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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:

Trump adds two more candidate endorsements to 2022 list

Former President Donald Trump endorsed two Republican candidates for the 2022 midterm elections on Wednesday — one in the high-profile Pennsylvania Senate race and another who is challenging a Washington Republican congressman who voted for his impeachment. 

Trump backed Pennsylvania Republican Sean Parnell in a statement where he praised Parnell's Army service and repeated unfounded claims of widespread election fraud. "He will make Pennsylvania very proud and will fight for Election Integrity, Strong Borders, our Second Amendment, Energy Jobs and so much more," Trump said in a statement from his political action committee, as he remains banned from major social media platforms. " Sean Parnell will always put America First. He has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"

Parnell, an author who co-founded a veterans' group after leaving the military, narrowly lost a bid against Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn., in 2020. And if he wins the GOP primary race — which includes former GOP Lt. Gov. nominee Jeff Bartos, political commentator Kathy Barnette and former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands (from Trump's administration — he may get a rematch against Lamb, who is running in his own crowded primary

Trump also endorsed Joe Kent, a Republican running against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who voted to impeach the former president in January. Herrera Beutler said in a statement explaining her impeachment vote that Trump "incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next." And in his statement, Trump criticized her for voting "despite the facts, against the Republican Party and for the Democrats' impeachment scam." 

Kent has posted the strongest fundraising numbers out of the Republicans looking to challenge the incumbent. He's a retired Green Beret who Trump said he met in 2019 when the then-president traveled to Dover Air Force Base when the body of his deceased wife, who died in an ISIS attack in Syria while serving in the Navy, was brought back to America

McAuliffe again holds narrow lead in Virginia governor poll

Former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Glenn Youngkin in the newest poll of the state's governor's race, the latest in a string of recent surveys that show the Democrat on top. 

McAuliffe is ahead with 47 percent of registered voters in the new Monmouth University poll, which had Youngkin trailing at 42 percent and 9 percent undecided. The Democrat has the edge with minority voters, college-graduates, women and younger voters, while the Republican leads among independents, men, whites, and those without college degrees. 

The down-ballot races for lieutenant governor and attorney general were closer, with margins of 1 percentage point and 2 percentage points respectively in favor of the Democrat. 

The favorability and unfavorability ratings for both candidates are extremely similar: 39/35 for McAuliffe and 37/35 for Youngkin. 

The plurality of registered voters, 23 percent, believe the pandemic is the most important issue in the election, followed by 18 percent who say education/public schools and 16 percent who say the economy. McAuliffe receives higher marks from registered voters on education and the pandemic, with Youngkin receiving slightly higher trust from voters on the economy. 

Fifty-seven percent say that former President Donald Trump, who McAuliffe has repeatedly linked to Youngkin in ads and his public statements, is not a factor in the election, while 41 say he is either a major or minor factor. Fifty-two percent say that President Joe Biden is not a factor, with 46 percent saying he is a factor (either major or minor). 

Monmouth polled 802 registered voters from Aug. 24 to Aug. 29 and the poll has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points 

As the two sides scramble for position with just months to go before November's election, both campaigns put out new ads in the last day. 

Youngkin is up with a new TV ad hitting McAuliffe on crime, with McAuliffe's new ad knocking Youngkin on abortion.

Here’s Youngkin’s new ad, which features a county sheriff speaking directly to camera (there are three different versions with three different sheriffs): “It’s been a tough year, but it helps when elected officials have our back. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t,” this sheriff says. “As governor, McAuliffe’s handpicked parole board had one mission — cut ’em loose, releasing violent criminals early, including a cop-killer.”

The sheriff concludes, “The fact is, Terry McAuliffe won’t be safe with four more years of Terry McAuliffe’s policies.”

Here’s McAuliffe’s ad, which features a doctor speaking directly to camera: “I’ve been a doctor for 37 years and I’m committed to giving my patients the best care possible. So I know what it means to Virginia women when Glenn Youngkin says he wants to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.”

NRSC, Demings top recent Facebook political ad spenders

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Florida Democratic Congresswoman (turned Senate hopeful) Val Demings lead the pack in political Facebook ad spending over the last month, the social media's ad-spending platform shows. 

The NRSC spent $887,000 from July 29 through Aug. 27, the 30 most-recent days of spending released by the platform. Many of those ads were aimed at driving people to give their email or other information to the group, and possibly donate, and not about promoting/attacking a specific Senate candidate. 

Among the ads that performed the strongest on the platform, according to Facebook, were a smattering of ads about reports that former President Donald Trump was slated to launch his own social media site. Other popular NRSC ads include one raffling off tickets to a Trump rally and one attacking President Joe Biden on immigration. 

Demings, who is the Democratic Party's highest-profile candidate in the race against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, spent more over that time period than any other individual candidate for office, $767,000. Many of her top ads were aimed at introducing the electorate to her life story, as well as list-building/fundraising. Two of her most popular ads also leveraged Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's attacks on National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci for more list-building. 

Other top political advertisers include the Republican National Committee ($737,000), the committee opposing California Gov. Gavin Newsom's recall ($545,000), Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ($482,000) and California Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kevin Kiley ($400,000). 

There have also been a few companies or interest groups spending big money over that time too, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America ($1.33 million), The Climate Pledge ($1.2 million), Facebook ($1.2 million), and ExxonMobil ($800,000). 

Facebook's ad spending figures are self-reported by the company and available online. 

