WASHINGTON — Even as protests and demands for police reform grow greater in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden told CBS that recent events aren’t impacting who he’ll pick as his running mate. Symone Sanders, Biden’s senior adviser, clarified that Biden “hears the concerns” of those who want an African American running mate.
However, Black women hedging for the veep slot have been out front this week on issues of police brutality and institutional racism.
Here are this week’s most significant veepstakes developments from the NBC News political unit:
Stacey Abrams: Abrams has been highly visible this week after widespread voting problems plagued Georgia’s primaries on Tuesday — but that hasn’t gotten her a call from the Biden camp.
“I have said many times that if called I will answer, but I have not received any calls,” Abrams said of her contact with the Biden team during an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.
Despite confirming she has not yet been vetted, Abrams made clear that she believes voting problems are directly related to racial inequality.
“We can’t divorce today from what we’re seeing happening across this country in response to the murder of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the litany of names that is too long to be held by memory,” she said Tuesday.
Sen. Kamala Harris: Unlike Abrams, Harris hasn’t been particularly vocal about where she stands in the veep vetting process, instead opting for subtler moves throughout the week that could make her a strong V.P. choice.
On Tuesday, one day after Biden flew to Houston to meet with George Floyd’s family, Harris led a virtual fundraiser with Biden and raked in $3.5 million — the most a V.P. contender has raised for the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Biden repeatedly praised Harris during the event, calling her “a fighter and a principled leader,” and said he’d never forget Harris voicing her love for Biden’s deceased son, Beau, to him. And given Biden’s insistence on being “simpatico” with his veep pick, that close bond could seal the deal.
Like Biden, Harris has also met with a member of the Floyd family and based on NBC News’ reporting is the only V.P. contender to do so. At a town hall Thursday, the California senator confirmed she was with Floyd’s brother, Philonise, in Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C. after he testified on the Hill about police brutality.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Rep. Val Demings: The Atlanta mayor and the Florida congresswoman appeared on Axios’ HBO documentary show this week where Demings again confirmed she’d want to serve as vice president, while Lance Bottoms hedged.
“I can tell you, COVID had me thinking a lot less about a V.P. conversation and with what’s been happening with the murder of George Floyd and so many others,” Lance Bottoms said. “I’ve not given it a lot of thought at all. But you know, if the vice president felt that I would be the person to help him win in November and I would be best suited, it is certainly something I would give serious consideration to.”
Demings, who is a former police chief, appeared to struggle this week in discussing the newly-formed “defund the police” movement. While Biden has also come out against defunding the police, Demings said on CBS, “I do believe there is opportunity here for the police and the community to come together and kind of spread, look at the responsibility, things that police are taking on, that they were never supposed to take on in the first place, and come out with a better plan.”
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
American Federation of Teachers launches $1 million ad campaign for HEROES Act
WASHINGTON — The American Federation of Teachers launched a $1 million ad buy on Friday to support the HEROES Act, the House-passed legislation on coronavirus aid. The Senate has not yet moved on the bill which was passed on May 15.
The new ad, entitled “Essential”, will run for two weeks on Facebook, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in 10 states plus Washington D.C.: Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania, Montana and North Carolina.
The 30-second ad, focuses on two teachers and a food services manager providing students with meals and teaching virtual classes. The campaign also includes a 15-second ad version. The AFT argues that as coronavirus cases begin to increase as states relax restrictions, a second wave could lead to massive layoffs and leave essential workers more at risk to contracting the virus.
“If the HEROES Act fails to pass, and states and schools don’t get the support they need to reopen safely, then they’ll stay shut and the economy will stall — it’s that simple,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion piece of legislation that included another round of stimulus checks for Americans, pay raises for frontline workers, an extension of the $600-per-week unemployment compensation and additional state and local aid. Republicans have called it a “liberal wish list”, and President Trump called the bill “dead on arrival.”
Weingarten added, “There are no magic fixes — the only path to recovery is a stimulus package that funds, rather than forfeits, our future. We urgently need the federal dollars included in the HEROES Act to help states, cities, towns and schools weather this rolling storm.”
It’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up any other further pandemic relief until mid-July, after the July 4 recess. After a better-than-expected jobs report in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said future relief bills would have to be more “focused”.
“As Senate Republicans have made clear for weeks, future efforts must be laser-focused on helping schools reopen safely in the fall, helping American workers continue to get back on the job, and helping employers reopen and grow. We must keep the wind in our sails, not slam the brakes with left-wing policies that would make rehiring even harder and recovery even more challenging,” McConnell said last week.
New Biden digital ad hits Trump for reaction to protests
WASHINGTON — For the second time in the past month, Joe Biden’s campaign is accusing President Donald Trump for acting like a “deer in the headlights” as he’s tries to deal with two major crises.
