted their endorsements on Twitter. 

Image: Joe Cunningham
Rep. Joe Cunningham, speaks during an enrollment ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act in the Capitol in Washington, on July 23, 2020.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

The three members all flipped their districts in the 2018 midterms and come from states that President Trump carried by double digits in 2016 — making them top GOP targets heading into the fall. 

Cunningham posted the email he received from the Chamber’s Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Donohue informing him of the official endorsement. Other newly-backed members received similar messages from Donohue

“The Chamber endorses pro-business leaders in Congress and vigorously supports policies that advance economic growth, help create jobs, and promote fiscal responsibility,” the letter reads, detailing House accomplishments such as the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

“While just a snapshot of important House activity in 2019, your percentage on the Chamber's How They Voted scorecard was the driving factor in achieving this endorsement for 2020.” 

The new endorsements represent a shift from previous cycles for the Chamber, which is known for aligning itself with GOP candidates. In 2018, the group reportedly endorsed just seven Democrats in federal elections. Politico previously reported that the endorsements this cycle have caused friction within the Chamber and among its donors.

Image: Abigail Spanberger
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, participates in the Problem Solvers Caucus press conference in the Capitol, on Feb. 11, 2020.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

Like Cunningham, Davids, and Horn, a dozen other freshmen Democratic members in Republican targets promoted their endorsements on Twitter, including: Reps. Colin Allred (TX-32), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Josh Harder (CA-10), Abby Finkenauer (IA-1), Cindy Axne (IA-3), Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Susie Lee (NV-3), Angie Craig (MN-2), Andy Kim (NJ-3), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-7). 

The list of endorsements also includes Reps. TJ Cox (CA-21), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Elaine Luria (VA-2), Ben McAdams (UT-4), Dean Phillips (MN-3), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Greg Stanton (AZ-9), and David Trone (MD-6).

817d ago / 11:30 AM UTC

New Biden ad on Social Security solvency looks to woo voters in key battleground states

WASHINGTON — While issues of policing and safety in American cities have commanded most of the attention in the presidential campaign this week, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is trying to remind seniors about President Donald Trump’s record on other key issues that they believe could effectively win battleground voters. 

As part of that effort, Biden's campaign released a new ad Thursday in battleground states attacking the president on Social Security solvency, the campaign's first nation-wide general election ad focused on the issue. 

The ad, first obtained by NBC News, is targeting voters in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with a warning about what could happen if Trump’s proposal for a permanent payroll tax cut came to fruition. The ad uses a recent letter written by the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration warning that such a policy would run Social Security dry by the middle of 2023

As part of his executive actions aimed at shoring up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump deferred payroll taxes through the end of the year and has promised to "forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax." He and other administration officials have said those losses would be offset by both economic growth and pulling money from the general fund.  

Biden has raised concerns about Social Security alongside the president's ongoing attempts to fully undo the Affordable Care Act without providing a replacement plan, arguing that Trump does not care about helping Americans amid an ongoing healthcare crisis. 

“Put it plainly Trump's plan would wipe out Social Security period. You feel safer and more secure now?” Biden asked viewers during a Monday in Pittsburgh as part of a list of real-world consequences Americans would face if Trump wins re-election.

While the Biden campaign stressed a similar message throughout the primary election warning that re-electing Trump risked cuts to Social Security, they are ramping up their warning with the intention of targeting seniors who overwhelmingly rely on the government program in the final weeks of the general election. 

A new national Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday found Biden winning those 65 and older by a margin of 50 percent to Trump's 46 percent, the latest poll showing Biden over-performing with seniors. In 2016, exit polls found Trump winning the 65-and-older vote by a margin of 52 percent to 45 percent. 

The Quinnipiac poll found Trump still maintaining his edge among those 50 to 64 years of age, 53 percent to 44 percent respectively.

The campaign has already been stress their Social Security warning in Florida, a state where a win could put him on a faster track to clinching 270 electoral votes. One-fifth of the 2016 Florida electorate was 65 years old or older, exit polls found. 

On Tuesday the campaign released their fourth ad directly targeting seniors in Florida, which continues to highlight testimonials from Floridians who worry about catching the virus and express frustration with the administration’s response.

“Our seniors that are being hit will be my responsibility if I’m your president,” Biden said in a digital ad that played across six battleground states last month. “I will not abandon you. It’s a simple proposition folks, we’re all in this together. We got to fight this together.”

818d ago / 5:40 PM UTC

Biden campaign raises roughly $365 million in largest monthly haul to date

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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign announced Wednesday that it had raised a record monthly haul of $365 million in August, a busy month that included the campaign adding California Sen. Kamala Harris to the ticket as well as the Democratic National Convention. 

In a letter to supporters, Biden said that of the $364.5 million raised, $205 million came from online donations. The campaign also disclosed that 1.5 million Americans donated to the campaign for the first time in August.  

Indications of a record monthly haul became evident after the campaign announced weeks ago it had raised $70 million during the virtual Democratic National Convention and $48 million in the two days after Biden announced Harris as his running mate. 

Image: FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination
Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris celebrate after Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention on Aug. 20, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Biden's fundraising effort has seen a major jolt since the start of 2020, when the campaign only raised $57 million in the first three months, and had a smaller presence on television during the key stretch of primaries. The campaign has raised more in August than it did in the entire second financial quarter of 2020, when it brought in $282.1 million. 

The combination of Biden’s comeback to win the nomination and the onset of the pandemic, during which the Biden team stayed off the airwaves for weeks, allowed the campaign to stockpile funds through the spring and slowly cut into President Trump’s once-massive cash on hand advantage.

While the Trump campaign had outraised Biden regularly for months, the Biden campaign began to beat his rival's monthly totals when the former vice president became the apparent nominee in April. However, July proved to be a good month for the president’s re-election campaign — it raised $15 million more than the Democrats.

