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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:

Florida Democrat Murphy won't run for Senate against Rubio

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., announced Monday that she will not run for Senate, less than a week after fellow Democratic Rep. Val Demings signaled her intention to challenge incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. 

In a tweeted video, Murphy says “We’ve had too many close losses in Florida, and so I wanted to use my experience from winning tough races to help the party prepare itself.”

“The reality is that Marco Rubio will not be an easy opponent especially if it’s on the heels of a bruising primary where Democrats spend millions attacking each other instead of using those millions to build the infrastructure we desperately need to win.  So I have decided instead of running for the U.S. Senate, I will devote my energy to helping make our party stronger.

POLITICO first reported her decision.

Murphy told NBC News in February she was "seriously considering" a Senate bid in 2022 or 2024, when GOP Sen. Rick Scott's term is up. She also told NBC at the time she was launching a virtual listening tour. 

A Murphy/Demings primary would have pitted two of the Florida Democrats' rising stars against each other — Demings was on President Biden's shortlist for vice president and Murphy co-chairs the Blue Dog Coalition — so Murphy's decision to skip a Senate bid leaves Demings as the clear favorite. 

You can read more about the Florida race from our First Read analysis last week here.

Democrat heads toward New Mexico special House election with cash advantage over GOP opponent

New Mexico Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury leads her GOP opponent, state Sen. Mark Moores, in fundraising ahead of next month's special House election, new campaign finance documents show. 

Stansbury raised about $1.2 million between April 1 and May 12 and closed the period with $525,000 in the bank, according to a Thursday filing with the Federal Election Commission, the last fundraising glimpse candidates must provide before the June 1 election. Moores raised $344,000 over that same period and had $126,000 cash on hand. 

The Democrat received cash from dozens of her would-be House colleagues (or their political groups) including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif; Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.; Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.; Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.; Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-N.M.; and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.

She also received donations from both of her state's Democratic senators, Sen. Ben Ray Luján and Sen. Martin Heinrich, as well as groups like EMILY's List, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence's political group, Giffords' PAC and labor unions. 

Moores didn't receive nearly as much support from House Republicans, securing donations from the National Republican Congressional Committee and Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M. Other financial supporters include New Mexico politicians and political parties, as well as the National Rifle Association's political group. 

That fundraising edge for Stansbury translated into a spending edge too — she spent $772,000 over that period to Moores' $470,000. 

The two will face off at the ballot box on June 1 for the right to replace former Rep. Deb Haaland, who is now the Interior Secretary. Haaland won each of her congressional elections by double-digits before leaving the House, and the Democratic presidential nominee won the district in each of the last three presidential elections (the three presidential elections since the last round of redistricting) by double digits too. 

The election comes as Democrats have a slim majority, 219-211, in the House with five vacant seats (three previously held by Democrats and two previously held by Republicans), and ahead of next year's pivotal midterm elections that will decide which party controls the House. 

Fetterman poll shows him with a large lead in Democratic Pennsylvania Senate primary

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman holds the lead in a rare early poll of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, winning 40 percent of likely Democratic voters, with Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa. — who is weighing a bid but isn't officially a candidate — in second place with 21 percent.

The survey was conducted by Data For Progress, a progressive firm tapped by the Fetterman campaign, and first reported here by NBC News. It's based on a weighted sample of 302 likely Democratic primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman introduces Gov.Tom Wolf during an inaugural ceremony on Jan. 15, 2019, in Harrisburg, Pa.Mark Makela / Getty Images file

The poll shows the other prospects in single digits: State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has 9 percent, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., has 8 percent, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh has 5 percent and State Sen. Sharif Street has 2 percent. Fourteen percent say they aren’t sure who they’ll vote for in the primary.

A larger sample of 651 likely voters surveyed by Data For Progress found that in hypothetical general election races, Fetterman leads Republican businessman Jeff Bartos by 48 percent to 38 percent, and leads former GOP House candidate Sean Parnell by 48 percent to 40 percent. Both are outside the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Sean McElwee, the executive director of Data For Progress, said the results show that "John has unrivaled support amongst Democrats and independents across the state."

In Virginia governor's race, Democrats take their pitches to the airwaves

Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls are taking to the airwaves weeks before their party's voters choose a nominee to take on Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin in November. And the messages they're choosing say a lot about what their respective campaigns are pitching to voters. 

Take one of the ads from former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has made his prior experience as the state's governor the centerpiece of his bid. 

