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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:

O'Rourke to travel Texas for voting-rights tour amid possible gubernatorial bid

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, will hit the road this month for a series of events on voting rights against the backdrop of both the state Republican Party's push to enact new restrictions on elections as well as reports the Democrat could run for governor in 2022. 

Powered by People, the PAC O'Rourke founded after he dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, is holding events across the state featuring the former congressman in the hopes of rallying support for the For the People Act. That's the comprehensive voting and elections overhaul Democrats are trying to pass through Congress.

The early schedule on the Powered by People website shows O'Rourke scheduled for trips to Midland, Lubbock, Abilene, Wichita Falls and Denton, Texas over the next week, with more stops promised to be announced soon. 

The trip comes as the Republican-controlled legislature in Texas is pushing a sweeping new bill that would enact sweeping new election restrictions in the state, including limits on voting hours, a ban on drive-through voting and new restrictions on mail ballots. House Democrats successfully blocked the bill from being passed before the end of the state's bi-annual legislative session, but Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to bring the bill up during a special session.

In criticizing the push by Texas Republicans, people like President Joe Biden pointed to their hope that Congress would pass federal legislation concerning voting rights. 

O'Rourke's trip also comes days after the Associated Press reported he hasn't ruled out a bid for governor against Abbott. 

Nina Turner's campaign touts internal poll showing large lead in special Ohio House primary

CLEVELAND — Former Ohio Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner is far outpacing her rivals in the special election for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, according to an internal poll released Tuesday by the campaign of Turner, the high-profile ally of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Turner led an eight-candidate field with 50 percent among 600 Democrats likely to vote in the Aug. 3 primary. Her closest competitor, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, had 15 percent, with 21 percent of respondents undecided.

The poll, conducted by Tulchin Research, has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Voters were reached by phone calls to both landlines and cell phones, as well as by email and text message, from May 20-26.  

“I am proud to be known as a leader who will partner with anyone who puts the interest of the people first, has the courage to ask for more and the unique ability to build a broad coalition to get things done on their behalf," Turner said in a statement issued by her campaign.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, delivers remarks after being introduced as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden' nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs at the Queen Theater on Dec. 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Del.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

The poll also found Turner with wide leads among both Black and white Democratic voters. The Ohio 11th encompasses a historically majority-minority district.

The race to succeed Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge is seen nationally as an early test of the progressive left’s energy and strength in a party led by President Joe Biden. Turner has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other members of The Squad, the group of liberal lawmakers of color who often push back on the Democratic Party's establishment.

Brown, who chairs the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, has called attention to Turner’s past criticism of Biden and pledged to be an unflinching White House loyalist. Turner, though, is a former top Ohio Democratic Party official with a deep reservoir of support among Cleveland-area Democrats, including Mayor Frank Jackson and former colleagues in the Legislature.

Thirteen Democrats have qualified for the Aug. 3 primary, but Turner's poll shows most lacking significant support from voters.  Jeff Johnson, a former Cleveland City Council member and state lawmaker, was at 4 percent, former state Sen. Shirley Smith at 3 percent, and former state Rep. John Barnes and Navy veteran Tariq Shabazz each at 2 percent. Pollster Ben Tulchin told NBC News that the Turner campaign opted to offer respondents eight choices to make the ballot more manageable. The other seven candidates included in the poll, not including Turner, accounted for a combined 31 percent.

Two Republicans also are seeking the Ohio 11th seat, though the district is drawn overwhelmingly to favor Democrats. The special election between the partisan primary winners is set for Nov. 2.

Analysis: Where's the deal on infrastructure?

Infrastructure talks are still up in the air, despite pessimism from Democrats and Republicans alike that the two sides are at an impasse after the White House put out a $1.7 trillion offer that included both physical infrastructure and funding for the “care economy.”

A GOP working group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., said they would present a new offer of up to $1 trillion in spending on Thursday. Meanwhile, a second bipartisan group that includes Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., is working on another plan. Both would stay limited to what Manchin calls “traditional” infrastructure items like transportation and broadband.

The big obstacle so far is how to pay for it. Capito’s group has said undoing any of the 2017 Trump tax cuts is a nonstarter, and has called for repurposing Covid-19 relief funding that’s already been approved. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the bipartisan working group is considering a mix of existing COVID-19 funding, raising gas taxes in line with inflation, imposing new fees on electric vehicles and increasing tax enforcement (an idea Biden has endorsed).

“We’ll work on the pay-fors as we need to. There’s a reasonable path forward, but you got to pay for it,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

Sen. Shelley Moore speaks on the phone outside of a Senate Republican Policy luncheon on May 18, 2021 in Washington.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

Repurposing pandemic aid money seemed like a nonstarter earlier this year, and so far the White House has not warmed to the idea. But with state budgets looking stronger than expected, coronavirus cases plummeting, and more than 60 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated, there may be at least some flexibility.

In theory, there’s upside to Democrats working out a bipartisan deal on what Manchin called “traditional” infrastructure, leaving them free to potentially pass Biden’s proposals on things like electric vehicles, caregiving, and schools separately. For one, it could make it easier to pay for the rest of his agenda, where Democrats appear divided on some of Biden’s plans to tax wealthy investors, heirs, and corporations and could water down the available revenue.

But Democrats are nervous about getting bogged down in long negotiations, especially with a fragile minority in both chambers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., set a goal early on of passing a bill by July 4. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also named a July target on Tuesday “regardless of the vehicle” used to pass a bill. He may not have a choice, though. So long as the White House and especially moderate Democrats like Manchin want to keep talking, it will be difficult to move forward.

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.

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.