The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
NRCC expands list of Democratic targets in wake of Youngkin victory
The GOP House campaign committee said Wednesday it is expanding its list of Democratic targets for the 2022 midterms following Glenn Youngkin’s “commanding victory in the Virginia governor’s race.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) added 13 new Democratic-controlled seats to its offensive targets, bringing the total tally to 70 House Democrats.
“In a cycle like this, no Democrat is safe,” NRCC Chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) declared in a statement released the morning after the election. “Voters are rejecting Democrat policies that have caused massive price increases, opened our borders, and spurred a nationwide crime wave.”
Among those new targets is Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who represents the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and flipped her seat in 2018. Youngkin held his final campaign rally in her district’s Loudoun County Monday night.
As the committee broadens its focus, however, state redistricting is still not finalized in most instances and House district maps are subject to change.
The NRCC had already been investing in four New Jersey battleground districts before Tuesday’s tight gubernatorial election between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, which is still too close to call. Those members include moderate Democratic Reps. Andy Kim, Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill.
“Last night’s results confirm that every vulnerable House Democrat has a decision to make over Thanksgiving: retire or lose,” NRCC Communications Director Michael McAdams told NBC News. “Voters are rejecting Democrats’ socialist agenda that has raised prices, caused a nationwide crime wave, and created a crisis on our southern border.”
The NRCC’s rival group, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), dismissed the announcement Wednesday morning.
“The NRCC is mistaken if they think they can easily emulate a campaign that skipped a messy GOP primary, had no political record to defend, and routinely kept President Trump at arm’s length,” DCCC spokesperson Chris Taylor said in a statement to NBC News.
“We have a year until the midterm elections, and on top of passing historic legislation that includes game-changing investments in our infrastructure and working families, Democrats are working to ensure battleground voters understand the grave danger that House Republicans and their extremism present to not only our families, but our democracy.”
Tight polls and flurry of new ads mark closing days of Virginia campaign
Two new polls of Virginia's race for governor are making headlines as candidates and interest groups continue to drop a flurry of new ads ahead of Tuesday's election.
A poll released late Thursday by Fox News, showed Republican Glenn Youngkin at 53 percent and Democrat Terry McAuliffe at 45 percent among likely voters (among registered voters, Youngkin is at 48 percent and McAuliffe at 47 percent).
The margins of error are 3 percent for likely voters and 2.5 percent for the registered voters.
On Friday morning, the Washington Post released its latest poll showing McAuliffe at 49 percent among likely voters, Youngkin at 48 percent and Liberation party candidate Princess Blanding at 1 percent (among registered voters, McAuliffe is at 47 percent, Youngkin at 44 percent and Blanding at 3 percent).
The margins of error in the Washington Post poll are 4 percent for likely voters and 3.5 for registered voters.
On the airwaves, the Youngkin campaign remains focused on schools, specifically attacking McAuliffe for his opposition to a bill that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of being taught material a parent deemed explicit and recent alleged cases of sexual assault in Loudon County schools.
Youngkin's camp has new ads in recent days on those issues, including one that claims "now, our schools are teetering on chaos."
The McAuliffe campaign is out with a new spot, along with its partner in the AB Foundation, that accuses Youngkin of being the one "stoking chaos in our schools." And in a new spot Friday, the campaign featured black women arguing that the push to ban explicit content, which has ensnared prominent Black author Toni Morrison's "Beloved," is "meant to divide us."
Left-leaning church leaders push for Biden’s legislative agenda
As President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats attempt to conclude negotiations over their social agenda legislation, the president has recently found an unlikely ally looking to vouch for his policies: left-leaning Christian leaders.
The effort gained steam late last month, when members of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of national church leaders representing an array of Christian denominations and millions of church-goers, met with Biden senior adviser Cedric Richmond at the White House. While there, the leaders advocated for keeping ‘anti-poverty’ policies in the final reconciliation bill including the extension of the child tax credit and paid family leave.