One recent ad centers on the story of a son whose father left jail to build a life for him and his family, but lost the right to vote until McAuliffe restored it as part of his broad push to restore voting rights to felons who served their sentences. 

"Terry McAuliffe believed in my dad. He believes in all of us," the son says in the ad. 

Two other candidates are also up on the air, former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, are using their ads to play up similar strategies: Upping their name recognition with the electorate while arguing for new leadership in the state. 

McClellan's new ad makes that call for new leadership quite explicit with a direct dig at McAuliffe. After running through her experience, she adds that "for 245 years, the perspectives of Virginia's governors, while different in some ways, have had more in common than not," as the ad ticks through photos of Virginia's governors, all white men except former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the state's only black governor.  

"The time for a new perspective is now," McClellan says. 

Carroll Foy uses a similar strategy in one of her recent ads, which points to her work in the legislature as well as being a foster mom and public defender to argue "I've spent my life helping people beat the odds."

"We can do so much better than the status quo to lift up every last one of us," she tells supporters.

 

So as the airwaves break down between the arguments of experience and a new direction, there's also the big question of cost. While McAuliffe is vastly outspending his rivals, according to ad-tracking firm Medium Buying, Carroll Foy is the only other candidate with more than $1 million in TV/radio spending. 

By comparison, McClellan is at just $51,000, which means she's had far less saturation on the airwaves (she released her first television ad today) than either McAuliffe or Carroll Foy. 

Georgia Lt. Gov. says he won't run again after bucking Trump on election

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, R-Ga., announced Monday he would not see re-election in 2022 and will instead work to "heal and rebuild" the Republican Party, which he has said has been damaged by former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged. 

Duncan revealed his decision during an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling his final year-and-a-half in office "an opportunity — a moment in time we can change the trajectory of the Republican Party that can last a generation." 

"Any narrative from a Republican that the election was stolen, that it was a rigged election, is wasted energy. And it only continues to make the pathway to winning for Democrats even easier,” he told the paper.

“It may be only a bold few to start with who join me, but I believe an overwhelming majority will eventually get there and get this party back on track.”

Shortly after the interview published, he released a statement on Twitter

Duncan joined "Meet the Press" earlier this year, where he preached a similar message about rebuilding the "GOP 2.0," and adding that Trump's "divisive" tone and unfounded allegations lost the GOP "credibility" and is a path that's "unwinnable in forward-looking elections." 

Watch the full "Meet the Press" interview with Duncan below. 

This week on the campaign trail: Gov and Senate races heat up

Six months since Election Day of 2020, the pace is already picking up on the campaign trail ahead of elections this fall as well as next year's midterm elections.

Here are some top headlines you may have missed: 

Sean Parnell jumps into open Pennsylvania Senate race

The former Republican congressional hopeful and Army veteran launched his Senate campaign this week in the hopes of filling the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Parnell joined a lawsuit to overturn his state's decision to certify President Joe Biden's win there, a suit the Supreme Court refused to take up last year and a suit Parnell has said he stands by. 

He'll be running in a crowded field that includes businessman and former Republican lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos, and a field that could get bigger as a handful of others consider running too. 

Trump's former campaign manager advising on a possible primary bid against DeWine 

NBC reported on Wednesday that Brad Parscale, who previously served as former President Donald Trump's campaign manager for much of his re-election campaign, is advising former Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, on a potential primary bid against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Renacci lost a bid to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in 2018, but is considering whether to run against DeWine. Last year, Trump mused on Twitter about who may run for governor in Ohio in 2022, a message many believed was a tacit call for a primary challenge to DeWine

Virginia governor's race heats up 

The biggest development in Virginia's gubernatorial race, 2021's marquee election? Republicans have a nominee, businessman Glenn Youngkin, after a complicated but relatively smooth primary process. Youngkin's challenge was made even more clear right after his victory — Trump immediately endorsed him in a move Republicans hope will keep the party together, but Democrats immediately used the endorsement to argue Youngkin is not the right fit for a state Trump lost by double-digits in 2020.

Democrats still have a month before they choose their nominee, with the field looking to break out and cut into former Gov. Terry McAuliffe's lead. Former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign announced Thursday she's been backed by feminist leader Gloria Steinem

Two Texas-sized developments 

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, was involved in two new developments on the elections front this week.  First, he set the runoff election date for the 6th Congressional District (vacated by the death of the late Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas) for July 27. Both candidates who advanced to the runoff are Republicans, meaning voters will choose between Wright's widow, Susan Wright, and state Rep. Jake Ellzey. 

