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Meet the Press Blog Archive

Catch up with Meet the Press blog posts from past years leading up to May 17, 2022
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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Trump-endorsed challenger to Murkowski pledges to oppose McConnell as Senate GOP leader

A Republican running with former President Donald Trump's support to unseat Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Monday that she would not vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for another term as the Senate's GOP leader.

“Mitch McConnell has repeatedly bailed out [President] Joe Biden, giving him gifts of Senate votes, which are the only things keeping the Biden administration on life support," Kelly Tshibaka said in a statement from her campaign. "As an example, after rescuing Biden with the last debt ceiling increase, McConnell said he would never do it again. But he just did, and he had Lisa Murkowski’s help in doing so."

"When I defeat Murkowski and become Alaska’s next U.S. senator, I will not support Mitch McConnell as leader," Tshibaka added. "It’s time for new, America First leadership in the Senate.”

Tshibaka made similar remarks on a program hosted by Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser whose right-wing podcast is popular with base Republican voters.

Murkowski is one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump this year following his impeachment on a charge that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 riot by his supporters at the Capitol. And she's the only Republican on that list seeking re-election in 2022. The Alaska Republican Party censured Murkowski in March. Trump endorsed Tshibaka in June.

Alaska has new election rules in place for 2022, including an open primary that will send the top four vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to a general election that will be determined by ranked choice voting. In other words: Murkowski and Tshibaka could both advance from the primary, and the eventual winning candidate could be carried by how many voters ranked her as their second choice.

Trump in recent weeks has escalated his criticism of McConnell, who split with Trump and, unlike other Republicans, has recognized Biden as the rightful winner of the 2020 election. Email statements from Trump via his post-presidential political office often label the Senate GOP fixture as an "old crow."

"When will they vote him out of Leadership?" Trump wondered in a Sunday statement.

Even so, few viable Republican Senate candidates seem eager to take up the anti-McConnell push. Aside from Tshibaka, the most prominent GOP contender to call for McConnell's removal has been Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor seeking an open Senate seat in Missouri next year. Like Tshibaka, Greitens made his pledge to oppose McConnell on Bannon's show.

Who is retiring from Congress next year?

As 2021 nears its end, 31 current members of the House of Representatives have announced they won't seek re-election in 2022. 

Democrats make up the bulk of that list with 19, and those numbers have raised questions about whether lawmakers are concerned about the party losing their slim House majority in 2022. But 13 Republicans are calling it quits, too. 

Here's a look at the full list of lawmakers who have already announced their retirement (with more potentially on the way in the coming months): 

Running for other offices (8 Democrats and 7 Republicans): 

Many of the House members who are heading for the exit are looking for new jobs both inside and outside of Washington. 

Eight are running for Senate — Reps. Tim Ryan, D- Ohio; Val Demings, D-Fla.; Conor Lamb, D-Pa.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Mo Brooks, R-Ala.; Ted Budd, R-N.C.; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; and Billy Long, R-Mo..

Ryan, Welch and Demings are the frontrunners to win their party's nominations, while the rest of the lawmakers are running in crowded and/or competitive primaries (including in Missouri, where the two members of Congress are facing one another.

Three are running for governor — Reps. Tom Suozzi, R-N.Y.; Charlie Crist, D-Fla.; and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.

And then there are those seeking statewide or other municipal positions. 

Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice is running for his state's secretary of state post, while  Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert and Maryland Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown are running for their state's respective attorneys general positions. California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass is running for mayor of Las Angeles. 

Retiring from Congress (11 Democrats and 5 Republicans) 

The rest of the retiring lawmakers are doing so amid a variety of different circumstances. 

The list includes three committee chairs (Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth, Ky.; Eddie Bernice Johnson, Texas; and Peter DeFazio, Ore.) and one ranking member (Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas). 

Republican Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio, and Adam Kinzinger, Illinois, announced their retirement amid primary threats stoked by former President Donald Trump. 

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is retiring next year to helm Trump's new media company.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., is retiring after apologizing for sexual misconduct.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., announced his retirement last month while blasting  the state's new congressional map, which he called "partisan" and "racially gerrymandered." 

And a handful of other Democrats have announced their retirements too, ahead of what's expected to be a tough midterm environment for the party: Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Ariz.; Filemon Vela, Texas; Cheri Bustos, Ill.; Ron Kind, Wis.; David Price, N.C.; Mike Doyle, Penn.; and Jackie Speier, Calif.

Democratic primary in Wisconsin will test strength of progressive agenda

In a crowded Wisconsin primary where Democrats are looking to defeat Sen. Ron Ron Johnson, R-Wis., several candidates are running on progressive platforms that may provide a litmus test for the party heading into next year’s midterms. 

Among the most prominent candidates in the race are Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Dr. Gillian Battino, a physician. 

While the major candidates agree on several key issues — eliminating the filibuster, raising the federal minimum wage and passing legislation that protects union organization efforts — fault lines have emerged when it comes to Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and the THRIVE Act, which addresses climate change and racial justice. 

Those differences were on display at a candidate forum last month sponsored by People’s Action, a progressive group.

At the forum, Barnes, Battino and Nelson all expressed support for Medicare for All and a single-payer health care system, while Lasry and Godlewski have advocated for a public option as the fastest way to universal coverage. 

“I'm tired of supporting proposals that simply nibble around the edges of this monster that keeps getting larger and larger, we have to act on this right now,” said Nelson, the county executive.

Meanwhile, Lasry called for a “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan, evoking the phrase frequently touted by Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (now the Transportation secretary) on the 2020 campaign trail. Lasry argued that his plan will "achieve “universal healthcare as quickly as possible and most efficiently as possible.”

The forum also highlighted differences on climate change and the THRIVE Act, with Godlewski saying the legislation should hold special interests (including fossil fuel companies), accountable through measures like a clean electricity standard (something that was dropped from the “Build Back Better” reconciliation negotiations following opposition by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.). 

Godlewski did not comment on her stance toward the Green New Deal at the forum, but noted her support for the climate change mitigation measures in the “Build Back Better” plan and bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

Meanwhile, Barnes argued that while a Green New Deal presents the best path to greater climate action, the measures taken by Democrats need to go beyond “just a slogan.” 

The Aug. 9 primary will be closely watched by political observers, as Democrats look to capitalize in a state that President Joe Biden won by just more than 20,000 votes in last year’s presidential election. Johnson, who remains the only Republican statewide elected official in Wisconsin, has not yet announced a bid for reelection. He's held the seat for more than a decade. 

As of Sept. 30, Johnson had raised more than $2.6 million for the cycle. Lasry led Democrats in fundraising with over $3.1 million ($800,000 coming from his personal fortune), followed by Godlewski with $1.8 million and Barnes with $1.1 million. 

Barnes, who was the most recent of these five candidates to jump into the race, has already snagged high-level endorsements from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. 

Midterm roundup: Endorsements and announcements

There are 11 months until 2022's Election Day, but there's been some significant movement this week in the race for Congress. 

Here are some of the under-the-radar headlines you may have missed: 

New candidacies from some old faces

Two former members of Congress signaled their intention to run again in 2022, one Republican and one Democrat. 

Former Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., wants a rematch against the woman who beat him in 2020, Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. Rose announced his bid on Monday in a social media video where he evokes the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as well as his work both in Congress and at the Pentagon. 

New York doesn't have new congressional lines set yet, and Rose lost to Malliotakis by more than 6 percent in the 11th District in 2020, giving him just one term in office. 

Down South, another former member announced she wants to run again — former Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, who served from 2011 through 2016. Ellmers, a nurse who worked for the Department of Health and Human Services after losing in a 2016 primary, tweeted that she's been on the "frontlines fighting COVID" and plans to run for "Congress to fight for the good people of NC's 4th district where I live & work." 

North Carolina is another state with district lines also in flux — the state legislature approved a new map that makes the Fourth District a GOP-leaning seat (per 538's analysis), but that map is being challenged in court. And it's unclear exactly who Ellmers will run against in her GOP primary, as Politico reported this past weekend that Republican Bo Hines (backed by North Carolina GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn) may switch races to run in the Fourth District

The centerpiece of that Politico report says that former President Donald Trump has agreed to endorse former GOP Rep. Mark Walker if he drops his Senate bid and instead runs for House in the Seventh District. 

Vermont could have its first female member of Congress

Vermont is the only state who has never sent a woman to Congress, according to Rutgers' Center for American Women and Politics. But that could change thanks to the musical chairs sparked by the retirement of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Leahy's retirement prompted Democratic Rep. Peter Welch to run to replace him. And Welch's move has prompted Lt. Gov. Molly Gray to announce her bid for Welsch's House seat. While she's the only major candidate in the race right now, others are openly considering a bid for the newly open seat.

Some North Carolina congressmen make their pick for Senate 

The decision by Republican Sen. Richard Burr to retire opens up a shot for Democrats to avenge their devastating loss in the state's 2020 Senate election, and has sparked a competitive primary. 

On Thursday, North Carolina Democratic Reps. G.K. Butterfield and David Price both endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in that primary (she's already been endorsed by Democratic Rep. Alma Adams). Beasley's top opponent is state Sen. Jeff Jackson.

Redistricting shifts DCCC priorities

Maps are changing constantly as states still work to nail down the district lines for the 2022 election. And those changes have prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to tweak its own Frontline Program, where it identifies top incumbents facing re-election battles. 

A new statement today spelled out the shifts state-by-state: 

  • Texas Democratic Reps. Lizzie Fletcher, Colin Allred and Vicente Gonzalez are all off the list now that their districts are safer.
  • Georgia Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux — who are running against each other in a new, Democratic-leaning district — are also both off the map. 
  • Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader and Nevada Rep. Dina Titus are both being added to the Frontline Program thanks to redistricting's effects on their district lines. 

Harris casts 14th and 15th tie-breaking votes, more than Pence in his entire term

The ties have it. 

Vice President Kamala Harris cast her fourteenth and fifteenth tie-breaking votes in the Senate Wednesday, more than Vice President Mike Pence did in his whole term.

The Constitution gives the Vice President the dual role of also being the president of the Senate, with the ability to break a tie, if one should arise. And that's what Harris did on Wednesday, breaking a tie in a cloture vote for Rachael Rollins, President Joe Biden's nominee to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. (Hours later, she broke another tie to confirm Rollins). 

"Every time I vote, we win,” Harris told NBC News with a laugh before she cast her vote. 

Harris' first vote on Wednesday pushed her past Pence, who broke 13 ties during his four-year term, and into her own tie for fifth place. If she continues at this pace, she'll bypass the record for most tie-breaks in American history. That record was set by Vice President John Calhoun in the 1800s with 31 tie-breaking votes, followed by the nation’s first Vice President, John Adams, who broke 29 ties. If Harris continues at this pace, she will have broken more than 50 ties before the end of Biden’s first term.

But Harris is facing different circumstances than her recent predecessors, particularly with a 50-50 majority (the first deadlocked Senate since 2003) and recent rules changes that require only 50 votes to confirm nominations, instead of a 60-vote threshold that existed until 2013 for most nominations.

President Biden holds a different distinction for his time as President Barack Obama’s vice president: He was the only vice president to serve two terms without breaking a single tie. Biden came into office with a healthy Democratic majority in the Senate that ultimately flipped to the Republicans after the 2014 midterms.

New anti-McCrory ad attacks him for praising Romney in 2012

A new super PAC ad attacking former North Carolina Republican governor and Senate hopeful Pat McCrory criticizes the Republican for backing Mitt Romney — in 2012, when Romney was the party's presidential nominee. 

Seeking to draw a contrast between how McCrory spoke about Romney and about Trump, a new Club for Growth Action ad airs audio of McCrory calling Romney "a man of incredible courage" followed by him saying that "Donald Trump is destroying democracy." 

McCrory's praise of Romney came in August of 2012, per the disclaimer on the bottom of the ad, when Romney was the GOP presidential nominee (who had been endorsed by Donald Trump months earlier). And the North Carolina Republican's comments about Trump came in the aftermath of the 2020 election as he criticized Trump's unfounded claims the election was stolen, comments McCrory's opponents have used to argue he isn't the right fit for Republican voters in a party dominated by Trump. 

The ad also goes on to compare McCrory's praise for Black Lives Matter protesters and criticism for the "riots by Republicans" at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. 

McCrory is running in the GOP primary in a field that includes the Trump-backed Rep. Ted Budd (who has the backing of the Club for Growth), Rep. Mark Walker (who Politico reports is expected to drop down and run for the House instead) and veteran Marjorie Eastman.

Asked by NBC News about the ad, McCrory advisor Jordan Shaw called it "bought and paid for by the DC swamp." 

"How desperately deceptive to attack Gov. McCrory for supporting the Republican nominee for president in 2012.  They're trying - and failing - to buy this Senate seat," he added. 

Joe Kildea, the Club for Growth's vice president of communication, told NBC in a statement that "most Republicans support President Trump while McCrory was and still is a Romney Republican."

"While Democrats, the press, and even some Republicans may not get it, Mitt Romney represents a wing of the party only known for bending to the wishes of Democrats and the association is nothing short of toxic," he added. 

Romney's office did not respond to a request for comment about him being invoked. 

It's not the first time that a GOP group has tried to use a candidate's support for the party's 2012 nominee against them. Last cycle, a GOP group attacked future Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty for working as Romney's national finance chair in 2012, the Club for Growth evoked Romney's image in an attack on future Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, and the Club also attacked a GOP House candidate in Florida for donating to Romney's presidential bid. 

Top Democratic House super PAC wants party to "fight back more forcefully" against GOP on Covid vaccines

The House Majority PAC, one of the Democratic Party's top outside groups working on House races, is out with a new memo calling on the party to take a more aggressive posture against Republicans on Covid vaccines.

In a new memo, shared first with NBC News, the PAC argues that Republicans trying to "undermine" Democratic pandemic policy, linking those efforts to an attempt turn around the economy by creating jobs, tackling inflation and improving the supply chain.

