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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:

Hartzler jumps into crowded Missouri Senate race

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., officially jumped into her state's Senate race, making her the first woman to join what's already become a crowded field. 

Speaking in Lee's Summit, outside of Kansas City, Hartzler said that Democrats are "destroying the country you and I love, and they must be stopped," criticized government regulations meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, pointed to her work on the Armed Services Committee as proof she supports the military, and touted her work to help her district respond to natural disasters. 

"Our nation is at crisis. The socialist Democrats are endangering our security, bankrupting our nation, killing our jobs, fueling inflation, harming our children, defunding our police and rewriting our history," she said. 

"We must stand strong for what is right. We must not give up or back down. And we in Missouri must lead the charge, that's why, today, I am announcing I am running for the U.S. Senate to protect our freedoms and preserve out greatness."

Hartzler is the first member of the state's congressional delegation to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. But she may not be the only one. Missouri Republican Reps. Ann Wagner, Billy Long and Jason Smith haven't ruled out bids either. 

But even if no one else decides to run on the GOP side, the field is already large. It includes embattled former Gov. Eric Greitens, controversial attorney Mark McCloskey and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt. 

The Democratic field currently includes former state Sen. Scott Sifton, activist Tim Shepard and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce. 

Virginia nominees for governor go on the offensive with field set

Now that the Virginia governor's election is set, Republican Glenn Youngkin and former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe are trying to define the stakes for their high-profile clash this fall  — with the Democrat seeking to paint Youngkin as a near clone of former President Donald Trump and the Republican dismissing McAuliffe as old news.

The far-and-away favorite for the Democratic nomination, McAuliffee had been focusing most of his campaign on the general election already. But now that he's officially the nominee, he's stepped up the attacks on Youngkin and Trump in a new digital spot, as well as during a Wednesday interview with "MTP Daily."

"Donald Trump is still around. Glenn Youngkin, my opponent, has said he is in the race because of Donald Trump. Trump came out the next day and gave him his 'total endorsement.' I'm not sure if Donald Trump has the courage to come to Virginia," McAuliffe said Wednesday, goading the former president in a state that he lost by 10 percentage points. 

With McAuliffe focused on lumping Youngkin in with Trump, as well as arguing his record as governor means he deserves another term, Youngkin has argued he represents a new direction for the state, criticizing McAuliffe as the past. 

One of the GOP spots uses a McAuliffe primary opponent, former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (who has since endorsed McAuliffe), to make that point. After a super-cut of Carroll Foy criticizing McAuliffe as a politician of "the past," Youngkin appears to briefly call for a "new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia. A second spot shows Youngkin walking against the flow of a group of men in suits as he says he'll be the antidote to politicians "taking us in the wrong direction." 

New Democratic super PAC aims to stop Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Ark. governor’s race

Democrats don't know who they will nominate for governor in Arkansas next year, but they're certain who they want to keep out of the office: Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

A new super PAC called Liberty and Justice for Arkansas is announcing its formation Wednesday with a new digital ad imploring state voters to "stop Sarah Sanders," the onetime communications director in former President Donald Trump's White House and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, NBC has exclusively learned.

The ad, produced by former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aide Martha McKenna, begins with images of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and members of Trump's family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who have been reported to have interest in possible future bids for office. 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks to reporters outside of the White House on April 4, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

"Stopping Trump's power means stopping Sarah Sanders now," a narrator says. "Stop Sarah Sanders. Stop them all."

“Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ announcement to run for governor of Arkansas was the starting line of Trump’s plan to consolidate power and continue his legacy of divisiveness and hate” Celeste Williams, Liberty and Justice for Arkansas spokesperson, said in a statement provided to NBC News. “Her run for governor is part of Trump and his supporters’ broader strategy to infiltrate all levels of government across the country. Stopping Trump means stopping Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Arkansas is just the beginning.”

Leah Garrett, the group’s director, said one Arkansas donor gave $100,000 to get the super PAC's operations up and running but declined to name that individual. 

Sanders faces at least one opponent for the GOP nomination in state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, while multiple Democrats, including 2018 lieutenant governor candidate Anthony Bland and businesswoman Supha Xayprasith-Mays, have announced bids. 

Trump, who has endorsed Sanders, won Arkansas 62 percent to 35 percent in 2020 and 61 percent to 34 percent in 2016. 

Eric Adams leads in new NY1/Ipsos poll of NYC Democratic mayoral primary

Eric Adams, the former police officer and current Brooklyn Borough President, leads a new poll of the New York City Democratic mayoral primary with weeks to go before the vote. 

The new NY1/Ipsos poll shows Adams with support from 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, an increase of 9 percentage points since the news outlet's last poll in April. Former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang sits behind Adams with 16 percent, 6 points lower than he sat in April. 