And Abbott drew a primary challenger this week too — former state Sen. Don Huffines, who appears to be trying to hit the governor from the right, even as polling shows Abbott has a solid favorable rating in the state.

Trump endorses VA GOP gov. nominee Youngkin

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Glen Youngkin, the GOP nominee for Virginia's gubernatorial race, on Tuesday in a statement released by his political action committee. 

The quick endorsement came the morning after Youngkin was named the party's nominee in a protracted, ranked-choice drive-in convention. It gives the GOP hope the party can unify around Youngkin after a contentious convention that prompted frustration about the complicated process, but it also could play into the hands of Democrats who want to tie Youngkin to Trump in a state the former president lost by double-digits in 2020. 

"Congratulations to Glenn Youngkin for winning the Republican nomination for Governor of Virginia. Glenn is pro-Business, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Veterans, pro-America, he knows how to make Virginia’s economy rip-roaring, and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement!" Trump said. 

The rest of Trump's statement ripped former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, his party's frontrunner in their gubernatorial primary. But McAuliffe hasn't won the nomination, he's running against four other candidates in a primary that Democratic voters will decide on June 8. 

McConnell says 'proper price tag' for infrastructure bill is $600-$800 billion

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a new interview that the "the proper price tag for what most of us think of is infrastructure is about six to $800 billion," a shift from McConnell saying on May 3rd that "we're open to doing a roughly $600 billion package." 

The top Senate Republican made the comments in an interview with Renee Shaw on Kentucky PBS station KET. President Joe Biden is calling for a $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan while the GOP proposal, led by Sen Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., clocks in at just under $600 billion.

McConnell predicted "I think they'll see if they can pass this thing by getting everybody in line, if they can't, then we're open to talk about infrastructure and how to pay for it."

Biden will meet with McConnell and the rest of the two parties' leaders in the House and Senate this week, a meeting where infrastructure is likely to come up. He's also planning to meet with Republican senators Thursday on the issue. 

Analysis: Trump’s hold on the GOP is more than primary threats

The expected purge of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. from her position in House GOP leadership has some asking: Why are Republicans looking to recover from a loss in 2020 by rallying around President Trump, who just months earlier lost them the White House, Congress, and the Senate? 

One reason is that he commands the loyalty of many base voters, who can potentially primary his opponents. But just as important, he can credibly threaten to take those voters away from the GOP entirely, dragging down Republicans of all stripes. 

This reality undergirds a political argument Senator Lindsey Graham, R-.S.C. made for standing by Trump after criticizing him over the insurrection in January. 

“I would just say to my Republican colleagues: 'Can we move forward without President Trump?' The answer is no,” Graham said on Hannity on Thursday. “I've always liked Liz Cheney, but she's made a determination that the Republican Party can't grow with President Trump. I've determined we can't grow without him.” 

Graham has little to fear from a primary; he won re-election in November. But he does care a lot about the overall state of the GOP and he’s concerned that Trump’s economic populism brought in millions of new voters who might leave without him.

But why can’t Republicans like Graham just run on economic populism without entertaining Trump and his election lies, which are currently tearing their party apart and rallying the Democratic base in opposition? One problem is that Trump can take the party down with him in response.

In 2015, Republicans leaders resisted calls to expel Trump, who was seen as dragging down the party’s brand, in part because he was threatening to run as an Independent — and they believed him. Unlike other Republicans, he’s never made a pretense of putting the party’s health over his own ambitions.

This dynamic returned earlier this year as the party momentarily wavered on whether to abandon him over the Capitol attack. While they deliberated, reports suddenly emerged that Trump was considering a new third party. He ruled it out shortly after his acquittal in the impeachment trial. 

It’s important to note Cheney’s argument is being made primarily as a defense of truth and American democracy, not as a political feint justified by raw vote totals.

But if Trump were to withdraw his support for Republicans in 2022 or declare the elections fatally compromised, the results could be devastating. His campaign to delegitimize the vote in Georgia may have cost Republicans the Senate by depressing conservative turnout, prompting statehouses around the country to pass new voting restrictions aimed in part at reassuring Trump voters who believe his false claims.

President Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly said he would prefer to keep a party rival “inside the tent peeing out, then outside the tent peeing in." This isn’t quite the same thing: There’s nothing Republicans can do to keep Trump from making a mess. But the alternative might be Trump taking out the tent poles and crashing the entire structure. 

Charlie Crist announces Florida gubernatorial bid

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., is running for governor, he announced Tuesday, an attempt to return to the state's executive mansion — this time, as a member of the other party.