“With this legislation, we have a chance to dramatically reduce poverty and racial inequality in our country,” Rev. David Beckmann, coordinator of the Circle of Protection, told NBC News. “So it’s a once-in-a-generation chance to make our nation a more just place.”
Beckmann added that in the White House meeting, church leaders emphasized to Richmond that their congregation members are both under informed on the specifics of the bill and “discouraged” by the Democratic infighting that’s likely to result in a diminished bill. As recently as Monday night, NBC News reported that Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.VA. had soured over key portions of the bill that religious leaders were enthusiastic about, including paid family leave, Medicare dental vouchers and the expansion of Medicaid.
And last week, another member of the Circle, Rev. Jim Wallis, spoke outside the Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that coming up short in passing the bill would be a “moral and religious failure for our country.”
But for Biden, keeping faith leaders around in this effort could also be a political calculation.
“He would like to cast his agenda in moral terms and say that there is in fact a moral case for expanding the welfare state,” Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said in an interview with NBC News. “Their activity helps him to drive that point home.”
At the same time, the political influence of left-leaning churches is considerably less than that of churches on the religious right, with just 52 percent of Democratic and Democratic leaning registered voters identifying as Christian in 2019, compared to 79 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning registered voters according to data from the Pew Research Center.
But when it comes to passing the Build Back Better Act and the influence it may have on religious voter turnout next year for Democrats, some experts, including Nichole Phillips, director of the Black Church studies program at Emory University, say it can only help.
“The provisions, if they broadly impact those who are the constituency of the religious bodies, will work favorably for the Democrats and President Biden.”
Poll: Murphy holds lead in New Jersey's race for governor
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy leads his Republican opponent, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, by 11 points in a new poll ahead of next week's race for governor.
Fifty percent of registered voters back Murphy in Monmouth University's new poll, with Ciattarelli garnering support from 39 percent of those voters. The margins are similar in the race depending on the different turnout projections Monmouth applies to the race — a 9-point Murphy lead among likely voters, an 8-point Murphy lead in a low-turnout election and a 14-point Murphy lead in a high-turnout election.
The lead for Murphy, outside of the poll's 3.1 percent margin of error, is bolstered by strong support from traditionally Democratic voting blocs like minority, young, college-educated and female voters. Ciattarelli is winning the majority of white voters and a slim plurality of those who consider themselves independents.
Murphy has a 52 percent approval rating and a 39 percent disapproval rating from registered voters. His favorable rating of 45 percent is lower than that, but still higher than Ciatarrelli's 37 percent approval rating.
While President Joe Biden won this state by almost 16 points last year, a near majority, 49 percent, of registered voters disapprove of his job as president. Forty-three percent say they approve of Biden's job performance.
Monmouth polled 1,000 New Jersey voters between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25.
NRSC Chair Rick Scott says Sinema's role in budget negotiations is 'helping' GOP efforts to defeat Kelly in 2022
WASHINGTON — Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who is leading the GOP's efforts to win back the U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, said Tuesday that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s, D-Ariz., contrarian role in negotiating the Democratic Party's efforts to pass infrastructure and budget bills has been helpful to Republican efforts to oust her Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., next fall.
“Mark Kelly’s getting defined every day because he’s so different than Sinema," the chaiman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee told NBC News Tuesday. "'He’s just going along every day, he doesn’t say anything, but he does whatever Schumer tells him to do. So yeah, I think it’s helping us.”
Kelly's re-election effort is expected to be one of the marquee races of the midterms, putting more focus on a state where Republicans are seeking to make inroads after losing both Senate seats in recent years as well as the 2020 presidential race.
Republican involved in the state believe that Sinema's role as one of two key votes for Democrats in getting part of President Joe Biden's agenda through Congress has provided an implicit contrast with her fellow Democratic senator. And they believe that counterbalance is helpful to them in 2022 in taking on Kelly —though they allow it may make it harder for the next iteration of the NRSC forced to try to compete with her in 2024.