The Trump campaign declined to comment when asked about the expected monthly haul. It is unclear when the president's campaign will release its August fundraising numbers.

—Monica Alba contributed.

818d ago / 3:49 PM UTC

Virginia Republican Bob Good's campaign ad labelled 'racist dog whistle' by DCCC aide

WASHINGTON — Republican House candidate Bob Good debuted his first campaign ad Tuesday in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, which a top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) aide was quick to label a “racist dog whistle.” 

Good — a former Campbell County supervisor who previously worked for Liberty University — is running against Dr. Cameron Webb, a physician and public health expert. He would be the first Black doctor in Congress if elected. 

“With chaos in our streets, Cameron Webb would make things worse. Webb would defund the police while crime spikes,” the TV spot’s narrator says over dissolving footage of destruction and protests into a photo of Webb.

“Look past the smooth presentation. Webb’s real agenda: Government-run health care, higher taxes on the middle class, police defunded, crime unchecked,” the speaker continues, calling Webb “way too liberal.”

The DCCC took issue with the ad shortly after it went live.

“Let’s say it plainly, this #VA05 ad is a racist dog whistle running because Bob Good knows he can’t explain why voters should trust him over Cameron Webb to keep them safe during COVID-19,” DCCC communications director Cole Leiter tweeted. 

Asked to respond to the DCCC’s accusation, the Good campaign told NBC News, "We categorically deny there is anything that is racist or a ‘dog whistle’ in the ad and would ask what specifically are the Democrats claiming would make it so?"

Mia Ehrenberg, the communications director for the Webb campaign, said in a statement that the ad resorted to "distortions and fear-mongering" and that it "does not represent Dr. Webb's views on policy."  

Webb has spoken favorably about a "Medicare for All" type solution for health care, but supports a public option.

Image: Dr Cameron Webb
Dr Cameron Webb.Dr Cameron Webb for Congress

The Democrat has not explicitly said that he wants to defund the police as the Good campaign’s new spot argues — he has talked about using federal funding to "drive the direction of law enforcement" and said that language about defunding the police is "coming from a deeply rooted sense that hey, all of this extra spending on police is actually part of the problem on policing and over-policing.”

Webb has pointed to his father’s work for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation Board and Drug Enforcement Administration as proof of his respect for law enforcement

Good's campaign ad is airing in the Roanoke-Lynchburg media market in southwest Virginia, according to Advertising Analytics. The district spans much of central Virginia and includes Charlottesville.  

818d ago / 2:45 PM UTC

New Biden, DNC ad features Kenosha violence in 'Trump's America'

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WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee and Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign released a new ad on Tuesday depicting "Trump's America" using footage of alleged Kenosha, Wis. shooter Kyle Rittenhouse and what appears to be the car crash in Charlottesville, Va. that killed Heather Heyer in 2017. 

The ad has so far only run in the Washington D.C. market, according to Advertising Analytics. DNC spokesman David Bergstein said the party plans to run the ad in several battleground states, including Wisconsin. 

The new spot begins with footage of fires and Trump supporters in pickup trucks shooting paintballs, people being tear gassed and clashes between police and protestors while the narration says, "This is Trump’s America: He won’t bring us together, he doesn’t want to and never will. He only divides." 

The ad then shifts to what appears to be video of the man driving a car into protestors during the Charlottesville protests in 2017, a photo of a memorial of George Floyd and other footage before landing on video that appears to feature Rittenhouse pointing his gun at people and then later walking toward police with his hand's up. 

“It’s Trump’s America, and it’s time to turn the page,” the ad’s narrator says before the requisite comment from Biden approving the message. 

The ad's message comes as the Trump and Biden campaigns' responses to protests and violence have taken center stage. The spot's language echoes much of the language used by Republicans during their convention — Trump has argued that Americans wouldn't be safe in "Joe Biden's America", while Biden has sought to blame Trump for what he says his happening on the president's watch. 

819d ago / 9:00 AM UTC

Espy launches new ad ahead of Mississippi Senate rematch with Hyde-Smith

Mike Espy says Mississippi can go back or go to the future.

Espy, the Democrats' long-shot Senate nominee, is hitting the airwaves across the state with a direct swipe at his GOP opponent, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

In his first TV ad, set to start airing Thursday and shared exclusively with NBC News, Espy appears in front his high school alma mater talking about how Mississippi has changed — and hasn't — in the decades since he was one of the first Black students to integrate the state's public school system.

"Cindy Hyde-Smith is hurting our ability to recruit new businesses and jobs," Espy says.

Espy refers directly to the senator's controversial remark in November 2018, when she was caught on camera embracing a supporter saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." (The senator apologized to anyone who was offended and said her words had been "twisted.")

The ad is part of six-figure buy following a string of strong fundraising months and buoyed by new internal polling showing a race within single digits. It's the first of at least three TV ads set to run across the state over the next few weeks.

"This is my story, and in a campaign like this, you have to get your story out," Espy said.

The 30-second spot is also a reintroduction of a rematch against Hyde-Smith, who defeated Espy in the 2018 special election to fill the seat vacated by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran. Despite losing by 66,000 votes, Espy won more than 46 percent of the statewide popular vote, making the race the best performance by a Democratic Senate candidate in Mississippi since 1982.

An internal Espy campaign poll from mid-August showed him 5 points behind Hyde-Smith. Other independent polls give Hyde-Smith more of an edge, and NBC News does not currently view the race as competitive. Nevertheless, the race is attracting big names in Democratic circles, including Stacey Abrams, who is campaigning with Espy this week.

Espy has agreed to debate Hyde-Smith before the election, but she has yet to agree to any debates, and none have been scheduled.

Messages to the Hyde-Smith campaign were not returned.

819d ago / 7:16 PM UTC

As Kanye West files suits to get on state ballots, more Republican ties to presidential campaign emerge

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WASHINGTON — As Kanye West filed a series of lawsuits in recent days aimed at making the ballot as a presidential candidate in key states, he's also revealed more ties between the rap superstar and Republicans. 

