Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.
For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.
Graham denies Georgia Sec. State charge he inquired about tossing ballots
WASHINGTON — South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham denied that he asked the Georgia secretary of state about throwing out mail-in votes in certain Georgia counties, an allegation made by Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger earlier this week.
Graham told NBC News the allegation was "ridiculous" and said that he called Raffensperger, a top election official in a state Graham doesn't represent, because "the future of the country hangs in the balance." He added he’s spoken to Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey as well as “people in Nevada.”
"That's ridiculous. I talked to him about how you verify signatures. Right now a single person verifies signatures and I suggested as you go forward can you change it to make sure that a bipartisan team verifies signatures and if there is a dispute, come up with an appeals process," Graham said.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, Raffensperger sad that Graham had inquired as to whether the election official could toss ballots in counties that had higher-than average rates of ballot signatures that didn’t match the voter signature on file. He told the paper it seemed that Graham was suggesting throwing out legal ballots.
Raffensperger doubled down on the accusation in an interview on "CBS This Morning."
"Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes and then throw out the ballots for counties who had the highest frequency error of signatures," he said.
And in an interview with NBC News, he criticized Republicans for making "bold-faced lies" as they seek to discredit the results of the state's presidential election and said he agreed that former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be the president-elect.
—Garrett Haake, Josh Lederman and Julia Jester contributed.
Small businesses are suffering from the pandemic amid stalemate on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON — Amid an ongoing explosion of Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths, it’s important to remember that some of the damage of the coronavirus is entirely self-inflicted.
For six months, the White House and leaders of both parties in Congress have failed to reach an agreement on more emergency relief, with each side holding out at various points for a better deal. The political calendar has made things harder — Democrats assumed their leverage would increase post-election with a Biden win, Republicans now have a stronger hand with down-ballot victories — as well as Trump’s chaotic approach.
There’s a severe human cost to the failure to pass even a nominal emergency package, however, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent in American neighborhoods where beloved small businesses are going bankrupt waiting for relief from Washington.
NBC News viewers submitted over a hundred names of their favorite local establishments that had gone under recently, including beloved barbershop in New York City to a quirky boutique in Lincoln, Nebraska, and their owners were acutely aware that of the congressional inaction.
“I just sort of saw the writing on the wall, that we weren't going to get any money in the near future,” said Jason Rudofky, who closed his family's Jewish deli in Denver, Zaidy’s, after 35 years. “They cared more about the election and they don't realize what’s happening in America.”
These dilemmas are also exacerbated by the ongoing lack of aid for jobless Americans, whose emergency unemployment benefits expired months ago, for school districts waiting for long-promised funding to help them function in extreme circumstances, and for health care workers trying to fight the pandemic and prepare for vaccination programs. And because state and local governments can’t deficit-spend the way the federal government does, only Washington can fill in the gaps.
“If we're going to control this virus out in our communities right now, we're going to have to support those who are going to be suffering economically,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, said on Meet The Press. “You know, you have a choice: do you want to have schools open, or do you want to keep bars and restaurants open?"
Biden transition boasts majority-female staff, 40 percent people of color
WILMINGTON, Del. — Women make up the majority of staffers on President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, and people of color are more than 40 percent of the total transition workforce, according to new diversity data obtained by NBC News from the transition.
Biden has promised that his administration will “look like America,” as well as the broad coalition of voters who boosted him into the White House. The diversity data released Sunday shows similar levels of gender parity and racial diversity on his transition staff as he had on his presidential campaign staff. And it comes as speculation ramps up about Biden’s Cabinet picks and staffing decisions throughout the administration.
More than half — 52 percent — of Biden’s transition staff are women, with 53 percent of senior staff identifying as female. And the transition's advisory board is also majority female.
Five of the thirteen members of Biden's recently-announced COVID task force of public health experts and doctors are women.
People of color make up 41 percent of transition senior staff, and 46 percent of transition staff overall. They’re also 43 percent of the transition advisory board and nearly 70 percent of the 13 person COVID task force.
The data comes as Biden has promised his administration will reflect the nation's diversity — “from the vice president straight down through Cabinet members to major players within the White House, and the court,” as Biden has said.
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris made history upon winning the election, becoming America’s first woman, first Black, and first South Asian person elected to that office.
Iowa Democratic House candidate calls for recount as she trails by razor-thin margin
WASHINGTON — Iowa Democrat Rita Hart announced Thursday her campaign would seek a "complete recount" of Iowa's 2nd Congressional District race as results show her narrowly trailing Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
The Iowa Secretary of State's unofficial results show Miller-Meeks ahead by just 47 votes (NBC's Decision Desk has the race at virtually the same margin). The Hart campaign pointed to two reporting errors (which local counties and the Secretary of State caught and are fixing) as part of its reasoning to request the broader recount.
On Monday, Miller-Meeks issued her own statement after counties certified their count, a count that left her narrowly ahead (the state doesn't officially certify until the end of the month).
If the result holds through the recount, Iowa's 2nd District would be yet another Republican flip in a seat previously held by the Democrats (Rep. Dave Loebsack chose not to run for re-election in 2020). Democrats outspent Republicans on the TV and radio airwaves there, $10.3 million to $8.2 million, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
Big money rolling into Georgia ahead of marquee Senate battle
WASHINGTON — Georgia Senate hopefuls have already begun booking millions of dollars on the television airwaves ahead of the likely two runoffs there in early January that could decide the balance of power of the Senate.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock are slated for a runoff after neither cleared the 50 percent threshold needed on Election Day to win the race outright.
And in the state's other race, GOP Sen. David Perdue sits at just 49.7 percent to Democrat Jon Ossoff's 48 percent. While NBC News' Decision Desk hasn't yet called the race, the Associated Press and other media outlets have projected it will head to a runoff.
As of Wednesday, Warnock has $2.6 million booked on the airwaves for the runoff, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. Loeffler just started booking TV time on Wednesday — about $200,000 with more expected.
In the other race, Perdue has already booked a whopping $10.6 million to Ossoff's $1.6 million.
TV spending is not the be-all, end-all — Democrats (or in the case of Alaska, the independent candidate backed by Democrats and his allies) outspent Republicans in Senate races this cycle in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, winning just two of those races.
In Georgia, Republicans significantly outspent Democrats in the race for Loeffler's seat (that race included two high-profile GOP candidates), while Democrats narrowly outspent Republicans in the Perdue race.
But with more money set to flood the race with the battle of the Senate up for grabs (and Loeffler potentially able to help fund her campaign with millions of her own, like she did in the primary), the runoff (or runoffs, if Perdue falls short of 50 percent) are already shaping up to be quite expensive.
