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Meet the Press Blog: Latest news, analysis and data driving the political discussion

Smart political reporting and analysis, including data points, interesting national trends, short updates and more from the NBC News political unit.
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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Hastings seat to be filled by special election scheduled by Gov. DeSantis

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has broad authority on the timing to schedule a special election to fill the U.S. House vacancy left by Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings' death on Tuesday

State law says a special election "shall be held" when there's a vacancy in Florida's congressional delegation, but the state's governor gets to set the dates for the election.

Unlike in other states, where election laws allow state parties to choose their special-election nominees (like New Mexico) or hold a special election with every candidate of any party on the same ballot (like Lousiana), Florida voters will choose their party's nominees during the special election primaries. 

The current 20th district is far from a competitive one. Hastings, who was first elected in 1992, won 79% of the vote in 2020 and ran unopposed in the 2018 general election. A majority of district residents — 53% — are Black. 

That said, the Republican-controlled legislature will have the chance to redraw congressional district lines through the redistricting process before the 2022 midterms, so the district may look different in future elections.

With Colorado poised to be new home for MLB All-Star Game, here's a look at its voting laws

After Major League Baseball pulled its July All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new voting restrictions passed into law last week, the game is being relocated to Colorado (ESPN first reported the move, which has since been confirmed by Major League Baseball

With voting laws at the center of the decision to move from Georgia, here's a look at Colorado's rules: 

  • Colorado has had universal mail balloting since 2013.  The state is one of five that allows elections to be conducted by mail (there are also early in-person voting options for those who do not wish to vote by mail, but only about 6% of voters in 2020 chose to do that.) 
  • All active eligible voters are automatically mailed a ballot, which can be returned by mail or at drop boxes. 
  • The state has same-day registration for both in-person voters who choose to vote early or on Election Day. It also has automatic voter registration through the DMV.  
  • Voters who choose to vote in-person must provide an ID. Those voting by mail for the first time may also need to include a photocopy of their ID. 
  • A study from Northern Illinois University in 2020 identified Colorado as the seventh easiest state to vote
A mail-in ballot collection box sits on the floor at Edgewater City Hall on Nov. 3, 2020 in Edgewater, Colo.Marc Piscotty / Getty Images file

Manchin balks at level of tax increases in Biden infrastructure plan

President Joe Biden is facing opposition from at least one Senate Democrat to a key aspect of his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal — how to pay for it. 

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., told West Virginia Radio Host Hoppy Kercheval on Monday he wants the plan rewritten. “As the bill exists today it needs to be changed,” Manchin said pointedly, adding that he doesn’t support tax hikes other than raising the corporate tax rate. “I'm not talking about raising taxes, other than I think corporate should have never been below 25.”

But even then, the Democrats’ key swing vote doesn’t support raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, telling the radio host he won’t back the bill in its current form. 

Asked if Democrats could push the bill through by way of reconciliation, the technical procedure they used to pass the latest Covid-19 relief package with just a majority vote instead of requiring 60 yes votes, Manchin says, “No, they can’t,” citing at least half-dozen Democrats who may feel the same way as him. 

“If I don’t vote to get on it it’s not going anywhere. So we’re going to have some leverage here — It's more than just me there are six or seven other Democrats who feel very strongly about this. We have to be competitive and we’re not going to throw caution to the wind," he added. 

Senator Joe Manchin speaks during a confirmation hearing for Representative Deb Haaland, in Washington, on Feb. 23, 2021.Jim Watson / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Another Senate Democrat, Mark Warner, D-Va., told the reporters in the Capitol on Monday that he also has some reservations about the package. Warner says he spoke to the White House, but wouldn’t divulge those details. “It was more outreach, it was more heads up than input into the package. I have already expressed some concerns.”

Republicans have so far balked at the tax increases, with Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker telling "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the infrastructure bill was "a tax increase on small businesses, on job creators in the United States." 