Crist governed the state from 2007-2011 — while elected as a Republican, he finished out his term without any party affiliation after a failed 2010 Senate bid. He later joined the Democratic Party (after an unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial bid) and is in his third term in Congress. 

Now he wants to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been seen as a rising star on the right and has been trumpeting his state's response to the pandemic. 

Crist's announcement video tries to make a contrast with DeSantis as it runs through Crist and supposed Floridians looking back fondly on his time in the governor's mansion, as well as his work in Congress during the pandemic. 

"Today, Florida has a governor that's only focused on his future, not yours. While COVID took the lives of 35,000 Floridians, DeSantis attacked doctors and scientists," Crist says. 

"DeSantis is stripping away your voting rights, he's against a $15 minimum wage, he doesn't believe in background checks for guns, doesn't believe in a woman's right to choose, doesn't listen, doesn't care, and unless you can write him a campaign check, you don't exist." 

And for the eagle-eyed political junkie, the video also includes praise from former President Barack Obama during a 2009 event on the Great Recession, an event where the then-Republican embraced the Democratic president in an image that helped to sink his career within the GOP

The announcement makes him the first major Democrat to throw their hat into the ring, but he's not expected to be alone. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has repeatedly nodded at the prospect of running, and has been a vocal critic of DeSantis. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., released a social-media bio spot produced by her congressional campaign on Tuesday, shortly after she retweeted a call for Florida's next governor to be a woman. 

DeSantis has become one of the more visible governors during the pandemic, often clashing with reporters and Biden administration public health officials about things like vaccine mandates and public-health restrictions. 

During a press conference on Monday where he signed a bill that prohibited businesses from requiring customers to certify they've been vaccinated for Covid-19 before entering, the Republican took a victory lap on his handling of the pandemic. 

"We focused on lifting people up. We wanted people going back to work, we wanted our kids to be in school," DeSantis said, criticizing liberal cities across the country for implementing new Covid-19 related restrictions. 

"We wanted our economy to be healthy, we wanted our society to be healthy, we wanted people to be happy living in Florida. That was the path that we trodded, it was the road less traveled at the time, but. think we're sitting here now seeing the state is much more prosperous as a result of that." 

Liberal group launches $12 million TV ad buy to boost Democrats' sweeping elections bill

The liberal group End Citizens United is launching a $12 million TV ad campaign nationally and in key states Tuesday, aimed at getting the Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill over the finish line.

The ads, first reported by NBC News, include a national spot and separate ads for five states that include key Democratic senators: Arizona, GeorgiaNew HampshireNevada and West Virginia.

The House has passed the bill and a Senate committee plans to mark up S.1, titled the “For The People Act” on May 11. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated the full chamber will consider the bill.

West Virginia will be a focal point because Sen. Joe Manchin is the only Democrat in the 50-member caucus who hasn’t cosponsored the bill. He said Friday on WV MetroNews Talkline that it is “a far-reaching, 800-page bill which I do not support in its totality,” and has called for bipartisan policies to protect trust in elections. 

The group's West Virginia ad doesn’t mention Manchin by name and appears aimed at creating political space for the centrist Democrat to support the bill. “Now's our moment,” a narrator says. “Together we can give power back to people, limit the influence of corporate special interests, get big money out of our politics.”

Manchin “has talked about how important it is to protect free and fair elections and reduce the influence of money in politics. He has a record of supporting many of the proposals in this bill, which have broad bipartisan support,” said Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund.

The other four states are home to Democratic senators who face re-election and are top Republican targets. In Arizona, there are English and Spanish-language ads giving air cover to Sen. Mark Kelly, who comes before voters next fall; and thanking Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Democrat who sometimes breaks with her party, for backing the bill.

"End Citizens United/Let America Vote is ramping up all aspects of our campaign as the bill continues to move closer to a vote on the Senate floor, where we expect it to pass,” Muller said.

“This bill will stop billionaires from buying elections, counteract the wave of voter suppression being carried out across the country, and put in place ironclad ethics laws to make Washington work for everyone.”

Democrats have a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate and no support for the bill among Republicans, who have blasted it as a partisan-power grab. Even if Democrats were to unify their caucus and secure a majority, they would need to eliminate or get around the 60-vote threshold to pass the legislation.

Conservative groups have been vocal about their opposition to the legislation, too. The American Action Network launched digital ads against it in key swing districts back in March, and the Heritage Action announced that month it would spend $10 million on what it dubbed an "election integrity campaign," which includes opposing the Democratic plan.