Newsom in no rush to choose Kamala Harris' Senate successor
NEW YORK — With Kamala Harris’s ascension to the vice presidency on Jan. 20, a coveted California Senate seat is about to open up. And that means all eyes are on the state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, who will choose Harris’ successor.
But don’t expect an answer anytime soon.
The timeline to choose a replacement for Harris is “truly fuzzy,” according to one California Democrat with knowledge of Newsom’s thinking. The fact that there is no rush to name a candidate ahead of Jan. 20, along with Newsom’s inclination to be a “careful process person” as this person calls him, means that a decision could take some time.
Newsom also wouldn't entertain much serious talk about naming a replacement for Harris prior to the election, this person added.
And he bristled a bit Monday when asked by reporters about a timeline, saying the surging coronavirus pandemic in the state was his major concern.
“My weekend was not focused on that. It was focused on seeing these new case rates go up,” Newsom said.
But even as he takes his time weighing his options, Newsom is facing considerable pressure from competing interest groups about who to select.
Many Latino activists are pressing Newsom to choose the state’s first Latino senator. Names under consideration are California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office has tangled frequently with the Trump administration, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, former California Senate president Kevin De Leon, who challenged Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2018, Long Beach, Calif. Mayor Robert Garcia. Garcia would be the first openly gay senator from California, and he’s become a visible activist around efforts to contain Covid-19 after losing his mother and stepfather to the virus earlier this year.
Newsom may also want to replace Harris with another woman, particularly a woman of color. Some of those under consideration include Rep. Karen Bass, whom Biden considered for vice president, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Rep. Barbara Lee and State Controller Betty Yee. Rep. Katie Porter, a progressive favorite and proven fundraiser, may be considered as well.
The California Democrat with knowledge of the process said Newsom has not yet spoken to Harris about who she’d like to see succeed her.
Newsom is also weighing whether to name a placeholder to fill the seat, leaving others to mount a full-blown campaign in 2022 when Harris would have faced re-election. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown would likely be under consideration in that case.
Rick Scott to lead GOP Senate campaign arm, as parties elect their leaders
WASHINGTON — While the battle for Senate control remains underway, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer were re-elected unanimously by acclimation to their posts by their respective caucuses on Tuesday.
Republicans kept their party heads the same, re-electing McConnell, Republican Whip South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Conference Chair Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, Policy Committee Chair Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and Conference Vice Chair Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott replaced Indiana Sen. Todd Young as the next National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair — the campaign arm for Senate Republicans.
“It’s a hard job — I'm going to take it very seriously. I know the job is to make sure we have a Republican majority in the Senate. First, we've got to go win in Georgia and we're going to win in Georgia,” Scott told reporters on Tuesday.
On the Democratic side, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto were added to Democratic leadership positions on the larger team that includes Schumer, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
While Democrats only picked up two Senate seats in the 2020 election cycle so far, senators said the caucus still has faith in Schumer's leadership.
“I know [Schumer] has that personality that can sit down and work with anybody,” Manchin told NBC News. “But as people have pushed him one way or the other, that sometimes gets you off track.”
Republicans overperforming in House races with more still to be called
WASHINGTON — It's clear the blue wave many Democrats had been hoping for never materialized, and with more than a dozen House races still left uncalled by the NBC News Decision Desk, that has implications for Democratic control of the House.
Heading into the election, Democrats held 235 seats in Congress, compared to 199 for the GOP. And while the party was fresh off a strong 2018 midterm election where it made gains deep into Republican-leaning districts and netted 39 seats, most analysts expected the Democrats to expand their majority.
But with NBC's Decision Desk having called all but 17 House races, Republicans so far have net five seats. And all of the GOP candidates who flipped seats so far are either women or people of color.
Of the 19 NBC-called races characterized before the election by the Cook Political Report as toss-ups, Republicans is projected to win all of them and flipped four seats in the process (IA-01, MN-07, NM-02 and OK-05).
The GOP also swept all 14 of Cook's "lean Republican" seats and is projected to win three seats rated as "lean Democratic" (FL-26, SC-01, and TX-23).
Republicans appear to have picked off one "likely Democratic" seat held by Florida Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala. The GOP was also able to hold all "likely Republican" seats.
Democrats, by comparison, haven't won any "toss-up" districts so far. They are projected to flip two GOP seats in North Carolina rated "likely Democratic," and hold the majority of the seats in which they were favored.
Since several races haven't been called, the landscape is likely to change. A historic amount of mail-in ballots is drawing out the vote tabulation process across the country — in several states, Democrats have outperformed Republicans with those mail-in ballots.
And the majority of "toss-up" seats this year – 17 of 26 – were seats where Republicans were on defense (plus another held by retiring Rep. Justin Amash, who was a Republican before leaving the party this year).
But even though Democrats may go on to win some of those toss-up districts, Republicans are poised to gain seats in a year they were expected to lose seats. And that reality could have an impact on the Democratic majority's governing power, as well as the midterm math in 2022.
Georgia ad wars: The only game in town
WASHINGTON — After an election that spanned dozens of battleground races up and down the ballot, there's now only one game in town, Georgia.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed earlier this year to replace GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, will face off against Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate.
While NBC News has not yet projected a winner in Georgia's other seat — a clash between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff — a runoff there is a serious possibility too, although it's currently too close to call. (Both races were so-called "jungle primaries," which pit all candidates, regardless of party, against each other on Nov. 3. The top two candidates in each race move onto a runoff unless one wins a majority of the vote).
Tens of millions of dollars expected to flood the Peach State in the next eight weeks, with the Senate majority likely hanging in the balance. Here's a look at some of the top ads from each candidate, including new spots hitting the airwaves ahead of the Jan. 5, 2021 runoff.
Georgia Special Senate Runoff — Loeffler v. Warnock
This is the matchup that's already set in stone, and one where the dynamics are about to change, fast.
Loeffler had to jockey for Republican voters with Georgia GOP Rep. Doug Collins, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump's in the House who played a key role in the impeachment hearings. So to counter that, Loeffler hugged Trump tight and repeatedly touted her conservative credentials, to the point that her campaign ultimately turned to humor to prosecute the point.
Outside of her attacks on Collins, Loeffler ads included: an endorsement from Trump supporter and Georgia football legend Herschel Walker, many spots touting her support of Trump and his agenda, and even spots about how she's "more conservative than Attila the Hun."
Warnock, on the other hand, faced no serious Democratic competition and had more room to run.