Biden, though, stood by his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, saying he isn’t worried that the hike would further harm the economy. “Not at all,” Biden said when asked. “There’s no evidence of that.”

Group of former Democratic members of Congress, candidates, starting PAC to defend moderate Dems

Seven Democrats who lost their 2020 congressional bids — including five former House members and two unsuccessful candidates — are teaming up to launch a new Political Action Committee aimed at protecting moderate Democratic incumbents as the party looks to hold onto the House majority in 2022. 

Former Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Ben McAdams of Utah and Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, as well as former candidates Jackie Gordon of New York and Christina Hale of Indiana, announced the creation of the group, called Shield PAC, in an op-ed in USA Today

The group pointed to GOP lines of attack used against them in 2020 — including attempts to frame them as socialists as well as lump them in with progressives who support policies like a ban on fracturing or the "defund the police" movement — to warn Democrats that they will be levied against swing-district Democrats again in 2022. 

"The GOP already has spun up its attack machine to lie about those members, as they did about us. Unless their voters learn more about them, those lies could take hold," they wrote."

"We are teaming up to do something about it. We helped create and now serve as advisers to Shield PAC, a new political action committee to define and shield the most at-risk House moderates from Republican efforts to tie them to socialism and other ideas that are toxic in their districts.

Third-Way, the moderate think-tank, is joining with the Democrats to launch the PAC. 

Brindisi, Cunningham, Horn, McAdams and Torress Small all won their House seats in the 2018 midterm election, when a wave of Democrats won Republican-held seats and delivered their party the House majority. 

But while Democrats had strong success in those 2018 elections, they did not fare nearly as well in 2020. Even though their party won back the White House, Republicans won every single race rated by the Cook Political Report as a "toss-up," leaving Democrats with a very narrow majority. A handful of Democrats specifically pointed to the messaging as one main reason for their losses.  

Since the president's party typically performs poorly in a midterm election, and with the possibility that redistricting could help Republicans shore up some more seats, Republicans have a strong chance at being able to take back control of the House after the 2022 election, and they've been optimistic that their 2020 success, even as their presidential candidate lost, is indicative of their chances in 2022. 

A November memo from the National Republican Congressional Committee trumpeted how Republicans framed the election as "a choice between Republicans’ message of freedom versus Democrats’ radical socialist agenda," and added that "the results speak for themselves."

New Mexico congressional special election matchups set

Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury will face off against Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in the New Mexico special House election to replace newly-minted Interior Secretary Deb Haaland after both parties selected their nominees over the last week. 

Republicans tapped Moores last week, while Stansbury won a runoff among the New Mexico Democratic Party's State Central Committee on Tuesday, narrowly edging out state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

While Sedillo Lopez finished with a significant lead after the committee's first vote on Tuesday, she fell short of the majority needed to secure the nomination and was forced into a runoff, where Stansbury leapfrogged her. 

The candidates will face off, along with Libertarian Chris Manning, for the right to fill the seat vacated by Haaland. Instead of holding primary elections where voters could choose their party's nominees, in New Mexico, the party committees choose their own nominees instead. 

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M. and secretary of the interior nominee, testifies during her confirmation hearing in Washington on Feb. 24, 2021.Leigh Vogel / AFP - Getty Images file

Democrats hold the upper hand in the race — Haaland won re-election in 2020 by more than 16 points, and Democratic presidential nominees won the district by double-digits in each of the last three presidential races (per data from the Daily Kos). But special electorates are notoriously difficult to predict because they are not held during the traditional election cycle. 

Majority of California voters don't support Newsom recall

A majority of California voters say they want Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to stay on the job, as opponents work to unseat him through the state’s recall process.

A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that 56 percent of likely California voters say they do not support recalling Newsom, while 40 percent want him ousted. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks after touring the newly reopened Ruby Bridges Elementary School on March 16, 2021, in Alameda.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

While verification is still being officially finalized, opponents say they have submitted sufficient signatures to force a recall election in the fall. If that occurs, California voters would receive a ballot with two questions — the first asking if Newsom should be recalled, and the second (valid only if a majority say yes to the first question) offering alternative candidates.

