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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:

Progressive group launches ads on infrastructure, reconciliation bills ahead of midterms

House Majority Forward, the nonprofit outside Democratic-leaning group that focuses on the U.S. House of Representatives, this week begins a $2.5 million TV and digital ad campaign in 23 different congressional districts to promote the Democrats' work on Covid relief, infrastructure and climate legislation.

Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., worked "to pass a middle-class tax cut to help struggling Illinois families, helping to get people back to work and getting our economy back on its feet," one TV ad states in Underwood's 14th Congressional District.

  

The ad continues, "Next up is fighting to fix our aging infrastructure, rebuilding roads and bridges ... while investing in clean energy to give all our kids a better future."

And here's a digital ad in Rep. Tom O'Halleran's, D-Ariz., the state's First Congressional District: "We're getting back on our feet and back to work. And in Congress, Congressman Tom O'Halleran's working to keep it that way."  

These ads come as a recent NBC News poll found that just a third of Americans (35 percent) believe the Covid relief legislation passed in March — which provided direct cash payments and jobless benefits — is helping the economy or will do so in the future.

Below are the 23 congressional districts where these ads will air.

Note: The decennial redistricting process will likely change what many of these districts look like next year.

Also note: Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, voted against the Covid relief bill, and so the ad touting his work will be different than the ones for Underwood and O'Halleran.

Ariz. 01 — Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D

Calif. 10 — Rep. Josh Harder, D

Colo. 07 — Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D

Ga. 07 — Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D

Iowa 03 — Rep. Cindy Axne, D

Illi. 14 — Rep. Lauren Underwood, D

Kan. 03 — Rep. Sharice Davids, D

Maine 02 — Rep. Jared Golden D

Mich. 08 — Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D

Mich. 11 — Rep. Haley Stevens, D

N.H. 01 — Rep. Chris Pappas, D

N.J. 03 — Rep. Andy Kim, D

N.J. 07 — Rep. Tom Malinowski, D

Nev. 03 — Rep. Susie Lee, D

N.Y. 19 — Rep. Antonio Delgado, D

Ore. 04 — Rep. Peter DeFazio, D

Pa. 08 — Rep. Matthew Cartright, D

Texas 07 — Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D

Texas 16 — Rep. Veronica Escobar, D

Va. 02 — Rep. Elaine Luria, D

Va. 07 — Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D

Wash. 08 — Rep. Kim Schrier, D

Wis. 04 — Rep. Gwen Moore, D

Arizona group boosts Mark Kelly with $1.5 million ad campaign on child tax credit

Advancing AZ, an Arizona-based progressive non-profit that's been boosting the Democrats' Covid relief plan, is launching a $1.5 million ad campaign aimed at promoting Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., for his support for the plan. 

The new campaign, which includes television and radio ads beginning Monday and going through September, features two parents talking about how the new child tax credit, which is a piece of the broader American Rescue Plan signed into law in March with support from only Democrats, has helped their family deal with added expenses during the pandemic. Noting that all three of their children needed braces, they note that the child tax credit will help them pay off their childrens' medical expenses.

"We're relieved that Sen. Mark Kelly took the needs of Americans, working families into consideration," Angela Mesa, one of the parents featured in the ad says. 

"It means a lot that Sen. Kelly is standing up to the big guy to help families like us," Angela's husband, Brian Mesa, adds.

"Senator Kelly is delivering for Arizona families and they need him to keep getting these kinds of results if we’re going to get Arizona fully past the pandemic and make sure working families can get by," said Niles Harris, the executive director of Advancing AZ, in a statement to NBC News announcing the ad campaign.

The American Rescue Plan both expanded the maximum child tax credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600. And instead of families having to wait for the credit as an annual tax refund, the bill changed the procedure to distribute the credit monthly.

It's not the only piece of the plan that Advancing AZ has been touting in recent weeks. Along with its affiliated Honest Arizona campaign, the group has boosted Kelly, Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., and President Biden in the state, touting the American Rescue Plan with billboards and a traveling ice cream truck aimed at raising awareness for the bill. 

Kelly just won his Senate seat in 2020, but is on the ballot in 2022 because last year's election was only to fill out the final two years of the seat held by the late-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Now, his upcoming election is expected to be one of the highest-profile in the nation. Biden narrowly won the state by 0.3 percentage points last year, with Kelly winning by 2.4 percentage points. 

