Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.
For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.
NRSC targets Thanksgiving travelers with inflation ads at gas stations
“You like high gas prices?” the ad intones, with cartoonish graphics and sound effects. “If so, introducing: Joe Biden and Democrats.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s five-figure, multi-day buy — first reported by NBC News — goes across ten battleground states where Republicans hope to flip or keep Senate seats in the upcoming 2022 midterms. The advertisements are intended to hit travelers on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday who are filling up their gas tanks.
The full list of states where the ads will air include: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The ad campaign comes as Republicans have increasingly focused on inflation spurred by supply chain issues as a key messaging focus ahead of 2022, using it as a point of contrast with Democrats, who seek to pass trillions in infrastructure, social programs, and climate measures.
Recently, Democrats have pushed back on those attacks by arguing that the investments could help lessen the strain on the economy and give Americans more purchasing power.
UPDATE: Gas Station TV rejected a version of these ads because they did not fall within the company’s political content guidelines. An NRSC spokesperson told NBC News Tuesday night that they are working to “tweak” the ads so they may run.
GOP poll of Virginia has Republicans confident that Biden's approval rating, economy can boost party in 2022
A new Republican poll of Virginia gubernatorial voters shows why the GOP's recent victory in Virginia has the party arguing that both concerns about the economy and education, as well as President Joe Biden's low approval rating, could be part of a winning message in 2022.
The new joint survey from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Governors Association, first obtained by NBC News and conducted by the GOP-aligned firm OnMessage Inc., shows that 55 percent of Virginia's gubernatorial electorate disapproved of Biden's job in office (with 47 percent saying they strongly disapproved and 7 percent saying they somewhat disapproved). In contrast, 44 percent said they approved of Biden (21 percent strongly and 23 percent somewhat).
That finding is largely in line with public polls released just before Election Day — Suffolk University, Fox News and The Washington Post/George Mason University were among the public surveys that showed a majority disapproving of Biden in the days before the election. And NBC's exit polling found that 53 percent of the Virginia electorate disapproved of Biden, compared to the 46 percent who approved of his job performance.
And 71 percent said that Democrat Terry McAuliffe "spent far too much time and money running against Donald Trump, who wasn't even on the ballot" and that he "would have done better" if he focused on Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin. In addition, 82 percent said education was important to deciding their vote (52 percent said it was very important); and majorities agreed with GOP-leaning statements about "critical race theory" and inflation's effect on their household bottom line.
“What’s clear from Virginia is that Joe Biden’s numbers are dragging down Democrats everywhere, something that should terrify every Senate Democrat running for reelection next year," Chris Hartline, the NRSC's communications director, said in a statement to NBC News. "The Democrats’ agenda of more spending, higher taxes, skyrocketing inflation, and an anti-parent philosophy on education is turning off swing voters, suburban voters, independent voters, you name it."
For its poll, OnMessage surveyed 800 gubernatorial election voters on Nov. 3 and 4 by telephone, and the poll has a margin of error of +/-3.46%.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe's campaign post-mortem blamed their loss on better-than-expected GOP turnout and a poor political environment for Democrats that had Virginians believing both the country and the state were on the wrong path. And the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA called the Virginia election's a "warning for all Democrats," arguing that the party should stop "fighting each other" and focus on delivering on campaign promises to motivate their base and swing voters to turn out.
It's all why this month's election results — both in Virginia but also in races in states like New Jersey and New York — have amplified Republican optimism ahead of next year's pivotal midterm elections, where control of both the House and Senate, as well as governor, are up for grabs.
Democrats are defending gubernatorial seats in five states rated as "toss up" or "lean," with Republicans defending four, according to ratings from The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter. And with the Senate evenly divided, there are four Democratic seats and five Republican seats with those "toss up" or "lean" ratings.
Conservative group warns Luria, Spanberger on social spending bill weeks after Dem losses in Virginia
A conservative non-profit group is going up with new ads warning Virginia Democratic Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger that they should be wary of voting for the House Democrats' new social spending bill right after Republicans just swept into power in this month's elections.
American Action Network dropped two similar ads Tuesday calling on both Democrats not to vote on the forthcoming reconciliation bill, showing a super-cut of television news reacting to the results in Virginia's statewide and legislative elections.
