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Biden campaign launches new ads to combat Trump attacks among Latino voters
Cecilia, a young Venezuelan immigrant living in Kissimmee, Florida says that when members of her community tell her they’re not voting for Joe Biden because they have heard he’s a socialist, she stops to tell them that they should worry about President Donald Trump instead.
“Socialism, for me as a Venezuelan, was one of the most important things that destroyed my country. It may sound crazy to compare Trump with [Venezuelan President] Nicolas Maduro, but the reality is they’re very similar,” she says before comparing their authoritative tendencies to criticize opponents in a new one-minute TV ad airing in Cuban and Venezuelan-rich South Florida.
Her story is one of three testimonial ads the Biden campaign is releasing across 10 key states with high Latino populations in the final two weeks of the election as they hope to combat attacks Trump has launched against Biden’s in those communities.
Arizona voters will hear from Lidia, a Mexican-American first-time voter whose lupus returned after she was unable to receive hydroxychloroquine to treat her disease because the president falsely declared the drug a treatment for the coronavirus. And to appeal to Puerto Ricans living in Florida and Pennsylvania, the campaign is running a bilingual TV ad featuring a Puerto Rican priest who says Trump “abandoned” the community during Hurricane Maria and again on the coronavirus.
The campaign considers it most affect to air ads with Latinos who speak to common experiences and similar accents as those living across battlegrounds, a micro-targeting strategy they believe makes the most convincing appeal to support Biden within the community.
Three other TV and digital ads focus on reintroducing Biden’s record to a largely immigrant community who did not live in the U.S. during his early political career by reminding them of how he helped end the 2008 economic and his plan to do so again. The campaign also notably targets younger Latino voters, a huge voting bloc that could swing the election if they turnout, by telling them how Biden and Harris would work alongside them if elected.
Former RNC chair Michael Steele endorses Biden
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has endorsed Joe Biden, the first such endorsement of a Democratic presidential nominee in the modern era.
Steele was elected party chairman in 2009 as the GOP sought to regroup from President Barack Obama's historic victory in 2008 and he presided over the RNC as it marshaled tea party opposition to the Obama-Biden administration to make significant gains in Congress and across the country in the 2010 midterms.
A former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Steele lost a 2006 bid for U.S. Senate in the heavily Democratic state. He has become an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, serving as a senior adviser of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC. But until Tuesday morning he had not officially endorsed Biden.
His backing comes as the Trump campaign has sought to make inroads among African American voters, especially younger Black men who have tended to support Biden in lower numbers than other age groups.
Because of his role with the Lincoln Project, it's unlikely Steele, who is also a political analyst for MSNBC, would play a direct role in Biden's campaign or act as a surrogate. But he informed the Biden campaign of his plans to publicly support him.
Biden outspent Trump on the airwaves in every key battleground state over past week
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign has outspent that of President Donald Trump on television and radio ads in every key battleground state over the last seven days as the Trump re-election effort continues to fall behind the Democrat in fundraising.
Over the last seven days, Biden outspent Trump in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, per the latest figures from Advertising Analytics.
That's every single state listed as a toss-up or leaning Democrat/Republican by the Cook Political Report, meaning that Biden has the TV/radio spending edge in every single one of the most competitive states.
Biden already had the edge in an overwhelming number of battleground states, but his total supremacy on the airwaves there came this past week when the Trump campaign cut its TV spending in Georgia in half week-over-week to about $720,000. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign boosted its weekly spend in Georgia to $1.5 million over the last seven days.
TV and radio spending don't make up the full story. Trump's campaign is still spending heavily on digital platforms, and if money meant everything, Trump would have lost the 2016 race to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But it's the latest sign of ways in which the resource gap may be having an impact on the race — dueling announcements from the campaigns last week revealed that the effort to elect Biden significantly outraised the Trump re-elect in September, and that the pro-Biden effort entered October with $180 million more in the bank than Trump's re-elect.
Senate Democrats post historic fundraising totals as battle for Senate control reaches home stretch
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are riding a wave of historic third-quarter fundraising numbers into the final weeks before Election Day, even as Republicans are raising significant money of their own.
Before this quarter, no Senate candidate had ever raised more in a single three-month quarter than former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who raised more than $38 million in the third quarter of 2018.
But between July and September of this year, South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison raised $58 million, Maine Democrat Sara Gideon raised $39.4 million and Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly raised $38.7 million.
Six other Democrats — Kentucky's Amy McGrath ($36.8 million), Iowa's Theresa Greenfield ($28.8 million), North Carolina's Cal Cunningham ($28.3 million), Montana's Steve Bullock ($26.8 million), Colorado's John Hickenlooper ($22.6 million), and Georgia's Jon Ossoff ($21.3 million) all raised more than $20 million last quarter.
With Harrison raising more than any other Democrat, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham outraised all other Republican Senate candidates with $28.4 million. Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally raised $22.7 million, Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell raised $15.7 million, Michigan Republican John James raised $14.4 million and Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines raised $11.5 million.
It's clear the Democrats have the fundraising edge — when looking at all the Senate races rated "likely" or more competitive by the Cook Political Report (except Georgia's special election, where a slew of candidates are still running in a jungle primary), the average Democrat raised about $26 million last quarter compared to the average Republican's $10.2 million.
But as Democrats spend big, primarily on television airwaves, the average Democrat has a similar amount of money in the bank than the average Republican candidate — $9.5 million in cash on hand for the average Democrat and $7.1 million for the average Republican.
For example, despite raising almost $58 million last quarter, Harrison's South Carolina campaign had about $8 million in cash-on-hand, about equal with Graham. And while North Carolina's Cunningham outraised Republican Sen. Thom Tillis by a factor of four, Tillis ended the quarter with $6.6 million in the bank to Cunningham's $4.2 million.
Biden camp appears to be heading into final stretch with serious cash advantage over Trump re-elect
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden's campaign apparatus appears to have significantly outraised President Donald Trump's re-election effort in September, according to both campaigns, with the Democrat heading into the final stretch of the presidential campaign with a massive resource advantage.
On Wednesday, the Biden campaign announced that it (along with the Democratic National Committee and its affiliated joint-fundraising committees) raised $383 million in September, ending the month with $432 million in cash on hand between them all.
The Trump campaign tweeted Thursday that the Trump re-election apparatus (the campaign, the Republican National Committee) raised $247.8 million in September and had $251.4 million banked away.
That means the Biden effort outraised the Trump effort by $136 million, and went into October with a more than $180 million cash advantage. Since all of these groups have to file their campaign finance reports at different times, the campaigns historically announce the top-line totals for their whole apparatus each month. So it's unclear at this moment how much of the money raised by each side is hard money raised directly to the campaign versus how much is controlled by the national parties.
The dynamic hasn't changed in recent months, with the Biden organization significantly outpacing Trump both in fundraising and cash-on-hand. And that's been reflected in how they are spending their money.
Biden's campaign has spent $355.5 million on TV and radio ads since March 31, compared to Trump's $201.8 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics. And the discrepancies in the battleground states have been striking.
The Democrat has outspent Trump by about a 2-to-1 margin in Arizona and Minnesota, as well as by roughly a 3-to-1 margin in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
And the spending disparity has exacerbated down the stretch — since Labor Day, the Biden campaign has spent about $166 million in key battleground states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin), compared to Trump's $72 million in those states.
Biden camp taps Hollywood stars, jam bands, retired general for fundraisers
WASHINGTON -- Justin Timberlake, Natalie Portman, Alanis Morissette and more are lending their star power to Joe Biden's campaign coffers for virtual fundraisers in the closing weeks of the campaign, according to a list of invitations to the events obtained by NBC News.
Democrats have long tapped Hollywood stars for money and glitz, but the shift from in-person to virtual events during the coronavirus pandemic has made it easier for campaigns to book stars and put on more elaborate events, such as re-assembling the entire cast of a classic film for the first time ever to perform a live script read.
Meanwhile, retired four-star Gen. Stan McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan who endorsed Biden earlier this month, is hosting a virtual fundraiser with Richard Armitage, a former top State Department official under George W. Bush.
Morissette, the Canadian-American singer, will appear with the cast of the new Broadway musical based on her 1995 hit album Jagged Little Pill. The cast of "The West Wing," a political touchstone for many liberals, will host a trivia night, while the creator and stars of Amazon's "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" will appear together for Biden as well.
The cast of the 2001 cult-classic comedy "Wet Hot American Summer" and others — including Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pine, Jason Schwartzman and Michael Cera — will perform a live reading of the script later this month.
Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will host a virtual reception for Tennessee-based donors with Memphis-native Timberlake and actress Ashley Judd, who once considered a Senate run in neighboring Kentucky.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke will host an event featuring musicians Willie Nelson, David Crosby, the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and jam band Widespread Panic's Dave Schools. Actresses Fran Drescher and Shannon Elizabeth will also appear, along with TV personality Montel Williams "and more" yet to be named.
The Biden campaign is also holding a Star Trek-themed "Trek the vote" event featuring actors from five versions of the sci-fi franchise, including Patrick Stewart, George Takei, and LeVar Burton along with three Democrats who have spoken publicly about their love of Star Trek: Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, and Stacey Abrams.
Natalie Portman will appear at food and agriculture-themed virtual event alongside former Obama White House chef and policy adviser Sam Kass and Roots drummer Questlove. Restaurateur José Andrés, who clashed with President Donald Trump over aborted plans to open a restaurant in his Washington, D.C. hotel, will discuss Biden's plans to help revive the restaurant industry after the pandemic.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr will appear with former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, who is running for Senate in Arizona.
Comedians Aasif Mandvi, Aparna Nancherla and Sendhil Ramamurthy will help host a "South Asian Block Party." And Rita Moreno, one of the few Puerto Rican members of the cast of the original "West Side Story" film, will host a conversation with Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.
The Biden campaign has been raking in money at an unprecedented clip after a slow start, which has allowed it to outspend the Trump campaign in key battlegrounds.
DNC launches new radio and print ad campaign to target Latino voters
HOUSTON — With early voting set to begin in several more key battleground states this week, the Democratic National Committee is rolling out a radio and print ad campaign aimed at boosting turnout among Latino voters for former Vice President Joe Biden.
"Latino communities across the battleground states have a critical voice in this election, that's why we are reaching out directly to these voters and ensuring they have the tools they need to make their plan to vote," Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a statement.
Perez emphasized the ways the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Latinos, blaming a "failed response to the pandemic" on the part of the Trump administration.
The ad campaign, which the DNC says is a six-figure effort, strikes a similar tone with an equally stark message. "This November 3rd, our lives are on the ballot," the ads say in Spanish before imploring those reading or listening to "make your plan to vote" and directing potential voters to visit VoyAVotar.com. The Spanish site, hosted by the DNC, allows prospective voters to check their registration status and register while also making plans to vote absentee, in person early or on Election Day.
With the latest polls in several battleground states showing Biden ahead or neck-and-neck with President Donald Trump — including Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — turning out key demographics could be the difference in those states.
The number of eligible Latino voters has grown more than among any other racial or ethnic group in battleground states over the past nearly two decades, but historically Latinos have had lower turnout rates than white and Black voters. According to Pew Research Center data, the number of eligible Latino voters who did not vote in 2016 was higher than the number of those who did.
In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton underperformed among Latino voters compared to President Barack Obama. This cycle, the Biden campaign has faced criticism for what some view as slow and lackluster outreach to the community. Even so, the latest Pew Research poll showed Biden with a 34-point lead among Latino voters nationally, but it also revealed a possible area of concern — enthusiasm. The poll showed that while 79 percent of white Biden supporters are extremely motivated to vote for him, only 57 percent of Latino supporters say the same.
The ads will run in Spanish print publications and on radio shows in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Wisconsin. Voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina will also see print ads, while those in California, Texas and Colorado will hear them on the airwaves.
Harris to attend Barrett hearings from Senate office
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will be attending the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett this week remotely, from her office on Capitol Hill, her senate communications director, Chris Harris, said Sunday.
The hearings, which begin Monday morning, come just weeks after what has been described as a "superspreader" event to announce Barrett's nomination in the White House Rose Garden just over two weeks ago. President Donald Trump and at least 13 others who attended the event have tested positive for Covid-19 in the wake of the ceremony, including Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who also sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, has frequently tweeted from her senate office twitter account calling the decision to move forward with the hearings “reckless” and putting the health of senate staffers and other workers in the Capitol at risk.
She, along with Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also sent a letter to Senate Judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham, asking to have testing procedures in place if the hearings were to move forward.
“We urge you against unsafely moving forward with these hearings while no clear testing regime is in place to ensure that they do not become another super-spreader of this deadly virus,” the senators wrote.
“Without these precautionary measures in place, Senators, Senate staff, press, Judge Barrett and her family will face a serious, unnecessary risk of contracting Covid-19. We also have a moral responsibility to protect the workers who make it possible for us to do our jobs in the Senate each and every day.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called Democrats’ request for a delay in the hearings “procedural games and shenanigans.”
“I think they are looking for anything to delay things even a day or two or three,” Cruz said on Meet the Press Sunday morning, “I think that Senate Republicans will follow the guidance, the medical guidance of the Capitol physician," he said. "But the delay tactics of the Democrats aren't going to work.”
While Harris told reporters during a recent trip to North Carolina that she is “definitely going to be involved in the hearings,” she is also missing critical time on the campaign trail, with just 23 days left until Election Day.
Her campaign has said “no day will go on unspared” in terms of reaching out to voters, and it’s possible Harris will continue both virtual and in-person events in the next few weeks.
Progressive groups call for release of all Barrett's records from Notre Dame
WASHINGTON — A coalition of progressive watchdog groups are calling for the full release of more records pertaining to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's time at the University of Notre Dame, which accounts for the majority of her professional career.
The call came after a second previously undisclosed anti-abortion ad Barrett was associated with became public Friday evening. The 2013 ad, signed by Barrett, ran on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the right to abortion and was sponsored by the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life.
The ad, and the group’s activities, which among other things include arranging seminars and conferences and participating in the annual March for Life in Washington DC., raises questions about the extent to which Barrett was involved in other activist groups and activities during her tenure at the university, where she’s been a faculty member since 2002, the groups argue. The Senate will begin confirmation hearings on the nomination Monday.
In a letter to Barrett provided to NBC News, Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, asks Barrett to allow Notre Dame to “make public documents relevant to your nomination, including all communications, including emails, as well as your personnel file, student evaluations, and any information regarding your involvement in faculty groups and committees.”
In response to the letter White House spokesman Judd Deere told NBC that Barrett has been “extraordinarily transparent throughout this process.” Judge Barrett “has provided more than 1,800 pages of information to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is in addition to the more than 600 cases that she has participated in that comprise her judicial record. She has spoken with nearly every member of the Committee and she will answer questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week,” said Deere.
On Sunday, Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats also sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking about materials that Barrett left off her initial paperwork, outlining several examples.
The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life aims to educate students in “the rich intellectual tradition supporting the dignity of human life” and to prepare students to “transform the culture into one where every human life is respected,” according to the Catholic News Agency.
Barrett’s decision to include the ad in her Senate paperwork comes in response to media reports, including that she failed to disclose a different anti-abortion ad in her nomination questionnaire: her participation in a 2006 ad calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned and ending its “barbaric legacy,” as well as two talks she gave in 2013 hosted by two anti-abortion student groups.
Accountable.US is among watchdog groups with pending records requests on Barrett through the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws.
“Without more disclosure, we are getting a very limited sense of the nominee — and the narrative is being completely driven by what she wants to put forward,” Herrig told NBC. “If she was at a public university, we could’ve gotten her emails. We got emails from federal agencies and even the White House in past nomination fights. To not have any emails or much of a more in depth look at her work history is not normal.”
“There has never been a nominee about whom we know so little,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Mitch McConnell would like to keep it that way, but the public has a right to understand who has been nominated to fill the most consequential Supreme Court vacancy in recent memory,” he said in a statement.
Harrison announces record $57 million third quarter haul in S.C. Senate race against Lindsey Graham
WASHINGTON — South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison's campaign says he raised $57 million in the third quarter of 2020 as he looks to dethrone Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, far more than any Senate campaign has ever raised in one quarter.
The new total, released by the campaign on Sunday morning, comes as Democratic Senate candidates across the country report eye-popping fundraising hauls in their bids to unseat Republican incumbents.
Previously, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke held the record for most raised in one quarter with $38.1 million.
And to put Harrison's total in more context, it's slightly more than what Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised for their presidential campaigns in the final quarter of 2019, just ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
Harrison did not release his campaign's cash-on-hand figure. Congressional campaigns don't have to file their official reports to the Federal Election Commission until later this month.
There have been increasing signs of life in the deep-red South Carolina Senate race, where Republicans have been sounding the alarms about Graham's chances. Graham recently took to Fox News airwaves to ask for help keeping pace with Harrison's fundraising pace, and Senate Republican outside groups have recently flocked to his defense.
Graham has not yet released his third-quarter fundraising total, but even a herculean effort by the Republican will almost certainly leave him tens of millions of dollars behind Harrison's third-quarter haul. Through June, the most recent date where fundraising totals for both candidates are available, Harrison had raised $29 million to Graham's $31 million.
Harrison has been relying on his campaign's vast resources to significantly outspend Graham on the Tv and radio airwaves — $38.5 million to $13.8 million through Sunday, according to Advertising Analytics.
Other Democrats have announced huge third-quarter hauls in recent days too. Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield's campaign says she raised $28.7 million, North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham's campaign says he raised $28.3 million and Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper's campaign says he raised $22.6 million.
South Carolina debate format changes after Covid-19 test disagreement between Graham and Harrison
WASHINGTON — Thursday's South Carolina Senate debate is changing format after a stand-off over Covid-19 testing between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jaime Harrison.
Harrison was demanding that Sen. Graham get a Covid-19 test ahead of tonight’s debate, something Graham said he didn’t do because his doctor said it wasn’t necessary.
Host WCBD-TV has changed the format to be separate interviews of each candidate by the moderator and voters. They will not appear on stage at the same time.
“We're disappointed that Lindsey has failed to take a simple coronavirus test, but we appreciate our hosts were able to change the event format to make it safer for everyone,” Guy King, a Harrison spokesperson said. “Jaime will be there in Spartanburg tonight to talk to the voters.”
In a tweet thread Thursday night, Graham said that Harrison is “demanding special treatment.”
“South Carolinians do not appreciate Harrison putting himself above others. If Mr. Harrison is not able to interact with South Carolinians on the same terms they live their lives, he should not be their senator,” he adds.
Philadelphia Judge rejects Trump campaign lawsuit over poll watchers at satellite sites
PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia judge has denied President Trump’s campaign the right to have poll watchers inside the city’s satellite elections offices. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign tells NBC News that they immediately appealed the decision, calling it “irresponsible.”
The judge wrote in a 14-page opinionFriday that Pennsylvania law doesn’t allow campaign representatives to observe in elections offices — backing the city’s stance that these satellite locations don’t qualify as polling places. Therefore, poll watching certificates cannot be issued.
“There's no provision in the law for a poll watcher to sit down at my kitchen table and watch me fill out my ballot. I'd be highly offended by that; it’s entirely inappropriate,” David Thornburgh, the CEO of Committee of 70, an independent advocate for better elections, noted in a recent interview with NBC News. The Philadelphia satellite offices are meant to serve as locations for voters to register, apply for, fill out and return their mail-in ballots, all in one place.