Like in Ohio, where West is suing to get on the ballot, the lawyer representing his campaign, Curt Hartman, is a former delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.  

In West Virginia, where West's campaign is also suing in federal court to get on the ballot there, his lawyers include J. Mark Adkins, a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association who has represented the Republican National Committee in the past, as well as a lawyer who represented the West Virginia Republican Party during a 2018 lawsuit involving ballot access, Richard Heath Jr. 

And in Wisconsin, where the rapper is filing a lawsuit after failing to make the ballot there, one of his lawyers, Erick G. Kaardal, previously served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Republican Party of Minnesota. 

The Wisconsin suit initially included a contact address for the Virginia-based law firm Holtzman, Vogel, Josefiak and Torchinsky, a firm that employs multiple lawyers who served as top counsel to the Republican National Committee, worked for Republican presidential campaigns and in Republican administrations, including current one. 

Jill Holtzman Vogel, the firm's managing partner and a former chief counsel to the RNC, directed NBC to a statement from West's lawyers that said the address was listed in error. But she did not respond to an additional question as to whether her firm is doing any work for West. 

The contact information in the Wisconsin suit has since been updated to match the Wyoming address West is using across his ballot applications. 

While West is suing in these states in the hopes of getting onto the presidential ballot, he's made it onto the presidential ballot in a handful of states, including Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, Vermont, Arkansas and Idaho.

The links are just the latest between West and Republicans. GOP operatives and those involved in Republican politics have helped West in his attempts to gain ballot access in other states, including Wisconsin, Missouri and Colorado. 

West is a registered Republican voter in Wyoming who has effusively praised President Trump and met with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner during a recent trip to Colorado

Gregg Keller, the Republican operative who is involved in West's efforts, recently addressed the campaign's litigation strategy in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon."Kanye is running to compete, to win, and ultimately, to change the nation and world for the better," Keller said. "We'll have aggressive efforts on all fronts: legal, political, grassroots, PR, and otherwise, to ensure Kanye can do so."

819d ago / 4:14 PM UTC

Massachusetts primaries to decide two heated contests Tuesday

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WASHINGTON — Massachusetts holds its primaries Tuesday, including one of the biggest intraparty Senate contests still left on the calendar, as well as another challenge from the left against a sitting House Democratic committee chairman.

Image: Richard Neal
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on April 12, 2018.Jose Luis Magana / AP file

The Massachusetts Senate primary features incumbent Sen. Ed Markey — one of the longest-serving members of Congress (first joining the House in 1973) — and the scion of the Kennedy family in Joe Kennedy III.

From the start, Kennedy cast himself as part of the next generation of progressive voices despite his few policy differences with Markey. And early on in the campaign, Kennedy seemed to have the edge in polling.

But Markey closed the gap in recent months with a hard embrace of his progressive chops, debate performances, viral videos, and a boost from progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and affiliated  groups that are rallying around their ally and promoting his work on issues like the Green New Deal.

Now, all of the recent public polling shows Markey with the advantage.

Kennedy has had the TV/radio advertising edge over Markey, both in spending by the campaign and its allied super PAC. And he recently snagged the endorsement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which frustrated progressives who saw the move as the establishment coming after one of their own. 

Image:
Holyoke, Mass., Mayor Alex B. Morse speaks on Sept. 29, 2018.Frederick J Gore / AP file

Also taking place Tuesday is a competitive Massachusetts House primary. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. — Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — is being challenged from the left by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.

In August, students at University of Massachusetts at Amherst accused Morse of inappropriate relationships with college students, but later came evidence that the charges might have been manufactured up by Neal supporters, though the Neal campaign has denied any involvement.

Neal has the endorsements of Pelosi, as well as his home state's Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

819d ago / 1:23 PM UTC

Trump promised a health care plan in 'weeks,' but a month later, it hasn't come

WASHINGTON — Despite promising a health care overhaul by the end of the summer, August came and went without any such action from President Trump and his administration. 

He has repeatedly floated legislation that could come together “in two weeks,” often using the timeframe as a placeholder for things that rarely, if ever, materialize

The president told Chris Wallace in a Fox News Interview on July 19: “We’re signing a health care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health care plan that the Supreme Court decision on DACA gave me the right to do.”

Image: U.S. President Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for a trip to Florida from the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for a trip to Florida from the South Lawn of the White House on July 31, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

A few weeks later, he amended that statement. “We’re going to be introducing a tremendous health care plan sometime, hopefully, prior to end of the month,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House in early August, adding: “It’s just about completed.”

That hasn’t happened. 

The White House claims that could change soon but declined to offer any specifics.

 “President Trump recently issued several executive orders to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including making insulin and EpiPens available at low cost to low-income Americans. There will be more action to come in the coming weeks,” according to spokeswoman Sarah Matthews.

Last month, Trump also told reporters during a press briefing that there would be an executive order in the next few weeks “requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions for all customers.” 

Asked why this unilateral action was necessary when the Affordable Care Act already protects people with preexisting conditions, Trump told reporters it would be “just a double safety net” and “a second platform.” 

The Trump administration is suing to overturn the entire ACA, which would include these protections. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments a week after Election Day. 

Last cycle, then-candidate Trump ran on a platform to overturn the Affordable Care Act, consistently vowing to abolish it. An effort to do so in 2017 ultimately failed. 

The coronavirus pandemic has only heightened the debate over health care, making it a critical voting issue in November, as it was during the 2018 midterms, when more than 40 percent of voters said it was the most important matter facing the country, according to exit polls

In the same interview with Fox News in late July, the president suggested he would also unveil an order related to immigration in the coming weeks. No such plan has been produced. 

820d ago / 6:22 PM UTC

Trump campaign announces TV ad buys in five key states

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WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign is going on the air this week with TV ad buys in five key states: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Minnesota, senior adviser Jason Miller told reporters on Monday, returning to the airwaves in battleground states it pulled out of during the GOP convention.