Sinema has faced backlash from activists within the party for her hardline negotiation posture on Biden’s signature Build Back Better agenda, and has even drawn the ire of her colleagues on the Hill — who are frustrated by what they see as her non-communicative negotiating style on this critical agenda item.
Priorities USA partners with key groups to boost McAuliffe on education, spark minority turnout in Virginia's race for governor
Priorities USA, the major Democratic super PAC, is teaming up with the American Federation of Teachers to come to Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe's defense on education issues, and with the Latino Victory Project as the groups rally minority voters ahead of next week's pivotal race for governor.
The partnership with AFT includes $100,000 worth of digital ads that criticize Republican Glenn Youngkin on education, arguing that "he'll divert taxpayer money away from public schools," while vouching for McAuliffe as a governor who listened to teachers and parents during his initial stint and is a good steward for public education.
Priorities tells NBC News that it is explicitly targeting voters who've seen Youngkin's recent education ads, making the group the latest to come to McAuliffe's defense as the Republican makes the issue a key piece of his closing message.
"Terry McAuliffe will make Virginia’s schools stronger and produce better outcomes for students. We’re engaging Virginians on digital platforms because we know this is where they are looking for critical information," Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement announcing the ad.
AFT President Randi Weingarten added in a statement of her own that McAuliffe has "walked the walk when it comes to our kids" and that "with partisan vitriol, misinformation and attacks at an all-time high, it’s important that all Virginians understand that Terry McAuliffe is the best candidate to lead the state forward.”
Youngkin has spent millions in the final weeks of the campaign criticizing McAuliffe for saying during last month's debate that "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." And after attacking McAuliffe for vetoing legislation during his stint as governor that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of material they deemed sexually explicit, the Republican dropped a new ad featuring a mother at the center of that fight.
"Virginia parents have a right to make decisions on their children's education. That's the Virginia I grew up in," Youngkin says in one spot.
McAuliffe initially responded weeks after the debate with a direct-to-camera ad accusing Youngkin of "taking my words out of context" and saying he's "always valued the concerns of parents." And he and allies have since run similar ads promoting McAuliffe's education plan and criticizing Youngkin.
As part of its final push, Priorities is also partnering with the Latino Victory Project to run $57,000 of get-out-the-vote ads in English and Spanish targeting Hispanic voters in the state.
And it’s also targeting black voters statewide with digital ads directing them to online resources about voting as Democrats have looked to shore up their base in a state where President Joe Biden won by 10 points in 2020, but where polling shows a tighter race for governor.
Last month, Priorities announced it was spending $1.7 million on digital ads in Virginia, as well as Pennsylvania, to help mobilize voters ahead of both this fall's election as well as next year's midterms.
Five different national polls all show rough numbers for Biden
Five high-quality national polls have been released this week, and they all tell the same story.
Nine months into his time in office, President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are clearly underwater.
On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University poll had Biden’s job rating at 37 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove among all Americans.
On Wednesday, a national Grinnell College poll — conducted by famed Iowa pollster Ann Selzer’s outfit – had Biden at 37 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove.
Also on Wednesday, a Fox News poll had the president at 46 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove among registered voters.
On Thursday, a CNBC poll — conducted by the same pollsters who do the NBC News poll — showed President Biden’s approval rating down to 41 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove among all adults.
And on Friday, Gallup’s monthly tracking (Oct. 1-19) had Biden’s job rating down to 42 percent among all adults, with the poll finding that the president’s approval among independents falling 21 points since June.
To put those Gallup numbers into historical context, Barack Obama’s approval rating was still above 50 percent in Oct. 2009 (and didn’t reach the 40s until the next year, when Democrats lost control of the U.S House).
But Biden’s standing is higher than Donald Trump’s at this same point in presidency, when Gallup had his approval in the high 30s during his turbulent first year as president.