"It's time for Democrats to fight back more forcefully," the memo reads.

"If Republicans are going to continue to put their own political aims ahead of the health of every American, Democrats must call them out."

To that end, the group is running a new ad on cable in Washington D.C. on Tuesday as an example of how they think Democrats should message on the issue. It points to a recent push by some Republican lawmakers to threaten to shut down the government over President Biden's Covid-19 vaccine or testing mandates, calling the move a "reckless scheme" that could force "your Covid mask to stay on indefinitely" and delay the "return to normal."

But while one key point of disagreement between the two parties is the administration's vaccine mandate, the word "mandate" is absent from the memo and from the TV ad. Instead, the messaging takes a broader approach arguing that Republican policies and rhetoric could slow vaccinations in America, in turn blunting a recovery. 

"Republicans know that if they successfully undermine vaccination efforts they’ll prevent the country from getting back to normal and all the economic benefits that go along with it. COVID and the economy are one in the same," HMP executive director Abby Curran Horrell told NBC News in a statement.  

It's an idea many Republicans have pushed back on, arguing that they consider a government mandate an overreach. 

"It comes back to do you want things orchestrated at the federal level, where we don't create results that are sustainable, or do you want to bring this back to a lower level of authority? And that has nothing to do with what you think about the vaccine or the disease and how you fight it," Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. 

With the pandemic dominating much of public life for almost two years, it's had a significant impact on political campaigning and messaging in recent months. 

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ran heavily on his approach to the pandemic as he repelled a recall challenge. But while Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe spent much of September attacking his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, for not supporting vaccine mandates, the issue became less of an emphasis for Democrats down the stretch. McAuliffe ultimately lost, with exit polls showing that only 15 percent of the electorate thought the pandemic was the top issue in the race (education and the economy ranked higher).  

Dr. Oz kicks off Senate campaign with big ad spending

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the television personality turned Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate, is spending more than $1.4 million in ads in the early weeks of his campaign as he makes a big splash into the wide open primary contest. 

Oz announced his candidacy on Tuesday and began running ads in Pennsylvania on Friday. The spots, booked through mid-January, per AdImpact, are similar to the announcement video he released on social media to kick off his bid.

"Covid has shown us that our system is broken. We lost too many lives, too many jobs and too many opportunities because Washington got it wrong. They took away our freedom without making us safer, and tried to kill our spirit and our dignity," Oz says in the ad. 

"Pennsylvania needs a conservative who will put America first."

The big spending by Oz already makes him the top ad spender in the race, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, on either side of the aisle. Fellow Republican Carla Sands, the former ambassador under then-President Trump who is using her own funds to jump-start her campaign, has booked and/or spent just under $1.4 million so far in ad time. 

And there's even more potential big money on the horizon — as Politico reports that Hedge Fund CEO David McCoormick may run too. The field is considered wide open after Republican Sean Parnell (who had Trump's endorsement) dropped out in response to losing a custody battle amid accusations he abused his wife. Parnell denies those allegations. 

Virginia governor's race was most expensive in state history, new campaign finance reports show

Fundraising in this year's high-profile Virginia gubernatorial race exceeded $138 million — almost twice the previous record for the most expensive governor's race in the state, according to recent fundraising reports. 

The new campaign finance reports filed Thursday reveal that Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe raked in $69 million while GOP candidate and now Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin raised almost $68 million in net funds for their elections through Nov. 25, according to the Department of Elections' final campaign finance reports. McAuliffe's campaign reported spending all-but $100,000 of what they raised, while Youngkin came into Thanksgiving with $3.5 million still banked away. 

During the last reporting period beginning Oct. 22 and lasting through November, McAuliffe and Youngkin raised $11.5 million and $10.2 million respectively. 

Tens of millions of that fundraising went to advertising, per AdImpact — $39.6 million by the McAuliffe campaign and $32.3 million by Youngkin. 

Up until 2021, the most expensive Virginia gubernatorial election was the last one, in 2017, when Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie, per the Virginia Public Access Project, which analyzed previous gubernatorial races adjusted for inflation. The two candidates raised a combined $73.5 million — about half of the 2021 total.  

The record-breaking fundraising in this year's Virginia governor's race stresses just how competitive the contest was, with Youngkin ultimately flipping the state red and dealing a blow to Democrats in the election widely viewed as a bellwether ahead of the 2022 midterms. 

Renacci chooses conservative filmmaker as running mate in GOP primary against Ohio Gov. DeWine

Former Rep. Jim Renacci, a Republican angling to unseat Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in a primary next year, has chosen conservative movie producer Joe Knopp as his running mate for lieutenant governor.

Knopp — whose producing credits include titles like "The Trump I Know" and "UnPlanned," an anti-abortion movie — is a political unknown in the state.

"I spent the last couple of months trying to figure out who would be the best teammate, who would be somebody who could step with me, who is somebody that could work with me," Renacci, who served four terms in the House and was an unsuccessful Senate candidate in 2018, said at a Thursday news conference to introduce Knopp. "And I realized that the only way we're going to change this broken system is to bring fresh people in just like our forefathers wanted a long time ago."

Rep. Jim Renacci
Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, walks up the House steps for a vote in the Capitol on Feb. 15, 2018.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Knopp acknowledged his inexperience at the event, held in the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester, and spoke of his life story: growing up in a broken home and then a Philadelphia orphanage, enlisting in the Air Force to pay for college and turning a career in finance to a career producing movies. Renacci listed him last month as one of several dozen "influencers" on his campaign.

"Such a surreal experience to be standing up here next to Jim," Knopp said Thursday. "It's such an honor to be standing up here, to be going for this position."

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run together as a ticket in the primary and general election in Ohio, and in recent history tickets from both parties have often aimed for a balance of age, gender, race and geography. Renacci lives in the Cleveland media market, Knopp lives downstate in the Dayton area. Both are white men older than 45.

Renacci is being advised by Brad Parscale, one of former President Donald Trump's past campaign managers. He's running to DeWine's right in 2022, with the incumbent's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic a central issue. DeWine was one of the first governors in the country to close schools and businesses in early 2020 and supported mask mandates until last June. Also in the GOP race is Joe Blystone, a restaurateur who has caught attention with his right-wing rhetoric and trademark cowboy hat and bushy white beard.

The primary is scheduled for May. Running on the Democratic side are Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Neither has announced a running mate. DeWine is expected to run again with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

A lack of public polling makes it tough to assess DeWine's standing in a primary. Parscale shared polling over the summer from Tony Fabrizio, Trump's chief pollster in 2016 and 2020, that showed DeWine is vulnerable with GOP voters, with Renacci leading in a head-to-head contest.

Republican committees bet big on Facebook spending

The Republican congressional campaign committees (for the House and the Senate) made up the top two political campaign/party spenders on Facebook last month, according to data from the social media platform.

An analysis of Facebook spending by federal candidates and party-affiliated committees shows that the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent more than any other of those groups, about $910,000 in November. And the National Congressional Campaign Committee spent the second most last month, $445,000. 

One key piece of strategy for both the NRSC and the NRCC was using former President Donald Trump's likeness to drive clicks. Facebook's ad tracker shows that the top two ads (in terms of social media engagement) for both groups were posts about Trump's recent announcement he was creating his own social media network. The posts with the third most engagement for both the NRSC and the NRCC were polls aimed at criticizing President Biden. 

Trump's own political action committee, Save America, spent the third most on Facebook ads in November, with $440,000. The group's top three ads include a survey for Republicans that criticizes Biden, another survey parroting Trump's unfounded claims of widespread election fraud and a call to "oppose Biden's vaccine mandate."  

The final two spots in the top five are held by Democrats — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, who is looking for another term in office, and Florida Rep. Val Demings, who is running for Senate. They've spent $380,000 and $153,000 respectively. 

Prtizker's top ads come from an affiliated page called "Illinois Daily," which largely spotlights positive headlines for Pritzker. And Demings' top ads are fundraising appeals and a post on voting rights

Atlanta heads to polls in mayoral runoff

Voters are voting in Atlanta Tuesday, where residents will choose their new mayor in a runoff election after none of the candidates managed an outright victory in the general election just weeks ago. 

The top two vote-getters in that election — City Council President Felicia Moore and City Councilman Andre Dickens — made the runoff.  Moore led the crowded pack of candidates with almost 41 percent of the vote on Election Day, while Dickens narrowly edged out former Mayor Kasim Reed to win the second slot in the runoff. 

Even though Moore won the plurality of the vote earlier this month, a recent poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found the two locked in a tight race, with Dickens holding a lead within the poll's margin of error. 

Since the start of the runoff period, Dickens has massively outspent Moore on TV and radio advertising, $650,000 to $275,000, per ad-tracking firm AdImpact. And an anti-Dickens outside group has spent about $165,000. 

Crime has been a major issue in the race. The anti-Dickens outside group has attacked him for voting to temporarily withhold police funding, prompting Dickens' camp to accuse the group of mischaracterizing him. Dickens has also hit Moore on her vote against a police body camera proposal in the city, with Moore pushing back to say she supports body cameras for police but that the specific proposal she voted against was a "shady deal." She's also running TV ads outlining her public safety plan

The winner will replace Keisha Lance Bottoms, the current mayor who announced earlier this year she wasn't running for re-election. 

NRSC targets Thanksgiving travelers with inflation ads at gas stations

Americans on the road for Thanksgiving will be reminded of high gas and grocery prices with an ad push from the Republican Senate campaign arm airing at gas stations across the country this week.

“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. 

Democrats have the overwhelming edge, $9.2 million to $4.2 million, as Hassan and allied outside groups bolster her resume and Republicans try to tear her down

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. 

Virtually all of the $6.8 million spent so far on ads in this race have been spent by Democrats, most attacking Johnson in the event he does run on issues like taxes

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.” 

Image: Circle Of Protection Steering Committee Meets With Cedric Richmond At The White House
Bishop Michael Curry, a member of Circle of Protection Steering Committee, speaks outside the West Wing of the White House after a meeting with Senior Adviser Cedric Richmond, on Sept. 22, 2021.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

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."

(The Youngkin camp quickly hit back with a video of their own, and launched a new ad on the issue Tuesday too.)

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). 

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at the Capitol on Sept. 23, 2021.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at the Capitol on Sept. 23, 2021.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images file

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.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate for New Jersey Jack Ciattarelli.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate for New Jersey Jack Ciattarelli.AP

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

Abortion rights advocates are backing progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros’ re-match against Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the last Democrats in Congress who does not support abortion rights.

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." 

The Obama ad strikes a similar tone, arguing that "your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk," as does a Spanish-language spot running prominently.

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). 

Image: Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at The Unity Council in Oakland, Calif., on May 10, 2021.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

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. 

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger toured Ft. Pickett in Virginia on Thursday
Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger toured Ft. Pickett in Virginia on ThursdayCourtesy of Rep. Spanberger

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. 

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger toured Ft. Pickett in Virginia on Thursday
Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger toured Ft. Pickett in Virginia on Thursday, where a Bojangles food truck served fried chicken to refugees.Courtesy of Rep. Spanberger

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. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks against the recall election at a rally with Vice President Kamala Harris in San Leandro, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2021.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks against the recall election at a rally with Vice President Kamala Harris in San Leandro, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2021.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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. 

Image: Joe Bide, Terry McAuliffe
From left, President Joe Biden speaks alongside Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe during a campaign event at Lubber Run Park, in Arlington, Va., on July 23, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

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.”

Image: California back-to-school
Superintendent Dr. Jill Baker greets students at Webster Elementary School on the first day of the Fall semester for Long Beach Unified School District in Long Beach on Aug. 31, 2021.Brittany Murray / MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

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.

Image: Young voters
A student hands in her completed mail-in ballot to a poll worker at a busy polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on Nov. 6, 2018 in Irvine, California on election day.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

Poll: Vaccine mandates unlikely to compel many, especially Republicans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small portion of unvaccinated say they'd follow vaccine mandates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ariz. 01 — Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D

Calif. 10 — Rep. Josh Harder, D

Colo. 07 — Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D

Ga. 07 — Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D

Iowa 03 — Rep. Cindy Axne, D

Illi. 14 — Rep. Lauren Underwood, D

Kan. 03 — Rep. Sharice Davids, D

Maine 02 — Rep. Jared Golden D

Mich. 08 — Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D

Mich. 11 — Rep. Haley Stevens, D

N.H. 01 — Rep. Chris Pappas, D

N.J. 03 — Rep. Andy Kim, D

N.J. 07 — Rep. Tom Malinowski, D

Nev. 03 — Rep. Susie Lee, D

N.Y. 19 — Rep. Antonio Delgado, D

Ore. 04 — Rep. Peter DeFazio, D

Pa. 08 — Rep. Matthew Cartright, D

Texas 07 — Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D

Texas 16 — Rep. Veronica Escobar, D

Va. 02 — Rep. Elaine Luria, D

Va. 07 — Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D

Wash. 08 — Rep. Kim Schrier, D

Wis. 04 — Rep. Gwen Moore, D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Youngkin ad encourages Virginians to get vaccinated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Rising stars tapped to chair Democratic training organization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McAuliffe responds to Youngkin’s crime ad

Well, that didn’t take long. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former GOP Attorney General Laxalt is running for Senate in Nevada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voters begin to get ballots as California gubernatorial recall heats up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuomo joins list of scandal-plagued N.Y. resignations

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., officially exits office on Aug. 24, he will join a lengthy list of recent, high-ranking New York politicians who resigned thanks to scandal. 

