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Arizona’s politics will help define both parties in 2024

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.
Senate passes the Respect for Marriage Act at the US Capitol in Washington
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema during a press conference at the Capitol on Nov. 29, 2022. Elizabeth Frantz / The Washington Post via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... Another mass shooting in California: Gunman kills at least seven in Half Moon Bay, Calif. ... Ex-FBI counterintelligence official is charged with money laundering and violating Russian sanctions to assist oligarch Oleg Deripaska. ... President Biden hosts Democratic leaders at the White House before holding reception for all new members of Congress. ... And Donald Trump is set to visit both South Carolina and New Hampshire on Saturday.

But first: Arizona was a crucial political battleground in 2018, 2020 and 2022.  

Yet it might be even more important to watch next year in 2024 — because, as NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard notes, no other state will tell us more about the direction of the two parties than the Grand Canyon State. 

For Republicans, do they continue riding the Donald Trump/Kari Lake/Blake Masters train, which has cost the party two Senate seats, a governorship and 11 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election? Or do they return to their John McCain/Jeff Flake/Doug Ducey roots.

(Lake is teasing a rally this Sunday, one indication she isn’t interested in receding into the shadows after her high-profile loss last fall.)

For Democrats, now that Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is running for Senate, do they really go all-in with a progressive nominee given that both Republicans and independents outnumber registered Democrats in the state? Or will a more moderate alternative jump in too, someone promoting the more moderate streak that has helped Democrats win there in the past?

(If he wins, Gallego — who backs Medicare for All — would be the most progressive Democrat to ever win statewide in Arizona.)

Does Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., even run for re-election?

If so (or if not), what happens to the political math that has benefited Democrats in 2018, 2020 and 2022 — win all Democrats, a majority of independents and the sliver of remaining McCain/Flake Republicans? 

And don’t forget about the 2024 presidential primary in Arizona for Republicans, and maybe even Democrats. 

NBC’s Hillyard, an Arizona native, sums it up this way: “Arizona could be the defining state to watch next year as voters stake out where on the ideological spectrum they want their representatives to be.”

And as both parties choose their path forward, ask yourself: Did Arizona Democrats win in 2022? Or did Republicans lose? That’s another way to look at this all-important state.

Clip of the day

Exclusive video captures the moment man disarms Monterey Park gunman at second dance hall.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 112

That’s the number of days between the Supreme Court’s first argument of this new term and the release of its first decision on Monday, the longest it’s taken the court to release its first opinion, according to data kept by Adam Feldman, who tracks statistics related to the court for the Empirical SCOTUS blog.

Feldman notes the court has been historically slow — the court’s first decision had come by early December in each of the last 106 years. 

The court’s first ruling was unanimous, one that sided against a Navy veteran in a dispute over disability benefits. The court also delayed a decision on whether it would take up cases from Texas and Florida that could upend content moderation on social media platforms, CNBC reports.

NBC News’ Lawrence Hurley has more about the court’s pace, amid the backdrop of the recent leak investigation and the number of high-profile cases facing the court, on NBCNews.com

Other numbers to know:

$225,000: The amount a former high-profile FBI official is accused of taking from a foreign national, an act for which he was arrested on Saturday.

At least seven: How many people were killed in two shootings in the area around Half Moon Bay, Calif. Authorities have one person in custody. 

2: The number of people killed in a shooting at a Des Moines charter school on Monday.

11: The new death toll from last weekend’s shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., after one more victim passed away from their injuries on Monday. 

Two-thirds: The portion of major projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act that are in districts represented by Republicans opposed to the legislation, according to a Politico analysis. 

4: The number of members of the Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy on Monday for their role in the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol. 

8: How many charges the Jan. 6 rioter who was photographed with his feet on former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk was convicted of on Monday.

14%: The portion of people ages 18-29 who said their top career goal was to become a business person in a new Axios/Generation Lab poll, topping a list that also included doctor, engineer and artist.

6%: The portion of its workforce Spotify will cut as layoffs in the tech sector continue, CNBC reports. 

$3 million: The amount that a family whose son passed away from alcohol poisoning will receive in a settlement following a hazing-related lawsuit against Bowling Green State University.

Eyes on 2024: Trump hits the trail

Former President Donald Trump is heading to a second state as he holds his first large public campaign events on Saturday. Before a previously announced event in South Carolina, Trump will deliver the keynote address at the New Hampshire GOP’s annual meeting, per NBC News’ Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki. 

But they write that Trump is “expected to face frosty receptions from a few top Republicans.” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, for example, has been critical of Trump. And Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., another potential presidential contender, is not expected to attend Trump’s event in the Palmetto State. 

The trips to the two early primary states mark a new phase in Trump’s re-election campaign. They are his first large public campaign events, and the first events outside of his home state of Florida, since Trump launched his campaign roughly two months ago. 

In other campaign news:

Hogan-mentum?: As GOP Gov. Larry Hogan leaves office in Maryland, the Washington Post explores whether the potential presidential contender’s cross-party appeal can be applied to a national campaign. 

DeSantis watch: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new education plan Monday that included boosts for teacher salaries, restrictions on teacher unions and shorter term limits for school board members. And days after the news the state has blocked a new AP African American Studies course that conservatives like DeSantis have framed as pushing a left-wing agenda, NBC News’ Marc Caputo breaks down what the course entails

Pompeo’s take: In a new book, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also considered a potential presidential contender, criticized murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the media coverage of his murder.   

Hacked: South Dakota GOP Gov.. Kristi Noem’s personal cell phone was hacked and used to make “hoax calls,” per a press release. 

Lee’s one-term promise?: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that allies of Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee are combating questions about the 76 year-old’s age if she runs for Senate by pitching her as a “transitional candidate” who would only serve one term if elected. 

A Craft-y new ad: Republican Kelly Craft, who is running for governor of Kentucky, released a new TV ad focused on immigration, including footage of Craft at the southern border, in which she claims that “criminal and illegal drugs like fentanyl are flooding into our state, ravaging our communities,” per the Washington Examiner.

Will she, won’t she?: new TV ad from a Louisiana super PAC prominently features state Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt in a spot that has all the stylings of a gubernatorial-race ad, except for any direct reference to Bernhardt as an active candidate. Nola.com reports the move has rankled some Democrats ahead of the battle for the governor’s mansion. 

A new senator in town: Former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was sworn into the Senate on Monday. The Republican, who replaced former GOP Sen. Ben Sasse, is expected to run in the special election in 2024 for the final two years of Sasse’s term and for a full term in 2026. 

Waiting on Santos: NBC News’ Allan Smith reports on how embattled New York GOP Rep. George Santos has still not explained his side of the revelations he embellished his biography despite promising to do so for weeks. And in a video from a Brazilian media interview aired on last night’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, Santos appeared to claim last month he was the target of an assassination attempt. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Solomon Pena, the suspect accused of orchestrating shootings at the homes of Democratic officials in New Mexico, was denied bond on Monday.  

In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., the White House Counsel’s office said it planned to cooperate with requests from the committee to an extent.

The U.S. and Israel launched joint military operations on Monday to show Iran and other countries that the U.S. isn’t distracted by the war in Ukraine.

Advisors to the Food and Drug Administration will meet this week to determine a Covid vaccination schedule, perhaps proposing that most people receive one vaccine per year.

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries named California Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell to the House Intelligence Committee despite Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to block them from serving on the panel.