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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:

Youngkin begins Virginia general election with big spending advantage

Three weeks after the Democratic primary and the start of Virginia’s gubernatorial general election, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin has jumped out to a 40-to-1 ad-spending advantage over Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, according to data from Adimpact.

Youngkin has spent more than $2.2 million in ads from June 9 (the day after McAuliffe’s primary win) through Monday, June 28, including more than $1.5 million over the Washington, D.C. area’s pricey airwaves to target Northern Virginia voters. (Here’s one of the new TV ads Youngkin has been airing.)

Glenn Youngkin makes his closing remarks during a GOP gubernatorial candidate forum in Lynchburg, Va., on April 19, 2021.Kendall Warner / The News and Advance via AP file

By comparison, McAuliffe has spent just $55,000 on ads during that same time period — all of the amount on digital ads.

The wealthy Youngkin, the former executive of the Carlyle Group, has promised to raise and spend $75 million for his campaign, which the Washington Post says is more than the $66 million the Democratic and GOP campaigns spent, combined, four years ago in this race. 

As the fall general election gets closer, the traditionally well-financed McAuliffe will certainly narrow this spending gap and the former governor spent $5.9 million on ads during the Democratic primary.

But money is going to be one advantage Youngkin will enjoy throughout the course of this campaign.

Nearly 9-in-10 Americans say U.S. is more divided now than before pandemic outbreak

An overwhelming 88 percent of Americans believe the country is more divided now than it was before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which is up 11 points from a year ago, according to newly released results from a Pew Research Center poll.

Americans believe their country is more divided now than residents of every other advanced nation where Pew asked this question, including in the Netherlands (where 83 percent said their country was more divided than before the pandemic), Germany (77 percent), Spain (77 percent), France (68 percent), Italy (63 percent) and the United Kingdom (54 percent).  

The online poll was conducted Feb. 1-7 of nearly 2,600 U.S. adults — a month after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and has a margin of error of plus-minus 2.7 percentage points.The Pew polls for the other nations were conducted this spring.  

To underscore the U.S. political divide over the pandemic, the survey found just 7 percent of liberals thinking there should have been fewer restrictions on public activity during the pandemic, compared with 52 percent of conservatives who said that.  Overall, 56 percent of all Americans surveyed said there should have been more restrictions on public activity during the pandemic over the course of the pandemic.   

Braun: Moment of 'Euphoria,' but long way to go on bipartisan infrastructure deal

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., celebrated the new, bipartisan infrastructure deal on Thursday's "MTP Daily" even as he warned that lawmakers will still need to do a lot of work to get the bill passed with 60 votes. 

"Clearly, our roads and bridges, and even when you expand infrastructure further to include rural broadband, water, sewer treatment plans, it's a big need for investment," Braun said. 

"What we saw a moment ago was a moment of euphoria before a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I've never seen so many senators laughing in the same spot since I've been here." 

Braun, who was not one of the five Republican and five Democratic senators who decamped to the White House Thursday for negotiations, added that he thinks the deal has a "shot of making it through" if the bill has clear ways to pay for the new spending. But he questioned whether Republicans may balk at the deal because of Democratic promises to seek a second bill, which could be passed only with Democratic support, that includes costly Democratic wish-list issues that were left out of the agreement, like climate change mitigation. 

"It will beg the question: Is this just a way to get our attention by separating the stuff we like out of the bigger reconciliation? Believe me, you'll have many on my side of the aisle that may not be for the hard infrastructure part of it if they think it's just a gimmick to get, in two steps, what we probably would have been against if it had been its entirety," he said. 

"I want to give it the benefit of the doubt. I'm a fiscal hawk. As long as there are hard pay-fors, we need the infrastructure investment. 

Election Day was Tuesday in NYC's mayoral primaries. What happens next?

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams took an early lead by Tuesday night in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary — emphasis on "early."