The ruling comes just over a week after the campaign sued the city after election officials refused to let people hired by the Trump campaign to enter satellite sites and monitor voters applying for and completing mail-in ballots ahead of election day, triggering President Trump to call out the city during the first presidential debate saying, “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
The Philadelphia City Commissioners, who run the city’s elections, celebrated the ruling.
“We are pleased that the Court has reaffirmed our position that there is no right under the Pennsylvania Election Code to have poll watchers inside satellite election offices,” Chairwoman Lisa Deeley shared in a statement to NBC News, noting that the Election Code specifies that authorized poll watchers are permitted at polling places on Election Day. “In the meantime, we are continuing to work to ensure that all voters will be able to vote safely and securely.”
Democratic Senate candidates are outspending GOP opponents 2-to-1 over the airwaves
WASHINGTON — Democratic Senate candidates are significantly outspending their Republican opponents in key races that will decide who holds the Senate majority coming into 2021.
Through Sept. 30, Democratic Senate candidates (as well as the Democrat-backed independent Al Gross running in Alaska) are outspending their GOP opponents over the TV and radio airwaves by almost a combined 2-to-1 margin, $135 million to $71 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics. The average Democratic candidate spent $9.7 million over that timeframe, compared to $5.1 million for the Republican candidate (this analysis doesn't include the Georgia special Senate election, where a large field of candidates is running in a jungle primary).
Some of those leads are relatively narrow — Gross outspent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan $1.2 million to $1 million; Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper outspent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner $8.4 million to $6.3 million; and Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock outspent Republican Sen. Steve Daines $9.5 million to $7.7 million.
But other spending gaps are massive — Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones outspent Republican Tommy Tuberville $6.4 million to $700,000; Kansas Democrat Barbara Bollier outspent Republican Rep. Roger Marshall $3.9 million to $540,000; Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield outspent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst $14 million to $5.4 million; Democrat Cal Cunningham spent $13.5 million to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis' $4.3 million; and Democrat Jaime Harrison spent $26.2 million to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham $9.4 million.
The only state where the Republican candidate had the spending edge through Sept. 30 was Texas, where Republican Sen. John Cornyn outspent Democrat MJ Hegar $4.4 million to $2.6 million.
Outside groups have helped Republicans narrow the Democratic spending lead to a $345 million-to-$288 million edge. But those outside groups don't get the same discounted ad rates that campaigns do — so they get less bang for their buck.
That dynamic is typified by Alabama, where the total Democratic effort has spent $6.9 million to the GOP's $5.8 million. But measuring in gross rating points — a standard measure used to approximate exposure — Democrats have an edge of 104,000 points to 36,000 points. That's because Democrats are relying on TV spending from the candidate, while Republicans are leaning primarily on outside groups.
In Goergia, Texas and Kansas, Democrats spent less but have bought more gross ratings points. In Michigan and Kentucky, that script is flipped, with Republican ads scoring more gross ratings points.
And that metric allows you to take a good look at the impact of the overwhelming amount of ads — between the two candidates, Greenfield and Ernst have purchased almost 600,000 gross ratings points in Iowa, a sign of how the Senate race has inundated the TV market there.
Barrett disclosure did not include work for troubled hospital group
WASHINGTON — U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett did not include on her Senate Judiciary disclosure forms a notable case in which she was one of two lead attorneys: defending a Pittsburgh steel magnate accused of helping drive a major Pennsylvania Hospital System into bankruptcy.
Coney Barrett, whose experience as a practicing attorney is limited to about two years beginning in 2000, worked on the case for at least six months beginning in June of 2000, according to court documents in Pacer, a database of electronic court records.
Barrett was required, per the questionnaire given to court nominees, to list the “10 most significant litigated matters which you personally handled, whether or not you were the attorney of record” and to “describe in detail the nature of your participation.” Barrett lists just three cases.
A source familiar with Barrett’s work history said her client had “filed only two even arguably substantive filings after she appeared as counsel,” so the work “is not a significant level of involvement.” Still, in two of the three cases Barrett lists, she cites her contribution as having been supporting roles such as assisting with research and briefing materials.
The case was ultimately settled as part of a separate civil suit in which she was not listed. Yet it involves one of the largest nonprofit bankruptcies in U.S. history, at $1.5 billion, which prompted numerous investigations including a criminal probe.
During her 2017 circuit court appointment hearing before the committee, the brevity of Barrett’s listed work experience drew questions from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., about her resume.
Barrett at the time said she no longer had records of “the matters upon which I worked” and that she recalled “only three significant litigated matters that I personally handled.” She also said she’d searched her records, asked former associates and searched legal databases. In her 2020 disclosure, she similarly said she’d provided everything “based upon my recollection and searches of publicly available records conducted by others on my behalf.”
Given her limited experience as a practicing attorney, it wouldn’t be usual to have such a short list, said Prof. Stephen Gillers of New York University, an expert in ethical rules and judges. Yet, there’s also no reason to omit the case given the significant length of time she appears to have worked on it relative to her overall work experience as a practicing attorney. “The fact that a client is for some reason disreputable would not impede her confirmation. Prominent firms represent disreputable people,” said Gillers.
The omission is fueling criticism from Democrats about whether the candidate’s full record is transparent amid a hastened confirmation process for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.
“Donald Trump is trying to hide the real Amy Coney Barrett from the American people — her extreme positions on Roe v. Wade, her record of attacking the Affordable Care Act and now her significant involvement in the largest nonprofit bankruptcy in American history,” said Kyle Morse, a spokesman for American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic research group that informed NBC about the case.
Read more about the hospital system's collapse here.
The Judiciary Committee is due to conduct hearings, virtually for at least for some members, with the nominee beginning Monday. Democrats have already expressed concern about incomplete disclosure forms.
This week, Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for “any missing materials from” her questionnaire, citing her 2006 signature on a 2006 newspaper ad calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned that was not included. “The ad may or may not require recusal in a future case challenging Roe and that will come up,” said Gillers.
“We should get all the information about any nominee,” Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala, said Wednesday. “In this rush,” he said, “we’re not going to get that,” he said. “This is a pattern from Sen. McConnell to rush through a nominee without regard to getting a full fair review,” he said.
Senate Democrats seek investigation into Trump's tax audit
WASHINGTON — Top Senate Democrats on Thursday sent a letter to the Inspector Generals of the Tax Administration and Treasury Departments, calling for an investigation into the IRS audits of President Donald Trump’s taxes — less than four weeks before the Presidential election.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, are asking the IGs to “immediately conduct an investigation into any undue influence on Mr. Trump’s IRS audits.”
The letter comes after the New York Times reported decades-long income tax avoidance by Trump, whose taxes have been under audit by the IRS for more than four years. Trump dismissed the Times’ reporting as “fake news,” saying he paid “millions of dollars” in taxes — not the $750 per year in 2016 and 2017 as reported. Though he hasn’t agreed to release his returns to refute the articles.
“Not only has Mr. Trump broken decades of precedent by rejecting transparency for the American people and refusing to publicly release his federal income tax returns, but he has also made numerous public statements against IRS audits, both as a presidential candidate and after he was elected,” the Senators wrote.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, whose GOP-led committee has jurisdiction over taxes, told reporters he would not seek to obtain Trump’s tax records so soon before an election over concern it would appear political.
“All I've got is the president saying he's paid millions of dollars in taxes, and you've got the New York Times printing what they think, and we don't have the facts to make a judgment," Grassley said, adding that he is “concerned” the audit is taking as long as it is.
The letter is asking for an "immediate" investigation into "any undue influence on Mr. Trump’s IRS audits, either as part of the mandatory audit program or otherwise, including whether any executive branch employee outside of IRS has contacted any IRS employee regarding the audit of the President’s tax returns."
And, they say that the IGs need to "provide reassurance to congressional leadership and the House of Representatives and Senate Committees of jurisdiction in closed executive session that no such interference or influence has been found.”
And in another setback to President Trump’s efforts to keep his finances from the Manhattan District Attorney, a three-judge panel on Wednesday unanimously rejected Trump’s arguments that the subpoena should be blocked.
The President’s lawyers are expected to try and appeal that decision in the Supreme Court, where a fight is brewing over the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Progressive women's groups launch effort to combat disinformation about Harris
SALT LAKE CITY — Progressive women’s groups are putting millions towards a campaign to disrupt disinformation and sexist, racist attacks against Senator Kamala Harris — an escalation of their attempts to combat gendered and racially biased narratives around the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
Ultraviolet — in concert with other prominent groups like Emily’s List, Black PAC, and Color of Change — formed the Women’s Disinformation Defense Project, an amalgamation of groups collectively set to throw more than $20 million into ads, research, and offensive strategies that will counter biased narratives on social media and online in real time, especially for voters in battleground states.
“I can’t say ‘this person is seeing this,’” Shaunna Thomas of Ultraviolet told NBC News about those types of narratives and disinformation. “But you can say ‘here’s a group of voters who fit the profile of people who we know are being targeted’ and ensure that they are seeing a different message.”
Even before Harris was even named as Biden’s running mate, prominent female Democrats and women’s groups promised to call out any sexism or racism and take steps to disrupt bias taking hold in political coverage and voter outreach.
Ahead of the first, and only vice presidential, debate, Thomas is prepared for bias to seep in — in online forums or on the stage.
Harris allies, including former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, have been vocal warning about the thin line that women candidates often walk on the debate stage because of double standards applied to them. Clinton recently advised Harris to be “firm and effective” when rebutting Pence, but to “do it in a way that doesn’t scare or alienate voters.”
For Mike Pence’s part, his preparations for the debate stage against Harris have included practicing ways to best Harris without opening himself up to criticism that he is acting in a disrespectful or sexist way. Pence is being advised "not to attack a woman,” one ally told NBC News.
Army Reserves open probe into N.C. Democratic Senate candidate as new texts surface
Just days after North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham apologized for sending sexually explicit text messages to a woman who is not his wife, more texts have surfaced suggesting that Cunningham engaged in a physical relationship with the woman.
And an investigation into the matter has been opened by the U.S. Army National Reserves, of which Cunningham is a member. Adultery can be a crime in the military.
“The Army Reserve is investigating the matters involving Lt. Col. James Cunningham. As such, we are unable to provide further details at this time,” Simon B. Flake, chief of media relations, confirmed to NBC News in a statement. The investigation was first reported by WRAL, a Raleigh TV station.
Cunningham has been leading incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis in polling in a race that is expected to be a critical battleground in who wins the presidency and control of the Senate.
In the text messages, Cunningham and Arlen Guzman Todd, who is also married, exchanged explicit sexual messages to each other. And in other messages, Guzman Todd was complaining to a friend about Cunningham’s lack of response to her.
The NationalFile.com, a conservative outlet, first reported the text messages. WRAL first reported the second batch of messages.
The text messages indicate that the two had also met twice, including once at his home in July.
Cunningham’s campaign confirmed the investigation by the Army Reserves but said he he will stay in the race.
"Cal will participate in this process, but it does not change the stakes of this election or the need for new leaders who will fight for the issues North Carolinians care about instead of caving to the corporate special interests — which is exactly what Senator Tillis has done in his years in Washington,” spokeswoman Rachel Petri said in a statement.
The last time the media and the public heard from Cunningham was on Friday when the first batch of text messages were released when he said:
"I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry. The first step in repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do. I ask that my family’s privacy be respected in this personal matter. I remain grateful and humbled by the ongoing support that North Carolinians have extended in this campaign, and in the remaining weeks before this election I will continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state."
As polls creep closer, Trump campaign hasn't run TV ads in IA, OH for weeks
WASHINGTON — The polls show the presidential race in Iowa and Ohio tightening, but only Vice President Joe Biden is on the television airwaves there.
By comparison, President Donald Trump's campaign hasn't run TV or radio ads in Iowa since the end of July, according to Advertising Analytics. And he's been dark on the Ohio airwaves since then too, except for one week in September where his campaign spent about $240,000.
Since the beginning of August, Biden's campaign has outspent Trump $2.5 million to $240,000 in Ohio and $1.4 million to $0 in Iowa.
Outside groups have stepped in to try to fill the gap in Iowa — since August, the GOP super PAC Preserve America PAC has spent $6.7 million in Iowa.
But Trump hasn't been getting any air cover in Ohio, as the only GOP group to spend significant money on ads in the presidential race there over that span is Americans for Limited Government, which is actually running ads criticizing the president on health care.
Gov. Whitmer signs bill to help speed vote counting in battleground Michigan
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bipartisan bill Tuesday allowing local clerks in the battleground state’s larger municipalities to begin processing ballots the day before Election Day.
In addition to the extra 10 hours for clerks in cities and townships with a population of at least 25,000 residents, the legislation also allows election inspectors on absentee vote counting boards to work in shifts and requires clerks to contact voters within 48 hours if there are problems with their absentee ballots, such as missing or mismatched signatures.
Though the bill’s provisions aim to prevent delays in reporting election results, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson noted the state still does not expect complete results until the Friday after the election, since ballot counting cannot begin until 7 a.m. on November 3.
“Now it may be sooner, but we want to manage those expectations and we want all of our voters watching our elections to be patient as our clerks work methodically, carefully, and securely to tabulate every ballot and ensure that the results of our elections once announced are an accurate reflection of the will of the people,” the Democratic governor said.
Benson also said that Michigan has received a record 2.7 million absentee ballot requests and 400,000 Michiganders have so far already returned their ballots, putting the state on track to break its turnout record this fall.
Whitmer criticized the GOP-led legislature for not sending her SB 117, which allows servicemembers and spouses to return ballots electronically, criticizing Republicans for playing “partisan games.”
Michelle Obama releases 'closing argument' for Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Former First Lady Michelle Obama released her "closing argument" for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday, urging voters to vote for Biden and to "make a plan to vote."
"Right now our country is in chaos because of a president who isn't up to the job," Obama says of President Donald Trump in the video.
In an almost 25 minute video that mirror her Democratic convention remarks, Obama reminds voters of how Trump has responded to numerous crises from healthcare during a pandemic to race riots — calling the president “racist” in his response — and the Supreme Court vacancy while acknowledging that it can be a confusing time given the president spreads “these lies and conspiracies” repeatedly.
“With everything going on in their lives, they don’t have time to fact-check falsehoods being spread throughout the internet. And even reasonable people might get scared. And the one thing this president is really, really good at is using fear and confusion and spreading lies to win,” she said.
“Search your hearts, and your conscience, and then vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it,” she said.
Obama adds, "We have the chance to elect a president who can meet this moment. A leader who has the character and the experience to put an end to this chaos, start solving these problems and help lighten the load for families all across the country. And that leader is Joe Biden."
Mississippi Dem Senate hopeful Mike Espy raises $4 million in Q3
WASHINGTON — If Mike Espy loses his longshot bid to become Mississippi’s first Democrat elected to the Senate since 1982, it won’t be for a lack of cash. The campaign exclusively tells NBC News it raised $4 million dollars in the third quarter of 2020, six times what he raised the previous quarter.
The former Congressman and Agriculture Secretary now goes into the final month of the campaign against Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith with some $3 million cash on hand, according to the campaign. In addition to the money raised between July 1 and Sept. 30, the campaign also says they raised an additional $1 million in just the first two days of October.
Hyde-Smith has so far not released her third-quarter fundraising report, which is common as candidates have until Oct. 15 to file those reports with the Federal Election Commission. A Hyde-Smith campaign official tells NBC news her numbers are still be calculated and will be made public “soon.”
The incumbent senator trailed Espy in campaign fundraising last quarter, raising $210,000 to Espy’s $610,000. At the end of the second quarter, Hyde-Smith led the overall fundraising race by about $700,000.
Espy is still climbing a steep hill in the hopes of an underdog victory. But national Democrats have recently joined him in that climb. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is now providing organizational help in the state, including phone banking, and gave his campaign $49,000, the maximum donation the organization can give to him. Espy was also endorsed by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden last week.
This 2020 race is a rematch of a 2018 special election, when Espy ran against Hyde-Smith to fill the seat left vacant by the late Sen. Thad Cochran (who died after his resignation).
Hyde-Smith won that race by 8 points, which was still the closest a Democrat has come to winning a modern-era Senate seat in Mississippi.
Biden campaign hits new weekly spending highs across battleground states
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has long had the TV and radio spending advantage over President Trump. But while Trump has increased his spending in a handful of key states, Biden's campaign is hitting new, weekly spending highs across the map.
The Biden campaign spent more in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin during the week spanning Sept. 22-28 than it had in those states in any previous week, according to Advertising Analytics data analyzed by NBC News.
Some of those increases were dramatic — Biden went from spending $3.3 million in Arizona the week of Sept. 15 to $5.5 million the week of Sept. 22, from $651 to $600,000 in Iowa, and from $5.8 million to $7.8 million in Pennsylvania.
The Trump campaign hit new, weekly spending highs in four states during the week of Sept. 22 — Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. But even so, Team Trump still spent millions less than Biden in all but Georgia.
It's another data point that shows the broad breadth of Biden's TV/radio spending advantage over Trump — the Democrat spent more than double Trump's total in Arizona last week; more than triple Trump in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; almost eight-times as much as Trump in Nevada; and at least $2 million more in Florida, Michigan and North Carolina.
The only key state where Trump outspent Biden over that week was Georgia, where Trump spent $1.4 million to Biden's $223,000
Senate debate round up: Big Monday night in key races
WASHINGTON — With most of the political world focused on Tuesday' night's first presidential debate, some of the nation's top Senate candidates — in Iowa, Montana and Maine— squared off in key debates Monday night.
Here are some key moments:
The Supreme Court
President Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court loomed large on Monday night.
Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock criticized Republican Sen. Steve Daines for supporting Coney Barrett, saying he "flip-flopped" from his position four years ago that the Senate should "not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until the American people elect a new President and have their voices heard." Daines said that it's up to the Senate whether to confirm or reject the president's nominee — and they rejected it in 2016.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who has opposed Trump filling the seat before the election, criticized her Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, for not completely swearing off packing the court and that the court needs to be less political.
Gideon countered by pointing to Collins' votes for Trump's past judicial nominees, and said that she wants to see a judiciary that is "independent." She didn't specifically rule out adding justices to the court but made a broad denouncement of "the proposals coming forward" because those changes wouldn't help make the court more independent.
Masks and fighting COVID-19
In one of the stranger moments in recent memory, Maine independent Senate hopeful Max Linn cut up surgical masks in opposition to government mask mandates.
But the rest of the candidates across the three debates took the question seriously.
All three Republican candidates, Collins, Daines and Ernst spoke out against mask mandates— Ernst and Collins agreed that masks help slow the spread of Covid-19 while Daines said that it should be a personal choice and focused his answer primarily on parents' frustration with not being able to watch their kids play sports outside because of restrictions.
Greenfield supports a statewide mask mandate, while Gideon focused her answer on how masks are effective in fighting the pandemic and Bullock pointed to the effectiveness of masks while saying he doesn't want to see people fined for not wearing masks.
Collins also touted her work on the Paycheck Protection Program while Gideon criticized the Senate for not making a deal once pandemic aid lapsed this summer.
Ernst focused a question on how to solve systemic racism specifically in an attack on Greenfield’s comments about law enforcement: “Theresa Greenfield has stated that our law enforcement system is systemically racist, meaning that our law enforcement officers are racist. I don't believe that. And I believe that our communities can work together.”
