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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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

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

728d ago / 11:57 AM UTC

Biden meets, outpaces Trump and Obama's Cabinet nomination timelines

WASHINGTON — Even though President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 victory took a few days longer than usual to determine, that lag time hasn't stopped Biden from outpacing or matching President Trump and former President Obama's timelines for nominating cabinet members. 

Biden has so far announced his picks for Secretary of State, Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, Ambassador to the United Nationals, National Security Adviser, Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. For the nominees that will have to go through the Senate confirmation process, his nominees for State, DHS and DNI were all announced earlier than Obama's first term picks and Trump's picks. 

The president-elect rolled out his national security team first: Announcing Antony Blinken as his Secretary of State nominee on Nov. 23 — 21 days after Election Day. Trump announced Rex Tillerson as his nominee 36 days after Election Day, and Obama named Hillary Clinton 28 days after Election Day. 

Similarly, Biden announced Alejandro Mayorkas would be his pick to lead DHS three weeks after Nov. 3. Trump issued his first DHS pick, Gen. John Kelly, 35 days after Election Day 2016. Obama named Janet Napolitano 28 days after his election in 2008. 

Image: US-VOTE-POLITICS-SECURITY-DIPLOMACY-TEAM
President-elect Joe Biden announces members of his cabinet in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 24, 2020.Chandan Khanna / AFP - Getty Images

Biden outpaced his two most recent predecessors by over a month when it came to picking a Director of National Intelligence. Biden nominated Avril Haines on Nov. 23 — 21 days after Election Day — while Trump and Obama took 59 and 67 days, respectively. 

So far the one office that Trump filled before Biden was the spot for U.N. Ambassador. Trump nominated Nikki Haley just 16 days after the 2016 election, while Biden announced his pick three weeks after Nov. 3. Obama nominated Susan Rice 28 days after the 2008 election. 

Obama outpaced both Trump and Biden when it came to naming who would lead the OMB. Obama announced Peter Orszag 22 days after Election Day, while Trump and Biden took 39 and 27 days to announce their nominees, respectively. 

NBC News confirmed that Janet Yellen would be Biden's Treasury nominee on Nov. 23, however the official announcement from the Biden camp didn't come until Nov. 30. The official call was 28 days after Election Day — Trump nominated Steven Mnuchin 23 days after Election Day 2016, and Obama named Timothy Geithner to the post 21 days after the election in 2008. 

729d ago / 7:00 PM UTC

Bipartisan group of senators seek compromise on a Covid-19 relief package

WASHINGTON — As the stalemate over Covid-19 relief continues between Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress, a bipartisan group of senators have been holding informal discussions about compromise legislation, two sources tell NBC News.

The discussions, which have been taking place over the Thanksgiving recess, could evolve into a new “gang", like the team that put together immigration reform legislation that failed in 2013. But sources warn that the current environment is difficult for success: Covid-19 has kept in-person meetings from happening and leadership has shown little willingness to compromise even if this group does succeed in creating a legislative package.

The lawmakers include Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va.,  Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,  Chris Coons, D-Del., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Susan Collins, R-Maine., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, according to two sources.  

On Monday, Warner told MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" that “people of good faith are working together to see if we can get a meaningful package.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks at a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on Sept. 9, 2020.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks at a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on Sept. 9, 2020.Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have yet to discuss another round of Covid-19 relief with each other, and talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin haven't resumed since Election Day. However, there have been preliminary discussions to include some Covid-19 relief provisions to a must-pass government funding bill. Government funding runs out on December 11. 

Up to 14 million people are set to lose their unemployment benefits right after Christmas because of expiring provisions from the CARES Act. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides unemployment benefits for freelancers and gig workers, as well as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extended insurance benefits an additional 13 weeks beyond states’ allowance of 26 weeks, are both set to expire.  

In addition, the rent eviction moratorium and student loan deferment programs are set to expire at the end of the year, putting new pressure on Congress to act soon. 

