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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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

160d ago / 10:03 AM UTC

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

Republicans hold large lead in early Texas primary vote

160d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

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.

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

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162d ago / 10:41 PM UTC

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.

Pompeo declines to say whether he regrets past Putin praise

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163d ago / 8:33 PM UTC

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.”

Texas primary candidates make their closing arguments on the airwaves

163d ago / 6:10 PM UTC

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.

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

163d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

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.

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

164d ago / 7:48 PM UTC

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.

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

165d ago / 6:27 PM UTC

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.

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

166d ago / 5:26 PM UTC

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.

Cisneros significantly outraises Cuellar ahead of March 1 primary

170d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

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. 

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

171d ago / 7:45 PM UTC

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.

Trump makes endorsement in South Texas congressional primary

171d ago / 5:33 PM UTC

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.  

Retiring Ohio GOP Senator Portman backs Timken in crowded primary

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172d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

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. 

GOP senators take sides in Missouri Senate race

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172d ago / 4:25 PM UTC

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. 

Rubio leads Demings in new Florida Senate poll

173d ago / 11:09 AM UTC

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.

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

173d ago / 9:59 PM UTC

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. 

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

173d ago / 7:20 PM UTC

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.

Club for Growth hits airwaves in Nevada Senate race

173d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

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. 

The Texas primary races to watch

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173d ago / 4:13 PM UTC

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. 

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

174d ago / 11:02 AM UTC

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.

DeSantis expands massive fundraising advantage over Democratic challengers

177d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

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.  

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

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177d ago / 3:24 PM UTC

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.

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

179d ago / 6:32 PM UTC

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.”

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

180d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

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.”

Abrams, Kemp raising big money for Georgia gubernatorial race

180d ago / 3:16 PM UTC

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. 

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

181d ago / 8:26 PM UTC

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. 

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

181d ago / 8:15 PM UTC

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.

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

184d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

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.

Senate primary fields thin as two candidates drop out

184d ago / 4:36 PM UTC

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.

House incumbent primaries take shape, fundraising reports show

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185d ago / 7:08 PM UTC

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.  

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

185d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

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.

Wealthy candidates flood Senate races with cash

186d ago / 3:47 PM UTC

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. 

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

187d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

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. 

GOP primaries go negative on the airwaves

187d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

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. 

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

187d ago / 2:28 PM UTC

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. 

Crowded, combative North Carolina Senate primary awaits Republicans

188d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

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.

ActBlue sets off-year fundraising record ahead of difficult midterm

192d ago / 1:29 PM UTC

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.

Elizabeth Warren takes sides in key House primaries

193d ago / 3:40 PM UTC

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.

Top Senate GOP outside effort raised $94.4 million in 2021

193d ago / 2:59 PM UTC

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

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

194d ago / 1:40 AM UTC

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.

Fight over campaign-finance law adds to contentious GOP primary

195d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

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.

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

195d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

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.

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

195d ago / 4:06 PM UTC

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.” 

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

198d ago / 5:13 PM UTC

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.

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

200d ago / 7:15 PM UTC

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. 

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

200d ago / 5:37 PM UTC

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. 

Arizona Senator Kelly will back filibuster change for voting bills

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200d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

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.

Two more House Democrats are retiring

and

201d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

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. 

Alex Lasry, Democratic Senate candidate in Wisconsin, launches major TV ad buy

201d ago / 3:47 PM UTC

Democratic Senate candidate and billionaire Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry is launching a more than $1 million TV ad buy with more to come in digital and mailings, the Lasry campaign said Tuesday.

This is the largest primary spending by a candidate in the Wisconsin Senate primary race of 2022 so far. It’s a testament to Lasry’s willingness to tap his personal fortune to run in what will be one of the most watched Senate races in America. 

The rotation of ads, first provided to NBC News, offer a glimpse into the issues that could shape the race, such as inflation and the supply chain crunch. They are all issues where the president is faltering nationally but Lasry promises to address back home — and argues he already has. 

“Here’s an idea. If we build things here in America, we won’t have supply chain issues anymore. That’s exactly how we built the Bucks arena,” Lasry says of the Bucks, which claimed the 2021 NBA title.  

But Lasry also ties GOP incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson to former President Donald Trump on the issue of voting rights and his campaign says that obstructionist Republicans are squarely to blame for the state of the economy.  

Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes is leading the Democratic primary in early polling and has already garnered high-profile endorsements including from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and the powerful Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.

GOP primary ads flood Pennsylvania airwaves

206d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

A trio of wealthy candidates have launched new TV ads in recent days as they compete in Pennsylvania's GOP Senate primary.

Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, former hedge fund executive David McCormick and former ambassador Carla Sands have spent a combined $7 million so far on ads, according to AdImpact data.They’ve already booked another $2.8 million in future ads, with more likely on the way.

McCormick, who announced his campaign Thursday morning, has two new spots — one declaring he’s running and another featuring two of his high school buddies to head off attacks on his residency. Oz and Sands have faced similar criticisms over their recent returns to Pennsylvania to run for the state’s open Senate seat. 

One of Oz’s latest ads shows the candidate describing himself as a “conservative outsider” who “can’t be bought.” Sands is also up on the airwaves with an ad focused on illegal immigration.

And American Leadership Action, a super PAC supporting Oz, launched a new TV ad knocking McCormick’s work on Wall Street.

The Senate primary features more Republican hopefuls, including Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto, who also jumped into the race this week; conservative commentator Kathy Barnette; and real estate developer Jeff Bartos, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2018.

The race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is expected to be one of the most expensive and competitive Senate contests this year. President Joe Biden won the Keystone State by just 1 percentage point in 2020 and former President Donald Trump won the state by the same margin in 2016.

Multiple candidates are also competing for the Democratic nomination, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Val Arkoosh, who chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report.

GOP Senate candidate in Ohio makes $10.5 million personal investment in campaign

207d ago / 9:07 PM UTC

Ohio’s Republican Senate primary — already one of the most expensive races in the nation — is seeing another multimillion-dollar investment from a self-funding candidate.

Matt Dolan, who unlike his GOP rivals is keeping a distance from former President Donald Trump, said Wednesday in an interview with NBC News that he recently contributed $8 million and loaned another $2.5 million to his campaign.

“I know I'm the best candidate, and I know I would serve Ohio the best of anyone running,” said Dolan, a state senator and lawyer whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team. “So the personal investment shows my commitment to win the race, to raise and spend the money that's needed to win a race.”

Candidates can give or loan themselves unlimited amounts, and other candidates are also dumping millions into their own bids. Investment banker Mike Gibbons has put up more than $11 million and former state party chair Jane Timken has sunk $2 million of her own into her campaign. Through September, former car dealer Bernie Moreno had dropped $3 million of his fortune into his bid. 

Also in the race are Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer who leads in polls, and “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance.

Dolan’s $10.5 million investment is unique, given that such a small fraction of it is a personal loan that he can repay later with campaign funds. Dolan’s message is unique in today's Republican Party, too. 

He is betting that his traditional conservative GOP persona — a pro-business pragmatist more stylistically in sync with Sen. Rob Portman, the retiring Ohio Republican he is running to succeed — will stand out in a field of candidates jockeying for support from Trump and his allies.

Dolan is the only GOP candidate in Ohio who voiced support for the infrastructure package that Portman helped pass and that Trump publicly belittled. And he is the only Republican in the race who is not aggressively seeking Trump’s endorsement, although he has said he would vote for Trump if he’s the GOP nominee for president in 2024This month, on the anniversary of the pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol, Dolan chastised his rivals for catering to the former president’s debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

In a statement last September on the day Dolan announced his candidacy, Trump dismissed him as a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and cried “cancel culture” on his family’s decision to change the name of their Major League Baseball team from Indians to Guardians.

Dolan said Wednesday that “Donald Trump is a big part of the Republican Party.” He added that conversations he’s had with GOP voters have convinced him that there’s a path for someone like him who is advancing core Republican ideas, not personality-driven politics.

“I think people are starving for transparency, authenticity, experience and a positive record that they can look to and say, ‘Finally, we're going to get things done,’” Dolan said.

Polling — most of it by campaigns or outside spending groups — has shown Dolan at the bottom of the GOP pack, in single digits. But television ads have helped other candidates gain traction. Dolan, who has yet to air ads, has so far reserved more than $4 million in TV and radio time through spring.

Gibbons, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, has already spent $3.6 million on ads, followed by Moreno at $2.5 million, the pro-Mandel Club for Growth Action at $1.9 million and Timken at $1.7 million. A pro-Vance super PAC bankrolled by Peter Thiel, has spent about $1.3 million — a fraction of the $10 million Thiel has committed.

Dolan received another boost this week with the formation of a finance committee that includes several civic and business leaders in Ohio, including Alex Fischer, the former head of the Columbus Partnership once mentioned as a possible Senate candidate. Two others, Cincinnati attorney George Vincent and Akron McDonald’s franchisee John Blickle, previously donated to Timken.

“Matt Dolan’s relentless focus on job creation, economic development and investing in our state is impressive and exactly what Ohio needs in the U.S. Senate,” Blickle, who gave $2,900 to Timken’s campaign last March, said in a statement provided by Dolan’s team. “I have been impressed by the substantive nature of his campaign and his experienced, solutions-oriented approach to getting results. I’m proud to be a member of Team Dolan.”

Club for Growth Action launches ad attacking Timken in Ohio GOP Senate primary

208d ago / 8:24 PM UTC

Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC that has endorsed former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel in the state's Republican Senate primary, is uncorking another attack on one of Mandel’s rivals — this time Jane Timken — in an ad debuting Wednesday.

The 30-second commercial focuses on Timken’s past support for Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, who voted last year to impeach then-President Donald Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Timken was previously the state Republican Party chair.

“Jane Timken knows she wants your vote,” the narrator begins. “But Timken claimed she didn’t know how she would have voted on Trump’s impeachment while passionately defending her RINO congressman after he voted to impeach Trump.”

The ad is backed by $750,000 in TV and digital spending through Feb. 9, with emphasis on Fox News in the state’s largest markets, the Club told NBC. The spot is also slated to run this weekend in Cincinnati during the Cincinnati Bengals’ NFL playoff game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

This is the second time Club for Growth has gone after a Mandel rival. Last October, the organization launched a campaign against “Hillbilly Elegy” author and venture capitalist JD Vance by highlighting his past criticism of Trump. (Vance is now running as a pro-Trump populist.) New polling released this week by Club for Growth found Mandel leading the crowded GOP primary field with 26 percent, followed by Timken at 15 percent and investment banker Mike Gibbons at 14 percent. Vance, who had been second to Mandel in an earlier Club for Growth poll, was fourth, at 10 percent. The poll has a 4.4 percent margin of error.

“Following Club for Growth’s advertising campaign, Ohio voters didn’t like what they saw in JD Vance and he’s now in fourth,” said Joe Kildea, Club for Growth’s vice president of communications. “Now, Timken is trying to convince voters that she’s the conservative in the race, but her past is going to catch up to her.”

The anti-Timken ad refers back to a well-circulated, late January 2021 interview that Timken gave to The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com. Timken, who at the time still chaired the Ohio Republican Party and was not yet a Senate candidate, noted that she lives in Gonzalez’s district before praising his overall service in Congress.

“I don’t know if I would have voted the way he did” on impeachment, Timken told the news organization then. “I think he’s spending some time explaining to folks his vote, and I think he’s got a rational reason why he voted that way. I think he’s an effective legislator, and he’s a very good person.”

Timken flip-flopped weeks later after entering the Senate race, calling on Gonzalez to resign. (Gonzalez has resisted such calls but is not seeking re-election this year.)

The Club for Growth ad also highlights political contributions that the Timken Co. — the Ohio manufacturer where her husband and other in-laws have served as top executives and directors — has made to Democrats over the years. Rep. Tim Ryan, the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination in Ohio, is among those who’ve received donations, but the company gives far more to Republicans.

In response to the ad, Timken spokesperson Mandi Merritt noted how Club for Growth's polling has shown Mandel's support slipping over time as candidates like Timken rise.

"Mandel is bleeding support because Ohio voters know he is a phony who cheated Republicans out of a Senate seat by quitting politics and abandoning the America First movement when President Trump and conservatives needed fighters most," Merritt said, referring to Mandel's decision to drop out of a 2018 race for Senate. "While Jane Timken was building Ohio into a conservative stronghold, advancing the America First agenda, fighting the Democrats’ sham impeachments and delivering Ohio for President Trump, Josh Mandel was nowhere to be found."

South Florida voters poised to fill vacant seat in Congress in Democratic-leaning special election

208d ago / 3:01 PM UTC

Voters are voting in South Florida on Tuesday in Florida's 20th Congressional District, looking to fill a seat that's been vacant since the late Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings died in April. 

Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is poised to win the election in a district where registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by the end of the 2020 election by a margin of almost 5-to-1. She's running against Republican Jason Mariner, as well as one libertarian candidate and three others with no party affiliation. The district is in the Ft. Lauderdale area. 

Cherfilus-McCormick, a CEO of a home health care company, won her primary election by edging out former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness by just five votes.

If the Democrat wins, she'll restore House Democrats' 10-seat advantage in Congress (222-212). 

White House environmental official, former campaign aide David Kieve leaving

209d ago / 3:06 PM UTC

The White House is losing a longtime environmental aide to President Joe Biden who served on his presidential campaign.

David Kieve, the public engagement director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), will depart next week. Kieve had held similar roles coordinating outreach to environmental and climate change groups during Biden’s 2020 campaign. He’s also married to the White House communications director, Kate Bedingfield.

The White House didn’t say what Kieve planned to do next or who would replace him. Kieve joins a growing list of notable staff departures from the White House and the vice president’s office as the Biden administration’s first year draws to a close.

Another top environmental official, Cecilia Martinez, who oversaw environmental justice at CEQ, stepped down last week.

When asked whether Bedingfield — who also worked on Biden’s campaign and his vice-presidential staff — is staying at the White House, a White House official said only that there were no personnel announcements to make.

CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory credited Kieve with forming an “unprecedented political coalition,” while White House counselor Steve Ricchetti said Kieve had worked “tirelessly” for Biden since the early part of the presidential primary.

“His advocacy and work on climate issues has made him an important ambassador for the president to the climate community, rallying their support behind our ambitious agenda to tackle the climate crisis, the existential threat of our time,” Ricchetti said in a statement. 

Although environmental groups have applauded Biden’s decision to put climate change at the forefront of his agenda, they’ve voiced disappointment over Biden’s inability in his first year to get sweeping legislation through Congress, including climate provisions of his stalled Build Back Better bill. Any prospects for major climate legislation are dimming as the midterm elections approach in November.

“No one has done more to, kind of, keep the climate community kind of engaged and together, which isn't always the easiest task,” National Wildlife Federation President Collin O’Mara said in an interview.

Former 'American Idol' Clay Aiken makes second bid for Congress

210d ago / 11:09 AM UTC

Clay Aiken's singing voice made him famous in 2003 when America's votes carried him to the finals of the popular TV show "American Idol." Nearly 20 years later, Aiken says his voice has another purpose, and Monday the North Carolina native is launching a second bid to represent his home state in Congress. "North Carolina is the place where I first discovered that I had a voice and that it was a voice that could be used for more than singing," Aiken says in a video announcing his candidacy.

