IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Allred’s run highlights tough Senate map for Democrats 

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.
Colin Allred at the Capitol
Colin Allred at the Capitol in 2018.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

If it’s THURSDAY … White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing at 2 p.m. ET … Nikki Haley holds a rally in South Carolina … CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, FDA Director Robert Califf and DNI Avril Haines among administration officials testifying on Capitol Hill today … DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is at the border with Mexico … ProPublica reports megadonor paid tuition for Justice Thomas’ relative … Florida legislature passes slew of conservative culture war bills as end of session nears .. Markets react to Wednesday’s Fed interest rate hike … and Democratic Rep. David Trone jumps into MD-SEN.

But FIRST … Texas Democratic Rep. Colin Allred announced a Senate bid against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz Wednesday, the latest in a long line of Democrats in the last few decades arguing that THIS is the year Texas turns blue. 

The former pro football player-turned-congressman is already a strong fundraiser and a compelling candidate for Democrats who have long argued the state is moving in their direction. And there certainly are reasons why Democrats could have their strongest cycle yet in Texas:

Allred doesn’t have the same partisan baggage as Beto O’Rourke, who came into the 2022 gubernatorial race after a 2020 presidential primary bid where he faced a whole different set of political pressures.

Former President Donald Trump’s six-point victory in 2020 was the smallest margin for a GOP presidential nominee since 1996, even as Democrats underperformed along the border.

Allred has experience running in tough campaigns and staying on message, something other statewide Democrats in the state have historically struggled with during their bids. 

And O’Rourke showed in 2018 that there’s a roadmap to run against Cruz, who could be even more vulnerable now thanks to his Cancún vacation during the historic 2021 freeze and his actions surrounding (and vote against) certifying the 2020 election. 

But even if Cruz might be vulnerable, is Texas? The mere fact that Allred is possibly his party’s top Senate challenger for 2024 underscores just how challenging the Senate map looks for Democrats next year. 

Democrats’ easiest pickup opportunities are in Texas and Florida, a state that just re-elected its Republican governor by almost 20 points. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have many more paths to the majority. Victories in Trump-won states alone — including West Virginia, Montana and Ohio — could hand them the majority. And that’s not to mention a slew of pickup opportunities in five other states — Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona — all states that President Joe Biden won by 3 points or less in 2020. 

So for Democrats to have any shot of holding onto the Senate, they may have to put Texas or Florida — or both — in play. 

Allred may just be the candidate to  keep Texas on the board, but a statewide win will be tough for him to tackle. 

Chart of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 8.3 million

That’s how many people the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated could lose their jobs if the U.S. experiences a “protracted” default on its debt, according to a memo obtained by CNBC’s Kayla Tausche. 

The memo was made public as the White House and Congress work to find a deal to raise the debt limit, but as they also are acutely aware of the politics. NBC News’ Katherine Doyle, Jonathan Allen and Kristen Welker report that Democrats and the White House fear severe political consequences if they can’t raise the debt ceiling by June 1 with the help of House Republicans.

But, as NBC News’ Kyle Stewart and Sahil Kapur report, House Democrats may have found a workaround, known as a discharge petition, that might get a debt ceiling bill through the House without Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s support. 

Other numbers to know:

16: The number of years since interest rates were as high as they are now, after the Federal Reserve announced a 0.25% rate hike on Wednesday.

At least 1: The number of people who died after a shooter opened fire in an Atlanta medical center on Wednesday. 

18: The age at which Meta could start monetizing a user’s data under a Federal Trade Commission proposal that would ban data collection for minors.

$6,200: The monthly tuition at a boarding school where Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sent his grandnephew in 2008 — a new ProPublica report finds that conservative megadonor Harlan Crow paid at least one month of the teenager’s tuition, and a former school administrator says Crow paid the tuition for about a year.

60: The age that patients would have to be to receive the world’s first RSV vaccine, which the FDA approved on Wednesday. The CDC still has to approve the vaccine before it’s publicly available.

10: The number of charges that a member of a pro-Donald Trump online forum was convicted of this week for his actions during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

300: The number of children found to be working in McDonalds restaurants around Kentucky and other states, in violation of labor laws.

Eyes on 2024: April musings bring May decisions

The GOP presidential field has been stuck in neutral over the last few weeks. But things could pick up quickly this month, as Republicans appear to be nearing decisions on whether they’ll jump in. 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that he’d decide “in the next two weeks.” 

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who has been traveling the country as part of his exploratory committee phase, is expected to launch a presidential bid officially on May 22.  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — NBC News’ Matt Dixon and Natasha Korecki reported last month that the governor is expected to launch an exploratory committee in mid-May, with an official announcement to come soon after. 

And former Texas Rep. Will Hurd continues to talk like a candidate and is set to return to New Hampshire later this month, Fox News reports

The movement all comes ahead of the party’s first debate in August — and while it’s so far unclear what criteria the party wants to use to determine who makes it onto the debate stage, candidates who want to make sure they’re included may need to hit the ground running soon. 

In other campaign news … 

On the air: Biden launched his second TV ad of his re-election campaign — a minute-long spot focused on his economic plans. The ad is part of a “seven-figure” buy, per a campaign press release, and will air in eight battleground states: North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. AdImpact tracked a new $671,000 ad buy from the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign.

Meanwhile, in Florida: Florida’s GOP legislature continues to bolster GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis ahead of an expected presidential bid. On Tuesday legislators passed a bill shielding DeSantis’ travel records from public disclosure. On Wednesday legislators passed a measure barring transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity, which DeSantis is expected to sign, per the Washington Post. But legislators bucked DeSantis by not taking up a measure targeting the press, per the New York Times. 

Caucus chaos: Iowa Democrats are proposing holding their first-in-the-nation caucuses but not releasing the results until after other states’ primaries, in a bid to comply with the DNC’s proposed new primary calendar, per the Associated Press. 

He’s running: Democratic Rep. David Trone announced Thursday that he is running in Maryland’s open Senate race, telling NBC News in a brief interview that he will “put in the dollars necessary to bring it home.”

A taxing issue: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is in a competitive re-election race, potentially violated state tax rules for claiming a tax credit on two properties and was late in paying taxes on his Cleveland house, NBC News’ Henry J. Gomez reports. Brown paid the late payment penalty and repaid the county where he owns a condo.

Speaking of Ohio: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is considering a Senate run, recently cast doubt on Trump’s endorsement power at a private meeting with Ohio Republicans that there is a sizable portion of Republicans who “doesn’t care” who Trump endorses.  

Taking sides: Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the assistant Democratic leader, took sides in California’s Senate race, endorsing Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee

Cameron making the case: Kentucky Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his allies are up with two new TV ads hammering home both his work as attorney general and criticizing his top opponent, former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft.  

CA-47: California state Sen. Dave Min, a Democrat running to succeed Rep. Katie Porter in Congress, was arrested Tuesday night for drunk driving. Min, who has Porter’s endorsement in the race, apologized, writing in a Facebook post that his decision to drive was “irresponsible” and he accepts “full responsibility.” 

Bernie’s pick: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., became the latest high-profile progressive to back former Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym in the city’s mayoral race, which is set for May 16. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers won’t mount a defense in the trial accusing him of raping writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s, they said in court on Wednesday.

Meteorologists and researchers are worried about record high ocean temperatures and weather patterns that could trigger an El Niño event later this year.

The Daily Beast reports on emails that show former Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker soliciting money from a big donor for his own business, while the donor believed the money was going to help Walker’s campaign.