The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Trump records robocall for Texas' Wright ahead of special election runoff
Former President Donald Trump has recorded a robocall for Republican Susan Wright ahead of her face-off against GOP state Rep. Jake Ellzey in Tuesday's runoff election.
Wright tweeted audio of the robocall this past weekend, with Trump reiterating his endorsement of Wright and calling on supporters to vote for her.
"I'm asking you to go out and vote for a great Republican, a great woman, Susan Wright," Trump says in the robocall.
"She's outstanding. Like me, she's strong on immigration, she's tough on crime, and she's going to cut your taxes."
Wright and Ellzey are running in the Texas Sixth District runoff after both were the top vote-getters in the May election to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright, who died earlier this year. Texas election laws have the top-two candidates in a special election move onto a general election unless one wins a majority of the vote on the first ballot.
Trump went on to praise the former congressman in the robocall, saying that his wife will "carry on Ron's legacy." The call notes that its distribution will be paid for by the Wright campaign.
The news of the robocall wasn't the only Trump-related development in the race over the weekend. Make America Great Again Action Inc, a super PAC reportedly helmed by former 2016 Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, reported a last-minute, $100,000 TV-ad expenditure aimed at boosting Wright.
McAuliffe launches first TV ad of general election
Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has blanketed Virginia’s airwaves for months, and now his opponent, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is up with his first TV ad since clinching the Democratic nomination.
The ad touts McAuliffe’s record as Virginia governor from 2014-2017, and it also ties Youngkin to former President Donald Trump.
“When I was governor last time, I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” McAuliffe says in the ad. “We created thousands of new jobs, put billions into our infrastructure projects and a billion dollars into education.”
“But let me be clear, Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.”
It's no surprise that Trump is a central figure in the ad — McAuliffe has, from even before he won the primary election, made Trump a centerpiece of his own bid, criticizing Youngkin and trying to tie him to the former president who lost the state in 2020 by 10 points.
Youngkin even sought to push back at that messaging in a recent digital ad where he linked the Democrat to Trump. And on Wednesday night, Youngkin tried to frame McAuliffe as the partisan.
The Republican nominee has had the airwaves largely to himself, at least in the general election, until today. From the day McAuliffe clinched the Democratic nomination (June 8), Youngkin has spent $3.6 million on TV and digital ads, according to AdImpact, compared to less than $300,000 in ad spending by McAuliffe, all on digital. But McAuliffe, a strong fundraiser, is expected to ramp up the TV spending in the months to come in the highest-profile race of 2021.
Former Democratic Rep. Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa
Former Iowa Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer is running for Senate, looking to win the seat currently held by longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Finkenauer, 32, served one term in Congress after winning Iowa's First District in the 2018 midterms, but lost to now GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson in one of the top congressional races of 2020. An early endorser of President Joe Biden, Finkenauer emphasized the working class and those being "left behind" in her announcement video. She also includes a significant focus on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, laying blame at the feet of Republicans like Grassley for not protecting democracy.
"The politicians who have been there for decades don’t really want people like us there. They think they own democracy and they were silent when it was attacked. It’s politicians like Sen. Grassley and Mitch McConnell who should know better, but are so obsessed with power they oppose anything that moves us forward. Since the Capitol was attacked, they’ve turned their backs on democracy and on us," she said.
Grassley hasn't said whether he'd run or not, but if the 87-year-old seeks re-election, he'd be the heavy favorite in a state former President Trump won twice and where he's been the senator for more than 40 years.
In a statement, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Katharine Cooksey framed Finkenauer as too liberal for the state.
“Abby Finkenauer and her far-Left positions are indistinguishable from those of Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the socialist squad, so it’s not surprising Iowans fired her just last year," she said.
Right now, Finkenauer is the highest-profile Democrat in the race. Rep. Cindy Axne hasn't ruled out a bid and former county supervisor Dave Muhlbauer is the other Democrat running right now.
New fundraising totals show how party committees are gearing up for crucial midterms
The Democratic National Committee edged out the Republican National Committee in fundraising over the first six months of the year, even as Republican congressional committees edged out their Democratic rivals over the same time period.
The DNC raised $87.1 million through June, with $63.1 million left in the bank, new Federal Election Commission reports show. By comparison, the RNC raised $85 million but ended June with significantly more money, $81.7 million, in the bank, than the DNC. National party committees
At the congressional-committee level, both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Congressional Campaign Committee outraised their Democratic counterparts, with both parties flush with cash as the battle for control of Congress begins.