For Cuomo, the resignation follows the release of a devastating report by State Attorney General Letitia James, which found that he had sexually harassed nearly a dozen women. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in Manhattan on May 11, 2021.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in Manhattan on May 11, 2021.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters file

But Cuomo is hardly the first N.Y. politician who left their position early amid scandal. Here are some of the other most prominent Empire State politicians to resign in disgrace over the last 15 years (not including those who simply chose not to run for re-election): 

Gov. Eliot Spitzer — Resigned March 2008

The once-popular Democrat won the 2006 gubernatorial race with more than 65 percent of the vote and was widely viewed as a rising star in the party. But Spitzer departed the governor’s mansion just over one year into his first term after being implicated in a prostitution ring. The scandal became a global story as the one-time “Sheriff of Wall Street,” a nickname given to Spitzer during his tenure as the state’s attorney general, saw his political career come to a rapid end thanks to his own admitted lawbreaking. 

Rep. Chris Lee — Resigned February 2011 

Lee, a Republican, was first elected to Congress in 2008 to represent New York’s 26th Congressional District, which includes portions of both Erie and Niagara County. Shortly after winning reelection in 2010, the blog site Gawker revealed that the married Lee responded to a woman's dating ad on Craigslist by sending her a shirtless photo of himself. He resigned right after the article was released and was later replaced in a special election by none other than future New York Lt. Gov. (and soon to be governor) Kathy Hochul. 

Rep. Anthony Weiner — Resigned June 2011

Perhaps more infamous for his scandals since resigning, Weiner, a Democrat, first ran for Congress in 1998 to fill the 9th Congressional District seat vacated by a Senate-bound Chuck Schumer. 

Winning seven-consecutive elections in the district, Weiner served until the discovery that he’d used his public Twitter account to send a woman a link to a sexually explicit photo of himself. After initial denials, he soon admitted to exchanging sexually explicit photos with several women in the years prior and resigned. Weiner attempted to return to politics but was caught having more lewd conversations with women, despite being married. And Weiner eventually pleaded guilty after being charged with sending an explicit message to a teenager. He eventually served 15 months in prison and is now a convicted sex offender. 

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner arrives at U.S. Federal Court in New York on Sept. 25, 2017, for sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of sending obscene messages to a minor.
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner arrives at U.S. Federal Court in New York on Sept. 25, 2017, for sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of sending obscene messages to a minor.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — Resigned February 2015 

Silver, a Democrat, was a central power broker in New York politics for nearly 40 years. First elected to the New York State Assembly in 1977, he was elected speaker in 1994 and served in that role until he was arrested on federal corruption charges in 2015 related to bribery accusations and forced to resign. After a series of appeals in court, he was sentenced to over six years in prison last July. 

Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — Resigned May 2018 

The one-time Democratic state senator was first elected as New York’s attorney general in 2010 and reelected in 2014. Following reporting in the New Yorker at the height of the Me Too movement in 2018, where at least four women accused Schneiderman of physical abuse between 2013 and 2016, Schneiderman resigned. Soon after, Governor Cuomo assigned Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas to look into criminal charges against him. Ultimately, Schneiderman was not prosecuted by Singas, who said “legal impediments” and statutes of limitations stood in the way. 

Rep. Chris Collins — Resigned October 2019 

Collins, a Republican, was first elected to the House in 2013 following the ousting of one-term incumbent Kathy Hochul. After serving for several years, he was arrested by the FBI in August 2018 along with his son for insider trading and lying to the bureau. After narrowly winning reelection later that year, he eventually resigned from Congress and changed his plea to guilty on conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements. Sentenced to 26 months in prison in January 2020, Collins, an ardent Trump supporter and a one-time member of his transition team in 2015, received a pardon from Trump in December of last year. 

Former Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., enters U.S. District Court ahead of a sentencing hearing on Jan. 17, 2020, in New York.
Former Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., enters U.S. District Court ahead of a sentencing hearing on Jan. 17, 2020, in New York.Scott Heins / Getty Images file

Republicans who voted against Electoral College certification see smaller fundraising gains

Six months after about 140 House Republicans voted against the 2020 Electoral College certification after the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, members who voted that way have seen smaller increases in their fundraising, on average, than their GOP colleagues who voted to certify the results.

That’s according to an analysis by NBC News, which examined the fundraising totals of 151 House Republican lawmakers through this June, versus their totals at this same point in 2019.

While Republicans as a whole are seeing promising fundraising signs in the race for the House majority on the whole, there appears to be a clear divide between the performance of those who objected to the Electoral College count and those who did not. Note: The period of time covered in the analysis coincides with pledges from many companies to re-evaluate and their political contributions in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, although some have since gone back to business as usual.

The 96 Republicans included in the analysis who voted against certification have seen their fundraising totals increase by an average of almost 6 percent from the previous cycle.

By contrast, the 55 Republicans who did not object have witnessed their fundraising increase by an average of about 30 percent.

Among all those who objected, Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., has seen the largest drop in fundraising, raking in just over $23,000 so far this year, compared with more than $230,000 Guest had raised in the same time period in 2019.

Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., Jim Baird, R-Ind., and Jodey Arrington, R-Texas were among the other objectors who saw their fundraising totals decrease by more than 70 percent versus 2019.

But Republicans are proving, as a whole, to be strong fundraisers as they push to flip both the House and Senate. The 151 Republicans analyzed have increased their fundraising numbers overall cycle-to-cycle by an average of more than 14 percent. By comparison, the 196 Democrats analyzed have seen their numbers increase by an average of just 2 percent.

The fundraising analysis did not include any lawmaker who took office after 2019 for which there is no previous fundraising cycle to compare, including prolific fundraisers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. And it does not include retiring lawmakers, or those running for higher or state-level office.

Two of the highest-profile Republicans who didn’t object to the Electoral College and who have positioned themselves against former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims the election was stolen, Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., have seen among the largest fundraising increases.

But prominent objectors have seen big fundraising gains too — Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., are among the lawmakers who have at least doubled their fundraising from this point last cycle.

The objective was to compare incumbents’ fundraising before and after Electoral College certification of the 2020 presidential election. And certainly the debate over the certification of the election is not the only variable that could contribute to a change in fundraising.

Still, this analysis — coming in an atmosphere where there is increased attention on contributors after the Jan. 6 attack — suggests that GOP objectors have seen a decline in their fundraising even as some of those same companies who once swore off donating to objectors, including UPS and American Airlines, have since returned to that practice in the months since January 6

Democratic group launches ad campaign to tout Biden agenda in key states

A nonprofit aligned with President Joe Biden is launching a new million-dollar ad campaign that aims to do double duty: promoting the president’s agenda, and backing some of the key lawmakers he hopes to keep in office beyond the 2022 midterm elections.

New ads from Building Back Together share a similar script touting Democrats’ Covid relief law and plans to spend trillions more on infrastructure, education, manufacturing and caregiving. But each is tailored to voters in the key states and congressional districts. 

Spots airing in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and New Hampshire, for example, say Biden and their Democratic senators’ “pulled our economy back from the brink. And now they’re fighting to create millions of good paying jobs and lower the costs of healthcare, child care and prescription drugs.”

All four states have a pair of Democratic senators. But only one in each — Arizona’s Mark Kelly, Nevada’s Catherine Cortez-Masto, Georgia’s Rafael Warnock, and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan — will face voters next November in contests critical to the party’s hopes of maintaining or growing a bare-minimum Senate majority.

The organization says the 30-second TV spots will air in each of the state’s biggest TV markets on broadcast and cable. Additional digital ads will run in more than 20 targeted House districts in 12 states. The seven-figure campaign is part of an effort by Biden’s outside political allies to sustain support for his agenda, aware of how Republicans and conservative groups began turning the tide against then-President Obama’s agenda in August 2009.

“Democratic Members of Congress have worked hand in glove with President Biden to bring our economy and our families back from the brink of crisis, and now they’re going to help the President deliver on the Build Back Better Agenda so that working families can finally get ahead,” Danielle Melfi, executive director of Building Back Together, said in a statement. 

CORRECTION (Aug. 5, 2021, 11:40 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Building Back Together's company status. It is a nonprofit advocacy organization, not a super PAC. 

Pelosi PAC urges donors to prevent the 'steal' of House majority in 2022

A fundraising pitch from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is urging her donors to prevent the “steal” of Democratic control of the House.

“They just outspent us by $14 MILLION to steal our Majorities,” warns an email under Pelosi's name to donors sent from her political action committee. The message claims that polling shows Republicans leading Democrats by one percentage point. “If we don’t regain the lead — NOW — Republicans will steal the House and decimate our Democratic Majority.”

It’s a strange turn for Pelosi, who has set up a select House Committee to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when loyalists to then-President Donald Trump tried to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election. They acted on the premise that, as Trump falsely asserted, the election had been stolen from him.

Pelosi aides did not immediately reply to a request for comment about whether she is less concerned now than she has been about the perils of undermining the credibility of the electoral system.

High-profile special House primaries have made for busy airwaves in Ohio

Voters are voting in two special House primaries that are serving as great microcosms for the battles that both parties are fighting these days. 

And those high-profile clashes have made for busy airwaves outside of Cleveland and Columbus.

In the Democrats’ 11th District contest, former state Rep. Nina Turner and Cuyahoga County Council Rep. Brown (plus their outside backers) have gone virtually punch-for-punch in the ad war. Turner has spent $2.3 million on TV, radio and digital advertising through Tuesday, per AdImpact, with her aligned Democratic Action PAC adding another $250,000. That’s matched by the Brown campaign’s $1.3 million on ads, plus an additional $1.1 million chipped in by the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC.

That race has gotten nasty, particularly on the airwaves. Brown and her allies are accusing Turner of stoking division and hitting her for criticizing President Joe Biden, while Turner's orbit is trying to frame Brown as corrupt. 

Things are even more crowded among the Republicans in the 15th District contest. The top spenders are businessman Tom Hwang, a self-funder running as an outsider, and the Protect Freedom PAC, which is backing Ron Hood, the state representative backed by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul. Both have spent just over $480,000 on advertisements.

Former Rep. Steve Stivers, who has endorsed Jeff LaRe, has actually spent more on ads than any other candidate besides Hwang, with $344,000 aimed at boosting LaRe

Then the Trump-aligned Make America Great Again PAC has spent $305,000 in support of the candidate Trump has endorsed, lobbyist Mike Carey, with Carey’s campaign spending another $265,000.

State Sen. Bob Peterson has spent $265,000, the anti-Carey Conservative Outsider PAC has spent another $241,000, LaRe’s campaign has spent $180,000, and former Columbus NAACP President Ruth Edmonds has spent $107,000.

Majority of adults approve of Biden on Covid, but think health agencies have sent mixed messages

The majority of American adults still approve of President Joe Biden's approach to the coronavirus pandemic, even as those numbers have slipped in recent months. 

Fifty-five percent of adults in Monmouth University's new poll say Biden has done a good job on the pandemic, compared to 38 percent who say he's done a bad job with it. Just 4 percent hold mixed opinions. 

The vast majority of Democrats, 92 percent, think Biden is doing a good job. Independents are split, with 45 percent saying he's done a good job and 46 percent saying he's done a bad job. And 26 percent of Republicans believe Biden is doing a good job on handling the pandemic, compared to 68 percent who think he's doing a bad job. 

Federal government health agencies also get strong marks in dealing with the pandemic, with 55 percent of adults saying they did a good job and 37 percent say they did a bad job.

But at the same time, 59 percent say that those federal health agencies, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically named, have been "giving mixed messages about Covid risks," including clear majorities of Republicans and Democrats. Thirty-nine percent say the agencies have been largely consistent, including a majority of Democrats. 

The poll comes amid rising caseloads and hospitalizations attributed to the more virulent, delta, strain, which is spreading across the country. The country hit 35 million cases this week, with Florida hitting records in new, daily cases as well as what the Florida Hospital Association called a new record of Covid hospitalizations. 

But while vaccination rates have slowed from their spring highs, the CDC reports that almost 50 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated against the virus. That includes 80 percent of those at least 65 years old, a group that has been particularly vulnerable to serious illness or death from the virus. 

Fifty-three percent of adults say they are either very concerned or somewhat concerned that someone in their family could become seriously ill from the virus, up from 42 percent a month ago but well below the levels of concern seen before widespread vaccinations began. 

Forty-eight percent are at least somewhat concerned about catching a new Covid variant, with those who have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine more likely to feel that way than someone who is not vaccinated, according to Monmouth. 

With the CDC issuing new guidance that recommends more people wear masks, and some states issuing either new masking guidance or mandates themselves, 52 percent of American adults say they support either "instituting or reinstituting face mask and social distancing guidelines in their states," a sentiment that falls deeply on partisan lines. 

Monmouth polled 804 adults in the United States from July 21 to July 26. The poll has an error margin of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Trump political operation banks more than $100 million in first six months of 2021

Former President Donald Trump amassed a war chest of more than $100 million over the first six months of 2022 across his four affiliated political committees as he repeatedly fundraised off of his false claims the election was stolen from him, and spent little from his political enterprise. 

New fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Committee show that Trump has raised $62 million directly into his Save America leadership PAC, his primary fundraising vehicle for his post-presidential political life. That total includes money that may have been raised in 2020 by other affiliated committees but was transferred over to Trump's PAC this year — Save America closed June with $90 million in cash on hand, with his affiliated committees banking millions more. 

As he publicly floats another bid for president, Trump can't use money raised to Save America for any presidential campaign. But he has broad leeway to spend the money he raises on other political activities (individual donors can donate a maximum of $5,000 a cycle to the group). 

But over the first six months of 2021, Trump only spent $3.2 million, $1 million as a contribution to help fund the America First Policy Institute, a pro-Trump non-profit

Other notable expenses include: hundreds of thousands of dollars on consulting (including $40,000 to the company run by his former campaign manager, Brad Parscale), $68,000 to the "Trump Hotel Collection," and $66,550 to his pollster, McLaughlin & Associates, whose polling Trump pointed to in April to rebut arguments that his power within the party was waning. 

As the Washington Post reported last month, none of the money appears to have gone to directly fund any of the so-called "election audits" that pro-Trump politicians and political forces have pushed for in states like Arizona. 

