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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

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

280d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

Pro-Biden group launches ads to amplify president's economic message

Building Back Together, a group that was formed by allies of President Biden to promote his agenda, is kicking off a $1 million ad campaign to amplify the economic message he’s expected to lay out in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The ads are slated to appear on TV radio and digital platforms in eight battleground states, as well as Washington, D.C. They are aimed at burnishing Biden’s credentials as a president who is fighting for the middle class, while trying to strike the balance between giving the president credit for what his allies see as his achievements and acknowledging the continued economic struggles of many across the country.

The ads feature Americans praising Biden for steps he’s already taken to help their businesses and making the case that they believe he’s still trying to do more.

In one of the ads, entitled “Truck,” a woman named Gail who has diabetes says Biden is fighting to lower prescription drug prices, including for insulin. “We just want to be able to afford a middle class life,” she says, noting that she’s been driving the same car for nearly 20 years. 

In another ad, a restaurant owner named Ernisha credits Biden for her business being able to grow despite some setbacks during Covid. “He was able to come in and turn our economy around,” she says. “He gave businesses the support they needed when they needed it.”  

She concludes the ad by saying, “we have a president that’s on our side.”

The ads coincide with White House efforts to reshape Biden’s economic message ahead of the midterms, to one that balances seeking credit for his policies and expressing empathy for the economic struggles of Americans. 

One person involved with the ad campaign said the tone of the ads is aimed at “meeting the American people where they are,” with some feeling better about the economy since Biden took office but others not. The goal, this person said, is to convey that Americans trust Biden to continue working on these issues because they believe he’s on their side.

Building Back Together will direct the ads at “key constituencies” in battleground states, according to a press release. Digital ads will appear on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Florida and New Hampshire, the release says. There also will be digital ads aimed at Black communities in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and ones in English and Spanish targeting Latino communities in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Ads in Spanish will run on radio in Miami and Milwaukee. TV ads will appear in Phoenix, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

280d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

Top Democratic governors say party needs less 'process' and more empathy ahead of 2022

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Top Democratic governors leading the party's efforts to win gubernatorial races want the party to shed the process debates that have bogged Democrats down in the first year of President Joe Biden's administration and instead focus on a more empathetic message that explains how they believe the party can be responsive on kitchen-table issues. 

During a wide-ranging conversation on the sidelines of the Democratic Governors Association's meeting last weekend, both Govs. Roy Cooper N.C., and Phil Murphy, N.J. (the group's chair and vice chair), admitted that the national political environment isn't where Democrats would want it to be ahead of the midterm elections, and one of them said the party was “late on inflation.”

But they both argued that the national dynamics are shifting, thanks in no small part to a receding wave of Covid, in a way they hope will give Democrats more freedom to go on offense ahead of the fall. 

"Whether it's American Rescue Plan money that's not yet spent, or the bipartisan infrastructure law monies, folks will see visible evidence of shovels in the ground, things getting done," Murphy said. 

"I think we're in a meaningfully better place six, eight months from now than we are today," Murphy said. "In fact, you're already starting to see it, you can just feel it. We're going from pandemic to endemic. You just have that —  you feel like we're getting the kick in our step back, and I think that's going to be hugely beneficial to Democratic incumbents and Democratic candidates."

Biden has seen his approval marks slip during his first year in office — 43 percent of Americans approved of his job performance in the January NBC News poll, with 54 percent disapproving. Majorities also disapproved of his handling of Covid and the economy specifically. Republicans have pointed to numbers like those, and results like last year's Republican victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race, to argue that the GOP will clean up in this fall's elections. 

“Washington has lost its way under the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress. Republican governors have proven there’s a better way to govern, one that gives families more freedom, more safety, and a better economic future,” Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Rickets, who co-chairs the Republican Gubernatorial Association, said in a statement this week

Both of the Democratic governors agreed that the months-long debate in Congress over the Democrats' Build Back Better agenda, which has failed to make it to Biden's desk, served as a major distraction to what Murphy called "historic investment in our country" that's been "undersold."

"You're seeing governors who are using American Rescue Plan funds to put checks in pockets of everyday families," Cooper said. "So the feds are arguing with each other and pounding on the table and posturing. Governors are getting things done on the ground."

When pressed about the party's handling of the economy, Murphy admitted that Democrats were "late on inflation," spending too long arguing "it's transitory and it's going to go away."

One possible solution? A greater emphasis on empathy — something they believe has helped Democrats win tough races in the past, and something they believe Biden can help lead on. 

"We have a different kind of office, and it's why governors have been able to win in states that Donald Trump won," Cooper said. "Can we can distinguish ourselves from a lot of the general frustration and say, 'Hey, we understand your frustration. We're doing something about it?' I think that that that will shine through." 

As Republicans battle in a number of fiery primaries where echoing former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election remains a top issue, the governors said that GOP division and focus on the issue will help Democrats. 

"We have people who have demonstrated that they would prefer an autocracy as long as their guy’s in charge. That ought to be deeply concerning to every American," Cooper said. "That’s going to be an important product of Democratic governors winning’ but we have to talk about other things.

280d ago / 10:03 AM UTC

Internal poll suggests ad blitz could be paying off for Wis. Senate candidate Alex Lasry

Spending on TV and digital messaging may be starting to pay off for Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Alex Lasry, according to new internal polling.

A campaign memo, first shared with NBC News, suggests the Milwaukee Bucks executive has narrowed the gap to just 8 percentage points behind Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who was the clear front-runner in polls last year. The new numbers from polling firm Normington Petts found a 31-point swing — plus 23 for Lasry, minus 8 for Barnes — since an August poll.

The internal figures were released just a day before a Marquette Law School poll, the first public survey of the Wisconsin candidates this year.

But Lasry’s numbers are nonetheless intriguing. There are a dearth of polls on the Wisconsin Senate primary and a notable disparity in ad spending among the candidates.

Pollster Jill Normington said one clear takeaway from the survey was that 75 percent of Democratic primary voters cared more about who could beat GOP Sen. Ron Johnson than about who held the most progressive views.

Of those polled, 36 percent said Lasry was best suited to beat Johnson, while 28 percent chose Barnes.

The Barnes campaign had no comment on the Lasry memo.

The electability argument is reminiscent of President Joe Biden’s primary campaign in 2020, when he warned of competitors’ moving too far left and instead leaned into his appeal to older white voters.In Wisconsin, the Democratic primary electorate is 80 to 88 percent white and majority white non-college, Normington said.

“I think a lot of people think that every Democratic primary electorate in America looks like the one in New York City,” Normington said in an interview. “That’s not what a Wisconsin primary looks like.”

Barnes has come under criticism over past statements he's made perceived to be in support of defunding the police. The Barnes campaign sent a response clarifying those past statements, which it says were not in support of doing away with police. “The Lieutenant Governor does not support defunding the police,” Barnes spokesperson Maddy McDaniel, said in a statement. “What he does support is investing just as heavily in preventing crime from occurring in the first place, in addition to ensuring law enforcement agencies have the resources they need.”

Irene Lin, a spokesperson for Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who is also running, said that “electability is the issue that Dem voters care about most … not who has the most to spend on TV ads,” and pointed to Nelson’s ability to win six times in a Trump county.

Still, Normington said the Lasry campaign isn’t pushing an electability argument but rather talking about issues like economic growth and voting rights.

“We went from a 39-point deficit six months ago to an 8-point deficit today,” Normington said. Potential voters “are coming to believe that because of the issues that we are talking about, Alex is the better candidate to take on Ron Johnson in November.”

Lasry has vastly outspent his Democratic primary opponents on TV and digital messaging, pouring more than $3 million into ads since last year, according to an analysis by NBC News. That’s compared to only nominal spending by other campaigns, with the exception of that of Sarah Godlewski, the state’s treasurer, who has spent just less than $200,000 on ads.

The Marquette poll will soon reveal another measure of just how effective Lasry has been at winning over voters. But the two surveys won't provide an apples-to-apples comparison. The Marquette poll’s sampling is about 800 voters, with about 350 likely primary voters in each party, and some of those queried were not primary voters, according to the chief pollster, Charles Franklin. The Normington Petts sampling was 600 — all likely Democratic primary voters. It was conducted Feb. 22-27 and reported a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report

281d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

Republicans hold large lead in early Texas primary vote

More than 1 million Texans have voted early in the Republican primary, surpassing the 626,000 early votes cast in the Democratic primary ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

The percentage of ballots cast early is still low, with 6 percent of registered voters casting ballots in the GOP primary and nearly 4 percent voting in the Democratic primary as of Friday, the last day of early voting, according to data from the Texas Secretary of State’s office. 

The higher number of GOP votes is likely due to contested Republican primaries for governor and attorney general that have drawn millions in ad spending. 

Gov. Greg Abbott, who has a sizable financial advantage in his primary, faces two challengers on his right: former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West and former state Sen. Don Huffines. Attorney General Ken Paxton faces land commissioner George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert. 

“I'm not surprised Republican turnout is ahead of Democratic turnout,” said Matt Mackowiak, a GOP consultant and Travis County GOP Chairman. “It would honestly be a pretty big warning sign if it wasn't.”

Mackowiak said the factors driving turnout include the better funded and more competitive statewide primaries; more competitive primaries at the state legislative level; and high Republican enthusiasm. He noted the GOP has also made inroads in South Texas, where voters who may have voted in Democratic primaries in the past are opting to vote in Republican contests. Texans do not register to vote by party, and can vote in either party’s open primary. 

Democrats do have a handful of contested House primaries, most notably the race between Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and attorney Jessica Cisneros in the 28th District. In the governor’s race, the top Democrat competing to take on Abbott in November is former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2020 and made a failed run for Senate in 2018.

Although more votes had been cast in the GOP primary overall, Democrats have seen more ballots cast by mail. Roughly 70,000 votes have been cast by mail in the Democratic primary, compared to 49,000 in the GOP primary. 

New voting identification requirements have led to thousands of rejected absentee ballots, according to an analysis from The New York Times. The Times found roughly 30 percent of absentee ballots in 10 of the state’s most populous counties had been rejected as of Wednesday.

283d ago / 10:41 PM UTC

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green defends speech to far-right gathering

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ORLANDO, Fla. — One day after attending a conference of far-right activists in Florida, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., referred to the attendees of the rally-like event as “patriots” even as she refused to answer questions about its white nationalist themes. 

“I went to his event last night to address his very large following because it’s a very large following and a generation that I’m concerned about,” Greene said in remarks to reporters on Saturday.

The crowd at the conference, sponsored by the far-right America First Political Action Conference, roared in praise at the mention of Russia, chanted Vladimir Putin’s name and hollered in approval when the conference’s leader asserted on stage that “our secret sauce here is our young white men” just seven minutes before he invited Greene on stage, shook her hand and waved to the gathering.

Greene also spoke on Saturday, just down the road, at CPAC, the major annual conservative conference, where President Trump and other top Republicans were taking the stage over the weekend.

Nick Fuentes, the far-right AFPAC activist, was one of several speakers who delivered racist, homophobic and pro-male messaging.

The group’s heralding of Putin comes as the Russian autocrat leads his country’s military in a sustained invasion of Ukraine. 