McAuliffe and Youngkin fight over extremes, education on the airwaves as election draws near
With less than two weeks to go until Election Day in Virginia, an analysis of recent ad-spending by each candidate makes it clear what messages they want voters to take with them when they cast their ballots.
Democrats have outspent Republicans on television, digital and radio advertising over the last two weeks (from Oct. 8 through Oct. 21) $7.5 million to $4.6 million, according to the ad-tracking firm, AdImpact.
Other data from AdImpact also can provide a glimpse of what messages each campaign is investing in on the airwaves (note: AdImpact tracks an estimated spending figure for individual advertisements, but that estimate does not include local cable spending, so it's not a full picture).
Most of the ads that Democrat Terry McAuliffe's campaign appears to be prioritizing are about framing Republican Glenn Youngkin as too extreme for the state and presenting McAuliffe as the candidate for the middle-of-the-road Virginian.
He's spent at least $820,000 on a spot that quotes Youngkin saying he doesn't support a right to an abortion being included in the Virginia constitution. At least $780,000 has gone to airing a spot that argues that he lifted "everybody up" as governor, regardless of party. At least $750,000 spent warning that Youngkin "would bring Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos' education policies to Virginia." And McAuliffe's campaing has spent at least $678,000 on an ad that highlights former President Trump's praise of Youngkin during a controversial conservative rally last week.
And he has two brand new spots of note: one using former President Barack Obama to make the case for him, and another where he is on the defensive responding to Youngkin's attacks about education.
The new schools ad from McAuliffe comes as Youngkin has made education one of his campaign's top issues — the issue is at the heart of the two ads that Youngkin appears to be prioritizing by a significant margin on the airwaves.
The Republican is running two similar ads that quote McAuliffe during last month's debate saying "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
One argues that McAuliffe is "putting politics over parents, failing our kids." And the other features Youngkin sitting in a classroom and arguing that unlike McAuliffe, he'll "always stand up for Virginia's parents." The Republican has spent at least $2.7 million on the two ads over the last two weeks, far more than he has on any other message, per AdImpact.
Youngkin's newest ad is on the economy and claims he would be a better steward of the state's economy his tenure would lead to lower taxes.
'Black Hawk Down' pilot launches Alabama Senate bid
Former Army pilot Mike Durant, whose military career was partly featured in the movie "Black Hawk Down," has jumped into the Alabama GOP Senate primary and is already on the air with a new television ad.
The new spot starts with footage from when Durant was taken prisoner in Somalia after his helicopter was shot down in 1993. His crash and subsequent recue was the focus of the film and book that inspired the movie.
The ad itself shows Durant flying a helicopter, saying "We need a Senator who is an outsider, backs Trump, the Constitution and America."
The Purple Heart recipient has wasted little time after announcing his bid, booking almost $150,000 in television time, including on Fox News, as he seeks to break through an already crowded primary field.
Durant will have to contend against a big field of Republican Senate hopefuls — Rep. Mo Brooks, who has the backing of former President Trump; Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to the retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby; Lynda Blanchard, the former ambassador to Slovenia under Trump; and businesswoman Jessica Taylor, who ran for Congress last cycle.
So far, Brooks has spent almost $300,000 on TV ads, compared to Blanchard's $108,000 and Britt's $34,000.
McAuliffe plays defense on education, offense on Trump in new TV ads
Former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is out with two new ads with just two weeks to go until the pivotal Virginia gubernatorial election — one that plays defense on education and another that tries to go on offense by linking Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin again to former President Donald Trump.
The education spot comes after Youngkin spent more than $3 million on ads (per ad-tracking firm AdImpact) in the last month hitting McAuliffe for saying during a debate “I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
Now, McAuliffe is up with a new ad directly responding to those attacks, staring directly to camera to accuse Republicans of taking him out of context and declaring that "I've always valued the concerns of parents."
It's the latest salvo in a battle over what's quickly become one of Youngkin's top closing messages, one that Republicans hope can help level the playing field in the blue-leaning state.
