The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth announces he won't seek re-election
WASHINGTON — Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, announced Tuesday that he won't seek re-election in 2022.
Yarmuth, whose district encompasses the vast majority of Louisville, is the only Democratic representative from the Republican-heavy state. He’s been a central broker in advancing President Joe Biden’s agenda, including authoring and shepherding the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package through Congress.
In a video sent to supporters and donors and then posted on Twitter, Yarmuth called his work on that bill “his proudest moment.”
“I never expected to be in Congress this long. I always said I couldn’t imagine being here longer than 10 years,” Yarmuth says in the video. “This term will be my last.”
“The desire to have more control of my time in the years I have left has become a high priority. Candidly, I have found new and incomparable joy in spending time with my young grandson, and I’d like to spend more of my Golden Years with my family in Louisville.”
In a brief interview with NBC News, Yarmuth added that he’s not “not planning on disappearing from the public arena. I will stay involved and active. It’s just time.”
“It’s sad, it’s exciting, it’s relief.”
The announcement makes him the fourth Democratic House member to announce they’re retiring at the end of this term ahead of what’s already expected to be a challenging year for Democrats looking to maintain their narrow majority in the House (five additional members are leaving their post at the end of this term because they’re running for higher office).
The 73-year-old has served 16 years in Congress. Early in his political life, Yarmuth identified as a “Rockefeller Republican,” but has become an outspoken proponent of his party’s progressive agenda. He’s advocated scrapping the Senate's filibuster, writing a March op-ed calling to abolish the rule and “re-democratize the country.”
“Eliminate the minority veto, make voting easy for everyone, give statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Time is running out. Let’s make hay while the bright sun of democracy is shining,” he wrote.
He’s also pushed for campaign finance reform and been an advocate for new gun safety laws.
In his role as chairman, he’s played an integral part in helping to craft the party’s reconciliation bill. But in a Monday interview on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily,” Yarmuth admitted that Democrats lack a “total consensus” on what the most important priorities should be in that spending package.
The Democrat has also been a vocal critic of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken. The two men have known each other since the 1960s and Yarmuth ran alongside McConnell during his 1981 bid for county commissioner.
Yet that relationship has frayed — Yarmuth recently called McConnell “deceitful” about debt-ceiling negotiations and during a 2013 speech at a Jefferson County Democratic Party leader, the Democrat told attendees that “I can be really brief tonight and just say: Mitch McConnell sucks.”
Wisconsin Democrat drops over half a million on first round of TV ads
Milwaukee Bucks executive and Democratic Senate hopeful Alex Lasry has dropped about $660,000 on his first slate of TV ads, becoming the first candidate to hit the airwaves in the crowded Wisconsin Senate Democratic primary.
Lasry booked time on both cable and broadcast television from Wednesday through Nov. 7, per data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
He's so far running two new spots that tout how the Bucks treated workers while building their NBA arena and sourced 80 percent of their building materials from the state of Wisconsin. (The ads specifically touts a $15 wage for workers, a claim that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says needs more context because the arena opened in 2018, but the $15 minimum wage for workers didn't begin until 2020).
Much of the TV spending in the race has been attacking Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who hasn't officially announced whether he is running for re-election. Lasry is the only candidate to go up with TV ads, but MoveOn.org, the progressive group that's backed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes' bid for Senate, has been running anti-Johnson ads too.
Lasry's been the top fundraiser by far of the Democratic candidates through June (the last time a campaign finance report was due), raising $2 million over that span. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski raised $514,000 over that time, followed by Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, the former state Assembly Democratic leader who raised $504,000 through that time. Barnes announced in July, meaning he isn't required to disclose any information about his fundraising until next week.
Johnson, by comparison, had raised $3.3 million through June.
In 2022 Senate races, new candidates and new polling
It's not even Election Day of 2021, but there's new movement in the battle for the Senate in 2022.
Here are the latest developments:
Veteran jumps into North Carolina GOP Senate field
North Carolina's Senate race is already crowded on the Republican side — it includes North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, endorsed by former President Donald Trump; Rep. Mark Walker; former Gov. Pat McCrory.
But on Tuesday, Army veteran and entrepreneur Marjorie Eastman jumped into the race with an announcement video released on YouTube, where she recounted how she decided to serve in the military after the 9/11 attacks and how she feels called to serve now (pledging to only serve two terms in office). Her announcement doesn't mention Trump, who still looms large in most Senate primaries even though he's out of office.