“Can we give a round of applause for Russia?” Fuentes urged the crowd, which responded loudly with praise. He followed: “The United States government has become the great evil empire of the world. ... We’ve got the Christian white men who built this country the first time, and we’ll do it again.”

The Georgia congresswoman refused to answer questions about her attendance or the views extolled by the event’s speakers. 

“I’m only responsible for what I say,” Greene tweeted on Saturday.

In remarks to reporters, she said she opposed Russia’s military aggression.

“Vladimir Putin is a murderer, and he should have never invaded Ukraine,” Greene said. She also, generally, suggested that she “is not aligned with anything that may be controversial.” She also asserted that she “does not endorse” white nationalism views.

284d ago / 8:33 PM UTC

Pompeo declines to say whether he regrets past Putin praise

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Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to say Friday that he regretted praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine. 

Last week Pompeo said in a recent interview with The National Interest that he had “enormous respect” for Putin. He described the Russian president as “very savvy, very shrewd” and “an elegantly sophisticated counterpart and one who is not reckless but has always done the math.” Parts of Pompeo’s comments have reportedly appeared on Russian state television this week. 

Pompeo, who served in former President Donald Trump’s administration, did not directly answer when asked Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida if he regretted those comments. 

“I’ve been fighting communism since I was a teenager,” Pompeo told NBC News. “I’m going to keep fighting communism.”

Asked again if he regretted his comments Pompeo said, “I’ve worked my entire life to make sure the United States was free of communist dictatorships. I understand my enemy. I always call my enemy for what he is. We need to make sure that we continue to crush the Russians. They have now destroyed peoples’ lives in Kyiv.”

284d ago / 6:10 PM UTC

Texas primary candidates make their closing arguments on the airwaves

The Texas primary election is just a few days away and candidates for congressional seats and statewide office are making last-ditch appeals to voters in television ads this weekend.

Don Huffines, a Republican primary challenger to incumbent governor Greg Abbott, started running a TV ad just featuring text on Wednesday filled with GOP buzzwords and slogans.

The ad starts with slogans like, “Close the border. Stop giving illegals our money. Deport the invaders,” and continued on with others like, “No forced vaccines. No mask mandates. No critical race theory.” At the end the ad’s text read, “Nothing changes unless you do something about it. #FireAbbott #HireHuffines.”

In Texas’ 35th district, Democrat Greg Casar went up on the air with his first TV ad. Casar is running for an open seat vacated by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who is running in another district due to redistricting. 

Image: Gregorio Casar
Gregorio Casar at a protest outside the Texas governor's mansion in Austin on May 8, 2017.Ricardo B. Brazziell / Austin American-Statesman via AP file

Casar, a former Austin City councilmember, opens his ad with a personal narrative. 

“My first job was helping construction workers win the right to a water break. I learned that progressive change is possible if we fight for it,” he tells viewers. Then, he makes a progressive appeal to primary voters, “​​In Congress, I'll fight for a bold agenda for working families, expanding Medicare to every Texan, fixing our power grid and tackling the climate crisis,” Casar says.

A bit further South, in Texas’ 15th district, businesswoman Monica de la Cruz started running a new ad on Wednesday focused on the southern border and touting her recent endorsement from former President Donald Trump. 

De la Cruz, a Republican, tells voters in the ad, “Socialists are ruining our border security and our economy. In Congress, I'll end the catch and release and always support our Border Patrol and law enforcement.” Then a narrator says, “That's why Monica is endorsed by President Trump.”

Just yesterday, in Texas’ 28th district, Justice Democrats, a progressive group, started running a Spanish-language version of an ad they released earlier, trying to appeal to Spanish-speaking Democrats ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The race there is a contentious one, where incumbent moderate Democrat Henry Cuellar faces a challenge from progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros.

In Spanish, the ad released yesterday accuses Cuellar of joining the Washington establishment and, “not doing much for.” The narrator then accuses Cuellar of flying in private jets and paying for his luxury car with campaign funds. At the end, the narrator says Cuellar has spent too much time in Washington and it’s time to elect someone, “who works for our interests,” touting Cisneros as a replacement for Cuellar.

Other candidates who’ve placed new ads on the air in recent days include Republican Nathanial Moran in Texas’ 1st District, Democrat Laura Cisneros in Texas’ 34th District, Republican Pete Sessions in Texas’ 17th District and Democrat Raymond Ramirez in Texas 15th District.

284d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe backs top aide to replace him after retirement announcement

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., announced Thursday that he is planning to retire at the end of the year, and he’s already backing a former top aide to replace him in the Senate. 

The five-term senator told The Oklahoman that he is endorsing his former chief of staff, Luke Holland, in the special election to serve out the final four years of Inhofe’s term. Holland did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he left Inhofe's office on Thursday, according to Inhofe's spokesperson Leacy Burke.

Holland may not have the GOP primary to himself. The Oklahoman reported that Reps. Kevin Hern and Markwayne Mullin, as well as former state House speaker T.W. Shannon, are considered potential candidates. 

The eventual GOP nominee would be in a strong position to win the seat, given Oklahoma’s partisan lean. Former President Donald Trump won the state by 33 percentage points in 2020.

Inhofe’s decision means the state will host two Senate elections this year, since GOP Sen. James Lankford is up for re-election. Lankford has already launched TV ads in his race as he faces two primary challengers.

The special election primary is expected to coincide with the previously scheduled statewide primary on June 28, and they could head to August runoffs if no candidate wins a majority of the vote. 

The state GOP attempted to censure Lankford and Inhofe last year after both senators voted to certify the 2020 Electoral College votes, breaking with former President Donald Trump who falsely claimed the election was stolen. The state Republican Party ultimately rejected the resolution, which also called on both senators to resign. Inhofe told The Oklahoman the episode did not affect his decision to retire.

Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will remain in office until the end of the year. 

“I didn’t make a solid decision until two or three weeks ago,” he told The Oklahoman. “There has to be one day where you say, ‘All right, this is going to be it.’”

Inhofe said he decided to step down to spend more time with his wife, Kay. He has often rushed home each week and during congressional recesses to be with his wife, who has been sick. 

Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed to this report.

285d ago / 7:48 PM UTC

Outside groups boost GOP lawmaker who voted to certify the 2020 results

Multiple outside groups are jumping into the GOP primary in Texas’ 3rd District to support GOP Rep. Van Taylor, who faces criticism for voting to certify the results of the 2020 election and supporting a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Three GOP groups have spent thousands to boost Taylor ahead of the March 1 contest. Taylor could be forced into a primary runoff in May if he does not win a majority of the primary vote on Tuesday. 

The latest group spending in the race is the Elect Principled Veterans Fund, which is tied to the With Honor Fund, a group that describes itself as a “cross-partisan movement” to support veteran candidates. Taylor, a Marine veteran, served in Iraq. The Elect Principled Veterans fund has spent nearly $111,000, largely on digital ads, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC aligned with House leadership, has spent $150,000 on television ads and mail pieces to bolster Taylor. And Americans for Prosperity Action has spent $96,000 on canvassing, digital ads and mailers. 

Taylor and his allies have also dominated the airwaves, spending a combined $824,000 on ads so far, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. He is is running for a third term to represent the Dallas area. The district would have backed former President Donald Trump by 14 percentage points had the new congressional boundaries been in place in 2020. 

Taylor broke with Trump, and the majority of the GOP conference, when he opposed objections to two state’s Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. Taylor also supported an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but later voted against founding a House committee to do so.

Those votes have fueled attacks from Taylor’s chief primary opponents, former Collin County Judge Keith Self and businesswoman Suzanne Harp, whose son, per the Texas Tribune, is North Carolina GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn chief of staff. 

Taylor has outraised both candidates and his campaign had more money in its account heading into the final stretch of the race. As of Feb. 9, Taylor’s campaign had $827,000 on hand, while Self’s campaign had $92,000 on hand and Harp’s campaign had $47,000 on hand. 

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report.

286d ago / 6:27 PM UTC

County to County: GOP candidate wins in closely watched Jacksonville city council race

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s the latest sign of the tough political environment for Democrats in competitive areas — the loss of an at-large city council race here in Duval County.  

Jacksonville Republican Nick Howland defeated his Democratic opponent Tracye Polson Tuesday night, flipping the seat after a race that drew unusual focus from both political parties.

“This is the model for how we’re going to win the midterms and how we’re going to win the local elections next spring — we have figured it out,” Howland said at his victory event Tuesday night. Howland had made support for law enforcement and public safety a central focus of his campaign.

Unofficial results posted by the county show Howland earning 51.7 percent of the vote, with Polson receiving 48.3 percent. Voter turnout exceeded the expectations of election and party officials, breaking 20 percent for the special election run-off, in a race for a seat on the Republican-dominated council.

Howland’s win is a blow for county Democrats who have seen success with statewide candidates in recent cycles. Despite being an old Republican stronghold, Andrew Gillum and Joe Biden flipped Duval in 2018 and 2020, boosted by swings in suburban voters and growing minority populations.

But Republicans have been fighting to win it back.

“We’ve put more money, more resources, more energy into this single city council race than any city council race in our history,” Duval county’s Republican chair Dean Black told NBC News on the eve of the election. Gov. Ron DeSantis joined those efforts Monday, recording robocalls reminding Republicans to get out and vote.

Meanwhile, Duval’s Democratic Chair Daniel Henry told NBC News that his party made more than 150,000 phone calls, sent more than 200,000 text messages, and knocked on over 50,000 doors. But he warned even ahead of Tuesday’s election that President Biden’s stalled priorities is making his job harder.

“With Congress's inability to deal with police reform, to deal with Build Back Better, to deal with debt relief, to deal with parental leave — all these core issues that we ran on in 2020 — it makes it that more difficult for us to convince people to come out and vote again,” Henry said before Tuesday’s loss.  

The RNC was quick to celebrate Tuesday night, showing their belief the result is a harbinger of GOP midterm wins.

“Good to see Florida Democrats aren’t waiting until November to start losing,” RNC Spokeswoman Julia Friedland said in a statement to reporters.

287d ago / 5:26 PM UTC

Trump’s endorsed candidates lost in Alabama in 2017. Could it happen again in 2022?

It’s no secret Donald Trump likes to win, especially when it comes to his endorsements in Republican primaries.

But in 2017, the former president struck out in Alabama when he backed two losing candidates in this deep-red state — first Luther Strange, who lost the GOP primary runoff to Roy Moore; and then the scandal-plagued Moore, who lost the general election to Democrat Doug Jones (though the GOP won back the seat in 2020).

Now as Alabama Republicans are competing to fill retiring Sen. Richard Shelby’s, R-Ala., seat, observers say there’s potential for Trump’s endorsed candidate to lose — again — in what has become a competitive GOP primary on May 24.

“Alabama races shift a lot eight weeks out, and they really start to solidify about two weeks out,” said Republican strategist Brent Buchanan. “And that’s usually because we don’t have one dominate candidate especially in open seat races like this.”

Last April, Trump gave his “complete and total endorsement” to Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., to fill the Senate seat Shelby is vacating. (Brooks finished third to Moore and Strange in that 2017 Alabama GOP primary.)