The NRCC closed its June books having raised $79.3 million this year and with $55 million in the bank. The DCCC finished with $70.7 million and $44.3 million in cash on hand.
The NRSC raised $51.2 million through June and banked $25.1 million, with the DSCC raising $46.6 million and banking away $11.6 million.
The congressional committees are largely more flush with cash than they were ahead of the 2018 midterms, as Democrats' narrow majorities in the House and Senate mean that both chambers will be up for grabs in the 2022 midterms
Early voting begins in Texas House special election
Monday marks the beginning of early voting in Texas’ 6th Congressional District special election runoff, as voters get ready to choose the Republican who will fill the empty seat.
The seat’s been vacant since January, when GOP Rep. Ron Wright passed away. His widow, Susan Wright, and state Rep. Jake Ellzey are running against each other in a runoff because they were the two highest vote-getters in the first round of voting in May, but neither was able to win the race outright with the majority of the vote.
Susan Wright is running with the backing of former President Donald Trump, Reps. Stefanik, Granger, Roy, Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz and more. She’s raised $740,000 for her bid, but has spent a little more than $576,000.
While he lacks the marquee national endorsements, Ellzey is backed by former Texas Republican Gov. (and former Energy Secretary) Rick Perry, Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw and the Dallas Morning News’ Editorial Board. Plus, he’s the leading fundraiser in the race, having raised $1.7 million and spent almost $1.3 million.
While Wright has been significantly outspent on the airwaves by Ellzey, she has received some significant air cover from a powerful ally: the conservative Club for Growth Action. The Club has spent almost $350,000 on ads for Wright, making the group the largest ad spender in the race, according to AdImpact, and pushing the combined pro-Wright spending above that of pro-Ellzey forces.
What we learned from the second campaign fundraising deadline of 2021
Thursday marked the Federal Election Commission's 2nd Quarter deadline, covering fundraising for federal candidates largely from April through June (political action committees either file monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually and not included in this deadline).
While it’s still early in the 2022 election cycle, the reports are an important gauge as to how these key contests are shaping up. And that’s particularly important ahead of this cycle, where both the House and the Senate majorities are in play.
Here’s a look at some of what we learned from the 2nd Quarter FEC reports.
The battle for the Senate is drawing big money
With the balance of power in Congress up for grabs in 2022, Senate incumbents and top challengers are already hauling in eye-popping amounts of money.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., leads the pack among incumbents raising money for their re-election — he raised $9.6 million in the second quarter, ending June with a $14.4 million warchest. Scott isn’t seen as particularly vulnerable, as the state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998 and Democrat Jaime Harrison ended up losing his 2020 Senate challenge to Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham by about 10 points.
Ohio Republican Mike Gibbons raised more than any other challenger with $6.2 million, but almost $5.7 million of that was in loans.
Not including personal loans, Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., raised the most of any Senate challenger with $4.7 million raised and $3.1 million in cash on hand. Her would-be GOP opponent (assuming she wins the primary, in which she’s heavily favored), Sen. Marco Rubio, also had a strong quarter and raised $4 million to leave his cash on hand at $6.3 million.
Ten other incumbents facing re-election raised more than $2 million this past quarter:
- Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., ($7.2 million)
- Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., ($6 million)
- Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., ($3.3 million)
- Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., ($3 million)
- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-N.M., ($2.8 million)
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ($2.7 million)
- Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., ($2.4 million)
- Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., ($2.2 million)
- Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ($2 million)
- Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., ($2 million).
Other incumbent senators to note include:
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., hasn’t announced whether or not he’s seeking re-election, but he raised $1.2 million last quarter should he opt to run again in this battleground state.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who former president Donald Trump has publicly pledged to defeat, raised $1.1 million and is running in a field that includes a Trump-backed Republican challenger.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. who is facing a primary challenger, raised under $800,000
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who just drew a primary challenger, raised less than $900,000.
Senate challengers who raised over $1 million include: Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, ($3.1 million); Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman ($2.5 million); Ohio Republican Bernie Moreno ($2.3 million); Arizona Republican Jim Lamon ($2.2 million); North Carolina Democrat Cheri Beasley ($1.3 million); former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory ($1.2 million); Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh ($1 million); and Pennsylvania Republican Jeff Bartos ($1 million).
