The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Darrell Issa launching exploratory committee for indicted Rep. Hunter's seat
WASHINGTON — Former California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is launching an exploratory committee for the congressional seat currently held by indicted Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter.
Issa's old campaign website now features a statement saying, "I have formally launched an exploratory committee for the 50th Congressional District in California."
"I have received such a tremendous outpouring of encouragement from supporters inside the district, and around the state and across the Nation. I’m truly grateful for the many encouraging phone calls, messages and letters that I have received," the statement continues.
Issa decided to retire ahead of his own 2018 election instead of run again. Democrat Mike Levin ultimately won the seat.
Before he left office, Issa was the wealthiest member of Congress according to Roll Call's analysis. While he didn't loan his campaign any substantial money during 2016 bid, when Issa won by less than 2,000 votes, he contributed $3 million of his personal wealth to his first bid in 2000. So between his deep pockets and his connections in Congress, he likely would be able to raise substantial money for his campaign.
Issa, who made his name as an antagonist of President Obama as head of the House Oversight Committee, could give Republicans an interesting plan B depending on how Hunter's trial goes. Hunter has been accused of misusing campaign funds for a variety of personal expenses — including to finance affairs — and his wife has since pleaded guilty on a related conspiracy charge.
Hunter won his 2018 congressional race even after that indictment, but by just 4 points in a district that President Trump won by 15 points in 2016.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who narrowly lost to Hunter in 2018, is running again. During that campaign, Hunter repeatedly drew criticism for his attacks on Campa-Najjar, including a television ad that accused him of trying to "infiltrate Congress" and called him a "security risk" because his deceased grandfather was involved in the 19720 terror attack on Jewish Olympians at the 1980 Munich Olympics.
Hunter has had some fundraising struggles since his indictment — he raised just $92,600 in the first quarter of 2019. But while he pulled in about $500,000 from April through June, his campaign ended June with less than $300,000 in the bank and $185,000 in loans.
If Issa decides to run, he wouldn't be the only notable Republican vying for the seat. Carl DeMaio, who narrowly lost a nearby congressional race in 2014, is running in the 50th district this cycle.
Poll: Trump approval on economy goes underwater
WASHINGTON — Amid concerns of a potential recession, a near-majority of voters said they disapproved of President Trump's handling of the economy in a new Quinnipiac University poll.
While the voters are virtually split on the issue (46 percent say they approve while 49 percent say they disapprove), Trump's approval rating on the economy is tied for the lowest mark in more than a year in Quinnipiac's data.
The new data shows economic trend-lines moving the wrong way--the 61 percent of registered voters rating the economy excellent or good was the lowest mark since April 2018; the 37 percent who said the economy is getting worse is the lowest since October 2011; and the 41 percent who said Trump's policies are hurting the economy is the highest since the poll started asking the question in November of 2017.
The sentiment comes weeks after a key economic indicator suggested that a recession could be on the table for the near future. President Trump has repeatedly denied that there would be a recession, accusing the news media of working against him by rooting for an economic downturn, but has also criticized the Federal Reserve for its handling of the economy.
Overall, 56 percent of voters say they disapprove of how Trump is handling the presidency compared to 38 percent who say they approve of his job.
In the presidential race, the Quinnipiac poll found Trump trailing all of the Democratic candidates tested—former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Burrigieg—by margins of at least 9 points.
And in the Democratic primary, Biden leads the field with 32 percent, followed by Warren's 19 percent and Sanders' 15 percent.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,422 people from Aug. 21 through Aug. 26 who self-identified as registered voters, a sample that included 648 Democratic voters and leaners. The whole sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, while the Democratic margin of error is 4.6 percentage points.
Efforts to elect Republican women get a boost, but not from the party apparatus
WASHINGTON — There are 102 women currently serving in the House of Representatives, only 13 of those women are Republicans. As Republican strategists consider how to add more women to the party without violating the National Republican Congressional Committee's primary-neutral stance, outside groups are leading the way.
Winning for Women, one of the groups working outside the party apparatus has a simple goal for next year's elections: "20 in 20" — increase the GOP's House female delegation to at least 20 women, and vocally, they have support from the party.
NRCC Communications Director Chris Pack told NBC News that the group's chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer, is "fully supportive of Winning for Women and shares their mission to elect more female Republicans to Congress."
But as Emmer told a group of reporters in July, that support doesn't mean preferential treatment from the NRCC.
“The NRCC should not be involved with primaries,” Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the NRCC, told reporters in July “That’s not our job. Other people are involved in primaries.”