In his top spots, he ran a voter education effort letting them know that the alphabetized ballot placed him all the way at the bottom, testimonials from Georgians telling the story of his biography and touting him as an everyman, an endorsement from former President Barack Obama and a spot where he backed expanding Medicaid in the state.
Locked in that fight for the conservative base, Republicans allowed Warnock to skate through the primary without facing negative ads. Expect that to change soon. But in the meantime, Warnock is making light of the attacks to come, arguing he's "staying focused" on his message instead of the attacks.
(The possible) Georgia Senate Runoff — Perdue v. Ossoff
While the Associated Press has projected this race will need a runoff, NBC News' Decision Desk still sees it as "too close to call," with Perdue's 49.7 percent just shy of the majority he needs to avoid a runoff.
If that race moves to a runoff, you'll likely see much of the same trends on the airwaves as over the past few months.
The Democrat has already hit the ground running with new ad buys ahead of the likely runoff, and a new spot about his "path to recovery" from the virus. But the Republican hasn't hit the airwaves yet, with the fate of his election still uncertain.
Biden to reach out to state and local officials on mask mandates
President-elect Joe Biden in the coming days will begin calling governors and the mayors of major cities from both parties to encourage them to institute mask mandates as the coronavirus pandemic enters a potentially deadlier phase with winter arriving, according to a senior Biden adviser who briefed NBC News.
"If a governor declines, he'll go to the mayors in the state and ask them to lead," the official said. "In many states, there is the capacity of mayors to institute mandates." Roughly 20 states already have mask mandates, and research suggests that universal use of masks could save more than 100,000 lives.
The conversations follow on Biden's plans to announce the names of scientists and other experts on his coronavirus task force Monday.
The Biden team is also looking at a possible mask mandate for federal buildings, a step the Trump administration has not taken even after the president and a number of his top officials and aides, most recently chief of staff Mark Meadows, have become infected.
The next step, according to the adviser, is to assemble a national testing plan. Biden is directing his team to devise a series of options for both legislation and executive orders to institute a testing plan, given the uncertainty around whether Democrats will be able to get legislation passed.
In late October, Biden laid out a plan to tackle the coronavirus that included testing, contact tracing and vaccines as areas that would be prioritized, while the Biden transition aims to quickly announce picks to run the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One issue is whether Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act to quickly distribute vaccines.
President Donald Trump notably rebuffed calls by the American Medical Association, among other health groups, to invoke the 1950s-era act, which would have directed U.S. manufacturers to quickly distribute medical supplies to hospitals during the virus's first major surge in the spring.
With the holidays approaching and significant concern among public health officials that indoor gatherings among family members could lead to Covid-19 spread, Biden will use his platform to "fill the void" left by the administration in stressing the need for social distancing and mask-wearing, said the official.
"Daily cases are skyrocketing," Biden said during remarks Friday evening in Wilmington, Del., just before the election was called. "I want everyone — everyone — to know on Day 1, we're going to put our plan to control this virus into action."
A Biden spokesperson said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the coronavirus task force will be led by Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general, and Dr. David Kessler, who led the FDA during the 1990s.
Clyburn jokes Biden 'owes me' — for interrupting golf outing
At the moment Joe Biden was projected as the president-elect, the man whose critical endorsement put him in position for victory was “on the 14th tee box” on a golf course in South Carolina. But aides implored him to interrupt his round once the result came in.
“It was one of the best rounds moneywise I’ve had all year!” Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., joked in an interview with NBC News, saying he was ahead $30 in his round with some friends. “So when I see Joe, I’m going to let him know he owes me some money.”
The South Carolina congressman said he hasn’t spoken yet with Biden, but expects he will soon. They last spoke on election night, when Biden was “in a cautious mood” — unsure yet if he would be able to overcome the early leads President Trump posted in key states like Pennsylvania. “There was some apprehension there,” he said.
But Clyburn said he was elated now at Biden’s victory and eager to get to work with him.
“He gave my kind of speech last night, so I don’t need to tell him anything,” he said. “What he said was pitch perfect.”
Clyburn said he would listen to any entreaties to join the administration but that it wasn't his preference. “I would never say never. But I will say this: I do not aspire to be in the administration.”
White House coronavirus task force has not formally met since Oct. 20
WASHINGTON — Despite an escalating pandemic, there has not been a formal White House coronavirus task force meeting since October 20, according to an administration official. Since then, the United States has repeatedly broken records for daily new infections, with more than 120,000 confirmed Thursday, eclipsing Wednesday’s previous single-day high by more than 15,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Some members of the task force have continued to meet in smaller groups in the last few weeks, with Dr. Anthony Fauci participating in one in-person on Friday, per this official, but the larger team hasn’t met since two weeks before Election Day. It’s unclear when they will meet next.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the task force, last spoke at a briefing on July 23. Dr. Fauci hasn’t spoken at one since June but he did appear with the president at a Red Cross roundtable on July 30. It’s notable that Birx and Fauci both continue to do local and national media interviews but they no long appear from the White House with any regularity or as they once did.
By contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris have received various coronavirus briefings from their public health experts in that time, including one as recently as Thursday. The Democratic ticket has had regular virtual meetings with their panel of advisers, mostly privately, but at times showcased publicly to drive the message they believe they are taking the crisis more seriously.
Vice President Mike Pence, the chair of the group, hasn’t had anything on his public schedule in several days. NBC News reached out to his office for comment and has yet to hear back.
The last time we saw Pence in public was at the president’s side in the early morning hours of Wednesday during President Trump’s East Room remarks. Pence was notably not in the briefing room for the president’s false claims of voter fraud and election results Thursday evening.
Trump, for his part, has not attended a task force meeting in many months and continues to be updated by Dr. Scott Atlas, a controversial neuroradiologist who does not have a background in infectious diseases.
Republicans confident in winning N.C. in presidential and Senate races
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republicans in this still-undecided state said Thursday they are confident that President Donald Trump and Sen. Thom Tillis will win re-election after all the outstanding ballots are counted and processed.
“We know that Donald Trump carried North Carolina,” Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said at a news conference Thursday evening.
The North Carolina State board of Elections says that as many as 157,000 potential ballots still need to be tabulated but won’t be reported out until November 12.
Still, the North Carolina Republican Party criticized the board “for their refusal to acknowledge” that Trump has won.
“The reason that they're not being transparent is to be sure that they keep North Carolina in the undecided column for their national press and their national narratives,” Whatley said.
Trump currently leads former Vice President Joe Biden by more than 76,000 votes. Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is leading Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham by 98,000 votes.
The vote totals won’t change much until the county boards of election meet on November 12 and 13 to certify as many as 116,000 absentee ballots and as many as 41,000 provisional ballots.