Corporate spigot beginning to turn on again, even among those who paused donations after Jan. 6
Many corporations that decided to re-evaluate their political donation policies after the vote on certifying the Electoral College results, as well as the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, are still sitting on the sidelines. But others have re-started their giving.
Toyota has become one of the most prominent companies in this saga — after initially saying they would reassess their giving and then returning to donate to Republicans who voted against the certification, they reversed course and announced they’d no longer donate to lawmakers who objected to that Electoral College count.
Cigna, American Airlines, Bloomin Brands, Boeing, and UPS are among the companies who expressed concerns about their political donations after Jan. 6 and have since begun donating to those who objected to the Electoral College count again.
Even so, many of the Republican lawmakers who objected reported little to no corporate donations in the second quarter of 2021.
Anti-Trump Republicans can still raise good money, but so can Trump’s biggest allies
For the handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January, their vote may have frustrated many within their party. But it hasn’t necessarily made a dent in their fundraising capacity.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., raised $1.9 million last quarter, more than all but six members of Congress. And Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., raised more than $800,000, a significant uptick from his previous fundraising.
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, facing a primary challenger blessed by Trump himself, raised over $600,000 last quarter, more than double what he raised during the same three-month stretch in 2020, months before an election.
But tying yourself to Trump is still lucrative for a Republican. Rep. Jim Jordan’s, R-Ohio, $1.6 million raised was more than all but seven members of Congress. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., finished one just behind Jordan with almost $1.6 million raised, followed by Rep. Matt Gaetz’s, R-Fla., $1.4 million and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who raised $1.2 million as she successfully ran to take over Cheney’s spot in GOP House leadership.
Other odds and ends
A handful of senators with presidential ambitions are filling their campaign coffers despite not having to worry about a race in 2022. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised almost $4.7 million last quarter, more than any incumbent senator besides Scott, despite not having to run again until 2024. And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., raised $2.1 million last quarter and won’t face re-election until 2024 as well.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, also had a huge quarter for a House incumbent, raising more than $3 million, the most of any House member who isn't in leadership or running for Senate.
In North Carolina, Democratic candidates open up in order to stand out
The Democratic candidates running for North Carolina’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat have held the traditional town halls and embarked on the usual county-by-county tours across the state — all to introduce themselves to voters before next year’s competitive primary.
And when it comes to digital space, several candidates have sought to differentiate themselves from a competitive field in unique ways: Using social media to discuss their personal finances on TikTok, capturing themselves at a progressive climate rally and providing a history lesson on Juneteenth.
The three top Democrats vying for the open seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., are former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, former state Sen. Erica Smith and state Sen. Jeff Jackson. The eventual nominee will face off against the winner of an equally competitive GOP primary in a state where Democrats narrowly lost both the presidential contest and a key Senate race last year.
For Jackson, social media has allowed him to give voters a window into his daily life, which he says supports one of his campaign’s core goals of transparency. On TikTok, Jackson has posted videos breaking down his family’s finances and calling out lawmakers in the North Carolina Senate. On Twitter and Facebook, he’s regularly posted his answers to town hall questions and shared family moments with his kids.
“In this cycle, playing it safe is just too risky,” Jackson said in an interview with NBC News. “You've got to be willing to hold yourself out there and let people get to know who you are. You have to be willing to take an energetic or a transparent approach, or we're just going to lose.”
For Smith, social media has given her the chance to showcase her progressive platform, her background growing up in rural North Carolina and her experience as a minister. On Twitter, she’s posted videos including her attendance at a Sunrise Movement climate protest in Washington D.C. last month as well as her North Carolina campaign stops with fellow progressive Gary Chambers of Louisiana. On TikTok, she’s advocated abolishing private prisons and releasing the body camera footage relating to the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by North Carolina sheriff’s deputies in April.
“If you can scroll through 15 posts on someone's Twitter, and you don't know what they stand for or what they're fighting for, then they're hiding something from you,” Morris Katz, Smith’s communications director, said in an interview with NBC News.
For Beasley, she’s used social media to highlight her historic tenure as the state’s first Black chief justice and previous statewide wins in North Carolina, along with sharing the stories of those she’s met while touring the state. She’s also shared informational videos to Twitter, including one on the significance of Juneteenth.
“Our campaign is reaching North Carolinians in creative and diverse ways, including on social media through photos that tell the story of her visits with people all around the state, videos that allow her to speak directly to voters, and relevant and informational news clips and graphics,” Dory MacMillan, Beasley’s communications director, said in a statement to NBC News.