But alongside the defensive move, the McAuliffe campaign is also up with a new ad that attempts to seize on a perceived strength — linking Youngkin to Trump in a state the Republican president lost last year.
McAuliffe has tried to marry the two Republicans over issues like Covid and Trump's unfounded claims he won the 2020 election. And in a new, one-minute ad that started airing Tuesday, the narrator criticizes Republicans embracing Trump, showing Trump's controversial comments on the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville followed by Youngkin saying during his 2021 campaign that he was "honored to receive President Trump's endorsement."
Senate fundraising watch: Warnock posts a huge quarter
Friday's federal campaign finance deadline provided yet another peek at how the race for control of the Senate is shaping up, and one thing is clear — there's a whole lot of cash already being accumulated.
Democrats hold the tiebreaker in the Senate, so Republicans need to flip a net of just one seat in 2022 in order to retake control of the body.
Here's a look at how candidates in the most competitive races (rated "lean" or "toss-up" by the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, as well as races with well-funded primary challengers) fundraised from July through September:
Biggest overall fundraiser: Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock
Warnock was always going to be fighting a challenging battle to hold onto his Senate seat considering that before he and fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff won their 2021 runoffs, the state hadn't elected a Democratic senator since 2000.
But he continues to be a prolific fundraiser, and his $9.5 million raised is more than any Senate candidate this past quarter. That's a boost from the $7 million he raised in the previous quarter, another eye-popping sum, and he ended September with $17.2 million in the bank.
The honorable mentions in this category go to Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly (he raised $8.2 million), as well as both of Florida's top Senate hopefuls, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Val Demings (more on them below).
Biggest fundraising challenger: Demings
With her $8.5 million raised last quarter (after spending $5.6 million to do it), Demings raised more than any other candidate except for Warnock. That makes her the top fundraising candidate out of those looking to dethrone an incumbent. She finished September with almost $6 million in the bank, another record for Senate challengers.
But she'll be facing a well-funded incumbent in Rubio, who raised more money than any other Republican last quarter — $6 million — by a significant margin.
So even while Demings is proving to be a fundraising machine, and the $6 million in cash on hand puts her in the upper-echelon of Senate candidates (incumbents included), Rubio has the third-biggest war chest of competitive Senate candidates this cycle: $9.6 million.
The honorable mention here goes to Georgia Republican Herschel Walker, as the former football great endorsed by former President Donald Trump raised $3.8 million in just a few weeks (as he announced his bid in late August).
Lowest incumbent fundraiser: Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks
Brooks, who has Trump's backing, raised just $670,000 toward his Senate bid. That's half-as-much-as one of his competitors, Katie Britt, the former top aide to retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby. Britt raised $1.5 million last quarter and has $3.3 million in cash on hand compared to Brooks' $1.9 million. Former Trump Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has $4.5 million on hand thanks to millions from her own deep pockets.
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley raised the second-fewest of any of the incumbents in these key races, $824,000. But he didn't announce his decision to run again until the end of the fundraising quarter. Former Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer raised $1 million last quarter in the hopes of dethroning him.
Biggest self-funder: Pennsylvania Republican Carla Sands
Sands, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark in the Trump administration, loaned her primary campaign $3.1 million, the vast majority of the $3.6 million she raised last quarter. That was narrowly more than the $3 million than Republican businessmen Jim Lamon and Bernie Moreno, in Arizona and Ohio respectively, each loaned their campaigns last quarter.
All three are running in crowded fields where they're hoping their big wallets will help them stand out.
State with the most self-funding: Ohio
It's not just Moreno — Ohio's other Republican Senate hopefuls opened up their own wallets last quarter to a significant degree.
On top of Moreno's $3 million, investment banker Mike Gibbons loaned his campaign $2.25 million, former state GOP chair Jane Timken loaned her campaign $1 million and author JD Vance loaned his campaign $100,000.