While the Associated Press projected that Republican Curtis Sliwa will be the Republican nominee (he ran against just one other candidate and is ahead by more than 40 points with votes still trickling in), it's unlikely Democrats will know their nominee for weeks, thanks to the massive field, late-arriving absentee ballots and the implementation of ranked-choice voting.

Adams had won 32 percent of the votes counted by midday Wednesday, with former city lawyer Maya Wiley at 22 percent, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 19.5 percent and former Democrat Andrew Yang (who conceded) at 12 percent. 

According to the city, those votes are all first-choice votes from both early and election-day voting, with absentee and affidavit votes to be counted next week. And since no candidate won a majority of the vote, under the ranked-choice system, votes will be re-allocated from the lowest-finishing candidates according to the preference a voter listed on their ballot. 

The city will ultimately release the first round of ranked-choice results on June 29, the next round on July 6, and again on subsequent Tuesdays until the city certifies the election after counting all the votes.

So while Adams' lead is significant right now, it will take weeks for New Yorkers to know for sure whose likely to be their next mayor (considering how Democratic-leaning the city is). 

GOP outside group spending $1 million in digital ads pressuring Mark Kelly to support keeping filibuster

A GOP outside group announced it is launching a one-million-dollar digital ad campaign pressuring Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., to support keeping the Senate filibuster, using Kelly's Arizona Senate colleague's words to up the heat on the Democrat.

The new digital ad from One Nation, a GOP group aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, uses recent comments by Sen. Krysten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who has repeatedly offered support for maintaining the filibuster, the Senate rule that effectively makes it so 60 senators must vote to debate on a piece of legislation. 

"Radical liberals want to change the rules of the Senate so they can ram through their extreme agenda on partisan lines," the ad's narrator says in the ad.

"Sen. Kyrsten Sinema says no way. But Sen. Mark Kelly won't say where he stands." 

The Hill first reported the details of the ad campaign. 

Arizona's senators are getting pressed from both sides on the issue. One day before the GOP group announced it would go after Kelly on the filibuster from the right, a progressive group announced it would spend $1.2 million on TV and $200,000 on digital ads hitting Sinema from the left on the same issue

Kelly hasn't come down on either side of the debate, recently telling NBC News he is open to "considering and looking at any proposed changes in the rules. 

"I will ultimately make a decision based on: Do I feel — is this in the best interest of the state of Arizona and the country?" he said. "And I'm not looking for something that is in the best interest of just Democrats."

NYC mayoral primary latest experiment in ranked-choice voting

Voters are voting in New York City's mayoral primary, the most prominent election held under ranked-choice voting in modern American history. 

Unlike in other kinds of elections, ranked-choice voting allows voters to fill out a list of preferences (first choice, second choice, etc.) on their ballots. If no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, the votes from lower-finishing candidates are re-allocated by their voters' preferences until one candidate has the majority of re-allocated votes. But that process takes time, which means final results may take days or even weeks. 

Today's vote in New York City is not the first experiment with the unique voting style. Here's a look at some recent examples of ranked-choice elections, as well as where to look out for them next.

Maine 2018 and 2020 elections 

Two of the highest-profile ranked-choice elections in recent memory were in Maine during the last two election cycles. 

The state's 2020 Senate election, in which Republican Sen. Susan Collins ultimately won another term over a challenge by former Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon (as well as two other independent candidates), had been expected to be one of the closest in the nation that year. That had many political analysts opining on how ranked-choice could affect the ultimate result, speculating that Collins might lead in the first round but lose if Gideon consolidates the anti-Collins vote on the subsequent re-alignment. 

But Collins won the majority of the votes on the first ballot, rendering the ranked-choice scenarios moot.

The more prominent example of ranked-choice in action came two years prior in the same state, when then-Rep. Bruce Poliquin ultimately lost to Democrat Jared Golden. Poliquin had the most votes after the first round, but because he didn't have the majority, Golden was able to secure the victory after re-allocating the votes from the bottom two candidates. While Poliquin sued over the result, a federal judge tossed the complaint and Golden was ultimately sworn in. 

