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Meet the Press Blog Archive

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

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

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

NBC News poll: Ketanji Brown Jackson less polarizing, but less well known

134d ago / 1:10 PM UTC

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is less polarizing than other recent Supreme Court nominees, but she’s also less well known, according to a new national NBC News poll. 

Jackson, who is poised to become the first Black woman to serve on the court, enjoys a positive favorability rating, with 20 percent of Americans surveyed saying they have a positive view of her, compared with 8 percent who view her negatively. 

Image: Ketanji Brown Jackson
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during the second day of her confirmation hearing, Monday, March 21, 2022, to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Jacquelyn Martin / AP

 In addition, the poll finds 36 percent saying they support her nomination, while 17 percent oppose it. That’s the highest net support rating of any Supreme Court nominee since 2005. 

Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates said Jackson’s favorability was “one bright spot” for Democrats in the survey, which featured low approval ratings for President Joe Biden. Horwitt conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

But a majority of those surveyed — 56 percent — didn’t recognize her name or weren’t sure how to rate her. Jackson had the lowest name identification rate of all recent Supreme Court nominees since 2005, except for Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the court in 2016 but was not confirmed (and didn’t even receive a hearing from the Republican-controlled Senate). 

That could be because the survey was conducted from March 18-22, before Jackson’s confirmation hearings began. The war in Ukraine has also dominated the news since Biden named her as his nominee last month. 

McInturff noted Jackson likely benefited from the lack of attention. 

”This is a case where the judge should be thrilled that she’s not the news story,” he said.  

“She's going to be less contentious and we're just not going to see numbers that are paralleling the last two to four nominations that we've been through,” McInturff later added.

But, McInturff noted, Jackson’s nomination did not appear to significantly boost Biden’s favorability with the Democratic base. Among Black adults, 60 percent supported Jackson’s nomination. But Biden’s approval among Black adults ticked down slightly in the new NBC survey from March, with 62 percent approving of the president compared to 64 percent who approved of Biden in January.  

“The hope for a potential political benefit [Biden] might have gotten is also moderated because it just is getting less attention,” McInturff said. 

The NBC News poll was conducted March 18-22 of 1,000 adults — including 750 respondents who only have a cellphone — and the overall margin of error is plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error for the poll's 790 registered voters is plus-minus 3.5 percentage points.

NARAL endorses Shapiro in Pennsylvania gov. race

136d ago / 1:07 PM UTC

NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the largest pro-abortion lobbying groups in the U.S., will endorse Democrat Josh Shapiro’s campaign in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race.

The group told NBC News first of its plans to endorse Shapiro, the state's attorney general. It will announce its endorsement publicly later Friday.

“NARAL Pro-Choice America is proud to endorse Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his bid to become the next governor of Pennsylvania. With a state legislature controlled by anti-choice politicians, it is more important than ever that Pennsylvanians have a governor willing to stand up for their freedom to make their own decisions about their families and futures,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said.

Image: Josh Shapiro
Josh Shapiro at a Stand Against Hate rally at Independence Mall on March 2, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pa.Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images file

In a statement, Shapiro said he was “proud to have NARAL’s support in my campaign for governor so that I can continue my work to protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare in Pennsylvania.” 

Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general, has been uniquely outspoken about his support for abortion rights. He frequently and loudly discusses his record, as the state’s top law enforcement officer, in protecting women's reproductive rights, and the actions he’s taken to fight restrictive abortion laws in other states.

NBC News reported earlier this month on how his early and outspoken emphasis on a traditionally divisive culture war issue comes with large political risks in Pennsylvania, a purple state with a large population of Catholic voters. But the approach may end up being a key to victory in November, because it could end up turning out in an off year Democratic and progressive voters concerned about the future of abortion rights. (In December, the Supreme Court appeared prepared to uphold a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which would roll back, or completely strike down, Roe v. Wade).

Shapiro will run against the winner of the May 17 GOP Republican primary. Many of the dozen Republican candidates running have said they would sign strict anti-abortion measures bills into law. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the state’s gubernatorial race as a toss up.

Stacey Abrams sues over Georgia campaign finance law

137d ago / 3:42 PM UTC

Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams filed a lawsuit this week challenging a state law that allows incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp to raise unlimited campaign contributions in a special fund.

According to a bill Kemp signed into law last year, incumbent governors and certain legislative leaders are allowed to set up “leadership committees” where they can raise campaign funds with virtually no limits. Challengers, like Abrams, are only allowed to form these committees after they secure a party nomination. This year, that would be after the state’s primary election on May 24.

Abrams is running for the Democratic nomination unopposed and is asking the court to allow her to use a leadership fund as the de facto party nominee before the state’s primary. (As part of the lawsuit, Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, who is the chair of the state's Democratic Party, filed an affidavit declaring Abrams the party's nominee.) 

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court on Monday, names members of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission as defendants.

Georgia gubernatorial candidates Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp participate in a debate in Atlanta October 23, 2018.
Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, then candidates for governor of Georgia, participate in a debate in Atlanta October 23, 2018.John Bazemore / Pool via Getty Images file

This commission oversees the registration of these leadership committees and Abrams says that her leadership committee, One Georgia, has registered with the commission and has begun accepting contributions. But the commission refuses to acknowledge whether it has approved the registration of One Georgia and whether it believes the Abrams’ leadership committee is operating lawfully, according to the lawsuit.

The suit asks the court to prohibit the commission from opening any investigations into Abrams’ leadership fund and to prevent the commission from using the law against Abrams and One Georgia.

Former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, filed a lawsuit against Brian Kemp and others in January regarding this same statute. In that suit, Perdue requested that Kemp’s leadership committee be prohibited from collecting and spending money on the governor’s race because he believes it to be unfair that Kemp can raise unlimited contributions in the same race where Perdue cannot.

Both lawsuits are being presided over by the same judge, Mark Cohen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. 

Texas Democrat Filemon Vela to resign from Congress in coming weeks

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137d ago / 2:37 PM UTC

Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, will resign from Congress in the next few weeks to accept a position at the law firm Akin Gump, the congressman tells NBC News.

Vela had already announced he isn't seeking re-election in 2022, but his early exit will reduce Democrats' already slim margin in the House (there are currently 222 Democrats and 210 Republicans with three vacancies). He didn't give a date for his resignation, which would trigger a special election. 

Vela won his seat in Congress in the 2012 election and is currently the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The news was first reported by Punchbowl.

The resignation will prompt a special election under the old lines for the 34th Congressional District, which is more competitive than the lines drawn for the next decade by the Texas Legislature that will make the seat more Democratic.

Candidates will run in that special election for the right to fill out the remaining months of the term Vela was elected to in 2020, all competing on the same ballot with the top two moving onto a runoff unless one candidate wins the majority vote

Mo Brooks: Trump asked me to rescind 2020 election and re-instate him as president

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138d ago / 9:56 PM UTC

Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, whose Senate endorsement was just retracted by former President Donald Trump, told NBC News Wednesday that the former president asked him within the last six months to "rescind" the 2020 presidential election and re-instate him as president.

In a statement responding to Trump's decision to revoke his endorsement, Brooks said that "President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency."

Brooks told NBC that those conversations with Trump took place after Sept. 1, 2021, but said that the two men never discussed the mechanicians of how such a thing would work because the GOP congressman refused his requests. 

"We never got that far because I explained to the president that what he asked was legally impossible and violates the United States Constitution and I’m not going to do it," he said. 

"In one of the conversations he mentioned having a subsequent election for the presidency." 

Brooks has been one of Trump's most stalwart defenders — he spoke at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington D.C. that preceded the attack on the Capitol and has repeated Trump's unfounded claims of election fraud. In his statement rescinding his endorsement, Trump criticized Brooks for August comments that supporters should put the 2020 election "behind you" and "look forward," arguing that he "went 'woke.'"

"There's no one in Alabama with the brain size of a pea or larger who would believe that I'm a woke liberal," Brooks told NBC after being read Trump's statement.  

But Brooks had also been struggling to break out in the crowded Alabama Republican primary race, which includes former Senate aide Katie Britt and military veteran Mike Durant (both outraised him in 2021).

The congressman told NBC that Trump did not alert him before taking back his earlier endorsement, adding that he nonetheless remains confident of his chances to win a primary runoff.

If no candidate wins the majority of the vote in Alabama's May 24 primary, the top-two finishers will move onto a runoff election. 

Some Democratic National Committee members looking at changes to presidential primary calendar

138d ago / 6:43 PM UTC

The Democrats' 2024 presidential nominating calendar could see a shake up after party officials circulated a draft letter for discussion that could lead to the party changing its early primary states. 

The document, obtained by NBC News and first reported by the Washington Post, outlines three criteria for the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) to deliberate:

  • Electorate diversity in ethnicity, geography, union representation and economic backgrounds;
  • Competitiveness in the general election;
  • And ability to run a “fair, transparent and inclusive nominating process.”

In recent years, Iowa has led the cycle with its role as the first caucus state, followed by the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, with Nevada and South Carolina voting before Super Tuesday. In the new proposal for discussion, all states would need to apply for consideration – an uphill battle for Iowa, which some Democrats have criticized for its caucus system, lack of racial diversity, and political shift toward the Republicans. 

Image:
A Democratic presidential candidate speaks during a campaign event in Coralville, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

The process would include at least a month for states to submit their cases and conduct virtual hearings, followed by a six-week deliberation period with presentations from the recommended finalists. 

The letter adds that the committee will discuss the proposed changes at its virtual meeting on Monday as it works toward approving a 2024 calendar that “reflects the principle that our party’s diversity is its strength; puts Democrats in the best position to win up and down the ballot in November 2024; and contributes to a fair and sound electoral process.” 

“We will continue to let the process play out, as it does every four years, and look forward to hearing the insight and recommendations from all interested parties,” RBC co-chairs Jim Roosevelt and Lorraine Miller said in a statement to NBC News.

While the DNC is expected to finalize its 2024 calendar this summer, the Republican National Committee has not indicated it supports any changes to the presidential nominating calendar next cycle.

Club for Growth standing by Brooks endorsement after Trump rescinds his

138d ago / 6:03 PM UTC

In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of his endorsement for Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.,  the conservative Club for Growth is standing by their endorsement of Brooks’ bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama.

"We believe he is the only principled, pro-growth conservative in the race,” David McIntosh, the president of Club for Growth’s PAC, said in a statement. 