All but Minnesota are seen as essential to Trump's path to re-election as he trails Democrat Joe Biden nationally and in most battleground state polls.

Miller said the new buy is focused on states where voting starts earliest. He said the campaign plans to spend $200 million on air between Labor Day and the election — the Biden campaign has announced it plans to spend $220 million in TV ads over that same time period. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Londonberry, N.H., on Aug. 28, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

The campaign stopped running television spots in battleground states during the GOP convention, only running national cable ads and spots in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign outspent the Trump campaign from the start of the Democratic convention through the Republican convention by $24 million on the airwaves. 

Two notable absences from the campaign's newest announcement are Pennsylvania and Michigan — The Trump campaign hasn't run television ads in Michigan since late July and Pennsylvania since early August. 

The president's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, added on the call with reporters that Trump has a path to victory even without them. "We will defend the 2016 map," Stepien said. "If he holds all other states that he won in 2016, the president need only win one of the three: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania."

824d ago / 5:46 PM UTC

A look back at Trump's 2016 RNC nomination speech

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WASHINGTON ― President Trump is set to accept the Republican Party presidential nomination Thursday night with a speech at the White House. In his first acceptance speech in 2016, then-candidate Trump laid out a litany of complaints about President Barack Obama's administration and set some benchmarks for his own plans. Here’s the state of play on just some of those campaign promises:

Law and order

Four years ago, Trump argued that the Obama administration had rolled back criminal enforcement, pointing to increases in violent crime in cities across the country. 

“Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities,” he said. “That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”

That 17 percent rise in the homicide rate from 2014 to 2015 appears to be from an analysis by The Washington Post and does represent the largest increase since 1990 ― though the homicide rate did not increase in every single one of those 50 cities.

What Trump did not mention, however, is that violent crime has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s and that overall trend continued under Obama. 

While President Trump has recently discussed crime rising in Democratic-run cities, like New York and Chicago, the New York City and Chicago police departments report that violent crime is slightly down this year compared to 2019. And in general, violent crime in New York and Chicago have decreased over the last 20 years. 

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland
Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file

Economic prosperity

In 2016, Trump said that nearly 40 percent of African American children and 58 percent of Latinos were living in poverty. A Washington Post fact-check found those numbers misleading.  In 2018 the poverty level of Black children had fallen to about 30 percent

Trump also pledged to lower the national trade deficit but it has actually grown over the last three years. And he talked about reducing the national debt, which rose to $19 trillion under Obama but has now ballooned to over $26 trillion under Trump.

He also highlighted his intention to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with individual trade agreements. However, one of the signature accomplishments of Trump’s first term was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which keeps several of NAFTA’s principles in-tact ― a multi-country agreement. 

One of Trump's first legislative wins as president was his 2017 tax cut bill. The $1.5 trillion tax cut reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and lowered individual tax rates while doubling the standard deduction. 

Terrorism

In 2016, Trump said there were three things needed to curb international terrorism: “have the best gathering of intelligence,” “abandon the failed policy of nation-building” in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria, and work with allies to destroy ISIS. 

“We are going to win, we’re going to win fast,” Trump said. 

There are differing ideas on what ending “nation-building” means. But through the lens of where troops are, there are currently about 5,200 American troops in Iraq. In Dec. 2016, there were 6,812 troops in Iraq. According to The New York Times, ISIS has been re-establishing itself in areas where it began 17 years ago, and attacks have started to surge. 

When President Trump pulled troops out of Syria, there were several criticisms that Americans were leaving allied Kurdish forces unprotected and unable to hold territory back from ISIS. Kurds helped to guard 30 detention facilities that hold nearly 10,000 ISIS detainees across northern Syria. 

Today, there are about 500 troops still in Syria, despite the president’s calls for a withdrawal of all 1,000 troops. 

President Trump, however, would point to actions such as the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a U.S. raid as proof that ISIS has been stymied. 

Health Care

Trump promised in 2016 to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” And in the first two years of his administration, when he had unified control over Congress, there were attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act but they failed. 

The one aspect of the law that was repealed was the individual mandate, which zeroed out the tax penalty on Americans who didn’t buy health insurance. But the president and Republicans in Congress have yet to put forward a new health care plan to replace the ACA. The Trump administration is also currently involved in a Texas lawsuit where they are arguing that the ACA is unconstitutional on the whole and should be overturned. 

President Trump has teased a new health care plan throughout the summer, saying about a month ago, “We’re signing a health care plan within two weeks.” None of the president’s multiple past pledges have materialized and there are no signs that this next one will either. 

Immigration

Trump made immigration a pillar of both his 2016 and 2020 campaigns, underlining the numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. as a rationale for building a wall at the southern border.

“The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015,” Trump said at his first convention. 

“We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities,” he added.

While total apprehensions were higher in fiscal year 2016 than in 2015, those 2016 numbers were lower than those of both 2013 and 2014. And according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the 2016 totals represented “a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008.” 

After President Trump took office, the total number of apprehensions initially decreased to then hit its highest level since 2007 in 2019, which prompted the president to make an emergency declaration to acquire funding for his promised border wall. 

Almost all border wall construction during Trump’s tenure has encompassed replacing barriers put in place by previous administrations ― not building up additional wall. As of last month, barriers cover approximately one-third of the border, a number that’s gone barely unchanged under Trump

And the federal government, not Mexico, has funded wall construction, contrary to the president’s vow to have the bordering country do so. 

825d ago / 9:09 PM UTC

Two House Democrats ask for probe into possible Hatch Act violations

WASHINGTON — Two congressional Democrats are asking the U.S. Office of Special Council to investigate whether acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and “other senior members of the Trump administration” violated the Hatch Act during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday evening, according to a letter provided to NBC.

The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while working for the federal government.