Unlike in his first political campaign, Aiken, 43, a Democrat, is emphasizing his bid to become the first openly gay member of Congress from the South. In his announcement, he argues that the "loudest voices" in his home state's politics have become "white nationalists" and "homophobes," adding: "It's not just North Carolina. There's a Marjorie [Taylor Greene] in Georgia and a Lauren [Boebert] in Colorado, and these folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room, and I'm going to tell you I am sick of it." Aiken says that has motivated him to step forward again: "As Democrats, we have got to get better about speaking up and using our voices, because those folks ain't quieting down any time soon."

Aiken says his candidacy will be a call for greater civility. "North Carolina deserves representatives in Washington who use their positions to make people's lives better, not to advance polarizing positions that embarrass our state and stand in the way of real progress," he says.

Aiken is competing in the newly created 6th District race to succeed the veteran Democrat David Price, who for more than 30 years has represented the Triangle region, which is home to the area's major universities, Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Aiken made a point to honor Price's long public service, saying: "He leaves big shoes to fill. I'd be honored to take his place representing the Triangle."

In 2014, Aiken won the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, but incumbent Republican Renee Elmers easily won re-election in November, with 59 percent of the vote to Aiken's 41 percent.

Aiken is expected to face a wide field of Democratic contenders this year in the newly drawn district, which is considered solidly Democratic. Aiken, a resident of Wake County, is a 10th-generation North Carolinian.  

Before "American Idol" opened doors to a multiplatinum-selling music career, television and Broadway, Aiken taught special education and founded the National Inclusion Project. He has served as a national goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.

Aiken also competed on the fifth season of "The Celebrity Apprentice," hosted by Donald Trump. Aiken was the runner-up to Arsenio Hall.

CORRECTION (Jan. 10, 2022, 8:45 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the Congressional District Aiken is running in. It is the 6th District, not the 4th.

Oregon says former NYT columnist Kristof can't run for governor because of residency issues

213d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

Oregon's Elections Division has deemed former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof ineligible to run for governor because he does not meet the state requirement that a candidate has to have lived in the state for three years before an election. 

Kristof launched his campaign as a Democrat last year, joining a crowded field in which he has posted strong fundraising figures. But the decision by the Elections Division means that unless Kristof can win an appeal, he won't be able to continue his bid. 

In a briefing with reporters, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan ticked through the evidence election officials considered. She said Kristof voted for 20 years in New York, including in November 2020, while he also received mail, filed income taxes and had a driver's license from the state. While Fagan's office gave the Kristof campaign the opportunity to argue that he should be considered eligible to run, she said elections staff members told her "it wasn't even a close call." 

"While I have no doubt that Mr. Kristof's sentiments and feelings to Oregon are genuine and sincere, they are simply dwarfed by the mountains of objective evidence that, until recently, he considered himself a New York resident," Fagan said. 

Kristof tweeted promising to appeal the decision, claiming that "a failing political establishment in Oregon has chosen to protect itself, rather than give voters a choice."

Kristof accused "state officials" of trying to silence his campaign because of his "willingness to challenge the status quo" as he delivered remarks Thursday afternoon promising to challenge the decision in court.

"To join this race, I left a job that I loved because our state cannot survive another generation of leaders turning away from the people they pledge to serve," he said.

"I owe my entire existence to Oregon — this state welcomed by dad as a refugee in 1952 and he put down roots here. Oregon has provided a home to me and my family as these roots deepen. Because I've always known Oregon to be my home, the law says that I am qualified to run for governor. "

Former Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy passes on 2022 statewide runs

213d ago / 3:50 PM UTC

Former Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc., said in a radio interview Thursday morning that he will not run for governor or Senate in 2022. 

“You have to be able to give 100 percent to a race and right now in my life, with my kids, it’s just not the right time for me to run,” Duffy told WISN’s The Jay Webber Show, noting he has nine children. Duffy resigned from Congress in 2019 when his wife was pregnant with their youngest child, who was expected to be born with health issues. 

“Do I think my public service time is over? I hope it’s not,” Duffy later said, adding that he may reconsider public service when his children are older.

Former President Donald Trump encouraged Duffy to run for governor and said Duffy would have Trump’s endorsement if he decided to run. Duffy also said he is not interested in running for Senate if GOP Sen. Ron Johnson decides not to run for re-election. 

 

 

GOP Senate candidate in Ohio slams primary rivals for embracing stolen election lies

213d ago / 2:15 PM UTC

A Republican U.S. Senate hopeful in Ohio is using the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to accuse his rivals of undermining democracy while amplifying or indulging former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“One year ago, our entire nation, the free world and America’s adversaries, watched the events of Jan. 6 unfold with stunning clarity,” Matt Dolan, a state senator from the Cleveland area, said in a campaign statement late Wednesday. “It was an attack on American democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law that must not be minimized, normalized or explained away.”

Dolan is the lone Republican in Ohio’s closely watched Senate race who is not aggressively seeking Trump’s endorsement. Although his statement did not single out anyone by name, each of his primary rivals to varying degrees has accommodated Trump’s election lies. Tops on the list is the GOP primary’s front-runner, Josh Mandel, whose central campaign message is the debunked claim that the last presidential election was stolen. Another candidate, Bernie Moreno, initially said he accepted the 2020 results but recently flip-flopped in a TV ad in which he explicitly said Trump was “right” to claim the election was stolen from him.

New Democratic digital ads highlight Jan. 6 attack

214d ago / 7:09 PM UTC

Other issues have dominated midterm messaging so far, but some Democrats are using the Jan. 6 anniversary to tie Republicans to the Capitol attack. 

In Wisconsin’s 3rd District, where Democratic Rep. Ron Kind is retiring, Democrats have targeted Republican candidate Derrick Van Orden for being present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Kind’s preferred successor, Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff, launched a new digital ad Wednesday in which Pffaf says of the difference between himself and Van Orden: “Well for one thing, I wasn’t part of an armed insurrection.” 

The ad will be posted on multiple social media channels, including Facebook and YouTube, and target centrist Republicans and independents, according to Pfaff's campaign. 

Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL, has said he walked to the Capitol on Jan. 6, writing in a LaCrosse Tribune op-ed shortly after the attack, “At no time did I enter the grounds, let alone the building.” He called the attack “one of the most tragic incidents in the history of our nation.”

Republicans consider Van Orden a top recruit after he came within 3 percentage points of defeating Kind in 2020. Trump carried the western Wisconsin district by 5 points.

The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA also launched two new digital ads Wednesday as part of a $100,000 buy targeting voters in battleground states “who are consuming less political news since Donald Trump left office,” according to a press release. One of the ads features footage from Jan. 6.

“Every vote we take this November is a vote against Trump,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. The ads will run on Facebook and television streaming platforms in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. 

 

Here are the top five 2022 statewide races with the most ad spending booked so far

215d ago / 5:30 PM UTC

2021 was already a record-setting year for political advertising spending, toppling the total from 2019, which included a competitive presidential primary. And 2022 is expected to be a historic year for ad spending too.

With primary elections still months away and the general election map still shaping up, expect hundreds of millions of more dollars in advertisements to hit the airwaves in top Senate, House and gubernatorial races. But here's a look at the five races drawing the most booked airtime already, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact: 

Ohio Senate GOP primary: $6.9 million booked this year 

It's basically a one-man show on the airwaves right now in Ohio's competitive GOP Senate primary. Businessman Mike Gibbons, who is self-funding his campaign, has $6.6 million in ad-time booked this year. He's already spent $3.3 million so far — including ads comparing President Joe Biden's economy to that of President Jimmy Carter's, a spot attacking corporations and the left, and more. 

Three other candidates have some ad time booked too, but all under less than $150,000 — former state GOP chair Jane Timken (who has spent $1.6 million up to now), state Sen. Matt Dolan (who will be running his first ad campaign) and businessman Bernie Moreno (who has spent $2.2 million already). Expect this costly race to get even more expensive, as Republicans J.D. Vance and Josh Mandel haven't started running significant ad campaigns. 

North Carolina Senate GOP primary: $5.7 million 

This is another race with effectively only one spender in town: Club for Growth Action, which has endorsed Rep. Ted Budd (who is also backed by President Donald Trump). The Club has already spent almost $4 million, and is responsible for virtually all of the $5.7 million booked in 2022.

With GOP Rep. Mark Walker's status in the primary uncertain, and the Democratic path cleared for former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, the big contest in the primary is likely going to be between Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory, with the winner heading into a very expensive clash against Beasley. 

Alabama Governor GOP primary: $3.7 million

The Yellowhammer State's gubernatorial primary is just starting to heat up now that Lynda Blanchard dropped her Senate bid in favor of a bid for governor, where she's using her deep pockets to help fund a big, $3.3 million ad buy.

Blanchard is running as an outsider, attacking vaccine and mask mandates and playing up her tenure as Ambassador to Slovenia under President Trump. She wants to topple incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey in the GOP primary, who has spent more than $400,000 of her own on ads, including a TV spot with red-meat issues like criticizing "Critical Race Theory," promoting her work on anti-abortion rights legislation and nodding to Trump's unfounded claims of election fraud.  

Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary: $2.3 million

While there's been relatively little ad spending on the Democratic side, the GOP primary has a new life to it now that Republican Sean Parnell (who had been endorsed by Trump) has ended his campaign. 

That opening created room for television's Dr. Mehmet Oz to launch his own candidacy, and for hedge fund executive David McCormick to explore a bid of his own. Both have significant ad-buys already booked this year, Oz spending $1.6 and McCormick more than $600,000. Carla Sands, another wealthy Republican running, has booked almost $120,000 in ad time, with the massive field likely to spend millions more in the coming months. 

Arizona Senate election: $800,000 

This sum is far from what will be spent in what's expected to be a massive Senate race, featuring a crowded GOP primary and a bid against the deep-pocketed Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. 

Right now, the only group with significant money booked on the airwaves is the Democratic group Defend American Democracy, which has previously run ads asking Kelly to support D.C. statehood. But expect to see a flury of money here soon. 

New Hampshire Secretary of State, longest tenured in nation, to step down

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216d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

New Hampshire Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the longest-tenured secretary of state in the nation and a key figure in maintaining the state's position as a marquee starting point in the presidential primary process, has announced he will be stepping down from his post "within days." 

Speaking at a press conference in the state's capital of Concord, Gardner said that his deputy, David Scanlan, would be stepping into the role once he leaves office. Scanlan has been in the deputy post for 20 years. 

"I've taken my oath as a New Hampshire constitutional office a total of 26 consecutive times. I've worked inside this statehouse building during each of the past 50 years," Gardner said.

"I will do my best in the years to come to do all I can by writing and speaking to defend and promote our state and federal constitutions, conducting our elections, with the checks and balances that both constitutions require. This is a foundation of our New Hampshire way and this is what kept us and our country as a self-governing, free people longer than anyone on Earth." 

When asked if there were any personal or political reasons for his sudden departure, Gardner said there were not and emphasized that leaving office now, ahead of the 2022 and 2024 election cycles would be the "smoothest time for it to happen." And he also spoke wistfully of his long career in politics — Gardner has served as secretary of state for the last 46 years, elected first by the state legislature in 1976 and re-elected every term since. 

"I just think that it's time," he said. 

The Democrat has been a fixture in state politics in the last almost half-century, and well known for his defense of the state's prime spot on the primary calendar. 

But he's faced criticism from his own party in recent years, particularly after he agreed to join then-President Donald Trump's "Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" amid Trump's years-long run of unfounded claims of election fraud. Gardner survived a challenge from a fellow Democrat in 2018 after those frustrations boiled over. 

Gardner's ultimate replacement will not only serve as the chief election administrator in the state, but they will also be stepping in as some Democrats question whether predominately white states like Iowa and New Hampshire should occupy such premiere spots on the presidential primary calendar (Iowa is historically the first nominating contest in the presidential race, while New Hampshire is the second, and first held as a primary as opposed to Iowa's caucuses). 

"New Hampshire is a special place, as we all know, especially within our country, for so many reasons. I will continue to stand up for the best of those traditions, first and foremost our 'First in the Nation' presidential primary, as we will face unknown challenges in the years to come," Gardner said. 

The New Hampshire secretary of state has unique power to set the date of the presidential primary unilaterally – ensuring that it takes place a full seven days before any “similar election,” as state law requires. 

In overseeing the presidential primary, Gardner also has enjoyed rare access to just about every major presidential candidate in the last half century, who often come to file their paperwork in person to the second-floor statehouse office. Gardner has often invited major contenders to a private chat in his office.

2021 ad spending set an off-year record. Here are some of them that set the tone

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229d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

Campaigns and outside groups spent more than $1.17 billion on TV, radio and digital advertising this year, according to figures from ad-tracking firm AdImpact, more than any other off-year ever. 

And that massive number doesn’t even include the additional millions spent in the first five days of 2021 on the pivotal Georgia Senate runoff elections held on Jan. 5. 

From Jan. 6 through Dec. 20 of this year, there has been more money spent on political ads than in all of 2019, when Democrats were locked in a competitive presidential primary campaign that drew hundreds of millions of dollars of ad spending. And 2021's spending is almost triple that of the ad spending seen in 2017. 

Here’s a look at some of the ads that helped to set the tone in 2021, either in pivotal elections this year or ahead of important congressional races set for 2022. 

Youngkin capitalizes on McAuliffe schools gaffe

There are a lot of explanations for why Republican Glenn Youngkin edged out Democrat Terry McAuliffe in November. But it’s clear that the complicated debate over curriculum and how to teach racial issues became a rallying cry for many Youngkin voters.  

Their cause was certainly aided by McAuliffe’s comments at a late-September debate, when he responded to a Youngkin attack by saying that “​​I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

The comment became a fixture in Youngkin’s messaging on the stump and on the airwaves, with ads like the one below typifying the strategy. 

“Virginia parents have a right to make decisions on their children's education. That's the Virginia I grew up in. Terry McAuliffe wants to change that,” Youngkin says, looking straight to camera before a clip of McAuliffe’s comments plays. 

It took McAuliffe weeks to respond on the airwaves, ultimately putting out an ad claiming Youngkin took his words “out of context.” 

Eric Adams runs as a “blue-collar mayor”

One of the bigger down-ballot races of the 2021 election was the New York City mayoral race — particularly the Democratic primary in the deep-blue city, which had many different kinds of Democrats running. 

Eric Adams, the former police officer turned Brooklyn Bureau President, won the race by pitching himself as a “blue-collar” pragmatist who could balance on reforming the police while still emphasizing a push to combat crime. 

Adams’ first ad, embedded below, typifies the line he walked during his successful campaign.

Republicans make taxes a key issue in New Jersey

Overshadowed by the big headline of Republicans taking over Virginia’s gubernatorial mansion, the New Jersey gubernatorial race represented a dramatic shift from recent elections there. 

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy squeaked by about 3 percentage points (Murphy won his first term in 2017 by 14 points), defeating Republican Jack Ciattarelli. Like many races on the ballot in November, Democrats struggled in no small part thanks to the national trends, particularly amid President Joe Biden’s lackluster approval ratings.

But outside of those national trends, Republicans spent big money trying to make taxes a central issue in the race. Both the Republican Governors Association and the Ciattarelli campaign sought to emphasize Murphy’s comments about taxes to frame the race around the pocketbook issue. 

California campaign 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., fended off a recall attempt in September by both campaigning on his efforts to combat Covid and against conservative radio host Larry Elder’s support for former President Donald Trump, who emerged as the strongest candidate from a large field of potential replacements.