"Capitalism brings more people out of poverty than the creeping socialism that's being pushed right now in our Congress. Our government's dysfunctional — professional politicians see that serving is a paycheck and not a calling. I view this as a tour of duty," Eastman says.
Evan McMullin will run against GOP Utah Sen. Mike Lee
McMullin, a former GOP House aide who ran for president in 2016 as an independent, is trying his hand at political office again, this time running for Senate in Utah as an independent.
The former Republican and critic of Trump, who won 21 percent of the presidential vote in Utah in 2016, launched his bid with a video on social media that evokes a similar theme to Eastman's. McMullin also points to 9/11 as a reason why he joined the CIA as well as the House. He calls out to his 2016 bid by arguing that he's "led efforts to defeat extremist politicians in both parties," and criticized the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
"The extremes in Washington don't represent Utah, they prevent us from governing ourselves and jeopardize our democracy," he says. "I'm not running as a Republican or Democrat, but as a patriot committed to defending our nation."
Despite supporting efforts to undercut Trump ahead of the 2016 GOP convention, Lee became an ally of Trump's during his term in office, but faced criticism from Trump in recent weeks for not more fervently questioning the results of the 2020 election, which Trump lost.
As an independent, McMullin will try to draw support from both parties in a state that has elected Republican Senators in every election since the 1970s.
New polling in Nevada
Nevada could be one of the bigger races of the 2022 battleground. Democrats have had recent success there, winning key races in each of the last three cycles (president in 2020 and 2016, Senate in 2018 and 2016 and governor in 2018), but it hasn't been too long since the state had a GOP governor and a GOP senator as well.
Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is running for re-election, with former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt her highest-profile potential GOP opponent. A new poll from the Nevada Independent found Cortez Masto up 45 percent to 41 percent over Laxalt among likely voters, with a 4 percent margin of error.
Poll: GOP belief in climate change declined under Trump presidency
While a significant majority of Americans say they believe that the climate is changing and leading to extreme outcomes, the portion of Republicans who believe that has dropped 15 percentage points in just three years.
A new poll from Monmouth University finds that 76 percent of Americans agree with the idea that "the world's climate is undergoing a change that is causing more extreme weather patterns and the rise of sea levels." That's about in line with the university's previous polling on the issue. Virtually all Democrats (94 percent) agree with that statement, along with 81 percent of independents.
But only 48 percent of Republicans believe that is occurring, a bottoming out back to levels Monmouth found in 2015 after its 2018 poll found 64 percent who agreed with that perspective on climate change.
Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institute's director, pointed to then-President Donald Trump's repudiation of a 2018 federal climate report as a possible explanation for the backslide.
"Republican acknowledgement of climate change was a major finding in the 2018 poll. However, that was conducted right before then-President Donald Trump disparaged a federal climate report. The GOP base’s views on hot button issues such as climate change have shifted to be more in line with this orthodoxy,” Murray said.
The Trump administration rolled back a handful of regulations aimed at curbing pollution and downplayed its own data on the link between climate change and migration, among other actions that frustrated climate activists.
The poll also found that the gaps between how seriously those in coastal and inland states are taking climate change has evaporated, and that a majority of people believe climate change is either a primary or major factor in recent wildfires and flooding across the country.
And two-thirds of Americans also say they support government interventions aimed at tackling both climate change and sea level rise."
That said, there remains a significant divide over how much human activity is contributing to the changing climate. Thirty-five percent of adults say human activity is the primary cause of climate change, with 32 percent saying both human activity and natural causes are working in tandem and 8 percent blaming natural causes as the main driver of climate change. A majority of Democrats, 57 percent, believe human activity is the primary driver of the changing climate, a view shared by just 8 percent of Republicans.
Monmouth polled 802 adults in America between Sept. 9 through 13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
New Jersey governor's race remains heated even as Democrat holds clear lead in polling
While Virginia’s competitive gubernatorial race has drawn the lion’s share of media attention over the last few months, the race for New Jersey’s top office has recently seen its own fiery moments over the airwaves.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has looked to tie Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli to former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 attack, and recent restrictions on abortion and voting enacted by GOP-controlled states. Meanwhile, the Republican has hammered Murphy on crime and property taxes, bread-and-butter issues for GOP candidates.
Murphy, who is seeking a second term in office, currently holds a double-digit advantage over Ciattarelli according to the most recent polling numbers from Monmouth University. Since the state’s June 8 primary, both candidates have spent $2.8 million each on TV, radio and digital advertising, according to the ad-tracker AdImpact. An outside group affiliated with Murphy, Our NJ, has spent an additional $2 million boosting the Democrat.
