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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.
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Here are some initial takeaways from the most recent FEC reports

Friday's first-quarter fundraising deadline gave reporters and the public the first glance at the state of 2021 campaign fundraising during a hectic three months that included the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, objections to the Electoral College, an impeachment vote, serious jockeying for higher office and many other flashpoints. 

Here are some key things we've learned from those filings so far: 

Most corporate PACs appear to have followed through on donation pauses

After the Electoral College objections and the Capitol attack, dozens of corporations put out statements ranging from condemnations to calls to re-evaluate their giving or blanket bans on donations to those who objected to President Joe Biden's victory. And this first, preliminary look, makes clear that most followed through. 

The majority of Republicans who objected to the Electoral College certification saw a decrease in political action committee donations in the first quarter of 2021 when compared to the first quarter of 2019 (only counting those who were in Congress during both eras). 

And most of the organizations that spoke out in the wake of the attack didn't donate to these members (note: Many of these corporate PACs file semi-annually, while federal candidates file quarterly).

Only a small group, including companies like Toyota, the National Association of Realtors, JetBlue and Cigna did, giving to a handful of lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election. But those groups issued more broad statements after the Congressional vote, not specifically promising the end to donations to those who objected to the Electoral College.  

Toyota is one good example of how some of those companies are handling the issue. In January, Toyota told E&E that "given recent events and the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are assessing our future PAC criteria." But when asked by NBC News about its donations, a Toyota spokesman said its donations are "based on their position on issues that are important to the auto industry and the company."

"We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification. Based on our thorough review, we decided against giving to some members who, through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions," the spokesperson added, noting that the company generally gives to lawmakers who represent areas where Toyota has operations and that the company gave both to Democrats this quarter, as well as four of the 10 House Republicans who backed former President Donald Trump's impeachment

But many of those who objected raised a lot of small-dollar money 

If the money isn't coming in from corporations, then a candidate has to find new revenue sources. Many of those who objected to the Electoral College got a bump from small-dollar donors (per Politico, a majority of them), particularly some of the most outspoken objectors. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who vocally helped to lead the opposition to the Electoral College vote, raised an eye-popping $3 million over the single quarter, almost two-thirds from donations of under $200. In the first quarter of 2019, Hawley raised just $44,000. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., also raised about $3 million, a massive sum for a House member and more than all but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

And Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., another GOP lawmaker who repeatedly cast doubt on the veracity of the Electoral College (and more recently is facing investigations into sexual misconduct allegations) raised $1.8 million that quarter, more than three-quarters in donations under $200. 

The GOP spent the Trump years trying to leverage Trump's success with small-dollar donors into helping the party as a whole. And it remains clear that if big donors will be slow to donate to those who objected to the Electoral College, these small-dollar donors will only become more important to these members as they look toward re-election or higher office. 

Trump critics raised significant money, some spending big on security  

We didn't just see big quarters from those who backed Trump's attempts to throw out the Electoral College — some of the former president's most vocal Republican critics raked in cash too. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., raised $1.5 million, more than all but 12 House members. And the $1.2 million haul from Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., was good enough to get him into the top 20 of all members last quarter. 

But some of those seen as major Trump critics, either who supported his impeachment or have otherwise spoken out against him, have spent big money on security during the first quarter. Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., spent $69,000 of the $112,000 spent by his campaign all quarter on security services or consulting (Toomey is retiring at the end of 2022). His campaign had previously reported spending a total of $6,600 on security over the last decade. 

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who joined with Toomey to vote to impeach Trump, spent almost $44,000 on security expenses in February — he had spent about $2,000 on security previously out of his campaign account. 

Race for the Senate begins to come into focus

It's still early, but these reports also provided the first glimpse of what resources notable Senate candidates are beginning to amass. 

In the heated Ohio Senate GOP primary, former state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken loaned her campaign $1 million and raised another $1.1 million. Her primary opponent at this point, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, actually lost money in his primary campaign account apparently because his investments took a $130,000 hit. But a spokesman told his campaign will net about $700,000 through fundraising in his joint fudraising committee.  