The group has already spent over $2.3 million on ads supporting Brooks in the primary, per AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm. 

In dollars spent on ads, Club for Growth comes second in this race behind Alabama’s Future PAC, a group supporting former Senate aide Katie Britt. Alabama’s Future has so far spent over $2.6 million on ads supporting Britt and attacking Brooks, according to AdImpact.

That support has been important for Brooks, as he has been outraised by Britt and military veteran Mike Durant, who has been largely self-funding his bid. 

However, the candidates are still two months out from the May 24 state primary.

Brooks has advocated for Republicans to “look forward” to the 2022 and 2024 elections, rather than dwelling on conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. This position has put him at odds with Trump and other prominent Republicans.

'No More Mo' ads are just hours late

138d ago / 4:33 PM UTC

Hours after former President Donald Trump announced he is rescinding his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., for Senate, the group No More Mo started running TV ads in the state advocating for Trump to withdraw the endorsement.

In the ad, the group argues that, “Alabama loves winners. Trump loves winners," and positions Brooks as a “proven loser.”

The ad’s narrator says, “Mo has been running for 40 years, taking millions from D.C. insiders and losing every statewide campaign he's run.”

“A classic flip flopping politician that opposed Trump before he was for him,” the narrator adds. “Alabama loves winners. Trump deserves a winner, but career politician Mo Brooks is a proven loser.”

Former President Donald Trump Holds A Rally In Alabama
Former President Donald Trump welcomes Senate candidate Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., to the stage during a "Save America" rally on Aug. 21, 2021 in Cullman, Ala.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

It seems the ads were slated to begin running today, before Trump announced he was taking back his endorsement. 

In his statement, Trump said he was doing so due to Brooks' comments urging Republicans to focus on upcoming elections rather than past ones. 

At an August event in Alabama, Brooks told voters, “there are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft of 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you. Yes, look forward! Look forward! Beat them in 2022! Beat them in 2024!” He was met with boos from the audience and anger from Trump.

In today’s statement, Trump said, “Mo Brooks of Alabama made a horrible mistake recently when he went 'woke' and stated, referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, 'Put that behind you, put that behind you, despite the fact that the Election was rife with fraud and irregularities.”

No evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities were found in the 2020 election.

Recent polling showed both veteran Mike Durant and former lobbyist Katie Britt leading Brooks in the Republican primary.

Brad Parscale returns with new tech to turn America red

138d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

Brad Parscale, the former top political aide to Donald Trump, is developing software for Republican campaigns that would incorporate artificial intelligence into the tools used to target voters, raise money and advertise, NBC News has learned.

If successful, Parscale’s "Campaign Nucleus" could become the GOP’s answer to Democrats’ edge in the digital arena, supplanting a series of service providers — most notably the customer relationship and management giant Salesforce — that Republicans now view as hostile to conservatives. 

"With Nucleus, what we will do is connect all of the software," he said in one of a series of telephone conversations with NBC News in recent months.

He would also execute one of the more stunning comebacks in modern politics: in July 2020, Parscale was demoted from managing Trump’s campaign; two months later, he was detained and held for psychological evaluation after police were called to his Florida home during a drinking bout in which he carried a gun and threatened himself. No charges were brought against him.

Image: President Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Minneapolis
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for then President Donald Trump, speaks before a rally at the target center, in Minneapolis, Minn., on October 10, 2019.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images file

With Republicans eager to move away from what they describe as "blue economy" companies that favor Democrats, Parscale hopes to capitalize on GOP visions of a rival "red economy."

While he has been talking publicly about the basic "Campaign Nucleus" concept since shortly after the 2020 election, the software has been developed since then and the integration of artificial intelligence is brand new. Several campaigns, including that of Ohio Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jim Renacci, are using a "beta" version of the product now, he said, and he is currently targeting sales to political agencies that serve multiple clients.

Parscale, who gave NBC News an exclusive demonstration of his product, plans to announce on Tuesday that he has licensed artificial intelligence technology from AIAdvertising, a firm that bought one his companies, Giles-Parscale, several years ago. He said he has struck a deal with investors in Campaign Nucleus that caps his pay and prevents the sale of the company. 

Parscale pictures Republican campaigns, party committees and conservative interest groups across the country making his software the standard, he said in a video-conference interview last week. He is marketing the program as a way to give every GOP candidate and county party chair access to tools previously available only to the biggest federal and statewide campaigns because of the prohibitive expenses of hiring large digital and data teams.

“A guy running for state legislature can have the same power as a presidential campaign,” Parscale said. “We’re leveling the playing field, and we’re leveling the playing field with the left, also. They currently can control us — canceling us if they don’t like our direction — and this removes that.” 

Republicans have targeted Salesforce, in particular, because of its relationship with the Republican National Committee, a longtime client.

Within a week of the Jan. 6 riot, Salesforce told The Verge that it had stopped the RNC from “use of our services that in any way could lead to violence.” The RNC is suing the company and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to block a subpoena for its records.

“He’s smartly designing it to be a Salesforce killer, especially because Salesforce is not on our team,” said Gerrit Lansing, president of WinRed, an online clearinghouse for Republican campaign donations. “Most of our tech stack that the average campaign uses is going to have to be rebuilt in the next few years” to stop using companies perceived to align with Democrats.

Jake Corman, Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, golfed with Trump last month

139d ago / 6:20 PM UTC

Jake Corman, the top Republican in Pennsylvania's state Senate and one of 10 GOP candidates for governor there, recently scored an audience with former President Donald Trump over a round of golf.

Their meeting late last month — near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Fla. — flew largely under the radar. 

Corman was photographed on the golf course that day, though not with Trump, in a series of shots published by DailyMail.com.

“I was fortunate to be invited to play golf with the president recently, and continue to speak with him often, though our conversations will remain private,” Corman told NBC News in a statement Tuesday.

Corman has endeavored to refashion himself as a Trump loyalist despite an initial unwillingness to accept debunked claims that widespread voter fraud cost Trump the 2020 election. But Corman now oversees the state legislature’s review of the 2020 results. He also muscled state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a rival for the GOP nomination, out of a key role in the process, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last year

“I am actively seeking — and would be honored to have — President Trump's endorsement,” Corman said Tuesday. “He remains the most popular Republican in Pennsylvania, and for good reason.”

Image: Jake Corman
Jake Corman listens during a news conference in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 8, 2022.Matt Rourke / AP file

Trump has made clear his interest in this year’s race, but he hasn't endorsed yet. Pennsylvania is a rare state where the governor chooses a secretary of state to administer elections. 

“Sometimes,” Trump said in a video message to Pennsylvania Republicans that played before a January debate among contenders for governor and U.S. Senate, “the vote counter is more important than the candidate.”

Kellyanne Conway, who served as one of Trump’s campaign managers in 2016 and later as a senior White House counselor, is among Corman's campaign advisers. Other former Trump aides have taken sides. Bill Stepien, Trump’s final campaign manager in 2020, is working with former Rep. Lou Barletta, who lost a 2018 Senate race with the then-president’s endorsement.

NBC News reported last month that GOP candidates, their strategists and other close observers of the race feared a tricky and chaotic race that could yield a pro-Trump primary winner who appeals less to the wider November electorate. Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, faces no opposition in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Mastriano and other candidates have worked hard to flex pro-Trump credentials. A Fox News poll this month showed Barletta and Mastriano essentially tied for first place, with 19 percent and 18 percent of the primary vote, respectively. Dave White, a former Delaware County council member, was next at 14 percent, followed by Bill McSwain, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed by Trump, at 11 percent. Corman was fifth, at 6 percent. 

Ukraine, inflation and Trump dominate feisty Ohio Republican Senate primary debate

139d ago / 5:42 PM UTC

Five GOP candidates running for Ohio’s open Senate seat hashed out their views on Ukraine, inflation, former President Trump, immigration and each other's candidacies in a debate Monday night.

Right off the bat, former state treasurer Josh Mandel addressed an incident that occurred at a previous forum on Friday, where he Mike Gibbons stood chest-to-chest and appeared ready for a physical altercation.

"I’m a fighter, I’m a Marine and I’ll never back down from a fight,” Mandel told moderators when asked to explain the incident on Monday while Gibbons echoed the same sentiment by saying he stuck to his position that military and private sector experiences are different.

The Ohio Senate Debate in Cleveland on Mar. 21, 2022.
Jane Timken, Josh Mandel, Mike Gibbons, JD Vance, and Matt Dolan at the Ohio Senate GOP senate debate in Cleveland on Mar. 21, 2022.C-SPAN

The other three candidates — author J.D. Vance, businessman Matt Dolan and former state GOP chair Jane Timken — condemned Gibbons and Mandel for their outburst.

One central point of debate among the candidates was Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Vance was the only candidate to say that defending Ukraine is not “in our vital national interest," and said he would "condition further Ukrainian aid on support for our border and support for our problems."

"Look, it’s tragic, it’s terrible," Vance said. "What Vladimir Putin did was wrong in invading a sovereign country on his border. We have our own problems in the United States to focus on."

Others pushed back on that assertion, arguing that the U.S. has a duty to help Ukraine.

“Our responsibility, as tragic as it is, is to keep that conflict contained and if it ebbs into NATO allies, we have a responsibility to defend them,” Dolan said.

All five candidates, however, were against a U.S.-enforced no fly zone in Ukraine.

When it came to former President Donald Trump and his lack of endorsement in this race, each candidate said they would accept his endorsement. Trump has already said he won’t endorse Dolan.

“I’m doing everything I can to earn his support. I hope I earn his support, I’d be honored to earn his support,” Mandel said.

Vance again addressed his past tweets and comments criticizing Trump years ago, before he was first elected president.  

“All of us say stupid things and I happen to say stupid things very publicly,” Vance said.

When it came to the 2020 election, Dolan was the lone candidate to raise his hand when the field was asked if they believe Trump should move past it, saying that Ohio has secure elections and the Republican Party needs to shift priorities to the future.

Other candidates took issue with that. “Our democracy is at stake,” Timken said when asked about Trump's refusal to accept the 2020 election result. 

Chris Christie says he's 'absolutely considering the possibility' of another White House run

140d ago / 7:02 PM UTC

Former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie is not ruling out a run for president in 2024.

When asked on a local news show Sunday about whether he would consider running against former President Donald Trump in 2024, Christie told WMUR’s Adam Sexton, “I'm absolutely considering the possibility, Adam."