"The message, loud and clear: Virginia rejects the radical Biden/Pelosi agenda. But liberals like Abigail Spanberger still aren't listening," the narrator says in the ad, swapping out Luria's name in her district.
"Tell Abigail Spanberger to get the message and reject the Pelosi spending plan."
AAN has already spent heavily in both districts — more than $575,000 on ads against Spanberger and almost $1.2 million in Luria's district, enough to be among the top-two ad spenders in each district, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. And it has
And the group has spent millions attacking Democrats across the country over the social-spending bill too, including announcing $2 million worth of new ads across eight districts (including the two in Virginia) on the issue yesterday.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday, Spanberger argued that the bipartisan infrastructure bill will help address supply chain issues by funding sectors like ports, airports, and recruiting for truck drivers. When asked about what lessons she thought Democrats should take away from her state's recent election, Spanberger said that Democrats need to "have a message that is responsive to what people are talking about."
And when asked about the Democratic social spending bill specifically, she said there's "so much of this bill that's incredibly valuable" like spending to curb climate change, expand the child tax credit and lower prescription drug prices.
Senate ad spending nears $90 million one year from Election Day 2022
One year before Election Day 2022, the Senate ad-spending battleground is already flush with cash.
So far this cycle, there has been a total of $89.6 million spent on TV/radio/digital ads according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact.
The ads have a variety of purposes, including trying to shore up incumbents' electoral positions, challengers or outside groups trying to attack those incumbents and intra-party squabbles spilling out onto the airwaves.
Here's a look at the top five races for ad-spending right now and what's been on the airwaves there.
Arizona Senate (incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly): $21.6 million
Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since the 1950s, has been a top target for Republicans as they look to leverage a favorable midterm climate to defeat Kelly just two years after he won the special election to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain's term.
Democrats have the spending edge right now, $12.3 million to $8.8 million, and these airwaves have seen it all. Democratic groups like End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund and Advancing Arizona have been giving Kelly cover by touting the impact of the Senate's agenda and defending him from GOP attack ads, like this spot from One Nation that tries to pit Kelly against fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to question his bipartisan bonafides and criticize that Democratic agenda.
But while those groups are focused on the general election, there's a robust clash on the airwaves in the GOP primary race, where allies of Thiel Foundation President Blake Masters are attacking Attorney General Mark Brnovich on issues like illegal immigration, while businessman Jim Lamon has hit the airwaves to frame himself as a political outsider.
New Hampshire (incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan): $13.4 million
Unlike Arizona, where there's been a mix of ads in both the primary and the general election, New Hampshire has drawn this spending with virtually all eyes on a potential general election matchup.
While retired Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, who ran for the Senate last cycle, is in the race, all eyes are on New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on the Republican side, as many Republicans argue he's the best chance the party has at flipping the seat. Even though he hasn't announced whether he's running yet, Democrats are already up with a significant ad buy attacking his record on abortion rights.
Georgia (incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock): $8.3 million
This race had to be decided in overtime in the 2020 cycle, so it's no surprise it's already drawing a ton of spending. Like New Hampshire, Georgia's airwaves are primarily looking at the general election.
Democrats have touted Warnock's support of the winter's Covid relief bill, while Republicans try to turn public sentiment on the Democrats' forthcoming reconciliation bill. And while there's a primary on the right highlighted by former college football great Herschell Walker (backed by former President Donald Trump), that primary hasn't really played out on the airwaves yet (Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has hit Walker on immigration in a radio ad, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
Nevada (incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto): $8.1 million
Another race where the general election has dominated the ad wars, the Democrats are outspending Republicans $5.1 million to $3 million along similar lines as many of these races — Democrats and Republicans squabbling over the political fallout of the Democratic agenda in Congress.
While there's a burgeoning primary between the Trump-backed former Attorney General Adam Laxalt and retired Army Captain Sam Brown, it hasn't played out on the airwaves much past a $113,000 cable buy from Brown.
Wisconsin (incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson): $6.8 million
This longtime battleground state will likely have a tight Senate race in 2022, but it's unclear who will represent each party. Johnson, the incumbent, has not confirmed whether or not he'll run again, and there's a robust primary on the Democratic side.