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democrat seen to be eying a bid, posted a $1.2 million quarter with nothing from his own personal funds. 

Some incumbents likely to face serious challenges raised big money — for example, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., raised almost $4.4 million; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised more than $1.6 million; Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., raised $4.6 million from Jan. 26 through March; Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., raised $2.9 million; and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised $2.3 million. 

Others, like Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., raised less as they continue to weigh whether they'll run again. 

Dayton mayor launches Ohio gubernatorial bid presenting herself as antidote to decades of Republican rule

Nan Whaley, the Democratic mayor of Dayton, Ohio, declared her candidacy for governor Monday by characterizing Republican incumbent Mike DeWine as an avatar of complacence and compliance in the face of economic distress and corruption. 

“I think the people of Ohio agree that they deserve better,” Whaley, 45, said in a telephone interview with NBC News. 

“People are working longer and longer hours, sometimes even two jobs, getting paid less, and not being able to provide for their families,” Whaley added. “And we've had three decades with the same corrupt politicians in Columbus, who care more about the extreme interests and lining their personal and political pockets, rather than folks who are trying to provide for their families and want their kids to have actual opportunities in Ohio.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley speaks alongside Democrats from the House of Representatives and Senate at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2019, in Washington.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

DeWine, 74, has not been implicated, but a scandal involving other prominent Ohio Republicans and legislation viewed as a bailout for two nuclear power plants has become a potential liability for GOP officials. Larry Householder, the former speaker of the Ohio House, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he orchestrated a $60 million bribery scheme around the legislation.

“What's gonna matter,” Whaley said, “is that people are going to see that the leadership and Columbus has been completely interested in self-dealing, and they're paying for it on their electric bills every month.”

Republicans have held the governor’s chair and most partisan statewide offices in Ohio for all but four years since 1990. DeWine has been a GOP mainstay since the 1980s, serving the state in the U.S. House and Senate and as lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Whaley and DeWine previously had enjoyed a cordial relationship, but the mayor believes the governor’s leadership on the pandemic — once lauded by those on both sides of the aisle as bold and decisive, especially when compared to former President Donald Trump and other Republicans — has worsened the more he fears backlash from his party’s base. Several Republicans, including former Rep. Jim Renacci, are considering challenging DeWine in next year’s primary largely on the basis that they think he’s been too restrictive in his approach to the coronavirus.

“There are actually examples over and over again in the midst of the pandemic where I think he puts his wanting to protect his power over his principle,” Whaley said of DeWine.

In an emailed statement, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik criticized Whaley’s two terms as mayor, noting high crime and poverty rates in the city.

“Now, Nan Whaley wants a promotion. Ohioans deserve leaders who serve to better our communities, not build their own political resumes,” Paduchik said.

Whaley has long been seen as a rising star in Ohio. She briefly ran for governor in 2018 but dropped out once it was clear Democratic establishment leaders were coalescing behind Richard Cordray, the state’s former attorney general and the former head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray lost to DeWine by less than 4 percentage points.

Since 2018, Whaley has elevated her state and national profile, first by leading an unsuccessful effort to draft Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, into the 2020 presidential race and then by becoming a surrogate for Pete Buttigieg’s White House bid. Her leadership of Dayton through several crises — including destructive tornadoes and a mass shooting that left nine dead in August of 2019 — also put her in front of national audiences. When Trump visited after the shooting, Whaley found herself the target of his angry tweets, even though she had said victims and first responders were grateful for his appearance.

“It's true that I am not the same person that ran four years ago,” Whaley said Monday. “And it is not through any fault of Dayton that we were tested so often through these challenges.”

Another Democrat, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, has been raising money for several months as he explores seeking the party's nomination for governor.

Dayton is not among the three metro areas — Cincinnati, along with Cleveland and Columbus — that traditionally produce statewide candidates. Whaley addresses that reality while alluding to the city’s recent challenges in her launch video, which begins by asking: “What does somebody from Dayton know about tough?”