Image: Mo Brooks
Mo Brooks speaks in Washington, at the "Save America" rally in support of President Donald on Jan. 6, 2021.Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

But that hasn't halted the efforts of Brooks’ top main challengers — Katie Britt, Shelby’s former chief of staff, and Mike Durant, an Army veteran whose 1993 capture in Somalia was featured in the film, Black Hawk Down.

Both candidates have raised more than the GOP congressman — with Britt having raised $5 million as of Dec. 31, Durant raising $4.3 million (though mainly with his own money), and Brooks bringing $2.1 million.

And the competitive primary has heightened the traditional split in Alabama between grassroots and business conservatives.

David Hughes, a political science professor at Auburn University (Montgomery), points out that the retiring Shelby has been the “embodiment” of the GOP’s business wing, and he has endorsed Britt, his former top aide who also served as president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. 

Internal polls released by the Britt campaign and the Club for Growth, which is backing Brooks, show all three candidates within striking distance. (If no candidate clears 50 percent plus one in the primary, the Top 2 advance to a June 21 runoff.)

Still, Brooks’ campaign sees the Trump endorsement as its strongest selling point. 

“There is no political endorsement in America that moves the needle more than a Trump endorsement,” said Brooks campaign chairman Stan McDonald in a statement to NBC News. “The support of the Trump family, combined with MAGA patriots all over Alabama, is why the conservative grassroots are with Mo Brooks, and why he's going to win this race.”

Back in July, Trump released his own statement, arguing that Britt is “not in any way qualified and is certainly not what our country needs or not what Alabama wants.”

Britt and her allies have responded by portraying her as “100 percent pro-Trump.” And Politico reports that Britt met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago home on Feb. 15, though the former president didn’t switch his endorsement. Durant, emphasizing his military experience and outsider status, has been attacking Brooks and Britt as “career politicians.”

While the two candidates Trump endorsed lost in Alabama five years ago, Auburn’s Hughes explains the circumstances were far different then. 

 Strange was appointed by the scandal-plagued former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in disgrace just a few months after the appointment. 

And after upsetting Strange in the primary, Moore was accused of sexual misconduct and pursuing relationships with underage women earlier in his career.

“Republicans didn’t want to turn out, because so many people couldn’t vote for Roy Moore and couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Doug Jones either,” said Hughes.

291d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

Cisneros significantly outraises Cuellar ahead of March 1 primary

Texas Democratic challenger Jessica Cisneros massively out-fundraised her primary rival, Rep. Henry Cuellar, in the first five weeks of 2022, as Cisneros tries to topple the incumbent whose re-election has been roiled by an FBI investigation. 

Cisneros raised $707,000 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 9, the latest period covered by campaign finance reports due Thursday. By comparison, Cuellar raised $147,000. 

But Cuellar had a spending edge over Cisneros during that time — he dug deep into his cash reserves, spending $1.2 million and ending Feb. 9 with nearly $1.3 million in cash on hand. Cisneros spent $791,000 and had $410,000 in the bank. Both candidates spent the bulk of their campaign cash on ads. Cuellar’s campaign spent $794,000 on media buys and ads while Cisneros’ campaign spent $583,000 on TV spots.

With the March 1 primary just weeks away, the race between the two candidates has gotten more personal. Cuellar launched a new ad this week attacking Cisneros' immigration record, while Cisneros has been criticizing Cuellar after the FBI raided his home and campaign office as part of an investigation. 

292d ago / 7:45 PM UTC

Former NYT columnist Kristof blocked from ballot as state Supreme Court denies residency claim

Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will not appear on the ballot in Oregon's gubernatorial race after the state Supreme Court denied his residency claim. 

Gubernatorial candidates must be a resident of the state for three years ahead of the election, and last month, the secretary of state’s office ruled that Kristof, who lived and voted in New York as recently as 2020, did not qualify. In pleading his case, Kristof argued that he grew up in Oregon, has owned property there for years, and considers himself a resident. 

But while the Supreme Court didn't directly rule whether Kristof met the residency bar, the justices effectively ruled that it was reasonable for the Secretary of State to decide he did not. 

"The secretary was not compelled to conclude, on the record before her, that [Kristof] satisfied that [residency] requirement," the court wrote

In a statement on Twitter, Kristof called the decision “very disappointing” and acknowledged he will not be on the ballot. 

He had been a prolific fundraiser, so the finality of the decision resets the race to replace Gov. Kate Brown.

292d ago / 5:33 PM UTC

Trump makes endorsement in South Texas congressional primary

Former President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he’s endorsing businesswoman Monica de la Cruz in the Republican primary for Texas’ 15th Congressional District in South Texas— a seat opened because incumbent Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, is running in another district following redistricting.

Trump praised De La Cruz in a statement as "a successful small businesswoman" who will "fight hard to Grow our Economy, Secure our Border, Uphold the Rule of Law, Support our Military and Vets, and Defend the Second Amendment." 

De La Cruz tweeted she is "honored to receive the endorsement" — she's also been sharing an ad touting her support for the border wall, adding she wants to "finish what Trump started." 

De La Cruz is one of the two frontrunners in the GOP contest, along with businessman Mauro Garza. De La Cruz was previously endorsed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. She ran against Gonzalez in 2020, where Gonzalez won with 51 percent of the vote to de la Cruz’s 48 percent. 

With the March 1 primary looming, the Republican contest has already been contentious. De la Cruz grabbed headlines for allegations of “cruel treatment” from her ex-husband and his daughter from another marriage.

Just last week, Garza started running ads attacking de la Cruz. 

“Monica de La Cruz has failed at everything she's done. Delinquent tax payments, unpaid loans, over a million dollars in debt. The last thing we need in Congress is another failure,” a narrator says in Garza’s ad.

The Democratic field is relatively new to the race. Texas didn’t fully approve new district lines until October, so Gonzalez didn’t formally announce his intent to run in another district until November. Meanwhile, some Republicans have been engaged in the race since early 2021, seeing it as a seat they can flip in November's general election.

The Democratic frontrunners are moderates Ruben Ramirez and Eliza Alvarado, as well as progressive Michelle Vallejo. Alvarado previously worked for former Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, who held the seat before Gonzalez. Ramirez is a veteran and trial attorney. Vallejo was recruited to run and endorsed by the progressive group LUPE Votes. 

The district is expected to be one of the Lone Star State's few competitive races in November. Trump would have carried the 15th District by just 3 percentage points had the new lines been in place in 2020.  

293d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

Retiring Ohio GOP Senator Portman backs Timken in crowded primary

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Retiring Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman has endorsed Jane Timken, the state's former Republican Party chair, in the crowded primary race to replace the two-term senator when he leaves office at the end of the year. 

Portman unveiled his pick on Twitter, extolling Timken's record and arguing he's "confident" she can "win both the primary and the general elections, ensuring that this Senate seat remains Republican with a 50-50 Senate, and so much at stake."

Timken responded with a statement of her own, calling Portman "a thoughtful, conservative leader who has served Ohio with distinction." But with a possible eye to the complicated dynamics in the crowded GOP primary, she added that Portman "successfully led the effort to pass President Trump’s tax cuts" and "worked with President Trump to advance three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court."

The nod gives Timken the backing of a major figure in the Ohio Republican old guard. Portman was a former top administration official under Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as well as a longtime congressman before being elected to the Senate in 2010.

Timken campaign manager Rob Secaur told NBC that the endorsement is expected to lead to an influx of donations, at least $850,000, from donors who said they would give to the campaign if Timken won Portman's support. 

Portman backing Timken to succeed him comes as a flurry of recently-surfaced internal polling paints the picture of a crowded primary. Most of those polls have former State Treasurer Josh Mandel toward the top of the pack, but candidates and outside groups have largely focused on attacking other candidates. Businessman Bernie Moreno dropped an ad this week that attacks both Timken and author J.D. Vance, while super PACs have been coming in to aid Timken, Vance and Mandel. 

And the signal from Portman also follows the news that state Sen. Matt Dolan had given his campaign at least $10.5 million, money he's been spending on the airwaves to help boost his candidacy. Dolan has stood out in his attempts to style himself more in the footsteps of a politician like Portman, distancing himself from Trump and being the only candidate to back the bipartisan infrastructure deal Portman championed. 

Dolan addressed the endorsement of Timken in a statement to NBC News. 

“In my conversations with Senator Portman over the past year, including this morning, he made clear that his support for Jane Timken was predicated on personal friendship. I respect Rob’s service, but each day more and more Ohio Republicans recognize the fact I am the only candidate with a record of conservative leadership that gets results for Ohio," he said.

"This seat in the Senate belongs to the people of Ohio, and as their next Senator I will work every day to put their needs and interests first.”

Portman won re-election in 2016 by more than 20 points despite Democrats initially hoping to make his race competitive, with the Republican outperforming Trump by 12 points. One of the key figures in Portman's 2016 victory, campaign manager Corry Bliss, is now advising Timken. 

293d ago / 4:25 PM UTC

GOP senators take sides in Missouri Senate race

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Two GOP senators have picked favorites in the Missouri Senate primary in recent days, further dividing the crowded Republican field. 

On Wednesday Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, backed Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, writing in a tweet that Schmitt “is a fighter who will hold China accountable, defend religious freedom, take on Big Tech, and he will protect American jobs.” 

The Cruz endorsement came after Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., received the backing of home state GOP Sen. Josh Hawley over the weekend. Hartzler’s fellow House member and Senate contender, Rep. Billy Long, sharply criticized Hawley for endorsing the congresswoman, telling Politico that “everything is calculated that Josh does.” 

Hawley deflected Long's comments in remarks to reporters Wednesday, arguing that "people take disappointing news in different ways" and that "this wasn't an endorsement against anybody, it was an endorsement for Vicki." 

He went on praise Hartzler as someone who has "been fighting" on "issues that really matter to Missourians," mentioning the "Covid hysteria that has hurt children" with school mandates and virtual learning, as well as "protecting women's sports" and "election integrity." 

The race for the GOP nomination remains wide open. Schmitt led the field in fundraising in the most recent quarter, which spanned from October through Dec. 31. He raised $652,000, while former Gov. Eric Greitens raised $544,000, Long raised $471,000, Hartzler raised $447,000 and attorney Mark McCloskey, who made headlines in 2020 for waving a gun at Black Lives Matter protesters, raised $267,000. 

Democrat Lucas Kunce, a former Marine, bested all of the Missouri Senate candidates with an $849,000 haul. But Hartzler ended the quarter with the most money in her campaign account, with nearly $1.7 million on hand.  

The race to replace retiring Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt is not expected to be competitive come November. Former President Donald Trump won the Show Me State by 15 points in 2020 and the Cook Political Report rates the race Solid Republican.

But some Republicans, including National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, have expressed concerns that Greitens could win the GOP nomination and endanger the GOP hold on the seat. Greitens left office in 2018 amid multiple scandals involving sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations. 

293d ago / 11:09 AM UTC

Rubio leads Demings in new Florida Senate poll

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is running ahead of his likely Democratic challenger in Florida, according to a new poll that indicates he is being buoyed by independents souring on President Joe Biden.

In a general election matchup, Rubio leads Rep. Val Demings by 49 percent to 42 percent largely because of solid support from independent voters, who favor him by a 10 percentage-point margin, according to a survey of registered voters from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy that was released Wednesday. 