The Cunningham campaign is also signaling that they are not confident that there are enough outstanding votes to change the outcome.
Cunningham campaign manager Devan Barber said “we plan to allow the process to be carried out so every voter can have their voice heard.”
Cunningham’s top political strategist Morgan Jackson was more direct. In an interview on the “Tying it Together with Tim Boyum” podcast, Jackson said that “President trump certainly has a lead now there are still ballots out to be counted and we’ll see what that looks like at the end of the day but it looks like he may have won North Carolina. Same with Senate race. Looks like Thom Tillis was re-elected at this point.”
Tillis political strategist, Paul Shumaker, said he, too, is confident that Tillis and Trump will win. He said he told Tillis that he expects Tillis’ lead over Cunningham to increase by as many as 2500 votes after all the votes are counted.
He credits Tillis and Trump’s likely win to a lack of Democratic in-person get out the vote effort, noting that black turnout decreased by nearly three points compared to 2016.
“The Democrats’ strategy for ground game was the same as their campaign strategy: to stay at home and talk on the phone. It didn’t turn their base out,” Shumaker said.
He said the Republican National Committee found low-propensity voters who didn’t vote in 2016 and 2018. Of those, Shumaker said, thirty percent of those people voted early. “That was the benefit of the ground game and personal touches,” he said.
Trump's Florida victory powered in part by Miami overperformance
WASHINGTON — A huge story early last night was former Vice President Joe Biden’s swing-and-a-miss in Miami-Dade County, Florida — which he appears to have won by only about 7 points compared with Hillary Clinton’s 30-point romp four years ago.
That collapse was enough to negate Biden’s improvement over Clinton in other swing counties like Pinellas and Seminole.
But there’s another wrinkle: While Biden lost big, it wasn’t because he missed Democrats’ mark in the state dramatically when it comes to votes.
At this hour, Biden has received about 617,000 votes in the county. That’s not too far below Clinton’s 624,000.
The difference? President Donald Trump piled nearly 200,000 additional votes onto his 2016 tally.
In 2016, Trump got about 334,000 votes in the county. That’s compared with 532,000 to date this cycle.
Despite record-breaking fundraising, South Carolina Democrat Harrison falls short
WASHINGTON — South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison shattered fundraising records in his Senate bid against Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, but the Democrat couldn't get over the hump despite that historic fundraising.
Harrison raised more during the third fundraising quarter — $57 million — than any Senate candidate in history. Overall, he raised $109 million as of Oct. 14 and spent $105 million. By comparison, Graham raised $74 million over that time period and spent $63 million.
And the Democrat really flexed his muscles on the advertising airwaves, spending almost $64 million on TV and radio compared to Graham's $32.5 million, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
But Graham pushed hard to close that ad-spending gap in the race's final days, actually outspending Harrison on those airwaves Monday.
McConnell cruises despite facing well-funded opponent
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will return to the Senate in 2021 whether or not his party keeps control of the Senate, as NBC News projects he will defeat Democrat Amy McGrath.
McGrath gained significant national attention, a former fighter pilot who proved to be a strong fundraiser during her ill-fated 2018 House bid and an even stronger one in 2020. Through Oct. 14, she raised more than every other Senate candidate this year except for South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison.
She put that money to use, spending more than $75 million in total through Oct. 14, more than all but two other Senate candidates this cycle.
And when you look at TV and radio spending, where there’s up-to-date data, McGrath spent $22.8 million (as a part of that $75 million-plus total).
But despite all that money raised and spent, McConnell’s victory was a quick call on Tuesday night.
McConnell spent $45.5 million, with about $17 million of that coming on TV and radio.
Late-emerging super PACs play big role on airwaves for Trump, Biden
WASHINGTON — With November's presidential election shattering TV and radio ad spending records, it's worth pointing out how big of a role outside groups played, particularly in the final months of the election.
On top of the $485 million former Vice President Joe Biden spent on TV and radio ads in the general election, there's been another $364 million spent through Monday by allied outside groups (as well as the Democratic National Committee). For Trump, his $235 million was bolstered by another almost $270 million from outside groups and the Republican National Committee.
But a staggering amount of that outside spending, 80 percent, has come since Sept. 1. And the two largest outside spenders since then, one on each side, are groups that just recently sprung to life.
On the left, Future Forward has spent $109.5 million on television and radio ads since Sept. 1 (virtually all since the start of October). Here's how the group's ad spending broke down over that span:
- Pennsylvania: $27.3 million
- Michigan: $19.9 million
- National TV: $14.6 million
- Wisconsin: $9.9 million
- Florida: $9.8 million
- Nevada: $9.5 million
- Minnesota: $6.4 million
- Arizona: $5.1 million
- Texas: $3.6 million
- Georgia: $2.7 million
- Nebraska: $700,000
- Maine: $75,000
Future Forward has been integral to the pro-Biden effort's overall spending advantage in all of these states (except Georgia).
Future Forward is backed by a handful of well-known tech millionaires, including Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and former Google executive Eric Schmidt.
Then there's the GOP side, where Preserve America PAC sprung up overnight over the summer and went on to spend $90.6 million from Sept. 1:
- North Carolina: $24.7 million
- Florida: $15.1 million
- Arizona: $14.5 million
- Iowa: $11.9 million
- Georgia: $10.1 million
- Pennsylvania: $9.3 million
- Wisconsin: $4.8 million
Preserve America's spending shows its top focus has been on the red-leaning states that Trump has to defend if he wants to win re-election (with the exception of Florida, which has long been one of the most important swing states on the map). The pro-Trump effort has actually outspent team Biden in North Carolina, Iowa and Georgia, the only three swing states where that is the case.
That group has been overwhelmingly funded by GOP megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, campaign finance filings show.
Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016. Kent County could predict how he'll do in 2020.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — President Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 by just over 10,000 votes, making him the first Republican to carry the state since 1988. But despite the victory, Trump struggled in one of the Michigan's Republican strongholds of Kent County— struggles that could be a warning sign for his 2020 re-election bid.
Republican presidential candidates won Kent County in every election from 1968 until 2008, when former President Barack Obama squeaked out a victory by just 1,573 votes. But Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney recaptured the county in 2012 with a larger margin than Trump's 3-point victory.
And now, Kent County is beginning to look demographically more like a Democratic-leaning county than a Republican one. Between 2000 and 2019, the white population of the county decreased from 80.3 percent to 73.3 percent, while the Hispanic and Black populations have increased by nearly 4 points (7.0 percent to 10.8 percent) and close to 2 points (8.7 percent to 10.6 percent), respectively.
