The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Majority of Americans don't expect to know presidential winner on Election Day
WASHINGTON — A week out from Election Day, a majority of American adults don't expect to know who will win the presidential race on Nov. 3, according to new data from the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.
Sixty-eight percent of adults said they don't expect to know if President Trump or Joe Biden won the election on election night, but there's a split in how long people will think it will take to find out. Thirty-eight percent said they expect to know within a few days, 19 percent said within a few weeks and 11 percent said they expect it to take longer than a few weeks.
Thirty percent of Americans said they still expect to know who won the contest on Nov. 3.
The data comes as a record number of votes have already been cast in this election either by mail-in ballots or early voting in-person. According to NBC News Decision Desk and Target Smart data, 62 million voters have cast their ballot early. The total early vote in 2016 was 50 million.
In the NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll, 38 percent of adults said they have already voted. Another 42 percent said it is "absolutely certain" that they will vote. Just eight percent of adults said they will not vote. A majority of adults who reported that they already voted were Democrats or Democratic-leaners. Fifty-two percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic said they already voted, while 31 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said the same. Nineteen percent of independents said they already voted.
A stark 69 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said they voted by mail and 30 percent said they voted early in-person. Comparatively, 52 percent of Republican and Republican-leaners said they voted by mail and 47 percent said they voted early in person. Sixty-eight percent of independents said they mailed in their ballot while 31 percent said they went to the polls in person.
The amount of mail-in ballots could be the reason a winner is not declared on election night. In several key states to both Biden and Trump's win, like Pennsylvania, early ballots cannot be counted until Election Day. Other swing states though, like Florida, expect to have results on Nov. 3 because they begin counting ballots early.
Both sides ramp up ground games in suddenly battleground state of Texas
HOUSTON — With just a week to go until Election Day both Democrat and Republican groups are on the ground in Texas working to turn-out last-minute voters.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC has invested $1 million in the state, in an effort to turn out voters in areas where there hasn’t been a robust GOP voter outreach effort.
“We are trying to reach low propensity voters, Republicans who haven’t always gone out to vote,” Gabriela Hernandez, a project manager for the group told NBC News. The organization’s strategy is to talk to voters about local issues and congressional races in hopes that they will turn out to help Republican candidates win up and down the ballot. “Everyone knows how close it can be,” Hernandez said. “So these efforts right now hitting just these 1,000 doors can really make a difference.”
Meanwhile Democratic groups like the Texas Organizing Project are also barnstorming the state alongside Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. They’re focused on galvanizing Black and Latino voters who are registered to vote, but haven’t done so historically. The goal: to turn Texas, a historically red state, blue.
“It’s going to pay off on November third because guess what, we’re going to flip Texas,” Texas Organizing Project Deputy Director Brianna Brown, told NBC News.
And O’Rourke says a win for Democrats in Texas could have implications far beyond just the presidential race.
“[Texas] is the state that could put Joe Biden over the top on election night, help us win a Democratic majority in the statehouse and help control — help flip control of the us senate.”
More than 7.1 million Texas voters have already cast ballots, more than any other state in the country. The latest polls show Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in a dead heat in the Lone Star State.
Democrats hold big edge in Spanish-language TV and radio spending up and down ballot
WASHINGTON — Much has been made about the significant ad spending advantage enjoyed by Democrats this cycle, but the trend extends to Spanish-language ads too, up and down the ballot.
Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign has spent $17.3 million on Spanish-language television and radio ads, compared to the Trump campaign's $8.3 million through Sunday, according to Advertising Analytics.
And that margin is even bigger when outside groups are taken into consideration — overall, Democratic groups have spent $51.6 million on Spanish-language presidential TV and radio ads to the GOP's $9.8 million, per Advertising Analytics.
Both presidential campaigns are embarking on similar Spanish-language strategies on the TV airwaves, at least at the broad level — a mix of ads that evoke their central campaign themes, along with specific messages targeting the Hispanic community.
For example, many of Trump's Spanish ads evoke his rhetoric on the economy (he regularly boasts about how minority unemployment dropped during his campaign, before the coronavirus pandemic), with people praising the Trump economy. But he also is making explicit arguments to Spanish-speakers by trying to argue that the nation under Biden would resemble the socialist/communist regimes in Latin and South American countries.
Biden's embarking on a similar combination of translating his general campaign message into Spanish, but also running spots targeted specifically on issues the campaign thinks will resonate with Spanish-speakers. Their spots include the sweeping calls for a new direction in America that's become a central message of his campaign, as well as testimonial ads from Spanish speakers criticizing Trump's economic record and coronavirus response.
The Spanish-language ad advantage can be seen down-ballot too. In Senate races, Democrats have spent $16.1 million on Spanish-language TV and radio ads to the GOP's $1.7 million.