Rubio — a 2016 presidential candidate and national figure in the GOP — also had 95 percent name ID among voters in the survey, suggesting he is far better known statewide than Demings, whom 68 percent of Florida voters recognize.

Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said Demings is probably hurt most by her association with Biden, whose approval among Florida voters stands at 40 percent, according to the poll.

“Demings' biggest problem isn’t that the Democratic votes aren’t there. It’s just that it’s hard to make the case to voters when independents dislike Biden by 2-to-1,” Coker said.

Coker said the Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this year are facing the same headwinds as Demings in the state.

294d ago / 9:59 PM UTC

Club for Growth targets Latino voters on Biden's pledge to nominate a Black woman to Supreme Court

The conservative group Club for Growth is running Spanish-language ads in Nevada and Arizona targeting Latino voters about President Joe Biden's promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. 

The ad — which will also run in English on digital platforms in the Washington, D.C. area — shows the faces and names of Hispanic judges.

An advance copy and details of the ad were shared exclusively with NBC News. 

"These are qualified minority judges who aren't being considered for the Supreme Court because they're not black women," the text on the screen reads while the judges names and photos appear. "Biden chose radical racial politics instead of qualified judges." 

Republicans made inroads with Hispanic voters in the 2020 election and in subsequent state and local races. The erosion of support has caused concern for Democrats. 

"Biden’s brand of racial politics excludes and alienates too many Americans and it’s wrong," Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement. "This ad is the beginning of a long-term effort to bring even more Hispanic Americans to the conservative movement because of the divisive and misguided policies from Biden and the radical left." 

Club for Growth will spend about $65,000 on TV and $10,000 on digital. 

294d ago / 7:20 PM UTC

W.V. GOP congressmen spending heavily to attack each other over the airwaves

While West Virginia’s primary election is still three months away, incumbent Republican Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney aren’t wasting any time in their member-versus-member primary in the state's 2nd Congressional District.

Due to redistricting, West Virginia has downsized from three congressional districts to just two, forcing McKinley and Mooney to compete over the same seat.   

Already, Mooney has spent over $340,000 on advertising in the state while McKinley has spent almost $260,000.

Mooney’s ads so far have attacked McKinley’s voting record, dubbing him a “RINO,” or “Republican in Name Only.” One ad features a narrator saying, “Biden's trillion dollar spending bill was dead until McKinley resurrected it, joining 12 RINO Republicans to spend billions on Nancy Pelosi's socialist agenda, contributing to record inflation.” The ad refers to McKinley’s vote in favor of an infrastructure bill that was critical to President Biden’s political agenda last year.

Mooney also often points out in his ads that he’s been endorsed by Trump and one ad’s narrator tells viewers to, “say yes to a true conservative,” who has been endorsed by Trump.

Another Mooney-funded ad highlights McKinley’s vote in favor of investigating the January 6 insurrection. “He betrayed you. David McKinley joined Nancy Pelosi, voting for the January 6th anti-Trump witch hunt to attack our president and our values,” a narrator tells viewers.

In his ads, McKinley refers to his opponent as “Maryland Mooney,” a reference to Mooney’s previous political career in the Maryland state legislature.

“Maryland Mooney's attacks on David McKinley: lies,” a narrator says in one ad.  Another ad alleges, “Mooney moved to West Virginia from Maryland so he could get elected to Congress.”

McKinley also highlights a House’s Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into Mooney’s improper use of campaign funds. 

“Mooney caught concealing almost $50,000 for personal use. Now under federal investigation. $1,900 at Chick-fil-A, $6,100 on luxury travel to a theme park in California, a violation of federal law,” one McKinley-funded ad alleges.

So far, McKinley has over $7,000 placed on future ad space, while Mooney has over $18,000 in future airwaves reserved.

294d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

Club for Growth hits airwaves in Nevada Senate race

The conservative Club for Growth Action has launched its first major ad spending in the Nevada Senate race, where it’s backing former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt in his bid to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

The group has spent $643,000 on TV and radio ads — starting Tuesday and running through April 11 — according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Despite the relatively early primary spending, the Club signaled that the move is not reflective of concerns about Laxalt's primary challengers, which include  Army veteran Sam Brown, who has posted two subsequent million-dollar fundraising quarters.

“We consider every challenger in our endorsements but we believe Adam Laxalt is a principled conservative who can and will win the primary and general,” Club spokesman Joe Kildea said in a statement to NBC News. 

In the most recent fundraising quarter, which ended Dec. 31, Laxalt raised $1.3 million while Brown pulled in nearly $1.1 million. But Brown has also been spending his campaign funds, ending the quarter with $732,000 in his campaign account to Laxalt’s $1.7 million. Cortez Masto bested both Republicans, raising $3.4 million and ending the quarter with $10.5 million on hand. 

Republicans have touted Laxalt as a top recruit to take on Cortez Masto, who was first elected in 2016 after also serving as the state’s attorney general. Laxalt recently lost a statewide bid for governor by 4 percentage points in 2018. Laxalt, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the race, led the Trump campaign’s effort to challenge the 2020 election results in Nevada.

The Nevada Senate race is expected to be one of the most competitive races in the country as Democrats try to hold onto their razor-thin majority. President Joe Biden won the state by just 2 points in 2020. 

294d ago / 4:13 PM UTC

The Texas primary races to watch

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The first primaries of the 2022 midterm cycle kick off on March 1, when Texas holds its intraparty contests, and early voting began on Monday. 

While Texas doesn’t feature any of the top blockbuster primaries this year — those start in May — there are some key statewide and congressional primaries. And if no candidate hits a majority in the primary, the top two candidates move to a runoff. 

First Read already took a look at the top three races to watch — the gubernatorial primary, the attorney general primary and the Democratic primary in the 28th District. Take a look at other big races below:

3rd Congressional District

GOP Rep. Van Taylor is running for re-election in a Dallas-area district that Trump would have won, 56 percent to 42 percent. 

Taylor is the favorite for his re-election — he raised more than 10 times his nearest challenger in 2021, and touts the endorsement of the NRA, Texas GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson and Ted Cruz’s father, Rev. Raphael Cruz. 

But he’s being challenged from the right, with his opponents hitting him for backing the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission. Taylor also voted to certify the 2020 election. 

His top challengers are former Collin County Judge Keith Self and businesswoman Suzanne Harp, whose son, per the Texas Tribune, is Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s, R-N.C. chief of staff.

8th Congressional District

This seat just north of Houston is open, with GOP Rep. Kevin Brady retiring, and likely to stay Republican.  Trump would have won the district over Biden in 2020, 63 percent to 36 percent.

There are 11 GOP candidates in the primary field, but the leaders are veteran Morgan Luttrell (twin of the Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell) and conservative activist Christian Collins. Luttrell is endorsed by multiple law enforcement leaders and Republicans such as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Collins has secured the endorsement of Ted Cruz, for whom he used to work, and the House Freedom Caucus. He is hosting an event with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and other right-wing leaders in Woodlands, Texas, later this month.

15th Congressional District

This is an open seat because current Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is running in TX-34 due to redistricting. Trump would have won the district in 2020 with 51 percent of the vote, while Biden took 48 percent of the vote. The South Texas district starts just below Austin and runs all the way to the border.

The frontrunners on the Republican side are Monica de la Cruz and Mauro Garza. De la Cruz ran against Gonzalez in 2020, where Gonzalez won with 51 percent of the vote to de la Cruz’s 48 percent. De la Cruz has been in the news recently due to her divorce proceedings, where her ex-husband alleges “cruel” treatment of him and his daughter from another marriage.

The Democratic frontrunners are Ruben Ramirez, Eliza Alvarado and Michelle Vallejo. Alvarado previously worked for former Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, who held the district before Gonzalez. Ramirez is a veteran and trial attorney. The progressive group LUPE Votes recruited Vallejo to run and endorsed her.

35th Congressional District

The majority-Hispanic 35th District includes San Antonio and stretches into Austin. Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett is vacating the seat to run in the neighboring 37th District, leaving the open primary to become a contest between staunch and pragmatic progressives in a district Biden won by 45 points. With a crowded field of candidates, the Democratic primary could head into a runoff. Former Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio City Councilmember Rebecca Viagran have led the Democratic field and fundraising. 

National and Texas Democrats are divided in the primary. Casar has endorsements from high-profile progressives like Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats. Rodriguez, who was one of the lawmakers who fled to D.C. to stall GOP voting bills, has endorsements from Texas Reps. Al Green and Marc Veasey, as well as support from the political arm of the moderate NewDem Coalition. 

294d ago / 11:02 AM UTC

DeSantis leads potential challengers in Florida as Dem field takes shape, new poll suggests

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is well ahead of his possible Democratic challengers as he faces re-election in November, a new poll suggests.

In a head-to-head matchup, DeSantis leads former Gov. Charlie Crist 51 percent to 43 percent, according to a general election survey of registered voters from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy that was released Tuesday. DeSantis enjoys an 11-point advantage over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and a 16-point advantage over state Sen. Annette Taddeo, the survey suggests.

The poll’s error margin is +/- 4 points.

The poll also found that 53 percent of voters approve of DeSantis' job performance and that 43 percent disapprove — a sign that the scrutiny and criticism DeSantis has received for his management of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t hurting him with the electorate.

“The Republicans like it, the Democrats hate it, and the independents like it more than hate it,” Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said.

Coker said Florida Democrats are being hurt by President Joe Biden’s plummeting approval ratings as independents across the state and the country are leaning more toward the GOP.

"Biden is a drag, and the national Democratic Party brand is a drag,” Coker added. 

DeSantis also has a massive cash advantage over his rivals. According to the most recent campaign finance filings with the state, DeSantis has more than $81.5 million in the bank between his political committee and his re-election campaign account. Crist has just $4.3 million, Fried $3.6 million and Taddeo less than $760,000.

The Mason-Dixon poll suggests that Crist is favored at the moment to win the Democratic primary against Fried and Taddeo, buoyed by relatively strong support from Black voters. But Coker said Fried, who had far better name recognition among voters who were surveyed than Taddeo, could give Crist a spirited challenge if Black voters desert him.

Crist left the GOP to become an independent when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and then became a Democrat ahead of a 2014 effort to unseat then-Gov. Rick Scott, who won by about a point.

298d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

DeSantis expands massive fundraising advantage over Democratic challengers

Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., continues to expand his huge money lead over the Democrats trying to dethrone him in the fall, new reports filed Thursday show. 

The Republican, who is not facing a competitive primary challenger, raised $10 million through his campaign and affiliated political committee in January, spending about $900,000. 

Those numbers are on a different level than what the Democrats competing for the right to run against him are raising — the three top Democratic candidates combined to raise a little over $1.2 million, a fraction of the size of DeSantis' January haul. 

Former Governor and current Rep. Charlie Crist raised about $713,000 between his campaign and affiliated committee last month, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried raised $313,000 and state Rep. Annette Taddeo raised $195,000.  

298d ago / 3:24 PM UTC

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ramps up ad spending ahead of primary

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Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is making use of his massive war chest ahead of the March 1 primary, dropping an additional $2 million on TV and radio ads Thursday.