The campaign’s latest digital ad focuses on the use of force used on protestors in Washington last week to clear the way for Trump’s walk across the street from the White House for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church.
“The nation marches for justice and like a deer in the headlights, he’s paralyzed with fear. He doesn’t know what to do so he hides in his bunker,” the narrator says in between images of peaceful protestors chanting George Floyd’s name.
“Then, he’s afraid he looks too weak so he has tear gas and flash grenades used on peaceful protestors, just for a photo-op,” the narrator continues. “Where is Donald Trump? Too scared to face the people. Too small to meet the moment. Too weak to lead.”
The Biden campaign has tried to define the two major crises of the year — the pandemic and nationwide protests against police mistreatment of African Americans — as moments that show stark contrasts between the president and the presumptive Democratic nominee. In the past week alone the campaign has released two digital ads using Biden’s civil unrest speech in a Philadelphia that highlight his promise not to “fan the flames of hate” like Trump and commitment to support protestors urging progress towards a more equal America.
The latest ad builds on one played across five battleground states last month, where they first made the charge that Trump reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights” at a time when the economy was worsening and the death toll climbing. It will target voters on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube across Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
This is the campaign’s sixth digital ad since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March that targets social media users in key battleground states. They have exclusively left TV ad spending to pro-Biden Super PACs.
Poll: 57 percent of registered voters think government should be doing more to solve problems
WASHINGTON — The share of voters who say that the government should do more to solve Americans’ problems has reached new heights throughout President Donald Trump’s time in office, with the latest NBC News / WSJ poll showing the sentiment just shy of its all-time high.
Fifty-seven percent of registered voters want the government to solve more problems. Just 38 percent think the government is doing too much, tied for the lowest share since the poll began asking the question in 1995.
Simultaneously, the share of voters who think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses or individuals has remained at an all-time low.
During past presidencies, public demand for the government to do more — and to do less — has fluctuated. Under former President Barack Obama, these sentiments oscillated around the high forties and low fifties, with both sides hitting majority support over Obama’s eight years in office.
But at the beginning of the Trump presidency, public opinion sharply diverged in favor of governments doing more. By early 2018, 58 percent felt that the government should do more and 38 percent felt the government should be doing less. That 20-point gap decreased slightly in 2019, only to increase again in 2020.
While Republicans have historically called for smaller government, Trump at times has bucked that convention.
During Trump’s 2015 campaign announcement speech, he said he wanted to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts.”
The president’s 2020 budget proposal aimed to make hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. But after facing pushback, Trump reversed course, tweeting, “I will totally protect your Medicare & Social Security!”
Anxieties over the cost of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, along with other government programs and benefits, could be further exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic. There have been more than 2 million coronavirus cases in America, and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus.
Congress has passed a handful of coronavirus relief bills, including direct payments to Americans and the Paycheck Protection Program, loans that would be forgiven provided businesses kept on employees and used the money for certain, approved expenses.
There have been disagreements among lawmakers as to whether more help is needed, with many Senate Republicans wanting to wait and see before discussing new aid.
Breaking the latest data down by party, the starkest divide is among Democrats, with 86 percent saying the government is doing too little and 11 percent saying it is not doing enough.
A slim majority, 51 percent, of independents agree that the government is under-involved.
The GOP divide on the question of government involvement is less unequivocal than it is for Democrats, but not by much. Twenty-five percent of Republicans wish the government was doing more and 77 percent feel the government is doing too much.
Ahead of November’s election, some of the key voting groups that led Trump to victory in 2016 are calling for more government involvement.
For example, 57 percent of white women want the government to be doing more, a group Trump won over Clinton by 9 percent, according to exit polls.
Fifty-one percent of working-class whites want the government to do more, along with 52 percent of white voters and 57 percent of those who live in swing states.
NBC and the Wall Street Journal polled 1000 registered voters between May 28 and June 2. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.
Georgia Republican poised to make House runoff after comparing pandemic punishments to socialism
WASHINGTON — In April, we took a look at how three Republican candidates running in for a Republican-leaning open seat in Georgia were messaging on coronavirus.
One highlighted his Air National Guard service to help his community respond to the virus, another blasted “weak Republicans” and “deranged Democrats” before shooting a sign labeled “COVID-19.”, and one called fines for violating social-distancing orders “Chinese-style socialism.”
So with votes still coming in across the after an election plagued by issues, the Associated Press is projecting that the two candidates with the more fiery messaging of the three will advance to a runoff.
With no candidate hitting the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, the AP is projecting that Marjorie Taylor Greene and John Cowan will advance to a runoff in August (while a significant portion of the statewide vote is still outstanding, all but one precinct has reported in the 14th Congressional District, according to the AP’s figures).
