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The arguments, messages and stakes ahead of Kansas’ big abortion vote

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.
Supporters of Value Them Both, a constitutional amendment that would remove language guaranteeing the right to an abortion from the Kansas state constitution, rally before campaigning in Shawnee on Saturday. Caitlin Wilson / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... The death toll from flooding in Kentucky rises to 28. ... First grain shipment leaves Ukraine since Russian blockade. ... Senate Democrats push to vote on reconciliation deal this week, but need all 50 members in favor and present, NBC’s Sahil Kapur reports. ... Democrats also hope to pass legislation blocked by Republicans helping veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. ... NBC’s Mike Memoli writes that the Biden White House is bracing for a challenging August. ... And Joe Manchin raises eyebrows with answer about the midterms.  

But first: Out of all of Tuesday’s contests we’ll be covering, the biggest might very well be the statewide constitutional amendment on abortion in Kansas. 

It’s the first election on abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. And NBC’s Dasha Burns and Abigail Brooks have fresh reporting on the contest, where Kansans will vote either:

"Yes" to change the state’s constitution to spell out that a right to an abortion isn’t guaranteed (after the state’s Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that it did); 

or "no" to keep the state’s constitution as is. 

On what happens if "yes" wins on Tuesday? 

“I think we’re going to see [abortion] restrictions very soon. Kansas has long had abortion at the center of its politics,” Emily Wales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told Burns. 

“It paves the way for future conversations [on abortion bans/restrictions] to be able to happen,” said Danielle Underwood, spokesperson for the Value Them Both Coalition, which is leading the "yes" campaign. “I want to see a future where Kansans are involved in the discussion. Their unelected judges don’t decide for the rest of us the right kinds of limits on abortion in our state. … And the passing the amendment is the only way for once for us to once again to be involved in this discussion.”

On what "yes" proponents ultimately want if the constitutional amendment passes? 

“I hope that we pass the [amendment] on Aug. 2. And then and then we’ll see what happens. I honestly don’t know. And again, I haven’t talked to people about it. I don’t really know what’s next,” said state Rep. Susan Humphries, a Republican. 

On why the vote is taking place on a primary day in August, rather than a general election? 

“I think that is a very significant obstacle for us. I think that the decision to put it on the primary ballot was intentional,” said Ashley All, a spokesperson for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which is leading the "no" effort. “And I think the hope was that fewer Kansans would vote.”

“From our perspective, [August] was a good date to have it, because it allowed enough time for the people of Kansas to learn about the amendment to get informed about the truth of the amendment,” countered Value Them Both’s Underwood. “It didn’t enter into that cloud of other … activity that surrounds a general election, so to allow the people of Kansas to really focused on this very important question before them.”

Our take: Given Kansas’ red political hue and the August election date, "no" keeping it close would demonstrate the power that the abortion decision has given Democrats since Roe v. Wade’s overturn.

And a "no" victory would be quite the statement. 

Data Download: The number of the day is … $12.4 million

That’s how much money has been spent on ads focused on the abortion ballot initiative in Kansas, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. 

GOP groups supporting the ballot initiative have slightly outspent the group opposing the constitutional amendment, spending nearly $6.4 million to the $6 million spent by Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. The main group supporting the amendment is known as “Value Them Both.” 

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom has received funding from national abortion rights groups including NARAL and Planned Parenthood, according to recent fundraising reports. Value Them Both received sizable donations from several Catholic churches and diocese, as well as GOP Sen. Jerry Moran’s FreeState PAC. 

Other numbers to know:

2: The number of House Republicans who bucked their party Friday and supported a bill banning assault weapons. 

5: The number of House Democrats who bucked their party Friday and opposed a bill banning assault weapons. 

14: The number of times a moderate beat a progressive in an analysis of 22 Democratic congressional primaries this year, Axios reports.

28: The death toll reported so far in Kentucky as a result of devastating floods. The number is expected to rise in coming days, Gov. Andy Beshear told Meet the Press on Sunday. 

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: Down to the wire in Michigan

Former President Donald Trump’s last-minute endorsement of conservative commentator Tudor Dixon has shaken up the GOP primary for governor in Michigan, with Michigan voters heading to the polls on Tuesday. Trump is planning to hold a tele-rally for Dixon tonight, according to the Detroit News.

Dixon has had a slight lead in recent polling in the race, and she is also backed by the wealthy DeVos family. (As a reminder, Trump’s former education secretary, Betsy DeVos, resigned after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.)

But Dixon’s rise in the GOP primary once seemed improbable, NBC News’ Allan Smith and Henry Gomez report from Taylor, Mich. Dixon was able to take advantage of chaos in the primary after two top contenders were blocked from the ballot due to fraudulent signatures on their petitions. And a super PAC funded by the DeVos family helped elevate her candidacy. 

The key question for Dixon is: Can she win in November?

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Republicans Blake Masters and Jim Lamon, two top candidates in Tuesday’s Senate primary, recently told NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard that they would have objected to the certification of Electoral College votes in 2020 if they were in the Senate.

Pennsylvania Senate: The Senate GOP’s campaign arm is privately raising concerns about Mehmet Oz’s campaign, Politico reports (although an NRSC spokesman said after the report published that “any implication that we don’t have full confidence in the Oz campaign and our chances of winning PA is false”).

Missouri Senate: The Missouri Senate GOP primary is testing whether disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens can make a comeback, CNN reports.

North Carolina Senate: The Democratic Party engaged in “bareknuckle efforts” to remove a Green Party candidate from the ballot in North Carolina’s Senate race, the Associated Press reports.

Wisconsin Senate: State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski dropped out of the Democratic Senate primary on Friday, effectively clearing the field for Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. That allows Barnes to focus on defeating GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, starting with a new ad released Sunday criticizing the senator as “out of touch.” 

California-47: NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports on the Republican trying to unseat Rep. Katie Porter in this Orange County swing district.

Kansas-03: Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids is highlighting Republicans’ opposition to abortion rights in Kansas as a strategy to retain her vulnerable seat in November’s midterm election, the AP reports.

Michigan-11/Michigan-12: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., headed to Michigan over the weekend to rally for Reps. Andy Levin and Rashida Tlaib, two Democrats running facing primary challengers on Tuesday. 

Ad watch: Fighting Democratic meddling

Last week, House Democrats’ campaign arm started running a TV ad in Michigan’s 3rd District to boost John Gibbs, a far-right, Trump-endorsed candidate running against incumbent GOP Rep. Peter Meijer.

An outside group is fighting back in a new ad, defending Meijer ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The group, Principled Leadership for Michigan, appears to be partially-funded by Meijer’s father.

“Fox News confirms it. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect their hand-picked candidate for Congress in the Republican primary, John Gibbs,” the ad’s narrator tells viewers.

“West Michigan must say no to Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked candidate for Congress. Say no to John Gibbs,” the narrator continues.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Biden tested positive for Covid again in a “rebound case.”

The DNC postponed their vote on whether to keep Iowa and New Hampshire as “first in the nation” primaries, pushing off a decision until after the midterms.

The New York Times reports on unexpected Democratic advantages in gubernatorial contests across the country.