That brought Abbot’s total ad spending for the race so far to $9 million, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Abbott’s two primary opponents, former state Sen. Don Huffines and former Texas GOP chairman and congressman Allen West booked another $130,000 and $45,000 respectively on Thursday. 

If no candidate wins a majority of the primary vote, the top two vote-getters advance to a May runoff. Early voting in the Texas primary begins Monday. 

Abbott, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the race, has a sizable financial advantage. As of Jan. 20, Abbott’s campaign had ​​$62.6 million on hand, while Huffines had $2.3 million and West had $83,000. 

In his latest TV ad, Abbott focused on the economic improvements during his tenure. But he also signaled that he’s focused on the general election, tying President Joe Biden to former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a top contender for the Democratic nomination. A narrator in the ad says “Biden and Beto” want “open borders, crushing taxes and the Green New Deal.” 

Abbott was first elected governor of Texas in 2014 after serving as the state’s attorney general, easily winning the gubernatorial primary that year and again in 2018. Abbott won a second term in 2018 by 13 percentage points.

300d ago / 6:32 PM UTC

Back-and-forth over China dominates Pennsylvania’s airwaves

After weeks of accusations from campaign opponents that he’s too friendly with China, Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate David McCormick is taking to the airwaves to fight back, launching a new ad highlighting his military service and tough-on-China stances.

“When Mehmet Oz questions my patriotism, he’s crossed the line," McCormick says in a response to his primary opponent's attacks. "We all know China created Covid, now let’s make them pay for it.”

The move comes after weeks of ads from Oz (a physician best known for the syndicated television show he hosted) that have alleged McCormick gave money to Chinese companies and sent jobs from the U.S. overseas when he was CEO of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.

In one Oz campaign ad that started airing on January 29, the narrator says, “First, China sent us Covid, then David McCormick’s hedge fund gave Chinese companies billions. … McCormick: China’s friend, not ours.”

An outside group supporting Oz, American Leadership Action, also ran two separate ads in January with the tagline, “David McCormick: Wall Street and China win, Pennsylvania loses.”

The group has spent over $1 million to date running ads in the Pennsylvania Senate primary contest and Oz’s campaign has spent over $5.5 million running ads boosting himself and attacking McCormick.

In today’s ad, a narrator ends with the tagline, “Fight China, save America. Dave McCormick for Pennsylvania.”

McCormick has spent $4.6 million to date on ads in the race, though today’s new ad is the first to directly address attacks on his ties with China.

McCormick has had allies come forward to defend him as well. 

Pennsylvania Patriots Fund aired a commercial with a narrator who said, “Pro-China, Pro-lockdown, bad advice. That’s the real Mehmet Oz,” for a week in January. The group has so far spent $165,000 on ads in the state.

Both candidates do have a history of praising China or building ties with the country.

In 2021, McCormick’s former hedge fund raised over a billion dollars for an investment fund in the country. And when he was Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs under former President George W. Bush, McCormick often praised China, with quotes like, “when China succeeds, the United States succeeds.”

Oz, meanwhile, had a longtime lucrative sponsorship deal to promote a product whose largest market is in China, Politico reports. And in 2010, he launched a version of ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ in China, opening the franchise up to Chinese audiences.

While Oz and McCormick attack each other over who’s more sympathetic to China, an opening has emerged for other candidates to strike them both. A group supporting a third candidate, developer Jeff Bartos, has attacked both of them as outsiders to the state.

“Politicians are coming into Pennsylvania to buy a U.S. Senate seat,” the ad’s narrator says, as images of McCormick and Oz dominate the screen.

The narrator continues, “But conservative businessman Jeff Bartos knows Pennsylvania has never been for sale.”

301d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

Ruling suspends Georgia governor’s leadership committee from spending on re-election

A federal judge in Georgia’s Northern District is prohibiting a leadership committee chaired by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp from continuing to spend money to support his re-election campaign.

Judge Mark Cohen, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2013, partially granted a request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by Kemp primary challenger, former Senator David Perdue.

The temporary prohibition will be in place as the suit moves forward, until the judge issues a formal ruling following a trial. 

The lawsuit is challenging a law that effectively allows Kemp to raise unlimited campaign contributions, including during the state’s legislative session. It allows the current governor and certain other legislative leaders to form “leadership committees” that can bypass traditional campaign committee limits on fundraising.

 

Under the statute, Perdue, a Republican challenging Kemp, and other candidates for governor like Democratic frontrunner Stacey Abrams, are not allowed to form these leadership committees and are not allowed to receive contributions over $7,600 to their campaigns until they have successfully been nominated to represent their party in a general election.

Perdue’s campaign and legal team argued that his inability to form a leadership committee created an uneven playing field and gave Kemp an advantage in their primary competition. Kemp’s legal team argued that Perdue would have an advantage in the absence of the law, because, as someone who doesn’t currently hold statewide office, he can raise funds during the legislative session. Kemp, as the incumbent governor is prohibited from raising money during the spring session.

This injunction means that, for now, Kemp’s leadership committee, Georgians First, will not be allowed to expend funds, “for the purpose of advocating for the re-election of Governor Kemp or the defeat of an opponent of Governor Kemp” for the duration of the primary election.

The committee will be allowed to continue raising unlimited funds and can spend them supporting other candidates for office. Additionally, any ads or communications that Georgians First paid for before Tuesday can still be aired or distributed.

Following the judge's decision, Kemp's campaign issued a statement that said, "There’s no crying in politics — except when it’s David Perdue. We look forward to winning the primary in May and keeping Stacey Abrams’ dangerous agenda from taking over our state this November.”

301d ago / 3:16 PM UTC

Abrams, Kemp raising big money for Georgia gubernatorial race

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and his top Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, are stockpiling millions in cash for their races, new campaign finance reports show. 

Kemp, who must overcome a primary challenge by former Republican Sen. David Perdue, raised almost $7.5 million from July of 2021 through January of 2022. He spent $4 million over that time and had $12.7 million banked away. 

Despite announcing her bid in December, Abrams raised about $9.3 million in the first two months of her campaign, spending $2.1 million and ending January with $7.3 million in the bank. 

Perdue, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump, announced his primary challenge a few days after Abrams and raised almost $1.2 million. He spent just $275,000 over that time, closing with $871,000 cash on hand. 

Georgia's gubernatorial race will be one of the closest-watched contests in the nation thanks in part to Trump's involvement in the GOP primary, as well as the well-funded Abrams' bid after a narrow miss in 2018 against Kemp. 

302d ago / 8:26 PM UTC

GOP gubernatorial candidate drops out of primary, endorses Perdue bid against Kemp

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, the Georgia Republican who notably left the Democratic Party in 2020 to endorse then-President Donald Trump, has dropped his primary bid against sitting Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones — the first, high-profile Republican to challenge Kemp in a primary — will instead support the Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in his bid to topple Kemp. Kemp has stoked the ire of Trump and his allies after the 2020 election, when Kemp bucked Trump's calls to convene a special state legislative session.

Jones added in his statement that he will run for Congress, but didn't specify in what district. 

His decision leaves Perdue as the only high-profile candidate in the primary race against Kemp, Trump's pick to dethrone the sitting governor. The winner of the primary is expected to face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who Kemp defeated in 2018. 

302d ago / 8:15 PM UTC

Cisneros ad spending inches closer to Cuellar’s in Texas primary rematch

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is charging full speed ahead in the ad war with his primary challenger, attorney Jessica Cisneros, in the state's 28th Congressional District.

After a flurry of new ad spending, Cuellar is narrowly outspending his challenger between now and the March 1 primary. 

As of today, Cuellar has more than $350,000 booked for future ad buys, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, while Cisneros has just over $300,000 in ads booked. 

That's a shift in the dynamic from the end of last week, where the two were neck and neck with less than $50,000 in future buys booked each. But in the days since, both candidates have added hundreds of thousands of dollars in ad reservations with the primary drawing closer. 

Overall, Cuellar has significantly outspent Cisneros on ads. Prior to today, Cuellar’s campaign has doled out over $375,000 on ads and Cisneros’ campaign has spent about $214,000.

Both candidates are running English and Spanish-language ads, targeting the growing Latino vote in South Texas. 

But, the two campaigns aren’t the only ones spending heavily on ads in the district.

Since April of last year, more than $2.7 million has been spent on ads in the race by campaigns and outside issue groups, with $1.7 million of it spent by Cuellar or outside groups supporting him.

Outside groups are also pouring money into advertising in the district, but those backing Cuellar have spent significantly less since reports emerged last month of an FBI raid on Cuellar’s house in Laredo.

The top spender in the fight over the airwaves is Better Jobs Together, a group that favors Cuellar. It’s dropped over $1.3 million on the race so far. The group is also supporting other nearby incumbents in Texas, with over $86,000 spent supporting incumbent Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez in the state’s 34th district.

So far, Better Jobs Together hasn’t reserved any future air time, with its spending slowing to a halt after news of the FBI investigation.

Right on the heels of Better Jobs Together and the candidates, though, is the Republican group Building America’s Future, which has spent over $157,000 on ads in the district. As of now, they have no future ad spending in the district booked so far, per AdImpact.

But Republicans could step up their involvement down the stretch, or after the primary, likely looking to either cast Cisneros as too liberal or Cuellar as tainted by the investigation.

305d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

Biden, China, Pelosi emerge as top “boogeymen” in early midterm ads

As midterm attack ads ramp up ahead of the 2022 primary season, candidates aren’t just taking aim at their campaign opponents. 

They’re also using prominent political figures, countries or ideologies as “boogeymen” in their ads — either to establish their credentials with primary voters, or as ways to paint their opponents in a negative light.  

The top boogeyman from the 129 TV advertisements for House, Senate and governor that NBC News analyzed for the entire month of January was President Joe Biden, with all of the anti-Biden ads coming from Republican candidates.

In total, NBC News identified 25 distinct GOP ads from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact in January that name-checked the president in a negative manner.

Democrats have aired far fewer ads than Republicans during the primary season so far, and NBC News’ analysis of the ads in January identified just one Democratic ad that featured a boogeyman. (NBC News will continue to track these trends throughout the midterm elections).

Here are the number of times each of these "boogeymen" were mentioned by name:

  • President Biden — 25
  • China — 6
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi — 6
  • Socialism — 5
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci — 3

Many of these commercials criticize the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, or they make other dubious complaints about the president — that he’s flooding the country with illegal immigrants, or that he paid people to stay at home and not work during the pandemic. And they come at a time when Biden’s approval ratings have fallen into the low 40s.

“Career politicians in Washington astound me with their stupidity. And Biden's vaccine mandate, it takes the cake,” goes an ad from Alabama GOP Senate candidate Mike Durant that ran from December through January. 

“The Biden administration wants to give amnesty and huge taxpayer checks to illegal immigrants. Is it any wonder illegal border crossings are at a 20 year high. I'm Carla Sands. As your next Senator, I will fight back against Biden's open border policies,” said an ad by Republican Senate candidate Carla Sands in Pennsylvania that started running on Jan. 13.

Behind Biden as the top “boogeyman” — at six different ads each in January — are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and China. 