That's where Winning for Women and other groups like Rep. Elise Stefanik’s, R-N.Y., E-PAC, which focuses on recruiting female Republicans to run, comes in.
One woman who's spoken with Winning for Women is Peggy Huang.
Huang is a deputy attorney general for California and an immigrant from Taiwan—she believes that she better represents the 45th district of California than first-term Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. But Huang is already facing five other primary challengers — four of whom are men.
When asked what her main campaign goals were, Huang told NBC News she wants to focus on issues like immigration, health care, affordable housing and tackling student loan debt.
“We have families that are struggling to deal with housing and these are young families, and they are coming out of school with high student loans,” Huang said. “I think those are the things that we need to address, we can’t just let it fester.”
Huang also realizes that her message may not mesh with someone else running in 2020: President Trump.
“In 2018 everyone kind of took it out on the incumbent, but come 2020, you can as a voter decide what you want to do about President Trump. I’m running on kitchen table issues that are important to our district,” Huang said.
Huang’s comments echoed what other hopefuls told NBC.
Like Huang, many Republican women are targeting seats that flipped blue in 2018. And the Winning for Women Action Fund hopes to help their candidates clear crowded primaries. In the Winning for Women Action Fund’s first six months of fundraising (from January 2019 to June 2019), the group brought in $1.475 million dollars. For a group hoping to become the EMILY's List on the right, there's a lot of room to grow. EMILY's List brought in upwards of $19 million between January and the end of July this year.
“The success that women on the left saw is really encouraging for Republican women because if they can do it, we can do it,” Winning for Women communications director Olivia Perez-Cubas said.
Tina Ramirez is running in Virginia’s 7th district, currently represented by Rep. Abigail Spanberger. She’s Hispanic, runs an international nonprofit and is a single mother — qualities she believes need to be better represented in today’s Republican elected class.
Out of four announced Republican candidates in the district, she’s the only woman.
“I think that the party needs more diversity so that it accurately reflects the people that exist in the party. People like me that happen to be Hispanic, female, single mother and have a lot of diverse global experience,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez is not running away from President Trump, and she believes her district which largely voted for the president in 2016 will do so again come 2020. And for Republicans like Ramirez, that may come from hope for increased Republican turnout in 2020. In 2018 Democratic voters outvoted Republicans by more than 4 million people. Republicans are hoping that with Trump on the ticket, their party will turn up.
But many of these women are running in suburban areas that President Trump hasn't been able to turn toward him. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the president's approval rating in the suburbs is underwater at 44 percent, and among suburban women it falls to 36 percent.
With those statistics against them, many of these women are trying to replicate what won Democrats the House in 2018: Talk about kitchen table issues, leave President Trump talk at the door and remind districts that there’s a reason they’ve long been Republican.
But without institutional support behind them, those candidates face a tougher road to just getting their party’s nomination, let alone winning a general election.
Yvette Herrell, a state legislature in New Mexico, is challenging Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico’s second congressional district, and is running a primary campaign against a Republican man as well. Herrell ran against Torres Small in 2018, and is hoping to give her district a reason to remember why it voted Republican in the past.
“President Trump won this district by double digits in 2016, and there is a great deal of support for him here,” Herrell said. “Looking at the president at the top of the ticket, I think that absolutely helps down-the-ballot candidates.”
Back in 2018, House Democratic hopefuls had a similar quandary: wrap themselves in leadership, or distance themselves. Pelosi went so far as to tell Democrats, “Just win, baby” when they had to come out against her.
“There are some districts where Trump will be super helpful, man or woman, and there are some districts where he’s not as helpful and that’s just a reality, and that’s going to be a case by case basis,” Perez-Cubas said.
Former Kansas Republican governor calls for primary challenge to incumbent Republican
WASHINGTON — Former Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer is calling on state Treasurer Jake LaTurner to end his Senate bid and primary sitting Republican Rep. Steve Watkins.
It's an unusual move to so openly call for a primary challenger against an incumbent in one's own party. But while Colyer did not reference Watkins by name, he made it clear that he feared Watkins would not be able to win reelection.
"Despite the fact that President Trump carried the 2nd Congressional District 56% — 37%, a 19 point margin, the current Representative squeaked by with a 2 point victory in 2018. The first eight months of his time in Congress have seen poor fundraising and a lack of coalition building," Colyer said.
"It's important that Republicans nominate a candidate that can win. The fact is we have too many candidates in the Senate race and need an improved candidate in the Second District."