"If I decide to run for president, Adam, I will take on whoever is in the race, whether it’s former President Trump or anybody else," he added. 

While the party awaits an announcement from Trump about 2024, some other potential Republican candidates have been cautious about sharing their own plans or pledging not to run if Trump does.

Asked about that dynamic, Christie told Sexton, “If I believe I’m the right person to be the president of the United States, then it’s my job to go out there and make the case for myself and against anybody else that’s in the race.”

At an event at Saint Anslem College in New Hampshire on Monday morning, Christie wouldn’t say whether or not he was running, but he did preemptively attack others who refuse to say whether they’re running until Trump makes a decision.  

“And quite frankly I think those potential candidates who have said 'I'm running unless he's running' are disqualified,” Christie told students.

"If you don't think you're good enough to be president, then don't run,” he added.

Christie also said that Trump shouldn’t run unopposed in 2024 just by the nature of who he is. 

“No one is going to give the Republican presidential nomination away in 2024 without competition,” he told students.

Christie ran for president in a crowded Republican primary field in 2016, where he dropped out after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary. A few weeks later, he endorsed Trump for the nomination.

Following the election, Christie headed President Trump’s transition team and then served out the rest of his term as governor of New Jersey through 2017.

Midterm roundup: Almost a Buckeye brawl

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140d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

“Everyone’s coming out swinging tonight,” the moderator of a FreedomWorks forum featuring Ohio’s GOP Senate candidates said with a laugh Friday night after former state Treasurer Josh Mandel called out investment banker Mike Gibbons.

The moderator probably didn’t think punches would actually be thrown, but 10 minutes later, Mandel and Gibbons seemingly almost came to blows as Mandel knocked Gibbons’ stock holdings and business dealings in China.

“You’ve never been in the private sector,” Gibbons said, prompting Mandel to stand up and go nose-to-nose with Gibbons. “You don’t know squat,” Gibbons added, and Mandel responded, “Two tours in Iraq, don’t tell me I haven’t worked!” The crowd booed as the pair had to be separated.

Image: Ohio's Republican Senate Candidates Attend FreedomWorks Forum
Mike Gibbons, left, and Josh Mandel exchange heated arguments at the FreedomWorks Forum for Ohio's Republican Senate Candidates on March 18, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.Andrew Spear / Getty Images

The episode highlights how rough some GOP primaries have gotten, overshadowing discussions about more substantive policy differences. Case in point? The altercation came after a question about the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine.

Elsewhere on the trail:

Oklahoma Senate: Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt phoned former President Donald Trump to ask for his endorsement as he considers a run for the state’s open Senate seat, NBC’s Julie Tsirkin reports.

Pennsylvania Senate: Former first lady Melania Trump has told her husband she supports celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the state’s crowded GOP Senate primary race.

Pennsylvania Governor: State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is embracing his support for abortion rights in his gubernatorial bid with the future of Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance.

South Carolina 01: NBC News heads down to Summerville to take a look at the Trump-backed attempt to oust GOP Rep. Nancy Mace.

Like what you see? Sign up for First Read from Meet the Press for fresh reporting and analysis on the top political stories. 

Sarah Godlewski focuses on drug prices in new TV ad

140d ago / 12:05 PM UTC

Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is out with a new ad in the state's Senate race criticizing  incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, as well as some of her fellow Democrats, over the the price of prescription drugs. 

“For decades, Washington politicians have promised to lower the cost of prescription drugs. But every year, the prices go up. Why? Because Republicans like Ron Johnson — and let’s be honest, too many Democrats — don’t have the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies,” Godlewski says in the 30-second spot, shared first with NBC News.  

The ad is part of a “seven-figure” ad buy across TV and digital platforms in the state’s major media markets, per Godlewski’s campaign. 

Godlewski one of multiple Democrats competing in the Aug. 9 primary to take on Johnson. The other top contenders include Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson. The Democratic primary has heated up in recent weeks with Lasry also launching TV ads. 

Johnson is a top target for Democrats looking to hold onto control of the Senate. President Joe Biden carried the state by less than 1 percentage point in 2020 after former President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by 1 point in 2016. That year, Johnson also won a second term, defeating former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold by 3 points. 

Former Trump EPA administrator eying a bid for open Oklahoma Senate seat

143d ago / 9:20 PM UTC

Former EPA chief Scott Pruitt is considering running for the Oklahoma Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Inhoffe, R-Okla., a source familiar with Pruitt’s thinking tells NBC News.

Pruitt, a Trump appointee who resigned from the agency in 2018 following multiple ethics scandals, has been making calls for endorsements and quietly building out his team, the source adds. He has yet to make a formal decision.

Image: Scott Pruitt at a meeting on Capitol Hill
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt during a hearing on Capitol Hill on April 26, 2018.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

Inhofe, 87, announced his retirement back in February, citing his wife's health issues. The open seat quickly drew in a wide range of conservative candidates, including Inhofe's former Chief of Staff Luke Holland, Rep. Markwayne Mullen, R-Okla., and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Former Rep. Kendra Horn has jumped into the race on the Democratic side.

Pruitt called former President Trump seeking his endorsement before deciding whether to run for the seat, two sources familiar with the discussion tell NBC News. Trump has not made an endorsement in the race. 

"Every candidate running in America is seeking President Trump’s endorsement," Trump spokesperson Taylor Budovich tells NBC News. "Its truly unprecedented and a reflection of President Trump’s influence on American politics and the demand for his America First agenda."

Inhofe was just re-elected to another six-year term in 2020, and a special election will take place this Fall to fill his seat. Pruitt has until April 15th to decide whether he will jump in the race. 

Prior to his tenure at the EPA, Pruitt served as Oklahoma's Attorney General. 

CBS was first to report Pruitt's exploration of the race.

Kyiv mayor calls out Russian propaganda against Ukraine in 'MTP Daily' interview

143d ago / 7:42 PM UTC

Spending ramps up in Alabama Senate race

143d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

Despite having former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks is being outspent in Alabama’s contentious — and pricey — Senate primary. And the race is about to get even more expensive.

Retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby is transferring more than $6 million from his campaign account into a super PAC to support his former chief of staff Katie Britt, Politico reported, to help Britt advance to a primary runoff. A spokeswoman for Shelby did not respond to a request for comment.

With a divided GOP field, which includes Brooks, Britt and Army veteran Mike Durant, it’s possible no candidate wins a majority of the primary vote on May 24, sending the top two vote-getters to a June runoff. 

Durant’s campaign has spent the most on the airwaves so far, dropping $2.2 million on ads, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Britt’s campaign has spent $1.1 million, while Brooks has spent more than  $330,000. 

Britt has already had some help from outside groups, including the super PAC Alabama Future, which has spent $2.3 million on pro-Britt ads Alabama Conservatives Fund, which has spent $1.1 million, and Alabama Christian Conservatives, which has spent $210,000.

Alabama Patriots PAC spent $2.2 million on ads to support  Durant. 

Club for Growth Action has spent $2.1 million to bolster Brooks, whose campaign also just reserved $455,000 in ads. His newest ad touts Brook’s participation in the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C. 

“On Jan. 6, I proudly stood with President Trump in the fight against voter fraud,” Brooks says in the ad. 

But Trump has recently been reconsidering his endorsement as Brooks has struggled to break through the GOP field. In an interview with The Washington Examiner, Trump called Brooks “disappointing,” suggesting he could back a different candidate. 

Politico reported the former president met with Britt last month, but Trump has not yet endorsed another contender.

Americans have vastly inaccurate guesses about the nation's demographics, new study suggests

143d ago / 2:51 PM UTC

Amid non-stop political debates and culture wars about America’s shifting demographics, a new survey suggests Americans are deeply confused about who actually lives in America. 

study by YouGov America asked respondents to estimate what percentages of U.S. adults fit various categories based on race, religion, geography, income and more. The results, per their memo: “Americans tend to vastly overestimate the size of minority groups” and “underestimate the size of most majority groups.” 

Image: Supreme Court transgender rally
Protesters block the street in front of the Supreme Court as it hears arguments on whether gay and transgender people are covered by a federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex on Oct. 8, 2019.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

And by vastly, they mean vastly. Here are some of their poll findings, along with the actual percentages. 

Here are the average guesses from respondents about the percentages of certain demographic groups in the U.S. compared to the actual numbers:

Gay or lesbian:  Average guess: 30 percent — reality: 3 percent.

Transgender: Average guess: 21 percent — reality: 1 percent.

Christian: Average guess: 58 percent — reality: 70 percent.

Muslim: Average guess: 27 percent — reality: 1 percent.

Jewish: Average guess: 30 percent — reality: 2 percent.

Black: Average guess: 41 percent — reality: 12 percent.

Hispanic:  Average guess: 39 percent — reality: 17 percent.

Asian: Average guess: 29 percent — reality: 6 percent.

Native American: Average guess: 27 percent — reality: 1 percent.

Military veteran: Average guess: 40 percent — reality: 6 percent.

First-generation immigrant: Average guess: 33 percent — reality: 14 percent.

Live in New York City: Average guess: 30 percent — reality 3 percent.

Belong to a union: Average guess: 36 percent — reality: 4 percent.

More than $500,000 household income: Average guess: 26 percent — reality: 1 percent.

The median responses were somewhat more accurate, but still way off in most cases. As YouGov America’s polling memo notes, its findings are consistent with past surveys showing similar gaps, even as there’s some disagreement over what causes them. 

While the tendency to overestimate minority groups is sometimes attributed to fear, ignorance, or media coverage, their memo notes that people made similar mistakes in their poll even with completely apolitical minority populations like left-handed people, suggesting a more general perception problem is at play. People who know few members of a minority population personally might assume they must be biased by their own geographic and social situation and overcorrect in the opposite direction. 

Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner says U.S. must 'bring all forms of pressure to bear' on Russia

144d ago / 7:56 PM UTC

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said on "Meet the Press Daily" that the U.S. should "bring all forms of pressure to bear" on Russia, including sanctioning "every member of the Russian Parliament."  Watch the full interview: 

Talking Policy: Fed paints a more pessimistic picture on short-term economy

144d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

The Fed raised interest rates by 0.25 percent on Wednesday, the first in a series of expected hikes to rein in inflation. But the more significant takeaway from its meeting may be how Fed members have become more pessimistic about the next year’s forecast — with more inflation, less growth, and a ton of uncertainty on the horizon. They now see inflation at 4.3 percent for 2022, versus 2.6 percent in their December forecast. And they expect the economy to grow 2.8 percent instead of 4 percent.