More than 100 state legislators to join Texas Democrats in D.C. to push for voting bill

Democratic state legislators from around the country will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to join Texas Democrats in a push for federal voting legislation, multiple participating state legislators told NBC News.

At least 104 legislator from 29 states and Puerto Rico are attending in person, a source familiar with the plans told NBC News.

They hope to secure meetings with senators, who are still in town to wrap work on a bipartisan infrastructure package ahead of a scheduled August recess, and are planning a march and rally for Tuesday, Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani said.

Speakers at the rally are expected to include Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeff Merkeley of Oregon, Ben Casey of Pennsylvania, and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, according to Eskamani. The large delegation of state legislators will include Democrats from Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan, where Republicans have advanced or enacted sweeping voting restrictions.

An announcement of the plans is expected later Monday. The campaign comes after a group of Democratic senators began work on a slimmed-down bill they hope can garner more support.

Washington advocacy groups are footing the bill for lawmakers' travel and lodging, with funding coming from groups including Center for American Progress Action, End Citizens United, and Black Voters Matter Fund, the source familiar with the plans said. Eskamani said she is paying for her own flight, however.

The Orlando Democrat said she hoped the state legislators would be able to share the everyday reality of how the election changes affects voters and state legislatures. 

“When you’re a U.S. senator you’re representing an entire state, you’re not thinking about the districts or specific polling sites,” she said. “But we are, we see it every day.”

Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives fled to D.C. last month to block passage of GOP-backed voting restrictions by denying the legislative chamber the quorum needed to conduct state business. Those state legislators have been lobbying for federal voting legislation with lobbying meetings and a steady stream of media events for weeks.

Still, there no clear path for federal voting legislation in the current Congress. At least two Democrats are unwilling to abolish or modify filibuster rules that require 60 votes — at least 10 Republicans in this Congress — to advance legislation. Republicans have largely remained opposed to any federal voting legislation.

Biden accepts posthumous Kosovo honor for late son's work

President Joe Biden is accepting one of Kosovo’s highest honors on behalf of his late son, saying the fledgling Balkan nation “is in the hearts of the entire Biden family.”

At a ceremony this weekend, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani will present a posthumous Presidential Medal on the Rule of Law to Beau Biden, who traveled to Kosovo in 2001 to help establish the country’s judicial institutions and the rule of law as it was establishing its independence from Yugoslavia.

“Beau’s work in Kosovo was heartfelt. He fell in love with the country,” Biden said in a video message that will air during the presentation Sunday. “At the time, Kosovo still bore the fresh wounds of war and a justice system hollowed out by decades of totalitarian rule. But Beau could see what you could do, Beau could see even then the future that was possible for your proud country.”

It’s the second time Kosovo has offered a major tribute to Beau Biden, who served as Delaware’s attorney general and was readying a campaign for governor when he lost his battle with brain cancer in 2015. A year later, during his last year as vice president, Biden visited the country with members of his family for the dedication of a roadway near Camp Bondsteel in Beau Biden’s name. 

The president’s brand of diplomacy has always been grounded in personal connections. And because Kosovo’s independence is not universally recognized, it has worked to maintain its close ties with Washington. Kosovo’s capital city also includes major routes named for former Presidents Bush and Clinton. 

In his remarks, Biden said his son was “just one of many” people dedicated to Kosovo’s independence, and said he accepted the honor on behalf of all who helped build its institutions over the past two decades. He also said he was pleased to ensure that Kosovo would be receiving American doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine “within weeks.”

The U.S. ambassador to Kosovo will receive the medal at Sunday’s ceremony, which also includes a popular Kosovo singer performing songs from one of Beau Biden’s favorite bands, Coldplay

Teachers' union leader Weingarten backs new masking guidance

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is throwing her support behind masking students in schools, saying Wednesday that while vaccines are the “number-one, gold standard” when it comes to keeping schools open, masking can fill an important role, too.

During an interview on MTP Daily, Weingarten framed masking in schools as a necessary strategy right now, even if it’s not a convenient one. 

“I hate wearing a mask. Every time I wear a mask, I have a hard time breathing because I'm an asthmatic. But we figured out how to do it, and we figured out how to teach kids with it, and we figured out how to open schools with it,” Weingarten said.

“The bottom line is: If we want kids to be in school, and we want everybody to be safe, and we want to keep schools open, this is what the scientists, this is what the pediatricians are telling us we need to do because of Delta. And let's just all try to put the politics to the side and try to do this to keep, to get schools open.”

Her comments come one day after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced new guidance recommending that all children wear masks in classrooms as concerns rise about the transmissibility of the new Delta Covid variant. But debates over mask mandates have already been raging ahead of this coming year, with some states like Texas outlawing mask mandates in schools. 

Some cities and states are requiring that employees, including public-school teachers, get vaccinated or be subjected to regular testing. 

When asked about vaccine mandates for staff, Weingarten explained that while over 90 percent of the union’s members are vaccinated, members are split on whether they want a vaccine mandate for themselves or kids.

“You need to negotiate any kind of vaccine mandate,” Weingarten says. She added that she’s a “big proponent of vaccines,” but the issue is developing trust around public health guidelines because of the politicization of vaccines.

McConnell to launch radio ads calling for people to 'take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated'

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will soon run radio ads in Kentucky to promote vaccination efforts, a source familiar with his plans confirmed to NBC News.

The new ads, paid for by McConnell's campaign account (he won reelection last year and doesn't face voters again until 2026), will connect McConnell's childhood polio diagnosis to the new fight against Covid, calling on Americans to "take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated." 

"As a young boy, I faced a different disease. I contracted polio. Back then, it took decades for us to develop a vaccine. This time, thanks to American investment and ingenuity — and especially thanks to the tireless work of our scientists, doctors and health care heroes— it took less than a year for us to develop three highly effective Covid vaccines," McConnell says in the to-be-released ad. 

"This is not complicated. Ninety-seven percent of people hospitalized for Covid are not vaccinated. If you haven’t been vaccinated, do the right thing for you — for your family — and get vaccinated right now," he adds, directing listeners to the government vaccination website "Vaccines.gov." 

The push from McConnell comes as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads across the United States. Spikes in cases and hospitalization, as well as new developments in understanding the variant's effects, have led to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that all people wear masks in areas with low vaccination rates, and that school children should too, regardless of vaccination status. 

The spikes are particularly acute in states with low vaccination rates, many of which are in America's South. Covid-related hospitalizations in Louisiana increased by 169 between Monday and Tuesday, an increase the state's Department of Health called the largest since March 2020. 

Many prominent Republicans have criticized vaccine mandates and some have questioned the vaccines themselves. 

But as the virus rages, particularly in his home state, Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy told NBC News that he's planning to release another public statement endorsing vaccines, and that he is listening to the recommendations of health care professionals when it comes to things like masking and vaccinations. 

"When a booster is available, I’m gonna take it. My wife’s taking it, my son’s taking it. And frankly, I’m so confident in it that [if] they told me, 'Kennedy, with the booster, you gotta take a shot in your eyeball,' I’d probably do it,” he said. 

"It scares the hell out of me, it’ll kill you dead as a doornail, I’ve seen it. And we’ve got a way to stop it. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to — this is America — but it scares me to death."

Virginia governor ad watch: 'Election integrity' and puppies

It's a busy day on the airwaves in the Virginia gubernatorial race, with both candidates launching new ads in the race to define Republican Glenn Youngkin as the political newcomer seeks to upset former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. 

The new spot from the McAuliffe campaign plays into a strategy they've centered on in recent days — using Youngkin's comments during the primary to connect him to former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election, notably as the issue finds its way back into the headlines amid Congress' investigation into the attack on the Capitol. 

The ad quotes Youngkin talking about the "election integrity" task force he launched "on week one" of his campaign in the GOP primary. 

It comes one day after McAuliffe called on Youngkin to drop out of a local GOP event billed as an "election integrity" rally, accusing the Republican of "promoting Trump's dangerous lies." 

"Glenn, enough is enough. Stop embarrassing Virginia and stop promoting Trump’s dangerous lies. Withdraw from this event," McAullife said. 

The Youngkin camp responded in a statement, criticizing McAuliffe for opposing "requiring a photo ID to vote, which undermines the integrity of our elections and makes it easier to cheat."

And as the hits keep coming from the McAuliffe camp and its allies, Youngkin is out with a new TV ad of his own that aims to make light of the attacks and soften his image. 

In an ad reminiscent to the one Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock launched during his 2020 bid, the narrator castigates the Republican for a slew of tongue-in-cheek "crimes" like leaving dirty dishes in the sink before Youngkin says he's not focused on the negative campaigning. 

"Here come the negative attack ads. Terry McAuliffe is going to try to scare you with lies about me, because he doesn't want to talk about his own extreme views. What's next? I hate dogs?" Youngkin says in the ad. 

What the NBC/WSJ poll got wrong in 2020 — and what we are doing to fix it

Political polls of all stripes swung and missed in the 2020 presidential election.

In fact, according to a recent American Association for Public Opinion Research report, the cumulative error was the largest in 40 years.

That includes the performance of our national NBC News/Wall Street Journal, which showed Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by 10 points in the final survey before the election, when Biden’s eventual popular-vote victory over Donald Trump was 4.5 points, 51.3percent to 46.8 percent.

In the months after the election, the bipartisan team of pollsters who conduct the national NBC News poll — the Wall Street Journal is no longer a partner — evaluated the poll and its 10,000 interviews in all of 2020 compared with actual voters from states’ voter files.

Some of the findings from the analysis:

  • The actual electorate was whiter and older than our poll showed: In our October merged surveys, 18 percent of voters were 65+ (when actual senior voters were 26 percent, per the modeled voter file), and 72 percent were white-non Hispanic (when they were actually 74 percent).
  • The poll overstated Biden’s support among seniors: One reason why is because of the percentage of Black seniors (versus white seniors) was higher than it turned out to be.
  • The poll overstated Biden’s support in urban areas (and also slightly in rural areas) compared with the actual results: "Our analysis of county-based data shows our over-estimation of Biden's margin over Trump was primarily concentrated in urban areas across geographies," the pollsters said.
  • The poll was slightly too Dem-leaning: The modeled party score from our voter file (D+9) and our October surveys (D+8) was more Democratic than the actual 2020 voters turned out to be (D+5).

The NBC pollsters found other complicating factors, including declining poll participation rates, the coronavirus pandemic (blue-collar voters made up 19 percent of registered voters for the poll in 2019 and 20 percent in the Jan. 2020 survey, but they were 17 percent for the rest of 2020), and Trump’s unique role (Biden was +10 on the ballot, but it was D+5 in congressional preference).

Going forward, here are the changes the pollsters are making:

  • They are adjusting samples to be slightly older and keep white non-Hispanics above 70 percent of registered voters.
  • They are incorporating additional quotas by age and ethnicity, and will use a geography-based sampling frame based on size and county type.
  • They will ask undecided voters again for a final preference between the Republican or Democratic candidate if forced to make a decision today.
  • And they will closely track the percentage of blue-collar workers in our surveys.

Tuesday marks election day in Texas House special election

Texans in the state's Sixth Congressional District will choose a new member of Congress Tuesday between two Republicans, Susan Wright and state Rep. Jake Ellzey. 

Democrats have no candidate on the ballot after Wright and Ellzey finished in the top slots of the first round of voting in May. Now, both Republicans are running for the right to replace the late former GOP Rep. Ron Wright, Susan Wright's husband. 

One major dynamic at play here has been the endorsement battle.

Wright has the backing of former President Trump (and a slew of other GOP voices like the Club for Growth, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Reps. Elise Stefanik, N.Y., Kay Granger, Texas, and Chip Roy, Texas. 

And Ellzey is supported by former Energy Secretary and Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas.

While fundraising data from the race lags by a few weeks because of federal campaign finance deadlines, through July 7, Ellzey had a significant fundraising lead. He had raised $1.74 million up to that point, spending $1.25 million with $490,000 in cash on hand. By comparison, Wright had raised $740,000, spending $577,000 with $164,000 in cash on hand. 

But Wright has had the advertising edge, thanks to air-cover from the Club for Growth, which has spent $420,000 on ads benefitting Wright, according to AdImpact (that's more than any other individual entity in the race). 

Trump has repeatedly reiterated his endorsement over the race's final weeks, and recorded a robocall for the Wright campaign down the stretch. A pro-Trump super PAC reportedly linked to Trump's 2016 campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, dropped $100,000 on last-minute TV-ads to boost Wright. 

Progressive group buys $2 million in ads to push tax hikes on wealthy

The advocacy group Tax March is giving air cover to President Joe Biden’s push for higher taxes on wealthy Americans, buying $2 million worth of ads over the next three weeks in swing states and districts calling on upper earners to pay more.

“If you can afford to launch yourself in space, you can pay your fair share in taxes,” a narrator in the ad says, featuring footage of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, who have dabbled in space exploration.

The ads will run on TV and digital platforms in Washington, D.C., NBC News has learned, as well as in Wisconsin (targeting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson), New York’s 24th district (targeting GOP Rep. John Katko) and Iowa’s 1st district (targeting GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson), said Maura Quint, the executive director of Tax March.

The ads will begin Tuesday and last until Aug. 15, she said. They come as Democrats prepare to advance a $3.5 trillion budget measure that will serve as the vehicle for Biden’s proposed economic safety net expansions and tax hikes on corporations and those making above $400,000.

“Increasing taxes on the wealthy is a beneficial thing across the board,” Quint said in an interview, describing it as a means to bridge income inequality, pay for Biden’s economic spending proposals and prevent billionaires from attempting to buy politics.

Quint cited the popularity of tax hikes on high earners in surveys and said it “will be very disappointing” if Democrats cannot achieve that while they control the White House and Congress. “We’re going to be fighting very, very hard to push these policies.”