But with an increasingly fractured media environment and many voters who also aren’t online, the campaigns noted that this time around, efforts to reach voters across North Carolina need to be all-encompassing.
“It's increasingly hard to reach voters through any single avenue,” Katz said. “So you need to be doing everything. You need to be going to 100 different counties in North Carolina; you need to be talking to local papers; you need to be talking to national papers; you need to be talking through different social media channels.”
House Republican campaign arm bests Democrats in latest fundraising haul
The National Republican Congressional Committee raised more than $45.4 million in the second quarter of 2021, besting its Democratic counterparts by nearly $9 million as the battle for control of the House heats up, according to numbers shared by the GOP group.
The NRCC said it raised over $20 million in June, which is $5.6 million more than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought in last month.
"We will take back the majority next fall and voters are doing everything they can to help us accomplish that goal," Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chair of the NRCC, said in a statement, adding, "Every vulnerable House Democrat should be eyeing the exits because if they choose to run, they will lose."
The NRCC said it raised nearly twice as much in the first half of 2021 as it did in the first half of 2019 — or the same timeframe from the previous cycle. It said the haul was its best first-half total in committee history while June saw the committee set a record for most cash brought in during an off-year month. It ended the quarter with $55 million in cash on hand.
The NRCC totals come after the DCCC announced its haul of $36.5 million for the second quarter earlier this month. Its June total was the second-best of any month this year, trailing March. It concluded the first half of 2021 with more than $44 million in the bank, about $19 million more than it held at this point in 2019, the organization said.
"While Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans prioritize extremism and lies, Democrats in Congress are working each day to continue uplifting the American people," Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the DCCC, said in a statement. "Our strong fundraising success shows American voters are rejecting Republican extremism and know just how critical a Democratic House Majority is to protecting our democracy and delivering for American families."
July fundraising reports are not due to the Federal Election Commission until Tuesday. The two groups have traded fundraising leads throughout the year with the NRCC topping the DCCC in January, March and May as the DCCC edging out its counterpart in February and April.
GOP groups take to the All-Star Game airwaves
Baseball may be America's pastime, but during Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the airwaves will be inundated with another national hobby — political disagreement.
This year's showcase of the league's top players has been wrapped up in politics since the MLB moved it to Denver amid protests of recent voting laws passed in Georgia. And now, several Republican groups are planning to run television ads during the game to highlight the controversy.
The Republican National Committee announced Monday it is spending seven figures to run a new ad during the game on FOX, as well as on other channels, an ad that argues "Democrats stole our All-Star Game to push their divisive political agenda" and in the process harmed businesses in the Atlanta area. The ad goes on to tout popular voter ID policies, sharing party polling on the issue, amid a broad fight playing out across the country over voting laws and on the implications of former President Donald Trump's false claims he won the 2020 election.
Democrats and voting rights activists have blasted Georgia's new voting laws, particularly highlighting new measures like identification requirements for mail-in voting and restrictions on giving voters waiting in line food and water. In a statement addressing the new GOP ads, the Georgia Democratic Party accused Republicans of waging a "misinformation campaign" in order to "deflect blame from their bad, divisive policy."
“The MLB All-Star Game would be played in Georgia today were it not for Brian Kemp and Georgia Republicans’ divisive, racist attack on voting rights – plain and simple. The GOP chose voter suppression and partisan politics over Georgia’s economy when it passed SB 202, driving investments like the All-Star Game out of our state in the process,” Scott Hogan, the state Democratic Party's executive director, said in a statement.
Republicans have argued those concerns are overblown and that the changes were needed to shore up election security.
The GOP's Senate campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is getting in on the mix too with a spot (which ran during the Home Run Derby on Monday and will run again during the Tuesday game) that links Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., to the decision to move the game.
"Baseball's midsummer classic, the All-Star Game, a $100 million boost to Georgia's economy until the radical left, woke crowd took it all away," the ad's narrator says, claiming Warnock "refused to oppose it."
Before the MLB made the decision to move the game, Warnock told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow "we need Georgia businesses to stand up ... stand up against voter suppression," but did not explicitly support the idea of moving the game. After the MLB picked up and left, Warnock said in a statement that the "decision by MLB is the unfortunate consequence of these politicians’ actions" and that he hopes businesses "can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on."