But the poll indicates that Newsom remains in a strong position to beat back that effort, despite rivals’ hopes that pandemic fatigue has weakened the governor politically. 

Newsom’s approval rating stands at 54 percent among all adults, down from a high of 65 percent last spring but stable since the start of 2021.

And nearly three-quarters of Californians said that the worst of pandemic is behind us.

Kentucky legislature overrides governor's veto, mandating Senate vacancies be filled by member of same party

Kentucky's Republican-majority legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's veto on Monday to enact a new law that requires the governor to temporarily fill a vacant U.S. Senator's seat with an appointee from the same party.

Governors previously had the power to appoint a temporary successor from any party. But the new rules, enacted over Beshear's veto, restrict the governor by mandating a replacement must be chosen from a list of three choices selected by the party of the senator who previously held the seat.  The new law also changed some rules around how a special election would be called to fill any vacant Senate seat. 

While 79-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has given no indication that he is planning to retire, if he were to retire during Beshear's term, McConnell supported the legislature's plan, according to the Associated Press and local news organizations.

The state's other Senate seat is also filled by a Republican, Sen. Rand Paul. 

Mitch McConnell steps into an elevator following procedural votes on the nomination of Xavier Becerra at the Capitol, on March 11, 2021.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

In the hypothetical scenario where McConnell retired before the law was changed, Beshear could have filled his seat temporarily with a Democrat until the special election. That would have had serious consequences on the balance of power in Washington — the Senate is currently equally divided among Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. So a shift in the balance of power by just one seat, even temporarily, would have significant ramifications. 

Kentucky is one of 37 states where governors can fill a Senate vacancy. Seven of those states, including Kentucky, restrict the governor's appointments to a member of the same party, according to the National Council of State Legislatures

Everytown for Gun Safety launches $300k TV and digital ads calling for background check expansion

Everytown for Gun Safety, among the most prominent groups pushing for reforming America's gun laws, is dropping a new, $300,000 television and digital ad buy calling for the Senate to move to expand background checks for gun sales. 

The new ads, shared first with NBC News, call on the Senate to do more than just "thoughts and prayers" after a shooting and pass a background check expansion. 

"Elected leaders owe us more than thoughts and prayers to prevent gun violence. They owe us action," the group's TV ad says, after a super-cut of politicians offering those sentiments after a slew of mass shootings, as well as news coverage of the shootings.

“We’re sending a message to the Senate that we need more than thoughts and prayers –– we need action, and that means passing lifesaving background check legislation,” John Feinblatt, Everytown's president, said in a statement. “We’ll stop at nothing to get legislation through the Senate and onto the President’s desk, and this campaign is just the beginning.”

The buy is part of Everytown's seven-figure ad campaign, which it announced last week and expects to last "several weeks and months." The group added that former New York Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg, a co-founder of Everytown, will triple-match donations to the group during the push. The group is also planning grassroots events aimed at mobilizing supporters alongside the paid media effort. 

“It’s been 25 years since Congress last passed meaningful gun safety laws, and our grassroots volunteer network will be relentless in demanding more than thoughts and prayers, before more lives are lost," Shannon Watts, the founder of the associated Moms Demand Action group, said in a statement. 

There's been a new push by the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass new gun safety legislation in recent weeks, particularly after the high-profile shootings at Atlanta-area spas and a Colorado grocery store. 

Key senators from both sides of the aisle told "Meet the Press" Sunday that they believed compromise on the issue was possible, but said they did not believe the background check expansions passed by the House earlier this month can reach the 60 votes needed to move a bill through the Senate.  

While Everytown has supported the House's background check expansion, the new ads call more broadly for action, keeping the door open for a compromise that could get enough Republican support to ultimately become law. 