The strength theme continues throughout the video, which hits on the corruption scandals and features footage of DeWine in Dayton after the 2019 shooting as Whaley talks about leaders who are “too weak to do something.” “Do Something” became a rallying cry for gun-safety advocates who chanted the phrase at DeWine during that visit. 

DeWine has at times signaled interest in gun control legislation but has not been able to sell the GOP-controlled General Assembly. After suggesting that he would veto “stand your ground” legislation that removed the duty to retreat before shooting in self-defense, DeWine in January signed the bill.

Party-switching candidate attacks GOP Gov. Kemp as he launches primary challenge

Georgia Republican gubernatorial hopeful Vernon Jones, a former Democratic state representative who backed former President Donald Trump's re-election and ultimately switched parties, blasted the state's current governor during an appearance on Fox Business days after he announced his primary challenge. 

During his TV appearance, Jones criticized Republican Gov. Brian Kemp by accusing him of being responsible for GOP losses in the state in 2020, and arguing he "cannot beat Stacey" Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who may be eying another gubernatorial bid after she lost to Kemp in 2018.

"Our governor failed when we lost two United States Senate seats. He was directly responsible for this," he said on Fox Business. 

"Brian Kemp cannot beat Stacey. He's caved into her one time and we don't want him to cave in again." 

The broadsides on Kemp echo criticism from Trump and his allies, who still hold a grudge against Kemp because they say he didn't do enough to support Trump's unfounded claims of widespread electoral fraud. But other Republicans have said that Trump's repeated calls for states like Georgia to overturn the election results helped cost the GOP both Senate seats in the January runoffs there. 

As Trump has continued to criticize Kemp, the governor has become the face of the state's controversial new voting restrictions, which he signed into law last month

The former president has not yet endorsed in this race, although he did back Republican Rep. Jody Hice's primary bid against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another top Georgia Republican Trump criticized in the wake of his loss. 

What all the new poll numbers tell us about Biden and his agenda

In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen four major national polls — Monmouth, Quinnipiac, NPR/PBS/Marist and Pew — release findings on President Biden’s first three months in office and the popularity of his legislative priorities.

And despite differing methodologies (Pew is an online poll, the others are live-caller) and differing overall numbers, these polls tell five clear stories about how Americans view the president and his early agenda. 

1. As he nears 100 days in office, Biden’s approval rating remains above water

Biden’s job rating

Monmouth: 54 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove

Quinnipiac: 48 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove

NPR/PBS/Marist: 53 percent approve, 39 percent disapprove

Pew: 59 percent approve, 39 percent disapprove

2. Americans are feeling more optimistic

According to the Monmouth poll, 46 percent of Americans believe the nation is headed in the right direction, versus 50 percent who think it’s on the wrong back. 

A month ago in the same poll, it was 34 percent right track, 61 percent wrong track.

3. Biden’s infrastructure bill is popular, and it pretty much matches his overall job rating 

Quinnipiac: 44 percent support it, 38 percent oppose it

Quinnipiac -- if it raises taxes on corporations: 53 percent support, 39 percent oppose

NPR/PBS/Marist: 56 percent support, 34 percent oppose 

4. Increasing taxes on corporations and those making $400,000 or above is popular

Quinnipiac on raising corporate taxes: 62 percent support, 31 percent oppose

Quinnipiac on raising taxes on those making $400K+: 64 percent support, 31 percent oppose 

NPR/PBS/Marist on $400K+: 65 percent support, 33 percent oppose

5. Biden’s personal ratings are higher than his policy ratings 

In the Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans say they like the Biden conducts himself, while 27 percent disagree and another 27 percent have a mixed opinion.  

That’s compared with a combined 44 percent who say they like all or many of his policies. 

And another 44 percent in the Pew poll say Biden has changed the tone of the political debate for the better; 29 percent say he’s changed it for the worse; and 27 percent say he hasn’t changed it much either way. 

