The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
New poll shows a majority of likely California voters remain opposed to recalling Newsom
A new poll shows that 57 percent of likely California voters are against recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom from office, numbers that come as the Democrat is expected to face his state's voters in a recall election later this year.
The new data from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that 40 percent of likely voters back removing Newsom from office, the same portion that held that sentiment during the last PPIC poll in March. The vast majority of Republicans, 78 percent, back a Newsom recall, compared to a fraction of Democrats, 11 percent. Of independents, 47 percent support the recall.
Newsom's 54 percent approval rating among likely voters is also virtually the same as it was in PPIC's March and January polling. And 61 percent of likely voters support his approval of the pandemic.
PPRI data shows Californians' views on the state's work at distributing the Covid-19 vaccine have improved significantly since January, 86 percent say the worst of the pandemic has already passed, and 28 percent are concerned they will contract the virus and need to be hospitalized (down 19 percentage points since March).
Even so, economic worries are still commonplace as the country and the state tries to claw out from the virus's negative effects on the economy, and as concerns about things like inflation still rage. Fifty-three percent of Californians believe the state is in a recession. But while the majority of Californians say they are in a similar financial place to where they were a year ago, 29 percent of those making under $40,000 say they are in a worse financial place.
Seventy percent of adults, and 61 percent of likely voters, support Newsom's proposal to dole out more stimulus checks, with significant majorities of both adults and likely voters backing Newsom's rent-relief plan.
Newsom is expected to face a runoff election later this year after opponents appeared to secure enough signatures to force an election — while those opponents have tried for years to recall Newsom, their movement gained new momentum amid the pandemic, particularly when Newsom was caught dining maskless at a posh restaurant while calling on Californians to stay home.
Voters will be asked two questions — first if Newsom should be kicked out of office, and if so, who should replace him. If a majority of voters support removing him, they'll choose from what's expected to be a long list of replacements, a list Newsom cannot be on.
The most prominent Republican candidates looking to replace him are former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, former gubernatorial hopeful John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Rep. Doug Ose. So far, no prominent Democrats are running.
New York City Democratic mayoral debate will now be live as Covid-19 restrictions ease
New York City will hold its next debate for the Democratic mayoral nomination in person next week, the first officially sanctioned debate of the race that will put candidates on the same stage amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amy Loprest, the executive director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which oversees the debates, announced the change in a statement Monday.
"The Board is thrilled that WABC will be able to hold the debate on June 2 in-person. We appreciate all of the work that will go into making this debate compelling for the voters and safe for the candidates, moderators, and WABC personnel," she said, referencing the local news station carrying the debate.
The race's first official debate was held virtually on May 13. But as vaccination rates have improved and case-loads have decreased, the board made the decision to move to an in-person debate.
Eight Democrats have qualified for the debate, according to WABC — Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former OMB Director Shaun Donovan, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former Citi exec Ray McGuire, former nonprofit CEO Dianne Morales, Comptroller Scott Stringer, former MSNBC contributor and Civilian Complaint Review Board chair Maya Wiley, and former 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang.
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.
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.
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.