The Heritage Foundation is also running a six-figure ad campaign promoting the new Georgia law by boosting the GOP's arguments in favor of it while criticizing those who oppose it.
And. at least one candidate is getting in on the fray — Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who is seen as a possible Senate candidate. In it, Carter sits at a baseball park lamenting the decision to move the game and highlighting how he's not "afraid to go toe-to-toe against the leftist Democrats to save America," touting his work with Trump in Congress.
Youngkin drops new digital ad that tries to tie Democrat McAuliffe to Trump
Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin is trying to flip the script on his Democratic rival by trying to link former Gov. Terry McAuliffe to former President Donald Trump.
Trump has endorsed Youngkin. And McAuliffe has spent much of his campaign trying to tie the two Republicans together after Trump lost the state by 10 percentage points.
But in a new digital ad, the Youngkin campaign tries to push back on that frame by arguing that while McAuliffe "spends all his time attacking Donald Trump," he solicited money from Trump during his own political career.
The ad points to a $25,000 donation from Trump to McAuliffe during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign (when Trump regularly donated to politicians of both parties, and well before his attacks on then-President Barack Obama's nationality). And it features comments both Trump and McAuliffe made during the 2017 National Governors Association dinner. At the time, McAuliffe helmed the NGA and attended the dinner at the White House, where Trump called him a "friend" and the Democrat toasted Trump as he called for governors to work together to make America stronger.
"Come on, McAuliffe. Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth," the ad's narrator says.
Christina Freundlich, a McAuliffe spokesperson, brushed aside the spot in a statement that needled the Republican over the ongoing debate negotiations in the race.
"No amount of bogus advertising will hide Virginians from Glenn Youngkin's own words: that he is 'honored' to have Donald Trump's endorsement and 'Donald Trump represents so much' of why he's running. Glenn needs to buck up and face Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Bar Association debate so they can hear him once again give praise to Donald Trump right from his own mouth," Freundlich said.
McAuliffe's campaign has run digital ads amplifying Youngkin's comments about Trump as well as the former president's endorsement.
Trump also recently put out another statement praising Youngkin that included similar arguments to the one the Republican is making now.
Kelly, Fetterman and Britt raise big money as 2022 Senate fundraising totals trickle in
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate hopeful Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is out Thursday with his second-quarter fundraising total: $2.5 million.
The Federal Election Commission’s second quarter ended in June, but campaigns have until July 15 to file their full fundraising reports. That means that any information about fundraising that trickles out before then comes from the campaigns themselves.
One of Fetterman’s opponents, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, says she raised $1 million last quarter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Other Democratic primary hopefuls, notably state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, have not yet released their fundraising totals.
Ahead of that deadline, here’s what we know so far from some of the 2022 Senate campaigns themselves (note: Unless they publicly volunteer the information, there’s no way to know if a candidate is relying on any form of self-funding until seeing the FEC filings).
Incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly raised an eye-popping sum in the second quarter, almost $6 million according to the campaign, which it says leaves Kelly with more than $7 million in the bank. Kelly is running in what could be one of the more competitive races of the cycle, but has been a prolific fundraiser as both a candidate and as a senator.
Two of Ohio’s top GOP Senate candidates have already released their fundraising figures, and they’re quite similar.
Josh Mandel, the former Ohio state treasurer, says he raised $1.5 million over the quarter, just above the $1.4 million raised by former state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken.
Businessman Mike Gibbons, who has loaned significant amounts of his own money to his political career, says he raised $6 million over the quarter. But the campaign also says it had about 1,500 donors over the quarter, which suggests he loaned millions more to his campaign as well.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan says he raised almost $2.3 million last quarter for his Senate bid.
Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley reported raising almost $1.3 million in the second quarter in her bid to win the Democratic Senate nomination, despite her launching her campaign almost a month into the quarter.
State Sen. Jeff Jackson’s campaign announced he raised $700,000 over the second quarter, according to the Charlotte News and Observer.
Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to the retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, says she has raised $2.2 million since she announced her campaign less than a month before the end of the fundraising quarter.
One of Britt’s primary opponents, former Ambassador Lynda Blanchard, has loaned her campaign millions of dollars but hasn’t yet released new fundraising figures. Neither has GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who is also running and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
The Florida Senate race is also shaping up to be expensive. Democratic Rep. Val Demings' campaign announced Thursday it raised $4.6 million, while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News he raised $4 million.