And in House races, Democrats have spent $11.6 million on Spanish-language ads to the GOP's $3.8 million, per Advertising Analytics.
Biden spokesperson on campaign travel: We're trying to keep communities safe
WASHINGTON — A top aide to Joe Biden’s presidential bid defended the campaign’s in-person event schedule as compared to President Donald Trump’s more robust travel during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the Democrat is pushing forward “aggressively” while still keeping communities safe.
Trump has personally visited North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania a combined 19 times since Sept. 1, compared to Biden’s 14 in-person visits to those states.
And it’s not just the candidates — the Biden campaign resumed its door-to-door battleground state canvassing in October after the pandemic shifted the campaign largely to virtual organizing. By comparison, the Trump re-election effort re-started its in-person canvassing months earlier.
When asked about the campaign’s strategy regarding in-person events, deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said that Biden’s schedule represents a balance.
“We are campaigning incredibly hard. Vice President Biden has visited all of these battleground states multiple times. He was in Pennsylvania yesterday,” she said
“We have been very aggressively campaigning, but here’s the difference between what we are doing and what Donald Trump is doing: We’re doing it safely. We’re taking into account the safety of these communities that we’re visiting.”
Bedingfield pointed to reports linking Trump’s rallies to Covid-19 cases — some Trump rally attendees have subsequently become diagnosed with the virus, most notably in Minnesota and Oklahoma, although it’s unclear where they were first exposed.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, there has also been one case connected to a Biden campaign stop in the state.
Trump campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski told "Meet the Press" Sunday that the president is focusing on his closing argument.
“The president’s message should be, and continues to be, the promises that he’s made and the promises that he’s kept,” Lewandowski.
“Whether you care about Middle East peace, which he’s been able to do, rebuilding our military or building the strongest economy,” he added, “that’s the closing message. The closing message is: We have an opportunity to set our country forth in the next four years for a path we’ve been on the last four years.”
With just nine days to go before Election Day, Biden is heading to Georgia in what Bedingfield called an attempt to “shore up “as many paths to 270 electoral votes as we possibly can,” including one through a state that hasn’t backed the Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.
“We believe that we are seeing energy all across the country for Joe Biden and against Donald Trump,” she said.
Trump hasn't met with coronavirus task force in months, not expected to before election
President Donald Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in months and is not expected to do so in the final days before the election, according to an administration official.
Although nationwide Covid-19 infections reached a new high on Thursday, the president has decided to focus on his re-election campaign and continue a rigorous rally schedule in the closing stretch. It comes as Trump continues to promise the virus will “go away” and claim “we’re rounding the corner,” despite data to the contrary.
The president has delegated most of the current task force work to Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the group and leads its discussions. Those meetings used to be more frequent in the earlier months of the health crisis but have since become less regular with the 2020 race taking priority for the White House.
The director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said recently it has been “quite some time” since the president met with the group of agency heads navigating the pandemic.
“Obviously it's a bit of a chaotic time with the election,” Collins told NPR. “There's not a direct connection between the task force members and the president as there was a few months ago. But this seems to be a different time with different priorities.”
Instead, Trump is “routinely briefed” on the team’s findings and recommendations by Pence, according to press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Notably, Trump is also being closely advised on the pandemic by Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases. He was brought on to the task force in August, after the president saw his appearances on Fox News and appreciated that Atlas’ controversial views on the coronavirus more closely aligned with his desire to reopen states and schools.
Atlas has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of masks and Twitter recently flagged one of his messages for violating its misinformation policy.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID director, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force response coordinator, have not appeared alongside the president in months. They were a near-constant presence in the briefing room earlier this year, before a shift in strategy that sent Birx on the road to push the administration’s message and left Fauci to do media interviews from beyond the White House grounds.
NBC’s Kristen Welker pressed the president at the final debate in Nashville on what health experts he is actually listening to, if he considers Fauci to be a “disaster” and other scientists to be “idiots.” Trump responded: “I’m listening to all of them.”
Trump campaign goes for kitchen-sink approach in new Spanish-language ad
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's campaign is out with a new Spanish-language ad that throws the kitchen sink at former Vice President Joe Biden in the hopes of diminishing him among Florida's diverse Hispanic community.
For Cuban voters, there’s a photo of Biden kneeling superimposed in front of a flag of Che Guevara and the ad also accuses him of betraying Nicaraguans, abandoning the Venezuelans, and being the candidate of Castro-Chavistas. The spot ends with Trump declaring “America will never be a socialist country.”
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign recently started running testimonial spots of Spanish-speaking individuals telling their own stories — combatting the socialist charge against Biden, attacking Trump on Puerto Rican hurricane recovery and the coronavirus, and criticizing Trump's hydroxychloroquine push.
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.