It's been a rough summer recess for Watkins, who's faced local headlines like a recent one in the Topeka Capital-Journal reading "U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins ducks reporters amid speculation he could resign."
The paper said that while Republicans are calling for Watkins to step down for an unknown reason, the congressman's spokesman said he would not resign.
The Watkins campaign did not immediately return a request to comment on the former governor's statement.
LaTurner is currently running in the Senate race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. LaTurner is the highest-profile candidate outside of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
But while a potential move by LaTurner to the second district primary would satisfy Colyer's concerns for that race, it would raise more questions for establishment Republicans who worry Kobach would be uniquely vulnerable in a general election after he lost last year's gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly.
Harris wins endorsement from Emerge America founder
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., received an endorsement Tuesday from Andrea Steele, founder of Emerge America, an organization that recruits and trains women running for office.
Steele, who is based in San Francisco, founded Emerge California in 2002, which later was re-named Emerge America. The organization helped to support 415 Democratic women who won elections across the country in 2018, including Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Oakland, Calif. Mayor Libby Schaaf and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).
But Steele got her start in recruiting women to run for office by helping one candidate launch her campaign for District Attorney in San Francisco: Kamala Harris.
As the now-presidential hopeful tells it, Harris turned to Steele for help when she decided to run for district attorney in 2003. The two sat in her living room designing and Xeroxing Harris’ first campaign flyers. On the campaign trail now, Harris often tells the story of how she would take the print-outs, a roll of tape and her ironing board to create a make-shift standing desk as she talked to voters.
After Harris won her race for district attorney, Steele was inspired to found Emerge.
“I'm supporting Kamala Harris because she's the best person for the job, and I know she can win,” Steele said in a statement, adding that Harris' earlier efforts helped inspire her to found Emerge and help women and women of color run for political office.
“I’ve seen her take on many tough challenges and come out on top, so I’m confident that she has the character, integrity, and toughness to beat Trump. It’s crucial that we kick this dangerous man out of the White House, and Kamala is the one to get it done."
“Andrea is a trailblazer in the fight for gender equality, and I couldn’t be more proud to earn her support. I would not be where I am today without Andrea’s support in my very first race and I know countless women across the country feel the same way,” Kamala Harris said, in a statement provided exclusively to NBC News.
Biden launches new Iowa ad defending Obamacare
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s presidential campaign unveiled a new ad that will begin airing across Iowa Tuesday, a spot featuring an emotional, minute-long narration from Biden himself talking about painful personal experiences to highlight his plan to build on the Affordable Care Act.
Using a part of the Biden stump speech from the earliest days of his campaign, the ad links concerns over about healthcare access to a more recent policy contrast he’s been making with his more progressive rivals on healthcare. The former vice president has argued that pursuing a "Medicare for All" plan is effectively on par with Republican efforts to undermine and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I was sworn into the United States Senate next to a hospital bed,” Biden narrates, as black and white images of Biden are shown, following the 1972 car accident that killed his then-wife and young daughter, as he crouches down to his two young sons. He then invokes the terminal cancer diagnosis of his son Beau. “I can’t fathom what would have happened if the insurance companies had said for the last 6 months of his life you’re on your own,” Biden says.
“The fact of the matter is, healthcare is personal to me. Obamacare is personal to me,” Biden’s voice says over pictures of him and former president Barrack Obama.
“When I see the president try to tear it down, and others propose replace it and start over, that’s personal to me too,” Biden says. “We have to build on what we did because very American deserves affordable health care.”
Though he often talks about it on the campaign trail, it’s notable that Biden is recounting the deaths of his wife and daughter in a car accident and later eldest son’s cancer battle in a paid media campaign. In 2015, when Biden was still considering whether to join the Democratic primary race, he called for an outside group to cease its paid ad that featured Biden discussing the 1972 accident. "He has seen the ad and thinks the ad treads on sacred ground and hopes they don't run it,” a Biden source said when the spot debuted.
“Protecting the ACA from Republicans seeking to tear it down, or from others proposing to replace it, is a crucial and personal issue for Vice President Biden and for Americans across the country,” said Biden’s campaign manager Greg Schultz in a statement. “We are reaching Iowans on the airwaves and online to create a surround-sound message about protecting and expanding their access to health care.”
The new ad is part of the six-figure integrated paid media campaign that was announced last week, targeting Iowa media markets.
Next week Biden’s campaign will start smaller spends on digital platforms targeting voters in Iowa and highlighting parts of Biden’s health care plan that builds off of the ACA.