The group also said it's planning to buy a billboard to promote the cause in Times Square, the home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

Trump records robocall for Texas' Wright ahead of special election runoff

Former President Donald Trump has recorded a robocall for Republican Susan Wright ahead of her face-off against GOP state Rep. Jake Ellzey in Tuesday's runoff election. 

Wright tweeted audio of the robocall this past weekend, with Trump reiterating his endorsement of Wright and calling on supporters to vote for her. 

"I'm asking you to go out and vote for a great Republican, a great woman, Susan Wright," Trump says in the robocall. 

"She's outstanding. Like me, she's strong on immigration, she's tough on crime, and she's going to cut your taxes." 

Wright and Ellzey are running in the Texas Sixth District runoff after both were the top vote-getters in the May election to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright, who died earlier this year. Texas election laws have the top-two candidates in a special election move onto a general election unless one wins a majority of the vote on the first ballot.  

Trump went on to praise the former congressman in the robocall, saying that his wife will "carry on Ron's legacy." The call notes that its distribution will be paid for by the Wright campaign. 

The news of the robocall wasn't the only Trump-related development in the race over the weekend. Make America Great Again Action Inc, a super PAC reportedly helmed by former 2016 Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, reported a last-minute, $100,000 TV-ad expenditure aimed at boosting Wright. 

McAuliffe launches first TV ad of general election

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has blanketed Virginia’s airwaves for months, and now his opponent, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is up with his first TV ad since clinching the Democratic nomination. 

The ad touts McAuliffe’s record as Virginia governor from 2014-2017, and it also ties Youngkin to former President Donald Trump.

“When I was governor last time, I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” McAuliffe says in the ad. “We created thousands of new jobs, put billions into our infrastructure projects and a billion dollars into education.” 

“But let me be clear, Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.”

It's no surprise that Trump is a central figure in the ad — McAuliffe has, from even before he won the primary election, made Trump a centerpiece of his own bid, criticizing Youngkin and trying to tie him to the former president who lost the state in 2020 by 10 points. 

Youngkin even sought to push back at that messaging in a recent digital ad where he linked the Democrat to Trump. And on Wednesday night, Youngkin tried to frame McAuliffe as the partisan. 

The Republican nominee has had the airwaves largely to himself, at least in the general election, until today. From the day McAuliffe clinched the Democratic nomination (June 8), Youngkin has spent $3.6 million on TV and digital ads, according to AdImpact, compared to less than $300,000 in ad spending by McAuliffe, all on digital. But McAuliffe, a strong fundraiser, is expected to ramp up the TV spending in the months to come in the highest-profile race of 2021. 

Former Democratic Rep. Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa

Former Iowa Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer is running for Senate, looking to win the seat currently held by longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. 

Finkenauer, 32, served one term in Congress after winning Iowa's First District in the 2018 midterms, but lost to now GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson in one of the top congressional races of 2020. An early endorser of President Joe Biden, Finkenauer emphasized the working class and those being "left behind" in her announcement video. She also includes a significant focus on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, laying blame at the feet of Republicans like Grassley for not protecting democracy. 

"The politicians who have been there for decades don’t really want people like us there. They think they own democracy and they were silent when it was attacked. It’s politicians like Sen. Grassley and Mitch McConnell who should know better, but are so obsessed with power they oppose anything that moves us forward. Since the Capitol was attacked, they’ve turned their backs on democracy and on us," she said. 

Grassley hasn't said whether he'd run or not, but if the 87-year-old seeks re-election, he'd be the heavy favorite in a state former President Trump won twice and where he's been the senator for more than 40 years. 

In a statement, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Katharine Cooksey framed Finkenauer as too liberal for the state.

“Abby Finkenauer and her far-Left positions are indistinguishable from those of Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the socialist squad, so it’s not surprising Iowans fired her just last year," she said.

Right now, Finkenauer is the highest-profile Democrat in the race. Rep. Cindy Axne hasn't ruled out a bid and former county supervisor Dave Muhlbauer is the other Democrat running right now.

New fundraising totals show how party committees are gearing up for crucial midterms

The Democratic National Committee edged out the Republican National Committee in fundraising over the first six months of the year, even as Republican congressional committees edged out their Democratic rivals over the same time period. 

The DNC raised $87.1 million through June, with $63.1 million left in the bank, new Federal Election Commission reports show. By comparison, the RNC raised $85 million but ended June with significantly more money, $81.7 million, in the bank, than the DNC. National party committees 

At the congressional-committee level, both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Congressional Campaign Committee outraised their Democratic counterparts, with both parties flush with cash as the battle for control of Congress begins. 

The NRCC closed its June books having raised $79.3 million this year and with $55 million in the bank. The DCCC finished with $70.7 million and $44.3 million in cash on hand. 

The NRSC raised $51.2 million through June and banked $25.1 million, with the DSCC raising $46.6 million and banking away $11.6 million. 

The congressional committees are largely more flush with cash than they were ahead of the 2018 midterms, as Democrats' narrow majorities in the House and Senate mean that both chambers will be up for grabs in the 2022 midterms 

Early voting begins in Texas House special election

Monday marks the beginning of early voting in Texas’ 6th Congressional District special election runoff, as voters get ready to choose the Republican who will fill the empty seat. 

The seat’s been vacant since January, when GOP Rep. Ron Wright passed away. His widow, Susan Wright, and state Rep. Jake Ellzey are running against each other in a runoff because they were the two highest vote-getters in the first round of voting in May, but neither was able to win the race outright with the majority of the vote. 

Susan Wright, widow of GOP Rep. Ron Wright, and Rep. Jake Ellzey
Susan Wright, widow of GOP Rep. Ron Wright, and Rep. Jake EllzeySusan Wright for Congress; Jake Ellzey for Congress

Susan Wright is running with the backing of former President Donald Trump, Reps. Stefanik, Granger, Roy, Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz and more. She’s raised $740,000 for her bid, but has spent a little more than $576,000. 

While he lacks the marquee national endorsements, Ellzey is backed by former Texas Republican Gov. (and former Energy Secretary) Rick Perry, Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw and the Dallas Morning News’ Editorial Board. Plus, he’s the leading fundraiser in the race, having raised $1.7 million and spent almost $1.3 million. 

While Wright has been significantly outspent on the airwaves by Ellzey, she has received some significant air cover from a powerful ally: the conservative Club for Growth Action. The Club has spent almost $350,000 on ads for Wright, making the group the largest ad spender in the race, according to AdImpact, and pushing the combined pro-Wright spending above that of pro-Ellzey forces. 

What we learned from the second campaign fundraising deadline of 2021

Thursday marked the Federal Election Commission's 2nd Quarter deadline, covering fundraising for federal candidates largely from April through June (political action committees either file monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually and not included in this deadline).

While it’s still early in the 2022 election cycle, the reports are an important gauge as to how these key contests are shaping up. And that’s particularly important ahead of this cycle, where both the House and the Senate majorities are in play.

Here’s a look at some of what we learned from the 2nd Quarter FEC reports.

The battle for the Senate is drawing big money

With the balance of power in Congress up for grabs in 2022, Senate incumbents and top challengers are already hauling in eye-popping amounts of money.  

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., leads the pack among incumbents raising money for their re-election — he raised $9.6 million in the second quarter, ending June with a $14.4 million warchest. Scott isn’t seen as particularly vulnerable, as the state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998 and Democrat Jaime Harrison ended up losing his 2020 Senate challenge to Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham by about 10 points.

Ohio Republican Mike Gibbons raised more than any other challenger with $6.2 million, but almost $5.7 million of that was in loans. 

Not including personal loans, Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., raised the most of any Senate challenger with $4.7 million raised and $3.1 million in cash on hand. Her would-be GOP opponent (assuming she wins the primary, in which she’s heavily favored), Sen. Marco Rubio, also had a strong quarter and raised $4 million to leave his cash on hand at $6.3 million.  

Ten other incumbents facing re-election raised more than $2 million this past quarter: 

  • Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., ($7.2 million)
  • Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., ($6 million)
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., ($3.3 million)
  • Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., ($3 million)
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-N.M., ($2.8 million)
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ($2.7 million)
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., ($2.4 million)
  • Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., ($2.2 million)
  • Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ($2 million)
  • Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., ($2 million).  

Other incumbent senators to note include:  

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., hasn’t announced whether or not he’s seeking re-election, but he raised $1.2 million last quarter should he opt to run again in this battleground state.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who former president Donald Trump has publicly pledged to defeat, raised $1.1 million and is running in a field that includes a Trump-backed Republican challenger.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. who is facing a primary challenger, raised under $800,000

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who just drew a primary challenger, raised less than $900,000.

Senate challengers who raised over $1 million include: Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio,  ($3.1 million); Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman ($2.5 million); Ohio Republican Bernie Moreno ($2.3 million); Arizona Republican Jim Lamon ($2.2 million); North Carolina Democrat Cheri Beasley ($1.3 million); former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory ($1.2 million); Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh ($1 million); and Pennsylvania Republican Jeff Bartos ($1 million).  

Corporate spigot beginning to turn on again, even among those who paused donations after Jan. 6

Many corporations that decided to re-evaluate their political donation policies after the vote on certifying the Electoral College results, as well as the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, are still sitting on the sidelines. But others have re-started their giving.  

Toyota has become one of the most prominent companies in this saga — after initially saying they would reassess their giving and then returning to donate to Republicans who voted against the certification, they reversed course and announced they’d no longer donate to lawmakers who objected to that Electoral College count.  

Cigna, American Airlines, Bloomin Brands, Boeing, and UPS are among the companies who expressed concerns about their political donations after Jan. 6 and have since begun donating to those who objected to the Electoral College count again.  

Even so, many of the Republican lawmakers who objected reported little to no corporate donations in the second quarter of 2021.

Anti-Trump Republicans can still raise good money, but so can Trump’s biggest allies 

For the handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January, their vote may have frustrated many within their party. But it hasn’t necessarily made a dent in their fundraising capacity.  

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., raised $1.9 million last quarter, more than all but six members of Congress. And Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., raised more than $800,000, a significant uptick from his previous fundraising.  

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, facing a primary challenger blessed by Trump himself, raised over $600,000 last quarter, more than double what he raised during the same three-month stretch in 2020, months before an election.  

But tying yourself to Trump is still lucrative for a Republican. Rep. Jim Jordan’s, R-Ohio, $1.6 million raised was more than all but seven members of Congress. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., finished one just behind Jordan with almost $1.6 million raised, followed by Rep. Matt Gaetz’s, R-Fla., $1.4 million and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who raised $1.2 million as she successfully ran to take over Cheney’s spot in GOP House leadership.  

Other odds and ends 

As first reported by the Daily Beast, embattled Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is burning some serious cash on consulting (and $15,000 to a firm linked to Trump ally Roger Stone.  

A handful of senators with presidential ambitions are filling their campaign coffers despite not having to worry about a race in 2022. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised almost $4.7 million last quarter, more than any incumbent senator besides Scott, despite not having to run again until 2024. And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., raised $2.1 million last quarter and won’t face re-election until 2024 as well.  

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, also had a huge quarter for a House incumbent, raising more than $3 million, the most of any House member who isn't in leadership or running for Senate. 

In North Carolina, Democratic candidates open up in order to stand out

The Democratic candidates running for North Carolina’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat have held the traditional town halls and embarked on the usual county-by-county tours across the state — all to introduce themselves to voters before next year’s competitive primary.

And when it comes to digital space, several candidates have sought to differentiate themselves from a competitive field in unique ways: Using social media to discuss their personal finances on TikTok, capturing themselves at a progressive climate rally and providing a history lesson on Juneteenth.

The three top Democrats vying for the open seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., are former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, former state Sen. Erica Smith and state Sen. Jeff Jackson. The eventual nominee will face off against the winner of an equally competitive GOP primary in a state where Democrats narrowly lost both the presidential contest and a key Senate race last year. 

For Jackson, social media has allowed him to give voters a window into his daily life, which he says supports one of his campaign’s core goals of transparency. On TikTok, Jackson has posted videos breaking down his family’s finances and calling out lawmakers in the North Carolina Senate. On Twitter and Facebook, he’s regularly posted his answers to town hall questions and shared family moments with his kids.  

“In this cycle, playing it safe is just too risky,” Jackson said in an interview with NBC News. “You've got to be willing to hold yourself out there and let people get to know who you are. You have to be willing to take an energetic or a transparent approach, or we're just going to lose.”

For Smith, social media has given her the chance to showcase her progressive platform, her background growing up in rural North Carolina and her experience as a minister. On Twitter, she’s posted videos including her attendance at a Sunrise Movement climate protest in Washington D.C. last month as well as her North Carolina campaign stops with fellow progressive Gary Chambers of Louisiana. On TikTok, she’s advocated abolishing private prisons and releasing the body camera footage relating to the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by North Carolina sheriff’s deputies in April.

“If you can scroll through 15 posts on someone's Twitter, and you don't know what they stand for or what they're fighting for, then they're hiding something from you,” Morris Katz, Smith’s communications director, said in an interview with NBC News.

For Beasley, she’s used social media to highlight her historic tenure as the state’s first Black chief justice and previous statewide wins in North Carolina, along with sharing the stories of those she’s met while touring the state. She’s also shared informational videos to Twitter, including one on the significance of Juneteenth.

“Our campaign is reaching North Carolinians in creative and diverse ways, including on social media through photos that tell the story of her visits with people all around the state, videos that allow her to speak directly to voters, and relevant and informational news clips and graphics,” Dory MacMillan, Beasley’s communications director, said in a statement to NBC News.

But with an increasingly fractured media environment and many voters who also aren’t online, the campaigns noted that this time around, efforts to reach voters across North Carolina need to be all-encompassing.

“It's increasingly hard to reach voters through any single avenue,” Katz said. “So you need to be doing everything. You need to be going to 100 different counties in North Carolina; you need to be talking to local papers; you need to be talking to national papers; you need to be talking through different social media channels.”