The bipartisan group of senators agree that the small business paycheck protection program, unemployment insurance and money for vaccine distribution should be central to any deal, one Senate aide said. But the major sticking points are the same ones that have plagued earlier leadership negotiations: State and local funding, which Democratic leadership is demanding, and liability protection, which Republican leadership insists upon. 

Pelosi has maintained that the modified HEROES Act, which costs $2.2 trillion is the baseline for negotiations while McConnell is backing the $500 billion package the Senate voted down in October.

729d ago / 12:43 PM UTC

What's at stake if Congress doesn't pass restaurant stimulus

PHILADELPHIA — With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the nation’s economy, Congress will face increasing pressure to pass a new stimulus bill when members return to Washington this week — one that includes targeted relief for the restaurant industry.

Eating establishments across the country have hemorrhaged business since last spring, when the virus forced them to offer limited service or to close outright. With winter coming and the new wave of illness likely to force even tighter restrictions, owners increasingly worry that they’ll have to shut their doors for good. 

Advocates say the RESTAURANTS Act, short for the “Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Need to Survive” Act, could be key to the industry’s survival. The legislation, which boasts bipartisan support, was introduced in the Senate by Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and in the House by Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. 

The legislation proposes a $120 billion dollar grant program focused on independent operators, especially targeting women and minority-owned businesses. The grant would cover a wide range of expenses, including supplies, payroll, rent and personal protective equipment for employees. 

There are some 500,000 independently owned restaurants across the United States, employing millions of people, according to a study by CHD Expert, which analyzes food service and hospitality data.  The average restaurant is still seeing about a 35 percent loss from last year, every day, according to Rally for Restaurants data

Without aid, the Independent Restaurant Coalition — a new organization founded to save small restaurants and bars affected by COVID-19 — estimates that 85 percent of independent restaurants, which annually contribute $760 billion sales to the U.S. economy, could close permanently. 

“I have lived through working during the 1987 stock market crash. I worked through 9/11. I’ve worked through the 2008 recession. I’ve never seen what happened to us in our industry starting March 17 when we were asked to close with about 24 hours notice,” Bobby Stuckey, cofounder of Colorado’s Frasca Hospitality, told NBC News.

The legislation faces an uncertain future — it’s unlikely to pass on its own without being part of a larger deal, and discussions on Capitol Hill over a new broad-based relief package have been at a standstill for weeks. 

President Donald Trump on Friday urged Congress to act, tweeting:

Money granted through the so-called Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) last spring was in the form of a loan, rather than a grant, and for many restaurants it was just a small down payment on a larger crisis. 

“The PPP loans were an eight-week fix to what’s probably an 18-month problem,” Stuckey said. “The restaurant business works on very, very small margins. To make these businesses take on loans to survive this 18 months is punitive; it’s not going to help the survival rate.” 

There were additional frustrations around the paycheck protection loans as restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse cashed in on benefits meant for small businesses. Ruth’s Chris ultimately returned the $20 million loan following public pressure.

The RESTAURANTS act stipulates that the businesses not be publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more businesses of the same name. Plus, money awarded through the act would come in the form of a direct grant, rather than a loan. Owners say that’s essential as establishments across the country face closure through the cold winter months. 

“The reality is restaurants do not need more short-term loans right now — restaurants need grants that would help us get through a tough-looking winter,” Leigh Habegger, Executive Director of the Seafood Harvesters of America told NBC News. 

735d ago / 6:02 PM UTC

Some Senate Democrats question Durbin's bid to helm Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON — With a Democratic opening at the top of the Judiciary Committee now that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has stepped aside, some Senate Democrats are questioning whether the heir apparent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., should ascend to the post and also keep his Senate leadership position, according to two sources familiar with the situation. 

The debate among Democrats is a rare internal personnel dispute that could be resolved by an even rarer vote among the caucus in December if not settled before then. The vote, if necessary, would be to determine if Durbin can both be the party's top member on the committee and also be the second-ranking Democratic leader in the Senate as party whip, according to the two sources who were granted anonymity to speak freely about internal dynamics. 