Greenfield pushed back, saying systemic racism is more than just bias in policing, detailing: “we need to work together like we did in this state to pass the plan for the more perfect union, where we attack this kind of racism, requiring racial bias training, requiring de-escalation training, a ban on chokeholds.”
DNC hits the streets around debate site
The Democratic National Committee is hitting the ground with mobile billboards aimed at countering President Donald Trump during Tuesday night's presidential debate.
The Biden campaign's rapid response team and over 30 staffers from the DNC War Room will be remotely fact-checking the president and posting their responses on three driving billboards circling the perimeter of the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion debate hall in Cleveland.
The joint effort was launched after both rapid response teams wanted to try and alert as many battleground voters missing the debate while driving or walking around the debate hall about Trump’s record.
"On the debate stage, Trump will continue to lie to the American people about his failed response to the coronavirus, so we're going to hold him accountable in real time,” DNC War Room senior spokeswoman and advisor Lilly Adams said in a statement to NBC News. “The truth is that Trump lied to the country about the severity of the coronavirus and failed to ever come up with a strategy to confront the pandemic.”
During the day ahead of the evening debate, the billboards will flash statistics showing statistics about the 200,000-plus coronavirus deaths in the U.S. and more than 7 million cases so far as passerby’s hear Trump saying he “wanted to always play [the coronavirus] down” and how he “still like playing it down,” remarks he made to famed journalist Bob Woodward at the onset of the pandemic.
The driving billboards will also play up the importance of the Supreme Court vacancy, noting that if a majority of justices find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in a hearing set for a week after the election, as many as 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions are at risk of losing protections and 21 million would become uninsured.
Following the debate, the DNC will organize a light display outside the debate hall that will read “Trump lied, 200,000+ died.”
Voter interest surges after Ginsburg death and National Voter Registration Day, group says
WASHINGTON — Voter registration and mail ballot request numbers have surged after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, coupled with National Voter Registration Day.
Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey told NBC News that the nonpartisan get-out-the-vote technology platform saw an immediate spike the weekend following Ginsburg's sudden passing with a total of 139,046 registration verifications that Saturday and Sunday — a 118 percent increase from the weekend prior. The group also received nearly 41,000 new voter registrations (up by 68 percent) and approximately 35,000 mail ballot requests (up by 42 percent) that weekend.
“I think it means that people are paying attention, that there's a younger generation that's definitely paying attention,” Hailey said in a phone interview. “With 30 some-odd days left to go, people are connecting these major moments in American history with action at the ballot box.”
“I think these terrible losses are translating for people into action, or taking that and doing something and connecting the dots between the world they want to create and voting,” she said.
Vote.org saw a surge in interactions last Tuesday too, which was National Voter Registration Day. The day brought Vote.org the most traffic ever for the holiday, doubling the number of users visiting the site from roughly 304,000 in 2018 to 730,000 in 2020. That day also doubled the number of registrations (from about 62,000 in 2018 to 135,000 in 2020) and voter registration verifications (from approximately 268,000 in 2018 to 473,000 in 2020).
“I think we've gotten to a point in our country where it's not about parties anymore it's just about people who believe in a true and inclusive democracy, and people who don't,” Hailey said. “I do think that there's a younger generation at least what we're seeing on the site that is awake and getting election information. We've had 2 million people register through the site so far this year.”
This past weekend, Vote.org saw 188,009 registration verifications, 53,817 new voter registrations and 40,164 mail ballot requests.
“What we're seeing is people really wanting just like a lot of information about what their choices are,” Hailey said of people's interests in learning about their state’s different voting options. “The tools for vote by mail and the registration tools on our site are running about even to each other.”
Booker: Supreme Court could be "delegitimized" if Coney Barrett doesn't recuse from a potential 2020 election case
WASHINGTON — New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said Sunday the Supreme Court could be "delegitimized" if President Trump's court pick doesn't recuse herself from potential rulings related to November's presidential election.
During an interview on "Meet the Press," Booker said he'll ask Judge Amy Coney Barrett whether she will commit to recusing herself given the political debate around her confirmation. He added that he does plan to meet with Coney Barrett, unlike other Democrats who say they will not out of protest over the timing of the pick in light of how Republicans blocked then-President Barack Obama's election-year nomination.
"One of the things I want to ask her is: Will she recuse herself in terms of any election issues that come before us. Because if she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized," he said.
"President Trump has said: 'I will not accept the result of the election unless I win, I'm going to push it to the Supreme Court, and oh by the way, during the election, I’m going to put someone on the court as well."
Trump officially nominated Coney Barrett on Saturday to fill the seat left vacant by the late-Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death earlier this month. For weeks, he's argued that Democratic nominee Joe Biden wouldn't be able to beat him unless the election is "rigged" and recently said that he wants to have a full court in case it needs to decide any cases related to the election.
Democrats have cried foul over the nomination, put forward with weeks to go before Election Day and after some states have already allowed early voting, and have pointed to the GOP decision to block Obama's nomination in March of 2016.
But Republicans are defending their move, pointing to the fact that the Senate and White House are of the same party, unlike in 2016.
Absentee voting kicks off in battleground Michigan with high volumes expected
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Absentee voting kicked off in battleground Michigan Thursday, and multiple clerks across Kent County spoke to NBC News as they worked to mail out the first big batch of absentee ballots.
This year marks the first presidential election in which Michigan voters don't need an excuse to vote absentee. This change, combined with safety concerns due to Covid-19, has resulted in an unprecedented number of absentee ballots in the state — approximately two million so far.
Voters can also pick up their absentee ballot in-person from their local clerk's office, where they can fill it out and return it rather than sending it back by mail.
Clerks in the cities of Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Walker, and Byron Township gave NBC an inside look at the process and the challenges they face unique to this presidential election.
The biggest challenge: volume.
“It's really putting a strain on resources. We can do it. It's just to a whole different level than we're accustomed to.” said Kelly Vanderburg of Wyoming. This week her office issued 12,000 absentee ballots. They expect to issue between 16,000 and 18,000 before Election Day.
Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondorp issued 46,000 absentee ballots this week, and he had dozens of people working from 8 a.m to 9 p.m through the weekend to make the Thursday mailing deadline.
Aside from the number of ballots, Hondorp also said the constant changes to this year's voting protocols make his job more difficult.
“We're 40 some days out and we're still changing rules and changing laws. And that just gives a lot of frustration to clerks as we're trying to prepare,” he told NBC. “We had a plan back in January of how we were going to run the 2020 elections that basically got thrown out the window on March 10th here in Michigan when it was presidential primary day and we had three cases of Covid announced in Michigan.”
Just last week, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that mail-in ballots postmarked as late as Nov. 2 must be counted even if they arrive after Election Day. If the ruling stands, clerks will have to count mail-in ballots that arrive up to 14 days after the election.
And as recently as Thursday, lawmakers approved a bill allowing clerks to begin opening (but not counting) absentee ballots a day earlier than they are typically permitted — Election Day morning. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign it.
The bill comes as election officials have been trying to manage expectations for when election results will be announced. A significant amount of the process is done by hand. But even with the extra day, clerks are asking for patience as they work to process ballots safely and securely.
How Democrats are trying to win over Trump-skeptical veterans
WASHINGTON — Democrats think President Donald Trump has created an opening for them to win over veterans and military families, and one liberal veterans group is running what they say is the largest-ever effort of its kind to do so on the Democratic side.
Military voters have traditionally leaned conservative, but have been trending away from the GOP during Trump’s almost four years in office, with a recent Military Times poll showing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden edging ahead of the president 43-37 percent among active duty service members, while another 13 percent chose a third-party candidate.
VoteVets, the Democratic veterans group founded during the height of the Iraq War in 2006, has been spending millions of dollars working to identify and mobilize 250,000 veterans in key states, assembling what they say is a first-of-its kind voter file of persuadable veterans.
The list, cobbled together from a wide range of data, includes both Democratic-leaning veterans who might not turn out without a push as well as those who voted for Trump or third-party candidates in 2016 but are now open to voting for Biden.
“If you look at the polling data, this is one of the groups that’s moving away from Trump,” said Jon Soltz, a former Army officer who co-founded VoteVets. “The guy didn’t serve, he doesn’t respect service, and he continually attacks veterans and service members from John McCain to [former Defense Secretary James] Mattis and on and on.”
Once the group has identified persuadable veterans, the group’s members, many of whom retired from military careers themselves, reach out via text message to targeted voters, sending up to 60,000 peer-to-peer texts a day drawing on their shared experiences in the military (in-person canvassing is on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.) Direct mail and other messages follow.
Soltz said engagement rates shot up to “astronomical” levels after The Atlantic reported earlier this month that Trump had disparaged service members.
The program is modeled in part on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, with two former Sanders officers, Chuck Rocha and Blake Silberberg, helping run it for VoteVets.
“In my 31 years, I’ve never seen anyone do this for veterans,” said Rocha. “There’s never ever been one-on-one organizing vet-to-vet inside the presidential campaign.”
The Biden campaign has also been focusing on military outreach, featuring a wounded combat veteran in ads that began airing in battleground states Thursday.
Obama puts political heft behind Democrats in key races up and down the ballot
WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama announced a final round of 2020 endorsements Friday, backing not only a handful of Democratic challengers in Senate races that could tip control of the chamber next year but also dozens state legislative candidates that could shape redistricting for the next decade.
Most notably, in a key battleground where Democrats see two potential pickup opportunities, Obama announced support for candidates in both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate races — Jon Ossoff, the party’s nominee against first-term Republican David Perdue, and Raphael Warnock, the leading Democratic hopeful in a more crowded “jungle” primary.
Top Democrats have ramped up pressure on another Democrat in that race, Matt Lieberman, to drop out in hopes of ensuring Warnock advances to a January runoff with polls showing Warnock neck-and-neck against appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Republican Rep. Doug Collins.
In total, the former president is throwing his support behind an additional 111 candidates up and down the ballot, as he urges voters to consider both the near — and long-term stakes this November.
In a statement, Obama says the candidates “will work to get the virus under control, rebuild the economy and the middle class, and protect Americans’ health care and preexisting conditions protections from Republican assault.”
“They’re dedicated to shoring up and strengthening our democracy, a project that’s going to take time and require all of us — but it begins by electing Democrats right now,” he said.
While Obama is urging voters across the country to back Democrats up and down the ballot, his formal endorsements are meant to help draw attention — and potentially boost fundraising and local coverage — for targeted races.
In other Senate races, Obama announced new endorsements for Democratic nominees in Texas and Arizona — seen as battlegrounds — but also Adrian Perkins in Louisiana, one of several Democrats in another multi-candidate field. The only incumbent in the Senate group is Sen. Gary Peters, who is aiming to fend off a serious challenge in battleground Michigan.
Obama is also backing 29 congressional candidates, a mix of incumbents and challengers, and two Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls who are currently underdogs in their races — Dan Feltes in New Hampshire, and Nicole Galloway in Missouri.
The Obama team is also working closely with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to focus on races that could tip the balance in control of state legislatures with an eye on redistricting.
In a video posted Thursday, Obama said people “don’t completely appreciate how much gerrymandering affects the outcome,” noting how top priorities in his administration, immigration reform and gun control, were stymied by Republicans who benefited from post-2010 redistricting.
Eleven of his legislative endorsements were in Arizona, 10 in Georgia and Wisconsin, eight in Michigan, seven in Minnesota and four in Kansas. Democrats see all as potential opportunities to flip control of one or both chambers, or narrow the gap to gain influence in redistricting.
Of 229 total candidates Obama has now officially endorsed, nearly two-thirds are women. A number are also alumni of his administration, something that has been a priority for the president.
Obama advisers are working with the Biden campaign and other key campaign committees to sketch out a robust campaign schedule for the closing month of the campaign. His team expects most events will be virtual, but in-person events are also possible including for his former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris. Next Friday, he’ll join the California senator for virtual fundraisers, after a similar event in June with Biden raised $11 million.
“President Obama is going to be out in a full-throated way for him,” one official said.
As polls show Iowa tightening, Trump campaign and outside group spending goes in different directions
WASHINGTON — Three recent polls released this week show Iowa a toss-up race between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. But the Trump campaign and its aligned outside groups are moving in different directions as far as spending.
Trump led Biden by 3 percentage points, 49 percent to 46 percent, in Monmouth University's new poll of likely voters; Biden led Trump by 3 percentage points with likely voters in the New York Times/Sienna College poll released this week, a margin of 45 percent to 42 percent; and both candidates were tied in the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll at 47 percent among likely voters.
The Trump campaign hasn't spent any money on television or radio in the state since July 28, according to Advertising Analytics.
But one Republican outside group, Preserve America PAC, has been spending heavily in the state since the start of September in the hopes of filling that spending gap — it's spent almost $4.2 million over that span, more than 90 percent of the total money spent on TV and radio since the Trump campaign went dark.
Many of Preserve America's ads have centered on either criticizing Biden by linking him to the "Defund the Police" movement that some Democrats are supporting, or saying that Biden can't lead the military.
The Democrats had largely stayed quiet on the airwaves too, but there's been a more recent shift. After not spending a dime on TV or radio in Iowa the entire campaign, Biden's campaign has spent about $280,000 since Sept. 15.
—Maura Barrett contributed
Pennsylvania Republicans seek to reverse mail-in ballot deadline decision in battleground state
READING, Penn. — After a state Supreme Court ruling last week allowed Pennsylvania ballots to be counted up to three days after the election, as long as the ballots are postmarked by Nov. 3, NBC News has learned the Republican Party intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The GOP argued extending the deadline “creates a serious likelihood that Pennsylvania’s imminent general election will be tainted by votes that were illegally cast or mailed after Election Day,” according to court documents.
The move follows several key decisions last Thursday which ruled in favor of extending the deadline for mail-in ballots to the Friday after Election Day and allows the use of ballot drop boxes in Pennsylvania, two measures seen as wins for Democrats.
The expected petition comes just days ahead of President Donald Trump’s announcement of his Supreme Court Justice nominee, which is expected Saturday, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday.
State Republicans are also seeking a stay in the commonwealth’s highest court to stop last week’s ruling from taking effect.
In a statement to NBC News, Pennsylvania’s Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff said, “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an openly partisan decision ignoring the federal and state constitutions that jeopardizes the security and integrity of our elections and will potentially put Pennsylvania in the middle of a disastrous national crisis as the world awaits for our Commonwealth to tally election results days or weeks following Election Day.”
A Supreme Court confirmation weeks before Election Day would be first in modern history
WASHINGTON — As the rhetoric over the push by Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump’s to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg escalates into a series of arguments over historical precedence, one thing is sure: No president has seated a Supreme Court nominee within three months of a presidential election, according to Senate historical records dating to 1900.
The closest comparison to the current landscape would be President Woodrow Wilson’s successful confirmation of John Clarke in July of 1916.
On Monday, Trump said he wanted a vote on his nominee — who he says will be announced on Saturday — to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day on Nov. 3. While there’ve been a number of confirmations to the high court in election years, including several in lame duck sessions after an election, none of them have taken place weeks before an election, according to Senate historical records reviewed by NBC.
During the tumultuous election year of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson did attempt to replace retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren by elevating Associate Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice and naming Homer Thornberry, an appeals court judge, to the high court.
After a filibuster of the Fortas nomination over ethical questions, however, Johnson withdrew those and declined to nominate a new justice, saying then that, “in ordinary times I would feel it my duty now to send another name to the Senate for this high office. I shall not do so." He added that "these are not ordinary times. We are threatened by an emotionalism, partisanship, and prejudice that compel us to use great care if we are to avoid injury to our constitutional system.”
Johnson by then had already declared his intention not to seek re-election and the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, subsequently lost to Republican Richard Nixon.
“He didn’t try to do something quickly in the fall,” said presidential historian John Meacham of Johnson. “The moment we’re in," he added, "is about the acquisition and use of power. It’s not driven by constitutional principle or practice. The more honest we are about that better.”
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are defending the push to hold a vote prior to the election on the premise that control of the White House and Senate constitutes a mandate from the voters. In 2016, when he blocked President Barack Obama’s election-year nominee, Merrick Garland, McConnell argued that the “people” should decide in an election year.
Meacham called both those arguments “invented,” but they are heightening political tensions around the nomination.
“Perhaps more than any other single issue,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, “the American people strengthened this Senate majority to keep confirming this President’s impressive judicial nominees who respect our constitution and understand the proper role of a judge.”
Democrats are quick to point out that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3 million votes. And Democrats picked up 40 House seats in 2018, their biggest House gain in 40 years.
But the House doesn't have a say in the judicial confirmation process, and Republicans expanded their Senate majority during those same midterm elections, a point that GOP senators have said re-enforces their argument.
Of nominations made during presidential election years since 1900 in which a vacancy existed, five were made during years when a President was running for reelection—1912 (Taft/confirmed in March), two in 1916 (Wilson/confirmed June & July), 1932 (Hoover/confirmed February), and 1940 (Roosevelt/confirmed January).
Democratic Pennsylvania election official warns state Supreme Court ruling could lead to 100,000 rejected ballots
READING, Penn. — Philadelphia’s top election official issued a warning Monday that thousands of ballots statewide could be rejected during the November 3rd election, following a recent state Supreme Court decision that required county boards of elections to throw out absentee and mail-in ballots that arrive without a so-called secrecy envelope in the battleground state.
Lisa Deeley, the Democratic chairwoman of the city commissioners, predicted that could mean more than 30,000 voters in Philadelphia and 100,000 across Pennsylvania could see their ballots rejected this November. She warned this could “set Pennsylvania up to be the subject of significant post-election legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000.”
“When you consider that the 2016 Presidential Election in Pennsylvania was decided by just over 44,000 votes, you can see why I am concerned,” Deeley wrote.
In a letter to leaders in the Republican-controlled state legislature, Deeley urged, "while everyone is talking about the significance of extending the mail-ballot deadline, it is the naked ballot ruling that is going to cause electoral chaos.”
Sixteen states require the use of secrecy envelopes, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, which require voters to place their ballots into an extra envelope before it’s inserted into a larger one to mail back - preventing officials from seeing how a ballot’s been cast.
Counties were not required to disqualify ballots returned without the added envelope in June’s primary.
Republicans maintain the use of the secrecy envelopes is an important step in ensuring the privacy of voters, and the practice has been in place in Pennsylvania since before the expanded vote-by-mail bill was passed last fall. Deely claims such use of the envelopes is a “vestige of the past” and is not needed because the speed at which ballots are now processed by machines maintains the anonymity of a ballot.
Her letter follows several key decisions late last week which ruled in favor of extending the deadline for mail-in ballots to the Friday after Election Day and allows the use of ballot drop boxes in Pennsylvania.
In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Bryan Cutler, said, “The state Supreme Court was very clear in its ruling last week that the law requiring a proper secrecy envelope is clear and fair.”
“This is not a partisan issue,” Deely said, “we are talking about the voting rights of our constituents, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, independents, whose ballots will be needlessly set aside.”
Biden has big cash on hand advantage over Trump
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign says its campaign effort ended August with $466 million in cash on hand, exceeding President Donald Trump’s re-election for the first time since Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee in April.
The Biden campaign, the DNC, and Biden’s joint fundraising committees managed to end August with $466 million cash on hand. The New York Times reported Sunday night that the Trump campaign, RNC and its committees ended the month with $325 million in cash-on-hand.
