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Biden remains off the midterms’ main stage — and there’s logic to that

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.
President Joe Biden returns a salute Friday before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

If it’s TUESDAY… It’s officially four weeks to go until Election Day… GOP Sens. Rick Scott and Tom Cotton stump for Herschel Walker in Georgia… Dem Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance clash at OH-SEN debate… LA City Council president steps down from leadership post after audio of racist comments is released… And NBC’s Dasha Burns’ one-on-one interview with Dem John Fetterman in PA-SEN is set to be rolled out (it’s Fetterman’s first in-person TV interview since his stroke).

But FIRST… It’s harder for the midterms to be a referendum on the sitting the president when that president is largely — though not completely — off the campaign’s center stage.

Especially when it comes to the marquee contests. 

Today, after attending a virtual G7 meeting on Ukraine, President Biden delivers remarks addressing Fire Prevention Week and does a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del. 

Tomorrow, he’s off to Colorado to discuss protecting America’s outdoor spaces. 

On Thursday, he’s in California talking infrastructure and raising money for the DCCC. 

On Friday, he remains in the Golden State (to promote lowering costs for American families) and then heads to Oregon (to attend a grassroots event with state Democrats). 

And on Saturday, he holds an event for OR-GOV Dem nominee Tina Kotek.

There’s a logic to Biden’s relatively busy — but also understated — travel: He’s going where Democrats want him to go; he’s raising money; he’s touting the messages his party’s candidates want him to tout (infrastructure, lowering costs); and he’s willing to remain largely off the midterm’s main stage.

That’s a direct contrast from his most recent predecessors.  

Biden’s messaging also stands out. He’s emphasizing the bipartisan infrastructure law, the bipartisan microchip law, as well as the “lowering costs” components of the Democrats’ health care/climate/tax law. 

But he’s not emphasizing Covid or student-loan forgiveness. 

At least not as much.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 20

That’s how many cents the price of a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped in the last month, as the months-long decline from the mid-to-late summer appears to be in the rear-view mirror. 

The price of gas is up from $3.72 last month to $3.92 this month, per AAA. At a state level, the price in California is over $6.30, five other states are above $5, and seven others are above $4. The main driver appears to be the decision by OPEC+ to cut production, but gas had already been bending upwards for about a month for a variety of reasons, including the recent hurricanes and a recent increase in demand. 

Other numbers to know:

64: At least how many people have been injured (on top of 11 dead) by Russian strikes after a bridge in Crimea was attacked, per the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (NBC hasn’t verified these numbers). 

5: The number of Native American tribes in Oklahoma who endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joy Hofmeister on Monday

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: That's debatable

In last night’s Ohio Senate debate, Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan sparred face-to-face for the first time. Ryan accused Vance, who grew up in Ohio but worked for a stretch in San Francisco, of “parachuting” into Ohio to run for Senate, saying, “You’re from Silicon Valley. You don’t understand what’s going on here in Ohio.”

Both candidates broke from their parties at the debate. Vance didn’t say whether he supported Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed 15-week federal ban on abortion, but said, “some minimum national standard is totally fine with me.” And Ryan said Biden shouldn’t run for reelection.

The candidates also blasted each other on issues including jobs, China, inflation and former President Donald Trump. The debate came as Vance has struggled to fundraise for his campaign, relying on support from outside groups on the airwaves. Ryan, on the other hand, has raised a lot of money, but has been left out alone by national Democratic groups.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail…

Arizona Senate: Saving Arizona, a GOP super PAC, is booking nearly $1.8 million in ad buys for the middle of October, per AdImpact. 

Alaska Senate: new ad from Republican Kelly Tshibaka’s campaign argues that Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski “changed,” criticizing her for voting for some of President Biden’s priorities like recent gun legislation. And in a statement last night, former President Trump criticized GOP spending in Alaska to boost Murkowski, money he said “could be used for Blake Masters, and other Republicans, that with this money [Republicans] would beat their Democratic opponents.” 

Georgia Senate: Georgia Honor, a group tied to the Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC, launched a new TV ad highlighting Herschel Walker’s son Christian’s tweet from last week, where he said his father “threatened to kill us, and had us move over six times in six months running from your violence.”

North Carolina Senate: Democrat Cheri Beasley is booking another $1.1 million in ads this week, per AdImpact. Politico also reports that Beasley’s campaign raised $13.3 million in the third fundraising quarter.

Wisconsin Senate: Democrat Mandela Barnes bought another $1.9 million in TV ads in the race, per AdImpact. Barnes’ campaign told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it raised $1.5 million since last week’s debate.

California Governor: California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign is up with a new ad as part of a $3.5 million buy asking voters to back a ballot proposition to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.   

Florida Governor: Casey DeSantis, the wife of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, stars in an emotional new ad in which she recounts how her husband helped take care of her and their children while she was going through cancer treatment. In other news from the trail, the gubernatorial debate initially planned for Wednesday has been postponed until Oct. 24 because of the recent hurricane. And ProPublica investigates DeSantis’ role in the state’s redistricting process.

Michigan Governor: Republican nominee Tudor Dixon spoke to The Detroit News about her campaign with the first debate this Thursday, saying: “This certainly could be the week that things change in our direction in a positive way.” Also, Everytown for Gun Safety booked an $800,000 ad buy over the next two weeks. 

Pennsylvania Governor: The New York Times reports on Republican nominee Doug Mastriano’s comments, actions and associations that some critics have referred to as antisemitic

Michigan-10: Republican John James leads Democrat Carl Marlinga by 8 points, 44% to 36%, in a new poll from The Detroit News and WDIV-TV.

New York-19 The NRCC has booked another $1.3 million in TV ads here, per AdImpact. 

Oregon-6: National Journal and Inside Elections report on dueling polls from this new congressional district, with Republican Mike Erickson’s campaign saying his campaign has him leading Democrat Andrea Salinas 44%-39%, and Salinas’ campaign putting her ahead 45%-44%. 

Virginia-7: Former Virginia Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman stars in a new ad backing Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. 

Ad watch: “The worst of California”

Republicans are aiming to flip Oregon’s 5th District, and one Republican group has spent more than everyone else to do it. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has spent more than $2.5 million in the race since the primary, according to AdImpact. That’s more than $1 million more than any other group or candidate.

Now, they’re launching a new ad blasting Democratic nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The commercial highlights McLeod-Skinner’s time on the Santa Clara City Council in California.

“McLeod-Skinner’s bringing the worst of California here,” a narrator in the ad says.

The district is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, but McLeod-Skinner beat Schrader in the May Democratic primary. She’s facing Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. The Cook Political Report rates the race a “Toss Up.” 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Secret Service agents were denied a request for records of communications taken from their personal cell phones as part of investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, NBC News’ Julia Ainsley reports.

Christina Bobb, the attorney who signed a letter certifying that all sensitive records in former President Donald Trump’s possession had been returned to the government, spoke to federal investigators Friday

The NAACP’s president blasted Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s remarks at the weekend Trump rally as “flat out racist, ignorant and utterly sickening.”