The Monmouth poll was conducted April 8-12, and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.5 percentage points.  

The Quinnipiac poll was also conducted April 8-12, and has a margin of error of plus-minus 2.8 percentage points. 

The NPR/PBS/Marist poll was conducted April 7-13, and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points. 

And the Pew poll was conducted April 5-11, and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 2.1 percentage points.

Poll: Majority of Americans say a "not-guilty" verdict in Chauvin trial would be a negative step for race relations

Six-in-ten Americans say that a verdict of “not guilty” for the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd would be a negative step for race relations in America, according to new poll data from Monmouth University. 

But the country is more divided on whether a conviction for Derek Chauvin would actually improve race relations, with almost half of Americans saying it’s not likely to make much of a difference. 

The survey, which was conducted April 8-12, finds that 63 percent of Americans said it would be a negative step for race relations if Chauvin, who is charged with murder in Floyd’s death last year, is found not guilty.  

But, asked about the possibility that Chauvin is instead found guilty of murder, 46 percent said a guilty verdict won’t make a significant difference for race relations. Thirty-seven percent say a guilty verdict would have a positive effect. 

Chauvin faces second-degree and third-degree murder charges, as well as a manslaughter charge. 

The Hennepin County Government Center on April 14, 2021, in Minneapolis.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

The survey finds significant differences between white Republicans and other white partisans on this issue. Among white Republicans, just 13 percent say a guilty verdict would be a good step for race relations. A majority — 56 percent — of white Democrats and independents say the same thing. 

About half of Americans– 49 percent – also said that police officers are more likely to use excessive force against a Black person than against a white person in similar circumstances. That’s down from the 57 percent who said the same last June, but still much higher than in previous surveys.

About a third – 30 percent — of Americans say there’s more racism among police officers than among other groups, while 14 percent say there’s less and 51 percent say there is not more or less racism among police officers compared to the rest of society. 

The survey comes at a time when there is very high awareness of the ongoing Chauvin trial. Almost two-thirds of Americans say they have heard a lot about it, with another 31 percent saying they’ve heard a little. 

The Monmouth survey was conducted April 8-12 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Poll: Forty-three percent of Republicans say they will avoid vaccine if possible

A new poll from Monmouth University finds that about one-in-five Americans say they plan to avoid  getting a Covid-19 vaccine if possible, a share that remains virtually unchanged since the beginning of the year.  

The survey, which was conducted April 8-12 — before federal health authorities called for a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to very rare cases of blot clots in some women — found that 21 percent of Americans overall say they likely won’t get the vaccine if they can avoid it. That’s compared to a statistically similar 24 percent in both January and March polls. 

Those shunning the jab include 43 percent of Republicans but just 5 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of independents. 

Volunteer medical staff administer Covid-19 vaccines to walk-in patients during a pop-up clinic at Western International High School on April 12, 2021 in Detroit, Mich.Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images

But the poll also has some good news for vaccine advocates. The share of Americans who say they want to wait and see how the vaccine rollout goes before getting a shot is down from 21 percent in March to just 12 percent now. 

Overall, 51 percent of Americans say they’ve received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Another 14 percent say they plan to get one as soon as they can. 

The poll also finds President Joe Biden’s approval rating above water, with 54 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving of his performance in office so far. 

That’s compared with a 51 percent approve/42 percent disapprove rating last month. 

The poll of 800 respondents was conducted April 8-12 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.


McCrory makes it official, announces N.C. Senate bid

Former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory says he’s in for the 2022 Senate race. 

McCrory made the announcement on his Charlotte-area radio show Wednesday morning, saying he is “simply the best for this job of any of the people talking about running for it.” 

In a separate announcement video, McCrory emphasized the stakes of the next Senate contest, noting the 50/50 split between the parties in the upper chamber and the fact that ties are currently broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.

“It’s time we join together and take back the Senate from Kamala Harris,” he says in the video. “So I’m in.” 