The county's population has also become more affluent and more educated. Between 2010 and 2018, the percentage of people 25 years old or older in the county with have bachelor’s degrees has risen from 29.9 percent to 35.2 percent. And the median household income has risen by nearly $11,000 based on five-year estimates from 2004-2010 and 2014-2018. To put that into perspective, the United States as a whole saw a closer to $8,000 increase in the same time frame.
Brian Ellis, president of Brooktree Capital Management and a lifelong Grand Rapids, Mich. resident says that those changes have had noticeable impacts. Ellis also challenged Rep. Justin Amash in the GOP primary in 2014.
“I would say growing up I would call [the county] staunch conservative. I would say we’ve moved to the conservative, or ‘moderate minus’", Ellis said.
Part of the uncertainty surrounding how this county will vote on Election Day comes from polling being largely done by the Republican and Democratic parties. But there is a chance that one seat in the county – Amash's — turns blue for the first time since 1993. The Cook Political Report has the race now listed as a toss-up. Amash is not running for re-election.
And that "toss-up" description speaks to the county as a whole. Cindy Timmerman, a west Michigan voter and describes herself as a "repulsed Republican."
“The pendulum has swung so far to the right, and the push back is so far to the left, and the truth is somewhere in between," Timmerman said.
While Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has led in several polls in Michigan, it's a state that Trump will likely need to carry to reclaim the presidency. And Kent County's vote could give insight into how some moderate Republicans choose to vote.
GOP senators try to narrow TV and radio spending gap ahead of Election Day
WASHINGTON — In the week before Election Day, Senate Republican candidates have tried to narrow the spending gap in TV and radio ads compared to the Democratic rivals.
According to data from Advertising Analytics, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner have narrowed their gap between their spending and their respective Democratic challengers. But aside from Collins surpassing her challenger one day this week, the candidates have not been able to sustain any upper hand in TV and radio buys.
On Tuesday, one week before Election Day, Collins spent over $50,000 less than Democratic challenger Sara Gideon on her TV and radio buys. But in the last two days, Collins was able to outspend Gideon on Thursday — by over $40,000, and then spend just $38,000 less than Gideon on Thursday. Thanks to the help of Republican party efforts, Collins' total spending effort came close to tying Gideon's on Wednesday and Thursday. And the change is notable: Collins recorded her highest single day of spending on Monday, and then beat that by her identical high $200,000 spends on Wednesday and Thursday.
It's an even better story for Graham. Graham has struggled to raise the same amount of money as his challenger, Jaime Harrison, throughout the entire general election. And Harrison has spent more money than Graham on TV and radio ads every day since at least Labor Day. But in the week that started with supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation vote, Graham has gotten closer. By week's end, Graham nearly matched Harrison's Thursday buy — and with the help of Republican groups, Graham's total effort bested Harrisons by $300,000 on Thursday and by about $200,000 on Wednesday.
Of all the challenged Republicans, Cornyn's seat is still rated as a "lean Republican" by the Cook Political Report. But as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's ratings have gone up in the Lone Star state, and Democratic outside groups have started pouring money into the state, Cornyn spent more money on his TV and radio ads. While Democrat MJ Hegar outspent Cornyn every day in the week before the election, Cornyn spent nearly $200,000 more on Thursday than he did on Tuesday — proving just how competitive the state, and maybe even his seat, is getting.
While Colorado's race seems to be an easier flip for Democrats — Cook as the race as a lean Democrat, and it's on the NBC Political Unit's list of flippable seats — the total Republican spending effort has outspent Democrats every day this week and in the total general election spend. Gardner, the Republican National Committee and outside Republican groups spent nearly $1.8 million this week on TV and radio buys while Democratic challenger former Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democratic National Committee and outside groups spent around $1.4 million.
In total general election spending, the total Republican effort in Colorado is about $36.2 million, while the Democratic effort is $32.2 million. But on the candidate level, Hickenlooper has had the clear spending advantage over Gardner.
Presidential battleground TV and radio spending emphasis shifting toward Midwest
WASHINGTON — Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaigns are upping the ad-spending ante in the Midwest in the home stretch before Election Day, with significant new activity in Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio.
Team Trump (his campaign and the Republican National Committee) has increased its daily TV/radio investments in each of these states over the last few weeks, but have still trailed Biden with few exceptions, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics as of the end of Thursday.
Trump and the RNC upped their TV/Radio spending in Ohio to nearly $200,000 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Prior to then, neither GOP group had spent any significant amount in Ohio since Sept. 14. Now, the daily Republican effort is on par with the Biden campaign, which has been spending about $200,000 a day every weekday in Ohio since early October.
But the late move by the GOP is just a drop in the bucket of the overall spending there since the start of the month — Democrats have outspent Republicans $6.3 million to $610,000 from Oct. 1 through Oct. 29.
In Iowa, Biden has outspent Trump and the RNC by a factor of four since the start of October, with Trump/RNC's spending only really coming on the board in the last two weeks. In recent days, Biden's team has doubled its daily spend, going from about $200,000 a day last week to almost $400,000 on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, while Trump had been getting a big lift from outside groups, it's dwindled significantly in recent days, leaving Republicans being outspent there on the airwaves about 4-1 since Tuesday.
Team Trump (Trump+the RNC) have been closing the gap in Michigan too, even as Biden and the DNC still hold a slight spending edge. Just last week, Biden and the DNC were doubling the RNC/Trump spend (about a $600,000 disparity). But as of Thursday, the Biden/DNC advantage dropped to about $100,000.
There's also been some noteworthy activity outside of the Midwest, particularly in Georgia, where Biden keeps increasing his spending. His campaign started spending about $300,000 per day on TV/radio ad buys on Oct. 16, and has kept that pace on the weekdays until Thursday, when that daily spend jumped to more than $400,000. Trump and the RNC have increased its spending over the last two weeks up to about $200,000 a day over the last four weekdays.
Meanwhile, traditional battleground states aren't seeing the same tight spending race. Biden continues to hold a significant daily lead in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with the Trump/RNC effort not making any meaningful pushes to close those gaps in recent days.
Mike Bloomberg makes final push in FL as he hits $100M pledged investment for Biden
WASHINGTON — With five days to go until Election Day, Michael Bloomberg is making a final push to mobilize Black voters in Florida as part of the culmination of his $100 million spending pledge to help former vice president Joe Biden in the battleground state.
Bloomberg will donate an additional $600,000 to BlackPAC, helping expand the organization’s canvassing efforts in Duval and Leon counties, a Bloomberg aide exclusively told NBC News. The aide added that Bloomberg's own PAC, Independence USA, is expanding its radio buy by up to $500,000 in the final days with two new mobilization ads featuring former President Barack Obama’s recent remarks Miami and Orlando, targeting Black voters in those cities.