For months, the Fed has been predicting inflation would break eventually as things settled back to normal after the pandemic (or at least a “new normal”). 

Even with 40-year high inflation this year, that’s still their overall prediction, but the return date for “normal” keeps getting pushed back — first by Omicron, and now by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Inflation is likely to take longer to return to our price-stability goal than previously expected,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at a press conference.

Fed members now see 2023 and 2024 as more likely target dates for prices moving quickly towards two percent inflation, and considerable risk that things could be upended along the way.

In more positive news, Powell still sees limited risk of a recession that would undo surging job gains in recent months. “All signs are that this is a strong economy,” he said.

But with voters currently more upset over prices than jobs, it adds up to a darker picture for Democrats in the midterms, who are running out of time to change voters’ perceptions of the economy and face immediate obstacles largely beyond their control.

Jeff Fortenberry faces primary fight as trial begins

144d ago / 4:25 PM UTC

GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is facing a spirited primary challenge at home, but this week he’s 1,500 miles away from his Nebraska district to face the allegations that he lied to the FBI.  

Fortenberry has been charged with lying to authorities about accepting foreign campaign contributions, which are illegal. The nine-term congressman has denied any wrongdoing. His trial kicked off this week in Los Angeles, the site of the fundraiser in question. Back home in Nebraska, the fight of Fortenberry’s political career is playing out on the airwaves.

State Sen. Mike Flood has stepped up to take on the embattled congressman in the Republican primary, which is set for May 10. This is Fortenberry’s first competitive primary race since he was first elected to represent the 1st District, which includes Lincoln, in 2004. 

Flood has so far outspent the congressman on the airwaves, spending $304,000 on ads to Flortenberry’s $208,000. But an outside group dubbed the American Future Fund has spent $87,000 on anti-Flood ads, per the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

Flood’s spots have highlighted Fortenberry’s legal troubles. 

“Jeff Fortenberry is charged with felony crimes for lying to law enforcement. Now, he claims he didn't lie, he just forgot about thousands of illegal contributions,” a narrator says in an ad from Flood’s campaign that’s currently on the air, before pivoting to criticizing Fortenberry on immigration. 

Fortenberry’s ad on the air titled “Stop the Flood” (see what he did there?) also focuses on immigration, a clear appeal to the GOP base.   

It’s not clear how much money Flood’s campaign has to spend over the next seven weeks. He has not filed a campaign fundraising report since he launched his run after the most recent filing deadline. Fortenberry’s campaign had $895,000 on hand as of Dec. 31 

Club for Growth comes to Budd's defense after McCrory ad on Putin

145d ago / 6:19 PM UTC

The conservative Club for Growth is coming to the defense of Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C. after his top GOP rival in the state's Senate race attacked some of his statements on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  

A week after former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory launched an ad that takes snippets of comments from Budd to accuse him of praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Club began airing a new ad calling McCrory's spot a "low down, dirty hit job."

"McCrory cut the tape," the ad's narrator says, using the clips from the McCrory advertisement followed by the fuller context of Budd's remarks. The Club for Growth is supporting Budd's candidacy.

Budd is quoted by McCrory calling Putin a "very intelligent actor," but the Club ad includes him following up by saying "although I would say he’s been quite erratic in this approach to the Ukraine." The Club ad also includes Budd talking about Putin's strategic priorities, while also including him calling the attack on Ukraine "evil" and saying "we stand with the Ukraine people." 

When asked about the criticism, a McCrory advisor told NBC "we're thrilled with this ad."

"Congressman Budd is collapsing in real time because he can’t open his mouth without praising Putin or excusing his invasion, and this ad proves it," the advisor said. 

Wisconsin Democrat Lasry attacks Ron Johnson in new, seven-figure ad buy

145d ago / 12:32 PM UTC

Wisconsin Democratic hopeful Alex Lasry is launching his first ad attacking Republican Sen. Ron Johnson as part of a new seven-figure buy, his campaign tells NBC News. 

In Lasry's new spot, seen first by NBC News, the narrator attacks Johnson for recently dismissing a push to bring 1,000 jobs to the state (he argued that while he's "supportive of it," the bigger problem in his state is that employers can't "find enough workers").

And it points to Johnson's praise of the recent policy plan authored by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, R-Fla., (which calls for sunsetting all laws every five years) to say he supports cutting Social Security and Medicare. 

"Lasry says let's get more money into working people's pockets and cut their taxes. No wonder so many unions say Alex Lasry is the strongest Democrat to beat Ron Johnson," the narrator says to close the ad. 

The Lasry campaign tells NBC that the seven-figure buy will also include digital advertising. 

Lasry is a top executive with the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team and has spent more than any other candidate in the race on advertising, per the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. He's already spent $3.5 million on the airwaves to Johnson's $2.5 million, but up until now, had spent on biographical spots. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the candidate who has spent the third-most on the airwaves, has spent about $455,000, and recently went up with her own ad attacking Johnson

Democratic grassroots group announces 2022 targets

145d ago / 11:22 AM UTC

The Democratic grassroots group Swing Left announced Wednesday morning that is targeting dozens of competitive federal and state races in the midterms. 

The group is targeting 48 House races, six Senate races, six governor’s races and seven state legislatures. Swing Left first launched in 2017 to leverage the grassroots volunteers and donors to support  eventual Democratic nominees.

Swing Left is targeting top Democratic races, but the group also takes a unique approach to the contests, seeking to build a volunteer and donor base ahead of the primaries. Since 2017, the group says it has helped raise more than $40 million for Democratic candidates and organizations, and its members have made more than 40 million voter contacts. Swing Left is also launching a revamped version of a tool from the 2018 midterms that can help connect Democrats to nearby swing districts.

"Despite what Republicans may want us to believe, Democrats can win the midterms," Neisha Blandin, Swing Left's head of political strategy, said in a statement to NBC News. "It's going to be tough, but there is a path to victory, through smart political targeting. Every hour spent volunteering and every dollar donated needs to go where it will have the biggest impact."

In the battle for the Senate, the group is prioritizing defending Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. The group notably did not include Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., but the GOP field to take on Hassan is still in flux. 

The group is also focused on flipping GOP-held Senate seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to take control of the chamber. 

Swing Left will also focus voter contact and fundraising efforts on governor’s races in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida and Georgia, as well as dozens of competitive House and state legislative races. 

Sen. Bennet: GOP criticisms of Biden on Ukraine are 'just words'

146d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

Redistricting reshuffles Trump-backed preference to challenge GOP Rep. Upton

146d ago / 3:36 PM UTC

Michigan Republican state Rep. Steve Carra, who former President Donald Trump previously endorsed in his primary bid against incumbent GOP Rep. Fred Upton, is ending his congressional bid to give another Republican a clear path against Upton. 

While Trump endorsed Carra months ago, redistricting moved Upton into a member-on-member primary against GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga, who Trump endorsed Friday. On Tuesday, Carra announced he would clear the anti-Upton lane for Huizenga and instead run for re-election to the state House. 

In a statement, Carra criticized Upton, who voted to impeach Trump, as well as backing two measures the former president opposed since he left office — the bipartisan infrastructure deal and for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. 

Rep. Steve Carra looks on at the Michigan State Capitol
Rep. Steve Carra looks on at the Michigan State Capitol on Oct. 12, 2021 in Lansing, Michigan as protesters gather to demand a forensic audit of the 2020 presidential election.Nic Antaya / Getty Images file

"The ramifications for betraying our country will send impeachment RINO Fred Upton packing and I could not be more happy for Southwest Michigan," Carra said. 

"Now that Bill Huizenga has President Trump’s and my support in the newly formed 4th Congressional district, he has a clear path to victory."

While Upton hasn't officially announced his re-election, he began running TV ads in the new district last month. 

"I know folks are tired of the gridlock back in D.C. Me too," Upton says in his ad.

"I'm not afraid to take on anyone when they are wrong and work with anyone when they are right. We need a dialogue with those who differ to find better ways. If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy." 

Former Democratic congresswoman running for Oklahoma Senate

146d ago / 3:04 PM UTC

Former Oklahoma Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, who served one term in the House before losing her 2020 re-election bid, is running for Senate to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe. 

Horn filed her candidacy Tuesday morning with the Federal Election Commission and shortly after, released a launch video on YouTube. 

“Things are more divided than ever and our leaders are more extreme than we are. We can’t keep going down this same path, electing people who pit us against our friends and neighbors. That’s not the Oklahoma way,” she says in the video. 

“I got knocked down, but I got back up, because I’m not done fighting for Oklahoma. And that’s why I’m running for U.S. Senate.  This won’t be easy, but things worth fighting for never are.” 

There will be two Senate elections in Oklahoma this fall — the regularly scheduled election for the seat currently held by GOP Sen. James Lankford, and an open seat, special election race prompted by the retirement of GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe. An addendum attached to her candidate filing with the FEC confirms she is running for the open seat.

Horn won her seat in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District in the 2018 midterms, when she defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Steve Russell by 1.4 percentage points. But she lost in 2020 to current GOP Rep. Stephanie Bice by 4.2 percentage points. 

Stacey Abrams launches first TV ad of Georgia governor's race

146d ago / 2:30 PM UTC

Democrat Stacey Abrams launched her first TV ad of the Georgia governor’s race Tuesday, highlighting her work since her unsuccessful run for governor in 2018.

“When I didn't win the governor's race, not getting the job didn't exempt me from the work, and so I didn't quit,” Abrams said in the 30-second spot.  

“I got back to work, paid off the medical debt of 68,000 Georgians, helping small businesses stay alive, making sure they had the financing they needed and putting money into the pockets of families,” Abrams said, referring to her political organization’s efforts

Abrams, the first Black woman to be a major party’s gubernatorial nominee, is the presumptive Democratic nominee this year, drawing no primary challengers after last week’s filing deadline. The race for the GOP nomination is already playing out on the airwaves, with Gov. Brain Kemp facing former Sen. David Perdue, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. 

Abrams’ campaign has spent roughly $440,000 on the airwaves for her first ad, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. The Georgia governor’s race is expected to be one of the most competitive — and expensive — in the country. 

If Kemp wins the primary, the race would set up a rematch from 2018, when Kemp defeated Abrams by just 1 percentage point. President Joe Biden won the state by less than half a percentage point in 2020.