“They coordinated a citizenship ceremony and a pardon as elements in the convention’s nationally-televised programming,” wrote Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Don Beyer of Virginia. “These officials mixed official government business with political activities as part of one of the largest political campaign events of the year,” the two wrote. Krishnamoorthi sits on the House Oversight Committee.

OSC spokesman Zachary Kurz told NBC News the OSC, an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, does not comment on specific complaints nor confirm whether there are open investigations.

While the president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, administration officials and federal employees are not. The office has previously reprimanded a number of Trump officials, including counselor Kellyanne Conway, even recommending she be removed from her post for being a “repeat offender.” 

Image: Naturalization Ceremony at White House during RNC
Naturalization candidates take the oath of allegiance at the White House during the RNC on Aug. 25, 2020.RNC

During the second night of the Republican National Convention, Trump granted a presidential pardon from the White House, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared from Jerusalem, where he was on a taxpayer-funded official business trip, first lady Melania Trump delivered a speech from the Rose Garden and Wolf performed a naturalization ceremony inside the White House and standing next to Trump.

A White House official told NBC News in a statement that the naturalization ceremony and pardon were official events held prior to Tuesday evening. "The White House publicized the content of both events on a public website this afternoon (Tuesday) and the campaign decided to use the publicly available content for campaign purposes," the statement said. "There was no violation of law.”

The House Democrats' letter maintains that is not enough. “The publicization of the event offers no defense for actions clearly orchestrated for the purpose of influencing an election as part of a nationally-televised partisan event carefully planned days, if not weeks, in advance,” it says.

In a Wednesday statement, the OSC said there are certain areas of the White House where the Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from engaging in political activity.

“The West Lawn and Rose Garden are two such areas. Therefore, covered federal employees would not necessarily violate the Hatch Act merely by attending political events in those areas,” said the statement, in an apparent reference to the Rose Garden audience. 

In the statement, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner did not address Wolf’s immigration naturalization ceremony but said this: “OSC’s role does not include grandstanding or holding press conferences about potential violations that may or may not occur.” 

“Ultimately, officials and employees choose whether to comply with the law. Once they make that choice, it is OSC’s statutory role to receive complaints, investigate alleged Hatch Act violations, and determine which ones warrant prosecution," Kerner said.

826d ago / 6:10 PM UTC

Analysis: Trump and the GOP appear comfortable in mixing politics and the federal government

WASHINGTON — Conversations with Americans from inside the White House. The first lady's speech from the Rose Garden. The secretary of state giving an address while on an official overseas trip. The president's acceptance speech from the White House's South Lawn. Fireworks from the Washington Monument

All are events at this week's Republican convention. And all either approach the fine line of violating the federal Hatch Act — or blatantly cross over it. 

But there's an even bigger story at play: The Trump White House simply doesn't seem to care about the Hatch Act's principle of prohibiting executive-branch employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in government buildings.  

For example, when the U.S. Office of Special Counsel recommended last year that outgoing White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from federal service for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act —because she engaged in partisan political activity in her official capacity — the White House objected

The "overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the Hatch Act risks violating Ms. Conway's First Amendment rights and chills the free speech of all government employees," White House lawyer Pat Cipollone wrote. 

As it turns out, Conway is addressing the GOP convention on Wednesday night. 

The 1939 Hatch Act exempts the president and vice president, so it doesn't prohibit President Trump delivering his convention acceptance speech Thursday from the White House's South Lawn. (It also most likely doesn't apply to First Lady Melania Trump’s address, either, since she's technically not a government employee.)

Image: President Donald Trump attends a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump attends a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on July 14, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

But the U.S. Office of Special Counsel recently said in a letter that other employees are covered, "so there may be Hatch Act implications for those employees, depending on their level of involvement with the event and their position in the White House."  

That includes any federal staffers who work on the speeches, who directly assist with the fireworks display, or who deliver a speech during a party's political convention, government ethics experts tell NBC News. 

“Working on a party convention speech absolutely is partisan political activity, and is prohibited while on duty and while in federal government buildings," said Kathleen Clark, a law professor and expert on government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Republican convention planners have defended convention speeches from prominent administration figures like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by saying that the Republican National Committee is paying for the costs, and that the speakers are addressing the county as a private citizen — not in their official capacity. 

Yet government ethics experts say that all of this activity — including the president's convention speech  — is at least ethically questionable because of the Hatch Act's underlying principle to not use the federal government for explicit political activity. 

“Nobody is supposed to be using the functions of government for political gain,” says Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

But the Trump White House and the GOP convention planners don't seem to care.

826d ago / 3:10 PM UTC

Trump campaign off TV airwaves this week with convention in spotlight

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's campaign isn't running any television ads this week in key battleground states, as the Republican National Convention takes center stage. 

The only television ads Trump has booked from Tuesday through Friday are in Washington D.C., to the tune of about $171,000, according to Advertising Analytics. 

Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign has more than $9 million booked on the TV and radio airwaves during that time — including $3 million in Florida, $1.5 million in Pennsylvania, $1.3 million in North Carolina, $1.1 million in Wisconsin and almost $1 million in both Michigan and Arizona.

Image: Donald Trump
Donald Trump takes a stage to speak at Flavor 1st Growers & Packers on Aug. 24, 2020 in Mills River, N.C.Brian Blanco / Getty Images

It's not like the Trump campaign will be absent from the airwaves this week — the Republican National Convention will likely draw millions of eyeballs in primetime, and the coronavirus-related restrictions allow for the party to control its message. 

But the decision to go dark on TV outside of it means that if Trump doesn't go back up on the air through Friday, then the Biden campaign will have outspent him $28.4 million to $4.5 million on TV and radio from the start of the Democratic convention through this coming Friday.

826d ago / 1:49 PM UTC

Democrats offer counter-programming around GOP convention site

WASHINGTON — With the 2020 Republican National Convention hitting the airwaves this week, the Democratic National Committee is hitting the road with a series of counter-programming measures. 