“West Point graduate and combat veteran Wesley Hunt has what it takes to fire Nancy Pelosi and fight Biden's agenda that is destroying America,” goes an ad in favor of Texas Republican congressional candidate Wesley Hunt.

As for China, Mehmet Oz, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, says in one ad, “Washington doesn't care about you. They bow before China.”

In another commercial run by Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Alex Lasry, he claims, “That's how you know, as your senator, I'll get things done. Raise people's wages, make things in America, finally stand up to China.” Lasry’s was the lone Democratic ad found in the analysis to include a "boogeyman" mention.

305d ago / 4:36 PM UTC

Senate primary fields thin as two candidates drop out

Two contested Senate primaries just became a little less crowded, with a pair of candidates deciding to suspend their campaigns.

In Pennsylvania, Val Arkoosh, the only prominent woman in the Democratic Senate primary, ended her campaign for the party’s nomination Friday morning. And businessman Bernie Moreno announced Thursday night that he was dropping out of the Ohio GOP Senate primary.

Their decisions winnow the fields in both states with the primaries are fast approaching. Ohio’s contest is less than three months away on May 3, while Pennsylvania’s primaries are set for May 17.

Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners stressed the importance of electing a Democrat to the Senate in a video posted on Twitter

“It’s become clear to me that the best way I can ensure that happens is to suspend my campaign today,” Arkoosh said. 

Her exit leaves Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta as the main contenders for the Democratic nod. Fetterman and Lamb have led the field in fundraising so far, ending the most recent fundraising quarter on Dec. 31 with $5.3 million and $3 million on hand respectively. Arkoosh had $1.2 million in her campaign account while Kenyatta had just $285,000.

Pennsylvania is a top pickup opportunity for Democrats with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey retiring. President Joe Biden won the state by 1 percentage point in 2020. 

Moreno’s decision to drop out of the Ohio Senate primary came after he had already loaned his campaign nearly $3.8 million. He said in a statement Thursday night that spoke to former President Donald Trump and ended his campaign because a crowded primary  "could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.”

The top contenders in the GOP primary vying to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman include former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, former state party chairwoman Jane Timken, “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance, investment banker Mike Gibbons, and state Sen. Matt Dolan. All but Dolan have been embracing Trump, who won the state by 8 points in 2020.

306d ago / 7:08 PM UTC

House incumbent primaries take shape, fundraising reports show

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The redistricting process in the wake of the 2020 census is forcing sitting incumbents to run against each other in several House districts across the nation, and new fundraising reports show that some are already staking out early financial advantages.

In Illinois, Democratic Rep. Sean Casten significantly outraised his primary opponent, Rep. Marie Newman, finishing with almost three times as much money in the bank. 

Casten raised $700,000 in the fourth quarter, compared to Newman’s $338,000, with Casten ending with $1.6 million in cash on hand to Newman’s $573,000. Newman’s campaign also heard late last month, after the fundraising quarter ended, that the House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that she promised a primary opponent a job in exchange for them not running against her last cycle. Newman denies those allegations. 

Another lawmaker facing an ethics probe, West Virginia’s Alex Mooney, was outraised by fellow GOP Rep. David McKinley in the newly drawn 2nd District. The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Mooney misused campaign funds for personal purposes. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Mooney after McKinley supported the bipartisan infrastructure package, which Trump opposed.

McKinley raked in $1.1 million in the fourth quarter, including a $500,000 loan from McKinley himself, while Mooney raised $200,000. But Mooney still had a cash-on-hand advantage with $2.4 million in the bank to McKinley’s $1.6 million. 

Trump has also backed Illinois GOP Rep. Mary Miller, who faces fellow Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the newly drawn 15th District. 

Davis had the clear financial advantage heading into the election year, ending 2021 with $1.2 million in his campaign account. Miller’s campaign had $415,000 on hand. Davis also outraised Miller in the fourth quarter, pulling in $421,000 to Miller’s $165,000.

In Georgia, Democratic Reps. Carolyn Bordeaux and Lucy McBath are facing off in the 7th District. McBath bested Bordeaux in the fourth quarter, raising $746,000 while Bordeaux raised $432,000. McBath’s campaign also had more money in the bank, with $2.5 million on hand to Bordeaux’s $2 million. 

Michigan Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin are set to clash in the race for the newly drawn 11th District, a reality that’s already prompted some tension between the two Democrats. Haley had the edge both in the fourth quarter — raising $635,000 to Levin’s $365,000 — and in cash on hand, with $2 million to Levin’s $1.1 million.  

306d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Lewandowski urges a GOP primary challenge against N.H. Gov. Sununu

Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager for Donald Trump, took a swing at New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, warning the incumbent that he was in the crosshairs of the former president and urging a challenger to mount a primary against him.

“The president is very unhappy with the chief executive officer of the state of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu,” Lewandowski said Wednesday night on the Howie Carr radio show

“And Sununu, in the president’s estimation, is someone who’s never been loyal to him. And the president said it would be really great if somebody would run against Chris Sununu,” Lewandowski said. He added that Trump had tasked him with “potentially finding someone to run against Chris Sununu, to make sure they understand that the ‘America First’ agenda is more than just a saying.”

Sununu, who last year toyed with running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire before committing to running for re-election as governor, is not currently facing any serious challengers in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Sununu supported Trump’s presidential bids in 2016 and 2020 but has occasionally criticized the former president and has rejected his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Lewandowski, for his part, has signed on as a senior adviser to the gubernatorial campaign of Massachusetts Republican Geoff Diehl.

In September, Lewandowski was fired from his job overseeing the Make America Great Again Action super PAC that supports Trump, after a donor alleged he sexually harassed her at a charity event in Las Vegas. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem also last year severed ties with Lewandowski, who had been serving as her political adviser, in response to the allegations.

307d ago / 3:47 PM UTC

Wealthy candidates flood Senate races with cash

Wealthy Senate candidates are pouring their own money into their campaigns, the latest fundraising reports show. Thirteen hopefuls putting $500,000 or more of their own money into their campaigns in the most recent fundraising quarter, according to an NBC analysis,

Self-funders are particularly dominating contested GOP primaries in open-seat races in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Alabama as they hit the airwaves to set themselves apart from the rest of the fields. 

Ohio GOP state Sen. Matt Dolan put a combined $10.5 million of his own money into his campaign, the most of any Senate candidate. Dolan is taking a different approach than the rest of the GOP candidates in distancing himself from former President Donald Trump. Also in Ohio, investment banker Mike Gibbons loaned his campaign $3.5 million, former state party chairman Jane Timken loaned her campaign $1.5 million and businessman Bernie Moreno loaned his campaign $750,000.

Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary has attracted multiple wealthy candidates. Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz loaned his campaign $5.2 million during the last fundraising quarter of 2021, while Carla Sands, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, loaned her campaign $500,000. Another wealthy candidate, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, did not file a fundraising report because he launched his campaign in mid-January, after the fourth quarter ended on Dec. 31.

Former Army pilot Mike Durant loaned his Senate campaign nearly $4.2 million in the Alabama GOP Senate primary. Durant is also vying for the nomination against GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who has Trump’s endorsement, and Katie Britt, who served as retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby’s chief of staff.

In Arizona, Republican energy executive Jim Lamon continued to pour his own money into his Senate bid, loaning his campaign $3 million. And GOP state Sen. Sen. Dave Schatz loaned his campaign $1 million in his race for the Republican nomination in Missouri. 

A pair of Democrats have also infused their campaigns with their own money as they vie for the party’s nod in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry loaned his campaign $1.6 million while state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski contributed$750,000 to her campaign. 

308d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

Two-time GOP Senate candidate announces run for new Michigan House seat

Two-time Republican Senate candidate John James is throwing his hat into a Michigan race for a third time, declaring his candidacy Monday for the state’s newly drawn 10th Congressional District. And despite his previous defeats to Democrats, experts say the open seat representing the Detroit area is a competitive GOP pick-up opportunity that James could win this fall.  

"He’s a formidable candidate in part because Republicans (and Democrats) view him as a formidable candidate," Sabato's Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik told NBC News. "He is a big enough name that he likely will deter other significant Republicans from running and perhaps dissuade some Democrats from running."

James, a businessman and military veteran, ran unsuccessful Senate campaigns against incumbent Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

He lost to Stabenow by approximately 6 percentage points and to Peters by a much narrower margin — less than 2 percentage points. In both of those races, James lost what is now the new 10th Congressional District that he hopes to win this go-around, which encompasses parts of Macomb and Oakland counties, to his Democratic rivals.

But those past election results shouldn’t count James out this election cycle, analysts say.

“I think 2022 is going to be a better year for Republicans than 2018 or 2020,” said David Wasserman, who monitors House races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “So he is the favorite.”

Both the Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball currently rate the open 10th Congressional District James is seeking as leaning Republican after a redistricting commission in Michigan drew new political maps.

Parts of the new 10th Congressional District are currently represented by Democratic Michigan Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin. Stevens, who serves Michigan's 11th House District, and Levin, from Michigan's 9th House District, are forced to face off in a Democratic primary in the state's 11th Congressional District this election cycle following the redistricting process.

“The redistricting commission wanted to create competitive seats so they carved this to be competitive,” Wasserman said of the new 10th House District.

He also pointed to the unfavorable broader political landscape for Democrats as President Joe Biden’s popularity drops.

“Now if it were a neutral year, I think we’d have this race a ‘Toss Up.’ Because Biden’s approval rating is at 42 percent, we have it in ‘Lean Republican.’”

Wasserman noted, however, that James could face criticism from voters for not living in the new 10th House District, though he is not required to in order to be elected.

“Macomb County has kind of a parochial political attitude. It has its own political identity. And so a candidate who is parachuting into the district because they had two widely-celebrated Senate runs could be vulnerable to attack from a Democrat who has deeper roots in the community.”

James also must face Republican Eric Esshaki, who lost to Democrat Stevens in the 2020 11th Congressional District race, before facing a Democrat in November.

Esshaki’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on James’ candidacy. 

308d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

GOP primaries go negative on the airwaves

Republican candidates are going on the attack ahead of their May primaries, with more negative ads hitting the airwaves this week. 

Georgia Republican David Perdue launched a new TV ad Tuesday in his race against GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, starring former President Donald Trump.  

“Brian Kemp let us down. We can’t let it happen again,” Trump says in the 30-second spot, later adding that Perdue has Trump’s “complete and total endorsement.” Trump endorsed the former senator in December. The Peach state’s primary is set for May 24. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the spot is Perdue’s first TV ad of the primary race. Perdue’s campaign has reserved $150,000 worth of airtime on Fox News, according to AdImpact. 

In Pennsylvania, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz continues to target former hedge fund CEO David McCormick in the state’s open Senate race, which holds its primary on May 17. Oz is up with a new spot, labeling McCormick as “China’s friend, not ours.”

Club for Growth Action, a conservative group, has been active on the airwaves in Alabama’s Senate race, with its latest ad tying Republican Katie Britt to prominent Trump critic, Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney.

The Club has endorsed GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who also has Trump’s backing, in the primary. Brooks’ chief rivals for GOP nomination include Britt, who served as retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby’s chief of staff, and former Army pilot Mike Durant. If no GOP candidate wins a majority of the primary vote on May 24, the top two vote-getters advance to a June 21 runoff. 

