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'I just I don’t recognize that party anymore': Independents in Ariz. sour on GOP ticket

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.
A person walks to cast a ballot in Phoenix on Aug. 2, 2022.
A person walks to cast a ballot in Phoenix on Aug. 2, 2022.Brandon Bell / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... The Washington Post reports FBI agents discovered document describing foreign government’s nuclear capabilities after search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, according to people familiar with matter. ... NBC News hasn’t been able to confirm the report, and the Justice Department declined to comment. ... President Biden hosts the Obamas at the White House for the unveiling of their official portraits. ... Steve Bannon expects to face state indictment in New York. ... And Trump-backed candidate wins the Massachusetts gubernatorial primary, the AP projects. 

But first: What stands out about Arizona this cycle — beyond all of its competitive statewide contests and its status as a presidential battleground — is that the entire slate of GOP candidates is 2020 election-deniers. 

Kari Lake (for governor), Blake Masters (for Senate), Abraham Hamadeh (for attorney general) and Mark Finchem (for secretary of state) have all questioned President Biden’s presidential victory.  

It’s that transformed Republican Party — remade in Donald Trump’s image — that struck a group of Arizona independent voters NBC News spoke with as Meet the Press and Meet the Press NOW visit the state. 

“As a whole, I just I don’t recognize that party anymore,” said one of these independent voters. 

“What makes it impossible for me to support them is what they’re really promoting is not effective programs or strategies to fix our problems — they’re promoting distrust,” said another.

“A more perfect union … necessitates compromise and discussion and listening, and I don’t see that from a lot of the candidates on the [GOP] ticket,” replied a third. 

When one of us followed up if there was anything Lake or Masters could do to win their vote in November, here was one of the answers: “I think that that’s too late for me. I mean, from what I’ve seen that these candidates are bringing to the table, I mean, it just does not even compute to anything that I identify as, as a citizen of this country.”

These independent voters had their concerns about certain elements of the Democratic Party. 

“There are a lot of components of the Democratic Party’s agenda that I really agree with, but I hesitate to jump into any one side because extremism is happening on both sides,” said one. 

“I agree … about the extremism. So that’s my biggest concern with the Democratic Party. Is that there are some factions there, too,” said another. 

Still, these same independent voters warmed toward Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz. (“I’ll personally be voting for him for sure,” said one), and they were sympathetic about Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., (“You can argue about the final result, but there is a result, right?”).

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $6.3 million

That’s how much money is being spent between today and Tuesday in New Hampshire’s Senate primary. It’s the final primary to complete the Senate battleground map, and one where there’s been a flurry of spending in recent days. 

The race appears to be between the far-right former Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc, and the state Senate president, Chuck Morse, with other candidates not looking likely to press for the nomination. 

The GOP-aligned White Mountain PAC is spending $2.5 million over the next seven days on ads aimed at cutting down Bolduc (like this new one that tries to undercut Bolduc’s conservative credentials), while the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC is spending $1.9 million to criticize Morse. That Democratic spending could benefit Bolduc now, and help him cement a victory, and it could benefit Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan later if Bolduc turns out to be an easier general election opponent than Morse would have been in a state known for crossover voters.  

Other numbers to know:

10.5 million: The estimated number of children worldwide who lost a caregiver during the pandemic, per a study highlighted by The Washington Post that estimates the total is twice what was previously thought. 

116: The high temperature in Sacramento Tuesday, as the West Coast gets hammered by a heat wave

48%: That’s the share of Michigan likely voters backing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a new poll of the gubernatorial race from The Detroit News and WDIV-TV; Republican Tudor Dixon gets 35%. 

3: Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ percentage-point lead over Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial race, per a new poll commissioned by the AARP (that gap is well within the poll’s margin of error). 

$439 million: How much the e-cigarette company Juul agreed to pay as part of a settlement with nearly three dozen states over its marketing to teenagers. 

8.76 million: The number of travelers the Transportation Security Administration screened over Labor Day weekend, exceeding pre-pandemic screenings from 2019.  