House Republican campaign arm bests Democrats in latest fundraising haul

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised more than $45.4 million in the second quarter of 2021, besting its Democratic counterparts by nearly $9 million as the battle for control of the House heats up, according to numbers shared by the GOP group.

The NRCC said it raised over $20 million in June, which is $5.6 million more than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought in last month.

"We will take back the majority next fall and voters are doing everything they can to help us accomplish that goal," Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chair of the NRCC, said in a statement, adding, "Every vulnerable House Democrat should be eyeing the exits because if they choose to run, they will lose."

The NRCC said it raised nearly twice as much in the first half of 2021 as it did in the first half of 2019 — or the same timeframe from the previous cycle. It said the haul was its best first-half total in committee history while June saw the committee set a record for most cash brought in during an off-year month. It ended the quarter with $55 million in cash on hand.

The NRCC totals come after the DCCC announced its haul of $36.5 million for the second quarter earlier this month. Its June total was the second-best of any month this year, trailing March. It concluded the first half of 2021 with more than $44 million in the bank, about $19 million more than it held at this point in 2019, the organization said.

"While Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans prioritize extremism and lies, Democrats in Congress are working each day to continue uplifting the American people," Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the DCCC, said in a statement. "Our strong fundraising success shows American voters are rejecting Republican extremism and know just how critical a Democratic House Majority is to protecting our democracy and delivering for American families."

July fundraising reports are not due to the Federal Election Commission until Tuesday. The two groups have traded fundraising leads throughout the year with the NRCC topping the DCCC in January, March and May as the DCCC edging out its counterpart in February and April.

GOP groups take to the All-Star Game airwaves

Baseball may be America's pastime, but during Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the airwaves will be inundated with another national hobby — political disagreement.

This year's showcase of the league's top players has been wrapped up in politics since the MLB moved it to Denver amid protests of recent voting laws passed in Georgia. And now, several Republican groups are planning to run television ads during the game to highlight the controversy. 

The Republican National Committee announced Monday it is spending seven figures to run a new ad during the game on FOX, as well as on other channels, an ad that argues "Democrats stole our All-Star Game to push their divisive political agenda" and in the process harmed businesses in the Atlanta area. The ad goes on to tout popular voter ID policies, sharing party polling on the issue, amid a broad fight playing out across the country over voting laws and on the implications of former President Donald Trump's false claims he won the 2020 election. 

Democrats and voting rights activists have blasted Georgia's new voting laws, particularly highlighting new measures like identification requirements for mail-in voting and restrictions on giving voters waiting in line food and water. In a statement addressing the new GOP ads, the Georgia Democratic Party accused Republicans of waging a "misinformation campaign"  in order to "deflect blame from their bad, divisive policy." 

“The MLB All-Star Game would be played in Georgia today were it not for Brian Kemp and Georgia Republicans’ divisive, racist attack on voting rights – plain and simple. The GOP chose voter suppression and partisan politics over Georgia’s economy when it passed SB 202, driving investments like the All-Star Game out of our state in the process,” Scott Hogan, the state Democratic Party's executive director, said in a statement. 

Republicans have argued those concerns are overblown and that the changes were needed to shore up election security.

The GOP's Senate campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is getting in on the mix too with a spot (which ran during the Home Run Derby on Monday and will run again during the Tuesday game) that links Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., to the decision to move the game. 

"Baseball's midsummer classic, the All-Star Game, a $100 million boost to Georgia's economy until the radical left, woke crowd took it all away," the ad's narrator says, claiming Warnock "refused to oppose it." 

Before the MLB made the decision to move the game, Warnock told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow "we need Georgia businesses to stand up ... stand up against voter suppression," but did not explicitly support the idea of moving the game. After the MLB picked up and left, Warnock said in a statement that the "decision by MLB is the unfortunate consequence of these politicians’ actions" and that he hopes businesses "can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on."

The Heritage Foundation is also running a six-figure ad campaign promoting the new Georgia law by boosting the GOP's arguments in favor of it while criticizing those who oppose it. 

And. at least one candidate is getting in on the fray — Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who is seen as a possible Senate candidate. In it, Carter sits at a baseball park lamenting the decision to move the game and highlighting how he's not "afraid to go toe-to-toe against the leftist Democrats to save America," touting his work with Trump in Congress. 

Youngkin drops new digital ad that tries to tie Democrat McAuliffe to Trump

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin is trying to flip the script on his Democratic rival by trying to link former Gov. Terry McAuliffe to former President Donald Trump. 

Trump has endorsed Youngkin. And McAuliffe has spent much of his campaign trying to tie the two Republicans together after Trump lost the state by 10 percentage points. 

But in a new digital ad, the Youngkin campaign tries to push back on that frame by arguing that while McAuliffe "spends all his time attacking Donald Trump," he solicited money from Trump during his own political career. 

The ad points to a $25,000 donation from Trump to McAuliffe during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign (when Trump regularly donated to politicians of both parties, and well before his attacks on then-President Barack Obama's nationality). And it features comments both Trump and McAuliffe made during the 2017 National Governors Association dinner. At the time, McAuliffe helmed the NGA and attended the dinner at the White House, where Trump called him a "friend" and the Democrat toasted Trump as he called for governors to work together to make America stronger. 

"Come on, McAuliffe. Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth," the ad's narrator says. 

Christina Freundlich, a McAuliffe spokesperson, brushed aside the spot in a statement that needled the Republican over the ongoing debate negotiations in the race. 

"No amount of bogus advertising will hide Virginians from Glenn Youngkin's own words: that he is 'honored' to have Donald Trump's endorsement and 'Donald Trump represents so much' of why he's running. Glenn needs to buck up and face Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Bar Association debate so they can hear him once again give praise to Donald Trump right from his own mouth," Freundlich said. 

McAuliffe's campaign has run digital ads amplifying Youngkin's comments about Trump as well as the former president's endorsement.

Trump also recently put out another statement praising Youngkin that included similar arguments to the one the Republican is making now. 

Kelly, Fetterman and Britt raise big money as 2022 Senate fundraising totals trickle in

Pennsylvania Democratic Senate hopeful Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is out Thursday with his second-quarter fundraising total: $2.5 million. 

The Federal Election Commission’s second quarter ended in June, but campaigns have until July 15 to file their full fundraising reports. That means that any information about fundraising that trickles out before then comes from the campaigns themselves. 

One of Fetterman’s opponents, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, says she raised $1 million last quarter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Other Democratic primary hopefuls, notably state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, have not yet released their fundraising totals. 

Tom Wolf Sworn In For Second Term As Pennsylvania's Governor
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman introduces Gov.Tom Wolf during an inaugural ceremony on Jan. 15, 2019, in Harrisburg, Pa.Mark Makela / Getty Images file

Ahead of that deadline, here’s what we know so far from some of the 2022 Senate campaigns themselves (note: Unless they publicly volunteer the information, there’s no way to know if a candidate is relying on any form of self-funding until seeing the FEC filings).

Arizona

Incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly raised an eye-popping sum in the second quarter, almost $6 million according to the campaign, which it says leaves Kelly with more than $7 million in the bank. Kelly is running in what could be one of the more competitive races of the cycle, but has been a prolific fundraiser as both a candidate and as a senator. 

Ohio

Two of Ohio’s top GOP Senate candidates have already released their fundraising figures, and they’re quite similar. 

Josh Mandel, the former Ohio state treasurer, says he raised $1.5 million over the quarter, just above the $1.4 million raised by former state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken

Businessman Mike Gibbons, who has loaned significant amounts of his own money to his political career, says he raised $6 million over the quarter. But the campaign also says it had about 1,500 donors over the quarter, which suggests he loaned millions more to his campaign as well. 

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan says he raised almost $2.3 million last quarter for his Senate bid. 

North Carolina

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley reported raising almost $1.3 million in the second quarter in her bid to win the Democratic Senate nomination, despite her launching her campaign almost a month into the quarter. 

State Sen. Jeff Jackson’s campaign announced he raised $700,000 over the second quarter, according to the Charlotte News and Observer

Alabama

Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to the retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, says she has raised $2.2 million since she announced her campaign less than a month before the end of the fundraising quarter. 

One of Britt’s primary opponents, former Ambassador Lynda Blanchard, has loaned her campaign millions of dollars but hasn’t yet released new fundraising figures. Neither has GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who is also running and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. 

Florida

The Florida Senate race is also shaping up to be expensive. Democratic Rep. Val Demings' campaign announced Thursday it raised $4.6 million, while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News he raised $4 million. 

Early voting begins in two Ohio special House elections

Voters can begin voting today in two special House elections in Ohio to fill seats vacated by former Reps. Steve Stivers and Marcia Fudge, a Republican and a Democrat respectively. 

Neither district is expected to be competitive in the general election, making the primaries the biggest game in town. And early voting ahead of the Aug. 3 primaries begins Wednesday. 

Here's a glimpse of the state of play in both districts, Ohio's 11th (formerly held by the Democrat Fudge) and 15th (formerly held by the Republican Stivers): 

Ohio's 11th Congressional District 

The Cleveland-area district has turned into a two-candidate race between Democrats Nina Turner and Shontel Brown. 

Turner is a former state senator who made headlines when she shifted allegiances in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Turner emerged as one of Sanders' most vocal surrogates, helming his allied political group Our Revolution and serving as his 2020 campaign co-chair.

She's won the backing of national progressives like Sanders, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, the four members of "The Squad," and the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus, Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan. But Turner has also won over prominent local endorsements from politicians like Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, former state party chairman David Pepper and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 

Turner has already spent about $1.2 million on television and digital ads, according to data from AdImpact, and through March (the most recent campaign fundraising deadline) had raised almost $1.6 million. 

Brown, a Cuyahoga County Council representative who lead's the county's branch of the Democratic Party, has won the backing of people including Clinton, Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty (who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, whose PAC has also endorsed Brown), California Rep. Pete Aguilar (a member of House leadership), and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. 

She's spent about $500,000 in digital and television ads, per AdImpact, with the allied Democratic Majority for Israel spending another $180,000. She had raised $640,000 through March

No other candidate had raised over $25,000 through March, and the winner of the primary will be a heavy favorite in a district President Joe Biden won with 80 percent of the vote (according to DailyKos' data). 

Ohio's 15th Congressional District 

The field is a bit wider in the Republican-leaning 15th district. Because Stivers announced his retirement  in April, after the first campaign fundraising deadline of 2021, there's no current information on how much money candidates are raising. 

So far, businessman Thomas Hwang has spent the most of any candidate on television ads, just under $150,000 per Advertising Analytics. Mike Carey, the coal executive backed by former President Donald Trump, has spent the second most, just under $100,000. 

While Jeff LaRe, the state representative endorsed by Stivers, has barely spent on the airwaves, Stivers has spent almost $290,000 with an ad asking voters to support LaRe. 

This is another race where the primary winner will be heavily favored — Trump won the district in 2020 with 56 percent of the vote. 

Fauci says uneven vaccination rates could lead to regional Covid spikes

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts, told “Meet the Press” that while he's not expecting a new, more transmissible Covid-19 variant to lead to another nationwide spike, he worries that uneven vaccination rates could mean regional spikes in infections. 

"I don't think you're going to be seeing anything nationwide because, fortunately, we have a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated. So it's going to be regional," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview for a special edition of "Meet the Press" airing Sunday. 

"We're going to see, and I've said, almost two types of America. You know, those regions of America which are highly vaccinated and we have a low level of dynamics of infection. And in some places, some states, some cities, some areas, where the level of vaccination is low and the level of virus dissemination is high. That's where you're going to see the spikes."

The World Health Organization has warned that the new delta variant of Covid-19 is "the most transmissible" yet, leading Fauci to warn previously it's the "greatest threat" to America's attempts to stamp out the virus. Health officials are particularly concerned that the delta variant could wreak havoc on communities where vaccination rates are low. 

Two Senate hopefuls take the plunge

Two Senate hopefuls are taking the plunge on Thursday, announcing their candidacies in the hopes of winning a spot in the U.S. Senate next year. 

Charles Booker, the former Kentucky state lawmaker who narrowly lost Kentucky's Democratic Senate primary in 2020, is running again this cycle in the hopes of dethroning Republican Sen. Rand Paul. 

Booker had previously announced he was exploring a bid, but he made his campaign official in a new video released Thursday. 

"For so many people across Kentucky and across the country, freedom hasn't been freedom for us," Booker says in the video, before evoking Breonna Taylor, the Kentucky woman who was killed in a police raid on her house last year. 

"We can make freedom ring true, we could make it ring for everybody. We can build a future where Breonna's door isn't kicked in."

If Booker wins the Democratic nomination, he'll face Paul in an uphill battle. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell won his re-election last year by almost 20 points, and Kentucky hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992. That said, Democrat Andy Beshear won the governor's race in 2019.

There's also another candidate expected to jump into a Senate field today — author J.D. Vance, who has been eying a run for Senate in Ohio.

Vance is hosting a Thursday evening rally where he's promised a "special announcement," and filed documentation with Federal Election Commission to ready for a Senate bid.

Assuming he runs, the Republican will join a crowded field that's looking to replace the retiring Sen. Rob Portman. On the right, former state GOP treasurer Jane Timken, former secretary of state Josh Mandel and businessmen Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons are among the candidates looking for the GOP nomination, while Rep. Tim Ryan is the frontrunner among Democrats. 

Garcia defends ranked-choice voting after NYC errors mar mayoral primary vote count

Kathryn Garcia, the New York City Democratic mayoral hopeful, defended the ranked-choice voting process the city is using for its mayoral primaries after a Board of Elections error threw the vote count into chaos.

During an interview on Wednesday's "MTP Daily," Garcia said that "ranked choice isn't that complicated to do once you have the data." 

"The challenges we had yesterday were not related to rank choice voting, that was a human error, but ranked-choice voting does allow you to really be able to have a positive campaign, and to talk about issues rather than trying to tear down your opponent," she said.