In one of Murphy’s newest spots, the governor emphasizes voting and abortion rights, ending on a phrase he’s said repeatedly along the campaign trail: “We’re not going back.” Murphy has worked to draw comparisons between Ciattarelli and Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas, who recently signed highly controversial election and abortion bills into law.
Another pro-Murphy ad shows Ciattarelli speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally in late November 2020, connecting that appearance to former President Trump and the January 6 insurrection (the Republican says he thought the rally's intent was more innocuous). Trump has not endorsed Ciattarelli in the race.
Meanwhile, one of Ciattarelli’s newest spots, “We Can Do Better,” targets Murphy for increased state spending, rising murder and gun violence rates and New Jersey’s nation-leading property taxes.
At the state’s first gubernatorial debate in Newark on Tuesday night, the two candidates continued to trade jabs, arguing over those same topics and others including mask and vaccination mandates, which Ciattarelli opposes.
Ciattarelli instead looked to shift the attention to the Garden State’s high rate of nursing home deaths, which he blamed on the governor. Murphy countered by noting that nursing homes were required to separate Covid-positive residents and said that there was no “playbook” at the start of the pandemic to curb cases, as opposed to the information about masking and vaccines available now.
To date, Murphy has raised nearly $7.7 million and spent almost $7.9 million, while Ciattarelli has raised almost $6.8 million and spent slightly over $7 million, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
The candidates’ next debate is scheduled for Oct. 12.
New poll from Bolton PAC questions Trump's hold on GOP
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton's super PAC, is out with a new poll casting doubt on former President Trump's hold on the GOP electorate as the longtime fixture in the Republican national security world continues to try to undercut the standing of his former boss.
Now out of office, Trump has sought to flex his political muscle by raising tens of millions of dollars for future political efforts, and using endorsements to reward allies and challenge opponents. While he hasn't announced whether he's running for president in 2024, he's repeatedly teased a potential bid
But through a handful of poll releases, starting in April and the most recent on Wednesday, Bolton (through his John Bolton Super PAC) has argued that the results show Trump doesn't have such a dominating standing in the party. Bolton, who was fired by Trump from his post as national security adviser, has since become a vocal critic of his former boss.
The Bolton Super PAC's latest poll finds that 26 percent of likely 2024 Republican presidential primary voters say they'd support Trump in that primary out of a field that includes: Trump, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
Trump is virtually tied with DeSantis in that poll, who sits at 25 percent. The rest of the field finished with single-digit support, with Christie at 7 percent, Haley at 6 percent and Cruz at about 5 percent. In a press release accompanying the poll, Bolton's PAC noted that Trump has lost ground by about 20 points among primary voters from its July poll of a similar field.
Back in April, when Bolton's PAC put out its first poll, Trump released a statement from his own pollster, John McLaughlin, refuting the findings that his influence was waning and criticizing Bolton as "out of touch with today's Republican Party."
"President Trump’s successful America First policies kept us safe. This is a big reason why Republicans want him to run again," he said.
Bolton's poll still found Trump viewed favorably by 81 percent of likely Republican general election voters and viewed unfavorably by 15 percent of them.
The Bolton poll also tested sentiment on the Afghanistan withdrawal, an issue that's close to the longtime foreign policy adviser and former United Nations ambassador.
Fifty-one percent of voters said they thought the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan would make the country less safe. The poll also found that the majority of voters said America should have left at least some troops in the region, while other surveys have found majority support for withdrawing.
Bolton's PAC polled 1,000 likely general election voters by telephone from Sept. 16-18 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
Club for Growth targets Biden on jobs in Chicago ahead of visit
The conservative group Club for Growth is running television and digital ads in Chicago coinciding with President Joe Biden's trip there Wednesday, accusing him and Democrats there of damaging the economy.
The advertisement, provided exclusively to NBC News, criticizes Biden for "unsustainable debt" and the "constant threat of massive tax hikes forcing businesses to close."
It echoes themes from Republicans, who have sought to paint Biden and Democrats as engaged in reckless spending that is spurring inflation and harming consumers.
The ad also criticizes the state's governor J.B. Pritzker, who is up for re-election next year.
Democrats have countered that inflation is being caused by the pandemic and temporary supply chain problems that will eventually be ironed out.
