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Democrats hold slight spending edge in Virginia's ad wars

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Stacey Abrams Campaigns With Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Terry McAuliffe In Norfolk, Virginia
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at a rally on Oct. 17, 2021 in Norfolk, Va.Zach Gibson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With two weeks to go in Virginia’s competitive race for governor, Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats have been outspending Glenn Youngkin and the GOP in advertising — by the narrowest of margins.

Since the general election began, Democrats have spent $22.8 million on TV, radio and online ads, while Republicans have dropped $20.9 million, according to numbers from AdImpact, with the McAuliffe campaign ($21.4 million) and the Youngkin campaign ($20.8 million) making up the bulk of this spending.

Since Oct. 1, Democrats have outspent Republicans in the race, $7.7 million to $4.8 million.

And in future spending (Oct. 19 through Nov. 2), Republicans have booked $1.4 million, compared with $885,000 for Democrats, per AdImpact.

One of the big differences between this contest and last month’s California recall election is just how close the ad-spending race has been in Virginia, versus Gavin Newsom’s clear advantage over the airwaves in the California recall.

But who else is surprised that McAuliffe — by the barest of margins — is outspending the deep-pocketed Youngkin in this race?

Climate crisis

Democrats have always been bound to the reality of Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. That’s why the price tag for their climate/education/social spending bill keeps coming down.

But do progressives risk getting demoralized if the climate section gets watered down?

From the Washington Post over the weekend:

“The White House is scrambling to salvage a critical proposal to reduce carbon emissions and deliver on President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda, as pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) creates new headaches for the administration entering key international negotiations next month.

“The fight revolves around the Clean Energy Performance Program, which Democrats have proposed as a way to reward utilities that increase their clean energy supply by 4 percent each year, while penalizing those that don’t. Lawmakers have included the initiative as part of a multitrillion-dollar tax-and-spending package that aims to advance Biden’s broader economic vision.

“But the emissions-reduction program has drawn fierce public and private opposition from Manchin, whose home state of West Virginia depends heavily on coal.”

Democrats routinely talk about two different existential threats — on democracy and on climate.

Well, on Wednesday, Senate Republicans are set to filibuster a federal voting-rights bill.

And now a key climate provision is going to get scuttled in the reconciliation talks?

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

17: The number of missionaries kidnapped in Haiti this weekend.

638: The number of federal defendants in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack so far, per NBC4’s Scott MacFarlane.

10: At least the number of civil cases pending against former President Trump, who will sit for a deposition in one case on Monday.

More than 500: The number of top public health officials, per the New York Times, who have left their jobs since the pandemic began.

44,978,874: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 155,924 more since Friday morning.)

728,935: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,556 more since Friday morning.)

408,265,959: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 2,821,401 more since Friday morning.)

10,461,286: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,142,114 more since Friday morning.)

57 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

68.4 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Tweet of the day

The Parent Trap

Speaking of the ad war in Virginia, NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald takes an in-depth look at what’s been the recent focus of Youngkin’s ads over the last three weeks: education and “parents matter.”

“[T]he most played political ads in Virginia right now are Youngkin spots featuring a gaffe by McAuliffe at the last debate, when he said, ‘I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.’”

“McAuliffe was referring to a 2017 bill he vetoed during his first term as governor (Virginia is the only state that doesn't allow governors to serve consecutive term) that would have allowed parents to prevent their children from studying literature deemed to be sexually explicit.”

“His debate comment, removed from its context, plays into long-standing conservative narratives about "Big Government," as well new ones about mask mandates and critical race theory.”


“McAuliffe has dismissed the issue and the conspiratorial fear-mongering, saying critical race theory isn't even taught in Virginia schools. Independent fact-checkers have backed him up on that point, and they have labeled Youngkin's claims as "false," saying that critical race theory isn't part of state curriculum standards and that there's little evidence it is present in many classrooms.”

On the trail

At 9:00 a.m. ET in Centerville, Va., Youngkin highlights his call to cut grocery taxes. And McAuliffe, in Richmond, holds a discussion on women’s health at 1:45 p.m. ET.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Former President Bill Clinton has been released from the hospital after a five-day stay to fight an infection.

Jury selection begins Monday in the murder trial of three white Georgia men in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed in 2020.

The Biden administration is building an build intelligence-gathering cell to track groups of migrants headed north.

Axios reports that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin wants a work requirement and income cap on the child tax credit.