Carnahan, widow of the late Rep. Hagedorn, will run to fill his seat

147d ago / 3:08 PM UTC

Former Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan — the widow of the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn — will run in the special election aimed at filling his seat through the end of the year. 

Carnahan made the announcement on Twitter and in a spate of media interviews Monday morning. 

"In the final weeks before his passing, Jim told me to keep forging ahead, to keep reaching my dreams, and to win this seat," Carnahan said in a statement to Fox News. "Jim was my best friend and the love of my life, and it is his blessing that strengthens me for the challenges ahead. I am committed to continuing my husband’s legacy of fighting to secure the border, defending conservative values, safeguarding the integrity of our elections, and serving the people of Minnesota’s First Congressional District."

Hagedorn, who had been suffering from kidney cancer and had been diagnosed with Covid-19 weeks before his death, passed away last month. By state law, there will be a special primary election to replace him on May 24 before a special general election on Aug. 9. 

Carnahan ran the state Republican Party after the 2016 election and was re-elected after the 2020 election. She resigned in 2021 after controversy sparked by a top GOP donor in the state being charged with sex trafficking (Carnahan denied knowing about the alleged crimes and also denied subsequent accusations she presided over a toxic workplace as chair). 

The special primary race will be a crowded one in a district that leans Republican. On top of the special election to fill out the rest of Hagedorn's vacated term, there will also be a regularly scheduled election to decide who fills the seat starting next year — it's unclear whether Carnahan plans to run for that too. 

Carnahan will be the third widow or widower to run this cycle after the death of their spouse. Louisiana Republican Rep. Julia Letlow won a seat in Congress last year, running after the death of her husband, the late-Congressman-elect who died in December of 2020, before he could be seated. And Texas Republican Susan Wright ran an unsuccessful bid in a 2021 special election after her husband, the late Rep. Ron Wright, died. 

Wisconsin's State Treasurer hits Sen. Ron Johnson in first Senate campaign ad

147d ago / 2:03 PM UTC

Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is out with her first television ad today in the race for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

The commercial hits incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson on the economy and on Covid — including raising his suggestion that gargling mouthwash could be an effective way to stifle Covid-19.

Godlewski opens the ad by highlighting some problems facing voters today. “Dairy farms disappearing, prices up, COVID still not gone,” she says before she goes after Johnson’s statement.

“What’s Ron Johnson done? Voted against new jobs and told us to take mouthwash to cure COVID,” Godlewski says. (Johnson has noted a study found mouthwash could "reduce viral replication" in the mouth. But experts contacted by The Washington Post after his comments poured cold water on the idea it would do much.) 

In the ad, Godlewski also highlights her role as state treasurer and positions herself as a “common sense” candidate against Johnson and his conspiracy theories.

“Common sense is what quite frankly we could use in Washington,” Godlewski says. “Practical ideas that just help people. Not mouthwash.”

It’s significant that Godlewski is running ads against Johnson rather than targeting anyone she’s facing in the Democratic primary. Her opponents include Milwaukee Bucks owner Alex Lasry and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report has this year’s Senate race in Wisconsin rated as a toss-up, meaning Republicans and Democrats are equally positioned to take the seat.

 

DeSantis is popular — but Trump is still top choice for president among Miami-Dade voters, new poll suggests

147d ago / 11:01 AM UTC

Gov. Ron DeSantis is in a strong position to win Florida again, but he could get crushed in a presidential primary if he faces Donald Trump, according to a poll of voters in Miami-Dade, the largest and most diverse county in the state, released Monday.

In a hypothetical primary matchup between Trump and DeSantis, the former president leads his former protégé 55-32 percent among Republicans in the county, the new poll from Bendixen & Amandi International suggests. 

Among Hispanic voters in the county, Trump’s support was even stronger: those of Cuban descent backed him over DeSantis by 62-32 percent and non-Cuban Latinos supported the former president by 63-22 percent over the governor, according to the poll.

Both men, however, had the same approval rating among Republicans, 78 percent. But 20 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable view of Trump while 16 percent viewed DeSantis negatively.

“While its clear Ron DeSantis is a very popular figure with Republicans, he’s still an altar boy in service to the MAGA messiah,” said pollster Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democrat who conducted the survey of 800 voters in the county to check its political pulse.

DeSantis has repeatedly downplayed any intention of running for president, but he has become a national figure in the GOP and one Florida poll showed him nominally edging out Trump in the state. However, most surveys suggest Trump would beat the governor if he decided to run for president and if the 2024 election were held today.

Trump won the state of Florida in 2020 and 2016. In the 2016 GOP primary, he beat home state Sen. Marco Rubio in every county except one: Miami-Dade. 

“Miami-Dade is the Rosetta stone for understanding how Florida is trending,” Amandi said, “and because Florida is a window into the United States, it’s a way to understand how national trends are breaking.”

Overall, Amandi said he didn’t like what he saw for his party.

Miami-Dade is a county where Democrats need to win by double digits, along with other urban centers in the state, in order to offset losses to Republicans in more suburban and rural areas. With a giant Hispanic population — about half of the county’s resident were born out of the country; many in Latin America — the county is also a proving ground for Latino outreach. 

In 2020, the bottom fell out for Democrats in Miami-Dade, which Trump lost by only 7 percentage points, a major factor in helping him win Florida overall by more than 3 points. Compare that to his 2016 performance in Miami-Dade, which he lost by nearly 30 points on his way to carrying the state by about a point.

Trump is on pace to have a repeat performance against President Joe Biden if there’s a rematch in 2024, according to Amandi’s poll, which shows Trump only losing the county by 7 points to the president. DeSantis does about the same against Biden, losing Miami-Dade by 6 points, the poll shows.

Amandi didn’t poll head-to-head matchups between DeSantis and his Democratic rivals, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist, but he noted a troubling sign for both of them: by a 7-point margin, voters in the Democratic county said DeSantis should be reelected again.

“These numbers in this heavily Democratic county in Florida should serve as the ultimate wakeup call for Democrats who hope to deny DeSantis reelection in November,” he said.

One effort to expand diversity in Democratic staffing ranks gets new boost

150d ago / 11:24 PM UTC

Democratic politicians and left-leaning organizations have taken steps to diversify their staff, but the people running the party — especially in top roles — remain disproportionately white.

One new group, Progressive Pipeline, is working to address that by recruiting college students or recent graduates who might not otherwise go into politics, and placing them in paid fellowships at progressive organizations in the hopes of adding diversity to the Democratic talent pool.

“We've found that if you get somebody in the door,” said Michael Michaelson, the executive director of Progressive Pipeline, “You can turn this one internship into a career and help give someone the opportunity to be movement leaders in the future.”

The non-profit, launched in 2020, has recruited, trained and placed 220 fellows so far — 76 percent of whom are people of color and 73 percent of whom are women or non-binary — and is now expanding beyond short-term fellowships to also offer entry-level jobs and it's creating a new advisory council.

Advocates have long argued that politics tends to attract people from privileged backgrounds because, among other things, early career paths often include unpaid internships and unpredictable periods of unemployment, such as after a losing campaign, that can be difficult to weather for young people without family support.

And because hiring in politics is often through word-of-mouth and personal networks, managers often end up hiring people who look like them, even if they have the best of intentions. 

“A lot of work is trying to push back against the structures of what progressive politics have looked like for a long time. So we say that rather than waiting for people to come to us, we're going to go out and find them,” Michaelson said. 

Taking a page large employers that spend millions of dollars to aggressively recruit on college campuses, Progressive Pipeline recruits from dozens of campuses, screens applicants, trains them, places them at a partner organization that has agreed to host a fellow, and connects them with a coach they meet with weekly to help them navigate what might be their first job.

"Progressive Pipeline is opening doors for so many people that would be shut out of the political process otherwise,” said Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party, one of the groups that has committed to hosting a fellow this year.

Ohio Gov. DeWine declines debate invite days after poll shows him up big

151d ago / 4:11 PM UTC

Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine will skip the Ohio Debate Commission's primary debate later this month, the organization confirmed in a Thursday statement. 

The press release from the Commission says DeWine's campaign did not provide a reason for declining the invitation to join its March 29 debate, which is part of the group's four scheduled debates this month in the state's gubernatorial and senate races. 

"No other candidate has declined the Ohio Debate Commission’s invitation to participate. The Ohio Gubernatorial Republican primary debate will go on with the candidates who choose to participate and will be broadcast on TV and radio stations around the state to inform primary voters," the commission said in a statement. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine speaks during an event in Newark, Ohio on Jan. 21, 2022.Paul Vernon / AP file

On top of DeWine, the commission also invited former Rep. Jim Renacci, as well as farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood, to debate. 

"Mike DeWine is the most publicly accessible Governor in Ohio history," Brenton Temple, DeWine's campaign manager, told NBC in a statement. 

"Governor DeWine meets with constituents on a daily basis and regularly takes questions from the media. Ohioans know where he stands on the issues and that he is fighting and winning for them." 

In a statement to NBC, Renacci criticized DeWine, saying  "he's terrified to debate me" and "won't even take to the debate stage" to defend his record.

The announcement comes days after the recent Fox News poll found DeWine with 50 percent among Republican primary voters, ahead of Blystone's 21 percent and Renacci's 18 percent. 

Senate Democratic primary hits Pennsylvania’s airwaves

151d ago / 4:08 PM UTC

Two top Democratic Senate candidates in Pennsylvania are up with the first TV ads in this key race, with Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., launching his first ad of the race Thursday morning, following Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, whose campaign began been running ads last week. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has not yet hit the airwaves.

The ads signal a new phase in the Democratic primary race and come as Republican Senate candidates have already spent millions attacking each other ahead of the May 17 primary. 

Lamb’s first spot highlights his background as a Marine and federal prosecutor, as well as his three victories in competitive House districts. 

Lamb's ad also features footage from the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol, highlighting Lamb’s speech after the attack where he chastised Republicans (and during which lawmakers almost came to blows). The use of House floor footage could run afoul of ethics rules that prohibit such footage from being used for political purposes. 

Both Lamb and Fetterman hail from the western side of the state. Fetterman has been up on the air with ads highlighting his work as mayor of Braddock, a struggling steel town outside of Pittsburgh. He recently launched ads in the expensive Philadelphia media market. 