That difference — roughly $140 million between the two sides — is striking. It shows that while the Biden campaign was criticized heavily for not spending much during the spring and early summer, they have now flipped the script on the Trump fundraising behemoth. And the Biden cash advantage comes as the campaign announced Monday that they're expanding their paid ad strategy, going up with television and digital ads in the red-leaning states of Georgia and Iowa.
Heading into April, the GOP effort had an about $182 million cash-on-hand advantage over Biden and the DNC.
But that gap continued to shrink as Democrats began to donate more to Biden and the Biden Victory Fund’s virtual fundraisers. Trump and the RNC have largely opted to hold in-person fundraisers during the pandemic.
By the end of July, the Biden-effort claimed to have $294 million in cash-on-hand, while the Trump campaign claimed its combined effort had an “over $300 million war chest.”
While campaigns and national party committees have to report their fundraising monthly, their affiliated committees do not have to report as regularly, which is why the campaigns are self-reporting their total cash-on-hand at this time. Since those joint fundraising committees file quarterly, September's Federal Election Commission filings will include the full picture from all the relevant committees.
Biden digital ads target Puerto Rican voters with Marc Anthony
In a continued effort to win over Latino voters with about a month left until Election Day, Joe Biden's presidential campaign is calling on the Puerto Rican community to remember the devastation of the Island caused by Hurricane Maria three years ago Sunday.
The new English and Spanish-language digital ads features singer Marc Anthony, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, saying that it is “Prohibido Olvidar” or “forbidden to forget” how President Donald Trump failed to adequately provide help to the island in the weeks after the hurricane decimated their communities.
“Remembering is not easy for everyone. It’s difficult to relive the destruction of our homes, the crying of those who lost a loved one and the terrifying uncertainty when thinking ‘what will my children eat tomorrow,’” Anthony said referencing the continuing hardships pain Puerto Ricans have endured since Hurricane Maria. “However forgetting is forbidden.”
While the ad never mentions Trump, it does show him at the Oval Office’s resolute desk when Anthony reminds voters how “it’s forbidden to forget that in moments of true darkness, when the cries for help fell on deaf ears.” Anthony notes that the only the community can rely on itself to rebuild and fight for a better future in a get-to-vote message to defeat Trump at the ballot box.
The over one-minute digital ad is targeting Puerto Ricans living in Florida and Pennsylvania, two states that saw thousands relocate from the territory to the mainland following the hurricane.
It makes for a ripe set of voters to convince heading into the election in a community that already leans more Democratic. Just last week Biden kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month in Puerto-Rican rich Kissimmee, Fla. while his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, spoke to Hispanic leaders at a Puerto Rican cultural center in Philadelphia, Penn. They both pledged to uplift the community and support their decision for self-determination.
“The way Donald Trump botched Maria was a terrible precursor to Covid-19: He failed to prepare, failed to respond like a president, and failed to protect American citizens from harm,” Biden said in a statement commemorating the anniversary of Hurricane Maria. “We all deserve better. Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans deserve better. There is no place in the United States to ever treat any of our own citizens as second-class.”
Early voting starts in Virginia after expansion of options
RICHMOND, Va. — With over six weeks until Election Day, early voting kicked off Friday in Virginia and the state began mailing out absentee ballots to voters who have requested them.
As voters showed up for early in-person voting in the state Capitol, it resembled any normal Election Day but with Covid-related safety measures: voters checked their registration by speaking to a worker behind a plastic divider, used paper ballots that they filled out behind a cardboard privacy screen, and then inserted their ballots into a machine to be scanned and counted.
“We've had a lot of changes with our voting laws in Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam told NBC News after he cast his own ballot early in Richmond. “We now have no-excuse absentee voting, early voting. This is such an important election. All of our elections are important but this this is especially important, rather than wait till November the third."
Long a Republican stronghold, Virginia has become a more reliable Democratic state. Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump here by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin in 2016. Still, the state's 13 electoral votes remain an important part of the presidential contest.
The Virginia General Assembly passed a law that went into effect July 1 allowing voters to request an absentee ballot without a reason for not being able to vote in-person.
And Virginians have options when it comes to voting early — they can cast their ballots ahead of the election in-person, through curbside drop-offs for absentee ballots if they don’t feel comfortable going inside buildings, or by mailing in their ballots.
The in-person early voting period in Virginia runs from Friday, Sept. 18 through Saturday, Oct. 31. Early voting is available for Virginians at their local registrar’s office or a satellite voting location in their city or county.
“In Virginia we don't register by party, so what we've seen is excitement all around,” Christopher Piper, Commissioner for The Virginia Departments of Elections, told NBC. “We've got more than 800,000 requests for absentee ballots through yesterday. We're seeing this huge line here today. Our goal with the Department of Elections is to ensure that anybody who's eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote and this shows that that's working for us today.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine also came out to cast his ballot early in Richmond on Friday, telling NBC after his vote that he feels confident that voters have enough information to make decisions about how best and safely to vote during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The good news is Virginia is finally committed so we want to make it easy for people to vote, not harder.”
At the Richmond registrar’s office, a new building location that opened publicly just days ago in anticipation of voters coming in-person, Virginians that spoke with NBC overwhelmingly expressed confidence in the safety precautions in place to vote in-person on day one.
One early voter, Ramona Taylor of Richmond, told NBC that she had some concerns about voting by mail so decided to come in person for the first day.
“I do have a lot of concern about the fact that the ballot will be received on time, you just never can tell the way things are because this is one of the largest voting elections that I've ever experienced,” Taylor said. “So, I just feel like I'm able bodied and able to come out and vote in-person and that's what I'm going to do.”
“My husband has medical issues and so it was easier to take advantage of this,” said Diane Jay, who along with her husband Jim opted for the curbside drop-off option for voting. Jim was on oxygen in the car when NBC spoke with them about their voting decisions.
“We didn't do absentee, just knew we were gonna do in person,” Diane said. “And so what happened was we saw this and drove up and they said they could take care of us curbside.”
Senate GOP group jumping into Alaska Senate race with $1.6 million in ads
WASHINGTON — Senate Leadership Fund, the top super PAC aligned with Senate Republicans, is making its first ad investment in Alaska, a state that's seen a recent influx of Democratic spending aimed at taking down Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan.
SLF will spend $1.6 million on TV, radio and digital ads there to start on Wednesday and run for 18 days, the group confirmed to NBC News.
Sullivan is facing off against Al Gross, an Independent who is being backed by Democrats and won the state's Democratic primary.
In a statement to NBC along with the announcement of the ad buy, SLF President Steven Law took aim at Gross' independence from Democrats.
“Chuck Schumer and DC Democrats are quietly pouring millions into Alaska, trying to pull one over on voters and buy this seat for far-left fake independent Al Gross. That’s not going to happen on our watch," he said.
It's an argument Sullivan's team has tried to make, focusing in ads on how Gross plans to caucus with Democrats.
But Gross, a physician whose family has deep ties to the state, has been working to stake out that independence, including in a recent ad where he opposes the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
Groups aligned with Gross have been jumping onto the airwaves in recent weeks — 314 Action has spent more than $530,000 this month, according to Advertising Analytics. A group with Democratic ties launched this month and has already run more than $100,000 in ads in Alaska and Vote Vets, which is backing Gross, started running ads attacking Sullivan.
SLF's investment will help to narrow the pro-Gross ad-spending advantage. As of Thursday evening, pro-Gross groups have spent $1.53 million on television and radio advertising compared to $740,000 for pro-Sullivan groups, per Advertising Analytics.
Progressive groups highlight pandemic death toll with comparisons to U.S. cities in new ads
WASHINGTON — As the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. approaches 200,000 — equivalent to the entire population of some major U.S. cities, including Tallahassee, Florida, Tempe, Arizona or Grand Rapids, Michigan — the grim milestone is being noted by two major Democratic-aligned groups with an ad campaign in presidential swing states.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund and Priorities USA have partnered to purchase full-page ads to run Friday depicting gravestones etched with reminders of the death toll. The ads will appear in 11 newspapers in five states: Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The groups are also running digital ads on newspaper websites serving presidential swing state cities with populations of approximately 200,000, including Warren and Pontiac, Michigan; Port St. Lucie, Florida; Allentown, Bethlehem and Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Green Bay, Appleton, Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin.
The ads call for a national plan to address the pandemic. And while President Trump isn’t mentioned, the intention is clear.
“We have a president who has given up on fighting the coronavirus,” Jesse Lee of the CAP Action Fund said in a statement. “Not one more day should go by without a real national plan, and none of us can become numb to the tragedy that is unfolding day after day.”
The 200,000 number is greater than the populations of 670 major U.S. cities, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. With the exception of Spain, the U.S. is alone in the Western world when it comes to the number of COVID deaths per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, only Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil have higher deaths per 100,000 population.
While President Trump has defended his record, insisting his policies have kept the US death toll from climbing even higher, a Columbia University study found 84 percent of deaths and 82 percent of cases could have been prevented if the U.S. had instituted social distancing measures on March 1, just two weeks earlier than many cities instituted lockdowns.
From January to early March, Trump consistently downplayed the threat of the virus. Journalist Bob Woodward recently released audiotapes of Trump privately acknowledging, in early February, that the virus was “deadly stuff.” Days later, on Feb. 10, Trump publicly insisted that “a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat.”
It wasn’t until March 15 that Trump said “this is a very contagious virus” that amounted to a “pandemic.” Around the same time, in mid-March, Woodward privately taped Trump acknowledging he liked to “play it down” when it comes to the virus in order to prevent “panic.”
In response to the ads, Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News that “Americans have seen President Trump out front and leading the nation in the fight against the coronavirus. The President’s task force began meeting in January and he restricted travel from China, and then Europe, early on. At the time, Joe Biden criticized the decision, calling it ‘hysterical xenophobia’ and ‘fear-mongering,’ so we know Biden would not have done it. We would be in far worse position today if Joe Biden had been president in January."
Biden tells Democratic senators he takes 'nothing for granted' during caucus call
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called into the Senate Democrats’ daily caucus meeting Thursday afternoon and reassured members that he would mount a vigorous effort in the final stretch of his campaign to be more physically present — particularly in key swing states.
During the 20-minute call, Biden said he takes “nothing for granted” and thanked the senators for their help and support.
“Overall uplifting and engaging call. Took a series of questions, he spoke about the theme of the campaign, fighting for the soul of the country. What were the things that made him decide to run, how optimistic he is about the election,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters.
“But he must have said this three times, ‘I take nothing for granted’ — he said, ‘I know the polls look okay right now but I’m working tirelessly ... I was just in Florida, I'm about to go to Scranton, I'm heading to Duluth.’ That kind of stuff," Coons added.
Several vulnerable members up for re-election this year urged Biden to join them on the campaign trail in their home states.
“Just basically making the plea for every state, you know, everybody wants him, ‘Please come to our state you come to our state, okay,’ this and that and everything, that type of a thing,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., explained.
Among those making those requests were Democratic Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Gary Peters of Michigan.
“You can tell he’s real fired up, he’s working hard, he’s going to be out there and be everywhere as much as he possibly can,” Peters said. “I’ve certainly encouraged him and Kamala to be in Michigan as much as they can.”
Notably, policy barely came up during the short call — no talk of the filibuster, election security, and “no time talking about Trump,” per Coons, a longtime Biden ally.
“We are happy that even in some states that aren’t traditional battlegrounds where there are Senate races that are important, I mean he and his team are very aware of that and that they're being helpful,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said.
“I said Joe, people need to know that you recognize the dignity of the work that people have built this country and I said the coal miners that have been left behind all the hard factory workers that are left behind,” Manchin told NBC News. “He's very, very, just appreciative. It was just Joe. If you don’t like Joe, you don’t like yourself.”
Battleground voting update: A mail-in voting extension in Pennsylvania and a warning in Wisconsin
WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania's Supreme Court issued a handful of rulings Thursday shifting the contours of the vote-by-mail fight in that state, as officials in Wisconsin are warning they likely won't know the state's final results by the night of Election Day.
Pennsylvana's high court ruled Thursday that election officials cannot discard mail ballots solely because of questions about the authenticity of a voter's signature; that ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. will be counted; that third parties cannot deliver people's ballots; and that counties can use dropboxes or other official addresses for voters to return ballots to, among other decisions.
The state also kicked the Green Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates off the ballot for failing to follow the necessary procedures to make the ballot. In 2016, about 49,000 Pennsylvanians voted for Jill Stein, and Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the state by about 44,000 votes.
The news out of Pennsylvania wasn't the only notable tidbit to come from the swing states on Thursday.
During a virtual forum hosted by Marquette Law School, officials warned that the "unprecedented volume" of absentee ballots, paired with the statutory restrictions in processing these ballots until election day, will result in a delay in posting results.
Municipal clerks started sending out ballots on Wednesday, and the state election commission says more than 1 million voters have already requested absentee ballots.
It's "a volume that's much different than what we've seen in the past," Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said Wednesday.
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said that "we are not anticipating that we will be done and have results right at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. but I’m hopeful that by the time the sun comes up on Nov. 4th we will be finished and have election results."
But she cautioned that "a delay does not mean any cause for concern or invalidate the entirety of the election results whatsoever on election night."
Mike Bloomberg funds Dem super PAC's $5.4 million Florida ads to boost Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is bankrolling a new, $5.4 million television ad campaign by a Democratic super PAC, the first part of the $100 million Bloomberg says he'll spend to support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Florida.
The spots will begin running across the state on Friday, Priorities USA super PAC announced Thursday. The group says the ads will be "updated versions of ads" it's already running in other states.
One of those spots includes a super-cut of President Trump's comments about the coronavirus, including recent ones he made to journalist Bob Woodward about how he wanted to "play it down," with a graphic showing the rising deaths from the virus in America.
The new buys are the first round of Bloomberg's planned spending in Florida — a new release from Priorities USA says that the former mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful will spend on more ads, voter turnout, as well as a "strategy to reach Black and Latino voters."
Last week's NBC News/Marist University poll found Trump and Biden tied at 48 percentage points, and some Democrats have raised concerns in recent weeks about Biden's underperformance with Hispanics, particularly in Florida.
—Ben Kamisar contributed
Former State Department official who cast doubt on Burisma claims to testify in GOP probe
WASHINGTON — A Republican-led Senate investigation of Joe Biden and his work in Ukraine as vice president will hear testimony Thursday from a former official who has told colleagues that an energy company at the heart of the inquiry was a nonfactor in U.S. policy toward Ukraine, NBC News has learned.
The man, Amos Hochstein, a former Biden adviser who was a State Department energy envoy in President Barack Obama's administration, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors Thursday in the Senate Homeland Security Committee's investigation. The committee is chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a close ally of President Donald Trump's.
Hochstein is the only witness called by the committee known to have discussed Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, with Biden during his vice presidency. Biden is now the Democratic presidential nominee, and his son's ties to Burisma have been at the center of the committee's monthslong probe.
Hochstein will be among the final witnesses ahead of an interim report the committee is expected to release in late September. Johnson has considered Hochstein's testimony crucial — along with that of Tony Blinken, a top Biden aide who was deputy national security adviser under Obama, who will also testify Thursday. Johnson had considered subpoenas for the two before they agreed to appear before the committee voluntarily. Politico first reported that Hochstein would testify.
Trump and his Republican allies, including Johnson, have argued that U.S. policy toward Ukraine under Obama may have been colored by Biden's desire to protect Burisma — specifically, by advocating for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor with ties to the Kremlin who had investigated the company. Biden's son Hunter was a member of the Burisma board part of the time that Biden served as the administration's point person on Ukraine, but he was not associated with Burisma during the prosecutor's probe.
Hochstein has told associates that he never changed U.S. policy because of Burisma and was never asked to do so and that Burisma never factored into any policy decisions around energy or Biden's advocacy for a new Ukrainian prosecutor general.
In fact, according to a former Obama administration official, Hochstein has told colleagues that the Obama administration sought to punish Burisma rather than protect it.
Hochstein met with Ukrainian officials in 2015 to urge them to cooperate in the prosecution of Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky as the Obama administration sought to clamp down on corruption rampant among Ukrainian oligarchs. That's the same year Trump and other Republicans have alleged Biden was trying to help Burisma.
Democrats have criticized the committee's investigation as overly political, diverting the Senate's most powerful oversight body from issues like the coronavirus pandemic. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also criticized the investigation as a "political exercise" during a committee meeting Wednesday after Johnson pulled a planned vote on a subpoena related to the investigation.
Critics also argue that the investigation has been premised on Russian disinformation provided to the committee by people including Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who worked with Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Last week, the Treasury Department said Derkach "has been an active Russian agent for over a decade" in announcing sanctions against him.
In a memo to the FBI, Democratic lawmakers said in July that the investigation has become a vehicle for "laundering" a foreign influence campaign to damage Biden.
Derkach has held a number of news conferences in Ukraine in which he has made unproven corruption allegations against Biden and other officials, including Blinken and Hochstein, using heavily edited tapes. Contacted by NBC News in July, Johnson's office wouldn't say whether it had received "materials" on the Bidens from pro-Kremlin Ukrainians.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump late last year over allegations that he improperly pressured Ukraine to manufacture damaging information about Biden to boost his chances of re-election. The Republican-led Senate acquitted him in February.
Johnson has made it clear that his committee's investigation is intended in part to help Trump, who is trailing Biden in national and many battleground state polls with less than seven weeks left before the election. Johnson has repeatedly acknowledged that the investigation is in sync with the presidential election calendar, including at least twice this week.
The committee is preparing to release its report days before the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.
"We are working to get [the report] out as quickly as possible," Johnson told reporters at the Capitol on Monday.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden, said the investigation amounts to "an attack founded on a long-disproven, hard-core, right-wing conspiracy theory."
Democratic super PACs support Biden with Florida and Arizona Latinos
WASHINGTON — As some Democrats sound alarm bells about Joe Biden's strength with Latino voters, the Democratic presidential nominee is getting some help from outside groups in the key battleground states of Florida and Arizona.
The major Democratic super PAC Priorities USA and the American Federation of Teachers union, are partnering to spend $1.9 million on Spanish language TV in Miami. Priorities USA and Latino Victory Fund are also running $726,000 worth of radio ads in the Phoenix, Tucson, Arizona and Orlando, Florida, which Priorities says is part of a larger $6.8 million campaign focused specifically on Latinos.
“Florida and Arizona each have a huge role to play in Joe Biden’s path to victory, and Latino voters are an essential part of a winning Democratic coalition in these crucial battleground states,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA.
Recent polls show Biden may be underperforming 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton in the Miami area, where he made his first trip of the campaign Tuesday, especially with Cuban-Americans and others who fled Latin American dictatorships and are now receptive to Republicans' message that Biden is aligned with socialists.
"To win, we need to be vigilant at GOP leadership’s ongoing attempts at voter suppression targeting communities of color, particularly the Latino community. This campaign in Arizona and Florida is a strong reminder to our Spanish-speaking neighbors about the importance of voting in this historic election," said Luis A. Miranda Jr., Chairperson of the Latino Victory Fund.
Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced he will spend up to $100 million in Florida to support Biden.
Obama urges young voters to plan how they'll vote
WASHINGTON — If you had time to bake sourdough from scratch and do the “Renegade Challenge,” you have time to plan how you’ll vote. That’s the message from former President Barack Obama in a new video Wednesday in which he urges young voters not to play into “cynical” strategies designed to depress the voter turnout.
"Because young people have always been the ones to make change in this country, making change this fall is once again going to depend on you,” Obama said in the new video, released by ATTN. "Since we're still dealing with a pandemic, we've got approach voting just like we do everything else these days — shopping, ordering dinner, pulling off a surprise birthday party over Zoom. We got to plan.”