McAuliffe leads in new Virginia governor poll

A new poll shows former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Glenn Youngkin by 9 points among likely voters, less than three months before the pivotal general election. 

McAuliffe hits 50 percent of the vote in a new poll by Christopher Newport University's Watson Center for Civic Leadership, with Youngkin at 41 percent and 6 percent undecided (3 percent say they're supporting Liberation Party nominee Princess Blanding). The Democratic lead is bolstered by strong support from women, younger voters, Black voters and those in Northern Virginia. Youngkin's largest bases of support include those in the south and southwest of the state, as well as white voters.

Independent voters are backing McAuliffe by a margin of 44 percent to 39 percent. 

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigns for a second term in Alexandria on Aug. 12, 2021.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

The poll also found the rest of the Democratic ticket with slightly larger leads — a 10-point Democratic lead in the lieutenant governor race and a 12-point Democratic lead in the attorney general race. And Democrats have a 7 point lead on the generic ballot for the upcoming House of Delegates elections. 

“These numbers reflect a state that continues to trend blue in presidential and statewide elections as demographic shifts endure in the Commonwealth,” said Wason Center Research Director Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo. “While there is still room for movement in the race, Youngkin has a tightrope to walk between Trump supporters and more moderate voters across the suburbs of Virginia.”

CNU polled 800 registered likely Virginia voters on a mix of landlines and cell phones between August 15 and August 23. The margin of error is +/- 3.6 percent. 

The poll shows McAuliffe's lead about the same as a recent Roanoke College poll, that found him up 8 points with 13 percent of likely voters undecided. But the Virginia Commonwealth University poll, also released this month, shows McAuliffe only up 3 points with 23 percent of voters undecided or saying they wouldn't vote for either. 

Poll: Vaccine mandates unlikely to compel many, especially Republicans

Federal and state governments, businesses and health care experts across America are trying a smattering of ways to convince Covid vaccine holdouts to change their minds. But numbers from the new NBC News poll suggest that only a small portion are open to changing their minds, and Republicans are even less so. 

Sixty-nine percent of all adults polled say they are vaccinated, 2 percent said they will get it as soon as they can, 10 percent say they are waiting a while to see if there are problems with the vaccine, 3 percent say they'll only get it if required, and 13 percent say they won't get the vaccine. 

Eighty-eight percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans say they are vaccinated. 

Thirty-one percent of Republicans who consider themselves primarily Trump supporters say they will not get the Covid vaccine, as do 32 percent of those who don't follow media and 27 percent of those who voted for Trump. 

Some have been hopeful that the Food and Drug Administration's full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine would convince some skeptics to get vaccinated, but other health officials have thrown cold water on that idea. Note: the poll was conducted before the full Pfizer authorization. 

So as employers, businesses and governments consider vaccine mandates, new polling shows that most of the unvaccinated won't budge. 

An employer mandate appears to be the most likely to sway an unvaccinated person to get the Covid vaccine, with 19 percent of unvaccinated adults saying it would convince them. But there's an interesting breakdown on party lines — 29 percent of non-Republican, unvaccinated adults say they'd get vaccinated if their employer mandated it, while just 10 percent of Republican, unvaccinated adults say they would. 

A federal government mandate, or a state/local government mandate appears to be less likely to move people. But again, it could have far more success with non-Republicans. 

Fourteen percent of unvaccinated adults say a federal government mandate would compel them to get vaccinated (13 percent for state/local government mandates). Only 7 percent of Republicans say a government mandate at any level would compel them to get vaccinated, compared to 22 percent of non-Republicans for a federal mandate and 21 percent for a state/local mandate. 

The NBC News poll was conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults — 600 of whom are cellphone-only respondents — and the overall margin of error in the poll is plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. Of the 790 registered voters the poll measured, the margin of error is plus-minus 3.5 percentage points. 

Conservative non-profit launches new ads hitting Kelly, Hassan on reconciliation

A new conservative non-profit is running television ads that target Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., arguing that the forthcoming Democratic reconciliation package is a "Washington liberal $3.5 trillion power grab." 

The new spots are from Common Sense Leadership Fund, a group being helmed by former National Republican Senatorial Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin.

Evoking a number of satirical images of Democrats — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both of New York, next to a rainbow, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi riding a pink unicorn — the ad's narrator criticizes Democratic proposals and warns the bill will be filled with "pie-in-the-sky special interest kickbacks. 

"Who will pay for all the unicorns and rainbows? You will. With a massive tax hike, you'll foot the bill for this liberal pipe dream," the narrator says, before directing viewers to urge the senator to vote against the bill. 

Both Hassan and Kelly are expected to face tough battles for re-election. Colin Reed, the group's spokesman, said in a statement that "if Senator Hassan or Senator Kelly want to have any prayer of claiming the mantle of the common sense fiscal values, opposing this $3.5 trillion dollar boondoggle is a good place to start."

The new ads are airing in Boston and Phoenix on broadcast and cable television, and the group expects to target more states soon. Reed told NBC that the group ultimately expects to spend seven figures on the campaign. 

More groups have been taking to the airwaves across the country in the race to define both the Democratic reconciliation bill, which includes much of President Joe Biden's top legislative priorities, as well as the bipartisan infrastructure deal that passed the Senate weeks ago. Groups on both sides of the aisle are spending millions battling over the legislation and its impact on House races, with more activity expected on the Senate side too as they begin work on drafting the specifics of the bill.

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.”