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First Read: Democrats Are on Track to Take Back the Senate

John McCain, Marco Rubio face important primaries Tuesday 0:26

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is a hurricane a-blowing?

We’re now just a little more than two months until Decision Day 2016, and here is the downballot reality: Democrats are on track to take back the Senate. It’s not a slam dunk, of course. But in the battle for control of the Senate, you’d rather be the Democrats than the Republicans. Here’s the math: With the GOP holding a 54-46 majority, Democrats need to pick up four Senate seats if they win the White House (because the vice president gets to break a 50-50 tie), and they need five seats if they don’t.

  • Contests with a high possibility of a Dem pickup (3): Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana
  • Presidential-dependent tossup states, where presidential race will largely determine Senate outcome (3): Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina
  • Landslide domino states for Democrats (4): Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Ohio
  • GOP’s best pickup opportunity, where the presidential will largely determine outcome (1): Nevada

So you if you’re the Democrats, you can realistically get to four pickups and control of the Senate, if Clinton wins the presidential race. But Nevada is key here, because a GOP win means Democrats will have to win another seat to win control. By the way, there’s some good Republican news out of Ohio. “The Democratic Party’s national Senate campaign arm has canceled more than a week of television ads that were set to run next month in the key battleground of Ohio, where former governor Ted Strickland (D) has struggled to gain traction against incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R),” the Washington Post writes.

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it

As we wrote earlier this week, we’re dubbing today Primary-palooza -- as we’re watching the primaries in Arizona (between Sen. John McCain and GOP challenger Kelli Ward) and in Florida (the Dem and GOP primaries for Senate, as well as Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s own tough race). Here are the dispatches from NBC News:

  • NBC's Perry Bacon Jr: “Can John McCain survive the year of Donald Trump? One part of that question will be answered Tuesday, when Arizona Republicans decide whether to re-nominate the 80-year-old senator for a sixth term or dump him. McCain's leading primary challenger is Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who is running a Trump-like campaign, bashing Washington elites, describing illegal immigration as one of the country's biggest problems and strongly opposing any kind of "amnesty" for people who are undocumented.
  • NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “As voters head to the polls Tuesday, Democrats of all stripes are relieved to see the end of an awkward primary for the state's open Senate seat, and eager to move on to the fight against Sen. Marco Rubio. With the backing of national Democratic leaders, Rep. Patrick Murphy is expected to prevail over liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson, whom allies abandoned earlier this summer after his ex-wife accused him of domestic abuse.”
  • More NBC’s Alex-Seitz Wald: “A whopping $3.8 million dollars worth of Berniecrat anger at Wasserman Schultz … has flooded to [Tim] Canova. That's given the little-known law professor a shot at toppling the six-term congresswoman in Tuesday's primary. Sanders looms large in the race, but always out of frame. The senator himself never made it here, infuriating some supporters and raising doubts in the minds of others about his new efforts to help allied candidates. Reflecting on the race as it comes to a close, Canova seems to wonder if Sanders' help was more trouble than it's worth. ‘Bernie is not on the ballot, and I think coming here might have presented certain liabilities anyway, so it might be a blessing that he never came,’ Canova told NBC News.”

There's no earthly way of knowing… Which direction they are going

NBC News: “Hillary Clinton's national lead over Donald Trump has narrowed slightly to 6 points, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll Clinton now enjoys 48 percent support, while Trump holds steady with 42 percent. Last week, Clinton led Trump by 8 points. The latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll was conducted online from August 22 through August 28 among registered voters.” Our take: The national polls we’re seeing -- NBC|SurveyMonkey +6, Monmouth +7 -- are perhaps what happens when Trump is running a conventional campaign aimed at Hillary Clinton rather than at his own party and Gold Star families…

How much do you want for the golden goose? They’re not for sale

So far, the orders placed in the new Trump ad buy (from Aug. 30-Sept. 6) come to $4 million in just four states -- Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. But the Trump campaign tells NBC News that the rest of the orders in the other five states will be placed today. The numbers we currently have:

Florida ($1.8 million)

  • Jacksonville: $143K
  • Mobile: $75K
  • Orlando: $444K
  • Panama City: $40K
  • Tampa: $433K
  • West Palm Beach: $205K
  • Cable: $411K on CNN, CNBC, ESPN, FXNC, HGTV, HIST, MNBC and TNT
  • Satellite: $60K

North Carolina ($770,000)

  • Charlotte: $376K
  • Greensboro: $109K
  • Greenville-Spartanburg: $51K
  • Raleigh: $149K
  • Wilmington: $45K
  • Satellite: $40K

Ohio ($670,000)

  • Cincinnati: $222K
  • Columbus: $202K
  • Dayton: $49K
  • Lima: $17K
  • Toledo: $109K
  • Satellite: $71K

Pennsylvania ($802,000)

  • Harrisburg: $160K
  • Philadelphia: $199K
  • Pittsburgh: $200K
  • Cable: $211K on CNN, ESPN, FXNC, HALL, HGTV, HIST, MNBC, TBSC, TNT and USA
  • Satellite: $32K

It's the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world

Meanwhile, a Trump adviser tells NBC’s Hallie Jackson that the campaign will go up on air in Michigan -- with the ad buy to come within the week. No word yet on the dollar amount of the buy.

So you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!

Per NBC’s Kristen Welker, “Pastor Mark Burns, a high-profile African-American supporter of Donald Trump, appeared on ‘Meet the Press Daily’ Monday to discuss a controversial image he sent out on Twitter (deleted) earlier in the day. The tweet featured a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface with the caption: ‘Black Americans, THANK YOU FOR YOUR VOTES and letting me use you again..See you again in four years.’ Burns later deleted the tweet and put up a video post with the caption, ‘I want to Apologize for my Twit (sic) that many found to be offensive.’ Watch Burns defend the original tweet on MSNBC.” Burns has tweeted this morning, “I'm so sorry for the offensive #Blackface image of @HillaryClinton but stand by the message that we Blacks ARE being Used by #Dems for VOTES.”

On the trail

Donald Trump holds a rally in Everett, WA at 10:00 pm ET… Mike Pence stumps in Georgia and North Carolina… Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a public event, while Tim Kaine campaigns in Pennsylvania.

Countdown to Election Day: 70 days