Bloomberg’s total Florida investment helped fund voter persuasion and mobilization efforts through canvassing programs, bilingual paid media, and direct mail campaigns targeting underrepresented voters, according to media reports, press releases and interviews with NBC.
"There is virtually no path to victory for Donald Trump without Florida, which is why Mike invested heavily in the state," Bloomberg senior adviser Kevin Sheekey told NBC.
"In these final days, we're doing everything we can to reach as many Florida voters as possible across to get them to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."
Though the Biden campaign has also been spending millions in Florida ads, Bloomberg’s contributions fueled direct voter contact too, while the candidate took a cautious approach to in-person campaigning during the pandemic.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, said the face-to-face conversations with canvassing efforts funded by Bloomberg, especially in South Florida, “create a sense of urgency” to vote — she noted more than 80,000 Black voters who did not participate in 2016 have already voted.
“Those face to face conversations are really critical and important, and it's also important that Black communities see people out mobilizing the vote, this is certainly a part of our cultural history,” she said on a press call.
And while Bloomberg’s last push is for Black voters, his investment has had a significant impact on the effort to mobilize Latino voters, in particular with his $14 million investment in Priorities USA and the Latino Victory Fund.
“We’re already seeing, especially in Florida, that we're turning out more Latinos than ever,” said Latino Victory Fund National Finance Director Daniela Fernandez.
“I think Bloomberg’s investment is key, without these funds we wouldn't have been able to run these culturally competent ads to engage our community in an effective way,” she added of the ability to effectively use his funds as “validators” of their community -- specifically, in multiple dialectics of Spanish -- and collect voter data to use for years to come.
By Election Day, Bloomberg expects to spend nearly $50 million on mixed media advertising in Florida through his own Independence USA PAC, in addition to his investments in partner organizations targeting Black voters, Latino/Hispanic voters (Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Venezuelan communities), Jewish voters, seniors and veterans.
Per NBC’s tracking, Bloomberg has spread his donations across at least 17 organizations and PACs.
Both presidential candidates will be in the Sunshine State Thursday, with Biden’s fifth trip since the Democratic National Convention and Trump’s sixth visit since the Republican National Convention.
The final NBC News/Marist poll of Florida shows Biden leading Trump 51 percent to 47 percent, within the margin of error.
Bloomberg's assist to Biden comes after his Democratic presidential primary bid, where he spent about $1 billion of his own money.
N.H. voters are used to being courted on their doorstep. Covid-19 has challenged that tradition.
WASHINGTON — Months ago, New Hampshire was the center of the political universe: its first in the nation primary on Feb. 11 drew candidates, crowds and lots of door-to-door campaigning — the kind of personal attention Granite State voters have long demanded.
But that was before the coronavirus pandemic upended life across the country and transformed the way political campaigns are conducted. It’s been a particular challenge in New Hampshire — a state whose four electoral votes could make a difference in a close general election contest. Biden has not visited the state since his fifth place finish in the primary as his campaign has largely stepped away from in-person voter contact because of Covid-19, while the president's campaign has stuck with it.
“The political science research is really pretty clear, the most effective way you can influence people is direct personal contact,” said Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire survey center.
“You have to have to play the hand you're dealt, and I think both campaigns have been dealt the same hand, I think the difference is that on the Democratic side, they've hamstrung themselves a little bit more than Trump has because the concern about COVID has been amplified,” Smith said.
The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee began building what they call the largest-ever GOP ground operation in the state in 2019. After a pause early in the pandemic, the campaign resumed door knocking in mid-June.
“This is not the crowd that comes in second, okay?” President Trump told thousands of packed supporters in Londonderry, N.H.
Trump’s New Hampshire strategists insist that New Hampshire voters' desire to personally vet candidates and their surrogates gives them a clear advantage. The campaign claims to have made more than 1.8 million direct voter contacts in New Hampshire already so far.
Corey Lewandowski, a New Hampshire resident who served as Trump’s campaign manager in 2016 said the Trump campaign's efforts go well beyond Biden's.
“You juxtapose [our efforts] with the Biden campaign, and they think that you can Zoom into an election and win. It doesn't work. New Hampshire wants to vet people face to face and Joe Biden doesn't respect that or the people in New Hampshire," Lewandowski said.
Though the Biden campaign recently gave the green light for in-person door knocking — which began in limited form in New Hampshire during a canvass kickoff on Saturday — most volunteers in the state are still opting for safer contactless literature drops. And Democrats in New Hampshire are focused on building voter protection programs to ensure ballots are counted.
In March the Democratic state party hired a voter protection director, and in June began investing in a voter assistance hotline, resource website and voter education outreach.
The state is allowing voters to cast absentee ballots amid the pandemic, and more than 200,000 residents have requested absentee ballots, up from 75,000 in 2016.
“With this year Covid being an excuse for someone to cast an absentee ballot, it really just changed the whole landscape and how Granite Staters are voting and making sure that people have that information, and also making sure that the elections are going as smoothly as they possibly can on the ground,” said Liz Wester, director of the Democrats’ coordinated campaign group.
This gamble in both resources and messaging is where Democrats say they have an edge against Republicans in the state.
“That's been a huge part of the campaign more than it has been in past years, really making sure that people's relationships and communities and networks are hearing the information directly from someone that they trust because we're not having in-person events in the same way Republicans are.” said Wester.
Smith, for his part, raised questions about the Democrats’ approach.
“I think the evidence supporting voter education, that just doesn't motivate people emotionally to get them out to polls,” he said.
Democratic Senate candidates have ad spending advantage in nearly every competitive race
WASHINGTON — Democratic Senate candidates have outspent Republicans in TV and radio ad spending in nearly every competitive Senate race, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
In Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, one Georgia seat, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas the Democratic challenger or incumbent has outspent the Republican on TV and radio ads. The only race where Republicans have outspent Democrats is the special election in Georgia which features two Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, and just one chief Democratic candidate, Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Democrats are outspending Republicans by nearly 2-to-1. The deficit in spending is tighter, though, when outside groups like the National Senate Republican Senatorial Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and PACs are factored in. Republican groups have boosted funding in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas and Kentucky so much that the combined Republican effort in those races is greater than the Democratic effort.
But in key races that could turn Senate control over to the Democrats, the Democratic candidates are dominating the airwaves.