Feinstein stepped aside from the top post on the committee — which oversees judicial nominations to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department and immigration authorities — after progressive groups and some Senate Democrats questioned if she was equipped to handle the partisan nature in the current state of politics. Feinstein's hug with Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the end of Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings drew ire from Democrats and helped seal her fate. 

Durbin announced his intention to seek the top spot Monday night, pointing to his experience on the committee.

Image:
Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 10, 2020.Jason Andrew / The New York Times via AP, Pool

“I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. I have served on the Committee for 22 years, and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee,” Durbin wrote in a statement. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights."

But some Senate Democrats are concerned that Durbin's other big job, as chief vote counter, will be a critical and time consuming position in a narrowly divided House and Senate. Durbin is also the top Democrat on the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee, which is also adds to the Democrats’ discontent.

His office argues that holding multiple senior positions is not without precedent, noting that Senate Democratic rules that allow it, and that three previous Democratic whips — Alan Cranston, Wendell Ford and Harry Reid — did the same. 

Senate Republican and House Democratic party rules do not allow a top member of leadership to also hold a committee chair. 

One of the last times the Democratic caucus held a vote on a committee leadership issue was in 2008 when the Democratic caucus voted to allow then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., to remain chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee after he campaigned for Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

After Durbin, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., would be next in line for the Judiciary spot. He has not publicly announced that he’d like the position but progressive groups would likely not be opposed.

“In the wake of Ranking Member Feinstein’s announcement, I look forward to the question of succession on the Senate Judiciary Committee being decided by the caucus.  I will abide by the caucus’s decision,” Whitehouse says in a statement Tuesday night. 

Sahil Kapur contributed.

736d ago / 8:20 PM UTC

What House races are still left to call?

WASHINGTON — Election Day may be three weeks in the past, but there are still a handful of competitive House races still left to be called by NBC'S Decision Desk. 

The vast majority are in California and New York, two states that take a while to count ballots. And there's one race in Iowa that appears to be headed to a recount. 

Here's a look at the uncalled races and where they stand (the incumbent or the candidate representing the incumbent party is listed first): 

California-21: Democratic Rep. TJ Cox v. former Republican Rep. David Valadao 

Valadao, who Cox defeated in the 2018 midterm elections, leads Cox by less than 2,000 votes (1 percentage point) in the Decision Desk's count, as final results keep trickling in. 

California-25: Republican Rep. Mike Garcia v. Democrat Christy Smith 

Garcia v. Smith is a rematch of the spring special election, one of the first general elections run in the coronavirus era, when Garcia won by a comfortable margin. Garcia has declared victory, a decision Smith has criticized, with the margin sitting at just 400 votes. 

Iowa-02: Democrat Rita Hart v. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks

The race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack could turn out to be the closest House race of the cycle. The two candidates were separated by just a few dozen votes, with Hart requesting a recount that's prompted a dust-up between the two candidates. 

New York-02: Republican Andrew Garbarino v. Democrat Jackie Gordon 

These two candidates are running to replace Republican Rep. Peter King, who is retiring at the end of the year. While the election has still not been called yet, the Democrat conceded last week. 

New York-11: Democratic Rep. Max Rose v. Republican Nicole Malliotakis 

This is another race that hasn't been called yet, but where one candidate, Rose, has conceded.  

New York-22: Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi v. former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney 

This rematch of 2018 is extremely tight, with the election ending up in court.

New York-24: Republican Rep. John Katko v. Democrat Dana Balter 

In another 2018 rematch, Balter has conceded to Katko. 

739d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

Freshman Republicans look to form conservative 'Squad'

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WASHINGTON — There’s a new crew on Capitol Hill — "The Squad" is facing opposition from a record breaking diverse republican class of freshman members. And they are calling themselves "The Force."

“I want to create a force within my freshman class that will have to be reckoned with. A force of reason, a force for freedom, a force for democracy,” Florida Republican Congresswoman-elect Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American former journalist, told NBC News.