While the National Rifle Association has been hamstrung by serious financial issues, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the group plans to lobby against new gun laws. 

As Congress weighs new gun laws, what has it done lately on the issue?

Mass shootings in Atlanta, Ga., and Boulder, Co., this month have once again prompted a new round of debate about whether Congress will pass any meaningful changes to gun safety laws.

On Sunday, a special edition of "Meet the Press" looked at how little the country’s gun laws have changed over the past two decades, even as regular mass casualty events at schools, stores and other public spaces have become grimly routine in the news.

There has been congressional movement on the issue, but most changes to the nation’s gun laws have been modifications around the edges, with even modest tightening of regulations only taking place when a Republican has been president. In fact, when it comes to legislation alone, gun rights actually expanded under President Barack Obama due to the expansion of gun possession laws on Amtrak and in national parks.  

Here’s are the major actions Congress has taken since the mid-1990s on gun laws: 

2019 — Congress authorizes $25 million to study gun violence to study gun violence through the CDC and NIH.

2019 — Violence Against Women Act allowed to expire (This month, the House passed a bill renewing the law and included new firearms restrictions for convicted domestic abusers).

2018 – FIX NICS Act, which helped improve enforcement of existing background check laws, passes.

2017 — Measure to prevent Social Security Administration from sharing data w/NICS (Congress overturned a regulation put in place by President Obama).

2013 — Extension of requirements that guns contain enough metal to be detectable in security screenings. 

2013 — VAWA reauthorization, following 2011 expiration — expands to LGBTQ, Native, and additional populations.

2009 — Allowing guns on Amtrak. 

2009 — Allowing guns in national parks.

2008 — NICS Improvement Amendments Act, which encouraged stronger data-sharing with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, passes

2006 — Prohibition on firearm seizures by federal officials during major disaster or emergency. 

2005 — New civil liability protections for firearms manufacturers and dealers. 

2005 — Head of ATF made Senate-confirmable position. 

2005 — Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005.

2004 — Allowance of concealed carry for active and retired law enforcement — superseding state laws. 

2004 — Assault weapons ban expires. 

2004 — Congress cuts direct funding for Bush initiative cracking down on black market gun crimes. 

2003 — New curbs on ATF’s ability to investigate gun crimes & prosecute gun dealers. 

2002 — Reorganization of ATF. 

1999 — New requirements for federal firearms licensees and restrictions on certain gun transfers.

1997 — Prohibition on domestic abusers from possessing guns & ammo.

1996 — Gun Free School Zones Act.

—Carrie Dann contributed. 

Progressive coalition push Democrats to go fast and go big with trillions at stake

As President Biden weighs his next big legislative package, progressive groups are looking to sell voters on his first one and push Democrats to go keep going big. 

A coalition of progressive and labor groups, Real Recovery Now!, are launching a $1 million advertising campaign and $1 million organizing campaign timed around Biden’s trip to Pittsburgh Wednesday, where he will begin to lay out his infrastructure plan.

The ads, which include digital banners (and real-life airplane ones), credit Democrats in competitive states with securing $1,400 checks and money for schools while naming Republicans who voted against them. They refer to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan as a “down payment” and promote Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan to go further. 

Backers who spoke to NBC News say they hope to whip Democrats to move quickly with a maximalist agenda on investments in clean energy and caregiving jobs as well as a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented or temporary immigrants, rather than slow down to court Republican votes. 

“Our main focus is this needs to be done speedily,” Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, told NBC News. “The longer this drags out, the more time Republicans have to try to spread lies and rumors — which they will do — to drag down the popularity of an already incredibly popular potential package.” 

The joint effort reflects the high stakes of the next set of legislation in Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan as the White House weighs $3 trillion or more in spending on infrastructure and other economic priorities. Every interest group in the progressive sphere is jockeying to make sure their policies are included, especially given the long odds of passing items outside of the 50-vote reconciliation process. 