Fetterman has a sizable financial advantage in the race, with $5.3 million in his campaign account as of Dec. 31. Lamb’s campaign had $3 million on hand while Kenyatta’s campaign had $285,000. 

Democrats view Pennsylvania as a top pickup opportunity with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey retiring. Biden, who has roots in the state, carried Pennsylvania by 1 percentage point in 2020 after former President Donald Trump won the state by 1 point in 2016. 

Survey: Majority of election officials are concerned about interference, fear for safety

151d ago / 1:19 AM UTC

A majority of local election officials say they are worried that political interference in elections could affect their ability to do their jobs and are considering leaving their roles amid safety concerns, according to a new survey released Thursday.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law surveyed nearly 600 local election officials nationwide and found that a large majority of them feel they need more federal government support to combat interference from political leaders and public threats.

One in 5 local officials said they were unlikely to continue serving through 2024, citing mainly attacks from politicians, stress and retirement plans as the reasons, according to the survey, which was conducted online for the Brennan Center by Benenson Strategy Group. The survey, which was conducted Jan. 31 through Feb. 14, interviewed 596 election officials nationwide with a reported margin of error of +/- 3.95 percent.

Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School during party primaries June 22 in New York.
Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School during party primaries June 22 in New York.Richard Drew / AP file

The center reported that 77 percent of elections officials feel threats have increased and that 54 percent were concerned for their colleagues’ safety. Nearly a third said they knew of at least one worker who left a job because of threats and harassment. And among those who said they had been threatened, more than half reported having received threats in person.

Lawrence Norden, the senior director of the Brennan Center’s Elections and Government Program, called local election officials “the heroes of the 2020 election.” But with many on the fence about staying, Norden and over half of the workers surveyed worry that new officials could buy into false voter fraud narratives 

“There was a lot of political pressure on them to lie about the election results, and they refused to,” Norden said of 2020 officials. “If you have a different set of election officials that's not willing to stand up to the threats, then you're going to have a lot more doubt cast about the system, and you're going to make it easier for people to sabotage the elections.”

Nearly all respondents said they believe social media played a role in facilitating false election information, and two-thirds said the misinformation made their jobs more dangerous.

Norden said the influence of misinformation on the 2024 elections will depend on how much support elections officials get and whether social media platforms crack down on false information. 

Support would involve passing state-level laws to protect officials and encouraging local law enforcement to investigate threats, Norden said. The Brennan Center has supported Democratic voting bills in the past.

Norden also said more federal dollars need to go toward elections so officials can hire staff members, pay for physical security and prosecute threats that “cross the line.”

He called vote reviews in states like Arizona and Wisconsin “disinformation operations,” saying they contribute to the environment election officials are seeking to leave.

“At the end of the day, apolitical election administration is necessary if you're going to have a democracy,” Lawrence said.

“If they leave in large numbers,” he continued, “we're going to lose their knowledge, and if they're replaced by people who don't have the same commitment to apolitical election administration, we've got a big problem.”

McCrory's new spot tries to hit Budd on Putin

152d ago / 4:21 PM UTC

Former North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is up with his first television ad in the state's competitive GOP primary attacking his top opponent, GOP Rep. Ted Budd, for comments he made about Russia. 

The new spot quotes a quick comment from Budd from a recent interview in which he referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as "a very intelligent actor" who had "strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank." 

"These are serious times and we need serious senators," McCrory says in the new ad.

"I don't compliment our enemies — I stand for truth and freedom." 

Image: Pat McCrory
Pat McCrory speaks at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 7, 2016.Zach D Robert / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

The Budd comments cited in the ad come from two different interviews. The first was from late last month when he filed his candidacy, saying: "Putin is evil. But, that doesn’t mean he’s not smart. He’s a very intelligent actor, although I would say he’s been quite erratic in this approach to the Ukraine."

And the second is from a Fox News interview around the same time, where he said the West should have predicted that Russia would want to claw back after the fall of the Soviet Union, adding the comment about Putin's "strategic reasons" for protecting his flank. 

"But still, this is evil, this is a sovereign nation in Ukraine and we stand with the Ukraine people." 

Jonathan Felts, a senior advisor to Budd, told NBC News in a statement responding to the ad that "McCrory has a long track-record of underestimating the opposition which is why he’s already lost twice and is about to lose again."

"Ted Budd presents the sort of level-headed assessment you would expect from a U.S. Senator because he knows these are serious times that require strength, not the empty soundbites preferred by career politicians like Biden and McCrory. Ted Budd accurately described Putin as an evil, intelligent threat to be taken seriously," he added. 

McCrory's ad is not the first aimed at attacking a Republican on Russia — especially after former President Donald Trump praised some of Putin's tactics. Independent Evan McMullin is also up with a new ad that attacks Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee on Russia, and the campaign told PolitiFact it was pointing to Lee's 2017 sanctions vote as it sought to frame Lee as not tough on Russia. 

Initial post-State of the Union polls suggest some Democrats coming home

153d ago / 6:08 PM UTC

Did President Biden get a polling bounce after his State of the Union address? 

So far, we’ve gotten mixed answers, but the different polling numbers at least suggest that some of the president's Democratic critics and detractors have come home after last week’s speech. 

Here are the initial numbers: 

  • On Friday, a national NPR/PBS/Marist poll (conducted March 1-2, with a margin of error +/- 3.8 percent) found Biden’s approval rating increasing 8 points among all adults, from 39 percent the week before the speech to 47 percent after. By party, the poll showed 90 percent of Democrats approving Biden’s job (up from 79 percent the week before), compared with 39 percent for independents (was 29 percent) and 10 percent for Republicans (was 6 percent).   
  • Then on Monday, a national Quinnipiac survey (conducted March 4-6, with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percent) showed very little bounce, putting Biden’s approval rating at 38 percent among all adults — up just 1 point from the week before. By party, the poll found 82 percent of Democrats approving (up from 75 percent in January), versus just 30 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans giving the president a thumbs-up.  
  • On Tuesday, an online Politico/Morning Consult poll (conducted March 4-6, with a margin of error of +/- 2 percent) had Biden’s approval rating at 45 percent — up from 41 percent the week before. And the poll showed a pretty similar breakdown by party, with 84 percent of Democrats approving of Biden’s job (was 77 percent the week before), versus 31 percent for independents (was 32 percent) and 11 percent by Republicans (was 10 percent). 

Cortez Masto touts pandemic relief in first TV ads

153d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

Nevada Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s first TV ads tout her work on pandemic aid, underscoring a message Democrats hope to leverage in the midterms. 

“If it weren't for Catherine Cortez Masto, we would all be worse off,” Kasey Christensen, a restaurant worker in Reno, says in one of the 30-second spots.  

The other TV ad features Gladdis Blanco, a housekeeper in Las Vegas, who says, “I was very worried about making a living when no one was coming to Nevada in times like that,” adding that Cortez Masto “led the fight to protect Nevada and made sure we got the help we needed.”

Cortez Masto’s ads demonstrate how vulnerable Democrats plan to highlight their accomplishments on the campaign trail, including pandemic relief efforts like the American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress without any Republican support nearly one year ago. 

The first-term senator is a top target for Republicans, who need a net gain of just one seat to win back the majority in the Senate. President Joe Biden won the state by 3 percentage points in 2020. 

Guy Cecil, chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, said Democrats could have done more to tout the pandemic relief. 

“I think most Americans wouldn't recognize the term ‘American Rescue Plan,’” Cecil told reporters during a Thursday briefing. But he said touting the legislation was a challenge while people were still suffering from the pandemic. Cecil does see an opportunity now to draw a contrast with Republicans who opposed the legislation.

“There's a lot of work that we can do in that space to still use components of the ARP, the infrastructure bill, other pieces of legislation to draw that contrast between us and them,” Cecil said. “And I think we'll be very focused on that over the next few months.”

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report. 

Former Gov. Cuomo spending big on ads months after resignation amid misconduct allegations

154d ago / 8:13 PM UTC

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned after a report from the state's attorney general found multiple allegations of sexual misconduct allegations against him, has been running hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of television ads seeking to discredit the allegations.

His campaign committee has been running spots for a little more than a week — at more than $660,000 so far — that recount news coverage of the allegations and the investigations, choosing parts of the coverage aimed at undercutting the cases against him. 

"Political attacks won. And New Yorkers lost a proven leader," the ad closes. 

Cuomo evoked a similar message Sunday in his first public appearance, a speech at a Brooklyn church, where he claimed his rivals "used cancel culture to effectively overturn an election." 

Cuomo has $650,000 more in television time booked through Sunday, per ad-tracking firm AdImpact, more than any other gubernatorial candidate has booked over that span, even though he is not running for any office at this point. 

The Albany County district attorney's office dismissed a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching filed against Cuomo this year, saying it could not "meet our burden at trial." District Attorney David Soares said that "we found the complainant in this case cooperative and credible." 

Iowa Gov. Reynolds leads Democrat by 8 in new poll

154d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds leads Democratic businesswoman Deidre DeJear by 8 points in a new poll out of the Hawkeye State, results the pollster called "surprising." 

Reynolds secured 51 percent of likely voters in the new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, with DeJear at 43 percent. Five percent said they were not sure who they'd vote for and one percent chose a different candidate. 

Forty-nine percent of all Iowans approve of Reynolds' job performance, compared to the 44 percent who disapprove. The incumbent's favorability rating is 50 percent among all Iowans, with 42 percent viewing her unfavorably. 

By comparison, only 31 percent of Iowans say they know enough about DeJear to rate her favorably or unfavorably (16 percent favorably, 15 percent unfavorably). 

Image: Kim Reynolds
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds waves after delivering her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall / AP file

“It just says that people are voting on party, really,” pollster J. Ann Selzer told the Des Moines Register of the results, which she called "surprising" considering DeJear's name identification in the state. 

“The play will be in converting the independents and then getting them to turn out, because independents are notoriously unreliable voters." 

Reynolds delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address last week. DeJear was the party's nominee for secretary of state in 2018.

The Iowa Poll polled 813 Iowans at least 18 years of age on landline and cell phones from Feb. 28 through March 2. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 3.4 percent, while the margin of error for the 612 likely voter sample is +/- 4 percent. 

Biden remains top 'boogeyman' in 2022 ads

157d ago / 5:31 PM UTC

For the second straight month, President Joe Biden has topped the list as the “boogeyman” identified most in TV ads for the House, Senate and governor — all by Republican candidates — according to an NBC News analysis of midterm campaign ads. 