“Here's what you need to know about the Sept. 14th recall: Voting ‘yes’ elects an anti-vaccine, Trump Republican. Voting ‘no’ keeps Gavin Newsom fighting the pandemic based on science, compassion and common sense,” a narrator said in Newsom’s closing ad of the race. 

Newsom prevailed by 24 percentage points in the reliably Democratic state, with 62 percent of voters opting not to remove the governor from office.

“Build Back Better” hits the airwaves

The fight over Biden’s social safety net and climate bill isn’t just playing out on Capitol Hill. It has also been hitting the airwaves. 

Building Back Together, a Democratic group that supports Biden’s agenda, has launched ads across multiple battleground states touting the proposal. The group has spent $20 million on ads so far, although not all of the ads have been focused on the Build Back Better plan. 

One of the group’s top television ads of the year was a 30-second spot titled “Lower Costs,” which aired in the D.C., Las Vegas, Phoenix and Boston media markets. In the ad, the narrator touted the bill as a plan that “lowers costs for healthcare, lowers costs for prescription drugs, lowers costs for utility bills, and cuts taxes for millions of working families.”

Democrats facing competitive races next year have also been taking heat on the airwaves for the bill’s steep price tag. 

American Action Network, the non-profit arm of Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC, has launched ads targeting vulnerable House Democrats and labeling the bill a “spending spree.” The group has spent $22.1 million on ads so far this year.

One of American Action Network’s top ads attacked Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. The spot featured a man named Ty Patten who said Murphy “fell right in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and she's voting for increases in taxes, increases in spending, trying to spend more than $3 trillion on her socialist agenda.” Murphy announced Monday that she is not running for re-election.

As Senate spending swells, here are the top five races by ad spending

and

233d ago / 5:12 PM UTC

Yesterday, we broke down the top House races drawing the most ad dollars ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Today, we're looking at Senate spending, which has similarly been massive.

There's been more than $137 million spent on TV and digital advertising from Jan. 6 (after the Georgia runoffs) through Dec. 16, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. That's more money than was spent on ads in Senate races over the same period in 2019 ($39.1 million) and 2017 ($40.4 million) combined. 

Here's a look at the five Senate races drawing the most ad spending: 

Arizona (incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly): $25.6 million

Democratic groups, led by the dark money group Advancing Arizona and its $4.4 million, have spent a combined $15.3 million in Arizona so far. Republican groups have spent more than $10.4 million, with $3.8 million coming from One Nation, the non-profit arm of GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund. Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, a prolific fundraiser, has spent nearly $1.4 million on ads so far.

While Republicans are concerned about Kelly’s sizable fundraising advantage, they still view Arizona as a top pickup opportunity next year. President Joe Biden won Arizona by less than half a percentage point in 2020 and Kelly won the special election to serve the last two years of the late GOP Sen. John McCain’s term by 2 points. It’s not clear who Kelly will face as he runs for a full term in 2022.

Several Republicans are vying for the nomination, including Blake Masters, who runs billionaire Peter Thiel’s investment firm and foundation, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, solar energy executive Jim Lamon and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire. A Thiel-backed super PAC supporting Masters, known as Saving Arizona, has spent more than $1.6 million on ads so far. Lamon, who has loaned $5 million of his own money to his campaign, has spent $900,000.

New Hampshire (incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan): $14.9 million

Democratic groups have spent more than Republican groups in New Hampshire so far, dropping $8.7 million to the GOP’s $6.2 million. One Nation has spent $3 million against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, the most of any outside group in the race. Hassan’s campaign has also gone on the airwaves, dropping $3.1 million so far, spending the most of any senator up for re-election.

Even though Biden carried the state by 7 percentage points in 2020, Hassan is still considered vulnerable in 2022. She won her first term in 2016 by one-tenth of a percentage point, defeating then-GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte by less than 1,000 votes. GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s recent decision not to challenge Hassan deprived Republicans of a top recruit and opened up the primary to take on the first-term senator.

Nevada (incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto): $11.5 million

Cortez Masto, who led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last cycle, has her own competitive re-election race next year. 

One Nation is the top spender in this race, with almost $2.3 million, as outside groups are doing virtually all of the ad spending. On the Democratic side, The League of Conservation Voters has spent almost $2 million, followed by the Senate Majority PAC's $1.1 million. 

Cortez Masto edged out Republican Rep. Joe Heck by 2 percentage points in 2016, and Biden won the state in 2020 by 2.4 percentage points, a close enough race for Republicans to be hopeful that it will swing their way next year. 

Republicans Adam Laxalt, the former state attorney general, and Army veteran Sam Brown are among the candidates vying for the right to run against Cortez Masto next fall. 

Ohio (open seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Rob Portman): $9.7 million

Nearly all of the ad spending has been on the Republican side, thanks to a crowded Republican primary to replace Portman.

About a third of spending has come from investment banker Mike Gibbons’ campaign, which has spent more than $2.9 million on ads so far. Gibbons' campaign has spent more than any other Republican candidate on ads up to this point. 

Gibbons has loaned his campaign $7.9 million. Other GOP candidates whose campaigns have spent more than $1 million on ads include Bernie Moreno, who made a fortune in car dealerships, and Jane Timken, the former state party chairwoman. Outside groups have also taken to the airwaves. Club for Growth Action, which has endorsed former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the GOP primary, has spent more than $1.8 million on the race. Protect Ohio Values, a Thiel-backed group supporting author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, has spent $1.3 million.

Georgia (incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock): $9.2 million 

The Peach State has it all in 2022, including one of the hottest Senate battlegrounds in the country, where Democrats are outspending Republicans $5.2 million to $4 million in a state Biden won by 0.3 percentage points. 

The top two advertisers in the race are both Democrats  — End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund and League of Conservation Voters, who have spent $2.8 million between the two. But there's been significant GOP outside spending in the race too. 

Warnock's campaign has spent $1.2 million, while GOP frontrunner Herschel Walker (the college football star backed by former President Trump) has spent $600,000. 

Republicans are hopeful that they can flip this seat too, especially considering Warnock won the special runoff in January by just 2 percentage points. 

House ad spending is already double that of 2018 midterm pace. Here are the most expensive races so far.

and

234d ago / 8:39 PM UTC

While many congressional district maps aren't finalized yet, it's still been a busy year on the airwaves in the battle for control of the House in the 2022 midterms. 

There has been more than $126 million spent on ads in House races since Jan. 6 (the day after the Georgia Senate runoffs), according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. That's compared to $45.7 million over the same period in 2019, and $58 million over the same period in 2017. 

Here's a look at the five incumbents, all Democrats, drawing the most spending this year (all the spending figures below are courtesy of AdImpact): 

Georgia Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux: $7.9 million 

Republican groups have spent more than $4.7 million on ads against Bordeaux, who won her 2020 race by less than 3 percentage points. But that all may be moot, since the GOP legislature's redistricting made Bordeaux's 7th District more Democratic (prompting fellow Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath to run against her because her 6th District is becoming more competitive). 

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski: $5.5 million 

The GOP is bullish on taking down Malinowski in next year's election, particularly as the House Committee on Ethics continues to look into allegations he didn't properly disclose his stock sales

Two GOP groups, the non-profit American Action Network and Common Sense Leadership Fund, are the top two spenders in this race, a race where Republicans have spent $3 million to the Democrats' $2.5 million. 

Republicans are taking aim at Malinowski's ethics complaints on the airwaves, while Democrats have been touting Congress' infrastructure plans.  

Iowa Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne: $5.4 million

Both parties are spending in the 3rd District, with GOP groups dropping nearly $2.8 million on the race so far and Democratic groups spending more than $2.7 million. The only Democrat representing Iowa in Congress, Axne weighed runs for Senate and governor before deciding to run for re-election in the newly drawn 3rd District.

After redistricting, Axne’s district, which includes Des Moines, remained competitive but picked up GOP-leaning rural counties that Axne had not previously represented. Axne won a second term in 2020 by 1 percentage point, defeating former GOP Rep. David Young, who she ousted by 2 points in 2018.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin: $5.1 million

Democratic groups have spent more than $2.7 million on ads bolstering Slotkin, who was first elected in 2018. The bulk of that spending, more than $1 million, came from Building Back Together, an outside group supporting Biden’s agenda. The group ran ads that coincided with Biden’s trip to Michigan to tout the bipartisan infrastructure package in November.

Slotkin’s district is still in flux with Michigan’s independent commission in the process of drawing a new map. The state is losing a congressional seat, meaning the district lines could shift significantly. Republicans failed to recruit a top tier challenger to take on Slotkin in 2020, when she won a second term by nearly 4 percentage points.

Maine Democratic Rep. Jared Golden: $4.7 million 

Golden has been a top target of Republicans in each of the past two congressional elections. The Democrat won both times (the first in 2018 to defeat incumbent GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, and again in 2020 when he ran for re-election) in a district that former President Donald Trump won by 7.5 percentage points in 2020, per the Daily Kos

The big spending in this race so far has been driven by American Action Network, the GOP non-profit that's spent $2.7 million in this race, more than in any House race except for Georgia's 7th District.

Democrats begin to coalesce around front-runner in North Carolina Senate race

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234d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson announced Thursday that he is dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary and endorsing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. 

Jackson announced the move in a social media video, where he praised Beasley for having “served this state honorably for over two decades” and said that “we’ve run a strong campaign, but everyone needs to know when to step aside.” 

“I’m going to be her first endorsement as our party’s presumptive nominee,” he said, calling for party unity after Democrats’ poor showing in last month’s Virginia elections. 

Jackson’s exit from the race makes Beasley the favorite for the Democratic nomination in the open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. Jackson’s spokesman Dylan Arant told NBC News by text message that neither Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer nor other Democratic leaders in Washington pressured Jackson to drop out of the race. 

Beasley has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights, and had been the top fundraiser in the field (she had raised nearly $2.8 million and had $1.7 million banked away as of Sept. 30). Jackson's departure leaves no other candidate on the Democratic side who had raised more than $200,000. 

Beasley, the first Black woman to serve as the court’s chief justice, has also been endorsed by a handful of groups that support Black candidates, including the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. Beasley and Florida Rep. Val Demings are the most prominent Black women running for Senate as Democrats. 

While Democrats have consolidated around Beasley, Republicans have to contend with a competitive primary for the GOP nomination. The GOP contest features former Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker and Rep. Ted Budd, who former President Donald Trump has endorsed. With Walker considering ending his Senate campaign to run for the House, the dynamic between both McCrory and Budd has been tense at times. 

North Carolina is expected to be one of the top Senate battlegrounds in 2022, as both parties spar for control over a Senate that’s currently evenly divided. Trump carried the state by 1 percentage point in 2020 and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis won re-election by less than 2 percentage points against Democrat Cal Cunningham. 

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

237d ago / 9:04 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is retiring from Congress next year?

237d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retiring from Congress (11 Democrats and 5 Republicans) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic primary in Wisconsin will test strength of progressive agenda

237d ago / 3:54 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midterm roundup: Endorsements and announcements

241d ago / 5:05 PM UTC

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

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

New candidacies from some old faces

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vermont could have its first female member of Congress

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

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

Some North Carolina congressmen make their pick for Senate 

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

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

Redistricting shifts DCCC priorities

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

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

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

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

242d ago / 8:07 PM UTC

The ties have it. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

243d ago / 8:02 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

244d ago / 7:30 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Oz kicks off Senate campaign with big ad spending

247d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

247d ago / 3:25 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

248d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican committees bet big on Facebook spending

248d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta heads to polls in mayoral runoff

250d ago / 12:28 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

NRSC targets Thanksgiving travelers with inflation ads at gas stations

257d ago / 11:30 AM UTC

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

“You like high gas prices?” the ad intones, with cartoonish graphics and sound effects. “If so, introducing: Joe Biden and Democrats.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s five-figure, multi-day buy — first reported by NBC News — goes across ten battleground states where Republicans hope to flip or keep Senate seats in the upcoming 2022 midterms. The advertisements are intended to hit travelers on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday who are filling up their gas tanks.

The full list of states where the ads will air include: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The ad campaign comes as Republicans have increasingly focused on inflation spurred by supply chain issues as a key messaging focus ahead of 2022, using it as a point of contrast with Democrats, who seek to pass trillions in infrastructure, social programs, and climate measures. 

Recently, Democrats have pushed back on those attacks by arguing that the investments could help lessen the strain on the economy and give Americans more purchasing power. 

UPDATE: Gas Station TV rejected a version of these ads because they did not fall within the company’s political content guidelines. An NRSC spokesperson told NBC News Tuesday night that they are working to “tweak” the ads so they may run. 

GOP poll of Virginia has Republicans confident that Biden's approval rating, economy can boost party in 2022

263d ago / 7:13 PM UTC

A new Republican poll of Virginia gubernatorial voters shows why the GOP's recent victory in Virginia has the party arguing that both concerns about the economy and education, as well as President Joe Biden's low approval rating, could be part of a winning message in 2022. 

The new joint survey from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Governors Association, first obtained by NBC News and conducted by the GOP-aligned firm OnMessage Inc., shows that 55 percent of Virginia's gubernatorial electorate disapproved of Biden's job in office (with 47 percent saying they strongly disapproved and 7 percent saying they somewhat disapproved). In contrast, 44 percent said they approved of Biden (21 percent strongly and 23 percent somewhat).

That finding is largely in line with public polls released just before Election Day — Suffolk University, Fox News and The Washington Post/George Mason University were among the public surveys that showed a majority disapproving of Biden in the days before the election. And NBC's exit polling found that 53 percent of the Virginia electorate disapproved of Biden, compared to the 46 percent who approved of his job performance. 

And 71 percent said that Democrat Terry McAuliffe "spent far too much time and money running against Donald Trump, who wasn't even on the ballot" and that he "would have done better" if he focused on Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin. In addition, 82 percent said education was important to deciding their vote (52 percent said it was very important); and majorities agreed with GOP-leaning statements about "critical race theory" and inflation's effect on their household bottom line. 

“What’s clear from Virginia is that Joe Biden’s numbers are dragging down Democrats everywhere, something that should terrify every Senate Democrat running for reelection next year," Chris Hartline, the NRSC's communications director, said in a statement to NBC News. "The Democrats’ agenda of more spending, higher taxes, skyrocketing inflation, and an anti-parent philosophy on education is turning off swing voters, suburban voters, independent voters, you name it."

For its poll, OnMessage surveyed 800 gubernatorial election voters on Nov. 3 and 4 by telephone,  and the poll has a margin of error of +/-3.46%.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe's campaign post-mortem blamed their loss on better-than-expected GOP turnout and a poor political environment for Democrats that had Virginians believing both the country and the state were on the wrong path. And the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA called the Virginia election's a "warning for all Democrats," arguing that the party should stop "fighting each other" and focus on delivering on campaign promises to motivate their base and swing voters to turn out. 

It's all why this month's election results — both in Virginia but also in races in states like New Jersey and New York — have amplified Republican optimism ahead of next year's pivotal midterm elections, where control of both the House and Senate, as well as governor, are up for grabs.

Democrats are defending gubernatorial seats in five states rated as "toss up" or "lean," with Republicans defending four, according to ratings from The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter. And with the Senate evenly divided, there are four Democratic seats and five Republican seats with those "toss up" or "lean" ratings. 