Given the slim margins, Kelly's Senate race has already drawn more than $10 million in spending, per AdImpact ($6 million by Democrats and $4.3 million by Republicans). 

Republicans have been attacking Kelly on a variety of fronts, including criticizing Democrats for plans on prescription drugs and pressuring Kelly about progressive calls to abolish the filibuster

New Youngkin ad encourages Virginians to get vaccinated

After Democrat Terry McAuliffe this week called for a vaccine mandate for state educators in Virginia's gubernatorial race, Republican Glenn Youngkin is up with a new statewide digital ad saying that he's been vaccinated — and encouraging others to do the same.

"I’m a business guy who loves numbers. And the numbers show Covid vaccines save lives," Youngkin says to camera in the ad. "That’s why I chose to get the vaccine."

 Youngkin continues, "It’s your right to make your own choice, and I respect that. I do hope you’ll choose to join me in getting the vaccine. We can protect lives and livelihoods here in Virginia, and together we can keep our communities, our schools, and our businesses open."

Another fault line in this competitive race: McAuliffe is mandating vaccines for state educators while Youngkin is instead encouraging them.

GOP nominee hits the airwaves in N.J. governor's race with polls showing him far behind

New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli trails New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy by 16 points, according to a new Monmouth University poll of registered voters released Wednesday. The poll comes as Ciattarelli is hitting the airwaves in an attempt to close the gap. 

Murphy secured support from 52 percent of registered voters, compared to Ciattarelli's 36 percent, per the Monmouth poll released Wednesday. Forty-eight percent of voters view Murphy favorably with 33 percent viewing him unfavorably. While Ciattarelli's favorability of 26 percent is significantly higher than his 12 percent unfavorability, 61 percent say they don't have an opinion on him yet. 

The poll also found that a plurality of voters believe Covid is the top issue facing the state (41 percent), with taxes as a broader issue eclipsing that when combining property taxes (32 percent), income taxes (9 percent), sales tax (7 percent) and other taxes (4 percent). 

The points about Ciattarelli lacking name ID in the state and taxes being a top issue in the state come as the Republican hops onto the airwaves this week with new general election ads. His first ad is centered right on the issue of taxes, quoting Murphy saying "if you're a one-issue voter and tax rate is your issue, we're probably not your state." 

"Not your state? Who says that? Phil Murphy just doesn't get it, but I do," Ciattarelli says in the ad. "Taxes are an issue for a lot of New Jersey families. But Phil Murphy saying if you don't like it, you should leave, is an even bigger one."

 

On the economy, Murphy's campaign and his allies have argued that his stewardship has kept New Jersey in a solid financial situation despite the pandemic.

 

Rising stars tapped to chair Democratic training organization

The nation’s largest Democratic training organization announced Thursday that its first honorary co-chairs will be Reps. Katie Porter, D-Calif., Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and Nikema Williams, D-Ga., signaling a commitment to training an ideologically, geographically, and demographically diverse pipeline of candidates up and down the ballot ahead of the 2022 midterms

“The future of our party is about competing everywhere and lowering the barriers of intrigue for anyone who wants to make a difference,” Kelly Dietrich, who leads the National Democratic Training Committee, told NBC News, calling the co-chairs “pioneering women.” Both Porter and Underwood flipped their districts red to blue with their elections, while Williams is on the frontlines of Democratic efforts to keep Georgia blue from her seat, once held by the late Rep. John Lewis.

President Joe Biden praises Congresswoman Lauren Underwood as they tour the Children's Learning Center at McHenry County College on July 7, 2021 in Crystal Lake, Ill.Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

The NDTC will use the congresswomen to amplify their free training programs for Democrats across the country hoping to run for office themselves, or looking to work on campaigns.

Underwood herself actually participated in NDTC trainings before running and winning one of 2018’s tightest races. Her advice for could-be candidates and the politically-inclined, she told NBC, is “don’t be shy about what you don’t know.”

The NDTC has seen more than 130,000 people sign up for trainings since the summer of 2016, fueled in part by a backlash to the election of former President Donald Trump. But since Trump’s departure, interest has remained high, to the tune of 32,000-plus so far this year according to the committee. Overall, more than half — 53 percent — of trainees have been women. And geographically, rural and suburban areas not typically falling for Dems are seeing high degree of interest.

To Underwood, the numbers tell a larger story about who’s engaging and why — and what it could mean for a candidate pipeline that, only until recently, had been filled by a majority of white male contenders.