Out of 145 TV ads reviewed for the month of February, 25 used Biden as a “boogeyman,” 14 attacked “socialism,” “the Radical left” or similar ideas, and 6 mentioned China. 

Rather than directly attacking a candidate, “boogeymen” are used in ads as a way to either establish credentials with primary voters, or to paint their opponents in a negative light.

Last month, Democratic candidates didn't employ boogeymen in their ads, according to the advertisements captured by AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm. Instead, these Democrats — airing far fewer overall ads in February than Republicans — opted to highlight their own stories and platforms.

Biden was cited as a target 25 times in Republican ads, usually by a candidate attacking his agenda or alleging failures by his administration.

For example, in a February 1 ad, Republican candidate for Texas’ 15th district Monica de la Cruz claimed, “Joe Biden abandoned us and our border,” in a commercial about border security.

Some candidates just attacked the president without mentioning his agenda or policy platform.

Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey ran an ad starting on February 8, telling voters, “Growing up, my mom and dad told us, ‘If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.’ Well, here's what I have to say about Joe Biden,” followed by almost ten seconds of no words and a clock ticking.

A new category that claimed the second top spot on the boogeyman list this month was Republican candidates attacking ideas and groups like, “socialism,” “the woke mob,” and “the radical left.” 

One Nebraska GOP candidate for governor, Jim Pillen, called these ideas “hogwash” in an ad that started running on February 5 in his state.

“The radical left and liberal media have lost their minds,” he says at the beginning of the ad, before adding, “After 40 years of raising pigs, I know slop when I see it. So, when university liberals pushed an anti-American agenda, I stood up to their socialist nonsense and never back down. Some call it woke. Others call it politically correct. I call it hogwash.”

Other recurring “boogeymen” in February included White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

However, this month they were often attacked by candidates alongside President Biden. For example, in an ad that started running in Alabama on February 18, Senate candidate Katie Britt says, “Biden and Fauci want to shut everything down, steal our freedoms and lecture us about right and wrong.” 

New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan reserves $13 million for fall re-election bid in New Hampshire

157d ago / 12:39 PM UTC

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., has reserved $13 million worth of fall airtime for her re-election bid, her campaign announced Friday in a memo shared first with NBC News.

It’s a substantial commitment in a state that national Democrats and Republicans are targeting in their battle for control of the chamber, and one where the pricey Boston media market in neighboring Massachusetts is key to reaching voters. TV and radio advertising could come at a premium cost, especially with an open race for governor on the ballot in Massachusetts.

The GOP, meanwhile, won’t have a Senate nominee until after their mid-September primary. State Senate President Chuck Morse, Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith and Don Bolduc, who lost a 2020 Senate primary, are the leading candidates. 

Gov. Chris Sununu, who public polls released last year showed would have been very competitive against Hassan, decided against seeking the seat, depriving the party of a field-clearing contender with statewide name-recognition and popularity. 

“New Hampshire hosts the second latest primary in the nation — September 13 — giving the eventual Republican nominee little time — and few resources — to communicate after emerging from what is set to be an extreme and chaotic primary,” Hassan campaign manager Aaron Jacobs wrote in the memo, which deems Hassan in a “commanding position” in the race. “No matter who the Republicans nominate, they will enter the general election tarnished as a reliable vote for [Senate GOP Leader Mitch] McConnell and his corporate special interest agenda.”

Image: Sen. Maggie Hassan, Joint Senate Hearing Examines January 6th Capitol Hill Attack
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., speaks at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on March 3, 2021.Shawn Thew / Pool via Getty Images file

Ad reservations can be canceled, but Jacobs in his memo pointed to five straight quarters of record fundraising, a trend that, if it continues, should provide enough cash for the blitz. 

Hassan entered 2022 with $5.3 million on hand, according to campaign finance reports. Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general and the only Republican who had a campaign up and running in 2021, had only $57,000. Morse and Smith declared their candidacies in January and have yet to file finance reports.

The race has already drawn almost $17 million in TV ads, $9.8 million from Democrats (including $3.3 million from Hassan's campaign) and $7.1 million from Republicans, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

Jacobs’ memo also sketched out Hassan’s messaging strategy in what’s expected to be a close race in a state known for its independent-minded voters.

“Our campaign’s greatest strength is Senator Hassan — who has built a strong record in the Senate as an independent leader who takes on corporate special interests — and wins,” Jacobs wrote, noting her work to end surprise medical billing and negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure deal and her push for a federal gas tax holiday

The campaign also is prepared to emphasize occasions when Hassan has “been unafraid” to disagree with President Joe Biden. She voted against Robert Califf, Biden’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, expressing concern about his approach to the opioid crisis. And she criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal. 

“Senator Hassan has a long record of getting wins for the people of New Hampshire and is leading on the most urgent issue facing voters: lowering costs,” Jacobs wrote. “Meanwhile, her opponents are unknown, disliked, and already burdened with toxic anti-choice, pro-corporate special interest records.” 

Morgan Luttrell projected to win GOP primary in Texas' 8th Congressional District

158d ago / 8:30 PM UTC

Republican Morgan Luttrell, a combat veteran who served in the Energy Department, is projected to win his party's primary in Texas' 8th Congressional District, NBC News projects, making him the favorite to win the seat in the fall. 

NBC's Decision Desk projected Thursday afternoon that Luttrell, whose vote share currently sits at 52 percent, would win the majority needed to advance to the general election and avoid a runoff. Democrat Laura Jones ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in the Houston-area district, which former President Donald Trump won by 27 points in 2020. 

Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference on July 10, 2021, in Dallas.
Retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on July 10.Brandon Bell / Getty Images file

Luttrell has the backing of Republicans like former Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, as well as the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. 

Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, who has represented the area since 1997, did not seek re-election. 

Arizona GOP Gov. to donors: I'm not running for Senate

158d ago / 4:14 PM UTC

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said he will not run for Senate this year, the latest establishment figure to walk away from those urging him to run in a key state on the party's path toward retaking the Senate majority. 

In a letter being sent Thursday from Ducey obtained by NBC News, the governor recounts how "a number of people have asked me to reconsider," but that "my mind hasn't changed." 

"By nature and by training I'm an executive," he wrote. "These days, if you're going to run for public office, you really have to want the job. Right now I have the job I want." 

Ducey, who cannot run for another term as governor because of term limits, has resisted calls to run for Senate from top Republicans for months. The New York Times reported two weeks ago that the pressure campaign included former President George W. Bush and top GOP strategist Karl Rove.

And Ducey is the third GOP governor to pass on a Senate bid. Last month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he wouldn’t run, while New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu ruled out a Senate bid earlier despite a similar lobbying campaign from top Republicans. 

His decision leaves Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Thiel Foundation President Blake Masters and businessman Jim Lamon as the Arizona Republican Party's top candidates in the race against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Kelly has been a strong fundraiser and has tried to fashion himself as bipartisan in a politically divided state, but Republicans are hopeful the political winds will help them win back the seat Kelly won in 2020. 

But that Senate GOP primary has been, in large part, a race to the right, with the candidates boosting Republican dissent over the results of the 2020 election. It's an issue Ducey crossed former President Donald Trump on — after Ducey certified the state's election results in 2020, he weathered repeated public criticism from Trump himself. Just in January at a rally in Arizona, Trump said from the stage: “Ducey has been a terrible, terrible, terrible representative of your state.” 

Even so, Ducey has continued to defend Trump’s relevancy within the party. In May 2021, he called Trump the leader of the GOP. And just in January, he doubled down on that statement.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey answers a question during a news conference in Phoenix on Dec. 2, 2020.Ross D. Franklin / Pool/AP Photo file

In his letter, Ducey says he's going to focus on this final year in office as well as his role as the chair of the Republican Governors’ Association to “help elected Republican governors across the country” before deciding what to do next. 

"Rest assured, I am fully committed to helping elect a Republican US Senator from Arizona,” he wrote, asserting that “we have a strong field of candidates in Arizona” and may be “perhaps weighing in before the primary.”

Democrats reveled in the news, with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Patrick Burgwinkle saying in a statement that "once again, Senate Republicans’ recruitment efforts have failed, and their top potential candidates are refusing to run against strong Democratic Senators like Mark Kelly."

Ben Kamisar contributed. 

Democratic Senate candidates seize on sign of Ron Johnson slide in Wisconsin

159d ago / 9:24 PM UTC

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s favorability is sliding in Wisconsin — and Democrats are salivating over what they say is their best chance to oust the two-term senator. 

But just who would take on Johnson in the general election is far from decided. More than half of the Wisconsinites surveyed in a new poll have yet to decide whom they’ll support in the Democratic primary for the Senate. The Republican primary for governor appears wide open, too.

Those were among the findings in the much-anticipated Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday — the first major survey of Wisconsin races in 2022 before the August primaries.

Johnson’s favorability weighed in at 33 percent, a 3-point drop since last fall’s Marquette survey. Johnson’s approval has steadily declined since 2019, when the same poll had him at 40 percent favorable and 29 percent unfavorable.

“The poll shows that Ron Johnson is probably the most unpopular senator in America and why Wisconsin is the most competitive senate race in the country,” said Irene Lin, a spokesperson for Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, one of many candidates in the Democratic primary Aug. 9. “It shows it’s a wide-open race on the Democratic side.” 

The Johnson campaign rejected a narrative of a steady decline, noting a 3-point drop since October was within the poll's margin of error and pointed to Democrats having to contend with other dynamics, including inflation concerns. “Senator Johnson has never worried about public polls because they’ve been wildly inaccurate in the past,” campaign spokesman Jake Wilkins said.

Senate Homeland Security Confirmation Hearing
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in Washington on July 15.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images file

NBC News previously reported that national Republicans have committed to backing Johnson. His electability has been doubted before — including by his own party — only for him to prove them wrong. 

“Ron Johnson continues to demand accountability in Washington and deliver results for Wisconsinites while Wisconsin Democrats trip over themselves to prove who’s more liberal” said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Today’s polling shows that there’s no clear front-runner in the Democrat primary, guaranteeing a nasty and prolonged fight for the nomination. No matter who the Democratic candidate is, they will be far too liberal for Wisconsinites and won’t beat Ron Johnson come November.”

The poll of 802 registered Wisconsin voters was conducted Feb. 22-27. Its margin of error was +/- 3.8 percent.