If you’re driving around the nation’s capital Tuesday, you may see a mobile billboard funded by the Democratic National Committee. With stops at the White House, the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium and the Republican National Committee’s offices, the DNC hopes to attract eyeballs and tweets with its message focused on the unemployment rate, small businesses and evictions. 

“Over 100,000 small businesses have shuttered for good,” one slide says. “As many as 7 million could close forever by the end of 2020,” says the next, as video of President Trump golfing plays.   

The goal is not to respond to what is said each night during the RNC, a DNC spokesperson told NBC News, but to share messages about what they believe to be Pres. Trump’s policy failures.  

“Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis has cost millions of Americans their jobs, forced small businesses to close, and wrecked our economy,” DNC War Room senior spokesperson Lily Adams said. “He may want to spend their convention avoiding that reality, but we won’t let him escape his record of chaos that has hurt the American people.” 

The DNC is also broadcasting its message in a new ad released Monday that called the RNC the "Republican National Chaos", and attacked President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

And just blocks from the White House, the former site of the Newseum will be lit up this week with a projected slideshow of rising coronavirus statistics.  

827d ago / 6:07 PM UTC

Biden campaign to air new spot across cable channels during RNC

WASHINGTON — Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign announced Monday that it will air a new television spot contrasting Biden's vision for the United States with President Trump's presidency on cable airwaves during the Republican National Convention as part of a $26 million ad campaign this week across broadcast, cable, radio and digital platforms.

The 60-second spot, entitled, "Heal America," argues that the United States needs a team that's "up to the task" of handling the four simultaneous crises plaguing the nation — public health, economic, climate, and racial injustice. 

"Together, they'll lead America, unite America and heal America. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris: because a united America will be a better America," the ad narrator concludes. 

827d ago / 1:40 PM UTC

Everytown booking $6 million in Florida ads to target President Trump

WASHINGTON — Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund is booking $6 million in television and digital ads to boost former Vice President Joe Biden in Florida, NBC News has learned.

The group is partnering with Priorities USA, the major Democratic super PAC that's supporting Biden and attacking President Trump, on production and strategy. Everytown plans to spend $4 million in TV ads in the Orlando and Tampa markets and $2 million in statewide digital ads starting after Labor Day and running for five weeks. 

“Facing a gun violence crisis that claims 100 American lives every day, President Trump has chosen the gun lobby over the safety of the American people at every turn,” John Feinblatt, the head of Everytown Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Together with Priorities, we're going all-in to make sure Trump’s a one-term president. Everytown has an aggressive plan to mobilize voters in Florida, who know the pain of gun violence all too well and are poised to play a decisive role in electing Joe Biden, a proven gun sense champion.”

The announcement marks the group's first formal entry into the presidential race's TV ad wars of the cycle, and its largest-ever investment in a presidential race. The state has seen a handful of mass shootings in recent years, including at an LGBT-friendly nightclub in 2016 and a Miami-area high school in 2018.  

Everytown grew out of two groups aimed at curbing gun violence — Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense — and pushes for reforms like universal background checks. The group was co-founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has sunk millions into the effort. 

The group is expecting to play a larger role in the 2020 presidential election than it has in any previous presidential election. It's said it plans to spend $60 million on the 2020 elections up and down the ballot, twice what it spent during the 2018 midterms. 

President Trump has repeatedly campaigned on protecting the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association was one of his most prominent backers during the 2016 race. 

830d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

Kanye West won't appear on Illinois or Ohio ballots

WASHINGTON — Kanye West won't appear on either the Ohio or Illinois presidential ballots this November, the states respectively officially announced on Friday.  

In Illinois, West's home state, the board ruled unanimously that West hadn't submitted enough signatures from registered Illinois voters to be on the ballot. The board of elections requires 2,500 signatures for independent candidates, and West only filed 1,200. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that West failed to meet the requirements to appear on the ballot in that state as well. According to LaRose, the information and a signature on the nominating petition and statement of candidacy submitted to the secretary of state's office did not match the nominating petition and candidacy statement used to circulate "part-petitions", or circulated nominating materials. 

“A signature is the most basic form of authentication and an important, time-honored, security measure to ensure that a candidate aspires to be on the ballot and that a voter is being asked to sign a legitimate petition,” LaRose said in a statement. “There is no doubt that the West nominating petition and declaration of candidacy failed to meet the necessary threshold for certification.”    

One of West's best chances to appear on a battleground state's ballot was Wisconsin. On Thursday, Wisconsin's state election board ruled 5-1 that West's application was submitted too late to be counted. 

West's long-shot presidential campaign has been marred by allegations that Republican operatives are trying to bolster West's candidacy to peel voters away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

830d ago / 2:10 PM UTC

Commuted by President Trump, Alice Marie Johnson aims to bolster him with RNC speech

WASHINGTON — When Donald Trump was on the ballot in 2016, Alice Marie Johnson couldn’t vote for him even if she wanted to because she was in prison. Now, even though her voting rights haven’t been restored, Johnson says she’ll do everything she can to ensure the man who granted her clemency is re-elected to a second term.

Johnson was convicted in 1996 of nonviolent drug and money laundering chargers and served nearly 22 years of a life term before the president commuted her sentence.

Next week, she’ll be a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention in Washington D.C. The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, called Johnson personally to make the ask. 

Image: Alice Marie Johnson
Alice Marie Johnson speaks at the 2019 White House Prison Reform Summit and First Step Act celebration. Hosted in the East Room of the White House, on April 1, 2019.Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images

She didn’t hesitate. “It gives me an opportunity to share my heart with America,” Johnson told NBC News in an interview this week. “People can tell when you’re authentic.”

Johnson will use her time to tout the Trump administration’s work on criminal justice reform and outreach to African-American supporters. “I’m hoping that my story will remind everyone that’s there’s many others just like me who are waiting for mercy and a chance for redemption.” 