“We’re seeing the activations of these social networks that might have been built from PTAs, or church groups, or neighborhood associations,” Underwood said. “These women who now understand that our democracy won’t be fixed passively. We have to get in there and work for it and the ladies are bringing the same skills, dedication, and mindset that we do to everything else in our lives to our politics. And we’re not afraid to ask for help.”

Progressive group gives air cover to moderate Democrats on Biden's $3.5 trillion budget

The liberal group Future Forward USA Action is launching an ad campaign to protect moderate Democrats who are under fire from conservatives over President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion economic package.

The group said it will spend $1.4 million next week in seven key districts represented by Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., and Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.

The ad buy, first reported here by NBC News, comes as a response to the conservative group American Action Network's TV ad campaign launched last week, which targets a similar group of House Democrats over the budget with the goal of turning Democratic lawmakers against it.

It is an attempt to bolster the prospects of passing the so-called reconciliation bill, which is a centerpiece of Biden's economic agenda, and will require the vote of nearly every House Democrat to pass. It would be a major expansion of the social safety net, paid for with tax hikes on corporations and Americans who earn over $400,000.

The AAN ad campaign torches the package of a "socialist agenda" that will exacerbate inflation and hurt the middle class. The Future Forward response says the package will close corporate tax loopholes and tax the rich to lower costs on health care, utility bills and child care for most Americans.

"President Biden and Democrats in Congress are working to lower everyday costs for working families Right on cue, the special interests are going to pour in money to try to stop it from happening but we won't let their lies go unanswered," said Chauncey McLean, the president of Future Forward USA Action.

McAuliffe responds to Youngkin’s crime ad

Well, that didn’t take long. 

One day after Virginia Republican gubernatorial Glenn Youngkin’s campaign released a new TV ad hitting Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe on crime and linking him to Dem groups have called to “defund the police,” McAuliffe’s camp is out with this response ad

The Democratic nominee's spot features testimonials from current and former Virginia law enforcement officials: “Our job is to keep Virginia safe,” says one law enforcement official to camera.  “We know the truth about Terry McAuliffe’s record,” says another.  “When McAuliffe was governor, Virginia was the fourth-safest state in America,” says a third. 

And it goes on to try to turn Youngkin's argument around on the Republican, arguing that his comments on gun laws makes him a "threat to our safety."

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last month, while Youngkin has spoken about protecting Second Amendment rights, he did not get an endorsement from the National Rifle Associaton. 

Youngkin plays the 'defund the police' card against McAuliffe in Virginia governor race

In Virginia’s gubernatorial contest, Republican Glenn Youngkin is out with a new TV ad linking Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe to “defund the police” advocates in his party.

The ad claims that "crime in Virginia is skyrocketing" and that "the murder rate is at a 20-year high."

“Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is running again, but how can he keep us safe? His record as governor — murder jumped 43 percent, and now he refuses to even meet with Virginia police officers. Instead, he's touting endorsements by extreme left-wing groups that want to defund the police, abolish ICE and close prisons," the ad's narrator says, pointing to calls within the Democratic Party for a smattering of police reform running the gamut from slashing police funding to diverting it reform how police interact with people. 

It's a tactic the Youngkin campaign has been more vocal with in recent weeks, including in digital videos that echo similar points. 

McAuliffe's team pushed back on the ad with a statement touting McAuliffe's record:  "We know Glenn struggles with it, so here's the truth: As governor, Terry McAuliffe made Virginia the fourth safest state in the nation. He put in place one of the toughest laws in the country to combat domestic violence, and he has released a detailed plan to keep Virginians safe, including keeping guns out of dangerous hands. Glenn Youngkin's right-wing agenda would only make Virginia less safe — he's bragged about opposing any common-sense gun safety measures, and the Washington Post says his Trumpian economic plan would defund the police."

Former GOP Attorney General Laxalt is running for Senate in Nevada

Former Nevada Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Tuesday he's running for Senate, giving Republicans their most formidable challenge to Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. 

Laxalt revealed his decision on Tuesday morning in a social-media video, which leans heavily on the conservative culture war and argues that "right now, it seems like the wrong side is winning." 

"The radical left, rich elites, woke corporations, academia, Hollywood and the media, they are taking over America. That’s your empire, right there, telling lie after lie; making excuses for chaos and violence; censoring truth that doesn’t fit their agenda; amplifying anger and envy, they demand control; ruthlessly enforcing conformity, canceling any who stand in their way," Laxalt says in the video. 