Mark Kelly, the Democratic challenger in Arizona, has spent over $37 million on TV and radio ads in the general election — incumbent Sen. Martha McSally has spent just about $17.8 million in that same time frame. When the total Democratic and Republican efforts are added in, the Democratic effort has still spent $19.6 million more on the airwaves.
It's a similar story in Iowa. Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield has spent $29.2 million on ads while Republican Sen. Joni Ernst has spent $10.6 million. Even with outside money, the Democratic spending has over $18 million on Republican spending.
Republicans' best case to keep Senate control would be to win races currently rated as a toss-up, while flipping Alabama Sen. Doug Jones' seat.
The Cook Political Report has rated both Georgia seats, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina as toss-ups.
The Senate races in South Carolina and North Carolina have brought out the biggest spending. The total Democratic effort in South Carolina is over $66 million — the total effort to re-elect Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has been about $44.8 million. In North Carolina, the Democratic effort has topped $112 million, while incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis' total effort is about $95.7 million.
Democrats' ability to win outright control of the Senate would be netting four seats. They would also maintain control if they had a net gain of three seats and Joe Biden won the White House with would-be Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Key to that victory could be keeping Michigan's open Senate seat in Democratic hands. Sen. Gary Peters is being challenged by Republican John James, and the race has tightened over several weeks. Plus the two campaigns have spent close to the same amount on radio and TV ad buys. The total effort to re-elect Peters in the general election is about $50.3 million. The total Republican effort to elect James is $46.2 million.
Democratic presidential effort poised to outspend Republicans $93 million to $41 million in race's final days
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign is poised to be heavily outspent on TV and radio ads in the final six days ahead of Election Day.
Trump's campaign has $10.1 million booked on television and radio between Wednesday and Election Day, compared to Biden's $46.9 million, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad-tracking firm.
The president can still count on a big assist from the Republican National Committee, which is spending another $12.6 million in key swing states, and from outside groups set to spend tens of millions more.
But when all aligned outside groups are combined with the campaign's future spending, Democrats are set to outspend Republicans $93.4 million to $40.7 million on the presidential ad airwaves in the closing days.
In many states, the majority of Trump's spend is coming from a joint effort by the RNC and the Trump campaign.
Trump has just $400,000 booked between Wednesday and Election Day in Arizona, where he's counting on an assist of $2.3 million in spending from the RNC. Biden is set to spend $5.8 million on ads there in the next six days.
In Florida, Trump's campaign has just $300,000 booked over that same period, with the RNC set to spend $2.1 million on TV and radio. Yet, Biden has more than $7 million in ad bookings there through Election Day, and Democrats as a whole are set to outspend Republicans there by a factor of four.
Trump has no spending planned for Iowa, Nevada or Texas in the next six days, three states where the RNC isn't currently planning to spend more than a few hundred thousand dollars. And Trump and the RNC combined have booked $900,000 in spending in Wisconsin, compared to $3 million for Biden and the DNC.
The re-election campaign, both the Trump campaign and the RNC, has its biggest comparative investments in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio, when compared to the amount the Biden campaign has invested there.
- In Georgia, Biden and the DNC plan to spend $1.7 million, compared to Trump and the RNC's $1.1 million.
- In Michigan, Biden and the DNC plan to spend $5 million, compared to Trump and the RNC's $4.8 million.
- In Minnesota, Trump and the RNC are set to outspend their rivals $1.4 million to $1.1 million
- In North Carolina, Biden and the DNC plan to spend $4.9 million, compared to Trump and the RNC's $4.1 million
- And in Ohio, Biden and the DNC plan to spend about $1.2 millon, compared to Trump and the RNC's $1.1 million
All of those states but Minnesota were ones Trump won in 2016.
The data from Advertising Analytics shows the joint RNC/Trump campaign account paying for more spending in these closing days than the Trump campaign is alone. By comparison, the Biden campaign alone is paying for virtually all of its ads down the stretch.
These spending numbers are not completely final, as groups can still move money around, but represent the current ad reservations by Tuesday afternoon.
The differing strategies aren't unprecedented — national party committees typically work hand-in-glove with presidential candidates in the general election.
But Trump's campaign has been battling cash woes for a while — most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission show Trump's campaign committee itself had $43.6 million banked away as of Oct. 14, while Biden's campaign committee had $162 million.
And Biden has been outspending Trump in key battleground states for weeks — he spent more than Trump from Oct. 20-26 in every single state rated as a toss up or leaning on the NBC News Political Unit's latest battleground map.
The Trump campaign partially addressed the ad disparity in a statement refuting reports that it was "pulling" ads down in Florida.
"The campaign, with the RNC coordinated buy, is up with a seven figure buy in Florida on broadcast TV alone. In addition in Florida, we are up with six figures in local cable, six figures in Spanish language, and six figures on radio," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said, touting the campaign's investments over the race's final two weeks.
"Including Florida, the Trump campaign is on television in 12 states and also nationally."
—Monica Alba contributed
Pence keeps campaign schedule despite Covid-19 outbreak
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has continued a robust campaign schedule and will travel throughout the country during the final week of the election, despite a Covid-19 outbreak among close aides and staff.
Five of Pence's aides, including his chief of staff Marc Short, his “body man” Zach Bauer, and his senior political adviser Marty Obst, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Despite being in close contact with several of those aides, Pence is not quarantining because his active campaigning was deemed essential work.
"While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel," the vice president's press secretary Devin O’Malley wrote in a statement.
Pence traveled on Sunday and Monday to campaign in North Carolina and Minnesota, respectively. The vice president's aggressive travel schedules comes amid renewed scrutiny of the safety precautions being put in place after the outbreak among the vice president's staff.
A source familiar with the procedures said contact tracing was completed, and that three Pence aides — Bauer and the two unnamed staffers — began protectively quarantining Tuesday after Obst tested positive.
Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have reported testing negative for Covid-19 since confirmation of the positive cases close to them were disclosed.
However, Pence was notably absent at the White House's swearing in ceremony for now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Monday. Pence was originally supposed to preside over the Senate for her confirmation vote. He announced earlier in the day on Monday that he would not be present at the vote but would be in D.C. if his vote was needed to confirm Barrett's nomination.
Pence’s office did not respond to NBC News’ multiple requests for comment on why he would skip that event but still travel to campaign.
Pence is expected to travel to North Carolina and South Carolina on Tuesday, and visit several battleground for the rest of the week: Stopping in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, and Iowa and Nevada on Thursday.
However, while Pence will continue to travel, some new policies have been put in place.
Both Pence and the second lady are tested for Covid-19 every day, and Pence and his staff that travels have been wearing masks consistently — something that was more relaxed prior to the outbreak. On Air Force Two, Pence has been seen wearing his mask, and is not getting visitors in his private cabin. The travel staff has also been cutdown for several events compared to the dozens that were present before.
