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2022’s final verdict might not be known for weeks

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 member of the Republican party, right, monitors people hand counting 2020 Presidential election ballots during an audit at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration office in Lawrenceville Georgia.
A member of the Republican party, right, monitors people hand counting 2020 Presidential election ballots during an audit at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration office in Lawrenceville, Ga, on Nov. 13, 2020. Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Tuesday ... It’s Election Day (and Week) 2022. ... President Biden, stumping in Maryland, declares: “This election is not a referendum. It’s a choice. It’s a choice between two very different visions of America.” ... Donald Trump, campaigning in Ohio, teases 2024 plans, per NBC’s Kristen Welker and Jesse Kirsch: “I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Mar a Lago”… Legal battle erupts in Pennsylvania over mail-in ballots. ... Final Cook Political Report with Amy Walter forecast estimates GOP will pick up 15-30 House seats. ... And more from our NBC News poll: Barack Obama is popular, while Mark Zuckerberg is not.

But first: Not only is it going to take days to count all the ballots in key midterm states like Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, it might take weeks to determine whether we eventually see a red wave, a red ripple or something in between. 

After all, back in 2018, it wasn’t until the week of Thanksgiving (or a bit earlier) when we learned that Democrats won those Orange County, Calif., House seats; that GOPer Rick Scott won Florida Senate; and that Brian Kemp had won the Georgia Governor's race. 

And it wasn’t until after Thanksgiving that we knew Democrats had picked up Utah-04 and thus 40 House seats. 

Bottom line: It took a while to judge the entire outcome of the 2018 race. 

Similarly, for this 2022 cycle, California and Oregon allow up to Nov. 15 to receive absentee ballots; Washington state allows up to Nov. 29 — after Thanksgiving; and, of course, there’s the possibility of that December runoff in Georgia Senate. 

So fasten your seatbelts: While the next 24 hours will tell us how the political winds are blowing for the election, it might take weeks before we know history’s verdict on 2022. 

Other keep stories to keep an eye on this Election Day: 

  • The knives are out for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, no matter the Senate outcome: “[M]y view is that we need new leadership in that position,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said, per Politico
  • The weather could be a factor today, with potential snow in store for Washoe County, Nev., as well as rain in Los Angeles (for that city’s close mayoral contest) and most of California

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 62%

That’s the share of GOP voters in the latest NBC News poll who said they consider themselves more as supporters of the Republican Party than former President Donald Trump — the highest number since the question was first asked of GOP voters in Jan. 2019. The survey found 30% of GOP voters who view themselves more as supporters of Trump. 

The share of Republicans identifying more with the party has increased since Trump left office in Jan. 2021. The exception was in August, when the number of Republicans identifying more with Trump actually increased after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. 

The numbers could be a warning sign for Trump as he considers another run for the White House, but he’s been signaling that he’s going to run. 

“I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach Florida,” Trump said at a rally with Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance on Monday night.  

For more about the NBC News poll numbers, check out the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know:

$7.6 billion: How much money has been spent on ads through Election Day, per AdImpact. 

4: The number of states with competitive Senate races that may see above-average precipitation today, per a New York Times analysis. The states include Nevada and Utah, which could see snow, Arizona and Florida, where a subtropical storm is expected to hit. 

24: The number of states where the Justice Department will be monitoring the polls to ensure states are following voting rights laws.  

$135 million:  How much three GOP megadonors — Jeffrey Yaas, Ken Griffin and Paul Singer — have spent boosting GOP candidates in the midterms, per the Grid News, which explores how GOP donors who may not back Trump are still supporting Trump-aligned candidates. 

Midterm roundup: This is how we do it

Once the polls close, there’s nothing for the voters to do but wait. But the fun will just be starting for the National Election Pool and the NBC News Decision Desk. Their hard work helps NBC News project the results of every election, so it’s worth understanding how it all works.

Data reporters will be conducting exit poll interviews, and collecting vote results across the country alongside the counts that come in from local officials. Then the Decision Desk does some quality-control work to make sure the data is accurate, before analyzing that data.

When will the Decision Desk project a winner of a race? Not until it is 99.5% certain of its projection. Until then, you may hear some other projections:

Too early to call: Either there’s not enough data to project this race, or a candidate’s lead still hasn’t met the statistical standards to warrant a projection.

Too close to call: This is a signal from the Decision Desk that the final margin will be less than 5 percentage points. 

Apparent winner: The Decision Desk has projected a winner, but the race is “close enough that the outcome may depend on a potential recount and/or confirmation that the results that have been reported are accurate.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

North Carolina Senate: National Journal reports from Rocky Mount on Democrat Cheri Beasley’s attempt to run under the national radarand score an upset in the state’s open Senate seat. 

Nevada Senate: Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto makes a final push with Latina voters amid fears Democrats may struggle with those voters, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki reports from Las Vegas. 

Ohio Senate: NBC News’ Jesse Kirsch speaks with young, independent voters about the economic choice facing them as they decide who to back in Ohio’s Senate race.  

Pennsylvania Senate: The big news out of Pennsylvania is a new lawsuit from Democrats, including Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s Senate campaign, asking a federal court to overturn the state Supreme Court’s recent decision that undated or misdated ballots should not be counted. Meanwhile, NBC News’ Allan Smith reports on how Republican Mehmet Oz is preaching bipartisanship on the trail (and how Democrats are needling those calls). 

Ohio-13: The Washington Post reports on this swing House race between two millennial women.

Oregon-05: The New York Times explores how the Democrats are struggling to win this seat after Rep. Kurt Schrader lost his Democratic primary (Schrader himself hasn’t endorsed in the general election). 

Texas-28: Former President Bill Clinton traveled to South Texas to campaign for Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, and Democratic House candidate Michelle Vallejo, NBC News’ Suzanne Gamboa reports. 

Ad watch: The closing messages in Georgia

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is out with a new TV ad encouraging his supporters to get out and vote on Election Day. The ad features a handful of supporters encouraging their fellow residents to go to the polls.

“We have the power,” one person says, with another adding, “the power to decide.” A third person adds, “to decide whether our voices are heard.”

“Reverend Warnock has our back. We have to have his,” one man says later in the ad. 

Warnock is running in one of the most closely-watched races of the day as he tries to win over 50% of the vote in Georgia’s Senate race against Republican Herschel Walker. Walker’s final ads have been critical of Democratic control of Washington and called for voters to “take our country back

If neither candidate wins 50% of the vote this week, they’ll head to a Dec. 6 runoff, which could determine Senate control for the second election in a row.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

After comments made by GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green last week implying that Republicans would cease sending aid to Ukraine if elected, other Republican leaders are pushing back, emphasizing the importance of sending aid to Ukraine amid its war with Russia. 

In her first opinion since taking office, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sided with a death row inmate in Ohio.

The Powerball jackpot sets another world record as the prize climbs to $1.9 billion.