"We must stand in their way because it's not just about us — we owe it to our kids and generations to come." 

The video goes on to mention his Navy service, which he says was inspired by the attacks on 9/11, and his time as attorney general. 

Laxalt is instantly the favorite in the GOP primary, and Republicans believe that a strong midterm environment could give them fertile ground in a battle for Senate control. With the Senate currently evenly divided, and Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote, the dynamics in every competitive race could help decide control of the Senate in 2022. 

Adam Laxalt, former Nevada attorney general, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2021.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

However, Democrats have had a string of recent successes in Nevada statewide elections — they've won every presidential election since 2004, flipped both Senate seats in 2016 and 2018, and flipped the governor's mansion in 2018 by defeating Laxalt, who was the GOP nominee.

And Democrats have pointed to Laxalt's unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial bid, as well as his repeated attempts to cast doubt on the 2020 election results in the state, to message against his candidacy. 

"Failed politician Adam Laxalt has a history of corruption and consistently uses his public position to work against Nevadans. As Attorney General, he used his office to benefit his special interest donors, and he became Donald Trump’s main lackey in Nevada by orchestrating bogus lawsuits to prop up the Big Lie and overturn the 2020 election," Nevada Democratic Victory spokesman Andy Orellana said in a statement. "While Senator Cortez Masto is putting Nevadans first, Laxalt is only ever looking out for himself.”

Voters begin to get ballots as California gubernatorial recall heats up

Mail ballots are beginning to go out in California's recall election, and we've seen a flurry of activity in the race in recent days. 

The stakes are high for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. A new online poll from CBS/YouGov found that 52 percent of likely voters plan to vote "no" and keep Newsom in office, compared to 48 percent who want to recall Newsom.

The Democrat's approval rating among adults is 57 percent and 60 percent view his handling of the coronavirus outbreak as "very good" or "somewhat good." But the story has been the same for months — the question comes down to turnout, and polling has shown Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting to recall Newsom than Democrats are about saving him.

More Republican voters in the poll (78 percent) say they definitely will vote, when compared to Democrats (73 percent), and 72 percent of Republicans say they are very motivated to vote, when compared to 61 percent of Democrats. 

It's against that backdrop that we've seen a smattering of ad spending as of late. Since July 1, Democrats have outspent Republicans $11 million to $1.7 million, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

The Democratic efforts' ads include appeals by key spokespeople, including Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who frames the recall as a costly attack by "Trump Republicans" on the results of the last gubernatorial election) and California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla (who delivers a similar Spanish-language message). 

The Washington Post also reports that the Democratic effort is also out with a new spot that attacks surging Republican Larry Elder over recent comments opposing mask and vaccine mandates

The attacks on Elder come as he's gained traction recently. While 45 percent of voters said they were not sure who they'd vote for or would not vote for a candidate if Newsom was recalled, 23 percent said they'd support Elder, far-and-away the highest of any candidate on that question (Democratic YouTuber Kevin Paffrath scored 13 percent, while no other Republican eclipsed 3 percent. Republican Caitlyn Jenner captured just 2 percent).  

He's spent about $966,000 on TV and digital ads since the start of July, significantly more than any other Republican candidate. His recent ads have attacked Newsom on a handful of different topics — school choice, his state's Covid restrictions and his record broadly. 

Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, is also up with a spot that highlights his record on crime, him standing up to a "defund police mob," and on balancing budgets.

All voters in California are going to be mailed ballots, which they must get postmarked by the day of the recall, Sept. 14. However, those ballots have until Sept. 21 to make it to county elections offices. 

MTP Daily: What do the Census numbers mean for redistricting?

Thursday's Census data release revealed some major population trends that have shaped the American population growth over the last decade — America is becoming less white and more multi-cultural, with more and more people fleeing rural areas and moving to the cities and suburbs. 

How these macro-level trends have played out in communities across the country will have a profound impact on how congressional lines are drawn during the forthcoming redistricting cycle, the unofficial start of which began Thursday with the release of this Census data. 

Dave Wasserman — the House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, and an NBC News contributor — joined Friday's MTP Daily to run down some of the biggest questions facing Republicans and Democrats ahead of redistricting. He also takes a look at how the GOP-controlled Texas, the Democratic-controlled New York, and Colorado, which uses an independent commission to draw congressional maps, may fare.