Alaska elections for 2022 and beyond

After voters passed a ballot initiative in 2020, the state's future state and federal elections will proceed with a modified version of ranked-choice. Instead of partisan primaries, candidates will compete in one blanket primary with all candidates of any party on one ballot. The top four candidates move onto a general election in the fall, regardless of party, and that election will be conducted under ranked-choice.

This could be an interesting dynamic particularly in the state's Senate race, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is being challenged by a field that includes Kelly Tshibaka, an Alaska Republican backed by former President Donald Trump after Murkowski backed Trump's impeachment earlier this year. 

Markey on infrastructure: "No climate, no deal"

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told "MTP Daily" on Monday that he would not support an infrastructure deal unless it either included robust commitments on addressing the climate, or he received assurances that Democrats would pass a climate-centered bill after a bipartisan compromise was reached. 

As Democrats weigh a two-track path —  bringing a bipartisan compromise across the finish line while also setting up a vehicle to pass a more robust bill with only Democratic support — Markey said that his vote will hinge on whether the Senate guarantees it will tackle climate in an infrastructure bill. 

"I cannot support a deal that does not have a climate added center. No climate, no deal," he said. 

"There has to be an absolute guarantee that climate is dealt with, that the votes are going to be there to deal with the climate issues that are central to our generation's response to this crisis." 

The framework of the bipartisan deal leaves out climate and focuses on things like roads and bridges, unlike broader proposals from Democrats. Markey's stance on climate is just one of a growing number of lines progressives are drawing for opposing the compromise.

On Sunday's "Meet the Press, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said he wouldn't support a proposal that included a gas tax, electric vehicle fees or the privatization of infrastructure. 

Poll finds broad supports for expanded early voting and photo ID requirement

A new survey from Monmouth University shows broad national support for boosting access to early in-person voting and for requiring photo ID to vote — two voting rules that have been vocally embraced by Democrats and Republicans, respectively. 

But the survey also shows that making it easier to vote by mail —a key Democratic proposal — is more controversial and faces a deep partisan divide. 

The survey, which was conducted June 9 to 14, 2021 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points, comes as Democrats brace for their sweeping federal voting rights legislation to be blocked by a Senate filibuster. Republicans have vowed to stop the For the People Act, and a compromise bill put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, still lacks enough votes to overcome a 60-vote threshold. 

Manchin's compromise seeks to marry some policies from both sides of the aisle.  From the left, his outline tells states to offer 15 consecutive early-voting days in federal elections and state departments of motor vehicles to automatically register voters. From the right, it calls for mandatory voter identification at the polls with an expanded list of eligible documentation. 

People fill out ballots at the Brooklyn Museum during early voting for the primary election in New York on June 16, 2021.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

In some encouraging news for Democrats, Monmouth found that 71 percent of American adults, including 89 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans, back making it easier to vote in person.  

But Republicans will likely point to the poll’s result showing eight-in-10 Americans – including 62 percent of Democrats — also back the requirement that voters showing a photo ID, a top GOP priority. 

And about half of the public — 50 percent — say it should be easier to vote by mail. Eighty-four percent of Democrats but just 26 percent of Republicans want to see increased access to mail balloting, which former president Donald Trump has baselessly derided as fraught with fraud. 

The survey did show an appetite for federal legislation about voting generally, with 69 percent of adults supporting “establishing national guidelines to allow vote by mail and in-person early voting in federal elections in every state.” But it’s worth noting that the proposed Democratic legislation also contains provisions that go much further than that.  

Overall, the public appears more sympathetic to the default Democratic position on voting rights — that disenfranchisement is a more urgent issue than potential fraud. Half of Americans say disenfranchisement is a major problem in the country, while 37 percent say voter fraud is a major problem. Sixty-one percent say voter fraud is either a minor problem or not a problem. 

To that end, just a third of all Americans — but two-thirds of Republicans — believe ongoing audits of the 2020 election results in states like Arizona are legitimate exercises rather than partisan posturing. 