Andrew Yang picks climate change plan for his first major policy speech
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Although entrepreneur Andrew Yang has listed more than 150 policy ideas on his presidential campaign website, he chose his plan to combat climate change as the topic for his first major policy speech, and this climate-affected seaside town in the first-in-the-nation primary state as the location.
“Whales like my climate change plan, half a dozen humpback whales are clapping their flippers together saying Yang Gang!” he joked Monday before detailing some of the main points of his five-pronged plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, which include proposals to:
- Build a sustainable economy by shifting from fossil fuels to other energy sources and upgrading infrastructure and farming techniques;
- Build a sustainable world by investing in renewable energy and innovating around the globe, making the U.S. competitive with China;
- Move people to higher ground “literally and figuratively” by providing subsidies to help Americans relocate from disaster-prone areas;
- Reverse the damage caused by climate change by reforesting oceans and convening a summit on “controversial” field of geo-engineering;
- Hold future administrations accountable by introducing a constitutional amendment to safeguard environmental protections.
In a one-on-one interview Monday, NBC’s Garrett Haake asked Yang if his policy prescription of moving Americans to higher ground is alarmist. “The data unfortunately paints a very dark picture about where we're heading on climate change,” he told Haake. “If I thought that we were going to be okay if we went about business as usual I would say that, but that's just not the case.”
For Yang, it all goes back to his universal basic income proposal. “it's hard to galvanize energy around climate change when 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Yang. “They have this day-to-day mentality and so if you get the boot off of people's throats," then "we can speed up on climate change.”
In contrast to his Democratic rivals calling for a turn away from nuclear power, Yang calls for increasing investment in nuclear energy by mining thorium (not uranium used in nuclear weapons). “If you look at the amount of energy the U.S. needs in the time frame, to me, nuclear needs to be at least on the table as a piece of the puzzle,” he told Haake.
Asked if the current president is the reason Yang included a proposed constitutional amendment to protect environmental actions, Yang said “climate change is not going to be addressed overnight.”
“You have to try and future proof any changes, and Donald Trump's a sign of just how far we have to go sometimes,” he added.
Yang also hopes to create competition, literally, with a federal government-sponsored “Race to the Top” competition offering a pool of $50 billion for utilities to compete in innovative practices to reduce their economic impacts.
Yang's plan did not include details on how he proposed to to pay for its price tag — at least $981.8 billion in named figures, plus $3 trillion in loans offered to homeowners to encourage renewable energy renovations.
Younger Americans now less likely to prioritize patriotism, religion, children
Younger Americans today are less likely to prioritize values that center around religion, “patriotism,” and having children than they were two decades ago, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll.
Just under a third of Millennials and Generation Z (ages 18-38) believe having children (32 percent) and religion or “belief in God” (30 percent) are “very important” values, followed by 42 percent who rank patriotism as a top value.
Those shares represent a sharp departure from their parents and grandparents. Among those 55 and over, majorities rank having children (54 percent), religion (67 percent) and patriotism (79 percent) as very important.
What’s more: Over the past 20 years, these values have seen a decline in importance among younger Americans.
According to data from a similarly designed 1998 NBC/WSJ poll, a majority of Americans who were between the ages 18-29 and 30-49 two decades ago prioritized religion, patriotism, and having children.
The decrease is particularly noteworthy when it comes to raising the next generation. Twenty years ago, 62 percent of Americans ages 30-49 and 51 percent of Americans 18-29 believed it was very important to have children. Today, according to the latest poll, that has decreased by 24 and 20 percent, respectively.
Similar reductions are seen among the values of religion and patriotism.
As younger generations shift their priorities away from more traditional values, the new poll finds that a significant number of Millennials and Generation Z rate “hard work” (83 percent) “tolerance for others” (83 percent) and “financial security” (78 percent) as very important.
One thing all Americans seem to agree on: Pessimism about the future they’re leaving for the next generation.
When asked if “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us,” 68 percent of Americans ages 50-64 as well as 64 percent of Americans over 65 said they do not feel confident that will happen.
And this doubt extends past older generations. The poll shows a majority of Americans share this view regardless of their gender, ethnicity, economic class, region, or political party affiliation.
That includes the youngest Americans. Nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) of Americans under 35 say they’re not confident that their children’s generation will be better off.
Facebook ad watch: Steyer and Buttigieg spent most in past week
WASHINGTON — Billionaire Tom Steyer continues to pour money into his presidential campaign through Facebook ads, but South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was nipping at his heels over the past week.
Steyer spent $278,000 on Facebook ads between Aug. 17 and Aug. 23, according to the most recent data collected by the Facebook Ad Library Report. Buttigieg spent $221,000 over that time period.