Conservative group warns Luria, Spanberger on social spending bill weeks after Dem losses in Virginia

264d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

A conservative non-profit group is going up with new ads warning Virginia Democratic Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger that they should be wary of voting for the House Democrats' new social spending bill right after Republicans just swept into power in this month's elections.

American Action Network dropped two similar ads Tuesday calling on both Democrats not to vote on the forthcoming reconciliation bill, showing a super-cut of television news reacting to the results in Virginia's statewide and legislative elections. 

"The message, loud and clear: Virginia rejects the radical Biden/Pelosi agenda. But liberals like Abigail Spanberger still aren't listening," the narrator says in the ad, swapping out Luria's name in her district. 

"Tell Abigail Spanberger to get the message and reject the Pelosi spending plan." 

AAN has already spent heavily in both districts — more than $575,000 on ads against Spanberger and almost $1.2 million in Luria's district, enough to be among the top-two ad spenders in each district, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. And it has 

And the group has spent millions attacking Democrats across the country over the social-spending bill too, including announcing $2 million worth of new ads across eight districts (including the two in Virginia) on the issue yesterday. 

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday, Spanberger argued that the bipartisan infrastructure bill will help address supply chain issues by funding sectors like ports, airports, and recruiting for truck drivers. When asked about what lessons she thought Democrats should take away from her state's recent election, Spanberger said that Democrats need to "have a message that is responsive to what people are talking about." 

And when asked about the Democratic social spending bill specifically, she said there's "so much of this bill that's incredibly valuable" like spending to curb climate change, expand the child tax credit and lower prescription drug prices.

Senate ad spending nears $90 million one year from Election Day 2022

272d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

One year before Election Day 2022, the Senate ad-spending battleground is already flush with cash. 

So far this cycle, there has been a total of $89.6 million spent on TV/radio/digital ads according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

The ads have a variety of purposes, including trying to shore up incumbents' electoral positions,  challengers or outside groups trying to attack those incumbents and intra-party squabbles spilling out onto the airwaves. 

Here's a look at the top five races for ad-spending right now and what's been on the airwaves there. 

Arizona Senate (incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly): $21.6 million

Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since the 1950s, has been a top target for Republicans as they look to leverage a favorable midterm climate to defeat Kelly just two years after he won the special election to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain's term.

Democrats have the spending edge right now, $12.3 million to $8.8 million, and these airwaves have seen it all. Democratic groups like End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund and Advancing Arizona have been giving Kelly cover by touting the impact of the Senate's agenda and defending him from GOP attack ads, like this spot from One Nation that tries to pit Kelly against fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to question his bipartisan bonafides and criticize that Democratic agenda

But while those groups are focused on the general election, there's a robust clash on the airwaves in the GOP primary race, where allies of Thiel Foundation President Blake Masters are attacking Attorney General Mark Brnovich on issues like illegal immigration, while businessman Jim Lamon has hit the airwaves to frame himself as a political outsider. 

New Hampshire (incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan): $13.4 million

Unlike Arizona, where there's been a mix of ads in both the primary and the general election, New Hampshire has drawn this spending with virtually all eyes on a potential general election matchup. 

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

While retired Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, who ran for the Senate last cycle, is in the race, all eyes are on New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on the Republican side, as many Republicans argue he's the best chance the party has at flipping the seat. Even though he hasn't announced whether he's running yet, Democrats are already up with a significant ad buy attacking his record on abortion rights

Georgia (incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock): $8.3 million

This race had to be decided in overtime in the 2020 cycle, so it's no surprise it's already drawing a ton of spending. Like New Hampshire, Georgia's airwaves are primarily looking at the general election. 

Democrats have touted Warnock's support of the winter's Covid relief bill, while Republicans try to turn public sentiment on the Democrats' forthcoming reconciliation bill. And while there's a primary on the right highlighted by former college football great Herschell Walker (backed by former President Donald Trump), that primary hasn't really played out on the airwaves yet (Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has hit Walker on immigration in a radio ad, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). 

Nevada (incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto): $8.1 million

Another race where the general election has dominated the ad wars, the Democrats are outspending Republicans $5.1 million to $3 million along similar lines as many of these races — Democrats and Republicans squabbling over the political fallout of the Democratic agenda in Congress

While there's a burgeoning primary between the Trump-backed former Attorney General Adam Laxalt and retired Army Captain Sam Brown, it hasn't played out on the airwaves much past a $113,000 cable buy from Brown

Wisconsin (incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson): $6.8 million 

This longtime battleground state will likely have a tight Senate race in 2022, but it's unclear who will represent each party. Johnson, the incumbent, has not confirmed whether or not he'll run again, and there's a robust primary on the Democratic side. 

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

So far, Democrat Alex Lasry is the only one among the Democratic candidates to go up on the airwaves. He's spent $1.4 million on spots touting his bio

McAuliffe campaign memo blames supercharged GOP turnout, bad national environment for loss

275d ago / 11:04 PM UTC

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's campaign is blaming its loss in the state's gubernatorial election this week on a supercharged Republican turnout, as well as a difficult political environment for Democrats.

That assessment comes in an internal campaign memo obtained by NBC News which says that McAuliffe's campaign had projected that turnout would be at record levels, but adds that they never anticipated it being as high as the 3.2 million who actually voted. GOP businessman Glenn Youngkin won Tuesday's election with just over 50 percent of the vote.

"While we were successfully able to turn out the Democratic vote, Youngkin was able to use the Democratic stalemate and the Fox News/conservative media echo chamber as a catalyst to drive turnout in heavily Trump supporting areas and close the gap in turnout that was created in 2017," the memo states.

"[A]lmost every locality in the state overperformed their 2017 turnout rates; that trend was most pronounced in heavily Republican areas, slightly less so in Democratic areas."

An NBC analysis of the turnout confirms that rural turnout was supercharged for the GOP even as the McAuliffe campaign had assumed before the election that higher overall turnout would be better for them, not worse.

The McAuliffe camp also attributes their loss to a poor political environment for Democrats. "[B]eginning in August we saw the majority of Virginians say that both the country and the state were on the wrong track," the memo says.

August is when the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan began and marked a sharp downturn in President Biden's approval ratings.

When it comes to the debate over "Critical Race Theory," the memo argues that the campaign's own internal polling showed McAuliffe trailing on education when the general election campaign began.

"Our polling back in July saw Youngkin with a one point advantage over McAuliffe with education which held true throughout the rest of the campaign. This further indicates that education was not a key issue overall, but something more in the water throughout the election and part of the national issues that Democrats faced this year."

But the Youngkin campaign only began to lean into the education issue after this McAuliffe line from September's debate with NBC News' Chuck Todd: "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Before that, Youngkin's negative advertising on McAuliffe was focused primarily on crime.

NRCC expands list of Democratic targets in wake of Youngkin victory

277d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

The GOP House campaign committee said Wednesday it is expanding its list of Democratic targets for the 2022 midterms following Glenn Youngkin’s “commanding victory in the Virginia governor’s race.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) added 13 new Democratic-controlled seats to its offensive targets, bringing the total tally to 70 House Democrats. 

“In a cycle like this, no Democrat is safe,” NRCC Chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) declared in a statement released the morning after the election. “Voters are rejecting Democrat policies that have caused massive price increases, opened our borders, and spurred a nationwide crime wave.”

Among those new targets is Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, who represents the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and flipped her seat in 2018. Youngkin held his final campaign rally in her district’s Loudoun County Monday night. 

As the committee broadens its focus, however, state redistricting is still not finalized in most instances and House district maps are subject to change.

The NRCC had already been investing in four New Jersey battleground districts before Tuesday’s tight gubernatorial election between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, which is still too close to call. Those members include moderate Democratic Reps. Andy Kim, Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill.

“Last night’s results confirm that every vulnerable House Democrat has a decision to make over Thanksgiving: retire or lose,” NRCC Communications Director Michael McAdams told NBC News. “Voters are rejecting Democrats’ socialist agenda that has raised prices, caused a nationwide crime wave, and created a crisis on our southern border.”

The NRCC’s rival group, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), dismissed the announcement Wednesday morning.

“The NRCC is mistaken if they think they can easily emulate a campaign that skipped a messy GOP primary, had no political record to defend, and routinely kept President Trump at arm’s length,” DCCC spokesperson Chris Taylor said in a statement to NBC News.

“We have a year until the midterm elections, and on top of passing historic legislation that includes game-changing investments in our infrastructure and working families, Democrats are working to ensure battleground voters understand the grave danger that House Republicans and their extremism present to not only our families, but our democracy.”

Tight polls and flurry of new ads mark closing days of Virginia campaign

282d ago / 4:47 PM UTC

Two new polls of Virginia's race for governor are making headlines as candidates and interest groups continue to drop a flurry of new ads ahead of Tuesday's election. 

A poll released late Thursday by Fox News, showed Republican Glenn Youngkin at 53 percent and Democrat Terry McAuliffe at 45 percent among likely voters (among registered voters, Youngkin is at 48 percent and McAuliffe at 47 percent). 

The margins of error are 3 percent for likely voters and 2.5 percent for the registered voters. 

On Friday morning, the Washington Post released its latest poll showing McAuliffe at 49 percent among likely voters, Youngkin at 48 percent and Liberation party candidate Princess Blanding at 1 percent (among registered voters, McAuliffe is at 47 percent, Youngkin at 44 percent and Blanding at 3 percent). 

The margins of error in the Washington Post poll are 4 percent for likely voters and 3.5 for registered voters. 

On the airwaves, the Youngkin campaign remains focused on schools, specifically attacking McAuliffe for his opposition to a bill that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of being taught material a parent deemed explicit and recent alleged cases of sexual assault in Loudon County schools. 

Youngkin's camp has new ads in recent days on those issues, including one that claims "now, our schools are teetering on chaos." 

The McAuliffe campaign is out with a new spot, along with its partner in the AB Foundation, that accuses Youngkin of being the one "stoking chaos in our schools."  And in a new spot Friday, the campaign featured black women arguing that the push to ban explicit content, which has ensnared prominent Black author Toni Morrison's "Beloved," is "meant to divide us." 

Left-leaning church leaders push for Biden’s legislative agenda

284d ago / 5:06 PM UTC

As President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats attempt to conclude negotiations over their social agenda legislation, the president has recently found an unlikely ally looking to vouch for his policies: left-leaning Christian leaders. 

The effort gained steam late last month, when members of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of national church leaders representing an array of Christian denominations and millions of church-goers, met with Biden senior adviser Cedric Richmond at the White House. While there, the leaders advocated for keeping ‘anti-poverty’ policies in the final reconciliation bill including the extension of the child tax credit and paid family leave.

“With this legislation, we have a chance to dramatically reduce poverty and racial inequality in our country,” Rev. David Beckmann, coordinator of the Circle of Protection, told NBC News. “So it’s a once-in-a-generation chance to make our nation a more just place.” 

Beckmann added that in the White House meeting, church leaders emphasized to Richmond that their congregation members are both under informed on the specifics of the bill and “discouraged” by the Democratic infighting that’s likely to result in a diminished bill. As recently as Monday night, NBC News reported that Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.VA. had soured over key portions of the bill that religious leaders were enthusiastic about, including paid family leave, Medicare dental vouchers and the expansion of Medicaid. 

And last week, another member of the Circle, Rev. Jim Wallis, spoke outside the Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that coming up short in passing the bill would be a “moral and religious failure for our country.” 

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

But for Biden, keeping faith leaders around in this effort could also be a political calculation. 

“He would like to cast his agenda in moral terms and say that there is in fact a moral case for expanding the welfare state,” Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said in an interview with NBC News. “Their activity helps him to drive that point home.”

At the same time, the political influence of left-leaning churches is considerably less than that of churches on the religious right, with just 52 percent of Democratic and Democratic leaning registered voters identifying as Christian in 2019, compared to 79 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning registered voters according to data from the Pew Research Center. 

But when it comes to passing the Build Back Better Act and the influence it may have on religious voter turnout next year for Democrats, some experts, including Nichole Phillips, director of the Black Church studies program at Emory University, say it can only help. 

“The provisions, if they broadly impact those who are the constituency of the religious bodies, will work favorably for the Democrats and President Biden.”

Poll: Murphy holds lead in New Jersey's race for governor

284d ago / 4:03 PM UTC

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy leads his Republican opponent, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, by 11 points in a new poll ahead of next week's race for governor. 

Fifty percent of registered voters back Murphy in Monmouth University's new poll, with Ciattarelli garnering support from 39 percent of those voters. The margins are similar in the race depending on the different turnout projections Monmouth applies to the race — a 9-point Murphy lead among likely voters, an 8-point Murphy lead in a low-turnout election and a 14-point Murphy lead in a high-turnout election. 

The lead for Murphy, outside of the poll's 3.1 percent margin of error, is bolstered by strong support from traditionally Democratic voting blocs like minority, young, college-educated and female voters. Ciattarelli is winning the majority of white voters and a slim plurality of those who consider themselves independents. 

Murphy has a 52 percent approval rating and a 39 percent disapproval rating from registered voters. His favorable rating of 45 percent is lower than that, but still higher than Ciatarrelli's 37 percent approval rating. 

While President Joe Biden won this state by almost 16 points last year, a near majority, 49 percent, of registered voters disapprove of his job as president. Forty-three percent say they approve of Biden's job performance. 

Monmouth polled 1,000 New Jersey voters between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25. 

NRSC Chair Rick Scott says Sinema's role in budget negotiations is 'helping' GOP efforts to defeat Kelly in 2022

284d ago / 12:14 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who is leading the GOP's efforts to win back the U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, said Tuesday that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s, D-Ariz., contrarian role in negotiating the Democratic Party's efforts to pass infrastructure and budget bills has been helpful to Republican efforts to oust her Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., next fall.

“Mark Kelly’s getting defined every day because he’s so different than Sinema," the chaiman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee told NBC News Tuesday.  "'He’s just going along every day, he doesn’t say anything, but he does whatever Schumer tells him to do. So yeah, I think it’s helping us.”

Kelly's re-election effort is expected to be one of the marquee races of the midterms, putting more focus on a state where Republicans are seeking to make inroads after losing both Senate seats in recent years as well as the 2020 presidential race.

Republican involved in the state believe that Sinema's role as one of two key votes for Democrats in getting part of President Joe Biden's agenda through Congress has provided an implicit contrast with her fellow Democratic senator. And they believe that counterbalance is helpful to them in 2022 in taking on Kelly —though they allow it may make it harder for the next iteration of the NRSC forced to try to compete with her in 2024.

Sinema has faced backlash from activists within the party for her hardline negotiation posture on Biden’s signature Build Back Better agenda, and has even drawn the ire of her colleagues on the Hill — who are frustrated by what they see as her non-communicative negotiating style on this critical agenda item. 

Priorities USA partners with key groups to boost McAuliffe on education, spark minority turnout in Virginia's race for governor

285d ago / 11:06 AM UTC

Priorities USA, the major Democratic super PAC, is teaming up with the American Federation of Teachers to come to Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe's defense on education issues, and with the Latino Victory Project as the groups rally minority voters ahead of next week's pivotal race for governor. 

The partnership with AFT includes $100,000 worth of digital ads that criticize Republican Glenn Youngkin on education, arguing that "he'll divert taxpayer money away from public schools," while vouching for McAuliffe as a governor who listened to teachers and parents during his initial stint and is a good steward for public education.