Taylor Green, a business owner who was endorsed by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, ran the ad decrying the “Chinese-style socialism” of punishing people for violating coronavirus-related restrictions.
In the final days before the primary, her messaging largely focused on socialism and criticizing “antifa.” She ran a TV ad blasting “antifa terrorists” who were “declaring war on our cities,” before appearing to chamber a round and telling them to “stay out of northwest Georgia.”
And she ran a spot where triggered explosives by shooting at them with a rifle as she rattled off ideas she wanted to stop in Congress, including gun control, the Green New Deal, open borders and socialism.
Cowan, a neurosurgeon who ran the ad attacking “weak Republicans” and shooting a mock-up of the virus, continued to run that one spot down the stretch.
Priorities USA electoral projection puts Biden over 300, while cautioning election still volatile
WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, the major Democratic super-PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden, has the Democrat leading President Trump in its electoral college projection 305 votes to 204.
Florida is the only state on the map considered a toss-up in the analysis, which the group considers a state where the candidates have between 49.5 and 50.5 percent of the vote. The group’s analysis is culled in part from its recent battleground and national polling and is based on where the race stands today, not a projection for the November election.
Priorities’ current polling has Biden ahead in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as in Arizona and North Carolina. Recent public polls have shown Biden up in many battleground states as well.
But Priorities also points out that just a 3-point drop for Biden – among both white working-class voters and minority voters – would narrow the Democrat’s advantage over Trump to 259 to 248, with Trump winning Florida and North Carolina, and with Arizona and Pennsylvania moving to the “toss-up” category.
Before this recent surge by Biden, Priorities says the overall Trump-vs.-Biden race has been fairly close over the past year. This is the first time in the group’s projection Biden eclipsed the 300 electoral vote mark.
“We have seen some significant movements over the course of the last four weeks in particular, in Arizona and North Carolina, although those states are still within 2 points,” Priorities chairman Guy Cecil told reporters during a Wednesday media briefing.
“Structurally, while we’ve seen improvements, this race continues to be close.”
Priorities’ polling also shows Trump’s current job rating (at 41 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove) at one of the lowest levels of his presidency.
“We are very quickly approaching the -17 points that we saw immediately following the shutdown at the beginning of last year. This is among the worst approval ratings in our internal data has shown since Donald Trump became president,” Cecil said.
Trump approval rating drops 10 points in Gallup poll
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s approval rating dropped 10 points from May to June among adults, according to Gallup’s latest poll.
The new numbers, which show Trump’s approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 57 percent, is one of the largest dips in a single-month period for the president in Gallup’s tracking. In May, Gallup showed Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings nearly even at 49 and 48 percent respectively.
The dip comes as more Americans take issue with the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests across the country against police brutality. In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 80 percent of registered voters said they felt things in the U.S. were “out of control.” Additionally, President Trump continues to struggle in national and state polls against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
A group of Fox News polls released last week show Trump trailing Biden in Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio. Trump won those states handedly in 2016, and those states could be must-win for the president in November.
The president met with senior advisers and campaign officials last week to discuss concerning internal polling in reliably Republican states like Texas. But on Twitter, Trump has argued that publicly released polling hasn’t been accurate. On Monday Trump announced he hired an outside polling group to analyze polls he “felt were fake.”
Republican senators launching ads attacking Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Two Republican senators have launched ads attacking former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrat continues to lead President Trump in recent polls.
Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally has aired two ads in recent days evoking Biden as a foil, alongside likely Arizona Democratic nominee Mark Kelly.
And Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has a new digital spot blasting Biden as “too confused to lead.”
The McSally spots aim to tie Biden to Kelly — one argues the pair won’t be able to hold China accountable (Republicans have hit Kelly on the airwaves for his business ties to China), while another says that Kelly will “help Joe Biden pass a new government-controlled health insurance system” (Both Kelly and Biden support a public option, not Medicare-for-All).
McSally was down big in Fox News’ recent poll of the Senate race (trailing Kelly 50 to 37 among registered voters). And Biden led Trump by 4 points in that same poll of the state that Trump won by 3.5 points in 2016.
While that Biden lead is within the margin of error, there are signs that there could be trouble in Arizona at the top of the ticket, as Democratic groups are pushing into the once reliably Republican state.
Meanwhile, Cotton, who has no Democratic opponent in the fall, just released a new digital ad attacking China for “lies” that “spread the China virus across the world,” as well as Biden by rounding up a complication of his recent missteps to argue he’s “too confused to lead.”
The spot, first reported by Breitbart News, will run in Michigan and Iowa as part of an initial, five-figure buy.
Cotton’s political website features another anti-Biden video, one from March that calls Biden “weak on China.”
And Cotton’s not the first Republican without a Democratic challenger in the fall to try to give his party air cover by attacking Biden. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., bought TV time ahead of the Iowa caucuses to criticize Biden and defend the president during impeachment.