"And so I was very pleased to have ranked-choice voting be part of this, because it's the campaign I wanted to run, was one where I got to talk about the things that were impacting New Yorkers, because we’ve got a lot of work to do."

A look at Texas' border counties as immigration fights heat up

As Republican lawmakers and governors repeatedly attack President Joe Biden's border policies, former President Donald Trump travels to the Texas-Mexico border with Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, on Wednesday. 

Texas' heavily Hispanic border counties (as designated by the state) have seen some strong political shifts over the last decade and are home to some interesting demographic trends. Here's a look at some of the dynamics on the ground in these counties, which are at the center of the immigration debate. 

GOP gains serious ground from 2008 to 2020

Republicans improved their vote share at the presidential level in 20 out of the 32 Texas border counties between 2008 and 2020. The largest gains (of at least 10 percentage points) came in McMullen, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kenedy, Dimmit and Jim Hogg counties. Those counties are all relatively small, with less than 10,000 people (two, Kenedy and McMullen, are among the 10 smallest counties in the state).

While McMullen saw the largest shift toward the GOP over that period — an almost 19-percentage-point improvement of vote share — the few Democratic gains were significantly smaller. In Sutton, the border county with the largest Democratic-vote-share improvement, Democrats gained just 5 percentage points. 

The largest counties in the state — Hidalgo, El Paso, Cameron and Webb all saw single-digit vote-share gains for Republicans over that period. 

Border counties are largely Hispanic, have lower rates of higher education

These counties are also heavily Hispanic — according to 2019 data from the Census' American Community Survey, 28 of the 32 are majority Hispanic, and the majority of households speak Spanish in 25 of the counties.

In fact, 13 of these counties have among the largest share of Hispanics in America compared to any county.

These counties also have other demographic trends in common too. In all 32 counties, less than half the population has a Bachelor's degree or higher, but the majority has graduated high school in all but one of the border counties. 

In all but five counties, the majority of the population are not U.S. citizens.  

And 23 counties, the population increased between 2010 and 2019, compared to nine counties that saw a decrease in population. 

Median household income in all 32 counties in 2019 ranges from $25,000 (Presidio County) to $62,000 (McMullen County). The median household income in the state is just under $62,000.

Covid-19 hits border counties hard, but they have high vaccination rates 

Western Texas, especially many counties along the border, was hit hard by the coronavirus. According to data from the New York Times, 25 percent of all Dimmit County residents had the virus; and 1 in 163 residents of Maverick County died because of it, for example. 

But many of these counties also have among the highest rates of people vaccinated for the coronavirus in the state. For example, 85 percent of those at least 12 years old in Presidio County are fully vaccinated; 71 percent are fully vaccinated in Starr County; 70 percent are fully vaccinated in Webb County; and 65 percent are fully vaccinated in El Paso County. 

Newsom sues California secretary of state to have his party ID included on recall ballot

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom is favored to defeat the eventual recall election against him.

But he might have to deal with this hurdle: His political party — as of now — won’t be listed on the recall ballot thanks to what amounts to a small paperwork error back in 2020, when organizers were beginning the latest effort to recall him. 

According to Courthouse News, which first reported on the lawsuit, Newsom is suing California's secretary of state to argue he should be able to amend that paperwork, and that California voters have a right "to be accurately and fully informed about the recall election," which his legal team claims includes noting the governor's political party on the ballot. 

The Newsom recall is a two-question ballot: The first asks voters if they want to recall the governor, and the second asks them to choose from a (likely lengthy) list of replacement candidates if the governor is in fact recalled by a majority vote on the first question. 

While the party preference of the incumbent facing recall hadn't always been listed on ballots (it wasn't during the 2003 recall of then-Gov. Gray Davis, who was a Democrat), the law has since been changed to include it. 

There's no set date for the recall election, but the secretary of state confirmed last week that there are enough valid signatures to move forward with scheduling one. 

Youngkin begins Virginia general election with big spending advantage

Three weeks after the Democratic primary and the start of Virginia’s gubernatorial general election, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin has jumped out to a 40-to-1 ad-spending advantage over Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, according to data from Adimpact.

Youngkin has spent more than $2.2 million in ads from June 9 (the day after McAuliffe’s primary win) through Monday, June 28, including more than $1.5 million over the Washington, D.C. area’s pricey airwaves to target Northern Virginia voters. (Here’s one of the new TV ads Youngkin has been airing.)

Image: Glenn Youngkin
Glenn Youngkin makes his closing remarks during a GOP gubernatorial candidate forum in Lynchburg, Va., on April 19, 2021.Kendall Warner / The News and Advance via AP file

By comparison, McAuliffe has spent just $55,000 on ads during that same time period — all of the amount on digital ads.

The wealthy Youngkin, the former executive of the Carlyle Group, has promised to raise and spend $75 million for his campaign, which the Washington Post says is more than the $66 million the Democratic and GOP campaigns spent, combined, four years ago in this race. 

As the fall general election gets closer, the traditionally well-financed McAuliffe will certainly narrow this spending gap and the former governor spent $5.9 million on ads during the Democratic primary.

But money is going to be one advantage Youngkin will enjoy throughout the course of this campaign.

Nearly 9-in-10 Americans say U.S. is more divided now than before pandemic outbreak

An overwhelming 88 percent of Americans believe the country is more divided now than it was before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which is up 11 points from a year ago, according to newly released results from a Pew Research Center poll.

Americans believe their country is more divided now than residents of every other advanced nation where Pew asked this question, including in the Netherlands (where 83 percent said their country was more divided than before the pandemic), Germany (77 percent), Spain (77 percent), France (68 percent), Italy (63 percent) and the United Kingdom (54 percent).  

The online poll was conducted Feb. 1-7 of nearly 2,600 U.S. adults — a month after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and has a margin of error of plus-minus 2.7 percentage points.The Pew polls for the other nations were conducted this spring.  

To underscore the U.S. political divide over the pandemic, the survey found just 7 percent of liberals thinking there should have been fewer restrictions on public activity during the pandemic, compared with 52 percent of conservatives who said that.  Overall, 56 percent of all Americans surveyed said there should have been more restrictions on public activity during the pandemic over the course of the pandemic.   

Braun: Moment of 'Euphoria,' but long way to go on bipartisan infrastructure deal

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., celebrated the new, bipartisan infrastructure deal on Thursday's "MTP Daily" even as he warned that lawmakers will still need to do a lot of work to get the bill passed with 60 votes. 

"Clearly, our roads and bridges, and even when you expand infrastructure further to include rural broadband, water, sewer treatment plans, it's a big need for investment," Braun said. 

"What we saw a moment ago was a moment of euphoria before a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I've never seen so many senators laughing in the same spot since I've been here." 

Braun, who was not one of the five Republican and five Democratic senators who decamped to the White House Thursday for negotiations, added that he thinks the deal has a "shot of making it through" if the bill has clear ways to pay for the new spending. But he questioned whether Republicans may balk at the deal because of Democratic promises to seek a second bill, which could be passed only with Democratic support, that includes costly Democratic wish-list issues that were left out of the agreement, like climate change mitigation. 

"It will beg the question: Is this just a way to get our attention by separating the stuff we like out of the bigger reconciliation? Believe me, you'll have many on my side of the aisle that may not be for the hard infrastructure part of it if they think it's just a gimmick to get, in two steps, what we probably would have been against if it had been its entirety," he said. 

"I want to give it the benefit of the doubt. I'm a fiscal hawk. As long as there are hard pay-fors, we need the infrastructure investment. 

Election Day was Tuesday in NYC's mayoral primaries. What happens next?

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams took an early lead by Tuesday night in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary — emphasis on "early."

While the Associated Press projected that Republican Curtis Sliwa will be the Republican nominee (he ran against just one other candidate and is ahead by more than 40 points with votes still trickling in), it's unlikely Democrats will know their nominee for weeks, thanks to the massive field, late-arriving absentee ballots and the implementation of ranked-choice voting.

Adams had won 32 percent of the votes counted by midday Wednesday, with former city lawyer Maya Wiley at 22 percent, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 19.5 percent and former Democrat Andrew Yang (who conceded) at 12 percent. 

According to the city, those votes are all first-choice votes from both early and election-day voting, with absentee and affidavit votes to be counted next week. And since no candidate won a majority of the vote, under the ranked-choice system, votes will be re-allocated from the lowest-finishing candidates according to the preference a voter listed on their ballot. 

The city will ultimately release the first round of ranked-choice results on June 29, the next round on July 6, and again on subsequent Tuesdays until the city certifies the election after counting all the votes.

So while Adams' lead is significant right now, it will take weeks for New Yorkers to know for sure whose likely to be their next mayor (considering how Democratic-leaning the city is). 

GOP outside group spending $1 million in digital ads pressuring Mark Kelly to support keeping filibuster

A GOP outside group announced it is launching a one-million-dollar digital ad campaign pressuring Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., to support keeping the Senate filibuster, using Kelly's Arizona Senate colleague's words to up the heat on the Democrat.

The new digital ad from One Nation, a GOP group aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, uses recent comments by Sen. Krysten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who has repeatedly offered support for maintaining the filibuster, the Senate rule that effectively makes it so 60 senators must vote to debate on a piece of legislation. 

"Radical liberals want to change the rules of the Senate so they can ram through their extreme agenda on partisan lines," the ad's narrator says in the ad.

"Sen. Kyrsten Sinema says no way. But Sen. Mark Kelly won't say where he stands." 

The Hill first reported the details of the ad campaign. 

Arizona's senators are getting pressed from both sides on the issue. One day before the GOP group announced it would go after Kelly on the filibuster from the right, a progressive group announced it would spend $1.2 million on TV and $200,000 on digital ads hitting Sinema from the left on the same issue

Kelly hasn't come down on either side of the debate, recently telling NBC News he is open to "considering and looking at any proposed changes in the rules. 

"I will ultimately make a decision based on: Do I feel — is this in the best interest of the state of Arizona and the country?" he said. "And I'm not looking for something that is in the best interest of just Democrats."

NYC mayoral primary latest experiment in ranked-choice voting

Voters are voting in New York City's mayoral primary, the most prominent election held under ranked-choice voting in modern American history. 

Unlike in other kinds of elections, ranked-choice voting allows voters to fill out a list of preferences (first choice, second choice, etc.) on their ballots. If no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, the votes from lower-finishing candidates are re-allocated by their voters' preferences until one candidate has the majority of re-allocated votes. But that process takes time, which means final results may take days or even weeks. 

Today's vote in New York City is not the first experiment with the unique voting style. Here's a look at some recent examples of ranked-choice elections, as well as where to look out for them next.

Maine 2018 and 2020 elections 

Two of the highest-profile ranked-choice elections in recent memory were in Maine during the last two election cycles. 

The state's 2020 Senate election, in which Republican Sen. Susan Collins ultimately won another term over a challenge by former Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon (as well as two other independent candidates), had been expected to be one of the closest in the nation that year. That had many political analysts opining on how ranked-choice could affect the ultimate result, speculating that Collins might lead in the first round but lose if Gideon consolidates the anti-Collins vote on the subsequent re-alignment. 

But Collins won the majority of the votes on the first ballot, rendering the ranked-choice scenarios moot.

The more prominent example of ranked-choice in action came two years prior in the same state, when then-Rep. Bruce Poliquin ultimately lost to Democrat Jared Golden. Poliquin had the most votes after the first round, but because he didn't have the majority, Golden was able to secure the victory after re-allocating the votes from the bottom two candidates. While Poliquin sued over the result, a federal judge tossed the complaint and Golden was ultimately sworn in. 

Alaska elections for 2022 and beyond

After voters passed a ballot initiative in 2020, the state's future state and federal elections will proceed with a modified version of ranked-choice. Instead of partisan primaries, candidates will compete in one blanket primary with all candidates of any party on one ballot. The top four candidates move onto a general election in the fall, regardless of party, and that election will be conducted under ranked-choice.

This could be an interesting dynamic particularly in the state's Senate race, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is being challenged by a field that includes Kelly Tshibaka, an Alaska Republican backed by former President Donald Trump after Murkowski backed Trump's impeachment earlier this year. 

Markey on infrastructure: "No climate, no deal"

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told "MTP Daily" on Monday that he would not support an infrastructure deal unless it either included robust commitments on addressing the climate, or he received assurances that Democrats would pass a climate-centered bill after a bipartisan compromise was reached. 

As Democrats weigh a two-track path —  bringing a bipartisan compromise across the finish line while also setting up a vehicle to pass a more robust bill with only Democratic support — Markey said that his vote will hinge on whether the Senate guarantees it will tackle climate in an infrastructure bill. 

"I cannot support a deal that does not have a climate added center. No climate, no deal," he said. 

"There has to be an absolute guarantee that climate is dealt with, that the votes are going to be there to deal with the climate issues that are central to our generation's response to this crisis." 

The framework of the bipartisan deal leaves out climate and focuses on things like roads and bridges, unlike broader proposals from Democrats. Markey's stance on climate is just one of a growing number of lines progressives are drawing for opposing the compromise.

On Sunday's "Meet the Press, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said he wouldn't support a proposal that included a gas tax, electric vehicle fees or the privatization of infrastructure. 

Poll finds broad supports for expanded early voting and photo ID requirement

A new survey from Monmouth University shows broad national support for boosting access to early in-person voting and for requiring photo ID to vote — two voting rules that have been vocally embraced by Democrats and Republicans, respectively. 

But the survey also shows that making it easier to vote by mail —a key Democratic proposal — is more controversial and faces a deep partisan divide. 

The survey, which was conducted June 9 to 14, 2021 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points, comes as Democrats brace for their sweeping federal voting rights legislation to be blocked by a Senate filibuster. Republicans have vowed to stop the For the People Act, and a compromise bill put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, still lacks enough votes to overcome a 60-vote threshold. 