Priorities tells NBC News that it is explicitly targeting voters who've seen Youngkin's recent education ads, making the group the latest to come to McAuliffe's defense as the Republican makes the issue a key piece of his closing message. 

"Terry McAuliffe will make Virginia’s schools stronger and produce better outcomes for students. We’re engaging Virginians on digital platforms because we know this is where they are looking for critical information," Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement announcing the ad. 

AFT President Randi Weingarten added in a statement of her own that McAuliffe has "walked the walk when it comes to our kids" and that "with partisan vitriol, misinformation and attacks at an all-time high, it’s important that all Virginians understand that Terry McAuliffe is the best candidate to lead the state forward.”

Youngkin has spent millions in the final weeks of the campaign criticizing McAuliffe for saying during last month's debate that "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." And after attacking McAuliffe for vetoing legislation during his stint as governor that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of material they deemed sexually explicit, the Republican dropped a new ad featuring a mother at the center of that fight

"Virginia parents have a right to make decisions on their children's education. That's the Virginia I grew up in," Youngkin says in one spot. 

McAuliffe initially responded weeks after the debate with a direct-to-camera ad accusing Youngkin of "taking my words out of context" and saying he's "always valued the concerns of parents." And he and allies have since run similar ads promoting McAuliffe's education plan and criticizing Youngkin. 

As part of its final push, Priorities is also partnering with the Latino Victory Project to run $57,000 of get-out-the-vote ads in English and Spanish targeting Hispanic voters in the state.

And it’s also targeting black voters statewide with digital ads directing them to online resources about voting as Democrats have looked to shore up their base in a state where President Joe Biden won by 10 points in 2020, but where polling shows a tighter race for governor.

Last month, Priorities announced it was spending $1.7 million on digital ads in Virginia, as well as Pennsylvania, to help mobilize voters ahead of both this fall's election as well as next year's midterms. 

Five different national polls all show rough numbers for Biden

289d ago / 7:00 PM UTC

Five high-quality national polls have been released this week, and they all tell the same story. 

Nine months into his time in office, President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are clearly underwater.

On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University poll had Biden’s job rating at 37 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove among all Americans.

On Wednesday, a national Grinnell College poll — conducted by famed Iowa pollster Ann Selzer’s outfit – had Biden at 37 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove.

Also on Wednesday, a Fox News poll had the president at 46 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove among registered voters.

On Thursday, a CNBC poll — conducted by the same pollsters who do the NBC News poll — showed President Biden’s approval rating down to 41 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove among all adults.

And on Friday, Gallup’s monthly tracking (Oct. 1-19) had Biden’s job rating down to 42 percent among all adults, with the poll finding that the president’s approval among independents falling 21 points since June.

To put those Gallup numbers into historical context, Barack Obama’s approval rating was still above 50 percent in Oct. 2009 (and didn’t reach the 40s until the next year, when Democrats lost control of the U.S House).

But Biden’s standing is higher than Donald Trump’s at this same point in presidency, when Gallup had his approval in the high 30s during his turbulent first year as president.

McAuliffe and Youngkin fight over extremes, education on the airwaves as election draws near

290d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day in Virginia, an analysis of recent ad-spending by each candidate makes it clear what messages they want voters to take with them when they cast their ballots.

Democrats have outspent Republicans on television, digital and radio advertising over the last two weeks (from Oct. 8 through Oct. 21) $7.5 million to $4.6 million, according to the ad-tracking firm, AdImpact.

Other data from AdImpact also can provide a glimpse of what messages each campaign is investing in on the airwaves (note: AdImpact tracks an estimated spending figure for individual advertisements, but that estimate does not include local cable spending, so it's not a full picture). 

Most of the ads that Democrat Terry McAuliffe's campaign appears to be prioritizing are about framing Republican Glenn Youngkin as too extreme for the state and presenting McAuliffe as the candidate for the middle-of-the-road Virginian. 

He's spent at least $820,000 on a spot that quotes Youngkin saying he doesn't support a right to an abortion being included in the Virginia constitution.  At least $780,000 has gone to airing a spot that argues that he lifted "everybody up" as governor, regardless of party. At least $750,000 spent warning that Youngkin "would bring Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos' education policies to Virginia." And McAuliffe's campaing has spent at least $678,000 on an ad that highlights former President Trump's praise of Youngkin during a controversial conservative rally last week. 

And he has two brand new spots of note: one using former President Barack Obama to make the case for him, and another where he is on the defensive responding to Youngkin's attacks about education. 

The new schools ad from McAuliffe comes as Youngkin has made education one of his campaign's top issues — the issue is at the heart of the two ads that Youngkin appears to be prioritizing by a significant margin on the airwaves. 

The Republican is running two similar ads that quote McAuliffe during last month's debate saying "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." 

One argues that McAuliffe is "putting politics over parents, failing our kids." And the other features Youngkin sitting in a classroom and arguing that unlike McAuliffe, he'll "always stand up for Virginia's parents." The Republican has spent at least $2.7 million on the two ads over the last two weeks, far more than he has on any other message, per AdImpact. 

Youngkin's newest ad is on the economy and claims he would be a better steward of the state's economy his tenure would lead to lower taxes. 

'Black Hawk Down' pilot launches Alabama Senate bid

291d ago / 5:56 PM UTC

Former Army pilot Mike Durant, whose military career was partly featured in the movie "Black Hawk Down," has jumped into the Alabama GOP Senate primary and is already on the air with a new television ad. 

The new spot starts with footage from when Durant was taken prisoner in Somalia after his helicopter was shot down in 1993. His crash and subsequent recue was the focus of the film and book that inspired the movie.

The ad itself shows Durant flying a helicopter, saying "We need a Senator who is an outsider, backs Trump, the Constitution and America."

The Purple Heart recipient has wasted little time after announcing his bid, booking almost $150,000 in television time, including on Fox News, as he seeks to break through an already crowded primary field.

Durant will have to contend against a big field of Republican Senate hopefuls — Rep. Mo Brooks, who has the backing of former President Trump; Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to the retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby; Lynda Blanchard, the former ambassador to Slovenia under Trump; and businesswoman Jessica Taylor, who ran for Congress last cycle. 

So far, Brooks has spent almost $300,000 on TV ads, compared to Blanchard's $108,000 and Britt's $34,000.

McAuliffe plays defense on education, offense on Trump in new TV ads

292d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

Former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is out with two new ads with just two weeks to go until the pivotal Virginia gubernatorial election — one that plays defense on education and another that tries to go on offense by linking Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin again to former President Donald Trump.

The education spot comes after Youngkin spent more than $3 million on ads (per ad-tracking firm AdImpact) in the last month hitting McAuliffe for saying during a debate “I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."

Now, McAuliffe is up with a new ad directly responding to those attacks, staring directly to camera to accuse Republicans of taking him out of context and declaring that "I've always valued the concerns of parents."

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

It's the latest salvo in a battle over what's quickly become one of Youngkin's top closing messages, one that Republicans hope can help level the playing field in the blue-leaning state. 

But alongside the defensive move, the McAuliffe campaign is also up with a new ad that attempts to seize on a perceived strength — linking Youngkin to Trump in a state the Republican president lost last year. 

McAuliffe has tried to marry the two Republicans over issues like Covid and Trump's unfounded claims he won the 2020 election. And in a new, one-minute ad that started airing Tuesday, the narrator criticizes Republicans embracing Trump, showing Trump's controversial comments on the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville followed by Youngkin saying during his 2021 campaign that he was "honored to receive President Trump's endorsement." 

Senate fundraising watch: Warnock posts a huge quarter

293d ago / 8:39 PM UTC

Friday's federal campaign finance deadline provided yet another peek at how the race for control of the Senate is shaping up, and one thing is clear — there's a whole lot of cash already being accumulated. 

Democrats hold the tiebreaker in the Senate, so Republicans need to flip a net of just one seat in 2022 in order to retake control of the body. 

Here's a look at how candidates in the most competitive races (rated "lean" or "toss-up" by the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, as well as races with well-funded primary challengers) fundraised from July through September: 

Biggest overall fundraiser: Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock 

Warnock was always going to be fighting a challenging battle to hold onto his Senate seat considering that before he and fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff won their 2021 runoffs, the state hadn't elected a Democratic senator since 2000. 

But he continues to be a prolific fundraiser, and his $9.5 million raised is more than any Senate candidate this past quarter. That's a boost from the $7 million he raised in the previous quarter, another eye-popping sum, and he ended September with $17.2 million in the bank. 

The honorable mentions in this category go to Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly (he raised $8.2 million), as well as both of Florida's top Senate hopefuls, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Val Demings (more on them below). 

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

Biggest fundraising challenger: Demings 

With her $8.5 million raised last quarter (after spending $5.6 million to do it), Demings raised more than any other candidate except for Warnock. That makes her the top fundraising candidate out of those looking to dethrone an incumbent. She finished September with almost $6 million in the bank, another record for Senate challengers.

But she'll be facing a well-funded incumbent in Rubio, who raised more money than any other Republican last quarter — $6 million — by a significant margin. 

So even while Demings is proving to be a fundraising machine, and the $6 million in cash on hand puts her in the upper-echelon of Senate candidates (incumbents included), Rubio has the third-biggest war chest of competitive Senate candidates this cycle: $9.6 million. 

The honorable mention here goes to Georgia Republican Herschel Walker, as the former football great endorsed by former President Donald Trump raised $3.8 million in just a few weeks (as he announced his bid in late August). 

Lowest incumbent fundraiser: Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks 

Brooks, who has Trump's backing, raised just $670,000 toward his Senate bid. That's half-as-much-as one of his competitors, Katie Britt, the former top aide to retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby. Britt raised $1.5 million last quarter and has $3.3 million in cash on hand compared to Brooks' $1.9 million. Former Trump Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has $4.5 million on hand thanks to millions from her own deep pockets. 

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley raised the second-fewest of any of the incumbents in these key races, $824,000. But he didn't announce his decision to run again until the end of the fundraising quarter. Former Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer raised $1 million last quarter in the hopes of dethroning him. 

Biggest self-funder: Pennsylvania Republican Carla Sands 

Sands, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark in the Trump administration, loaned her primary campaign $3.1 million, the vast majority of the $3.6 million she raised last quarter. That was narrowly more than the $3 million than Republican businessmen Jim Lamon and Bernie Moreno, in Arizona and Ohio respectively, each loaned their campaigns last quarter.

All three are running in crowded fields where they're hoping their big wallets will help them stand out. 

State with the most self-funding: Ohio 

It's not just Moreno — Ohio's other Republican Senate hopefuls opened up their own wallets last quarter to a significant degree. 

On top of Moreno's $3 million, investment banker Mike Gibbons loaned his campaign $2.25 million, former state GOP chair Jane Timken loaned her campaign $1 million and author JD Vance loaned his campaign $100,000. 

Two more House Democrats announce impending retirement

and

293d ago / 7:18 PM UTC

Two more House Democrats — Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and David Price, D-N.C., — announced Monday they won't seek re-election next fall, making them the latest members to head for the door as their party gears up to defend its slim majority next year.  

In a statement, Doyle said that after 14 terms in office "the time has come to pass the torch to the next generation."

In explaining his decision, Doyle pointed to both a personal desire to spend retirement with his wife, as well as to the upcoming congressional redistricting process that he maintained makes this a "good transition time for a new member to start in a newly drawn district." He also said he wanted to announce his decision early enough that his would-be successors would have enough time to for a robust campaign. 

Price, who is leaving after 17 terms in Congress, said that "while it is time for me to retire, it is no time to flag in our efforts to secure a 'more perfect union' and to protect and expand our democracy."

As two of the more senior members of the House Democratic caucus, both men are also the longest-serving members of their state's congressional delegations. Doyle is the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, while Price is a "cardinal" on the House Appropriations Committee, overseeing the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. 

The congressional seats that both men currently represent will be subject to congressional redistricting ahead of next cycle, although they both currently represent safe Democratic districts. 

Six House Democrats are retiring at the end of their term, with five more leaving to run for higher office. Last week, the powerful House Budget Chair, John Yarmuth, R-Ky., announced he would retire at the end of next year.

In two statements, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., praised Price as "a champion for North Carolina families" and celebrated Doyle's "work on behalf of Americans with autism and their families."

Mike Berg, a spokesman with the National Republican Congressional Committee argued in a statement that the retirements are being motivated by the chance that Democrats lose their House majority, which would mean these senior Democrats would lose their plum positions. 

"Smart Democrats are fleeing Congress as fast as humanly possible because they know Democrats’ majority is coming to an end," Berg said. 

House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth announces he won't seek re-election

and

299d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, announced Tuesday that he won't seek re-election in 2022. 

Yarmuth, whose district encompasses the vast majority of Louisville, is the only Democratic representative from the Republican-heavy state. He’s been a central broker in advancing President Joe Biden’s agenda, including authoring and shepherding the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package through Congress.

In a video sent to supporters and donors and then posted on Twitter, Yarmuth called his work on that bill “his proudest moment.”

“I never expected to be in Congress this long. I always said I couldn’t imagine being here longer than 10 years,” Yarmuth says in the video. “This term will be my last.”

“The desire to have more control of my time in the years I have left has become a high priority. Candidly, I have found new and incomparable joy in spending time with my young grandson, and I’d like to spend more of my Golden Years with my family in Louisville.”

In a brief interview with NBC News, Yarmuth added that he’s not “not planning on disappearing from the public arena. I will stay involved and active. It’s just time.”

“It’s sad, it’s exciting, it’s relief.”

The announcement makes him the fourth Democratic House member to announce they’re retiring at the end of this term ahead of what’s already expected to be a challenging year for Democrats looking to maintain their narrow majority in the House (five additional members are leaving their post at the end of this term because they’re running for higher office).  

The 73-year-old has served 16 years in Congress. Early in his political life, Yarmuth identified as a “Rockefeller Republican,” but has become an outspoken proponent of his party’s progressive agenda. He’s advocated scrapping the Senate's filibuster, writing a March op-ed calling to abolish the rule and “re-democratize the country.”

“Eliminate the minority veto, make voting easy for everyone, give statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Time is running out. Let’s make hay while the bright sun of democracy is shining,” he wrote.

He’s also pushed for campaign finance reform and been an advocate for new gun safety laws.

In his role as chairman, he’s played an integral part in helping to craft the party’s reconciliation bill. But in a Monday interview on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily,” Yarmuth admitted that Democrats lack a “total consensus” on what the most important priorities should be in that spending package.

The Democrat has also been a vocal critic of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken. The two men have known each other since the 1960s and Yarmuth ran alongside McConnell during his 1981 bid for county commissioner.

Yet that relationship has frayed — Yarmuth recently called McConnell “deceitful” about debt-ceiling negotiations and during a 2013 speech at a Jefferson County Democratic Party leader, the Democrat told attendees that “I can be really brief tonight and just say: Mitch McConnell sucks.” 

Wisconsin Democrat drops over half a million on first round of TV ads

305d ago / 4:22 PM UTC

Milwaukee Bucks executive and Democratic Senate hopeful Alex Lasry has dropped about $660,000 on his first slate of TV ads, becoming the first candidate to hit the airwaves in the crowded Wisconsin Senate Democratic primary. 

Lasry booked time on both cable and broadcast television from Wednesday through Nov. 7, per data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. 