So far, Democrat Alex Lasry is the only one among the Democratic candidates to go up on the airwaves. He's spent $1.4 million on spots touting his bio.
McAuliffe campaign memo blames supercharged GOP turnout, bad national environment for loss
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's campaign is blaming its loss in the state's gubernatorial election this week on a supercharged Republican turnout, as well as a difficult political environment for Democrats.
That assessment comes in an internal campaign memo obtained by NBC News which says that McAuliffe's campaign had projected that turnout would be at record levels, but adds that they never anticipated it being as high as the 3.2 million who actually voted. GOP businessman Glenn Youngkin won Tuesday's election with just over 50 percent of the vote.
"While we were successfully able to turn out the Democratic vote, Youngkin was able to use the Democratic stalemate and the Fox News/conservative media echo chamber as a catalyst to drive turnout in heavily Trump supporting areas and close the gap in turnout that was created in 2017," the memo states.
"[A]lmost every locality in the state overperformed their 2017 turnout rates; that trend was most pronounced in heavily Republican areas, slightly less so in Democratic areas."
An NBC analysis of the turnout confirms that rural turnout was supercharged for the GOP even as the McAuliffe campaign had assumed before the election that higher overall turnout would be better for them, not worse.
The McAuliffe camp also attributes their loss to a poor political environment for Democrats. "[B]eginning in August we saw the majority of Virginians say that both the country and the state were on the wrong track," the memo says.
August is when the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan began and marked a sharp downturn in President Biden's approval ratings.
When it comes to the debate over "Critical Race Theory," the memo argues that the campaign's own internal polling showed McAuliffe trailing on education when the general election campaign began.
"Our polling back in July saw Youngkin with a one point advantage over McAuliffe with education which held true throughout the rest of the campaign. This further indicates that education was not a key issue overall, but something more in the water throughout the election and part of the national issues that Democrats faced this year."
But the Youngkin campaign only began to lean into the education issue after this McAuliffe line from September's debate with NBC News' Chuck Todd: "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Before that, Youngkin's negative advertising on McAuliffe was focused primarily on crime.
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.
Two more House Democrats announce impending retirement
Two more House Democrats — Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and David Price, D-N.C., — announced Monday they won't seek re-election next fall, making them the latest members to head for the door as their party gears up to defend its slim majority next year.
In a statement, Doyle said that after 14 terms in office "the time has come to pass the torch to the next generation."
In explaining his decision, Doyle pointed to both a personal desire to spend retirement with his wife, as well as to the upcoming congressional redistricting process that he maintained makes this a "good transition time for a new member to start in a newly drawn district." He also said he wanted to announce his decision early enough that his would-be successors would have enough time to for a robust campaign.
Price, who is leaving after 17 terms in Congress, said that "while it is time for me to retire, it is no time to flag in our efforts to secure a 'more perfect union' and to protect and expand our democracy."
As two of the more senior members of the House Democratic caucus, both men are also the longest-serving members of their state's congressional delegations. Doyle is the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, while Price is a "cardinal" on the House Appropriations Committee, overseeing the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.
The congressional seats that both men currently represent will be subject to congressional redistricting ahead of next cycle, although they both currently represent safe Democratic districts.
Six House Democrats are retiring at the end of their term, with five more leaving to run for higher office. Last week, the powerful House Budget Chair, John Yarmuth, R-Ky., announced he would retire at the end of next year.
In two statements, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., praised Price as "a champion for North Carolina families" and celebrated Doyle's "work on behalf of Americans with autism and their families."
Mike Berg, a spokesman with the National Republican Congressional Committee argued in a statement that the retirements are being motivated by the chance that Democrats lose their House majority, which would mean these senior Democrats would lose their plum positions.
"Smart Democrats are fleeing Congress as fast as humanly possible because they know Democrats’ majority is coming to an end," Berg said.
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.
Youngkin drops round of new ads on crime, vaccines and education
Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has released a flurry of new ads in recent days, just six weeks before Election Day, aimed at going on offense against Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe on crime and education, and defending himself against attacks on his stance on vaccine mandates.