The big mover in the June poll is Kathryn Garcia, the city's former sanitation commissioner who has received endorsements from the editorial boards at both the New York Times and the New York Daily News. She has support from 15 percent of likely voters, up 11 points since April. 

Rounding out the top five are Comptroller Scott Stringer at 10 percent (down 1 point from April) and former city counsel Maya Wiley (up 2 points from April). Sixteen percent of likely voters say they're undecided, down from 26 percent in April, as voters begin to make up their minds before the election. 

Yang's drop from first place comes as voters say they're far more familiar with the Democratic field than they were back in April. 

But while the top-line of the poll shows who voters may prefer as their first choice, this race will be especially difficult to poll because it's being done through ranked-choice voting (here's the city's primer on ranked-choice, which allows a voter to rank up to five candidates in order of preference and redistributes votes from low-finishing candidates until one candidate wins the majority). 

When voters' first and second choices are combined, Adams leads with 36 percentage points, followed by Yang's 26, Stringer's 25, Garcia's 24 and Wiley's 21 percentage points. 

NY1 and Ipsos polled 906 likely Democratic primary voters through an online panel from May 17 through May 31. The poll has a credibility interval of +/- 2.4 percentage points. 

Since the poll only stretched through the end of May, the results don't include any potential movement generated by more recent flashpoints in the race, like Wiley winning the endorsement of progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Stringer being accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman

Former Rep. Stivers goes up on airwaves to endorse his pick for successor

Former Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, launched a new television ad Thursday where he backed state Rep. Jeff LaRe to replace him in this fall's special election to fill the seat he vacated. 

In the new spot paid for by his former campaign, Stivers speaks directly to camera as he asks Republicans to back LaRe in the August primary election. 

"I'm proud to support Jeff LaRe for Congress. Jeff LaRe is a former law enforcement officer and a strong conservative leader who has fought to make our communities safer," Stivers says, adding LaRe will "protect our conservative values."

Stivers abruptly announced in April that he would step down the following month to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, leaving his seat vacant. Per Ohio special election laws, the primary is scheduled for August and the special general election will be on Election Day 2021. 

LaRe is running in a crowded field in a seat that Republicans have had little trouble holding since the last round of redistricting. Stivers won re-election in 2020 with 63 percent of the vote, and former President Donald Trump won the seat by double digits during his two presidential elections, although 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney won it by single digits, per the Daily Kos

South Carolina state lawmaker aims to be state's first Black governor

South Carolina Democratic state Sen. Mia McLeod announced her bid for governor on Thursday as she hopes to make history as the state's first Black governor. 

McLeod announced her bid with a social-media launch video where she criticized the politicians of the Republican-dominated state for having "forgotten about all but those who agree with them or fund their campaigns." 

"Fixing what's broken is all of our responsibilities," she says in the video.

"I'm running for governor to build a South Carolina that can work for all of us, to bring new jobs to our state, and to support the people and industries that are the backbone of our economy." 

Having served in the state legislature for a decade, McLeod is one of the handful of Black women across the country running to be the first Black, female governor in American history. 

In an interview with The Associated Press, she said that she wants "to be the person that is running not because I’m a woman, and not because I’m Black, but because I am so connected to and so much like the people that I represent."

“It’s a tremendous responsibility, but it’s one that I’m excited about.”

Before she can take on the GOP's nominee, likely to be Gov. Henry McMaster, she'll face off against former Rep. Joe Cunningham, who served one term in Congress before losing his re-election last year. 

In Va. governor's race, Youngkin aided by his deep pockets; McAuliffe outraises Dem field

The Virginia Republican Party's nominee for governor, Glenn Youngkin, has raised more money this election cycle than any of his potential Democratic rivals, thanks in large part to significant personal loans to the campaign. 

Youngkin's new financial report, filed Tuesday, show he's raised almost $16 million this cycle — $12 million from personal loans. He ended the last fundraising period, which ended on May 27, with about $4.4 million left in the bank. The GOP nominee is a former CEO of a private equity firm.  

On the Democratic side, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe continues to hold a big money lead over his primary rivals. Since Aug. 12 of last year, McAuliffe has raised almost $13 million to his campaign account, including $2.8 million between April 1 and May 27. He closed that period with just under $3.3 million in cash on hand. 

Former State Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy has been the strongest Democratic fundraiser besides McAuliffe, but the entire field sits far behind the former governor. Since April 3, 2020, she's raised more than $4.7 million, about a million dollars coming in the most recent fundraising period. She ended that period with just $280,000 left over.

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan stepped up her fundraising this past reporting period, raising $1 million of the $2.7 million she's raised this cycle from April 1 through May 27. She ended that period with just $60,000 for the final stretch. 

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and state Del. Lee Carter have been relative non-factors in the Democratic fundraising race, each raising under $400,000 since they announced their candidacies. 

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.