Aimed at millennial and Gen-Z voters, Obama laid out the different options available to make sure their votes are counted: Voting early in person where available, voting in person on Election Day, or voting by mail.
“Some places call this absentee voting. You might hear it called voting from home. It's all the same, like Donald Glover, and Childish Gambino,” Obama said. Alluding to some of the concern about voting by mail, Obama urged voters to request a ballot “right now, because it might take a little while to arrive.”
"We're not talking Gmail, we are talking throwback, vintage, O-G mail,” he said.
Obama doesn’t mention Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the video, but both Obama and the former vice president’s campaigns have emphasized educating Americans about their voting options. Former First Lady Michelle Obama participated in a network broadcast about voting this week for her nonpartisan group, When We All Vote.
"There are a lot of people out there trying to confuse and mislead you about this election. They're trying to make you cynical. They're trying to get you to believe that your vote doesn't matter,” Obama said in the video. "Do not let them do that. Our democracy is a precious thing, and it's up to all of us to protect it.”
Obama ended the video by pretending he is about to do his own version of the Renegade Challenge, which was a viral Tik-Tok trend this summer. Renegade, in fact, was Obama’s Secret Service code name.
Pennsylvania lawsuit delays sending out mail-in ballots
PHILADELPHIA — Several legal battles are plaguing Pennsylvania’s election officials as they prepare for the Nov. 3 election, the state's first election processing an expected 3 million mail-in ballots, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Katy Boockvar.
Officials across the state had planned to send out mail-ballots this week, but the certification of the ballot has been held up due to a lawsuit from the state Democratic party over whether Green Party candidates can be listed on the ballot. Without an official candidate list, county officials can't print the ballots.
Boockvar told reporters on Tuesday that she expects the case to be decided this week. But one county official told NBC News that even if the decision came through on Tuesday, the county would need at least two weeks before ballots could be sent to voters.
“The circumstances of this election are sure to be unique,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf told reporters Tuesday. “What is most important in every county throughout Pennsylvania is that every vote is counted and the results are absolutely accurate even if that takes a little more time.”
Wolf called on the statehouse to consider four actions to alleviate the voting process: Allow counties to pre-canvass and pre-process ballots three weeks before Election Day, rather than begin on Nov. 3; allow counties to count eligible ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by the Friday after Nov. 3; and require counties to send mail-in ballots at least 28 days before the election to give counties more flexibility in appointing poll workers to vacant positions.
“The legal challenges Pennsylvania is facing are frustrating. Earlier ballot processing would be a game changer. Anything would be better than on Election Day,” Philadelphia City Commissioner Omar Sabir, who works to run the city’s election, told NBC News.
Op top of the candidate listing complications, the Trump campaign is currently challenging the state’s use of ballot drop boxes.
These setbacks for Pennsylvania are only the first of many hurdles this November's election will include. Sabir told NBC News that given all the challenges this year, he doesn't want an expectation of calling Pennsylvania's results on Election Day.
"Everything's not gonna be done" Sabir said. "I don't even want that expectation set up right now. The elections will not be done tonight."
Pompeo hosts RNC chairwoman at revived Madison Dinners
WASHINGTON — Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was a guest on Monday at the latest installment of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “Madison Dinners,” three people with knowledge of the dinner tells NBC News.
The chair of the Republican Party came to the State Department for the taxpayer-funded dinner in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Also at the dinner were UPS executive Laura Lane, who oversees the shipping giant’s government affairs, and India’s ambassador to the U.S. NBC News saw many of the guests arriving in evening wear.
The State Department says the dinners are foreign-policy focused. But they have come under scrutiny from congressional committees over concerns that Pompeo is using government resources to build a political and future donor network. As RNC chairwoman, McDaniel oversees the GOP’s fundraising operations.
The Republican National Committee and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment. The Indian Embassy in Washington and UPS had no comment.
Pressure grows from rank and file on Hill to find deal on pandemic relief
WASHINGTON — As the stalemate in negotiations between Democrats and the administration on another round of pandemic relief enters its sixth week, a bipartisan group of House members is trying to put pressure on negotiators by releasing what it calls a compromise proposal.
The members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 lawmakers divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, say their $1.5 trillion measure is an attempt to meet Democrats and the administration in the middle and provide a path forward. They say that while their bill is not meant to be signed into law, it is meant to get negotiators back to the table.
Talks among House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and the administration have been frozen since early August, when the two sides couldn't agree on how much money to spend.
Some lawmakers in both parties, fretting over inaction ahead of the November election, are calling for a deal. Senate Republicans voted on a slimmed-down Covid-19-related assistance bill last week. While it did not pass, it allowed vulnerable Republicans to campaign on the effort.
The Problem Solvers began meeting shortly after those talks broke down, and they even sat down with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows at least twice.
Their proposal is cheaper than what Pelosi wants, but it includes some of her priorities.
It would extend the federal weekly unemployment benefit at $450 per week, higher than the administration's support of $300 per week and lower than the Democrats' demand of $600 per week. It includes Republican demands for liability protection, and it addresses one of the biggest sticking points between Democrats and the administration in negotiations, state and local funding, by proposing to provide $500 billion for states that have gone into the red during the pandemic.
The proposal also includes funding for a new round of $1,200 payments to eligible Americans and for the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as more money for health care, schools and child care than the Republicans wanted. And it would provide funding for broadband and food assistance programs, which the administration has not supported.
As the election nears, some Democrats are pressuring Pelosi to put a new pandemic relief bill on the floor during the three-week congressional session to show that Democrats are willing to compromise and keep working toward an agreement.
“Families and business in my district have all told me the same thing: they want help getting through the Covid crisis, not the same-old political games," Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-chair of the the Problem Solvers Caucus, told NBC News. "With so many people suffering, it’s time for pragmatic solutions, and that’s what this bipartisan roadmap is all about. We hope it will help the negotiators recognize that there is hope for real bipartisan progress."
Some lawmakers are advocating for an updated, cheaper version of the $3.4 trillion House-passed HEROES Act, while others are advocating for votes on individual components of the bill, including unemployment insurance.
"We want a deal on a robust, comprehensive package, and barring that, we'd like the House to take some sort of action on Covid relief," Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., the chair of the New Democrats Coalition, a group of more than 100 moderate-minded, economic-focused Democrats, told reporters on a conference call Monday evening.
Freshman Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., said, "We want to see something done before we leave."
Trump campaign pivots to the economy with eight-figure ad campaign
WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign plans to launch an eight-figure ad buy highlighting the economy as a focus of the presidential race, spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Monday.
The move is designed to elevate a rare issue on which the president holds an advantage over rival Joe Biden in polls, as reported Friday by NBC News. It comes after Trump's recent focus on crime and safety has failed to deliver gains. The news of the upcoming ad campaign was first reported by Fox News.
One Trump ad titled "Kim" features a woman who says: "Joe Biden could never handle the economy after Covid. There's no way." A second ad called "Jobs President" criticizes Biden for the fact that American jobs were "lost to Mexico and China" during his four decades serving in government.
A Fox News national poll released Sunday found that Trump leads Biden by 5 points on the issue of the economy. But Biden leads Trump on who voters trust to handle the coronavirus, law-and-order, racial inequality and Supreme Court nominations. Overall, Biden led 51 percent to 46 percent with likely voters.
Election Day is 50 days away.
Harrison makes Senate race competitive but must beat Graham as Trump is favored to win South Carolina
WASHINGTON — Jaime Harrison is running the strongest race that any Democrat has made in years for a U.S. Senate seat in deep-red South Carolina.
In fact, he raised a whopping $10.6 million in August, outraising incumbent opponent Sen. Lindsey Graham's, R-S.C., entire second-quarter haul in a single month, according to The State newspaper.
But Harrison’s ultimate challenge in this presidential year is getting more votes than Graham when President Trump is the clear favorite to win the state at the top of the ticket in November.
“Jaime Harrison is a strong candidate,” said Jordan Ragusa, a political scientist at the College of Charleston. “He’s definitely the strongest candidate Lindsey Graham has faced. He’s a moderate running in a red state, he’s an African American in a state with a large percentage of African Americans, and he’s a highly visible, well-known figure in South Carolina.”
South Carolina has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, but recent polls have Harrison, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and currently an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee, essentially tied with Graham.
And last month, the non-partisan Cook Political Report, which had listed the race as solidly Republican at the start of the election cycle, moved the contest to Lean Republican.
Should he win, Harrison would join Republican Sen. Tim Scott in representing South Carolina, making the state the first to have two Black senators serving concurrently.
But with the president expected to win at the top of the ballot in this traditionally Republican state, Harrison has a narrow path to victory.
He either has to count on a significant number of Trump voters to cast ballots for him or, as Ragusa says is the more likely possibility, he has to see some Trump supporters voting third party — or not vote at all.
“We see that all the time,” Ragusa said. “It’s often the case that a lot of people vote at the top of the ticket, in this case, president, and then leave down ballot boxes unchecked.”
Graham is not the only Republican incumbent underperforming Trump in their individual states. According to Real Clear Politics, Sen. Martha McSally is polling almost 2 points below the president in Arizona, while Sen. Tom Tillis is underperforming Trump in the polls by nearly 4 points in North Carolina.
Explaining why Graham is vulnerable, Democrats observing this Senate race say the three-term senator has become a more partisan and polarizing figure over his years in office.
Despite his previous record of independence and bipartisanship and initially being a vocal Trump critic during his own presidential bid, Graham has since become one of the president’s closest allies in the Senate.
“When you have someone like Lindsey Graham who has left South Carolina behind and just wants to play political games in Washington, people ask, ‘What happened with Lindsey?’” said Guy King, the Harrison campaign’s communications director.
“Jaime is a candidate that upholds the characteristics and values that South Carolinians hold dear,” King added.
Given his prior willingness to buck the party line, Graham has not always been popular with conservatives. But Ragusa says Graham’s staunch defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh against allegations of sexual assault in 2018 helped the senator stave off a conservative primary challenge, though it may cause him some problems in the general election.
Republicans with knowledge of the contest question the accuracy of the polls and say that while the Senate race may be more competitive this year, voters in the solidly Republican state will ultimately want to maintain the Senate majority — and they know that Graham will hold the party line.
“Lindsey Graham has always been his own man,” said T.W. Arrighi, Graham’s campaign communications director said.
“Some constituents may not agree with Sen. Graham on every issue, but they’ll know exactly where he stands and can trust that he’s putting South Carolina’s interests first,” he added.
Harry Reid predicts Democrats will flip the Senate
WASHINGTON — Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made a bullish prediction Thursday that his party will flip six or seven Republican-held seats in the 2020 election and seize the majority.
“I think we’re going to retake the Senate,” the Nevada Democrat told NBC News. “I think we're going to win in Colorado, Montana, Maine, North Carolina, (Sen. David) Perdue’s seat in Georgia — we're going to win in Arizona. And we’re in good shape in Iowa.”
He added, “If I’m only right on three of those we’ll still take the Senate.”
Reid served as minority leader and majority leader during the last decade of his 30-year tenure in the chamber.
It's a challenging cycle for Senate Republicans, who hold a 52-48 majority and are defending 23 seats, compared to just 12 Democrats are defending. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Republican Arizona Sen. Martha McSally's seat as "lean Democrat", and rates the other six mentioned by Reid as toss-ups.
And while Republicans are defending seats in vulnerable areas, Democrats are mostly defending seats on favorable terrain with the exception of Sen. Doug Jones, Ala., who is in a race that Cook rates as “lean Republican”.
Mark Kelly apologizes for offensive 2018 comment
WASHINGTON — Arizona Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly apologized on Thursday for 2018 remarks where he joked about the changes his astronaut brother underwent after an extended time in space, saying in jest that he's begun acting like a monkey and they've started calling him "Rodrigo."
Kelly made the remarks during a 2018 appearance in New Jersey.
"There was a lot written about his DNA, and how his DNA has changed from his year in space," Kelly said.
He added, "It's gotten so bad that we recently had to release him back into the wild. He's like halfway between an orangutan and a howler monkey. We even changed his name to Rodrigo."
Kelly's twin brother, Scott, is white.
"The video was recirculated earlier on Thursday by Republican Moses Sanchez who ran for Phoenix mayor in in 2018. Sanchez called the comments 'racist.'"
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also tweeted the video and asked for Kelly to answer for the "offensive quote."
"My brother's year in space was really hard on him and we tried to bring some light to his difficult ordeal, but this comment does not do that and I apologize and deeply regret it," Kelly said in a statement.
Trump campaign back on Michigan airwaves for first time in seven weeks
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's campaign has returned to the airwaves in Michigan this week for the first time since mid-July.
The re-elect started running ads in Michigan on Tuesday, data from Advertising Analytics shows. The campaign has reserved $1.2 million in television and radio time in Michigan through Monday, and has another $4 million booked there through the end of the month.
At least three different ads have run in Michigan, according to Advertising Analytics trackers, ads that typify the different strategies Trump is taking in the hopes of closing the gap with Biden.
- One focused on the coronavirus, arguing that America is near the "finish line" for developing a vaccine and that the economy is "coming back to life" but "Joe Biden wants to change that."
- One accusing Biden of being a tool of the "radical left" and a Trojan Horse for their policies
- And one on that claims that while "lawless criminals terrorize Kenosha, Joe Biden takes a knee" while President Trump is trying to protect Wisconsin
Before this week, the Trump campaign hadn't run ads in Michigan since July 21. The campaign is still dark in Pennsylvania, where it hasn't run an ad since July 28.
Biden's campaign has massively outspent Trump in swing states recently — the Democratic campaign spent $86.4 million in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from July 28 through Sept. 7, compared to the $17.3 million spent by Trump over the same period.
But big spending by GOP outside groups have cut into Biden's large TV spending edge in those states.
GOP Super PACs have helped Trump narrow Biden's TV advantage
WASHINGTON — As President Trump and his campaign deflect worries about the campaign's war chest, GOP super PACs have helped the president chip away at the significant TV and radio ad-spending deficit between him and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the television and radio airwaves.
When just comparing spending by the two campaigns, Biden consistently outspent Trump in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin over the six-week span from July 28 through Sept. 7 by a 5-to-1 margin. Biden's campaign spent $86.4 million in those states over that time period, according to Advertising Analytics, to Trump's $17.3 million.
But if outside spending is included, that margin is cut to a 2-to-1 Democratic advantage — $111.9 million by the Democrats and $65.1 million by Republicans.
The six-week span includes two periods where the Trump campaign went off the battleground airwaves, once at the end of July in what the campaign called "a review and fine-tuning of the campaign's strategy" after it changed campaign managers, and another during the Republican convention, where campaign officials was only running national ads or in Washington D.C.
But the spending data over those six weeks shows how pivotal outside groups have been at trying to fill the void left by the Trump campaign's television spending strategy, and how their support has helped narrow the spending gap on the airwaves.
A significant portion of the pro-Trump spending in those states, $11.5 million, came from the new super PAC Preserve America, which started running ads at the beginning of this month. Despite the group's recent entry onto the scene, Preserve America outspent the Trump campaign in both Arizona and Pennsylvania over the six-week timeline. Since the group is so new, it's unclear who the PAC's dop donors are. But it's being helmed by veteran GOP strategist Chris LaCivita, and Politico reported the group is expected to be supported by GOP megadonors like casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus.
Alongside his main super PAC, America First Action (which just announced a new $22 million battleground advertising buy), Trump has also been boosted in the Rust Belt by Restoration PAC, a group that's primarily funded by GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein.
The Trump campaign has seen its cash reserves dwindle throughout the summer — by the end of March, Trump's re-election effort had a $182 million cash-on-hand advantage over Biden. But by the end of July, numbers released by both campaigns publicly showed that advantage had dwindled to about $6 million.
Both campaigns haven't filed their campaign finance reports covering August with the Federal Election Commission, but Biden's re-election announced they had raised $364.5 million in August alone, while Trump's re-election said it raised $210 million that month.
Trump sought to downplay concerns about his campaign's cash reserves in a Tuesday tweet where he blamed the heavy spending on needing to counter the message about the coronavirus and pledged to spend his on money if needed.
Joe Lieberman endorses Susan Collins, appears in ad for her in Maine
WASHINGTON — Joe Lieberman, a former U.S senator and the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, endorsed Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Wednesday.
Lieberman is also appearing in an ad for Collins as she faces perhaps the toughest race of her career.
"I'm a lifelong Democrat but I put my country first, always. That's why I'm supporting Susan Collins for Senate," Lieberman, a Democrat turned independent, said in the ad, which is paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
RJC is spending $400,000 to run the ad on digital platforms, aimed at persuading women voters in Maine, according to the group's spokesman Neil Strauss. Lieberman called Collins "a fighter for women's issues" in the ad.
Lieberman's relationship with Democrats turned frosty after his strong support for the Iraq war — and he was defeated in a 2006 primary for his Connecticut seat. He ran that year as an independent and won. In 2008, he endorsed Collins for re-election and backed Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential bid. He left the Senate in 2013.
Collins has easily won her past election challenges, but her brand has suffered at home due to her support of many of President Trump's initiatives. She currently trails Democrat Sara Gideon, the speaker of Maine's state house, by 4.5 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Biden campaign releases economic proposals ahead of 'Made in America' speech
WASHINGTON — Ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden’s “Made in America” speech in Michigan Wednesday, his campaign released part of a wide-ranging economic manufacturing plan that pulls from previous proposals and adds new ones that specifically address the offshoring of jobs.
The proposals aim to promote “Made in America” products by establishing a new offshoring tax code, rewarding companies for manufacturing in the U.S. and ending loopholes the Biden-Harris camp says were set by President Trump's administration.
The plan punishes American companies that produce products overseas by adding a 28 percent corporate tax rate and an additional 10 percent “offshoring penalty surtax” totaling a 30.8 percent tax rate on profits. To incentivize “Made in America” production, the administration would give companies a 10 percent tax credit on a number of investments like revitalizing closed factories and expanding payrolls.
"President Trump talks and talks — but he has failed to deliver results for American workers," the plan reads. "That ends under the Biden-Harris administration."
Biden also promises to sign new executive actions during his first week as president that ensure that the federal government uses taxpayer dollars to only buy American products and support supply chains in the nation.
The plan comes after Biden said in a Wilmington, Del. speech Friday that he will continue to draw more explicit contrasts between his vision and Trump’s on numerous issues and this is the first policy decision in which he does that.
For months Biden has tried to bring Trump’s economic record to light by challenging it with new proposals as the president continues to lead on the issue in some battleground states like Michigan and Florida with two months to go until Election Day.
Broad coalition of progressive groups launches effort to aid with voting protection
WASHINGTON — In the closing weeks of a general election, the vanguard of Democratic advocacy groups would typically be focused on electing candidates championing their various issue agendas — from gun safety to veterans and women's issues. But this year, a number of such groups are banding together for what they say is an unprecedented and necessary cause: preserving the integrity of the 2020 vote.
The campaign, which includes gun safety, women's reproductive rights, LGBTQ, Latino and veterans groups, launches Wednesday to "serve as a powerful counterweight to President Trump's and the Republican Party's relentless and unprecedented voter suppression efforts and attacks on the right to vote, especially in the middle of a pandemic," according to a statement given to NBC by organizers of the effort.
In late August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined a video call to encourage representatives of the new campaign to work together to fight voting misinformation, recruit poll workers, register voters and protect voting rights.