Salazar is part of the most diverse freshman Republican class in history with eight members who identify as a person of color or minority. And they plan to be a counter the progressive “Squad”, led by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with what they say is a message against socialism. 

“When I hear this Democratic socialism that is being presented within the Democratic Party, I can only tell you that only brings misery, oppression and exile. And how do I know? Because I have lived it and I have covered it,” Salazar said.

Newly elected Nicole Malliotakis, a Greek-American and the only Republican New York City will send to Congress, embraced the conservative crew. 

Image: Newly-Elected Members Of Congress Attend Orientation On Capitol Hill
Congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., arrives at the Capitol on Nov. 13, 2020.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

“We need to form our own ‘squad.’ We have a group of new Republicans who love America. We value freedom, liberty and opportunity,” Malliotakis told The New York Post last week. 

And Congresswoman-elect Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who grew up in Ukraine, claimed ‘The Squad’ brings a kind of message she didn’t think she’d see in the United States.

“I grew up in a socialistic country, the Socialist Republic of Ukraine. I saw what happens when it runs out of money and it is not pretty,” Spartz told Fox News. “And now we’re building socialism. I’m kind of going full circles. I can tell you what is going to be next. It’s very sad for me to see that.”

In 2018, Democrats elected progressive women who became known for challenging the establishment. The group, which includes Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has more than doubled with young progressives winning districts around the country this year. 

Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., one of the incoming progressive members, says they disagree on the Republican counter-group’s definition of socialism. 

“I believe that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, when they think of socialism, they think of communism and think of the government controlling everything and people being disempowered within democracy, and I think that's an incorrect definition, that's not how I define it," Bowman said.

He added, “What's going to be important is how we engage the rest of the caucus in these conversations and then the sense of urgency around the issue of climate change, the issue of universal health care, the issue of a federal jobs guarantee and meeting the needs of the American people.”

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said the negative connotation used against the progressive faction of the Democratic caucus during the election wasn't successful. 

“It didn’t work, I mean Joe Biden flipped five states against an incumbent president and so I just say that that's ineffective because people see when you have folks in huge wealth generating districts, calling for these policies,” Khanna said. “I don't think that's a very effective attack.” 

“I mean it sounds ridiculous to me. I think they think they’re in high school. We’re in Congress,” Omar said when asked about the new group. 

739d ago / 4:26 PM UTC

Trump camp keeps up torrid pace of fundraising appeals post-election

WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign has sent more than 300 fundraising appeals via email since Nov. 4, the day after the election. Most are seeking donations for an “official election defense fund,” as President Trump continues to question the integrity of the race he lost. But the fine print shows as much as 75 percent of that money can be repurposed for the president’s new leadership political action committee, “Save America.” 

Two weeks ago, the GOP effort was sending as many as 24 emails a day, averaging one per hour. More recently, the campaign — which formally ended as a re-elect operation this week — has been requesting funds around 15 times on any given day. 

In that time, they have also fired off more than 80 text messaging, ranging from personal appeals from the president that falsely claim “the Left will try to STEAL this Election!” to messages from the eldest Trump sons saying “We need to FIGHT BACK!”

739d ago / 2:53 PM UTC

Michigan lawmakers could be treading on thin legal ice with White House meeting

WASHINGTON — Michigan Republican lawmakers slated to meet Friday with President Donald Trump at the White House could be risking legal exposure back home depending on what actions they take in regards to the state's election results.

Trump has falsely claimed he won Michigan, alleging major voter fraud in Detroit while providing no evidence. After a series of failed lawsuits seeking to prevent election officials in the state from certifying the results for President-elect Joe Biden, the president and his allies have sought to ratchet up the political pressure on GOP officials in the state.

Trump allies, including conservative radio host Mark Levin, are advocating for state legislatures in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other swing states to override voters and appoint their states’ electors. And according to the New York Times, Trump has also pressed his own advisers on the matter.