The ads are running Wednesday on Chicago television networks, a $17,500 buy that spans four broadcast networks including during all four morning programs and evening newscasts. The digital ads will also target business and transportation hubs in Chicago, including in the two major city airports plus the ones in Waukegan, Ill. and Kenosha, Wisc. plus the Chicago train station.
“Nobody’s buying Biden’s claim that his administration and policies have been good for business," David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth, said in a statement. "He’s miserably underperformed on foreign policy, jobs, spending, inflation, regulations, and now he wants to impose a massive middle-class tax increase on hard-working Americans. While Biden ran as a moderate and claims to be a capitalist, it’s clear that he’s got more in common with many of the corrupt and incompetent liberal Illinois politicians.”
With Grassley running, just a handful of Senate incumbents are left to decide on 2022
Friday's decision by 88-year-old Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to run for re-election brings major clarity to the state. With Grassley, in there are just a few more senators up for re-election in 2022 who haven't officially announced their plans yet.
Here's a look at the highest-profile senators who haven't yet explicitly confirmed whether they'll run next year, and what they've said:
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Representing a state that has repeatedly swung between Republicans and Democrats in recent statewide elections, the race for this seat is expected to be one of the most competitive of the election cycle regardless of whether or not Johnson runs.
He raised about $3.3 million over the first six months of 2021, ending June with $1.7 million in cash on hand. That's a lower number than many other vulnerable incumbents at this point, but enough to immediately hit the ground running if he decides to run.
Johnson's publicly admitted he's unsure if he'll run, saying in an interview with a conservative commentator that he wants to keep the seat red but "I may not be the best candidate" to do that. Nevertheless, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, R-Fla., has said he believes Johnson will run (per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
But even amid the senator's wavering, a gaggle of Democrats have already announced they're running, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and former Assembly Leader Tom Nelson.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
Murkowski finds herself in a unique situation ahead of her 2022 re-election for a number of reasons. First, Alaska has overhauled its election system for top offices and replaced it with a non-partisan primary where the top four candidates advance to a general election, which will decided by ranked-choice voting. And secondly, former President Donald Trump is endorsing her GOP challenger.
The long-time fixture in Alaska politics is no stranger to odd circumstances surrounding a re-election, or overcoming trouble within her own party — she won her 2010 race as a write-in candidate after losing her primary. But the ranked-choice system, and Trump endorsing against her, could inject significant uncertainty into a 2022 race.
While she hasn't officially announced her intentions, she told Bloomberg this week she'd reveal them "when I have plans to announce."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
Thune's seat is not expected to be at any risk for Republicans in 2022, so unlike these other two senators, the decision is more about whether Thune wants to run again.
The member of Republican leadership is only 60 years old and could potentially succeed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell once the 79-year-old retires. But Thune has drawn the ire of Trump too, with the former president calling for a primary challenge for Thune after his critical comments about Trump's push to challenge the 2020 election. Thune told Politico in August that he's "not in any rush" to decide.
Progressives aren’t the only ones who have a beef with the bipartisan infrastructure bill
The $550 billion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate last month was one of the rare bipartisan achievements in the past decade, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in support of the legislation.
Its fate in the House, however, has become more uncertain as Democratic progressives have threatened to vote against it ahead of next week’s scheduled vote unless their larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package passes first.
But the bill also has attracted widespread criticism from city-planners and transit advocates.
Charles Marohn, founder and president of Strong Towns, a city planning advocacy group, argues that that the legislation doesn’t make a real dent in the U.S. transportation system’s disrepair, despite the bill’s $110 billion for roads and bridges, $65 billion for high-speed internet access and $39 billion for public transit.
“The fact that we have just overbuilt our infrastructure and not made very good use of it means that even a generational size bill can't take care of everything,” Marohn said.
“As advertised, it is bold, but when it comes to spending on infrastructure that boldness lies in its size, not its vision,” Marohn wrote in a booklet published in response to the bill.
Jarred Johnson, the executive director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Transit Matters, contends that the bipartisan infrastructure bill doesn’t move far away enough from auto-centric transportation.
“There are things cities can do to build momentum for projects when the money does come,” Johnson said. “Dedicating street space for other road uses, like bike and bus lanes, and showing people that the world is not going to come to an end because you’ve taken out a car lane.”
Johnson also criticized the bill’s reliance on spending money to build and renovate transportation projects, but not on addressing operating costs.
“No American city is designed in a way that befits relying on fares. Providing operating costs would help low-income communities by encouraging agencies to alleviate some of the burden on them,” Johnson said.