Pence has also cutdown on his time interacting with supporters. After both of his events on Sunday and Monday, Pence went straight between his plane and the stage for his speeches. Typically, before the outbreak, Pence would work the rope line without wearing a mask. The vice president has also stopped doing regional interviews while campaigning. Normally, Pence would conduct two to five regional interviews during a day of events to make sure he hit local TV markets.
Barrett ascendance isn't clear cut winner for Trump among GOP suburban women in focus group
WASHINGTON — When President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court pick last month, GOP strategist Sarah Longwell, a co-founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, threw together an impromptu Zoom meeting with her ongoing focus group of nine college-educated suburban Republican women — all of whom voted for Trump in 2016 but are now undecided — to gauge how it was playing.
Her assumption, she told NBC News, was that the nomination of a conservative woman to the high court could be a last-minute boon for Trump’s re-election bid.
Based on what she heard, that assumption was wrong.
“Not a single person brought up the courts." Longwell, who opposes Trump, said. Instead, "they were all super upset” about Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power and “a number offered they were leaning more towards Biden because they couldn’t believe Trump said that.”
Barrett was officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on Tuesday.
Weeks later, and with a different group of women who voted for Trump in 2016, Longwell said she still wasn't seeing the pick as a boon to the president politically. “They don’t want the court to go too far right, they want balance, even the ones that are pretty hard-core conservative. And half the groups are always pro-choice,” she said.
Longwell said that her observations revealed that many of these women don’t prioritize the court, especially not over concerns about Trump’s behavior and temperament. A number viewed the rush to confirm before the Nov. 3 election as “unfair.” And others expressed deep respect for former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who helped uphold Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing access to legal abortion.
“I actually think it’s a minus” for Trump with suburban women, said Lesa Brackbill, a 37-year-old lifelong Republican who voted for Trump and describes herself as anti-abortion rights. “Integrity matters to me” and the fact that Republicans are “doing this” after blocking President Obama’s election-year nominee “is wrong,” said Brackbill, of Hershey, Penn.
Brackbill said she remained undecided about who to support in the presidential race.
Now the Trump re-election campaign is scrambling to hold on to these suburban women, who have grown skeptical about Trump and are shifting to supporting Joe Biden in large numbers, according to multiple public polls.
These voters include older women who have experienced decades of political fights over abortion rights as well as their daughters — most born after Roe — who consider it settled law.
Wednesday Hripak, a 45-year-old landscape company manager in North Carolina, is among them: “For me, it is a huge factor,” said Hripak, a registered Republican who is pro-abortion rights and voted for Trump but is now leaning toward Biden. Barrett will dramatically shift the court, she said.
“These older men and figures that have been in politics and running the country for so long shouldn’t be having the final say on women’s health care,” said Hripak.
According to Pew Research Center, even Republican-leaning women are roughly split on Roe v Wade, a decision Democrats say Barrett would likely vote to overturn.
Indeed, the last Supreme Court confirmation fight, over seating Justice Brett Kavanaugh, illustrates that court battles aren’t a motivating factor for many suburban women, especially for the GOP. After his confirmation, female voter enthusiasm split pretty equally by party, while it pushed independent women to the Democratic side by 12 points.
The court battles — and their focus on abortion rights — is even shifting the political advantage toward the Democrats, experts say. With Trump almost certain to seat his third justice before Election Day, the fate of Roe, once thought irreversible, suddenly appears at risk. “This is the first time we know of since we’ve had data that the Democrats are more energized than the Republicans,” said Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic pollster.
Battleground ad spending: Biden maintains advantage in key swing states
WASHINGTON — A look at the TV and radio ad spending in the battleground states helps tell the story behind Joe Biden's lead, showing big spending advantages over President Donald Trump in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and even Pennsylvania.
Biden outspent Trump in every single one of the states rated as toss ups or leaning on the NBC News Political Unit's latest battleground map over the last week (Oct 20-26).
Here’s some state-by-state analysis:
Arizona: Biden and Trump both slightly boosted spending over the last week, with Biden spending more than double Trump — $5.7 million to $2 million. GOP outside groups have tried to close the gap for Trump, but Democrats retained a significant edge with help from their outside groups, too.
Florida: Biden increased spending here, while Trump decreased spending week-over-week — the Democrat spent three times as much as the Republican ($8.4 million to $2.8 million). Total spending for Republicans (campaigns + outside groups) is virtually stagnant, while total Democratic spending increased week-over-week by 23 percent.
Georgia: Directionally, both campaigns slightly increased their investment. But Biden spent almost three times Trump over that seven-day stretch, $1.7 million to less than $600,000. When you factor in outside groups, Republicans have a $500,000 edge.
Iowa: Biden has significantly upped the ante here, going from $700,000 two weeks ago to more than $1.1 million last week. Trump spent just $200,000 over the past week. But with outside spending, it's the red team with the edge, $2.5 million to $1.7 million
Michigan: Biden has outspent Trump here every individual day since well before Labor Day, and it shows. Biden spent more than $4 million over the week, with Trump under $2 million. And when factoring in outside groups (including a big $4.7 million week for Future Forward), it’s a 3-to-1 advantage for the blue team.
Nevada: Both campaigns increased their TV/radio ad investment here, but with Biden significantly outpacing Trump. With outside groups, the Democrats are spending about 10 times that of Republicans
North Carolina: Trump is benefitting from a big GOP outside-spending push. Biden spent $3.8 million last week to Trump’s $2.6, but that amounted to a weekly increase for both campaigns. When outside groups are included, the advantage goes to Team Trump by almost $3 million (or almost 40 percent).
Ohio: Biden decreased his spend here over the past week to $1.1 million, but neither the Trump campaign nor any GOP outside groups have been on the board in weeks.
Pennsylvania: Biden keeps increasing his spending to the moon, eclipsing $8 million in just one week, a number matched by the Democratic outside group Future Forward. With Trump spending just $1.4 million last week there, the total spending gap that week (when you factor in outside groups) was about $24 million to $8 million.
Texas: Biden has decreased his spending to about $600,000 for the week (and he’s getting outside help), while Trump and GOP outside groups were dark.
Wisconsin: A bloodbath similar to Pennsylvania, both on the candidate and outside group sides. Biden outspent Trump by about 10 times ($3 million to under $300,000). And including outside groups, Democrats hold a huge edge of $9 million to less than $4 million. Note: The Trump campaign was the 10th biggest spender in Wisconsin over past week.
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.
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."