But Michigan law is clear. According to the secretary of state: The state’s 16 representatives to the Electoral College must go to the candidate who won the popular vote. Trump lost the popular vote to Biden by nearly 150,000 votes in Michigan. That discrepancy remains even with a clerical error that involved 367 votes in Detroit remain at issue, Detroit Free Press.

Following a contentious meeting of the Wayne County canvassing board earlier this week where the results there were certified, Trump personally called one GOP board member, who then said she wanted to change her vote to certify, something the secretary of state in Michigan said is not possible. While individual counties have certified their votes, the full state certification has not yet taken place. 

President Donald Trump sits at his desk in the Oval Office on Nov. 13, 2020.
President Donald Trump sits at his desk in the Oval Office on Nov. 13, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

In the latest apparent attempt to exert political pressure on Republicans, Trump has invited the state's Senate leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield — both Republicans — to fly to Washington to meet with him Friday at the White House. Their offices did not return NBC calls seeking comment.

In recent a local news interview prior to the Trump invitation, Shirkey cited Michigan law and said the idea of the GOP-led legislature attempting to seat a Trump-friendly slate of electors is “not going to happen.” 

And Shirkey and Chatfield are well aware of state law awarding Michigan’s electors on a winner-takes-all basis and requiring the appointment of electors from the party of the candidate who wins the popular vote, according to a Republican close to them.

“Shirkey and Chatfield are going to follow Michigan law,” the individual said. 

But the exposure for the two state lawmakers is real, according to legal experts. 

“If I were their lawyer I would think twice about letting them put themselves in that kind of compromised position,” said Richard Primus, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan who also wrote an op-ed recommending the pair cancel the meeting.

Under Michigan law, any member of the legislature who “corruptly” accepts a promise of some beneficial act in return for exercising his authority in a certain way is “forever disqualified to hold any public office” and “shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 10 years[.]” Primus said in his op-ed.

“Why, exactly, does President Trump want to see these two men in person, in his office?" wrote Primus. “It isn’t to offer evidence that Michigan’s election was tainted and should therefore be nullified. If he had any such evidence, his lawyers would have presented it in court."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to comment to NBC News and said, "we don’t comment on pending investigations.”

Still, University of Michigan criminal law expert Dave Moran said the meeting itself probably isn’t actionable. 

“It’s one thing to actually meet with somebody and corruptly conspire to do something,” said Moran. “But to just have a meeting with somebody at which various options, some of which might be illegal, are discussed, is not a crime."

He added, “I don’t think he would be so stupid as to nakedly offer a bribe but rather appeal to their duty as ‘good Republicans’ to back him up."

740d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

Georgia can begin sending absentee ballots in pivotal Senate runoffs

WASHINGTON — It's that time again: Voters can start voting soon in Georgia's Senate runoffs. 

Or at least, voters can start voting. 

Wednesday was the first day that Georgia registrars could begin sending out absentee ballots for the two Senate runoffs between GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock, and GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. 

There were about 1.28 million absentee-by-mail votes cast in the Senate primaries in November, per the unofficial results from the Georgia Secretary of State's office. (Unlike in many states, Georgia pits congressional candidates against each other in a November primary, with the two top vote-getters moving to a runoff unless one candidate wins a majority). That means total made up more than one-quarter of the total votes cast in the rate.)

With the pandemic to new heights in daily cases and hospitalizations, there are likely to be a significant number of mail-in ballots cast for the Senate runoffs too.

The likely influx of absentee voting provides yet another level of uncertainty to the races, particularly as the president refuses to accept the results across the country and makes unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, zeroing in on mail-in ballots.  

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Peacock TV’s Medhi Hasan that he believes it was Trump’s own discrediting of mail-in ballots that cost him the election in November.

“I believe so because the numbers show that. There were actually 24,000 Republican voters that voted absentee in the June primary, and those same 24,000 voters, did not show up to vote in either absentee or in person on the day of election or the 15 days of early voting we have. So they just disappeared and they were ripe for the picking, they were there in June for the primary and they should have come home and voted for President Trump in the fall. So that’s 24,000 . That's his difference right there,” he said.