Kris Brown, president of Brady, the anti-gun violence organization, said her group began working on the issue and joined the coalition because its activists and supporters have voiced concern about whether the election can be conducted fairly during the pandemic and because of the expected huge spike in ballots cast by mail. Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting, saying without evidence that it is rife with fraud.
"We are not a voting rights organization, and we don't pretend to be," Brown said. "I hope, quite frankly, it's never required this way again."
Brady is dedicating resources, including full-time personnel and its legal team, which is filing amicus briefs in lawsuits filed by state attorneys general over U.S. Postal Service disruptions.
Other participants in the coalition include: NARAL Pro Choice America, J Street, Democracy Docket, the Communications Workers of America, Vote Vets, the Latino Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Democrats argue that Republican-controlled states have tried to curb voting access for years, citing the closing of polling locations in minority districts in battlegrounds like Ohio and, more recently, Georgia.
"Republicans are fighting for a free, fair, and transparent election," Steve Guest, rapid response director for the Republican National Committee, told NBC News in response to the effort. "Meanwhile, it's Democrats who are the ones limiting voting options which disenfranchises voters. We want to ensure that all votes are counted properly. This is about getting more people to vote, certainly not less."
Tiffany Muller, president of Let America Vote which is organizing the coalition, said the Trump administration's efforts to challenge the work of the Postal Service persuaded her group to mobilize the effort.
"It's not enough to just activate our members or do the typical organizing we would have done during campaign times," Mueller said. "There's an entire infrastructure on the other side fighting people being able to vote. It's needed in this moment of crisis that we're in."
The campaign aims to serve as a clearinghouse for safe voting information; coordinate rapid response to Trump's "efforts at voter suppression, including his attempts to undermine the Post Office"; and combat misinformation related to voting and the election.
Members will also help coordinate the return of absentee ballots and will recruit poll workers, voter registration volunteers and voter protection monitors, as well as conduct a public awareness campaign to remind voters to return their absentee ballots.
Separately, paid digital and mail advertising campaigns will remind voters how to cast ballots, especially during a pandemic.
The coalition adds to a far broader and "unprecedented" infrastructure that has been built over the past several years, beginning with civil rights groups that have been sounding the alarm about voting rights for years, said Guy Cecil, chair of Priorities USA, which says it plans to spend $34 million on voting rights this cycle.
"The investment is unlike anything I've seen," he said, because "it's not just established voting rights groups" heading to the front lines of the battle.
GOP scales down pandemic relief proposal but new bill lands with a thud
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.
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.
Trump campaign looks to ease concerns amid fundraising warning signs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
Biden campaign raises roughly $365 million in largest monthly haul to date
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
New Biden, DNC ad features Kenosha violence in 'Trump's America'
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.
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.
As Kanye West files suits to get on state ballots, more Republican ties to presidential campaign emerge
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."
Massachusetts primaries to decide two heated contests Tuesday
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Trump campaign announces TV ad buys in five key states
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.
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."
A look back at Trump's 2016 RNC nomination speech
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Biden, Trump campaigns debut new ads ahead of Biden's DNC speech
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.”
Obama and Harris are country's two most popular political figures
WASHINGTON — Tonight’s main speakers at the Democratic convention — former President Barack Obama and V.P. nominee California Sen. Kamala Harris — happen to be the two most popular political figures in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll when it comes to their net-positive ratings (though Obama is much more popular than Harris is).
Digging inside Obama’s 54 percent positive, 34 percent negative rating (+20), the former president gets high marks among Black voters (84 percent to 6 percent), Latinos (63 percent to 19 percent), women (60 percent to 29 percent), voters 18-34 (59 percent to 24 percent), independents (51 percent to 23 percent), and he even breaks even with white women without college degrees (44 percent to 44 percent).
Compare those numbers with Biden’s among those same subgroups: Black voters (65 percent to 10 percent), Latinos (38 percent to 31 percent), women (47 percent to 36 percent), independents (25 percent to 42 percent), voters 18-34 (30 percent to 43 percent), and white women without college degrees (36 percent to 53 percent).
The NBC News/WSJ Poll was conducted between Aug. 9-12, with a margin of error of +/-3.3%
Biden leads Trump in recent TV and radio spending across virtually the entire 2020 battleground
WASHINGTON — Over the past week, former Vice President Joe Biden has had a significant edge in TV and radio advertising spending over President Trump in the presidential battleground, outpacing the incumbent in virtually every state that's key to winning the presidency.
From Aug. 11 through Aug. 17, the Biden campaign outspent the Trump campaign in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin, according to NBC analysis of TV and radio advertising data provided by Advertising Analytics.
Biden is also outspending Trump in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada, four states where the Trump campaign hasn't run any TV or radio ads in at least two weeks.
On the flip side, the Trump campaign is outspending Biden in Georgia and New Mexico, states where neither Biden nor his top affiliated outside groups have spent significant money on TV or radio ads.
Overall, across all states and on national television, the Biden campaign outspent the Trump campaign over that week by more than a two-to-one margin, $16 million to $7.4 million.
The Trump campaign briefly paused its TV and radio advertising at the end of July, a move they said was aimed at re-evaluating the campaign's media strategy.
But in the two weeks since it returned to the airwaves, the Trump campaign has effectively leveled off spending in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and North Carolina, while increasing its spending in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has increased its spending over the same two-week span in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Pennslyvania, growing the spending disparity there. The Biden campaign dropped its TV and radio advertising in Wisconsin from Aug. 10 through Aug. 17, but it still outspent Trump by a factor of four.
Jill Biden to go back to her teaching roots for prime-time DNC speech
Whenever Joe Biden discusses his wife’s work, he’ll inevitably say that teaching “isn’t what she does, it’s who she is.” So, as Jill Biden considered where to deliver her prime-time speech in this unorthodox Democratic National Convention, there was an obvious answer: the classroom.
The former second lady and potential future first lady will deliver Tuesday’s keynote address live from Brandywine High School in her hometown of Wilmington, a city where she taught English in the early 1990s. The choice is a signal of how the self-described reluctant political spouse has always forged her own professional path even as her husband’s career has taken him just shy of the White House.
A lifelong educator with two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education, Biden continued to teach at a community college in Northern Virginia while her husband served as vice president, a decision her staff initially thought was a nonstarter. She has said she hopes to continue teaching if they move to the White House next year.
“How great would that be?" she asked in an interview with NBC News from the campaign trail last fall. "What would that say about teachers? Wouldn't that lift up the profession and celebrate who they are? It would be my honor.”
Biden has often talked on the campaign trail about how teaching at community college has been particularly important to her, given that her students come from all walks of life. In an introductory video, the country will hear rare testimonial from one of her former students.
“She gave 100% of her energy to the students,” the student, Yvette Lewis, says.
Perez says no more Democratic caucuses
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said Monday that the handful of 2020 presidential caucuses should be the last the party ever holds.
He didn’t specifically name Iowa, which for decades has led off the nominating calendar, but his position would represent a seismic shift in the party’s traditions.
Perez’s term as chair will end before the 2024 nominating calendar is determined.
But he told The Associated Press on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention that he plans to “use the bully pulpit as a former chair to make sure we continue the progress” of changes after the bitter 2016 primary fight between nominee Hillary Clinton and runner-up Bernie Sanders.
Michelle Obama speech will stress Biden's empathy
When Michelle Obama headlines the Democratic convention Monday night, she will stress how Biden's character, empathy and faith has made him the necessary leader for the moment as Americans look for honest guidance amid a trio of crises.
In a clip of her speech released earlier Monday, the former first lady points to the losses Biden has overcome as proof he can relate to those suffering from the broken economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
"His life is a testament to getting back up and he’s going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up. To help us heal and guide us forward," she says.
The brief clip also serves as the first look at what Americans will see during the virtual convention, which kicks off tonight. Obama, like so many people speaking to a camera during the pandemic, sits casually on a chair in front of a bookshelf.
Obama is also expected to revive her famous line from the Democrats' 2016 convention— "When they go low, we go high"— redefining what exactly it means to take the higher road when confronted by ideologies Democrats do not agree with.
"Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top," she is expected to say. "Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences."
The former first lady remains one of the nation’s most popular political figures, but one who has used her political influence sparingly. She said in her recently-launched podcast that she has been feeling "some form of low-grade depression” amid the quarantine, racial strife following the death of George Floyd and “just seeing this administration.”
Senate Dems call on Postal Service Board to reverse changes amid concerns about mail-in voting
WASHINGTON – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other top Senate Democrats are increasing pressure on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to “reverse changes” enacted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy amid concerns those changes could hurt the Postal Service's ability to handle mail-in votes this fall.
The letter expands scrutiny of the Postal Service beyond DeJoy and to the six-member Board of Governors, all of whom were appointed by President Donald Trump.
“You have the responsibility to reverse those changes and the authority to do so,” the senators wrote.
The letter sent to the Board of Governors Monday morning and provided to NBC News is the latest effort by Congressional Democrats to halt and reverse the policy and operating directives implemented by DeJoy.
The Board of Governors has the authority to intervene in decisions made by the postmaster general. The group selected DeJoy for the position n May.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed House members this past weekend that they should expect to return to Washington to vote on legislation by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to prevent any changes made to the Postal Service until the coronavirus pandemic is over. That vote is expected to take place on a rare Saturday session this week.
The Postal Service has been plagued with reports of delayed mail delivery as DeJoy has cut employee overtime, overhauled the management structure at USPS, removed street-corner mailboxes and dismantled mail sorting machines, causing Democrats to accuse the Trump-appointee and donor of attempting to “sabotage” the upcoming election, which is expected to have a major increase in vote-by-mail.
“It is time to use your full power and authority on behalf of the Postal Service, the American people, and the ‘public interest’ you are required to represent,” the lawmakers wrote. “We ask that you immediately take action to reverse any and all changes put in place by Mr DeJoy that degrade or delay postal operations and the delivery of the mail.”
Trump defended DeJoy's actions last Saturday as a way to turn around the agency, denying the moves were meant to discourage mail-in voting.
"The steps that he is taking are trying to stop the tremendous losses that have taken place for many, many years. He’s trying to streamline the Post Office and make it great again," Trump said.
The letter is led by Sen. Warren, who has been actively engaged in oversight of the USPS and signed by Sen. Schumer; Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee Gary Peters of Michigan; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee; as well as Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Also on Monday, Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Ted Lieu of Calif, asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to “evaluate” if DeJoy or the Board of Governors broke any laws.
“If their intent in doing so was to affect mail-in balloting or was motivated by personal financial reasons, then they likely committed crimes,” the lawmakers wrote.
First Biden digital ad featuring Harris targets Hispanic voters in key states
WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden's presidential campaign Saturday released its first ad featuring the ticket's vice presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as part of an ongoing paid media buy in key battleground states.
The 30 second digital ad targeting Hispanic voters in Arizona and Florida on YouTube stresses how Joe Biden and Harris have devoted their careers to uplifting others, particularly noting how the presumptive Democratic nominee has long lived by the Spanish belief that who you surround yourself with defines who you are as a person.
“Now Joe confirmed he’s walking with perfect company,” the narrator says in English before the bilingual ad unveils Harris’ image for the first time in a paid media ad. “An ally and a fighter for the Latino community for years, Kamala is the final piece of the puzzle. Together Biden and Harris will rebuild the American dream and ensure a future for everyone.”
Tying Harris to the Hispanic community is a notable push by the campaign as they continue to strengthen their direct outreach. Her historic nomination as the first biracial woman to be picked as vice president has already enthused coalitions across the Democratic Party.
The Biden campaign has devoted $44 million to TV, radio and print ads this week and next, rolling out five new ads including two that target the Latino community. Late last month the campaign announced their $290 general election paid media investment beginning in September, which will include an eight-figure investment in Spanish-language ads across Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Virginia.
In a press call announcing the large media buy, senior campaign advisers stressed that Biden’s vice presidential pick will play a notable role in their advertising. The campaign will continue to present the Biden-Harris ticket as one that shares the same values of the Latino community.
Hamilton-inspired rap aims to get out the vote for 2020
The six-minute music video released Friday blends together video performances from dozens of dancers, professional musicians and other performers, set to the tune of “The Constitution Song.”
The song traces the history of democratic rights in the U.S. starting with the American Revolution and continuing through the protest movements that expanded voting access to Blacks and women. The lyrics encourage Americans to “add your voice” to an evolving understanding of equality and justice under the Constitution.
“Our founding generation thought the king was a disaster. They fought to make a country where the people would be master. So if you think your country isn’t acting as it should be, register and vote to make your country what it could be,” the lyrics go.
The song is the creation of Johnny Butler, a saxophonist and musical creator who has worked with Beyonce and Stevie Wonder, and Peter Shane, who teaches constitutional law at The Ohio State University. The university’s Moritz College of Law is supporting the project.
Republican Jewish Coalition provides new details on $10 million in general election commitment, largely to help Trump
WASHINGTON — The Republican Jewish Coalition expects to spend "millions of dollars on television" as part of its $10 million independent expenditure campaign for November's elections, with the lion's share coming to support President Trump's re-election.
Matt Brooks, the group's executive director, touted Trump's policies on anti-Semitism and on Israel to reporters on a conference call Thursday, hours after the administration touted a deal to normalize relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The group added more details about its spending plans for the fall which includes TV and digital ads as well as voter mobilization and turnout programs augmented by an investment into building out a strong voter file on Jewish American voters.
Brooks estimated that around 90 percent of the money would go toward helping Trump in key states like Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, but that the work would also act as a "force multiplier to make sure these same voters support our Republican candidates" in down-ballot races.
And he said that the group will be messaging on a variety of issues — including Israel, but also law and order, energy independence, the economy and fossil fuels — because the American Jewish community is not a "monolith."
Trump has been a strong ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has been harshly critical of the world nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump pulled out of to Israel's praise. His administration has also offered a broader Middle East peace deal, which stalled after a tepid response from Arab nations, and signed an executive order he said was aimed at combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses.
But Trump has faced criticism from other prominent Jewish groups and Jewish politicians as well both for his policies as well as his comments. Last year, Trump said that "any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat" shows "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called those comments anti-Semitic.
Pointing to Thursday's deal with the UAE and Israel, former Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, the national chairman of the RJC's board of directors, framed Trump as a steadfast ally of Israel and said he hoped the deal would help Jewish voters side with him in the fall.
"President Donald J. Trump is owed a debt of gratitude for the role he’s played today," Coleman said. "Our hope is American jews will be wise enough to see on Election Day that this accomplishment has really been part of a process of what Donald J. Trump has delivered and will continue to deliver."
Kushner confirms Kanye West meeting: A 'great discussion'
WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a top adviser, confirmed Wednesday that he met with rapper Kanye West amid the superstar's presidential bid that's been aided by Republicans.
Asked about the meeting during a Thursday White House briefing, Kushner said he's known West for about 10 years and that they met when they both "happened to be in Colorado."
"We had a great discussion about a lot of things. He has some great ideas for what he'd like to see happen in the country, and that's why he has the candidacy that he's been doing," Kushner said.
"There's a lot of issues that the president's championed that he admires, so it was great to have a friendly discussion."
The meeting, first reported on by the New York Times, comes as West's quixotic presidential bid has not filed to appear on enough ballots to compete for the presidency, but has filed to be on the ballot in a handful of states that are typically key presidential battlegrounds.
West so far will be on ballots in Colorado and Oklahoma, while his campaign awaits verification in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, where he's submitted the required paperwork and state election officials will rule on whether he met those states' standards
West's candidacy has been aided by Republican operatives or those connected to Republican politics in a variety of states, including Wisconsin, where Vice first reported that West's signatures were delivered by an election lawyer who had previously advised the state Republican Party and represented Trump's re-election campaign in a lawsuit against a local NBC affiliate.
Those ties between West's candidacy and Republicans have raised concerns among Democrats that people are using West's campaign in an attempt to siphon votes away from former Vice President and apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Poll: Nearly half of registered voters concerned voting will be difficult this fall
WASHINGTON — As voters grapple with the pandemic and with President Trump’s assertion — without evidence — that voting by mail is riddled with fraud, a new survey finds that about half of all registered voters believe it will be difficult to vote in November.
According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of registered voters say they think it will be easy to vote and 49 percent say it will be difficult.
A Pew Research Center Survey ahead of the 2018 midterm elections asked the same question and just 15 percent anticipated that it would be difficult to cast their ballot.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s supporters are more pessimistic than President Trump’s when it comes to the ease of voting. Sixty percent of voters who say they are supporting Biden believe it will be difficult to vote, while just 35 percent of Trump voters say the same.
Black voters are particularly unlikely to believe it will be “easy” to vote.
The survey comes as concern grows over mail delays resulting from the newly-installed Postmaster General’s implementation of what he calls cost-cutting measures, which voting advocates worry will gum up the processing of absentee ballots. President Trump said Thursday morning that the Post Office would need millions in emergency funds — which he is blocking — in order to manage “universal mail-in voting.”
The poll also finds a partisan split in how Trump and Biden voters prefer to cast their ballots.
Most voters who support Trump — 80 percent — want to vote in person, either on Election Day (60 percent) or early in-person voting (20 percent.)
But a majority of Biden voters — 58 percent — say their preference is to vote by mail.
That same feeling was found in the latest NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll. In that poll, 55 percent of adults said they are very or somewhat likely to vote by mail in November.
And in the NBC|SurveyMonkey poll, 55 percent of American adults want to allow all Americans to vote by mail in the fall, and 55 percent of adults say they’re very or somewhat likely to mail-in their vote in November. But just 33 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they were somewhat or very likely to vote by mail, and 79 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said were likely to cast their ballot by mail.
The Pew poll also measured a head-to-head matchup between Trump and Biden, finding the Democratic candidate leading the incumbent by eight points, 53 percent to 45 percent.
Biden, Harris raise $34.2 million in day and a half after announcing ticket
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden's selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris to join his Democratic presidential ticket has led to a massive fundraising boost for the campaign.
From the time Harris was announced as the vice-presidential pick on Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, the campaign brought in over $34.2 million, including from more than 150,000 first time contributors, the campaign announced.
The campaign saw its best digital fundraising hour from the moment she was announced Tuesday afternoon, a record that was broken just one day later, after Harris and Biden appeared publicly together for the first time in Wilmington, Del.
“The response has been overwhelming," Biden said during the ticket’s first grassroots fundraiser Wednesday, where he added that the campaign saw 150,000 first-time contributors over the short span.
"It's really palpable the excitement because there is so much at stake."
Long before Joe Biden would choose Harris as his running mate, he stressed his wish to tap someone who would be a partner in governing and campaigning. On Tuesday, Biden described the financial support his campaign saw in the wake of the announcement as proof he made the right choice.
“You know, it seems Americans all across this nation, at least at the outset here, agree with me,” Biden said after describing Harris as the “right person” to serve as his vice president if elected.
After the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee outraised the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee for two consecutive months, the Trump effort re-gained the upper hand with its July fundraising.
But the Biden campaign and the DNC have seen a massive influx of cash since Biden became the apparent Democratic nominee in April. They strategically spent less during those months, redirecting spending to digital during the coronavirus pandemic, which helped them virtually erase the Trump effort's cash-on-hand advantage.
Harris spent her first 24 hours as the newly-minted running mate trying to enthuse her party's base stressing repeatedly at Wednesday’s events that supporters must show up to vote or regret not participating in historic “inflection moment.”