308d ago / 2:28 PM UTC

Video removed by YouTube is latest GOP ad to make false claims about 2020 election

Late last week, YouTube removed an advertisement posted by Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., for violating the site’s election integrity policy and promoting debunked claims about the 2020 election.

In the removed video, Long, who is running for Senate in Missouri, made the false claim that “the Democrats” rigged the 2020 election, saying: “I'm running for Senate to stop the insanity, stop the wokeness and stop the Democrats from stealing another election.”

In a written statement responding to his video’s removal, Rep. Long said, “this behavior by YouTube is un-American.”

We apologize, this video has expired.

The video was posted to the congressman’s YouTube channel before it was taken down, but it ran for seven days as an advertisement on two conservative news networks: One America News and Newsmax. 

By NBC News’ count, Long’s spot is at least the fourth Republican ad or campaign video of the 2022 midterm cycle — in either House, Senate or gubernatorial races — to repeat false claims about the 2020 presidential election. 

In Alabama, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lindy Blanchard said, “the election was stolen from Donald Trump and now we're paying the price,” in a commercial that aired over 700 times this month on local stations in the state.

In Ohio, GOP Senate candidate Bernie Moreno aired an ad over 60 times on Newsmax that claimed, “President Trump says the election was stolen and he's right.” 

And in Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, posted a promotional video on YouTube in November peddling false information about the election: “I think Trump won in 2020. Maybe you disagree. But, you gotta admit this election was really messed up … Trump wins big in a fair fight.” 

YouTube, however, hasn’t taken down that video, telling NBC News that it didn’t violate the platform’s guidelines.

While YouTube — a company that requires users to abide by its terms of service — can remove videos and ads that spread disinformation, local TV stations are often more reluctant to do the same. Taking commercials off the air would result in a loss of revenue for stations, which also face some legal barriers to refusing or removing a candidate’s ads. 

309d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

Crowded, combative North Carolina Senate primary awaits Republicans

Former Rep. Mark Walker’s decision to buck party pressure and continue his Senate campaign ensures that the GOP Senate primary in North Carolina will remain crowded and combative.  

With his announcement last week, Walker defied former President Donald Trump, who had offered to endorse Walker if he ran for the House instead of competing against Trump’s preferred Senate candidate, Rep. Ted Budd, for the Republican nomination. Former Gov. Pat McCrory and Army veteran Marjorie Eastman are also running in the GOP primary. 

Walker’s open consideration of a House run prompted the Thursday night event, where he unveiled a bus with his Senate campaign logo. 

“There was a lot of speculation as to where exactly we were going,” said Juan Pleitez, Walker’s political director. “And we just kind of wanted to set the record straight.”  

Budd’s campaign was quick to criticize Walker’s announcement.

”It’s a bad sign when a candidate has to re-announce that he’s still an actual candidate after he’s already spent $2 million and been campaigning for 14 months yet has nothing to show for it,” Budd’s senior advisor Jonathan Felts said in a statement. 

Walker touted broad support in explaining his decision to remain in the race, highlighting endorsements from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and GOP Sen. Tim Scott. 

“Can we win this thing? There’s not a doubt in my mind,” Walker told supporters Thursday night. 

While Walker’s decision to stay in the race bucked Trump, that doesn’t mean Trump’s sway over the party is necessarily diminishing, said GOP strategist Doug Heye, a North Carolina native. 

“He's the endorsement that Republican candidates want, that will be the biggest boost for them,” said Heye. “It's part of why McCrory and Walker were upset when Trump endorsed Budd at [state GOP] convention. But it’s not determinative. We're not in a situation where Trump anoints somebody and that's it, the primary’s over.” 

It’s not immediately clear what impact Walker, who has lagged behind the rest of the field in recent polling and in fundraising, could have on the race.  

Heye suggested Walker’s supporters would be more likely to back McCrory, given the “animosity” between Walker and Budd, which stems from Walker’s clashes with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Walker accused Meadows of orchestrating Trump’s endorsement of Budd as personal payback for Walker endorsing GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn over Meadows’ preferred candidate in a House primary in 2020. 

But Dr. Michael Bitzer, a politics and history professor at Catawba College, said Budd and Walker were competing for the same slice of the GOP base, so Walker could potentially pull votes from Budd. That could give McCrory an opening in the primary.

“The Budd and Walker lane of the Republican Party is very much the battle over the Trump Republican voter,” Bitzer said. 

As of Sept. 30, Walker’s campaign had $613,000 on hand compared to Budd’s $2 million and McCrory’s $1.6 million. Eastman jumped into the race during the most recent fundraising quarter, and is the only candidate to announce her fourth quarter total, raising $423,000. Fourth quarter fundraising reports are due to the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

313d ago / 1:29 PM UTC

ActBlue sets off-year fundraising record ahead of difficult midterm

Nearly $1.3 billion flowed to Democratic campaigns and groups through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2021, a record amount for a non-midterm or non-presidential election year. 

The 4.5 million donors who made contributions through ActBlue last year fueled nearly 18,000 Democratic organizations, according to figures shared first with NBC News. Nearly $353 million was raised through the platform in the last three months of the year alone.

"Donors have built a strong foundation. They are engaged and ready to mobilize for candidates and causes on the ballot this year," ActBlue’s executive director Erin Hill said in a statement. 

Democrats are gearing up for a difficult midterm election cycle, with historic trends and President Joe Biden’s low approval rating pointing to likely losses in the battle for Congress. But ActBlue’s figures could be a sign that small-dollar donors will continue to fuel Democratic campaigns, which have enjoyed financial advantages in the last two election cycles.  

The 2021 figure is more than double the $523 million that flowed through the platform in 2017, as Democratic online fundraising exploded ahead of the 2018 midterms. Grassroots donors channeled their anxiety over former President Donald Trump into contributions to Democratic campaigns that election cycle, resulting in eye-popping hauls for House and Senate candidates. 

But strong fundraising doesn’t always translate into success at the ballot box. Although Biden won the White House in 2020, Democrats lost House seats and several hotly contested Senate races, despite record fundraising. 

Republicans have tried to replicate Democrats’ online fundraising success, launching their own platform known as WinRed in 2019. Donors sent $559 million to GOP campaigns and organizations through WinRed in 2021, including $158 million in the final fundraising quarter of the year.

314d ago / 3:40 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren takes sides in key House primaries

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took sides in three House Democratic primaries Wednesday, including two contests where redistricting has forced sitting House members to run against each other. 

Warren endorsed Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin in their respective primaries on Thursday. McBath is facing fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux in the newly drawn 7th District while Levin is facing Rep. Haley Stevens in the 11th District. 

The progressive senator’s decision to weigh in on these primaries is the latest sign that these contests could become proxy fights for the direction of the Democratic Party. She also endorsed Austin City Council member Greg Cesar in the open seat race for Texas’ 35th District, touting Casar’s support for “Medicare for All.” 

McBath flipped Georgia’s 6th District in 2018, and Bordeaux’s victory in 2020 was one of the few bright spots for House Democrats that year. But the Republican-led Georgia legislature made McBath’s 6th district more conservative, while Bordeaux’s 7th District became more Democratic, prompting McBath to take on the first-term congresswoman. 

Levin and Stevens are competing in the 11th District, which shifted to the left under the new congressional lines Michigan’s independent redistricting commission approved last month. Stevens, who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, is the more moderate lawmaker. Levin, who replaced his father in Congress, is a member of the Progressive Caucus.

314d ago / 2:59 PM UTC

Top Senate GOP outside effort raised $94.4 million in 2021

Senate Republicans’ affiliated campaign apparatus — its top super PAC and its affiliated nonprofit — raised a combined $94.4 million in 2021 as the battle for Senate control takes shape. 

The massive haul, raised by the Senate Leadership Fund and One Nation, is $26 million more than the two groups raised in the last off-year (2019). A spokesman for SLF and One Nation also confirmed that when the totals from its two other allied groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are added into the mix, the Republican apparatus ended 2021 with $87.5 million banked away. (Super PACs and various non-profits are organized differently, with different laws governing how the groups fundraise and when the groups have to disclose it.)

Fox News first reported the fundraising totals. 

SLF, which is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is a major player in Senate races. It spent $266 million on advertising alone during the 2020 cycle (through the Georgia runoffs), where Republicans were defending their Senate majority. And it’s expected to spend hundreds of millions this cycle as Republicans aim to take back the body. 

Spokespeople for the Democrats’ comparable outside group, Senate Majority PAC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. SMP spent $229.9 million last cycle on advertising alone, and is also expected to be a major player in the Senate races again. 

One Nation has already spent $15 million on TV ads this cycle, with SLF adding another $200,000. SMP has spent $2.3 million so far this cycle, with its allied non-profit Majority Forward adding another $5 million, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact.

Bridget Bowman contributed

315d ago / 1:40 AM UTC

Teachers union survey finds support for teaching about racism in middle and high schools

A majority of parents think that middle and high school students should learn about critical race theory and white privilege in school, according to a new poll commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers and released Tuesday. 

The poll, which surveyed 1,308 registered voters who are also parents on behalf of the teachers union, found that 71 percent supported teaching middle and high schoolers about the extent of racism in America today, 61 percent supported teaching critical race theory and 58 percent supported lessons on systemic racism and white privilege. A majority also supported teaching about gender identity, sex education and the “values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The poll found less support for teaching these topics to elementary school students, with just under half of respondents in favor of lessons on critical race theory, systemic racism and white privilege for younger children. 

The poll did not provide respondents with a definition of critical race theory or ask how they defined it. It is an academic concept typically taught in graduate-level college courses that evaluates ways that racism is perpetuated by laws, policies and institutions in American society, but conservatives have appropriated the term to refer to discussions and initiatives around race that they believe are too progressive. 

Previous polling by Fox News, Yahoo! News and universities has found significant portions of the American public do not know what critical race theory is. Rancor over race-related lessons in schools has already become a major issue in state legislatures this year.

Parents also indicated in the AFT poll that they largely felt confident in how public schools have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 22 percent said they believe their child’s school moved too quickly to go back to in-person instruction, and nearly three-quarters favored requiring students and teachers to wear masks in school.

The respondents were evenly split between those who identified as Democrats and Republicans, both at 42 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

316d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

Fight over campaign-finance law adds to contentious GOP primary

In Georgia’s highly competitive GOP gubernatorial primary between incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and challenger David Perdue, one organization has bombarded Perdue with almost $1 million worth of TV ads.

“That’s David Perdue — putting China and himself first, Georgia and Georgia families last,” goes one of the ads.

The group behind the advertisements is Georgians First Leadership Committee. 

It’s able to coordinate with Kemp, raise unlimited funds from donors and solicit contributions during the state’s legislative session.

It has campaign-finance-reform advocates crying foul and Perdue launching a lawsuit in response.

And it was created by a bill Kemp signed into law last May, allowing only incumbents serving in leadership roles — like governor and lieutenant governor — and party nominees to form these types of committees.

That means that since July, Kemp has been able to raise unlimited funds with virtually no restrictions through his leadership committee. Meanwhile, Perdue (who is challenging Kemp) and Stacey Abrams (the frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination) have been locked out of forming these leadership committees, and locked into state campaign contribution limits.