And the president is not relenting in his attacks on mail-in voting, particularly in Georgia, where he continues to attack election officials there amid the presidential recount. 

741d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

Obama administration vet Psaki to lead Biden's Senate confirmation team

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WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is formally unveiling a team put in place to sherpa nominees through Senate confirmation processes.

The team is being led by Jen Psaki, a former top Obama White House and State Department official, who was part of the communications team at the start of the Obama administration and has experience from Obama’s transition. Others on the team include his Senate aides and former 2020 campaign staffers for Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 

Psaki is overseeing the nominations team, with Olivia Dalton, a Democratic consultant and former Biden Senate aide who also served in senior Obama administration and campaign roles, running point on communications.

White House Director Of Communications Jen Psaki And U.S. Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Jason Furman Interview
Jen Psaki during an interview in Washington on Dec. 18, 2015.Drew Angerer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Additionally, Stephanie Valencia is handling outreach and Louisa Terrell will run congressional affairs for the transition, helping to support the nominations team. 

Reema Dodin, the floor director for Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, will oversee legislative strategy. Jorge Neri, a former senior advisor to the campaign, will be the deputy outreach director for Confirmations. 

Andrew Bates, the rapid response director from the Biden campaign will also serve in a leadership role, as will Saloni Sharma, who was most recently Warren's deputy communications director, and Sean Savett, formerly press secretary to Illinois Democratic Sen. Senator Tammy Duckworth and rapid response director for Buttigieg. 

The confirmations team will expand over the coming days with additional positions. 

The Biden transition team said that they believe there will be substantial pressure on the Senate, which right now stands to be controlled by Republicans unless Democrats can sweep both Georgia Senate runoffs in early January, to act fast in the midst of the pandemic and concerns about the economy. 

The transition added that they also want to "introduce nominees to the American people," which would mean "throwing away the old playbook dictating that nominees say nothing in public until their hearings." 

In an earlier interview, a senior transition official told NBC News that the team learned from the 2008 transition that it needed to build out an infrastructure to prepare to support nominees similar to the ones built out for a presidential nominee's vice-presidential pick or a president's Supreme Court nomination. 

“We built a more robust apparatus ready to tell the story of our nominees post-election, once we start having nominees in November, in a more robust theory of the case then I think has just been done in prior transitions,” the official said. “You need infrastructure. You need really clear process and infrastructure the way a White House has but a transition doesn't have the benefit of having."

741d ago / 5:21 PM UTC

Here are the two Wisconsin counties where the Trump campaign wants a recount

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's presidential campaign has requested — and paid for — a partial recount in the state of Wisconsin. But rather than a statewide recount, which would have cost the campaign about $7.9 million, they're zeroing in on two vote-rich, heavily Democratic counties: Dane and Milwaukee. (The partial recount still will cost them $3 million.)  

Biden currently leads Wisconsin by 20,565 votes, and the two counties are where the Democrat racked up his biggest leads. As in other states, Biden's huge vote margins in urban and suburban Democratic strongholds offset Trump's strong performances in more rural counties. 

Together, the two counties alone account for about a quarter of the statewide vote cast.

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at Kenosha Regional Airport in Kenosha, Wisconsin
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Kenosha, Wis., on Nov. 2, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

Biden won Milwaukee County, 69 percent to 29 percent. (That's 317,270 votes for Biden to Trump’s 134,357.)

Biden won Dane 75 percent to 23 percent. (That's 260,185 votes for Biden to Trump’s 78,800.) 

According to Census data, Milwaukee County is about 51 percent white alone, 27 percent Black, 16 percent Latino and 5 percent Asian.

For Dane County — home to Madison and the University of Wisconsin — it’s 79 percent white alone, 6 percent Black, 7 percent Latino and 6 percent Asian. Dane also has a population of about 51 percent of residents who have bachelor's degrees or more, a rate far higher than the national average. 