And 32 percent of adults say President Joe Biden’s election was due to fraud, a number that has not changed since November.

— Ben Kamisar contributed

EMILY's List endorses in PA Senate race

EMILY's List is backing a candidate in the crowded Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary —  Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh. 

The Democratic group backs pro-choice women candidates by marshalling direct fundraising and supporting them with independent expenditures. It announced the move Monday morning in a statement. 

“Pennsylvania, like much of the country, is at a critical moment — from the continued health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to national debates on how best to address systemic racism and climate change. If we want to continue making progress, we must expand our Democratic majority in the Senate with strong women leaders like Val, who will fight every day to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians, and EMILY’s List is proud to stand with her," EMILY's List executive director Emily Cain said in a statement, pointing to Arkoosh's work as both a doctor and on the county commission. 

Arkoosh is the only female candidate in the field — Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan both decided not to run, so the field includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with Rep. Conor Lamb eying a potential bid too. 

The winner will face off against an open field of Republicans looking to win the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey, who is retiring at the end of this term. 

GOP Sen. Young predicts bipartisan infrastructure framework will lead to law

Sen. Todd Young, the Indiana Republican who is one of the 11 GOP Senators backing a bipartisan framework for an infrastructure bill, predicted on Thursday's "MTP Daily" that the deal would ultimately lead to legislation that will be passed into law. 

"It's a historic investment under the framework, without raising taxes, in core infrastructure," Young said about the agreement, which is supported by 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate. 

"I think we get the votes to pass it out of the Senate, and I think with presidential leadership it passes out of the house and is signed into law."

While the agreement lacks many specifics that will need to be ironed out to craft actual legislation, it amounts to the most bipartisan support an infrastructure plan has received in the Senate. Even so, some Democrats have said they would vote against the package unless it addresses issues like climate change, which they have argued should be considered addressed by an infrastructure package. 

Young went onto argue that other pieces of the Democrats' infrastructure push, including "human infrastructure" and "the care economy" should be taken up separately. 

Also on "MTP Daily," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said she wanted to "fight for a big and bold package" nonetheless. 

"When you look at the fact that the president and the Democrats in the Senate have been negotiating trying to get a bipartisan package, yes, that’s the ideal, but at this point, I think we have to go big, we have to go bold," she said, noting unified Democratic control of Congress and the White House. 

"We can’t forget we have the care economy that we must focus on, our elder care, child care, we have climate issues, we have health care issues. All of this should be in one package, because all of this speaks to the needs and the aspirations of the American people."

Former GOP congressman launches Arizona gubernatorial bid

Former Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., is running for governor of his home state in an attempt to return to elected office after a decade in Congress and multiple flirtations with higher office. 

Salmon, who announced his retirement from Congress in 2016, jumped in with an announcement video released on YouTube and on social media. Without mentioning former President Donald Trump by name, he called for an "Arizona first agenda," ticking off a laundry list of conservative grievances and criticizing what he called a liberal push to "turn Arizona into California."

"In the coming months, I'll be listening and learning from you, securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws, and stopping the flow of drugs and criminals into our neighborhoods; building on Arizona's strong economic foundation, cutting taxes and attracting new industries and jobs," Salmon says.

"Banning critical race theory, expanding school choice and hiring more math and science teachers to prepare our kids for the workforce; protecting the integrity of our elections, strengthening voter ID and banning ballot harvesting." 

Salmon's mention of election integrity comes amid a GOP-led audit of Maricopa County. While many Trump-backers across the country are visiting the audit site to show their support amid Trump's unfounded claims of widespread electoral fraud, the audit has exposed deep divisions within the party and prompted criticism from Democrats and others. 

The national conservative group Club for Growth quickly endorsed Salmon's bid, calling him "a conservative star."

Salmon becomes the first federal officeholder to jump into the GOP primary for the seat — incumbent Gov. Doug Doucey, R, is term-limited. The field of GOP opponents include state treasurer Kimberly Lee. On the Democratic side, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Marco López Jr. are running.