A new spot, released Tuesday, centers on a police officer injured in the line of duty in 1984 who says she fears McAuliffe would release violent criminals back on the street. It comes after Youngkin criticized a McAuliffe parole board appointment during last week's debate (the Democrat said that he would punish anyone found to have committed wrongdoing but that he wants to invest in parole to "lift everybody up").
Another recent ad focuses on criticism of his stance on vaccines. At last week's debate, McAuliffe repeatedly criticized Youngkin for not supporting vaccine mandates, as Youngkin has said "individuals should be allowed to make that decision on their own." Youngkin's new spot includes a doctor saying that McAuliffe is playing politics on the issue and that he trusts the Republican to keep him safe.
Youngkin's other two ads are focused on education (including one spot with a Loudon County teacher arguing that the Republican will bring “real leadership” to the state’s education system), and another targeting Hampton Roads with his plan for the area.
The new spots come as McAuliffe's ads have been focusing on similar issues. He's leaned in heavily on the pandemic and his criticisms of Youngkin's policies on vaccines. He has a spot on education too, arguing that vaccines and masks are the way to keep schools open, and another criticizing Youngkin's work in private equity with typical attacks on things like layoffs.
Both candidates are gearing up for a sprint to the finish line — as of today, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe has just shy of $2 million of ads booked through Election Day, compared with $1.2 million for Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin.
Former Nevada Sen. Heller is running for governor
Former Republican Sen. Dean Heller is running for Nevada governor, making him the highest-profile Republican to mount a challenge to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Heller made his announcement, which had long been expected, in a social media video released Monday, where he recounted growing up stock car racing and went on to lament how he believes "mask-mandates, defunding the police, endless lockdowns" under Sisolak are hurting Nevada's workers.
"Look what's happened to Nevada. We have a governor more interested in locking us out of work than putting us back to work," Heller says.
"I'm sick of seeing abortion clinics open while churches and schools are closed, my grandkids playing soccer in masks. That's all on Gov. Sisolack. We can't go on like this, it's time Nevada had a conservative governor with a lick of common sense."
Heller served in Congress from 2007-2019, first for two terms in Congress and then one term as a senator. The Republican notably broke with former President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, saying that he "vehemently oppose[s]" Trump but was committed to "voting against Hillary Clinton." He subsequently said he did end up voting for Trump, but the relationship between the two men was a big story ahead of Heller's defeat (and Trump told reporters Heller lost because of his critical comments of the then-GOP nominee).
Heller joins a crowded field that includes North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, attorney Joey Gilbert and businessman Guy Nohra.
Sisolak is running for his second term in office after winning his 2018 race against then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt. (Laxalt is running for Senator this cycle against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.)
A July poll from OH Predictive Insights found the majority of Nevada voters view the Democratic governor favorably, and approve of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy (pluralities approved of his handling of race relations and guns, while voters were virtually split on his handling of immigration).
Molly Forgey, a Sisolak campaign spokesperson, released a statement marking Heller's entry emphasizing the crowded primary.
"Republicans have found themselves in a crowded primary they will have to fight through for the next nine months. In the meantime, Governor Sisolak will be focused on Nevada’s recovery — getting more shots in arms, Nevadans back to work and businesses back open and thriving."
Abortion, crime, economy and Covid dominate the airwaves ahead of Thursday's Virginia governor debate
Virginia's first gubernatorial general election debate takes place Thursday evening, pitting former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe against Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin.
And looking at what ads have been running makes it clear what each candidate is centering their messages on as the campaign heads into its closing stretch.
McAuliffe's top ads since the start of the month largely center on the Covid pandemic and abortion. Per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact (which approximates how much campaigns spend on television ads on broadcast and national cable, but not local cable), McAuliffe's most frequent ad is one featuring a doctor speaking directly to camera to claim that Youngkin's "far-right agenda" on abortion "is just wrong and it would harm my patients."
It's no surprise that McAuliffe's ads are focusing so significantly on abortion, as Democrats have been pointing to the recent decision by the Supreme Court not to block strict abortion restrictions in Texas as proof that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is at risk. And the issue gained particular salience in the state after a hidden camera video of Youngkin discussing how he would go "on offense" on the issue if elected became public. (Youngkin's campaign claims the video has been edited and says he supports some exceptions for abortions.)