He's so far running two new spots that tout how the Bucks treated workers while building their NBA arena and sourced 80 percent of their building materials from the state of Wisconsin. (The ads specifically touts a $15 wage for workers, a claim that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says needs more context because the arena opened in 2018, but the $15 minimum wage for workers didn't begin until 2020). 

Much of the TV spending in the race has been attacking Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who hasn't officially announced whether he is running for re-election. Lasry is the only candidate to go up with TV ads, but MoveOn.org, the progressive group that's backed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes' bid for Senate, has been running anti-Johnson ads too

Lasry's been the top fundraiser by far of the Democratic candidates through June (the last time a campaign finance report was due), raising $2 million over that span. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski raised $514,000 over that time, followed by Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, the former state Assembly Democratic leader who raised $504,000 through that time. Barnes announced in July, meaning he isn't required to disclose any information about his fundraising until next week.

Johnson, by comparison, had raised $3.3 million through June. 

In 2022 Senate races, new candidates and new polling

306d ago / 6:45 PM UTC

It's not even Election Day of 2021, but there's new movement in the battle for the Senate in 2022. 

Here are the latest developments:

Veteran jumps into North Carolina GOP Senate field 

North Carolina's Senate race is already crowded on the Republican side — it includes North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, endorsed by former President Donald Trump; Rep. Mark Walker; former Gov. Pat McCrory. 

But on Tuesday, Army veteran and entrepreneur Marjorie Eastman jumped into the race with an announcement video released on YouTube, where she recounted how she decided to serve in the military after the 9/11 attacks and how she feels called to serve now (pledging to only serve two terms in office). Her announcement doesn't mention Trump, who still looms large in most Senate primaries even though he's out of office.  

"Capitalism brings more people out of poverty than the creeping socialism that's being pushed right now in our Congress. Our government's dysfunctional — professional politicians see that serving is a paycheck and not a calling. I view this as a tour of duty," Eastman says. 

Evan McMullin will run against GOP Utah Sen. Mike Lee

McMullin, a former GOP House aide who ran for president in 2016 as an independent, is trying his hand at political office again, this time running for Senate in Utah as an independent. 

The former Republican and critic of Trump, who won 21 percent of the presidential vote in Utah in 2016, launched his bid with a video on social media that evokes a similar theme to Eastman's. McMullin also points to 9/11 as a reason why he joined the CIA as well as the House. He calls out to his 2016 bid by arguing that he's "led efforts to defeat extremist politicians in both parties," and criticized the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

"The extremes in Washington don't represent Utah, they prevent us from governing ourselves and jeopardize our democracy," he says. "I'm not running as a Republican or Democrat, but as a patriot committed to defending our nation." 

Despite supporting efforts to undercut Trump ahead of the 2016 GOP convention, Lee became an ally of Trump's during his term in office, but faced criticism from Trump in recent weeks for not more fervently questioning the results of the 2020 election, which Trump lost. 

As an independent, McMullin will try to draw support from both parties in a state that has elected Republican Senators in every election since the 1970s. 

New polling in Nevada 

Nevada could be one of the bigger races of the 2022 battleground. Democrats have had recent success there, winning key races in each of the last three cycles (president in 2020 and 2016, Senate in 2018 and 2016 and governor in 2018), but it hasn't been too long since the state had a GOP governor and a GOP senator as well. 

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is running for re-election, with former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt her highest-profile potential GOP opponent. A new poll from the Nevada Independent found Cortez Masto up 45 percent to 41 percent over Laxalt among likely voters, with a 4 percent margin of error. 

Poll: GOP belief in climate change declined under Trump presidency

307d ago / 3:46 PM UTC

While a significant majority of Americans say they believe that the climate is changing and leading to extreme outcomes, the portion of Republicans who believe that has dropped 15 percentage points in just three years. 

A new poll from Monmouth University finds that 76 percent of Americans agree with the idea that "the world's climate is undergoing a change that is causing more extreme weather patterns and the rise of sea levels." That's about in line with the university's previous polling on the issue. Virtually all Democrats (94 percent) agree with that statement, along with 81 percent of independents. 

But only 48 percent of Republicans believe that is occurring, a bottoming out back to levels Monmouth found in 2015 after its 2018 poll found 64 percent who agreed with that perspective on climate change. 

Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institute's director, pointed to then-President Donald Trump's repudiation of a 2018 federal climate report as a possible explanation for the backslide.

"Republican acknowledgement of climate change was a major finding in the 2018 poll. However, that was conducted right before then-President Donald Trump disparaged a federal climate report. The GOP base’s views on hot button issues such as climate change have shifted to be more in line with this orthodoxy,” Murray said.

The Trump administration rolled back a handful of regulations aimed at curbing pollution and downplayed its own data on the link between climate change and migration, among other actions that frustrated climate activists

The poll also found that the gaps between how seriously those in coastal and inland states are taking climate change has evaporated, and that a majority of people believe climate change is either a primary or major factor in recent wildfires and flooding across the country. 

And two-thirds of Americans also say they support government interventions aimed at tackling both climate change and sea level rise."

That said, there remains a significant divide over how much human activity is contributing to the changing climate. Thirty-five percent of adults say human activity is the primary cause of climate change, with 32 percent saying both human activity and natural causes are working in tandem and 8 percent blaming natural causes as the main driver of climate change. A majority of Democrats, 57 percent, believe human activity is the primary driver of the changing climate, a view shared by just 8 percent of Republicans. 

Monmouth polled 802 adults in America between Sept. 9 through 13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. 

New Jersey governor's race remains heated even as Democrat holds clear lead in polling

310d ago / 5:58 PM UTC

While Virginia’s competitive gubernatorial race has drawn the lion’s share of media attention over the last few months, the race for New Jersey’s top office has recently seen its own fiery moments over the airwaves.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has looked to tie Republican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli to former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 attack, and recent restrictions on abortion and voting enacted by GOP-controlled states. Meanwhile, the Republican has hammered Murphy on crime and property taxes, bread-and-butter issues for GOP candidates.

Murphy, who is seeking a second term in office, currently holds a double-digit advantage over Ciattarelli according to the most recent polling numbers from Monmouth University. Since the state’s June 8 primary, both candidates have spent $2.8 million each on TV, radio and digital advertising, according to the ad-tracker AdImpact. An outside group affiliated with Murphy, Our NJ, has spent an additional $2 million boosting the Democrat.

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

In one of Murphy’s newest spots, the governor emphasizes voting and abortion rights, ending on a phrase he’s said repeatedly along the campaign trail: “We’re not going back.” Murphy has worked to draw comparisons between Ciattarelli and Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas, who recently signed highly controversial election and abortion bills into law. 

Another pro-Murphy ad shows Ciattarelli speaking at a “Stop the Steal” rally in late November 2020, connecting that appearance to former President Trump and the January 6 insurrection (the Republican says he thought the rally's intent was more innocuous). Trump has not endorsed Ciattarelli in the race.

Meanwhile, one of Ciattarelli’s newest spots, “We Can Do Better,” targets Murphy for increased state spending, rising murder and gun violence rates and New Jersey’s nation-leading property taxes.

At the state’s first gubernatorial debate in Newark on Tuesday night, the two candidates continued to trade jabs, arguing over those same topics and others including mask and vaccination mandates, which Ciattarelli opposes. 

Ciattarelli instead looked to shift the attention to the Garden State’s high rate of nursing home deaths, which he blamed on the governor. Murphy countered by noting that nursing homes were required to separate Covid-positive residents and said that there was no “playbook” at the start of the pandemic to curb cases, as opposed to the information about masking and vaccines available now.

To date, Murphy has raised nearly $7.7 million and spent almost $7.9 million, while Ciattarelli has raised almost $6.8 million and spent slightly over $7 million, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The candidates’ next debate is scheduled for Oct. 12.

New poll from Bolton PAC questions Trump's hold on GOP

312d ago / 9:12 PM UTC

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton's super PAC, is out with a new poll casting doubt on former President Trump's hold on the GOP electorate as the longtime fixture in the Republican national security world continues to try to undercut the standing of his former boss. 

Now out of office, Trump has sought to flex his political muscle by raising tens of millions of dollars for future political efforts, and using endorsements to reward allies and challenge opponents. While he hasn't announced whether he's running for president in 2024, he's repeatedly teased a potential bid 

But through a handful of poll releases, starting in April and the most recent on Wednesday, Bolton (through his John Bolton Super PAC) has argued that the results show Trump doesn't have such a dominating standing in the party. Bolton, who was fired by Trump from his post as national security adviser, has since become a vocal critic of his former boss. 

The Bolton Super PAC's latest poll finds that 26 percent of likely 2024 Republican presidential primary voters say they'd support Trump in that primary out of a field that includes: Trump, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, South Dakota Gov. Kristi  Noem, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. 

Trump is virtually tied with DeSantis in that poll, who sits at 25 percent. The rest of the field finished with single-digit support, with Christie at 7 percent, Haley at 6 percent and Cruz at about 5 percent. In a press release accompanying the poll, Bolton's PAC noted that Trump has lost ground by about 20 points among primary voters from its July poll of a similar field. 

Back in April, when Bolton's PAC put out its first poll, Trump released a statement from his own pollster, John McLaughlin, refuting the findings that his influence was waning and criticizing Bolton as "out of touch with today's Republican Party." 

"President Trump’s successful America First policies kept us safe. This is a big reason why Republicans want him to run again," he said. 

Bolton's poll still found Trump viewed favorably by 81 percent of likely Republican general election voters and viewed unfavorably by 15 percent of them.

The Bolton poll also tested sentiment on the Afghanistan withdrawal, an issue that's close to the longtime foreign policy adviser and former United Nations ambassador. 

Fifty-one percent of voters said they thought the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan would make the country less safe. The poll also found that the majority of voters said America should have left at least some troops in the region, while other surveys have found majority support for withdrawing

Bolton's PAC polled 1,000 likely general election voters by telephone from Sept. 16-18 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. 

Club for Growth targets Biden on jobs in Chicago ahead of visit

313d ago / 11:42 AM UTC

The conservative group Club for Growth is running television and digital ads in Chicago coinciding with President Joe Biden's trip there Wednesday, accusing him and Democrats there of damaging the economy. 

The advertisement, provided exclusively to NBC News, criticizes Biden for "unsustainable debt" and the "constant threat of massive tax hikes forcing businesses to close." 

It echoes themes from Republicans, who have sought to paint Biden and Democrats as engaged in reckless spending that is spurring inflation and harming consumers.

The ad also criticizes the state's governor J.B. Pritzker, who is up for re-election next year. 

Democrats have countered that inflation is being caused by the pandemic and temporary supply chain problems that will eventually be ironed out. 

The ads are running Wednesday on Chicago television networks, a $17,500 buy that spans four broadcast networks including during all four morning programs and evening newscasts. The digital ads will also target business and transportation hubs in Chicago, including in the two major city airports plus the ones in Waukegan, Ill. and Kenosha, Wisc. plus the Chicago train station. 

“Nobody’s buying Biden’s claim that his administration and policies have been good for business," David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth, said in a statement. "He’s miserably underperformed on foreign policy, jobs, spending, inflation, regulations, and now he wants to impose a massive middle-class tax increase on hard-working Americans. While Biden ran as a moderate and claims to be a capitalist, it’s clear that he’s got more in common with many of the corrupt and incompetent liberal Illinois politicians.”

With Grassley running, just a handful of Senate incumbents are left to decide on 2022

317d ago / 4:23 PM UTC

Friday's decision by 88-year-old Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to run for re-election brings major clarity to the state. With Grassley, in there are just a few more senators up for re-election in 2022 who haven't officially announced their plans yet. 

Here's a look at the highest-profile senators who haven't yet explicitly confirmed whether they'll run next year, and what they've said: 

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Representing a state that has repeatedly swung between Republicans and Democrats in recent statewide elections, the race for this seat is expected to be one of the most competitive of the election cycle regardless of whether or not Johnson runs. 

He raised about $3.3 million over the first six months of 2021, ending June with $1.7 million in cash on hand. That's a lower number than many other vulnerable incumbents at this point, but enough to immediately hit the ground running if he decides to run. 

Johnson's publicly admitted he's unsure if he'll run, saying in an interview with a conservative commentator that he wants to keep the seat red but "I may not be the best candidate" to do that. Nevertheless, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, R-Fla., has said he believes Johnson will run (per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). 

But even amid the senator's wavering, a gaggle of Democrats have already announced they're running, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and former Assembly Leader Tom Nelson. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska 

Murkowski finds herself in a unique situation ahead of her 2022 re-election for a number of reasons. First, Alaska has overhauled its election system for top offices and replaced it with a non-partisan primary where the top four candidates advance to a general election, which will decided by ranked-choice voting. And secondly, former President Donald Trump is endorsing her GOP challenger. 

The long-time fixture in Alaska politics is no stranger to odd circumstances surrounding a re-election, or overcoming trouble within her own party — she won her 2010 race as a write-in candidate after losing her primary. But the ranked-choice system, and Trump endorsing against her, could inject significant uncertainty into a 2022 race. 

While she hasn't officially announced her intentions, she told Bloomberg this week she'd reveal them "when I have plans to announce." 

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.  

Thune's seat is not expected to be at any risk for Republicans in 2022, so unlike these other two senators, the decision is more about whether Thune wants to run again. 

The member of Republican leadership is only 60 years old and could potentially succeed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell once the 79-year-old retires. But Thune has drawn the ire of Trump too, with the former president calling for a primary challenge for Thune after his critical comments about Trump's push to challenge the 2020 election. Thune told Politico in August that he's "not in any rush" to decide. 

Progressives aren’t the only ones who have a beef with the bipartisan infrastructure bill

318d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

The $550 billion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate last month was one of the rare bipartisan achievements in the past decade, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in support of the legislation. 

Its fate in the House, however, has become more uncertain as Democratic progressives have threatened to vote against it ahead of next week’s scheduled vote unless their larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package passes first.

But the bill also has attracted widespread criticism from city-planners and transit advocates.

Charles Marohn, founder and president of Strong Towns, a city planning advocacy group, argues that that the legislation doesn’t make a real dent in the U.S. transportation system’s disrepair, despite the bill’s $110 billion for roads and bridges, $65 billion for high-speed internet access and $39 billion for public transit.

“The fact that we have just overbuilt our infrastructure and not made very good use of it means that even a generational size bill can't take care of everything,” Marohn said.

“As advertised, it is bold, but when it comes to spending on infrastructure that boldness lies in its size, not its vision,” Marohn wrote in a booklet published in response to the bill. 

Jarred Johnson, the executive director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Transit Matters, contends that the bipartisan infrastructure bill doesn’t move far away enough from auto-centric transportation. 

“There are things cities can do to build momentum for projects when the money does come,” Johnson said. “Dedicating street space for other road uses, like bike and bus lanes, and showing people that the world is not going to come to an end because you’ve taken out a car lane.”

Johnson also criticized the bill’s reliance on spending money to build and renovate transportation projects, but not on addressing operating costs.

“No American city is designed in a way that befits relying on fares. Providing operating costs would help low-income communities by encouraging agencies to alleviate some of the burden on them,” Johnson said. 

And Salim Furth, a senior research fellow focusing on land use regulation and housing at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said he was disappointed that the infrastructure bill doesn’t address building additional housing near transit stops.