Midterm roundup: Trump-backed Diehl wins in Massachusetts

Geoff Diehl, a Trump-backed former state legislator, won the Massachusetts primary for governor last night, according to the AP. He’ll face Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey in November’s general election.

The two are running to succeed GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, making this a prime opportunity for Democrats to flip a governor’s mansion. Diehl won a tough primary, where his opponent contributed or loaned his campaign over $2 million and vastly outspent Diehl on the airwaves.

Diehl appealed to an enthusiastic base of Trump supporters, though, after he called the 2020 election “rigged” and ran against Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018. He lost that race by 24 percentage points.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Georgia Senate: Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia, is out with a new TV ad in which he alleges Sen. Raphael Warnock, Vice President Kamala Harris and Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams “use race to divide us.”

North Carolina Senate: EMILY’s List, which has endorsed Democrat Cheri Beasley, is hitting the airwaves, with its independent expenditure arm reserving $1.8 million on the airwaves for ads starting on Saturday, per AdImpact.

New Hampshire Senate: Former President Donald Trump phoned GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported, and Sununu “encouraged the President to take a look at the Senate race,” per the governor’s spokesman. Trump has not yet endorsed in the GOP primary, which is next week. Sununu hasn’t endorsed in the race either, but he’s criticized retired Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc. The GOP candidates will meet in two debates this week on Wednesday and Thursday night, per the Union Leader. 

Ohio Senate: Trump announced a rally in Ohio on Sept. 17 featuring Senate hopeful J.D. Vance and “the entire Ohio Trump Ticket,” per a press release. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Republican Mehmet Oz escalated his attacks on Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s health, while Oz’s allies launched a new ad campaign highlighting a 2013 incident in which Fetterman pulled a gun on a Black jogger, per NBC News’ Henry Gomez and Marc Caputo. 

Oz also said at a Tuesday press conference that he would not have objected to counting the state’s Electoral College votes in 2020. And during a Fox News interview he declined to say if he’d support Mitch McConnell for GOP leader. Also on Tuesday, Jezebel unearthed a 2014 interview where a listener asked Oz about the safety of sleeping with their cousin, and Oz responded, “If you’re more than a first cousin away, it’s not a big problem.”

Washington Senate: Republican Tiffany Smiley deleted a section of her campaign website that said there were “serious questions” about the integrity of the 2020 election, Axios reports.

Wisconsin Senate: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson wouldn’t clarify Tuesday whether he supports a proposal codifying same-sex marriage, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports.  

Florida Governor: A state Republican Party PAC that supports Gov. Ron DeSantis booked $2.9 million in ad buys over the next week alone. 

Kentucky Governor: Kelly Craft, who served as former President Trump’s United Nations ambassador, is running for governor in 2023 in a GOP primary that will pit her against Attorney General Daniel Cameron. 

New Mexico Governor: Republican Mark Ronchetti released a new TV ad in which his wife describes an attempted home invasion. 

Ad watch: Demings launches first ad on abortion

Democrat Val Demings is launching the first TV ad of her Senate campaign focused on abortion, as Democrats across battleground states focus on the issue ahead of November.

Demings criticized GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s position on abortion and continued to lean into her background in law enforcement in the 30-second spot, shared first with NBC News. The ad is part of an ongoing statewide TV buy, per Demings’ campaign.

“Marco Rubio wants to criminalize abortions with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest,” she adds. “Well, I know something about fighting crime, Sen. Rubio. Rape is a crime. Incest is a crime. Abortion is not.”

new poll commissioned by the AARP finds Rubio leading Demings by just 2 percentage points, well within the margin of error. 

Voters in Nevada will see a new abortion-focused ad on the airwaves today, too, as Senate Majority PAC launches an ad attacking former Attorney General Adam Laxalt on the issue.

Read more on the Meet the Press Blog.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

NBC News’ Scott Wong, Sahil Kapur, Ali Vitali and Kate Santaliz examine five things on Congress’ to-do list ahead of the midterm elections.

New surveillance video in Georgia shows the former head of Coffee County Republicans escorting people into a state elections office right before an alleged data breach.

In a new interview with CBS News, Hillary Clinton says she does not plan to run for president again.