McAullife's other top ad centers on two other key issues for his campaign — the pandemic and trying to tie Youngkin to former President Donald Trump. The spot argues that "like Donald Trump," Glenn Youngkin refuses to take coronavirus seriously," pointing to his opposition to vaccine mandates for teachers and mask requirements in schools.
Youngkin's top spots are right in the wheelhouse of a GOP politician — crime and the economy.
He has focused heavily on crime in the hopes of linking McAuliffe to the parts of the Democratic base that have called for cutting funding to police departments. In one of his top recent ads, Youngkin's campaign includes a group of sheriffs arguing that with crime on the rise in the state, "extreme Democrats supporting Terry McAuliffe want to defund the police." It's an argument the Democrat's campaign has pushed back on, arguing that the state was one of the safer in the nation under his tenure.
And the other top spot features Youngkin wandering a grocery store, promising to eliminate the state's grocery taxes to fight rising prices.
The two candidates will debate Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET, airing on local news stations and C-SPAN.
Abortion rights advocates gear up for re-match against moderate Texas Democrat
NARAL Pro-Choice America plans to announce its support Wednesday for Cisneros, the group told NBC News, hoping to send a message with its unusually early support for a primary challenger that there is no room for opposition to abortion rights in the party. The move comes a week after the Supreme Court opted not to block Texas' strict abortion law from going into effect, raising concerns among Democrats that the court may ultimately weaken the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
“There's room in the Democratic Party for folks with different opinions. You can identify as someone who is pro-life. But you can't impose your view on others and restrict the decisions of other people,” said NARAL's chief campaigns and advocacy officer Christian LoBue.
“The message that we're hoping to send with this endorsement is that reproductive freedom is a central and core tenet of the Democratic Party,” she added.
NARAL and other liberal groups that support abortion rights backed Cisneros’ failed attempt to oust Cuellar in a 2020 primary — the incumbent narrowly won by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. But they’re starting earlier this time in the hopes of giving Cisneros more time to gather momentum.
They’re hoping for a repeat of what happened in Illinois last year, where now-Rep. Marie Newman ousted former anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski on her second attempt, after an unsuccessful bid in 2018.
Newman’s suburban Chicago district is bluer than Cuellar’s largely rural South Texas district that stretches along the border with Mexico, though both voted for President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump, and LoBue said they expect Texas’ new abortion law to galvanize voters there.
“Mr. Cueller is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House, so it just couldn't be more important,” LoBue said.
Cuellar has long been criticized by the left. In a statement to NBC News ahead of his 2020 matchup against Cisneros, then-Cuellar campaign spokesman Colin Strother said that "we feel very strongly that the Congressman represents the values of his district very well and that he knows and understands the priorities for his constituents."
Covid a top closing message for Democrats ahead of California's recall
The voting to recall California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom — and potentially elect a replacement — comes to an end on Tuesday, and Democrats have leaned heavily into messaging on the Covid pandemic in the race's final days.
Since Sept. 1, the top Democratic ads on the TV airwaves have centered on Covid — Democrats have spent more than $1.5 million on one spot that attacks GOP frontrunner Larry Elder for his stance on Covid mandates, as well at least $1.2 million on a Covid-centric spot featuring former President Barack Obama (note: The creative-spending estimates are from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact and include ads captured on broadcast and national cable outlets, but *not* local cable, so there's more spending the tracker does not capture).
The top Democratic spot per AdImpact argues that recalling Newsom from office "elects an anti-vaccine, Trump Republican" instead of Newsom, who the narrator says is "fighting the pandemic based on science, compassion and common sense."
Democrats are also running spots on other issues, including one from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders talking about the importance of keeping Newsom amid a push on climate change and "health care for all.
Unlike the unified Democratic effort, which gets to be singularly focused on Newsom's priorities, the Republican effort is fragmented by the reality on the ground — their candidates are running both against Newsom, but also each other. So each candidate has a different strategy, particularly on the airwaves.