742d ago / 11:08 PM UTC

Loeffler, Warnock will debate ahead of Georgia runoff, Perdue and Ossoff will not

ATLANTA — After a debate over having runoff debates, there will be at least one ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections. The Atlanta Press Club told NBC News Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., has agreed to debate Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock on Dec. 6.

“Georgians need to know who he is and I welcome that chance to debate him as many times as he wants,” Loeffler said during a Fox News interview before her participation was announced.

Image: Sen. Kelly Loeffler R-Ga., arrives for the weekly Senate Republican caucus policy luncheon on Capitol Hill
Sen. Kelly Loeffler R-Ga., arrives for the weekly Senate Republican caucus policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on Nov. 17, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

GOP Sen. David Perdue declined APC’s invitation to debate Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff. Ossoff will still appear during the debate time slot but will be besides an an empty podium representing Perdue.

Perdue's campaign manager Ben Fry said in a statement, "We've already had two debates in this election," and added, “We’re going to take our message about what’s at stake if Democrats have total control of Congress directly to the people." 

“That is not our preference,” the APC wrote in a release, adding the organization will hopes Perdue changes his mind and will “leave the door open” for him to participate.

“The Atlanta Press Club works hard to provide a platform for all candidates running for public office. We believe it is an essential part of the democratic process for voters to have an opportunity to hear an exchange of ideas from the candidates so they can be better informed when they cast their ballots.”

Ossoff attacked his opponent for refusing to debate ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff election.

“If Senator Perdue doesn't want to answer questions in public, or debate his opponent that's fine, he just shouldn't run for re-election to the United States Senate,” Ossoff told reporters on Tuesday.

Ossoff and Perdue debated prior to the Nov. 3 election, but Perdue backed out of the third general election debate against Ossoff in October. 

742d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

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.

743d ago / 3:41 PM UTC

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.  

New York Continues To Struggle With Coronavirus Spread As Parts Of U.S. Look To Reopen
A man walks past a closed business on May 2, 2020, in New York.Noam Galai / Getty Images file

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?" 

744d ago / 9:26 PM UTC

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. 

Image: President-Elect Biden Remarks On ACA As Supreme Court Takes On Case
President-elect Joe Biden listens as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris addresses the media about the Trump administration's lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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.

747d ago / 7:22 PM UTC

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. 

Rita Hart speaks with a reporter at her farm in Wheatland, Iowa, in 2019.
Rita Hart speaks with a reporter at her farm in Wheatland, Iowa, in 2019.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file
748d ago / 7:55 PM UTC

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.

748d ago / 3:09 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the 2020 election, in Oakland, Calif. on Nov. 3, 2020.Noah Berger / AP

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.

749d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

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.

 

Image: U.S. Senator Scott speaks after the Senate Republican GOP leadership election on Capitol Hill in Washington
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill after the Republican Conference held leadership elections on Nov. 10, 2020.Erin Scott / Reuters

“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.”

749d ago / 5:28 PM UTC

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). 

Image: Carlos Gimenez
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez speaks during a protest at PortMiami by workers in the cruise ship industry wanting to return to work on Oct. 21, 2020, in Miami.Lynne Sladky / AP file

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. 

750d ago / 5:38 PM UTC

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. 

Ossoff's camp has been hammering Perdue for well-timed stock trades ahead of the pandemic, accusing him of profiting off of it. It's a charge Perdue has denied, including in TV ads of his own 

And Perdue's top ads have attacked Ossoff trying to tie him to China and warning about Ossoff's "radical socialist agenda."

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. 

751d ago / 1:09 AM UTC

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. 

 

752d ago / 9:36 PM UTC

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.”

753d ago / 8:16 PM UTC

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.   

Image: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci is reflected in a video monitor behind him on stage as he listens to the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci is reflected in a video monitor behind him on stage as he listens to a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in April.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

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.  

754d ago / 11:27 PM UTC

Republicans confident in winning N.C. in presidential and Senate races

and

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. 