Former GOP Rep. Mark Walker has already announced a bid for the seat, which will be open after the retirement of Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Rep. Ted Budd is also reportedly considering a run.

McCrory enjoys high name recognition in the state from his stint as governor. But former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has also been floated as a candidate whose last name would immediate make her a top-tier contender for the seat.

Former N.C. Gov. McCrory to run for open Senate seat

The North Carolina Senate race is about to get more crowded. 

Former Republican Governor Pat McCrory plans to announce on Wednesday that he is running for the open seat to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr, according to two sources familiar with his plans. 

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory speaks in Raleigh on Nov. 9, 2016.Jonathan Drake / Reuters file

McCrory, who led the state from 2012 until he lost his re-election in 2016, will enter what is expected to be a crowded Republican primary that already includes former Rep. Mark Walker, who took a shot at McCrory on Monday upon the news of his potential bid. 

Sources say the GOP field could also include Lara Trump, former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, and possibly Rep. Ted Budd, D-N.C.

The Democratic primary is expected to get bigger soon, too. Former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley could announce her candidacy as early as this week, three sources tell NBC News. 

Beasley, an African American woman, lost a close re-election in 2020 as the top judge in the state. Her race went to a recount. She would be running against former state Sen. Erica Smith and state Senator Jeff Jackson, who have both already announced their bids. Jackson's campaign said he raised $1.3 million in the first quarter of 2021. 

The outcome of the election in the swing state will be critical in the battle for the Senate, which is currently evenly divided. 

Former President Donald Trump won the state in 2016 and 2020 but voters in those elections also elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper on the same ballot. 

“Arguably North Carolina is the swingiest state in the nation,” Democratic consultant Morgan Jackson said. “It’s the right recipe for a really big Senate race.”

Progressive Kentucky Democrat explores Senate bid against Rand Paul

Former state Rep. Charles Booker, the progressive Democrat who narrowly lost the party's Democratic Senate primary in 2020, is launching an exploratory committee for a potential bid against Republican Sen. Rand Paul. 

Booker made the announcement in a video posted to social media where he recounted his 2020 campaign's rise amid the backdrop of public outcry after police shootings of Black people, all amid a global pandemic. And he criticized the push by Republican legislators across the country to enact new voting restrictions after former President Donald Trump lost the presidential election. 

"As we made our stand together, I could not have imagined the new world we were about to step into — the height of racial tension, the pandemic, an insurrection. While Kentuckians lost their livelihoods and their homes, a handful of privileged politicians chose to continue criminalizing poverty. While our loved ones were brutalized they chose to do nothing," Booker says in the video. 

"Those folks building walls between us, they're scared now. They saw how close we came to shifting the scales, our forward motion knocking them on their heels. And they'll stop at nothing to drag us backwards." 

Booker fell just three percentage points short of winning the 2020 Senate Democratic primary to former fighter pilot Amy McGrath. McGrath, who massively outraised and outspent Booker, went on to lose to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by almost 20 points.

Booker shares many ideas with the Democratic Party's progressive wing, supporting the Green New Deal and  Medicare for All. He's also been an outspoken advocate for racial justice — he rallied Kentuckians after the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, which happened during the primary campaign. 

While Booker hasn't officially declared a bid, if he decides to challenge Paul, it will be difficult sledding — while Democrats did successfully flip the governor's mansion in 2019, Republicans have held both Senate seats since the turn of the century. Paul first won his seat in the 2010 midterms, winning a second term in 2016 after he dropped out of the presidential race. 

Virginia Gov. Northam backs Terry McAuliffe's bid to return to governor's mansion

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he is endorsing Terry McAuliffe to be the state's next governor, a move that gives McAuliffe another big backer in his corner as he looks to leverage his experience, deep pockets and relationships with establishment Democrats in the state to help him secure another, non-consecutive term as governor. 