The 63-year-old great-grandmother is scheduled to deliver her address at the GOP convention live, either from the White House or the Andrew Mellon auditorium nearby.

Her case was championed by Kim Kardashian, who is married to rapper and presidential hopeful Kanye West. Johnson said she hasn’t spoken to either of them since Kanye announced his White House bid but wouldn’t “judge” his decision to get into the race yet.

Johnson didn’t watch much of the Democratic National Convention but she said a portion of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech resonated with her.

“It’s very, very important to vote this year. I agree with her that people do need to vote,” she explained.

Johnson has already been featured heavily by the Trump campaign in their re-election pitch to voters, most notably as a part of a $10 million ad buy that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. Johnson was also a special guest at the State of the Union, where she received a bipartisan standing ovation.

For her, participating in this election in any way possible is incredibly personal, even though she won’t be able to cast a ballot this fall.

“From prison to the White House to literally being able to speak to the president and make a difference, this has been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s not only been an honor. It’s my duty to go.”

831d ago / 6:04 PM UTC

Pelosi endorses Kennedy ahead of tight Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary

WASHINGTON — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., Thursday in what is expected to be a close Senate primary race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Ed Markey on Sept. 1.  

“Never before have the times demanded we elect courageous leaders as today. And that is why I'm proud to endorse Joe Kennedy for Senate,” Pelosi says in a video released by the Kennedy campaign.

The Speaker credits the congressman for his work campaigning across the country to help Democrats reclaim the House in 2018, adding that Kennedy “knows that to achieve progressive change you must be on the frontlines leading movements of people.”

“Massachusetts and America need Joe Kennedy's courage and leadership in the Senate to fight for the change we need,” Pelosi concludes.

The Speaker’s endorsement of Kennedy, the 39-year-old grandson of late Sen. Robert Kennedy and grandnephew of former President John F. Kennedy, comes less than two weeks before the primary, where polls show a close contest

Both Kennedy and Markey are viewed as progressives with little daylight between their policies, though the four-term congressman has cast himself as a representative of the next generation of politicians.

Markey, 74, is nearly twice Kennedy’s age and has served in Congress for decades (overlapping with Pelosi in the House for many of those years), but earned the support of one of Democrats’ youngest and most progressive members — New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — last year.

Ocasio-Cortez and several progressive groups immediately criticized the Speaker's endorsement, arguing that a party establishment that regularly backs incumbents over challengers shouldn't now support a candidate running against a progressive incumbent.  

Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez are not the only prominent Democrats to weigh in on the race.

Image:
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., debates Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., in Boston on Aug. 11, 2020.WBZ-TV via AP, Pool

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and fellow Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have both endorsed Markey. The incumbent is also backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

In the Kennedy camp are late Rep. John Lewis, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and now the House Speaker, who selected the congressman to give the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018.

“Nancy Pelosi is a force. No one has done more to take on Donald Trump and build our Party’s future. Proud and humbled to have her with me in this fight,” Kennedy tweeted in response to the Speaker’s endorsement. 

831d ago / 4:10 PM UTC

Biden’s DNC speech will reflect how Trump’s presidency has shaped his campaign, source says

Joe Biden will deliver what in many ways is the speech of his political life tonight. And his preparation reflects that, a source close to the process tells NBC News. 

Biden’s acceptance speech was developed and written over the course of the summer. While it has evolved through the process, it was largely “locked” weeks ago — "which is nearly unheard of in Bidenland,” as one source put it. 

Biden began rehearsing the speech at least two weeks ago — a timeline that lines up with an unexpected trip he made to the Chase Center in Wilmington even before the venue was announced as the location for his remarks. 

Biden, as always, has a heavy hand in writing his own words. Others involved include his chief strategist Mike Donilon and Vinay Reddy, a speechwriter who has been with him off and on since the second term as vice president. He’s also been preparing with Michael Sheehan, an experienced speechwriter and coach who, like Biden, overcame a stutter. 

“He knows exactly what he wants to say and he’s been saying it from the outset,” one source said, pointing to his consistent case that this election represents “a battle for the soul of the nation.” 

“It was mocked in the early part of the campaign but it feels like the world, or at least a large share of the electorate, has caught up to where Biden has been,” the source added. “Joe Biden, however this campaign ends, will have no regrets or questions. He is running as himself and he has been saying this from day one.”

The theme of a battle for the soul of the nation reflects the degree to which Biden’s candidacy, and his success in winning the nomination, has been shaped by Donald Trump’s presidency. 

“If someone else were president other than Donald Trump, I believe with every fiber of my body that he would not be running for president now,” Valerie Biden Owens, Biden’s sister, longtime campaign manager and a close confidante, told NBC News this week. 

But Biden will also make a case for himself tonight.

“You'll hear him lay out his positive vision for the country and reaffirm his core belief that we can unite this country, even in these divisive times,” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters. "He has been tested by historic recessions, global conflicts, pandemics, divisive politics and the never ending quest for justice and fairness in America, and every step of the way he has risen to the moment with steady and effective leadership.”

The speech will try to sum up that arc of Biden’s public service over the years. But it might not necessarily sound like a lot of the speeches he has given at past conventions. Yes, he’ll talk about the middle class and the family values that have shaped him and how he views the task ahead, but there’s a more urgent moment now that he will focus on more. 

The biggest challenge for Biden might well be not having an audience. For Biden, oratory “is not about words on a page, it’s about how it lands with the audience,” the source said. Tonight, his only audience will be a handful of aides and about a dozen reporters in the room.

“It’s like asking the Supreme Court justices to applaud during the State of the Union. You’re not going to get it,” the source said.

831d ago / 2:08 PM UTC

Biden, Trump campaigns debut new ads ahead of Biden's DNC speech

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WASHINGTON — Ahead of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's acceptance speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention, Biden and President Donald Trump's campaigns are out with new ads to push their own Biden messaging. 