But Caron Whitaker, deputy executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, said that for her beloved and oft-ignored bike lanes, there is cause for optimism in this bill, with its allocated $6 billion to fix existing streets using safety standards that are good for bikers and pedestrians.

“This is the first time we’ve really seen Congress take the safety of people – biking, walking, using wheelchairs and scooters — seriously.”

“Is it a perfect bill? No,” Whitaker says. “But it is better than what we would get out of the next Congress, probably.”

Marohn of Strong Town is less convinced, however.

“We need an entirely new strategy for how we invest in infrastructure. It needs to start with maintenance, and it needs to start with getting better use of the stuff we have already built,” he said.

“Ten years from now, when we’re done with this spending, we will have more bridges in disrepair than we do now. We will have more lane miles in bad condition than we do now.”

Progressive non-profit attacks Sununu on abortion ahead of possible Senate bid

319d ago / 11:03 AM UTC

Amplify NH, a progressive non-profit, is launching a seven-figure television and digital ad buy attacking New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu by arguing the possible Republican Senate candidate is out of step with the state on abortion. 

The spot, which began running Thursday morning, begins with the narrator saying the ad will include "no scary voices, no over the top music, just facts," before reading local headlines on the budget Sununu signed, which included a ban on abortion after 24 weeks, except for in the case when a "pregnant woman’s life or a major bodily function is threatened." 

The ad notes that there's no carve out for victims of rape or incest, before directing views to read more online. 

Amplify NH tells NBC News that it will put about $1.5 million behind the ad.

"The more Granite Staters learn about Governor Sununu’s abortion ban, the more they dislike it — and disapprove of the job he’s doing as governor,”  Molly Kelly, an Amplify New Hampshire board member, said in a statement announcing the ad. “Health care professionals, patients, and activists have repeatedly called on Governor Sununu to repeal his abortion ban because it is wrong for New Hampshire. We plan to educate every Granite Stater about Governor Sununu’s extreme, far-right agenda that puts politics before women’s health care.”

According to NPR, Sununu addressed the issue at the time, arguing that while he considers himself a "pro-choice governor," the abortion restrictions wouldn't prompt him to veto the bill. 

“So, look, I’m a pro-choice governor, but like most citizens of the state of New Hampshire, I do not think that we should be doing late-term or, you know, these at-the-very-last-minute type abortions,” Sununu told New Hampshire talk radio host Chris Ryan in June, according to NPR. “That’s all this really touches upon, and I think most people agree that that’s, that’s not appropriate. So, no, I wouldn’t necessarily veto a budget over that.”

Abortion is expected to be one key issue on the campaign trail if Sununu decides to run for Senate, as many Washington Republicans have been pushing for. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who Sununu would be running against if he decides to jump in, criticized Sununu for signing the legislation in an interview with the same talk radio show, arguing that "a pro-choice governor would never have allowed this attack on reproductive rights."

A new online poll from the University of New Hampshire found that 57 percent of state residents approve of Sununu's job performance and 37 percent do not. While those numbers are high, the University of New Hampshire notes in their poll release the disapproval number is the highest it has recorded since Sununu took office. 

Conservative group launches $7.5 million ad buy criticizing Democratic spending plans

319d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

A top conservative outside group is dropping $7.5 million in new ad spending aimed at using the battle over the multi-trillion Democratic reconciliation bill to undercut the standing of vulnerable House Democrats. 

The new spending campaign from American Action Network, one of the top GOP-aligned outside groups in House races, includes broadcast, cable and digital ads across 24 Democratic-held districts. The spots accuse Democrats of "overspending" which "benefits a few while working Americans suffer" and will lead to more inflation. 

“The more we learn about this bill, the worse it gets. This bill is creating a world of problems for Members in 100 different directions,” AAN President Dan Conston said in a statement announcing the ad campaign. “Members should think long and hard before walking the plank for Pelosi when we’re only beginning to see just how toxic this bill will be back home.”  

Democrats are struggling to balance competing wants within their party on infrastructure, new spending and the debt ceiling, so the final plan is far from completed. But there's already a race to define the new Democratic spending plans and win the war of public opinion on the airwaves. On top of the millions that AAN is spending now and has already spent, other Republican groups have spent millions on similar messaging aimed at influencing Congressional races. Democrats are spending millions too on boosting vulnerable Democrats by messaging the plan as a way to jumpstart the economy and help struggling Americans.

Youngkin drops round of new ads on crime, vaccines and education

320d ago / 6:11 PM UTC

Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has released a flurry of new ads in recent days, just six weeks before Election Day, aimed at going on offense against Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe on crime and education, and defending himself against attacks on his stance on vaccine mandates. 

A new spot, released Tuesday, centers on a police officer injured in the line of duty in 1984 who says she fears McAuliffe would release violent criminals back on the street. It comes after Youngkin criticized a  McAuliffe parole board appointment during last week's debate (the Democrat said that he would punish anyone found to have committed wrongdoing but that he wants to invest in parole to "lift everybody up").

Another recent ad focuses on criticism of his stance on vaccines. At last week's debate, McAuliffe repeatedly criticized Youngkin for not supporting vaccine mandates, as Youngkin has said "individuals should be allowed to make that decision on their own." Youngkin's new spot includes a doctor saying that McAuliffe is playing politics on the issue and that he trusts the Republican to keep him safe. 

Youngkin's other two ads are focused on education (including one spot with a Loudon County teacher arguing that the Republican will bring “real leadership” to the state’s education system), and another targeting Hampton Roads with his plan for the area. 

The new spots come as McAuliffe's ads have been focusing on similar issues. He's leaned in heavily on the pandemic and his criticisms of Youngkin's policies on vaccines. He has a spot on education too, arguing that vaccines and masks are the way to keep schools open, and another criticizing Youngkin's work in private equity with typical attacks on things like layoffs. 

Both candidates are gearing up for a sprint to the finish line — as of today, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe has just shy of $2 million of ads booked through Election Day, compared with $1.2 million for Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin.

Former Nevada Sen. Heller is running for governor

321d ago / 4:28 PM UTC

Former Republican Sen. Dean Heller is running for Nevada governor, making him the highest-profile Republican to mount a challenge to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. 

Heller made his announcement, which had long been expected, in a social media video released Monday, where he recounted growing up stock car racing and went on to lament how he believes "mask-mandates, defunding the police, endless lockdowns" under Sisolak are hurting Nevada's workers. 

"Look what's happened to Nevada. We have a governor more interested in locking us out of work than putting us back to work," Heller says. 

"I'm sick of seeing abortion clinics open while churches and schools are closed, my grandkids playing soccer in masks. That's all on Gov. Sisolack. We can't go on like this, it's time Nevada had a conservative governor with a lick of common sense." 

Heller served in Congress from 2007-2019, first for two terms in Congress and then one term as a senator. The Republican notably broke with former President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, saying that he "vehemently oppose[s]" Trump but was committed to "voting against Hillary Clinton." He subsequently said he did end up voting for Trump, but the relationship between the two men was a big story ahead of Heller's defeat (and Trump told reporters Heller lost because of his critical comments of the then-GOP nominee). 

Heller joins a crowded field that includes North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, attorney Joey Gilbert and businessman Guy Nohra. 

Sisolak is running for his second term in office after winning his 2018 race against then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt. (Laxalt is running for Senator this cycle against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.) 

A July poll from OH Predictive Insights found the majority of Nevada voters view the Democratic governor favorably, and approve of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy (pluralities approved of his handling of race relations and guns, while voters were virtually split on his handling of immigration). 

Molly Forgey, a Sisolak campaign spokesperson, released a statement marking Heller's entry emphasizing the crowded primary. 

"Republicans have found themselves in a crowded primary they will have to fight through for the next nine months. In the meantime, Governor Sisolak will be focused on Nevada’s recovery — getting more shots in arms, Nevadans back to work and businesses back open and thriving."

Abortion, crime, economy and Covid dominate the airwaves ahead of Thursday's Virginia governor debate

325d ago / 7:41 PM UTC

Virginia's first gubernatorial general election debate takes place Thursday evening, pitting former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe against Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin.

And looking at what ads have been running makes it clear what each candidate is centering their messages on as the campaign heads into its closing stretch. 

McAuliffe's top ads since the start of the month largely center on the Covid pandemic and abortion. Per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact (which approximates how much campaigns spend on television ads on broadcast and national cable, but not local cable), McAuliffe's most frequent ad is one featuring a doctor speaking directly to camera to claim that Youngkin's "far-right agenda" on abortion "is just wrong and it would harm my patients." 

It's no surprise that McAuliffe's ads are focusing so significantly on abortion, as Democrats have been pointing to the recent decision by the Supreme Court not to block strict abortion restrictions in Texas as proof that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is at risk. And the issue gained particular salience in the state after a hidden camera video of Youngkin discussing how he would go "on offense" on the issue if elected became public. (Youngkin's campaign claims the video has been edited and says he supports some exceptions for abortions.) 

McAullife's other top ad centers on two other key issues for his campaign — the pandemic and trying to tie Youngkin to former President Donald Trump. The spot argues that "like Donald Trump," Glenn Youngkin refuses to take coronavirus seriously," pointing to his opposition to vaccine mandates for teachers and mask requirements in schools.  

Youngkin's top spots are right in the wheelhouse of a GOP politician — crime and the economy. 

He has focused heavily on crime in the hopes of linking McAuliffe to the parts of the Democratic base that have called for cutting funding to police departments. In one of his top recent ads, Youngkin's campaign includes a group of sheriffs arguing that with crime on the rise in the state, "extreme Democrats supporting Terry McAuliffe want to defund the police." It's an argument the Democrat's campaign has pushed back on, arguing that the state was one of the safer in the nation under his tenure. 

And the other top spot features Youngkin wandering a grocery store, promising to eliminate the state's grocery taxes to fight rising prices. 

The two candidates will debate Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET, airing on local news stations and C-SPAN. 

Abortion rights advocates gear up for re-match against moderate Texas Democrat

326d ago / 1:26 PM UTC

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

NARAL Pro-Choice America plans to announce its support Wednesday for Cisneros, the group told NBC News, hoping to send a message with its unusually early support for a primary challenger that there is no room for opposition to abortion rights in the party. The move comes a week after the Supreme Court opted not to block Texas' strict abortion law from going into effect, raising concerns among Democrats that the court may ultimately weaken the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. 

“There's room in the Democratic Party for folks with different opinions. You can identify as someone who is pro-life. But you can't impose your view on others and restrict the decisions of other people,” said NARAL's chief campaigns and advocacy officer Christian LoBue.

“The message that we're hoping to send with this endorsement is that reproductive freedom is a central and core tenet of the Democratic Party,” she added. 

NARAL and other liberal groups that support abortion rights backed Cisneros’ failed attempt to oust Cuellar in a 2020 primary — the incumbent narrowly won by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. But they’re starting earlier this time in the hopes of giving Cisneros more time to gather momentum. 

They’re hoping for a repeat of what happened in Illinois last year, where now-Rep. Marie Newman ousted former anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski on her second attempt, after an unsuccessful bid in 2018.

Newman’s suburban Chicago district is bluer than Cuellar’s largely rural South Texas district that stretches along the border with Mexico, though both voted for President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump, and LoBue said they expect Texas’ new abortion law to galvanize voters there.

“Mr. Cueller is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House, so it just couldn't be more important,” LoBue said.

Cuellar has long been criticized by the left. In a statement to NBC News ahead of his 2020 matchup against Cisneros, then-Cuellar campaign spokesman Colin Strother said that "we feel very strongly that the Congressman represents the values of his district very well and that he knows and understands the priorities for his constituents."

Covid a top closing message for Democrats ahead of California's recall

328d ago / 3:10 PM UTC

The voting to recall California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom — and potentially elect a replacement — comes to an end on Tuesday, and Democrats have leaned heavily into messaging on the Covid pandemic in the race's final days. 

Since Sept. 1, the top Democratic ads on the TV airwaves have centered on Covid — Democrats have spent more than $1.5 million on one spot that attacks GOP frontrunner Larry Elder for his stance on Covid mandates, as well at least $1.2 million on a Covid-centric spot featuring former President Barack Obama (note: The creative-spending estimates are from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact and include ads captured on broadcast and national cable outlets, but *not* local cable, so there's more spending the tracker does not capture). 

The top Democratic spot per AdImpact argues that recalling Newsom from office "elects an anti-vaccine, Trump Republican" instead of Newsom, who the narrator says is "fighting the pandemic based on science, compassion and common sense." 

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

Democrats are also running spots on other issues, including one from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders talking about the importance of keeping Newsom amid a push on climate change and "health care for all.

Unlike the unified Democratic effort, which gets to be singularly focused on Newsom's priorities, the Republican effort is fragmented by the reality on the ground — their candidates are running both against Newsom, but also each other. So each candidate has a different strategy, particularly on the airwaves. 

The GOP ad with the most spending behind it in September (per AdImpact's tracker) is one from Republican businessman John Cox, where he says he may not be as "pretty" as Newsom or "an entertainer" like Elder, but he has the experience outside government to fix the "mismanaged mess" in the state. That spot has cost at least $475,000 this month.

Elder's top spots during that period include a Spanish-language spot with a woman who says she's a Democrat criticizing Newsom over school and church closures related to the pandemic, and another of Elder's typical direct-to-camera ads where he says "big changes" are on the horizon if he's elected like a repeal of the gas tax and supporting the police. There's been at least around $300,000 behind each of those Elder ads in September. 

Recent California recall polling shows Newsom leading with just days to go

331d ago / 6:02 PM UTC

A new poll ahead of next week's recall vote of California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows the Democratic incumbent in a more comfortable position than he was weeks ago. 

Only 38.5 percent of likely voters say they support the effort to dump Newsom, according to the new University of California at Berkeley IGS Poll, while 60 percent saying they would vote against the recall. Six weeks ago, likely voters were narrowly divided in the Berkeley Poll, with 47 percent supporting the recall and 50 percent opposing. 

The pollsters say that an increase in Democratic enthusiasm is key to the shift.

In late July, the poll found that 87 percent of registered Republicans who expressed high interest or said they had already voted, compared to 58 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of those without a party preference. 

In the latest survey, 91 percent of Republicans expressed high interest or said they had already voted, compared to 80 percent of Democrats and 70 percent without a party preference (a group which the poll shows leans toward opposing the recall). 

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

The recall ballot has two questions on it. The first is an up or down vote on whether to recall Newsom. If a majority of voters say no, the recall is defeated. But if a majority say yes, then Newsom will be booted from office and replaced by the candidate with the most votes (based on the plurality, not a majority) on a second question of who should replace Newsom (the incumbent is not eligible for this part of the ballot). 

Out of those candidates vying to replace Newsom, Republican commentator Larry Elder has a commanding lead among the field with likely voters, with 38 percent support. Democratic YoutTube financial star Kevin Paffrath finishes second with 10 percent, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer has 8 percent support and Republican businessman John Cox and GOP state Rep. Kevin Kiley each have support from 4 percent. 

It's not the only poll that shows Newsom in solid shape. The 538 poll tracker shows the polling average now at 56 percent supporting keeping Newsom compared to 41 percent who want to remove him, bolstered by recent polls from places like Suffolk University and the Public Policy Institute of California, which show double-digit leads for keeping Newsom. 