The GOP ad with the most spending behind it in September (per AdImpact's tracker) is one from Republican businessman John Cox, where he says he may not be as "pretty" as Newsom or "an entertainer" like Elder, but he has the experience outside government to fix the "mismanaged mess" in the state. That spot has cost at least $475,000 this month.
Elder's top spots during that period include a Spanish-language spot with a woman who says she's a Democrat criticizing Newsom over school and church closures related to the pandemic, and another of Elder's typical direct-to-camera ads where he says "big changes" are on the horizon if he's elected like a repeal of the gas tax and supporting the police. There's been at least around $300,000 behind each of those Elder ads in September.
Recent California recall polling shows Newsom leading with just days to go
A new poll ahead of next week's recall vote of California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows the Democratic incumbent in a more comfortable position than he was weeks ago.
Only 38.5 percent of likely voters say they support the effort to dump Newsom, according to the new University of California at Berkeley IGS Poll, while 60 percent saying they would vote against the recall. Six weeks ago, likely voters were narrowly divided in the Berkeley Poll, with 47 percent supporting the recall and 50 percent opposing.
The pollsters say that an increase in Democratic enthusiasm is key to the shift.
In late July, the poll found that 87 percent of registered Republicans who expressed high interest or said they had already voted, compared to 58 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of those without a party preference.
In the latest survey, 91 percent of Republicans expressed high interest or said they had already voted, compared to 80 percent of Democrats and 70 percent without a party preference (a group which the poll shows leans toward opposing the recall).
The recall ballot has two questions on it. The first is an up or down vote on whether to recall Newsom. If a majority of voters say no, the recall is defeated. But if a majority say yes, then Newsom will be booted from office and replaced by the candidate with the most votes (based on the plurality, not a majority) on a second question of who should replace Newsom (the incumbent is not eligible for this part of the ballot).
Out of those candidates vying to replace Newsom, Republican commentator Larry Elder has a commanding lead among the field with likely voters, with 38 percent support. Democratic YoutTube financial star Kevin Paffrath finishes second with 10 percent, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer has 8 percent support and Republican businessman John Cox and GOP state Rep. Kevin Kiley each have support from 4 percent.
It's not the only poll that shows Newsom in solid shape. The 538 poll tracker shows the polling average now at 56 percent supporting keeping Newsom compared to 41 percent who want to remove him, bolstered by recent polls from places like Suffolk University and the Public Policy Institute of California, which show double-digit leads for keeping Newsom.
Rep. Spanberger meets Afghan refugees at Fort Pickett in Virginia
Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger toured Fort Pickett in Virginia on Thursday afternoon, meeting with some of the 5,000 Afghan refugees who are residing there after being evacuated.
Spanberger is the first member of Congress to tour the facility, which is located in her district. There has been minimal access to the facility by the public.
Spanberger's office exclusively provided photos to NBC News of her tour.
While visiting, Spanberger saw a food truck from the fried chicken chain Bojangles that was on site to serve refugees a taste of authentic American cooking.
Debate on Covid mandates takes center stage in new Virginia governor's race ads
Covid and vaccine mandates are looming large in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and now both Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin are taking the issue to the airwaves too.
McAuliffe has been hammering Youngkin for weeks on the issue in a variety of settings, including on the air. Last week, McAuliffe's campaign started running a spot that hit Youngkin on his opposition to maks and vaccine mandates, linking him to Trump in the process.
This week, McAuliffe criticized a new spot where a trauma surgeon speaks directly to camera, calling Youngkin's approach to the pandemic "dangerous."
Right around the same time, the Youngkin camp went on the air with a new ad (similar to previous digital ads they had been running) that emphasizes the Republican nominee has been vaccinated and believes "the numbers show the Covid vaccines save lives." Youngkin follows those comments by saying "it's your right to make your own choice, and I respect that. I do hope you'll join me in getting the vaccine."
Virginia's another race where Covid politics could prove to be an important issue on the minds of voters in the coming months.
Monmouth University's recent polling found that 67 percent of registered voters supported mask mandates in Virginia schools, 58 percent backed school vaccine mandates for children at least 12 years of age and 52 percent backed vaccine mandates for students under 12 if vaccines are ultimately authorized for that age group. Sixty-four percent backed general face-mask and social-distancing guidelines in the state, and voters were split on whether schools should be open for full, in-person instruction.