“What I know, based on who you are and why you're here right now is that when you look back at them, you're not going to just talk about how you feel. You're going to talk about what you did. You're going to talk about the fact that you participated. You were activated, you were involved in electing Joe Biden President of the United States,” she said during a grassroots fundraiser.
Trump plans counter-programming in battleground states during Democratic convention
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to hit the road next week as counter-programming to the Democratic National Convention, traveling to several battleground states in an effort to generate competing coverage, according to two officials involved in the planning.
While the plans are fluid, as of now Trump will head to Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday, Arizona on Tuesday and Pennsylvania on Thursday. In Pennsylvania, he's slated to visit Scranton, the hometown of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in an effort to taunt the former vice president on his own turf. Trump plans to make the case that Biden shouldn’t be treated as a native son of the city since he hasn’t lived there in decades.
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Wisconsin on Thursday and will expected to accuse Democrats of “abandoning” the state for pulling most of their convention from Milwaukee, just hours before Biden accepts the Democratic nomination in Delaware. Biden announced earlier this month he would accept the nomination virtually, rather than in Milwaukee, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump made counter-programming a hallmark of his strategy during the Democratic primaries, scheduling rallies in all the early voting states to, in his words, “troll” the opposing party.
While the pandemic has eliminated any large, traditional campaign events from happening during this battleground state tour, the president will still likely be met with several hundreds of supporters at each stop. It’s unclear how much social distancing and mask wearing will be enforced.
It’s also unknown exactly how many of these events will be categorized as White House events rather than campaign events.
Trump campaign returns to airwaves in WI, still dark in MI and PA
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign returned to the Wisconsin airwaves on Tuesday, marking the first time the campaign aired significant TV or radio advertising in the state in almost two weeks.
Trump’s campaign spent $110,000 there Tuesday, and it’s slated to spend the same on Wednesday, according to data from Advertising Analytics. It had been dark there since July 29.
But while the campaign has returned to Wisconsin airwaves, it has been off the air in both Pennsylvania and Michigan for at least two weeks (since July 29 in PA and July 22 in Michigan, and even before then, its spending in Michigan had been dwindling).
But while the campaign isn't spending on TV or radio ads there, it has had some outside help. Since the campaign dropped off the air, the GOP group Restoration PAC has spent $2.4 million on ads in Michigan, and America First Action super PAC has spent $2.9 million in Pennsylvania.
The Trump campaign announced last month it would briefly pull ads to review its ad strategy, and it returned to the air days later touting a new focus on North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Arizona ahead of early voting.
But that new strategy so far hasn’t included the Great Lakes states key to Trump’s victory in 2016, states he won by the narrowest of margins.
Poll: Few parents say their children will be attending full, in-person school in the fall
WASHINGTON — Less than a fifth of American parents say their children will be attending school “fully in-person” this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.
Just 17 percent of American adults with kids say that their children’s schooling will take place fully in-person while 41 percent (a plurality) say that their kids’ will be learning only online. Twenty-seven percent say there will be a mix of in-person and online instruction and 15 percent of adults say they didn’t know what their children’s school situation would be yet.
President Trump has been pushing for schools to fully reopen this fall, but with the continued high transmission rate and positive case results of coronavirus, schools across the country are rethinking their instruction plans.
After a school in Georgia made headlines for packed hallways when schools fully reopened, several students and teachers tested positive for coronavirus. The school was forced to go fully remote temporarily while the school underwent deep-cleaning.
States that have taken a more conservative approach to reopening, like New York, have announced that schools can reopen for in-person instruction as long as their plans are approved by the state’s health and education departments – but even then reopenings won’t be uniform across the state. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a mix of in-person and remote instruction, and some teachers are threatening a “sickout” instead of returning to in-person work.
Minority parents are far more likely to report that their kids will be taking classes exclusively online, while white parents are more likely to say their children will be returning to full, in-person schooling.
Fifty-eight percent of Black parents, 49 percent of Hispanic parents and 47 percent of Asian parents say all of their child’s learning will be conducted online, compared to 33 percent of whites who say the same.
Parents are divided when it comes to how they rank the quality of education their children are receiving. Just 22 percent of adults say they’d rate the education quality as an “A”, 31 percent grade the quality a “B”, 28 percent say “C”, 10 percent D and 7 percent say “F”.
But a significant majority of adults, 66 percent, say that teachers are paid too little in their community. Only 26 percent say teachers are paid the right amount, and 6 percent say teachers are paid too much.
The data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted August 3-9, 2020 among a national sample of 44,601 adults in the U.S. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.
Democratic outside groups booking more than $10 million in new August Senate TV ads
WASHINGTON — Outside groups linked to Senate Democratic leadership are upping the ante in the race for the Senate majority, injecting another $10.3 million into key states.
The moves from Senate Majority PAC and an affiliated non-profit, Duty and Honor, first reported by NBC News, represent an increased investment in ad spending across five states: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Montana and Georgia. And they come after the top GOP-aligned Senate super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, announced last week it would start running ads in August too.
The nonprofit Duty and Honor is adding $3 million in TV spending to Maine, $1.5 million in North Carolina, $1.7 million in Montana and $1.4 million in Georgia.
Senate Majority PAC is adding $2 million in North Carolina, as well as $500,000 in Iowa and $200,000 in Maine.
All of the spending augments existing ad buys through August.
"Less than 90 days until Election Day and momentum and grassroots energy are on the side of Democratic candidates who have built strong campaigns across our offensive battlefield,” J.B. Poersch, Senate Majority PAC's president, said in a statement.
“Our latest investment will keep Senate Republicans on their heels as they are forced to defend their weak incumbents who are trailing in fundraising and in public polling."
The bulk of the outside group's ad spending has already been earmarked for the fall — in March, SMP announced plans to spend almost $70 million in TV ads in North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, Maine and Colorado, with other spending planned by its allies.
But Democratic effort, which also includes the allied Majority Forward, has also been spending in primaries and over the summer as it looks to soften up Republican incumbents ahead of the fall.
Democrats are bullish on their chances in the fall because the majority of competitive races are in states where Republicans are currently in office.
But Republicans have been shoring up their resources this summer too, as Senate Leadership Fund, the GOP group, launched a new, $21.3 million August TV and radio campaign — $6.6 million in Georiga, $6.1 million in Montana, $4.1 million in Iowa, $2.6 million in North Carolina, and $1.9 million in Arizona.
SLF had already announced plans to spend $90 million in ads starting after Labor Day.
Top GOP super PAC backing House Republicans books $45 million for fall ads
WASHINGTON — The top GOP super PAC boosting House Republicans’ efforts to take back the lower chamber in November announced Monday that it’s reserving another $45 million for an ad campaign launching this fall, with sizable investments dedicated to 40 different media markets.
Congressional Leadership Fund’s multi-million dollar commitment includes spending for broadcast and cable TV spots as well as efforts on digital platforms and direct mail. According to a CLF spokesperson, the majority of the buy is dedicated to television and ads from the new reservations will air starting after Labor Day.
CLF’s latest buy narrows in on several critical 2020 battleground states and media markets where House Republicans are hoping to either win back Democratic-held seats or defend their districts.
The largest portion of the $45 million purchase targets Iowa, where Democrats currently hold three of the state’s four House districts, with $3.5 million being invested there.
CLF is dedicating $3.4 million to the upstate New York and New York city areas each. About $2 million of New York city’s allotment will go towards defending the GOP-held seat of retiring Rep. Peter King in Long Island while $1 million is focused on the state’s 11th House District, which Democratic Rep. Max Rose flipped in 2018.
The recent buy also includes about $3 million for ads in Dallas, Houston, and Miami each, plus $2.9 million divided between New Mexico’s Albuquerque and Texas’ El Paso media markets.
Minnesota ($2.5 million) and Montana ($500,000) are among the list of states CLF is investing in for the fall, and other top cities the PAC has booked ads in include Los Angeles ($2.3 million) — home to California 25th District, which Republican Mike Garcia won in a May special election — Salt Lake City ($2.3 million), Philadelphia ($2.1 million), Atlanta ($1.7 million), and Las Vegas ($1 million).
The newly-announced reservations mark CLF’s second wave of ad spending for the November elections, more than doubling its first commitment of $43 million in April to about $90 million.
“The investments we’re making today are a second down payment in key races where we can make a real difference in the battle for the House,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a press release out Monday. “The hard work CLF put in from the outset has allowed us to keep Democrats where we want them: on defense. This reserve positions us well for the fall battle and it won’t be our last.”
The new ad campaign was first reported by POLITICO.
The blueprint progressives hope will move Democrats ‘beyond' the Trump Era
WASHINGTON — While the top issue to many Democratic voters is ousting President Donald Trump at the ballot box in November, key groups in the party’s left flank are out with a new report Monday, presenting a long term vision for the progressive movement while also pressing the need to prioritize key issues.
“We all agree the top priority is getting Trump out,” Leah Hunt-Hendrix, a co-founder of the progressive group Way to Win, told NBC News. “Trump was not just an aberration he was a symptom, so it’s imperative we use the next four years to address the roots of those problems.”
The report from Way To Win, in tandem with Data For Progress and input from pollsters, activists, and staffers across politics, makes the case for the popularity of progressive policies like Medicare For All, while also calling for better donor structures and apparatuses to better fund progressive candidates. It’s a reminder that while the Democratic party appears to have coalesced behind Biden to win in November, he’ll have intraparty policy battles to contend with if elected.
“The purpose of this report is to say ‘the work doesn’t stop,’” Hunt-Hendrix added. “We’re all fighting for November and the work doesn’t stop there...What Dems do when they're in power is just as important as electing Democrats to power.”
The report’s release comes after weeks of summer elections that saw progressives win in upset races. Jamaal Bowman, in New York’s 16th congressional district, unseated longtime Rep. Elliott Engel in an upset race in July. In Missouri last week, Cori Bush — a leader of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that were sparked by the police shooting of Michael Brown — bested Rep. William Lacy Clay, ending his family’s nearly half-century-long political dynasty there. Both won primaries for safely blue Congressional seats, all but assuring them a ticket to Washington.
To Max Berger, a staffer on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, the report is a blueprint for a progressive wing of the party now seeing tangible electoral gains and stepping into its own. “A big part of [this] is getting serious about what it takes to build power and win...and to drill down on what’s keeping us from getting there,” he told NBC.
DNC spotlight's Trump's pandemic leadership in new digital video
WASHINGTON — As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States passes the five million mark, the Democratic National Committee’s rapid response arm is out with a new digital video highlighting President Donald Trump’s oft-repeated contention that the coronavirus pandemic will “disappear” and “go away.”
The video features the president's comments juxtaposed against the cautionary words of the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s Dr. Deborah Birx.
The ad, which will appear unpaid on DNC social media platforms, is part of the larger push the committee is making to contrast Trump’s record with the plans presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he will offer when it comes to the coronavirus. “As we reach this horrible milestone of 5 million cases, we’re holding him accountable for still not having a plan to control the virus, even as more than 160,000 Americans have died and millions have lost their jobs,” Lily Adams, DNC War Room senior spokesperson told NBC News.
In July, the DNC began its first TV ad campaign of the 2020 cycle, marking the five year anniversary of the announcement Trump’s 2016 candidacy and his now-famous ride down that Trump Tower escalator. That ad, titled “Descent,” focuses on the decline of American jobs, health care, race relations, and immigrant rights.
Anticipation over Biden's running mate pick builds ahead of decision
WASHINGTON — Despite presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s pledge to announce his running mate by the first week of August, the political world still awaits his decision as the clock ticks down to the formal party nomination.
NBC News reported Monday that Biden planned to whittle his vice presidential list down to three or four candidates this week and have in-person meetings with his top contenders.
But Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, assured that an announcement was coming soon.
“We're close,” she said in an interview on Fox News on Tuesday. “He's close, he's got to make the final decision.”
With the highly-awaited choice just around the corner, here’s what some of the contenders have been up to this week.
Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator has been highly visible over recent days, continuing to put herself in the public eye as a top pick. And Biden himself confirmed that Harris remains in the veepstakes amid reports that some of his aides were pushing against her as the choice.
“She's very much in contention,” he said during an interview Thursday.
Harris remained vague, however, telling reporters on Capitol Hill, “You probably know more than I do!”
“Sometimes you get cut, sometimes it hurts, but it is worth it,” she added.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: After falling out of the headlines in recent weeks, NBC News reported Thursday that the Michigan governor is still a serious contender.
Whitmer serves as a co-chair for the Biden campaign and has earned the presumptive Democratic nominee’s praise for leading Michigan, a critical 2020 battleground state, through the coronavirus crisis.
And though many have called for Biden to choose a woman of color, Whitmer has voiced her demands for racial justice reform and declared racism a public health crisis this week in an executive order.
Rep. Karen Bass: With more national name recognition comes more scrutiny.
In the past week, there’s been extensive reporting on the California representative’s controversial comments about Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, and her decision to eulogize Oneil Marion Cannon, a high-ranking member of the Communist Party USA, in remarks entered into the congressional record in 2017.
Bass disputed claims that she’s a socialist or communist this week.
And on a more personal level, Bass opened up about an experience she shares with Biden and has discussed with him — losing a child.
“The most difficult part of it was and it was the same with him, is when those accidents happened, both of us were in public life,” she said during an interview on Sunday. “You don't have an opportunity to grieve privately, the world is watching you as you're grieving.”
Susan Rice: Rice’s leadership during the Benghazi attacks continued to make headlines this week with some suggesting that Rice as Biden’s running mate would make her a “lightning rod” for President Donald Trump’s base.
But in interviews, Rice has largely avoided those criticisms and instead has highlighted how her time in the Obama administration makes her qualified for the V.P. job.
“I think what I would bring is almost 20 years of deep experience at the senior-most ranks of the executive branch,” she said during an interview with CBS News Tuesday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Warren has already made herself a key policy-making partner to Biden, and her increasingly close relationship with him could signal that the two are “simpatico” — a must for the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Multiple outlets have reported that Biden and Warren speak regularly, which could be an encouraging sign for progressives who view Biden as too moderate.
And during a recent fundraiser that raised almost $2 million from over 50,000 grassroots donors, Biden spoke highly of the Massachusetts senator.
“Her fearless work for a just America has transformed lives and inspired millions, including me," Biden said of Warren. "She is something else. You all know her.”
Warren returned the compliment.
“I wake up every single day with a heart full of hope and here is why: Vice President Biden is meeting the moment,” Warren said.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Phoenix has become the top individual advertising market in the 2020 White House race
WASHINGTON — Phoenix has been the hottest advertising market in the 2020 presidential race, and this has nothing to do with the city’s blazing summer temperatures.
According to TV and radio ad spending data from Advertising Analytics, pro-Donald Trump and pro-Joe Biden advertisers have spent nearly $14 million in the Phoenix market from April 1 to Aug. 6.
That’s more than any other individual advertising market, and it’s a recognition of Arizona’s battleground status, as well as the importance of populous Maricopa County (where Phoenix is) in winning the state.
The second-biggest individual advertising market is Pittsburgh at $12.4 million, and the state of Pennsylvania has three in the overall Top 10 markets (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York).
Florida has two markets in the Top 10 (Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, and Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota), and so does Wisconsin (Green Bay/Appleton and Milwaukee).
But the largest overall market in the 2020 presidential race has been for national broadcast and cable buys — at $25 million.
That’s a significant departure from the 2016 race, which saw far less national and cable spending.
The Top 10 Advertising Markets in the 2020 Presidential Election Since April 1, according to data from Advertising Analytics:
- National: $25.3 million
- Phoenix: $13.7 million
- Pittsburgh: $12.4 million
- Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, Fla: $10.6 million
- Detroit: $9.9 million
- Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota, Fla.: $9.5 million
- Philadelphia: $8.4 million
- Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York, Penn.: $8.1 million
- Green Bay/Appleton, Wisc.: $7.1 million
- Milwaukee: $7.1 million
Club for Growth pushes Biden on school reopening in new battleground ad buy
WASHINGTON — The conservative Club for Growth is launching a $5 million media campaign with a new television spot that attacks former Vice President Joe Biden on the issue of reopening schools as President Trump pushes for in-person schooling this fall.
The new ad laments the possible developmental challenges of schools not returning to in-person classes in order to fight the virus, hitting Biden on his lack of support for school vouchers that the group says can help students find a school offering in-person learning if their public school is closed.
"A lost year is unacceptable, but four under Biden? That's a lost generation," the ad's narrator says.
The ads will begin running on Monday in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the group says, and that $5 million total includes both television and digital spots.
President Trump has pushed hard for schools to hold in-person classes in the fall, despite the recent spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.
Arguing that virtual school would make it harder for students to receive free and reduce meals, mental health services or have adults check in on them to be sure they're not being neglected at home, Trump said during a July White House briefing that "many school districts can now reopen safely, provided they implement mitigation measures and health protocols to protect families, protect teachers, and to protect students."
Recently released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses heavily on in-person schooling. Those guidelines were released weeks after Trump criticized the CDC for having "very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools" in a tweet.
The president has also threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don't reopen, accusing schools of making the decision based on politics.
Biden said during the presidential primary that he opposes school vouchers.
And his coronavirus school plan specifically calls for increased funding for public schools and child-care providers, alongside four other main planks: getting the spread of the virus under control, creating new national guidelines while allowing localities to make the ultimate decision, develop best practices on virtual and hybrid learning, and taking steps to ensure equal access to quality education during the crisis.
During a July 15 fundraiser, Biden criticized Trump's comments about cutting funding for schools that don't open. "We should send him back to school for a while so he learns about the Constitution and he learns about the power he does and doesn’t have," he said.
Tennessee GOP Senate primary sets up another establishment vs. insurgent battle
WASHINGTON — After Tuesday's Kansas primary results gave Senate Republicans a sigh of relief after Kris Kobach's defeat, the Tennessee GOP Senate primary on Thursday also pits an establishment candidate against an insurgent. And both candidates are trying to brand the other as inauthentically conservative.
Bill Hagerty, a former private equity executive who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Japan, was long seen as a shoo-in for the seat after Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced his retirement last July. President Trump endorsed Hagerty almost immediately, even before Hagerty made his own campaign official. In a state where Trump won by a 26-point margin in 2016, that support initially made the primary seem like a snoozer.
But surgeon and first-generation American Manny Sethi appears to have surged in the closing weeks of a race that has become increasingly nasty and personal. While Hagerty has the financial advantage and the support of the president, a Sethi win could demonstrate the limits of Trump’s backing.
Public polling has been scarce, and Sethi’s internal numbers have shown a closer race than Hagerty’s, but both campaigns have ratcheted up negative attacks.
In a sign of how the GOP tide has turned against its 2012 presidential nominee, Sethi and his allies have lambasted Hagerty as “another Romney” because of his past role as national finance chair for Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. (Hagerty later served as Trump’s Tennessee Victory Chair in 2016, and he has distanced himself from Romney — even labeling him “weak-kneed” in a recent ad, and Romney has not publicly weighed in on the race.)
Sethi’s ads have also included warnings about “left-wing mobs,” and an “illegal immigrant invasion.” (That last claim came in a spot featuring his mother, who emigrated from India legally.) He’s also suggested that a conservative who objects to coronavirus lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests is automatically labeled “a racist [who] wants to kill Grandma.”