While Cotton is running for reelection this year, the Democrats couldn’t field a challenger to run against him after one candidate dropped out shortly after the filing deadline.
Multiple states hold key primaries as coronavirus pandemic, Floyd protests continue
WASHINGTON — On the day of George Floyd’s funeral in Houston and as coronavirus cases continue to rise, several states are holding primaries to determine which candidates will represent their parties come November.
Here are the races the NBC News political unit are paying closest attention to:
Georgia Senate: The top primary contest to watch is in Georgia, where several Democrats are running for the right to challenge Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in the fall.
The favorite in this Democratic primary is 2017 congressional nominee, Jon Ossoff, and his top challengers are former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico. The Cook Political Report lists the race as “Lean Republican” for November.
If none of the candidates break 50 percent, the Top 2 will advance to an Aug. 11 runoff.
South Carolina Senate: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Democrat Jaime Harrison receive nominal primary opposition ahead of their expected November showdown in the Palmetto State. Harrison has raked in significant fundraising ahead of today’s contest.
Nevada 3rd District: Republicans will pick their nominee in Nevada to face Democratic Congresswoman Susie Lee, D-Nev., in the competitive Nevada district.
Nevada 4th District: Also in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who recently admitted to having an affair with a former Senate staffer, is receiving a primary challenge from multiple Democrats, as well as Republicans who are trying to reclaim the seat.
For the contests in both the third and fourth House districts in the state, it’s important to note that Nevada secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, has sent mail-in ballots to all of Nevada’s registered voters.
—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
Dem group American Bridge launches $20 million battleground state ad buy
WASHINGTON — American Bridge is rolling out a $20 million ad campaign over 10 weeks in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the hopes of softening up President Trump in the blue wall states he flipped to secure his 2016 victory.
The first spots feature voters who backed Trump in 2016 explaining why they are now backing former Vice President Joe Biden.
In one Wisconsin spot, a Vietnam veteran named John argues that the “Trump economy” isn’t working for the working class.
“This time, I’m voting for Joe Biden because I think that Joe Biden has the good of the country in his heart,” he says.
“To compare Donald Trump with Joe Biden — I can bet my life on most of what Joe Biden has to say. I wouldn’t bet my life on the next three things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, because one of them will probably be a lie.”
In another spot airing in Pennsylvania, a Westmoreland County voter named Janie said that she’s “disappointed” in Trump, while “Joe Biden understands how the government works, and I trust him.”
The new buy runs through the end of August, and will include TV, radio and digital ads. The group is targeting a smattering of markets across the state, including many of the Trump-leaning areas that the president’s campaign recently targeted with its recent ad buy.
Trump campaign seizes on calls for Dems to support ‘defund the police’ movement
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign is seizing on mounting calls to defund police by calling out prominent Democrats who are supportive of the movement after the death of George Floyd, who was killed when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The Trump re-elect effort held a call with reporters on Monday to criticize the “left’s radical proposals to defund the police,” specifically pressuring apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden to speak out in opposition to the idea.
Minutes later, the Biden campaign issued a statement doing so.
“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” spokesman Andrew Bates said, stressing Biden supports the “urgent need for reform.”
On the call, the Trump campaign slammed members of the so-called “Squad,” including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, for being open to defunding and disbanding police.
“It is consuming the entire Democrat party as the most extreme elements have the loudest voices and demand acquiescence,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said, also name-checking notable Democrats such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Rep. Val Demings — who is currently being vetted as a possible running mate for Biden.
Murtaugh jabbed at Bowser for not stepping in and stopping activists from adding the words “DEFUND THE POLICE” to the existing city-commissioned “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural on 16th St., near the White House.
The campaign also had two surrogates on the call with reporters to attack Democrats: former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell and former Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh.
They both argued it was impossible to operate cities “without local law enforcement” and took the extreme view of the concept in terms of disbanding police, seemingly ignoring one of the larger ideas of the movement in terms of allocating resources differently.
“Should law enforcement be accountable? Absolutely,” Welsh conceded, but the idea of dismantling police “will do nothing but create chaos and anarchy” she claimed.
Asked about whether any of the people on the call believe systemic racism exists in policing, Murtaugh said: “No one hates a bad cop worse than a good cop. I think that there are people who have bad attitudes … in all organizations.” The others referred to a “few bad apples,” which is something top Trump administration officials have echoed in the last few weeks.
The campaign could not comment on any particular policy proposals that would be forthcoming on the larger issue of police reform from the president and deferred to the White House on that.
If the president’s feed is any indication, this issue will continue to be highlighted by both him and the campaign this summer. The re-elect effort has already sent fundraising list emails this weekend, saying: “We can’t stand by while the Left tries to DEFUND THE POLICE.”