Only after they win their respective primary contests in May will Perdue and Abrams be authorized to form such leadership committees.

“What it means is that those who are in power can raise lots of money,” said Paul Herrnson, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut and an expert on campaign-finance issues.

“And those who are not — can't.”

An uneven playing field?

Since incumbents are the only ones able to form leadership committees before the primary elections under the Georgia law, they can tap unlimited funding sources others don’t have access to until much later in the election cycle, activists and campaign-finance experts argue.

“This is a problem because it puts more money into the hands of incumbents … and those incumbents in Georgia generally are Republicans,” said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia.

Plus, these leadership committees have no contribution limits. By contrast, principal campaign committees in the race for Georgia’s governor have $7,600 contribution limits.

“That is a huge problem for democracy,” Paul S. Ryan, the vice president of policy and litigation for Common Cause, said. 

Another oft-cited ethical concern with this new law is that the leadership committees are allowed to collect money during the legislative session, something that was previously strictly prohibited.

“Up until this point … you couldn’t raise money [during the session],” said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

“The idea was that you wouldn't have a situation where a lobbyist writes you a big check just before a vote on something which is dear to the heart of that lobbyist,” he added.

Kemp’s legal team pushes back against this concern, arguing in recent legal filings that leadership committees accepting contributions during the legislative session actually levels the playing field during the legislative session, so that incumbents can keep up with challengers’ levels of fundraising. 

“Challengers like Perdue may fundraise year-round, while incumbents are prohibited from fundraising for a substantial part of the year— the portion directly leading up to the primary election,” Kemp’s lawyers wrote.

But in a lawsuit challenging the law, Perdue’s campaign contends that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that imposing different campaign limits on two candidates running for the same office is unconstitutional. 

Perdue’s campaign also echoes the argument from campaign-finance-reform advocates: The law disadvantages challengers and allows for the appearance of corruption during the legislative session.

Yet Kemp’s lawyers counter that Perdue’s standing as a former U.S. senator, his personal wealth and his endorsement from former President Donald Trump precludes him from any competitive disadvantage he claims he has against Kemp and the Georgians First Leadership Committee.

Kemp’s office declined to comment to NBC News.

316d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

Voting rights, election integrity rank among top issues in NBC News poll

Voting rights and election issues have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, and they have also been top-of-mind for voters, according to the latest national NBC News poll.

Twenty-five percent of all adults surveyed in the poll listed “voting rights and election integrity” among the issues they consider the most important facing the country. The only issues that ranked higher were jobs and the economy, which was a key issue for a combined 42 percent of respondents, and the coronavirus, which 29 percent chose as a top issue. 

The January survey was the first time pollsters included “voting rights and election integrity” as an option in the range of issues, which also included the cost of living, border security and immigration and climate change.

“It performed higher than I expected,” said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm that conducted the poll along with the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates.

McInturff added that the response “lets you know that it's become a national issue.”  

The poll was conducted from Jan. 14 -18, just as Democrats tried to move forward on sweeping election legislation, which may have contributed to its higher rank among the top issues.  

The survey also revealed a stark partisan divide: Respondents were asked which issue — voting rights or election integrity — was more important. 

Sixty-seven percent of Democrats said voting rights were more important, versus 75 percent of Republicans who said election integrity.

Former President Donald Trump’s repeated lies about the 2020 election have also taken hold with his core supporters. Eighty-three percent of Republicans who said election integrity was more important also considered themselves supporters of Trump more than the Republican Party.

The NBC News poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults, including 650 who could be reached only by cell phone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

316d ago / 4:06 PM UTC

Cuellar launches new ad after FBI raid: "I'll never stop fighting for South Texas"

Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar is out with a new ad just days after the FBI searched his home and campaign office — a spot that makes no reference to the investigation but frames Cuellar as a mainstay in the district who will "never stop fighting for South Texas."

The ad, released both in English and Spanish, features Cuellar talking about how he achieved the "American Dream," working his way through school as the son of migrant workers. 

"I know the American dream can grow here, with good schools, affordable health care and better pay," Cuellar says in the ad

"This land gave my family a chance. That's why I'll never stop fighting for South Texas." 

Cuellar was already facing a tough primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros, the immigration lawyer who narrowly lost to him last cycle. But last week's FBI raid, which reportedly has to do with an investigation into Azerbaijan and U.S. businessmen, has injected uncertainty into the race ahead of the March 1 primary. 

The congressman's office has said that he "will fully cooperate in any investigation" and is committed to ensuring that justice and the law are upheld.”

Cisneros issued a statement last week saying the campaign is "closely watching" the developments but "in the meantime, we are focused on our campaign to deliver change to South Texas families and will not be making any additional comments at this time.” 

319d ago / 5:13 PM UTC

DNC emphasizes organizing, litigation as party regroups on voting rights fight

With a sweeping federal election overhaul stalled in the Senate, the Democratic Party is underscoring voter education and organizing efforts with a promise to "invest more than ever" ahead of critical midterm contests.

The Democratic National Committee, in a memo obtained first by NBC News, detailed past and ongoing voter protection work, litigation, and organizing infrastructure as a model of what they say has been successful in past years as the party regroups for a cycle in which many states have undergone changes to its voting rules since the 2020 presidential election.

Voting rights advocates have long argued that these organizing and state-level voter education and litigation efforts, which are costly, are not enough. Still, without Congress passing federal legislation, Democrats have few other options to counter the dozens of mostly Republican-led restrictive laws. Republicans control the majority of state legislatures and much of the redistricting process that will help decide future state legislature control, too.

“Our goal is simple: to invest more than ever before to help Americans overcome Republican obstacles to voting while we continue to fight back in courts and at the polls,” wrote Reyna Walters-Morgan, the DNC's director of voter protection and civic engagement, in the memo.

The DNC said they’ll build on the “I Will Vote” initiative, a longstanding effort that was expanded into voter education, protection and registration in 2020. Some of the DNC’s initial $20 million midterm investment — which was announced in April 2021 — will be spent on “dozens” of voter protection staff in states including Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, according to the memo.

The DNC also plans to use data tools to monitor everything from voter rolls to issues at the polls, as they work to detect problematic voter roll purges or other problems at polling sites, the memo said, while also boosting state parties.

For example, in Michigan, the national party is helping the state party oppose a legislative maneuver that would use a ballot petition to circumvent the Democratic governor’s veto on voting rights, the memo notes. The national party in particular helped fund legal costs related to the state level certification of the language that could appear on the ballot petition, and said they plan to continue to boost the state party's work.

321d ago / 7:15 PM UTC

Meet the Midterms: New Biden voters in Georgia ‘turned off’ by GOP election fraud claims

Today's MTP Daily aired live from Georgia, a state that is chock full of just about every storyline that will help play a role in shaping the 2022 midterms. 

Watch the video below to hear from a panel of voters — all chose President Joe Biden in 2020 after either voting third-party or for President Donald Trump in 2016 — discuss the impact of Trump's repeated false claims he won the election, as well as how that plays into their perspective moving forward. 

321d ago / 5:37 PM UTC

McBath gets two endorsements in Georgia’s redistricting face-off between Democratic members

Two high-profile Democratic political groups are backing Rep. Lucy McBath in her primary against fellow congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux in Georgia’s member-on-member, post-redistricting matchup.  

The Congressional Black Caucus's political arm, CBCPAC, tweeted its official support for McBath's re-election early Wednesday. And the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund later announced its endorsement of McBath, who has advocated for gun legislation reform since her 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012. 

McBath, who currently represents Georgia's 6th U.S. House District, and Bourdeaux, from the 7th District, are facing off in the state's newly drawn 7th Congressional District ahead of the November general election after maps were re-drawn in Georgia.

Everytown for Gun Safety in its statement backing McBath also announced its support for Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) over fellow Democratic Rep. Sean Casten in Illinois’ newly drawn 6th Congressional District. Like McBath and Bourdeaux, Newman and Casten were forced into competing against each other after new House District maps were crafted in the redistricting process.

“The gun safety movement has grown into a national force because volunteers like Representatives Lucy McBath and Marie Newman are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their communities safe, including leading the fight on Capitol Hill,” Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt said. “Representatives McBath and Newman can count on the support of Everytown, just as we have counted on their unflinching leadership when it comes to advancing life-saving laws.”

 

The organization vowed to provide financial support to both McBath and Newman in their contests along with a "grassroots army of Moms Demand Action volunteers supporting them, knocking on doors, making calls and talking with their friends, families and neighbors." McBath and Newman are former volunteers for Moms Demand Action — a leg of Everytown — the group stated.

 

Everytown previously endorsed both Bourdeaux and Casten in their 2020 elections. Neither of their campaigns immediately responded to a request for comment. 

321d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

Arizona Senator Kelly will back filibuster change for voting bills

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Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., announced Wednesday he will vote to change the Senate’s filibuster rules for voting legislation even as both the rules change and the underlying Democratic push to pass landmark elections bills appear doomed

Kelly, who had long avoided taking a firm position on reforming the filibuster until Democratic leadership decided to take a vote on the issue, announced his decision in a statement where he decried the “dysfunctional” Senate. 

“If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote. Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction,” he said. 

The plan by Senate Democrats is their latest attempt to pass a sweeping voting and elections bill by sidestepping the filibuster, a 60-vote threshold to debate legislation. Most Democrats want to change the rule to allow senators to only block voting bills while they're speaking on the floor. But Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., oppose altering the filibuster, robbing Democrats of the votes needed to actually change the rule. 

Republicans have been trying to play Kelly off of his Democratic colleague, Sinema, on the issue of the filibuster for months, running ads using Sinema to frame Kelly as not independent enough to represent a state President Joe Biden won by just 10,000 votes. But Kelly’s been in a squeeze on the issue, as much of the Democratic base has been adamant that their party do whatever it takes to pass its voting legislation, attacking Sinema for defending the filibuster

Kelly is a top Republican target in 2022 after winning a special election in 2020 to serve out the final two years of the late GOP Sen. John McCain’s term. That year, he defeated former GOP Rep. Martha McSally by 2 percentage points. Kelly is running for a full term this year. 

Multiple Republicans are competing for their party’s nomination, including Attorney General Mark Brnovich, energy executive Jim Lamon, and Blake Masters, who runs billionaire Peter Thiel’s investment firm and foundation. 

—Garrett Haake contributed reporting.

322d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

Two more House Democrats are retiring

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After two more retirements on Tuesday, the number of House Democrats not seeking re-election in 2022 has hit 28 ahead of this year's midterms. 

Eleven-term Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and five-term Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., announced their plans to retire on Tuesday. 

In a video shared on Twitter, Langevin said retiring will "allow me to be closer to home." He said he will "always be most proud" of his vote for the Affordable Care Act. Langevin also published an op-ed in The Providence Journal explaining his decision. 

McNerney said in a statement he "will keep working for the people of my district throughout the remainder of my term and look forward to new opportunities to continue to serve." 

Twenty House Democrats are retiring at the end of the year, while eight are running for a different office. By comparison, six Republicans are retiring and seven are running for a different office.