755d ago / 3:23 PM UTC

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.

756d ago / 4:29 AM UTC

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. 

756d ago / 1:30 AM UTC

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. 

757d ago / 6:00 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Kamala Harris Campaigns In Pennsylvania On Eve Of Election Day
Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate across the street from a venue where Sen. Kamala Harris will hold a campaign event on Nov. 2, 2020 in Bethlehem, Pa.Mark Makela / Getty Images

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. 

757d ago / 4:01 PM UTC

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.

President Donald Trump at a rally in Waterford Township, Mich., on Oct. 30, 2020.
President Donald Trump at a rally in Waterford Township, Mich., on Oct. 30, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

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. 

760d ago / 6:00 PM UTC

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. 

Image: Susan Collins
Senator Susan Collins after the weekly Republican Party caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 26, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

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. 

760d ago / 3:26 PM UTC

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.  

Image: Supporters of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden distribute campaign signs in Madison, Wisconsin
Campaign signs at a distribution site for Joe Biden supporters in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 17, 2020.Bing Guan / Reuters

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. 

761d ago / 7:47 PM UTC

Mike Bloomberg makes final push in FL as he hits $100M pledged investment for Biden

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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.

Image: Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks  during a rally held at the Bricktown Events Center
Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during a rally held at the Bricktown Events Center on Feb. 27, 2020 in Oklahoma City.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

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. 

761d ago / 2:28 PM UTC

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.

Trump narrowly lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and continues to trail in polls to Biden, but made his third trip to the state this year on Sunday. 

“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. 

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Londonderry, N.H., on Oct. 25, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

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. 

762d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

Democratic Senate candidates have ad spending advantage in nearly every competitive race

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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. 

Image: Jaime Harrison, Lindsey Graham
From left, Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., from right, debate in the South Carolina Senate debate at Allen University in Columbia, S.C., on Oct. 3, 2020.Joshua Boucher / The State via AP

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.  

763d ago / 9:32 PM UTC

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. 

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 27, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

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

763d ago / 6:15 PM UTC

Pence keeps campaign schedule despite Covid-19 outbreak

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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. 

Image: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence rally in Kinston, North Carolina
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a rally in Kinston, N.C., on Oct. 25, 2020.Jonathan Drake / Reuters

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. 

763d ago / 5:25 PM UTC

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.

763d ago / 3:17 PM UTC

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.

A boy holds a sign while waiting for the arrival of Sen. Kamala Harris on Oct. 25, 2020 in Pontiac, Mich.
A boy holds a sign while waiting for the arrival of Sen. Kamala Harris on Oct. 25, 2020 in Pontiac, Mich.Nic Antaya / Getty Images

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. 

763d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

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. 

Image: People line up outside a polling station located at the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air, Harford County, during early voting in Md
People line up outside a polling station located at the McFaul Activity Center in Bel Air, Harford County, during early voting in Md., Oct. 27, 2020.Hannah McKay / Reuters

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. 

764d ago / 10:23 PM UTC

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. 

764d ago / 3:32 PM UTC

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. 

But he's also running those more targeted messages, pushing back on the socialist attacks and criticizing Trump's response to Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico. 

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.

765d ago / 3:13 PM UTC

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.

767d ago / 5:07 PM UTC

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.” 

769d ago / 2:25 PM UTC

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.” 

Team Trump has been trying to dent Biden's image among Florida Hispanics as polls over the last few months have shown the Democrat underperforming there.  

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. 

770d ago / 12:02 PM UTC

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.

770d ago / 11:30 AM UTC

Former RNC chair Michael Steele endorses Biden

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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.

771d ago / 5:34 PM UTC

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. 

774d ago / 3:19 PM UTC

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. 

U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon speaks at campaign event on Feb. 19, 2020 in Skowhegan, Maine.
U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon speaks at campaign event on Feb. 19, 2020 in Skowhegan, Maine.Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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. 

774d ago / 1:34 PM UTC

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.