And Salim Furth, a senior research fellow focusing on land use regulation and housing at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said he was disappointed that the infrastructure bill doesn’t address building additional housing near transit stops.
But Caron Whitaker, deputy executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, said that for her beloved and oft-ignored bike lanes, there is cause for optimism in this bill, with its allocated $6 billion to fix existing streets using safety standards that are good for bikers and pedestrians.
“This is the first time we’ve really seen Congress take the safety of people – biking, walking, using wheelchairs and scooters — seriously.”
“Is it a perfect bill? No,” Whitaker says. “But it is better than what we would get out of the next Congress, probably.”
Marohn of Strong Town is less convinced, however.
“We need an entirely new strategy for how we invest in infrastructure. It needs to start with maintenance, and it needs to start with getting better use of the stuff we have already built,” he said.
“Ten years from now, when we’re done with this spending, we will have more bridges in disrepair than we do now. We will have more lane miles in bad condition than we do now.”
Progressive non-profit attacks Sununu on abortion ahead of possible Senate bid
Amplify NH, a progressive non-profit, is launching a seven-figure television and digital ad buy attacking New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu by arguing the possible Republican Senate candidate is out of step with the state on abortion.
The spot, which began running Thursday morning, begins with the narrator saying the ad will include "no scary voices, no over the top music, just facts," before reading local headlines on the budget Sununu signed, which included a ban on abortion after 24 weeks, except for in the case when a "pregnant woman’s life or a major bodily function is threatened."
The ad notes that there's no carve out for victims of rape or incest, before directing views to read more online.
Amplify NH tells NBC News that it will put about $1.5 million behind the ad.
"The more Granite Staters learn about Governor Sununu’s abortion ban, the more they dislike it — and disapprove of the job he’s doing as governor,” Molly Kelly, an Amplify New Hampshire board member, said in a statement announcing the ad. “Health care professionals, patients, and activists have repeatedly called on Governor Sununu to repeal his abortion ban because it is wrong for New Hampshire. We plan to educate every Granite Stater about Governor Sununu’s extreme, far-right agenda that puts politics before women’s health care.”
According to NPR, Sununu addressed the issue at the time, arguing that while he considers himself a "pro-choice governor," the abortion restrictions wouldn't prompt him to veto the bill.
“So, look, I’m a pro-choice governor, but like most citizens of the state of New Hampshire, I do not think that we should be doing late-term or, you know, these at-the-very-last-minute type abortions,” Sununu told New Hampshire talk radio host Chris Ryan in June, according to NPR. “That’s all this really touches upon, and I think most people agree that that’s, that’s not appropriate. So, no, I wouldn’t necessarily veto a budget over that.”
Abortion is expected to be one key issue on the campaign trail if Sununu decides to run for Senate, as many Washington Republicans have been pushing for. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who Sununu would be running against if he decides to jump in, criticized Sununu for signing the legislation in an interview with the same talk radio show, arguing that "a pro-choice governor would never have allowed this attack on reproductive rights."
A new online poll from the University of New Hampshire found that 57 percent of state residents approve of Sununu's job performance and 37 percent do not. While those numbers are high, the University of New Hampshire notes in their poll release the disapproval number is the highest it has recorded since Sununu took office.
Conservative group launches $7.5 million ad buy criticizing Democratic spending plans
A top conservative outside group is dropping $7.5 million in new ad spending aimed at using the battle over the multi-trillion Democratic reconciliation bill to undercut the standing of vulnerable House Democrats.
The new spending campaign from American Action Network, one of the top GOP-aligned outside groups in House races, includes broadcast, cable and digital ads across 24 Democratic-held districts. The spots accuse Democrats of "overspending" which "benefits a few while working Americans suffer" and will lead to more inflation.
“The more we learn about this bill, the worse it gets. This bill is creating a world of problems for Members in 100 different directions,” AAN President Dan Conston said in a statement announcing the ad campaign. “Members should think long and hard before walking the plank for Pelosi when we’re only beginning to see just how toxic this bill will be back home.”
Democrats are struggling to balance competing wants within their party on infrastructure, new spending and the debt ceiling, so the final plan is far from completed. But there's already a race to define the new Democratic spending plans and win the war of public opinion on the airwaves. On top of the millions that AAN is spending now and has already spent, other Republican groups have spent millions on similar messaging aimed at influencing Congressional races. Democrats are spending millions too on boosting vulnerable Democrats by messaging the plan as a way to jumpstart the economy and help struggling Americans.