Republicans and Democrats set for ad-spending parity in final days of California recall
There are just five days until the California recall vote, and things continue to heat up.
Democrats are bringing in the cavalry — Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to her home state to campaign for Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Newsom effort is up on television with a new ad from former President Barack Obama that warns a vote for Republicans is a vote against “common-sense Covid-safety measures,” and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is telling her supporters the recall is “nightmare fuel.”
Not to be outdone, Republican Larry Elder is also up with a few new ad spots two. Among those is one where a purported young Democrat blasts Newsom and calls on his peers to “wake up,” and another where someone compares Newsom to “a guy in high school who took my girlfriend, then went onto the next girl.”
Democrats have enjoyed a massive spending advantage up to this point, spending $31.1 million to the GOP's $15.3 million on ads through Thursday, per AdImpact. But the two sides will be at basic parity for the home stretch — Democrats are spending $2.8 million from Thursday through Tuesday on ads, compared to $2.6 million for the GOP.
Newsom's committee is spending almost all the Democratic dollars, $2.78 million, with National Nurses United throwing in another $70,000. On the Republican side, Elder is spending almost $2.1 million, with John Cox's committee spending $480,000 and other Republicans chipping in the rest.
Biden’s drop in approval could be warning sign for Democrats on the ballot
How a president’s job rating goes is usually how his party’s prospects in the midterm elections go as well.
That’s the near-universal opinion of political scientists and longtime observers of American politics.
And that’s why President Joe Biden’s drop in the national polls over the past month — first below 50 percent, then below 45 percent — should at least raise a caution flag for Democrats looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections, as well as this November’s competitive gubernatorial contest in Virginia.
Because the lower Biden’s job rating, the tougher the political climate for Democrats.
A new Monmouth University poll of Virginia also underscores this potential concern: While the poll shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Glenn Youngkin by 5 points among registered voters, 47 percent to 42 percent, it also has Biden’s job rating upside down in the blue-leaning state — at 46 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove.
Now outside of Biden’s underwhelming job rating, the same Monmouth poll also shows encouraging numbers for Democrats: In addition to McAuliffe leading the horserace by 5 points, the survey has incumbent Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam (who is barred from seeking consecutive terms) above water; it shows 59 percent of voters saying that Northam has done a good job handling the coronavirus; and it has majorities supporting mask and vaccine requirements.
And it’s also important to note that the Monmouth poll — conducted Aug. 24-29 – came during a rough news environment for Biden, when the chaos from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan dominated the front pages and news broadcasts.
Still, it’s worth watching Biden’s job rating — both nationally and in key states — because they tell us how the political winds are blowing for upcoming contests.
Education union to launch multi-million dollar ad buy, organizing push on Covid relief and infrastructure
The National Education Association is kicking off the school year with a big investment around Covid-relief and infrastructure, applauding Democrats for backing those plans and needling Republicans who have not.
The push, according to an NEA memo shared with NBC News, includes two prongs. The first is a seven-figure digital advertising campaign (on social media and streaming) centered on the American Rescue Plan, the Covid-relief bill passed only with Democratic votes earlier this year, as well as both infrastructure bills (the bipartisan one and the forthcoming Democratic reconciliation bill). And the second is a $10 million organizing effort aimed at rallying support for the infrastructure bills and promoting directing Covid-relief cash to school priorities.
The American Rescue Plan included about a $170 billion federal investment in public education, the NEA memo says. And the group specifically calls out priorities in the forthcoming infrastructure bills, which are making their way through Congress, like electrifying school buses, expanding broadband access, universal pre-K, two years of free community college, and replacing lead pipes in schools.
In a statement to NBC News, NEA President Becky Pringle said the group wants to thank politicians for supporting the American Rescue Plan, which she believes helped ensure "that our public schools have the resources needed to keep our students safe and help them thrive as the COVID-19 pandemic continues disrupting communities."