The head-to-head comparison in the Democratic primary for the Senate showed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes at 23 percent support, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry at 13 percent, Nelson at 5 percent and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski at 3 percent. 

“Despite a large number of undecided voters, Mandela holds a double-digit lead over his opponents and has more support than his next three primary opponents combined,” a spokesperson for his campaign, Maddy McDaniel, said in a statement.  

Lasry’s campaign saw the Marquette survey as a validation of its own internal poll, which NBC News reported Tuesday, that suggested that he was within 8 points of Barnes, the best-known of the Democrats running for the Senate. 

“Two days, two polls show essentially the same thing. Alex Lasry has made this into a two-person race and is closing fast,” said Mike Tate, a senior adviser to Lasry’s campaign.  

Lasry has vastly outspent his competitors, having already dumped millions of dollars into TV and digital ads and more in direct mailers.  

Nelson took an indirect jab at Lasry on Wednesday after the poll was released, tweeting: “$4 million is a lot for 13 percent.”

Sarah Abel, a spokesperson for Godlewski's campaign, also said the contest was “wide open” because of the number of undecided voters and said the campaign expects to expand its messaging on Godlewski “far and wide” to position her for the August primary.

Progressive groups launch ads pinning inflation on corporations following Biden's State of the Union nod

159d ago / 6:43 PM UTC

A pair of progressive groups are launching a six-figure ad campaign that will blame inflation on “corporate greed.”

The groups, Tax March and Accountable.US, will use the campaign to help Democrats go on the offensive on the issue of rising inflation — a problematic topic for the Biden administration that has been a focal point of attacks from Republicans heading into the 2022 midterm election cycle.

One 30-second spot, provided first to NBC News, features several CEOs of publicly traded companies — including Kroger, Chipotle, Kimberly-Clark and Chevron — speaking about how inflation has helped boost profits. The ad ends with banner in large font that reads, “Corporate greed is driving inflation.”

The campaign is designed to counter GOP-led attacks and is part of a strategy to shift blame about rising inflation from Democrats to corporations. 

“In earnings calls and to their investors, corporate executives are saying the quiet part out loud: they are using the pandemic and supply chain issues as cover to raise prices and rake in record profits. We must hold corporations and greedy CEOs accountable for raising prices on essential goods to increase their profit margins in this tough time,” Tax March campaign director Sarah Baron told NBC News.

The ads — which will air Wednesday through Sunday on local and cable television in the Washington, D.C. media market, as part of an effort to target policy makers — follow a State of the Union address that Biden used to warn Americans  of how inflation was “robbing” families of the gains of higher wages and job growth.”

Biden, in what appeared to be a new tack, used his speech to bash "trickle-down economics" and leaned heavily into blaming inflation on corporate greed and price-gouging.

"During the pandemic, these foreign-owned companies raised prices by as much as 1,000 percent and made record profits," he said. "Tonight, I'm announcing a crackdown on these companies overcharging American businesses and consumers."

Progressives have lauded the new approach. 

"If swing voters listened to the State of the Union, they heard a Democratic president address rising costs by vowing to crack down on corporate price gouging,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said. “If Democrats play offense on economics in 2022 and voters see the contrast on display during the State Of The Union, Democrats will win." 

Inflation, at its highest levels in decades, has been cited by voters as a top concern — and a major reason for his weak approval ratings in polling.

Democratic hopes of turning Texas blue have dimmed

159d ago / 5:13 PM UTC

It was just a few years ago, after Beto O’Rourke’s narrow Senate loss in 2018, that Democrats thought  winning Texas was finally within reach — if not in 2020, then certainly in coming election cycles due to the state’s changing demographics.

Today, however, turning the Lone Star State blue appears farther away from Democrats than ever.

Just look at the turnout numbers from Tuesday’s Texas primaries: With more than 90 percent of the vote in, 1.9 million Republican voters participated in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary that Gov. Greg Abbott easily won, versus 1 million who took part in the Democratic primary that Beto O’Rourke carried. Abbott and O’Rourke will face off in November’s general election for governor.

(By comparison, in 2018’s Senate primaries, the GOP’s turnout advantage was about half that size, 1.5 million for Republicans, versus 1 million for Democrats.)

And while the GOP’s gubernatorial primary Tuesday night was more competitive than the Democrats’ — Abbott faced challengers from his right flank — the Republican turnout advantage was about the same for the state’s intraparty contests for attorney general, where both Democrats and Republicans featured crowded fields of candidates.

Nearly 1.9 million Republicans voted in their AG race, versus almost 1 million for Democrats, according to the latest figures as of Wednesday morning.

Primary turnout is only one part of the equation why political observers aren’t bullish about Democrats’ chances in 2022. Another is President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings in the state, which have sunk to the low 30s — signaling a rough midterm environment for Democrats. 

Then there’s the Democratic Party’s current struggles in rural America, which make winning Texas statewide in general elections nearly impossible. In the 2020 presidential election, which saw record turnout in the Lone Star State and elsewhere, Biden won the state’s major metropolitan areas and suburbs — like in Austin, Houston, Dallas and even Ft. Worth.

But Donald Trump racked up 80 percent-to-20-percent — and sometimes even 90 percent-to-10 percent — margins in Texas’ rural counties, which propelled him to a 5.6-point victory in the state, 52.1 percent to 46.5 percent.

And finally and maybe most importantly, the Republican Party made noticeable gains in Latino-heavy South Texas in 2020, which appear to be carrying over to 2022.

Whether it’s sheer numbers, Biden’s low standing, the Democratic struggles in rural America and Republican gains with Latinos — Texas isn’t truly on the battleground map this November.

And might not be come 2024, either.

Texas primary night: What we still don't know

159d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

Votes are continuing to pour in from Texas' Tuesday primary. And NBC's Decision Desk has already projected many of the top races, there are a few results still outstanding. Here's a look at the top races we are still waiting for the Decision Desk to project: 

Texas 28th District Democratic primary

The marquee congressional primary on Tuesday's schedule, this border-district battle might go to a runoff between the top two candidates. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar has 48.5 percent of the vote, compared to Jessica Cisneros' almost 47 percent of the vote, with few votes left to count. If neither candidate wins the majority, the two will go into runoff on May 24. 

A runoff would prolong the brutal battle between the progressive Cisneros and the more moderate incumbent, who is caught up in an investigation tied to Azerbaijan. And the winner will go onto a tough general-election fight in a district that President Biden won by 7 points in 2020. 

Texas 8th District Republican primary 

Morgan Lutrell — a combat veteran endorsed by Republicans like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the House leadership-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund — currently sits at just under 53 percent, which would be enough to win the race outright if it holds. If he falls under 50 percent, he could face off against Christian Collins, whose endorsements include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. 

The winner of this primary will likely decide who replaces the retiring GOP Rep. Kevin Brady, in a heavily Republican district. 

Texas 15th District Democratic primary

While Republicans have settled on their nominee in the 15th District, one of the state’s few competitive House districts, Democrats will decide their candidate in May.

Republican Monica de la Cruz, who ran unsuccessfully in 2020, avoided a runoff in the GOP primary. On the Democratic side, attorney Ruben Ramirez, an Army veteran, advanced to the May runoff with 28 percent of the vote. Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, who has 20 percent of the vote so far, is in a close race for the second runoff spot against attorney John Rigney, who has 19 percent of the vote. Republicans are eyeing the 15th District as a top pickup opportunity.

Trump would have carried the district, which stretches from Austin to the Mexican border, by 3 points had the new lines been in place in 2020.

Texas 30th District Democratic primary 

The Democratic primary to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas’ 30th District is still in flux. 

Johnson encouraged state Rep. Jasmine Crockett to run for the seat, and Crockett currently leads the field with more than 48 percent of the vote, just shy of the threshold to avoid a runoff. Former congressional staffer Jane Hope Hamilton, who outraised Crockett in the race, is in second place with 17 percent of the vote.The eventual Democratic nominee will be in a strong position to win the Dallas-area seat. Biden would have won the district by 57 points. 

Nearly $65 million spent on Texas primary ads

160d ago / 6:32 PM UTC

Millions of dollars in ads have flooded the Texas airwaves ahead of Tuesday’s primary, with the vast majority of the spending focused on contested GOP primaries.

Roughly $64.6 million has been spent on ads in the Texas primaries, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Republicans have spent $50.8 million on ads in Texas primary contests, while Democrats have spent $13.8 million.

The Texas GOP gubernatorial primary has drawn the most money, with Republican candidates spending nearly $14.2 million on ads. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign has been the top advertiser in the state, dropping nearly $8.8 million on ads as he faces a pair of primary challengers: Florida Congressman-turned-former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West and former state Sen. Don Huffines. 

Huffines, who has self-funded his campaign, has spent nearly $5.1 million on the airwaves while West has spent $235,000. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary, has spent $451,000 on ads so far. 

Abbott, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has had a massive financial advantage in the race. As of Feb. 19 his campaign had $50 million in cash on hand, per a campaign finance filing. 

Republicans have also spent $13.8 million on ads in the Texas attorney general’s race, where incumbent Ken Paxton is facing Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert. 

Guzman has spent the most on ads, dropping $5.5 million on the airwaves while Paxton has spent $4 million, Bush has spent nearly $3.6 million and Gohmert has spent $781,000.

Democrats, meanwhile, have spent $4.2 million on ads in Texas’ 28th District, where Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar faces a primary rematch against progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros. Cisneros’ campaign has outspent Cuellar on the airwaves, spending $1.2 million to Cuellar’s $968,000. 

Ben Kamisar contributed to this report.

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

160d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

160d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

161d 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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163d 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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164d 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

164d 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

164d 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

165d 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

166d 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?

167d 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

171d 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

172d 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

172d 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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173d 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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173d 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

174d 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

174d 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

174d 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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174d 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

178d 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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178d 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

180d 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

181d 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

181d 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

182d 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

182d 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

185d 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

185d 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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186d 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

186d 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

187d 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

188d 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

188d 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

188d 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

189d 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

193d 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

194d 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

194d 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

196d 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

196d 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"

196d 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

199d 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

201d 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

201d 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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201d 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

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202d 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

202d 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

207d 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

208d 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

209d 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

209d 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

210d 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

214d 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

214d 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

214d 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

215d 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

216d 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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217d 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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230d 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

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234d 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.

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235d 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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235d 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

238d 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?

238d 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

238d 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

242d 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.