In a statement released by the McAuliffe campaign, Northam pointed to the former governor's experience as a key attribute that can help the state as it claws out of the health and economic crises created by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"The longer-term impacts of this pandemic, however, will be around long after I leave office, and it's critical that our next governor has the plans and experience to continue the fight to rebuild Virginia into a stronger, more equitable future. That's why I am so proud to support Terry McAuliffe to be our next governor," Northam said. 

"When Terry puts his mind to something, he'll move heaven and earth to make it happen. I've worked side-by-side with him for years, and simply put, he always gets the job done. Virginians need and deserve Terry's committed leadership as our next governor to continue to move us forward and build on the incredible progress Democrats have made over the past eight years."

Northam served as McAuliffe's lieutenant governor from 2014-2017 and won McAuliffe's endorsement to succeed him, an endorsement that served particularly helpful in the 2013 Democratic primary. Virginia elects governors to one, four-year term, after which they can't immediately run for re-election. However, they can run for non-consecutive terms, as McAuliffe is attempting to do. 

Terry McAuliffe, left, and Ralph Northam, celebrate Northam's win in the Democratic Gubernatorial primary on June 13, 2017 in Crystal City, Va.Cliff Owen / AP file

McAuliffe has been touting his experience as the centerpiece of his bid — he left office well-liked and has remained a fixture in the state's political scene, as well as the national one (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has endorsed him). Mark Bergman, one of Northam's top political advisers, told the Associated Press that the governor was choosing between Northam and two other candidates — former state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan.

Both Carroll Foy and McClellan are trying to fashion themselves as candidates who represent a new direction for the state, with Carroll Foy specifically criticizing McAuliffe in recent weeks as a return to politics of the past. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been accused of sexual assault, is also running, as is state Delegate Lee Carter, a marine veteran and socialist. 

While Northam's reputation in the state has rebounded, he faced a smattering of calls to resign in 2019 after a photo emerged from his medical school yearbook page that showed one man posing in blackface and another donning a Ku Klux Klan robe. While denying he was in that photo, he admitted to using shoe polish to darken his face while impersonating Michael Jackson in a dance contest in 1984. McAullife initially called on Northam to step down, Northam never did and the pressure campaign faded away. 

Pence launches new policy and advocacy group to champion Trump-era policy and oppose Biden agenda

Former Vice President Mike Pence has launched his new policy and advocacy group, called Advancing American Freedom, the biggest brick yet in the foundation Pence is building toward a potential future bid for president. 

The group, according to a new statement announcing the launch, will “promote the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad, to defend those policies from liberal attacks and media distortions, and to prevent the radical Left from enacting its policy agenda that would threaten America’s freedoms.”

Advancing American Freedom is incorporated in Indiana, but will have office space in Washington D.C., according to a source involved with the group. 

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a rally on Dec. 04, 2020, in Savannah, Ga.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

The announcement comes as Pence begins to tiptoe back into the public eye after a high-profile break with former President Donald Trump over whether he could overturn the 2020 election results. He's expected to make his first public speech since leaving office later this month in South Carolina. 

Advancing American Freedom's messaging previews the pitch Pence may make to GOP voters during presidential primary season: that he's the person who can carry on the Trump message on behalf of the voters the former president brought into the Republican fold in 2016, while also speaking to more traditional GOP base. 

“Mike Pence is looking to chair this new organization in a direction that continues to fuse those different parts of our movement together because that's a winning formula,” former Pence chief of staff Marc Short, the group's co-chair, said on Fox Business Wednesday morning. 

Along with Short, senior advisor Marty Obst and political strategist Chip Saltsman are also co-chairing the group. The group’s executive director, Paul Teller, worked as one of Pence’s liaisons to Capitol Hill.

Its advisory board includes a handful of former Trump administration officials and top allies, including former Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich, former Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, former Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. 

And the group's announcement makes clear how it views the Biden administration, adding that "In addition to articulating and advancing a policy agenda, Advancing American Freedom will oppose the expansion of government under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ radical Left policy agenda from Washington, D.C., into communities across the country.