"For too many students — Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike — back to school means returning to crumbling buildings with inadequate ventilation, teacher shortages, and other problems that have been made worse from the pandemic. So Congress must act boldly by passing the Build Back Better agenda to modernize our school buildings, expand access to and lower the cost of preschool and higher-education, address the massive shortage of educators, and invest in our students’ futures.”
The ads will run in 28 House districts, as well as nine states with races for Senate and/or governor. The vast majority of the House districts are districts with vulnerable Democratic incumbents that the NEA will praise for backing the American Rescue Plan — like California Reps. Josh Harder, Katie Porter and Mike Levin; Georgia Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux; and Virginia Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger.
The Senate and gubernatorial states are home to Democrats facing re-election in 2022 — Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, as well as Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Laura Kelly of Kansas (since the legislation is about federal funding, the ads thank governors for how they're using that federal aid money).
The ad campaign also criticizes four Republicans for voting against the American Rescue Plan — Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, as well as California Republican Reps. Mike Garcia, Young Kim and Michelle Steel — accusing them of hampering attempts to get new funding for public schools.
The ad buy is the latest in the attempt to boost the Democratic Covid-relief bill as well as of the more recent attempts to define the infrastructure push. Democratic and Republican-leaning groups are spending millions of dollars messaging on the legislation.
The $10 million organizing campaign will run alongside the advertising effort, the NEA memo explains, aimed at helping to "ensure Rescue Plan dollars reach the schools, students, and programs that need them most," as well as "build support for President Biden's Build Back Better agenda — helping communities understand how this legislation is critical for America's students and public schools."
Texas activists roll out on-demand voter registration help
Texans in 10 counties can now summon volunteer voter registrars with a single phone call.
On Thursday, Powered by People, the voting rights group founded by former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, will announce a program deploying on-demand registrars who will meet prospective Texas voters wherever they need and help them register.
The announcement comes just two days after state Legislature passed a sweeping new election law, which activists fear will suppress votes. The mobilization effort is now active in 10 counties, but the group hopes to expand across the state, according to Powered By People senior adviser Cynthia Cano, who said she recently registered a military mom before school pickup. The group says it has signed up 1,100 volunteer registrars and plans to continue recruiting to facilitate the expansion.
Activists have long registered voters at events, but Texas law allows only these "volunteer deputy registrars," who are certified by the county where the voter lives, to help them get on the rolls. With 254 counties, this has posed an organizing challenge in the state.
“In the face of unrelenting attacks on our rights, Texas voters have made it be known time and time again that we will do whatever it takes to have our voices heard,” O’Rourke told NBC News. “You can’t out-register voter suppression but every little bit helps. That’s why I urge you, your friends, and your neighbors to call 915-209-7799 today and start the process of being heard in our democracy.”
O’Rourke plans to personally register voters through the system regularly; he is a certified volunteer deputy registrar in 16 counties.
First-time voters are increasingly online, poll finds
If you want to reach first-time voters, you need to do so online or on streaming services — because that's where these voters are.
That's the conclusion from a poll commissioned by the Democratic digital firm Rising Tide Interactive, which found:
- 51 percent of these first-time voters in the 2020 election use YouTube every day.
- 46 percent of them use Facebook every day.
- 38 percent use Instagram.
- 28 percent use Snapchat.
- 67 percent say they always or mainly watch TV on streaming services (like on smart TVs or Roku), versus 15 percent who always or mainly watch traditional TV.
“These folks aren’t spending their time reading the news or watching traditional TV. What they are doing is spending their time playing Candy Crush on their phones,” said Stephanie Grasmick, partner and CEO of Rising Tide Interactive.
“That’s where we need to be engaging them — more on their terms, not on our terms,” Grasmick added.
The poll was conducted by HIT Strategies from April 19-May 2 of 400 voters who voted for the first time in the 2020 election in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. It excluded strong Republican partisans (because those aren’t the voters Democratic firms like Rising Tide Interactive are looking to win over).
Roshni Nedungadi, a partner at the HIT Strategies polling firm which conducted this survey, said that because many of these first-time voters are disengaged from the political process, it’s essential for political candidates and advertisers to target both the message and content — if they want to win them over.
Also because there’s so much political disinformation online, Grasmick added, “We need to make sure they’re hearing from us as well.”
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.
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.