Manchin's compromise seeks to marry some policies from both sides of the aisle.  From the left, his outline tells states to offer 15 consecutive early-voting days in federal elections and state departments of motor vehicles to automatically register voters. From the right, it calls for mandatory voter identification at the polls with an expanded list of eligible documentation. 

People fill out ballots at the Brooklyn Museum during early voting for the primary election in New York on June 16, 2021.
People fill out ballots at the Brooklyn Museum during early voting for the primary election in New York on June 16, 2021.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

In some encouraging news for Democrats, Monmouth found that 71 percent of American adults, including 89 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans, back making it easier to vote in person.  

But Republicans will likely point to the poll’s result showing eight-in-10 Americans – including 62 percent of Democrats — also back the requirement that voters showing a photo ID, a top GOP priority. 

And about half of the public — 50 percent — say it should be easier to vote by mail. Eighty-four percent of Democrats but just 26 percent of Republicans want to see increased access to mail balloting, which former president Donald Trump has baselessly derided as fraught with fraud. 

The survey did show an appetite for federal legislation about voting generally, with 69 percent of adults supporting “establishing national guidelines to allow vote by mail and in-person early voting in federal elections in every state.” But it’s worth noting that the proposed Democratic legislation also contains provisions that go much further than that.  

Overall, the public appears more sympathetic to the default Democratic position on voting rights — that disenfranchisement is a more urgent issue than potential fraud. Half of Americans say disenfranchisement is a major problem in the country, while 37 percent say voter fraud is a major problem. Sixty-one percent say voter fraud is either a minor problem or not a problem. 

To that end, just a third of all Americans — but two-thirds of Republicans — believe ongoing audits of the 2020 election results in states like Arizona are legitimate exercises rather than partisan posturing. 

And 32 percent of adults say President Joe Biden’s election was due to fraud, a number that has not changed since November.

— Ben Kamisar contributed

EMILY's List endorses in PA Senate race

EMILY's List is backing a candidate in the crowded Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary —  Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh. 

The Democratic group backs pro-choice women candidates by marshalling direct fundraising and supporting them with independent expenditures. It announced the move Monday morning in a statement. 

“Pennsylvania, like much of the country, is at a critical moment — from the continued health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to national debates on how best to address systemic racism and climate change. If we want to continue making progress, we must expand our Democratic majority in the Senate with strong women leaders like Val, who will fight every day to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians, and EMILY’s List is proud to stand with her," EMILY's List executive director Emily Cain said in a statement, pointing to Arkoosh's work as both a doctor and on the county commission. 

Arkoosh is the only female candidate in the field — Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan both decided not to run, so the field includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with Rep. Conor Lamb eying a potential bid too. 

The winner will face off against an open field of Republicans looking to win the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey, who is retiring at the end of this term. 

GOP Sen. Young predicts bipartisan infrastructure framework will lead to law

Sen. Todd Young, the Indiana Republican who is one of the 11 GOP Senators backing a bipartisan framework for an infrastructure bill, predicted on Thursday's "MTP Daily" that the deal would ultimately lead to legislation that will be passed into law. 

"It's a historic investment under the framework, without raising taxes, in core infrastructure," Young said about the agreement, which is supported by 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate. 

"I think we get the votes to pass it out of the Senate, and I think with presidential leadership it passes out of the house and is signed into law."

While the agreement lacks many specifics that will need to be ironed out to craft actual legislation, it amounts to the most bipartisan support an infrastructure plan has received in the Senate. Even so, some Democrats have said they would vote against the package unless it addresses issues like climate change, which they have argued should be considered addressed by an infrastructure package. 

Young went onto argue that other pieces of the Democrats' infrastructure push, including "human infrastructure" and "the care economy" should be taken up separately. 

Also on "MTP Daily," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said she wanted to "fight for a big and bold package" nonetheless. 

"When you look at the fact that the president and the Democrats in the Senate have been negotiating trying to get a bipartisan package, yes, that’s the ideal, but at this point, I think we have to go big, we have to go bold," she said, noting unified Democratic control of Congress and the White House. 

"We can’t forget we have the care economy that we must focus on, our elder care, child care, we have climate issues, we have health care issues. All of this should be in one package, because all of this speaks to the needs and the aspirations of the American people."

Former GOP congressman launches Arizona gubernatorial bid

Former Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., is running for governor of his home state in an attempt to return to elected office after a decade in Congress and multiple flirtations with higher office. 

Salmon, who announced his retirement from Congress in 2016, jumped in with an announcement video released on YouTube and on social media. Without mentioning former President Donald Trump by name, he called for an "Arizona first agenda," ticking off a laundry list of conservative grievances and criticizing what he called a liberal push to "turn Arizona into California."

"In the coming months, I'll be listening and learning from you, securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws, and stopping the flow of drugs and criminals into our neighborhoods; building on Arizona's strong economic foundation, cutting taxes and attracting new industries and jobs," Salmon says.

"Banning critical race theory, expanding school choice and hiring more math and science teachers to prepare our kids for the workforce; protecting the integrity of our elections, strengthening voter ID and banning ballot harvesting." 

Salmon's mention of election integrity comes amid a GOP-led audit of Maricopa County. While many Trump-backers across the country are visiting the audit site to show their support amid Trump's unfounded claims of widespread electoral fraud, the audit has exposed deep divisions within the party and prompted criticism from Democrats and others. 

The national conservative group Club for Growth quickly endorsed Salmon's bid, calling him "a conservative star."

Salmon becomes the first federal officeholder to jump into the GOP primary for the seat — incumbent Gov. Doug Doucey, R, is term-limited. The field of GOP opponents include state treasurer Kimberly Lee. On the Democratic side, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Marco López Jr. are running. 

New poll shows Biden approval rating lower amid inflation concerns

President Joe Biden's approval rating has dipped under 50 percent in a new poll that also shows his policy proposals winning high marks from Americans despite concerns about inflation. 

Forty-eight percent of adults surveyed in the new Monmouth University poll approve of Biden's job performance, down from 54 percent in Monmouth's April poll. While Biden lost some ground with Democrats and independents, he gained approval from Republicans since the April survey. Forty-three percent of Americans say they disapprove of his job. 

Majorities of adults support the Covid-19 stimulus package passed by Congress and championed by Biden (60 percent); Biden's infrastructure plan that includes spending on "clean energy" (68 percent); and plans to expand health care, child care, paid leave and college tuition support (61 percent). 

President Joe Biden speaks before an EU - US summit at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on June 15, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks before an EU - US summit at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on June 15, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

But they're divided on how Congress and Biden should handle passing those plans — 46 percent say Democrats should pass them "as is" regardless of a lack of bipartisan support, while the same percentage believe legislation should be "significantly cut" to win more support from Republicans or shelved entirely.

While Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of passing those plans as is, independents and Republicans are significantly more divided on a path forward.

Forty percent of Republicans want Congress to not pass the new spending plans at all, while 34 percent are looking for significant concessions to win bipartisan support and 18 percent say Congress should pass the plans as is. Thirty-six percent of independents want Congress to pass the plans as is, 27 percent want significant cuts, and 26 percent want Congress to give up on them entirely. 

A clear majority, 71 percent of adults, say that they are at least "somewhat" concerned that Biden's plans could lead to inflation in the future. 

The new poll also shows some regression on the question of whether the country is heading in the right direction, as well as significant concerns about inflation.

Fifty-seven percent say the country is on the wrong track while 37 percent say the country is on the right track. While that's close to the most pessimistic adults have been in Monmouth polls since Biden took office, the public remains more optimistic now than they were at any point of the Trump administration since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Monmouth University polled 810 adults between June 9 and 14th, by landline and cellular telephone. The error margin is +/- 3.5 percent. 

New York City mayoral fundraising reports show last-minute momentum, stalls

It's one week from when New York Democrats will head to the polls for the city's mayoral primary, and the most recent campaign fundraising figures provide another glimpse into who is gaining and losing momentum down the stretch. 

Kathryn Garcia, the former city sanitation commissioner who received recent endorsements from the New York Times and the New York Daily News, raised more this fundraising period (May 18 through June 7) than any other candidate, $700,000. That amounts to her tripling her fundraising clip from the previous fundraising period, which largely took place before those key endorsements. Garcia spent $2.8 million during the recent, three-week period.   

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams raised $620,000 in the most recent period, doubling his previous fundraising rate. That increase comes as Adams has topped a handful of recent polls in the race, including one the WNBC/Marist/Politico/Telemundo 47 poll released Tuesday. Adams spent $5.9 million over that three-week stretch too, more than any other candidate in the race. 

Mayoral candidate Eric Adams arrives for debate at CBS
Mayoral candidate Eric Adams arrives for debate at CBS Broadcast Cente on June 10, 2021.Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty images

Former city lawyer Maya Wiley also saw a significant uptick in her fundraising rate too — she raised amost $290,000 during this period, during the end of which she was endorsed by prominent progressives like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and spent $2.3 million. 

And then there's Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential nominee who had been seen as an early frontrunner. While other candidates increased their fundraising rates, Yang's stayed stable, which still allowed him to raise $440,000 during the most recent fundraising period but meant he didn't see the same fundraising improvements that his opponents did. Yang spent $3.4 million over this period. 

The new campaign finance reports include some other nuggets on lower-polling candidates too. Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has been accused twice of sexual misconduct, has seen his fundraising all but dry up — he raised under $50,000 over the three weeks, but still spent $2.9 million. Ray McGuire, the former Citigroup executive who has been spending big despite finishing with just 3 percent in the recent WNBC poll, raised $210,000 and spent $1 million. And Dianne Morales, whose campaign has been roiled by tumult among her staff, raised just $31,000 but spent $430,000. 

New York City also provides candidates who hit certain fundraising requirements additional matching funds. 

Early voting has already begun ahead of the final debate on Wednesday. And the race will be decided by ranked-choice voting, where the votes cast for low-finishing candidates will be reallocated along the voters' preferences until one candidate reaches a majority. 

Eric Adams has edge in new WNBC poll of New York City Democratic mayoral primary

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leads the Democratic field in the New York City mayoral primary with a little more than a week to go before voters head to the polls to choose their nominee, according to a new WNBC/Telemundo 47/POLITICO/Marist poll

Adams wins 24 percent support in the poll, ahead of former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia's 17 percent, former city attorney Maya Wiley's 15 percent and former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang's 13 percent. 

And Adams holds the edge in the poll's modeling of what will happen on primary day, when the new ranked-choice system means that the bottom candidates' votes will be reallocated to voters' preferences for second, third, fourth and fifth choices, depending on whether those candidates are still viable. 

Click here to read more from WNBC

The poll was conducted between June 3 and June 9 with 876 interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points. 

Hartzler jumps into crowded Missouri Senate race

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., officially jumped into her state's Senate race, making her the first woman to join what's already become a crowded field. 

Speaking in Lee's Summit, outside of Kansas City, Hartzler said that Democrats are "destroying the country you and I love, and they must be stopped," criticized government regulations meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, pointed to her work on the Armed Services Committee as proof she supports the military, and touted her work to help her district respond to natural disasters. 

"Our nation is at crisis. The socialist Democrats are endangering our security, bankrupting our nation, killing our jobs, fueling inflation, harming our children, defunding our police and rewriting our history," she said. 

"We must stand strong for what is right. We must not give up or back down. And we in Missouri must lead the charge, that's why, today, I am announcing I am running for the U.S. Senate to protect our freedoms and preserve out greatness."

Hartzler is the first member of the state's congressional delegation to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. But she may not be the only one. Missouri Republican Reps. Ann Wagner, Billy Long and Jason Smith haven't ruled out bids either. 

But even if no one else decides to run on the GOP side, the field is already large. It includes embattled former Gov. Eric Greitens, controversial attorney Mark McCloskey and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt. 

The Democratic field currently includes former state Sen. Scott Sifton, activist Tim Shepard and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce. 

Virginia nominees for governor go on the offensive with field set

Now that the Virginia governor's election is set, Republican Glenn Youngkin and former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe are trying to define the stakes for their high-profile clash this fall  — with the Democrat seeking to paint Youngkin as a near clone of former President Donald Trump and the Republican dismissing McAuliffe as old news.

The far-and-away favorite for the Democratic nomination, McAuliffee had been focusing most of his campaign on the general election already. But now that he's officially the nominee, he's stepped up the attacks on Youngkin and Trump in a new digital spot, as well as during a Wednesday interview with "MTP Daily."

"Donald Trump is still around. Glenn Youngkin, my opponent, has said he is in the race because of Donald Trump. Trump came out the next day and gave him his 'total endorsement.' I'm not sure if Donald Trump has the courage to come to Virginia," McAuliffe said Wednesday, goading the former president in a state that he lost by 10 percentage points. 

With McAuliffe focused on lumping Youngkin in with Trump, as well as arguing his record as governor means he deserves another term, Youngkin has argued he represents a new direction for the state, criticizing McAuliffe as the past. 

One of the GOP spots uses a McAuliffe primary opponent, former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (who has since endorsed McAuliffe), to make that point. After a super-cut of Carroll Foy criticizing McAuliffe as a politician of "the past," Youngkin appears to briefly call for a "new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia. A second spot shows Youngkin walking against the flow of a group of men in suits as he says he'll be the antidote to politicians "taking us in the wrong direction." 

New Democratic super PAC aims to stop Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Ark. governor’s race

Democrats don't know who they will nominate for governor in Arkansas next year, but they're certain who they want to keep out of the office: Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

A new super PAC called Liberty and Justice for Arkansas is announcing its formation Wednesday with a new digital ad imploring state voters to "stop Sarah Sanders," the onetime communications director in former President Donald Trump's White House and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, NBC has exclusively learned.

The ad, produced by former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aide Martha McKenna, begins with images of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and members of Trump's family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who have been reported to have interest in possible future bids for office.