Hagerty’s ads have featured a veteran who says he doesn’t trust Sethi to stop flag-burners because he once donated to “a left-wing group that is bankrolling the rioters.” Sethi’s wife says this actually refers to a $50 donation to House Democratic candidate Tom Perriello in 2008 — made as a favor to a family friend — via the commonly-used online donation hub ActBlue.
Hagerty also called Sethi a “liberal elitist” for serving on a medical board that supported the Affordable Care Act and for failing to donate to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The contest has split Republican officials, with both Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., backing Sethi while Hagerty boasts backing from Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Whichever candidate wins, he will start with a big advantage over likely Democratic candidate and Army veteran James Mackler in the fall.
Ben Kamisar contributed.
Trump campaign requests adding another presidential debate
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's campaign Wednesday asked the Commission on Presidential Debates for a fourth debate to be added earlier than the first CPD-sanctioned one scheduled for Sept. 29. In a letter to the CPD, the Trump campaign argued an earlier date is needed between the president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden before early voting in any states started.
"For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country’s future before millions of votes have been cast," Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani wrote in the letter.
The letter also requested that one of the currently scheduled debates be moved earlier if the CPD wouldn't add an additional debate.
Currently, the three debates are scheduled for Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, Oct. 15 at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Florida and Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Tennessee. Two of the debate venues have already had to change due to the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana withdrew from hosting the first debate, and the University of Michigan dropped out of hosting the second debate.
The vice presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 7 at the University of Utah.
The Biden campaign has agreed to three debates with the president and in response to Trump's ask, the Biden team only affirmed that Biden would appear at the debates already sanctioned by the CPD.
"We have said all along, including in a letter to the commission in June, that Joe Biden will appear on the dates that the commission selected and in the locations they chose. Donald Trump has not, continually trying to insert his choice of friendly moderators, now including one who just published an op-ed offering 'the case' for Trump's reelection. Joe Biden will be there," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said.
The Trump team's letter also included a list of journalists and commentators that they would prefer moderate the debates. The CPD has not yet announced who would moderate any of the presidential debates, and they have not yet responded to the Trump team's latest ask.
Kanye West files signatures in hopes of getting on ballot in Ohio and Colorado
WASHINGTON — Music superstar Kanye West's presidential campaign has filed petitions to gain ballot access in Colorado and Ohio, the latest attempt by the musician's team to get on the presidential ballot in key states.
Spokespeople for both the Ohio and Colorado Secretary of State's office confirmed Wednesday that West's representatives filed the necessary paperwork aimed at winning West a spot on the presidential ballot.
West isn't guaranteed a spot on the ballot, as officials will need to certify that his signatures are valid before granting him ballot access. That process is currently ongoing in the other states where West has filed — Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The only state where West has made the ballot so far is Oklahoma, where he only needed to send a check in lieu of petition signatures.
And West has had issues with his petitions before — his representatives dropped their bid to get the rapper on the ballot in New Jersey after a complaint was raised by a local lawyer. And citizens in Illinois have filed three challenges to his petitions signatures there.
But there are signs that Republican operatives and people connected to GOP politics are working to get him onto ballots — a Missouri Republican operative is listed as a point-of-contact on West's Arkansas application, and Vice both identified a woman delivering West's petitions in Wisconsin as a veteran elections lawyer who has advised the state Republican Party and obtained an email of a veteran Colorado GOP strategist soliciting signatures for West.
A record number of all-woman congressional matchups are set for November
WASHINGTON — The 2020 general election will feature a record-breaking number of congressional races in which two women candidates will face one another, a mark reached after Tuesday’s primaries according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University.
Data released by CAWP Wednesday shows that there are officially 38 woman-versus-woman contests at the congressional level this cycle, a new high surpassing the previous record of 33 all-female races set during the 2018 midterms.
“When we began tracking women candidates, having even one woman in a congressional or gubernatorial race was rare,” CAWP Director Debbie Walsh told NBC News. “General election contests with two women competing for a seat show just how much progress has been made."
"I look forward to the day when a woman vs. woman race is as commonplace as when two men run against each other," she added.
The unprecedented number of female match-ups comes after notable primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri produced more women nominees from both parties Tuesday.
In Kansas, where several general election contests are considered competitive, every congressional nominee on the Democratic side is a woman, CAWP data highlights. And Amanda Adkins' victory in the GOP primary in the state's 3rd House District sets up a high-profile all-woman race with incumbent Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids.
Republican Lisa McClain and Democrat Kimberly Bizon won their respective parties' nominations in Michigan's 10th District, likewise setting up a woman-versus-woman faceoff.
And in Missouri’s 1st House District and Arizona’s 6th House District, November wins for newly-crowned Democratic nominees, Cori Bush and Hiral Tipirneni, would guarantee each of their states’ their first women of color representatives in Congress.
The latest peak in the number of all-female congressional races is part of a larger trend involving women in politics. In the 2020 cycle, there’s been a record number of women candidates who have filed to run for the House and Senate, with both Democrats and Republicans eclipsing their previous highs on the House side.
And with primaries in about a dozen states still to come before Election Day, the newly-set record for all-female congressional races could be broken again.
Less than three months from Election Day, five states hold competitive primaries Tuesday
WASHINGTON — With less than three months left until Election Day, five states — Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington — are holding down-ballot primaries Tuesday.
Here are the contests the NBC News political unit has its eyes on:
Kansas Senate: One of the most pivotal primaries left on the calendar, some Republicans fear that if polarizing candidate Kris Kobach wins the GOP primary, they risk losing this open seat in November to Barbara Bollier, the likely Democratic nominee who is a state senator and former Republican. Kobach recently lost the gubernatorial race in 2018 to Democrat Laura Kelly and a group tied to Democrats is spending big in the race in the hopes of boosting him. If Bollier is victorious in the fall, she'd be the first Democrat to represent Kansas in the Senate since the 1930s.
Kansas 2nd District: Many Republicans have sounded the alarm on Republican Rep. Steve Watkins for months, actively encouraging the primary playing out Tuesday. Watkins was charged with voter fraud last month, but calls the charge politically motivated. He has a serious primary challenger in state Treasurer Jake LaTurner who scuttled his Senate bid to run for this seat after the former governor urged him to primary Watkins, well before the charges were filed.
Kansas 3rd District: The GOP will determine who gets to face off against Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids in a Republican seat then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly carried in 2016.
Michigan 13th District: Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a member of the progressive “Squad” faces a rematch against Brenda Jones, the Detroit City Council President who briefly represented the district in 2018 after beating Tlaib in a special election to fill the seat (Tlaib won the primary for the full two-year term starting in 2019 on the same ballot). Tlaib has declined to back presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and Jones has the backing of the other candidates who ran in 2018.
Missouri 1st District: One of the biggest progressive versus establishment Democrat clashes left on the calendar, registered nurse Cori Bush is trying to knock off Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo. Clay beat Bush last time, but Bush now has the backing of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Arizona 6th District: Republican Rep. David Schweikert has been dogged by allegations he violated campaign finance laws for years, but Democrats haven’t been able to capitalize on them to defeat him. Those attacks could stick better now that the House Ethics Committee punished Schweikert last week after finding he did violate House and campaign finance rules. The Democratic candidates vying to replace him include Hiral Tipirneni, the well-funded doctor who ran and lost in the 2018 special election to replace GOP Rep. Trent Franks.
Arizona 1st District: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran has been a constant target for Republicans in an R+2 district Trump won by 1 point. Before the moderate Democrat gets the chance to defend his seat in a general election he will have to defeat Eva Putzova, a former local councilwoman who is attacking O’Halleran from his left and supports policies like Medicare for All.
Arizona and Michigan Senate: While these primaries are less competitive, the races will determine which challengers will face incumbents in states critical for Republicans to hold onto in order to maintain their Senate majority. In Arizona, Democratic astronaut Mark Kelly is expected to win the nomination to take on GOP Sen. Martha McSally while in Michigan, veteran Republican businessman John James will win the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.
Maricopa County Sheriff: While not a national race, Joe Arpaio, the controversial former sheriff pardoned by President Trump after violating a court order related to his immigrant crackdown, is running for his old position Tuesday.
—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Pro-Biden super PAC launches new ad on Trump's pandemic leadership
As President Donald Trump’s campaign returns to the airwaves tying Joe Biden to his party’s progressive flank, the Democrat’s allies are providing air cover by connecting the fragile economy to the president's handling of the pandemic.
Priorities USA, a leading pro-Biden super PAC, will spend more than $1 million a week on its new ad on cable and broadcast television in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona.
“He downplayed the virus, ignored experts, insisted everything was going to be OK,” a narrator says. “Now, cases are surging and he’s making the same mistakes again.”
The spot closes with Biden’s recent remarks, saying Trump “hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: To fix the economy, we have to get control over the virus.”
The spot also hits airwaves as the president, who has been unable to hold large public campaign rallies, has resumed nightly press briefings ostensibly about the pandemic.
“There is no case for a second term for Donald Trump. That’s why his campaign is scrambling to find new ways to spread misinformation and lie to the American people to cover up his obvious failures,” Priorities USA Action executive director Patrick McHugh said in a statement.
Conservatives warn GOP senators they risk angering voters by backing coronavirus aid package
WASHINGTON — Polling prepared for the conservative Club for Growth found Republican senators could risk endangering enthusiasm among their supporters if they back some provisions of the latest proposed coronavirus aid package.
The poll was conducted in seven states where incumbent Republican senators are facing strong challengers and found voters collectively were more inclined to back Democratic candidates, according to a copy of the polling memo exclusively provided to NBC News.
“If Republican Senators vote for a package including these provisions, it is likely to reduce Republican turnout and make the already challenging task of maintaining control of the Senate even harder,” the memo argues, pointing to unemployment and school spending proposals.
Congressional leaders continue to negotiate $1 trillion in additional assistance for those affected by coronavirus, including whether to continue the $600 federal weekly unemployment benefit that expired at the end of July.
Republicans in the Senate are split over the package. Senators facing re-election in November have largely backed the continued jobless benefits and increased state aid, hoping to leverage more funding to sway voters.
Conservative groups like Club for Growth and a group of senators not facing re-election this year are opposed, arguing that Republican voters would be discouraged if their lawmakers back more spending.
On the question of unemployment benefits, the poll found 36 percent of voters were less likely to support the Republican senate candidate if they voted in favor of continued boosted jobless benefits that “pays people to stay unemployed even when they could take available jobs in their area.” Of those polled, 14 percent said they support for the provision would make them more likely to vote for the Republican.
The poll found that 38 percent are less likely to support a Republican who votes for school funding that doesn’t include money for parents who are conducting homeschooling or hire private tutors. The poll found 13 percent were more likely to support the candidate who backed that provision.
The poll also tested whether voters would be swayed by a message about increased deficit — it found that 33 percent of those polled are less likely to support a Republican if they vote “to add another one trillion dollars in debt to be repaid by future tax increases, while over one trillion dollars from the last COVID relief bill previously authorized by Congress remains unspent.”
The online poll by WPAi of 800 voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina was conducted at the end of July and had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.
RNC still 'working through' press access for Charlotte convention events
WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee says it is still weighing whether press will be allowed to attend and cover Charlotte convention events in-person later this month.
“No final decision has been made and we are still working through logistics and press coverage options. We are working with the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events,” RNC communications director Michael Ahrens told NBC News in a statement.
“A livestream is one of the press coverage options we are considering,” Ahrens added.
As of now, it’s unclear whether the president will attend any convention business in North Carolina but there’s a possibility he will go to Charlotte on Aug. 24 to thank a smaller footprint of delegates in a private meeting, an RNC official said. It’s also still unknown where Trump will accept his re-nomination formally on Aug. 27.
The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, AP reporter Zeke Miller, called the possibility of a closed press convention “an ill-advised decision” and urged the GOP to open events in a tweet over the weekend.
“Hopefully they’ll give the American people the access they deserve,” he wrote.
Trump campaign returns to the airwaves in early-voting states
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign is getting back up on the airwaves after hitting pause on their TV ad spending last week for a campaign strategy review. On Monday, the campaign announced it is launching two new ads in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Arizona.
The campaign's new strategy is to target voters in early-voting states. North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Arizona all begin early voting in October, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The campaign did not disclose the exact amount being spent for the ad buy, but deputy national press secretary Ken Farnaso said it is in the "high seven figures."
“In many states, more than half of voters will cast their votes well before Election Day and we have adjusted our strategy to reflect that. Joe Biden is continuing to spend millions of dollars a week in states that won’t come online for two months and we encourage him to keep at it," Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
The two new ads, which will be running on local broadcast and cable outlets and on Spanish language channels, attack presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on raising taxes, immigration policy and trade deals.
The first ad, "Takeover", revisits a popular theme in Trump's rhetoric and advertising that Biden will reduce "police funding", and is a mouthpiece for the "radical left." However, Biden's police funding position is that he would increase funding to the Community Oriented Policing Services program and has suggested redirecting some police funding to social services and prison reform.
The second ad, entitled "cards", focuses on a voter who won't say she supports the president "out loud" making her a part of the "Silent Majority" the Trump campaign credits for delivering Trump his 2016 win. While it's unknown how many voters support the president and won't say it, in a recent Monmouth University poll of registered voters in Pennsylvania, 57 percent said they felt there was a "secret" Trump vote in their communities. Only 27 percent said they believed there was a secret vote for Biden.
Bass on work in Cuba: I 'don’t consider myself a Castro sympathizer'
WASHINGTON — California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, one of the women being considered by former Vice President Joe Biden as his running mate, said Sunday that she does not consider herself a "Castro sympathizer" and her work in Cuba in the early portion of her career was about humanitarian aid.
Bass told "Meet the Press" she may have been a bit naive, "as any 19-year-old would be" when she traveled to Cuba to build houses in her early 20s.
While she said she's "always believed in bridging the divide between our two countries" and that she's still working with the country on issues like bringing two promising medicines for diabetes and lung cancer to America, she argued that "doesn't excuse the fact that I know the Castro people has been a brutal regime to its people."
"When I went in my late teens and early twenties, you know, one of the reasons was to build relations with the Americans that were there, because there were over 100 young people that were there," she said.
"And all of us worked on different issues. Well, what's interesting is that we had the ability to come home and protest against our own government. But the Cuban people most certainly cannot do that. They couldn't do it then and they can't do it now."
When pressed on her 2016 statement on dictator Fidel Castro's death, where she referred to Castro as "Comandante en Jefe" (Spanish for commander-in-chief), Bass admitted she erred.
"I was expressing condolences to the Cuban people, to the people in Cuba, not Cubans around the world," she said.
"Lesson learned. Wouldn't do that again. Talked immediately to my colleagues from Florida and realized that that was something that just shouldn't have been said."
In a press release this weekend, President Trump's campaign referred to Bass as "Communist Karen," pointing specifically to her work in Cuba.
Just days before likely announcement, VP contenders stay busy
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is expected to make his vice presidential pick, and perhaps announce that pick, next week.
"I’m going to have a choice the first week in August and I promise I’ll let you know when I do," Biden told reporters on Tuesday.
Ahead of that announcement, Biden made a public in-person appearance with one of the women being vetted, California Rep. Karen Bass. The two were spotted in the Capitol after Biden paid his respects to late Georgia Rep. John Lewis who was lying in state. Biden even joked with NBC News correspondent Mike Memoli that he asked her to be his running mate "and she said no."
Here’s how some women up for the job spent their potential last week of vetting:
Rep. Karen Bass: Aside from her impromptu meeting with Biden in the Capitol, Bass spent the early part of this week cleaning up a part of her record: Comments she made about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro after his death. In 2016, Bass published a statement on Castro’s death, saying, “The passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.”
On Sunday, Bass said on MSNBC that she wouldn’t use those same words today.
“I have talked to my colleagues in the House about that and it's certainly something I would not say again,” Bass said.
She added, “I certainly understand the sensitivity, and to me saying that, the understanding that the translation in Spanish communicated something completely different. Lesson learned.”
Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator reportedly drew ire from former Sen. Chris Dodd — a member of Biden’s V.P.-search committee. According to a POLITICO report, Dodd felt Harris has shown “no remorse” for her and Biden’s first debate altercation during the Democratic primary.
While Biden has said repeatedly that he has moved on from the incident, and that he doesn’t hold a grudge against Harris, the event could be what keeps Harris from getting the VP nod.
But Biden’s campaign manager may have put some of those rumors that there’s bad blood between Biden and Harris to rest. When attacks over Harris’ ambitiousness came out this week, Jen O’Malley Dillon tweeted:
Susan Rice: Rice’s veep stock has consistently risen over the last few weeks. But her lack of campaigning experience coupled with never holding elected office could be a strain on her chances of being picked.
During an interview on MSNBC last weekend, though, Rice said her other strengths would outweigh her lack of miles on the trail.
“I have not run for elective office, even though I've worked on behalf of others on three presidential campaigns and I feel like I've run on other people's behalf. But my comparative strength,” Rice said, “is my many years of service at the high levels of the executive branch. I know how to make government work and produce results that will be beneficial for the American people.”
Of course, a Rice choice could reignite the Benghazi investigation for Republicans — Rice served as former President Obama’s National Security Adviser during the crisis.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth: The Iraq veteran and Illinois senator has also seen a boost in her national name recognition over the last few weeks of the veepstakes. And on Thursday, she made headlines when she confirmed that she has been interviewed for the V.P. slot by the Biden camp.
“I have been interviewed, yes,” she said during a live interview with The Washington Post. “I'm on Team Biden and it really doesn't matter what position I play as long as we get Joe Biden elected.”
While Duckworth described the interview as “positive,” she wouldn’t go into much more detail, declining to say whether she’s had a private conversation with the presumptive Democratic nominee.
But on Wednesday when the Democratic National Convention schedule was released, the Illinois senator was listed as a convention co-chair — a title that could signal she’s no longer a veep contender, though NBC News has not confirmed that.
As a veep pick nears, Republican groups are starting to weigh in on how they could attack the Biden campaign’s choice. The Committee to Defend the President, a Republican group that supports President Trump, released a new ad on Friday attacking Biden for not picking a Latina as his V.P.
Of course, Biden hasn’t made his choice yet, and while the ad says Biden “promised” to pick a Black woman it should be noted that Biden only promised to pick a female candidate and has said there are at least four Black women on his short list. Other women of color have also been in talks with the Biden campaign like Duckworth and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Check out the political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Everytown for Gun Safety launches $2 million ad campaign
Two political action committees under the Everytown for Gun Safety umbrella announced a $2 million ad campaign on Thursday targeting Latino voters. The new campaign marks the one-year anniversary of the El Paso shooting when 20 people were killed by a shooter.
The bilingual digital and TV ads will air in 2020 battleground states and media markets like Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach in Florida, Maricopa County in Arizona and El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston in Texas.
The group also rolled out its first digital ad on Thursday. Entitled, "We have not forgotten", is playing statewide in Texas and was a five-figure spend for Everytown. It focuses on the lack of gun control action taken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. The English version of the ad can be found here.
Alongside its paid media campaign, Everytown released a new poll conducted by Equis Research and Global Strategy Group of registered Latino voters to show how gun control has become a key issue to Latino voters.
“The one-year milestone of the mass shooting in El Paso is a tragic reminder of the toll gun violence takes on the Latino community," president of Everytown John Feinblatt said in a statement.
He added, “It should come as no surprise that Latino voters are fed up with lawmakers who refuse to take action, and are planning to vote for candidates who will make keeping their families safe from gun violence a top priority.”
The poll shows that 66 percent of Latino vo