Rep. Spanberger meets Afghan refugees at Fort Pickett in Virginia

332d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger toured Fort Pickett in Virginia on Thursday afternoon, meeting with some of the 5,000 Afghan refugees who are residing there after being evacuated. 

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

Spanberger is the first member of Congress to tour the facility, which is located in her district. There has been minimal access to the facility by the public. 

Spanberger's office exclusively provided photos to NBC News of her tour. 

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

While visiting, Spanberger saw a food truck from the fried chicken chain Bojangles that was on site to serve refugees a taste of authentic American cooking. 

Debate on Covid mandates takes center stage in new Virginia governor's race ads

332d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

Covid and vaccine mandates are looming large in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and now both Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin are taking the issue to the airwaves too. 

McAuliffe has been hammering Youngkin for weeks on the issue in a variety of settings, including on the air. Last week, McAuliffe's campaign started running a spot that hit Youngkin on his opposition to maks and vaccine mandates, linking him to Trump in the process. 

This week, McAuliffe criticized a new spot where a trauma surgeon speaks directly to camera, calling Youngkin's approach to the pandemic "dangerous." 

Right around the same time, the Youngkin camp went on the air with a new ad (similar to previous digital ads they had been running) that emphasizes the Republican nominee has been vaccinated and believes "the numbers show the Covid vaccines save lives." Youngkin follows those comments by saying "it's your right to make your own choice, and I respect that. I do hope you'll join me in getting the vaccine." 

Virginia's another race where Covid politics could prove to be an important issue on the minds of voters in the coming months

Monmouth University's recent polling found that 67 percent of registered voters supported mask mandates in Virginia schools, 58 percent backed school vaccine mandates for children at least 12 years of age and 52 percent backed vaccine mandates for students under 12 if vaccines are ultimately authorized for that age group. Sixty-four percent backed general face-mask and social-distancing guidelines in the state, and voters were split on whether schools should be open for full, in-person instruction. 

Republicans and Democrats set for ad-spending parity in final days of California recall

332d ago / 2:29 PM UTC

There are just five days until the California recall vote, and things continue to heat up. 

Democrats are bringing in the cavalry — Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to her home state to campaign for Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Newsom effort is up on television with a new ad from former President Barack Obama that warns a vote for Republicans is a vote against “common-sense Covid-safety measures,” and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is telling her supporters the recall is “nightmare fuel.”  

Not to be outdone, Republican Larry Elder is also up with a few new ad spots two. Among those is one where a purported young Democrat blasts Newsom and calls on his peers to “wake up,” and another where someone compares Newsom to “a guy in high school who took my girlfriend, then went onto the next girl.”  

Democrats have enjoyed a massive spending advantage up to this point, spending $31.1 million to the GOP's $15.3 million on ads through Thursday, per AdImpact. But the two sides will be at basic parity for the home stretch — Democrats are spending $2.8 million from Thursday through Tuesday on ads, compared to $2.6 million for the GOP. 

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

Newsom's committee is spending almost all the Democratic dollars, $2.78 million, with National Nurses United throwing in another $70,000. On the Republican side, Elder is spending almost $2.1 million, with John Cox's committee spending $480,000 and other Republicans chipping in the rest. 

Biden’s drop in approval could be warning sign for Democrats on the ballot

333d ago / 6:05 PM UTC

How a president’s job rating goes is usually how his party’s prospects in the midterm elections go as well.

That’s the near-universal opinion of political scientists and longtime observers of American politics. 

And that’s why President Joe Biden’s drop in the national polls over the past month — first below 50 percent, then below 45 percent — should at least raise a caution flag for Democrats looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections, as well as this November’s competitive gubernatorial contest in Virginia. 

Because the lower Biden’s job rating, the tougher the political climate for Democrats. 

A new Monmouth University poll of Virginia also underscores this potential concern: While the poll shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Glenn Youngkin by 5 points among registered voters, 47 percent to 42 percent, it also has Biden’s job rating upside down in the blue-leaning state — at 46 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove. 

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

Now outside of Biden’s underwhelming job rating, the same Monmouth poll also shows encouraging numbers for Democrats: In addition to McAuliffe leading the horserace by 5 points, the survey has incumbent Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam (who is barred from seeking consecutive terms) above water; it shows 59 percent of voters saying that Northam has done a good job handling the coronavirus; and it has majorities supporting mask and vaccine requirements. 

And it’s also important to note that the Monmouth poll — conducted Aug. 24-29 – came during a rough news environment for Biden, when the chaos from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan dominated the front pages and news broadcasts. 

Still, it’s worth watching Biden’s job rating — both nationally and in key states — because they tell us how the political winds are blowing for upcoming contests.

Education union to launch multi-million dollar ad buy, organizing push on Covid relief and infrastructure

339d ago / 8:07 PM UTC

The National Education Association is kicking off the school year with a big investment around Covid-relief and infrastructure, applauding Democrats for backing those plans and needling Republicans who have not. 

The push, according to an NEA memo shared with NBC News, includes two prongs. The first is a seven-figure digital advertising campaign (on social media and streaming) centered on the American Rescue Plan, the Covid-relief bill passed only with Democratic votes earlier this year, as well as both infrastructure bills (the bipartisan one and the forthcoming Democratic reconciliation bill). And the second is a $10 million organizing effort aimed at rallying support for the infrastructure bills and promoting directing Covid-relief cash to school priorities. 

The American Rescue Plan included about a $170 billion federal investment in public education, the NEA memo says. And the group specifically calls out priorities in the forthcoming infrastructure bills, which are making their way through Congress, like electrifying school buses, expanding broadband access, universal pre-K, two years of free community college, and replacing lead pipes in schools. 

In a statement to NBC News, NEA President Becky Pringle said the group wants to thank politicians for supporting the American Rescue Plan, which she believes helped ensure "that our public schools have the resources needed to keep our students safe and help them thrive as the COVID-19 pandemic continues disrupting communities."

"For too many students — Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike — back to school means returning to crumbling buildings with inadequate ventilation, teacher shortages, and other problems that have been made worse from the pandemic. So Congress must act boldly by passing the Build Back Better agenda to modernize our school buildings, expand access to and lower the cost of preschool and higher-education, address the massive shortage of educators, and invest in our students’ futures.”

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

The ads will run in 28 House districts, as well as nine states with races for Senate and/or governor. The vast majority of the House districts are districts with vulnerable Democratic incumbents that the NEA will praise for backing the American Rescue Plan — like California Reps. Josh Harder, Katie Porter and Mike Levin; Georgia Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux; and Virginia Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger.

The Senate and gubernatorial states are home to Democrats facing re-election in 2022 — Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, as well as Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Laura Kelly of Kansas (since the legislation is about federal funding, the ads thank governors for how they're using that federal aid money). 

The ad campaign also criticizes four Republicans for voting against the American Rescue Plan — Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, as well as California Republican Reps. Mike Garcia, Young Kim and Michelle Steel — accusing them of hampering attempts to get new funding for public schools. 

The ad buy is the latest in the attempt to boost the Democratic Covid-relief bill as well as of the more recent attempts to define the infrastructure push. Democratic and Republican-leaning groups are spending millions of dollars messaging on the legislation. 

The $10 million organizing campaign will run alongside the advertising effort, the NEA memo explains, aimed at helping to "ensure Rescue Plan dollars reach the schools, students, and programs that need them most," as well as "build support for President Biden's Build Back Better agenda — helping communities understand how this legislation is critical for America's students and public schools." 

Texas activists roll out on-demand voter registration help

339d ago / 1:20 PM UTC

Texans in 10 counties can now summon volunteer voter registrars with a single phone call.

On Thursday, Powered by People, the voting rights group founded by former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke,  will announce a program deploying on-demand registrars who will meet prospective Texas voters wherever they need and help them register.

The announcement comes just two days after state Legislature passed a sweeping new election law, which activists fear will suppress votes. The mobilization effort is now active in 10 counties, but the group hopes to expand across the state, according to Powered By People senior adviser Cynthia Cano, who said she recently registered a military mom before school pickup. The group says it has signed up 1,100 volunteer registrars and plans to continue recruiting to facilitate the expansion.

Activists have long registered voters at events, but Texas law allows only these "volunteer deputy registrars," who are certified by the county where the voter lives, to help them get on the rolls. With 254 counties, this has posed an organizing challenge in the state.

“In the face of unrelenting attacks on our rights, Texas voters have made it be known time and time again that we will do whatever it takes to have our voices heard,” O’Rourke told NBC News. “You can’t out-register voter suppression but every little bit helps. That’s why I urge you, your friends, and your neighbors to call 915-209-7799 today and start the process of being heard in our democracy.” 

O’Rourke plans to personally register voters through the system regularly; he is a certified volunteer deputy registrar in 16 counties.

First-time voters are increasingly online, poll finds

340d ago / 11:01 AM UTC

If you want to reach first-time voters, you need to do so online or on streaming services — because that's where these voters are.

That's the conclusion from a poll commissioned by the Democratic digital firm Rising Tide Interactive, which found:

  • 51 percent of these first-time voters in the 2020 election use YouTube every day.
  • 46 percent of them use Facebook every day.
  • 38 percent use Instagram.
  • 28 percent use Snapchat.
  • 67 percent say they always or mainly watch TV on streaming services (like on smart TVs or Roku), versus 15 percent who always or mainly watch traditional TV.

“These folks aren’t spending their time reading the news or watching traditional TV. What they are doing is spending their time playing Candy Crush on their phones,” said Stephanie Grasmick, partner and CEO of Rising Tide Interactive.

“That’s where we need to be engaging them — more on their terms, not on our terms,” Grasmick added.

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

The poll was conducted by HIT Strategies from April 19-May 2 of 400 voters who voted for the first time in the 2020 election in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. It excluded strong Republican partisans (because those aren’t the voters Democratic firms like Rising Tide Interactive are looking to win over).

Roshni Nedungadi, a partner at the HIT Strategies polling firm which conducted this survey, said that because many of these first-time voters are disengaged from the political process, it’s essential for political candidates and advertisers to target both the message and content — if they want to win them over.

Also because there’s so much political disinformation online, Grasmick added, “We need to make sure they’re hearing from us as well.”

Trump adds two more candidate endorsements to 2022 list

340d ago / 9:01 PM UTC

Former President Donald Trump endorsed two Republican candidates for the 2022 midterm elections on Wednesday — one in the high-profile Pennsylvania Senate race and another who is challenging a Washington Republican congressman who voted for his impeachment. 

Trump backed Pennsylvania Republican Sean Parnell in a statement where he praised Parnell's Army service and repeated unfounded claims of widespread election fraud. "He will make Pennsylvania very proud and will fight for Election Integrity, Strong Borders, our Second Amendment, Energy Jobs and so much more," Trump said in a statement from his political action committee, as he remains banned from major social media platforms. " Sean Parnell will always put America First. He has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"

Parnell, an author who co-founded a veterans' group after leaving the military, narrowly lost a bid against Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn., in 2020. And if he wins the GOP primary race — which includes former GOP Lt. Gov. nominee Jeff Bartos, political commentator Kathy Barnette and former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands (from Trump's administration — he may get a rematch against Lamb, who is running in his own crowded primary

Trump also endorsed Joe Kent, a Republican running against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who voted to impeach the former president in January. Herrera Beutler said in a statement explaining her impeachment vote that Trump "incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next." And in his statement, Trump criticized her for voting "despite the facts, against the Republican Party and for the Democrats' impeachment scam." 

Kent has posted the strongest fundraising numbers out of the Republicans looking to challenge the incumbent. He's a retired Green Beret who Trump said he met in 2019 when the then-president traveled to Dover Air Force Base when the body of his deceased wife, who died in an ISIS attack in Syria while serving in the Navy, was brought back to America

McAuliffe again holds narrow lead in Virginia governor poll

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341d ago / 4:09 PM UTC

Former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Glenn Youngkin in the newest poll of the state's governor's race, the latest in a string of recent surveys that show the Democrat on top. 

McAuliffe is ahead with 47 percent of registered voters in the new Monmouth University poll, which had Youngkin trailing at 42 percent and 9 percent undecided. The Democrat has the edge with minority voters, college-graduates, women and younger voters, while the Republican leads among independents, men, whites, and those without college degrees. 

The down-ballot races for lieutenant governor and attorney general were closer, with margins of 1 percentage point and 2 percentage points respectively in favor of the Democrat. 

The favorability and unfavorability ratings for both candidates are extremely similar: 39/35 for McAuliffe and 37/35 for Youngkin. 

The plurality of registered voters, 23 percent, believe the pandemic is the most important issue in the election, followed by 18 percent who say education/public schools and 16 percent who say the economy. McAuliffe receives higher marks from registered voters on education and the pandemic, with Youngkin receiving slightly higher trust from voters on the economy. 

Fifty-seven percent say that former President Donald Trump, who McAuliffe has repeatedly linked to Youngkin in ads and his public statements, is not a factor in the election, while 41 say he is either a major or minor factor. Fifty-two percent say that President Joe Biden is not a factor, with 46 percent saying he is a factor (either major or minor). 

Monmouth polled 802 registered voters from Aug. 24 to Aug. 29 and the poll has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points 

As the two sides scramble for position with just months to go before November's election, both campaigns put out new ads in the last day. 

Youngkin is up with a new TV ad hitting McAuliffe on crime, with McAuliffe's new ad knocking Youngkin on abortion.

Here’s Youngkin’s new ad, which features a county sheriff speaking directly to camera (there are three different versions with three different sheriffs): “It’s been a tough year, but it helps when elected officials have our back. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t,” this sheriff says. “As governor, McAuliffe’s handpicked parole board had one mission — cut ’em loose, releasing violent criminals early, including a cop-killer.”

The sheriff concludes, “The fact is, Terry McAuliffe won’t be safe with four more years of Terry McAuliffe’s policies.”

Here’s McAuliffe’s ad, which features a doctor speaking directly to camera: “I’ve been a doctor for 37 years and I’m committed to giving my patients the best care possible. So I know what it means to Virginia women when Glenn Youngkin says he wants to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.”

NRSC, Demings top recent Facebook political ad spenders

342d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Florida Democratic Congresswoman (turned Senate hopeful) Val Demings lead the pack in political Facebook ad spending over the last month, the social media's ad-spending platform shows. 

The NRSC spent $887,000 from July 29 through Aug. 27, the 30 most-recent days of spending released by the platform. Many of those ads were aimed at driving people to give their email or other information to the group, and possibly donate, and not about promoting/attacking a specific Senate candidate. 

Among the ads that performed the strongest on the platform, according to Facebook, were a smattering of ads about reports that former President Donald Trump was slated to launch his own social media site. Other popular NRSC ads include one raffling off tickets to a Trump rally and one attacking President Joe Biden on immigration. 

Demings, who is the Democratic Party's highest-profile candidate in the race against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, spent more over that time period than any other individual candidate for office, $767,000. Many of her top ads were aimed at introducing the electorate to her life story, as well as list-building/fundraising. Two of her most popular ads also leveraged Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's attacks on National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci for more list-building. 

Other top political advertisers include the Republican National Committee ($737,000), the committee opposing California Gov. Gavin Newsom's recall ($545,000), Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ($482,000) and California Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kevin Kiley ($400,000). 

There have also been a few companies or interest groups spending big money over that time too, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America ($1.33 million), The Climate Pledge ($1.2 million), Facebook ($1.2 million), and ExxonMobil ($800,000). 

Facebook's ad spending figures are self-reported by the company and available online.