Biden's campaign unveiled an ad entitled, "What happens now", which documents the former vice president's experience during the economic crisis after the 2008 recession as proof he will be able to build back the economy from the coronavirus pandemic. The television ad is a part of the Biden campaign's latest $24 million media buy next week and will air in key battleground states: Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The Biden campaign will also be expanding a previous ad that's been running in Ohio titled, "Backbone." That ad documents Biden's upbringing in Scranton, Penn. and his understanding and commitment to working class families. Per the campaign, this is the "first major push during the general election" to lay out Biden's biography. Biden's life story has been a marquee of the DNC this week, with several speakers talking about Biden's father losing his job and moving his family to Delaware from Pennsylvania for work.

And, as the DNC closes, the Trump campaign is out with a new digital ad highlighting a Biden figure that hasn't taken part in the week's festivities: Biden's son Hunter. 

Hunter Biden hasn't appeared at the DNC, except for in a short clip when he eulogized his brother, Beau. 

The new ad is the centerpiece of a seven-figure digital buy specifically targeted at the DNC. 

It focuses on a 2013 trip to China where Biden brought his son Hunter, and features 2019 footage of Hunter fielding questions on the potential impropriety of the visit. Both Bidens maintain there was nothing  inappropriate about it and that the two didn’t discuss his business dealings in China. Hunter Biden had been on the board of a Chinese-backed company, and has since left that company

It was not unusual for Biden during his foreign trips as vice president to bring along family members along, including grandchildren. They would usually join him for some ceremonial or cultural parts of the trip while maintaining separate itineraries while Biden conducted official business. 

That was the case with Biden’s trip to China, and the White House said at the time that Hunter was going along for the trip in part to look after his daughter, Finnegan.

The new Trump campaign video ends with text that reads: “With Joe Biden in charge, China is in charge.” 

President Trump has publicly asked China to investigate the Biden family and the pressure exerted on Ukrainian officials to do the same is what ultimately led to Trump's impeachment

832d ago / 3:32 PM UTC

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%

833d ago / 6:15 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden removes arrives for a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 12, 2020.Carolyn Kaster / AP

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. 

833d ago / 11:38 AM UTC

Jill Biden to go back to her teaching roots for prime-time DNC speech

Image: Jill Biden
Jill Biden sits in a classroom in Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware, where she plans to deliver her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday.Biden campaign

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. 

834d ago / 10:44 PM UTC

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.

Read more here.

834d ago / 9:19 PM UTC

Michelle Obama speech will stress Biden's empathy

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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.”

834d ago / 1:52 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Senate Democrats discuss latest coronavirus aid legislation during news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to reporters with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill on July 22, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

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.

836d ago / 2:23 PM UTC

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.

837d ago / 12:00 PM UTC

Hamilton-inspired rap aims to get out the vote for 2020

WASHINGTON — A Grammy-winning musician and a constitutional law professor have teamed up to create a get-out-the-vote rap inspired by the musical Hamilton.

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.

838d ago / 9:29 PM UTC

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."

838d ago / 7:22 PM UTC

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.

838d ago / 6:02 PM UTC

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. 

Michael Singleton and his wife Gladys wait in a line, which continued a few blocks south of the polling location in Milwaukee
Voters wait in a line, which continued a few blocks south of the polling location, at Riverside High School in Milwaukee on April 7, 2020.Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Reuters file

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.

838d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

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."  

Image: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris
Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris arrive to speak at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 12, 2020.Carolyn Kaster / AP

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.

839d ago / 8:22 PM UTC

Trump plans counter-programming in battleground states during Democratic convention

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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. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file

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.  

839d ago / 4:57 PM UTC

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. 

840d ago / 3:11 PM UTC

Poll: Few parents say their children will be attending full, in-person school in the fall

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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.

840d ago / 12:42 PM UTC

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.

841d ago / 8:34 PM UTC

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. 

Image: House Republican Leadership Speak To The Media
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a GOP news conference on Wednesday. Behind him, from left, Rep. Tom Cole, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Rep. Kay Granger.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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.

842d ago / 10:25 AM UTC

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.

842d ago / 12:10 PM UTC

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.

844d ago / 7:00 PM UTC

Anticipation over Biden's running mate pick builds ahead of decision

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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!” 

But she wasn’t quiet on other matters — namely comments attributed to Biden allies that she’s too ambitious to be the presumptive Democratic nominee’s veep. 

“I want you to be ambitious,” Harris said during the Black Girls Lead conference, reiterating later in the week during a joint appearance with Biden that “breaking barriers involves breaking things.”

“Sometimes you get cut, sometimes it hurts, but it is worth it,” she added. 

Image:
In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., on Aug. 5, 2020.Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

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.

Image: Susan Rice
National Security Adviser Susan Rice listens to reporters questions during a briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on March 21, 2014.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

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.

845d ago / 4:29 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Voters Head To The Polls For Arizona's Primary Election
People walk back to their car after voting during Arizona's primary election at Burton Barr Central Library on Aug. 4, 2020 in Phoenix.Courtney Pedroza / Getty Images

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: 

  1. National: $25.3 million
  2. Phoenix: $13.7 million
  3. Pittsburgh: $12.4 million
  4. Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, Fla: $10.6 million
  5. Detroit: $9.9 million
  6. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota, Fla.: $9.5 million
  7. Philadelphia: $8.4 million
  8. Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York, Penn.: $8.1 million
  9. Green Bay/Appleton, Wisc.: $7.1 million
  10. Milwaukee: $7.1 million
845d ago / 4:09 PM UTC

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.  

845d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

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.”

Manny Sethi
Dr. Manny Sethi serves as a moderator during a gubernatorial candidate forum on health care on Jan. 19, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.Mark Humphrey / AP file

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. 

846d ago / 9:13 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus disease briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, on Aug. 3, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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.