“We get once every several generations an opportunity to reset our economy and democracy for the next era,” Ai-Jen Poo, a senior advisor to Care in Action, said. “Oftentimes those moments come on the heels of crises and times when social movements have organized and mobilized. This is a time like that.”

Some of the toughest fights could be over immigration, where there are questions about whether Senate rules will allow Democrats to include significant provisions and some moderates may be wary of loading too much onto an infrastructure bill.

The House recently passed bills that would provide a path to citizenship for DREAMers and farmworkers that Real Recovery Now! Is pushing to include. The coalition is also calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are considered essential workers. 

“There is a core belief among advocates in this movement for immigrant justice that there need to be early breakthroughs on immigration,” Lorella Praeli, co-president of Community Change and a longtime immigration activist, said.

Ohio GOP Rep. eyeing Senate bid raps potential primary foes for courting Trump's support

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who on Monday took a step toward a possible Senate bid in 2022, thinks little of would-be GOP primary rivals who’ve been auditioning for former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

“I think this race should be about Ohio, and I think their focus certainly communicates to the state that Ohio voters come second,” Turner told NBC News when asked about reports that four Republicans running or preparing to run for the seat soon-to-be-vacated by Sen. Rob Portman traveled to Florida last week to have an audience with Trump. 

The side meeting during a Trump-hosted fundraiser for a House candidate in Ohio — described to Politico as a “Hunger Games”-like exercise in political survival — included former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, and businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno. Each had a chance to talk up his or her campaign and field questions from Trump, who has not endorsed in the race. Mandel and Timken are the only announced candidates, and both have been strenuously courting Trump and his supporters.

“I think Ohio voters are what's important in this race,” Turner said. “I have a record, and I can understand if people who have no record have to seek other people to validate them.”

Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, questions Gordon Sondland during a House impeachment inquiry hearing on Capitol Hill on Nov. 20, 2019.Samuel Corum / Pool via AP file

A 10-term congressman from Dayton, Turner will launch a listening tour of Ohio that he said will help him decide whether to launch a full-fledged Senate campaign. He would run as a Trump ally. (He earned a Twitter attaboy from Trump after defending the then-president during the first impeachment hearings.) But fealty to Trump would not be his core argument to win. He said he’s received “pressure” to join the race from other Republicans unhappy with the developing field.

“Obviously my communications with people about this race are very different than the others running, because I actually can talk about what I've done,” said Turner, who plans to emphasize his service on the House Armed Services Committee.

In announcing the tour listening tour Monday, Turner released a 3-minute video with flourishes of the Trump era sprinkled in. One 25-second montage is nothing but footage of cable news hosts and talking heads introducing Turner to their viewers or mentioning him in coverage. Another clip shows Trump praising Turner. And Turner himself, in straight-to-camera remarks, asserts himself as an “America First” lawmaker. 

There also are moments that seem designed to neutralize potential rivals. The video opens with Turner touting his Appalachia and Rust Belt roots, reminiscent of the personal story J.D. Vance — whom GOP mega-donors, including Peter Thiel and the Mercer family, are attempting to lure into the race with more than $10 million in donations to a super PAC — wrote in his bestselling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” And there are choices that present Turner as an original: a Republican who can win in Democratic Dayton and also has a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

Turner won re-election last year by nearly 17 points against an upstart candidate with a national fundraising profile. But Democrats have long seen his district as one that could flip under the right circumstances. This year’s redistricting could change the boundaries.

“My congressional district is a swing district,” Turner said. “In order for us to have anybody who wins in November, they have to win all of Ohio, and that means bringing people together and being able to support issues and communicate across the state.”

No Democrat has announced a candidacy for the Senate seat. Rep. Tim Ryan of the Youngstown area, former Ohio health director Amy Acton, and Danny O’Connor, the elected recorder of property deeds in Franklin County, are among those considering the race.