Steyer's spending comes as he's jockeying for a spot on the September debate stage — his campaign says he's hit the 130,000 unique donor requirement but is one poll short of qualifying (candidates need to hit both the donor threshold and register 2 percent in four approved polls).
A Monmouth University poll released Monday had Steyer below 1 percent, keeping him off the debate stage for now.
So the billionaire's ads focus substantially on his debate standing, arguing that there should be more polls of Nevada and arguing his voice should be heard on the stage. And with the decision by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (who was running as the climate-change candidate) to drop out, Steyer's ads include a heavy emphasis on climate change as he looks to partially take that mantle.
Buttigieg has already qualified for the debate, so he doesn't have to worry about that. Instead, his ads highlight his policies on issues like mental health, addiction and gun control, while also trying to encourage supporters to sign up for a contest to travel to Houston to watch the next debate in person.
In the past three months, Steyer has spent almost $3.9 million, more than every Democratic candidate over that span. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is also looking to secure a spot on the debate stage, has spent the second-most of the Democratic field in the past three months, with $2.2 million.
President Trump's re-election campaign continues to outpace the field with Facebook spending—between his campaign and his joint fundraising committee, his campaign has spent $4.76 million over the past three months on the platform.
Joe Kennedy says he's considering primary bid against Ed Markey
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III confirmed Monday that he's "begun to consider a run for the U.S. Senate" that would set up a generational battle in the state's Democratic primary against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey.
In a Facebook post penned Monday, Kennedy nodded at the recent speculation about a potential bid, admitting "this isn't a decision I'm approaching lightly and — to be completely candid — I wasn't expecting to share my thoughts so soon."
Kennedy said he hasn't "reached a decision yet," but added: "I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn, but with due respect — I'm not sure this is a moment for waiting. Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can't fix it if we don't challenge it," he wrote.
"I don’t think our democratic process promises anyone a turn. What it does promise is the chance for anyone to earn it — if we think we have something to offer and are willing to put ourselves and our ideas out there."
Kennedy's comment comes amid rampant speculation about a bid against Markey, who has represented Massachusetts in Congress for more than 30 years. He spent the lion's share of his career in the House but won a 2013 bid for Senate after then Sen. John Kerry became Secretary of State.
A bid would pit the 73-year-old Markey against the 38-year-old Kennedy, whose family is a Massachusetts political dynasty. If Kennedy does run, Democrats believe he'd be a formidable opponent for Markey considering both his youth as well as his family's clout.
Markey's been making early moves ahead of the potential challenge, releasing an endorsement from fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week.
The congressman didn't give a timeline for his decision, closing his statement promising "more soon."
Buttigieg on beating Trump: 'Back to normal' is not 'good enough'
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg warned Sunday that defeating President Trump in 2020 won't be enough to solve the "crisis" facing America today.
Buttigieg's comments on "Meet the Press" evoke his push for a generational change in the White House, as well as a theory of the case that differs from that of the more pragmatic voters in his party who say they are most concerned about wresting Trump from office.
"The president is certainly a problem, a big one, but he’s not the only problem. Ask yourself how a guy like this ever got within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place. I would argue that doesn't happen unless the country is already in a kind of crisis," Buttigieg said.
"For pretty much as long as I've been alive, even when the economy has been growing, and quickly, most Americans haven’t been getting ahead, one of many reasons why in places like the industrial midwest where I live, back to normal is not going to be a good enough message because normal was not good enough."
Buttigieg went on to criticize Trump for his "huge problems," but concluded that "getting rid of the president is not enough" if Americans don't "replace this presidency with something better that actually works for Americans or somebody even more unstable could gain power."
It's an argument that cuts to the core of one big debate in the Democratic Party between more pragmatic and aspirational voters, an argument that is driving the Democratic presidential primary.
Former second lady Jill Biden made that dynamic clear earlier this week with blunt remarks in New Hampshire, telling voters to take heed of "electability" while arguing that her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, is uniquely positioned to defeat Trump.
"You know you may like another candidate better but you have to look at who’s going to win," she said.
"Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, healthcare than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, 'Okay, I personally like so and so better,' but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump."
Data from July's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that Biden is running away with Democratic primary voters who want their nominee to promote "small-scale change."
But among the slight majority of Democratic primary voters who want "large-scale change," the field is muddier.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is winning that segment with 29 percent. She's followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (18 percent), former Vice President Joe Biden (16 percent) and California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (14 percent).