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For Chuck Schumer and his Senate Democrats, a sudden chance for a big win

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 Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol after the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act via budget reconciliation on Aug. 7, 2022.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol after the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act via budget reconciliation on Aug. 7, 2022.Francis Chung / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday … Democrats’ sweeping climate, health care and tax plan heads to the House … GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse fends off a Trump-backed primary challenger in Washington-04. ... China announces new military drills around Taiwan. … President Joe Biden leaves Covid isolation. ...and the president and first lady travel to Kentucky today to meet with victims of recent flooding.

But first: It’s a good day to be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. 

Senate Democrats appear to have rescued victory from the jaws of defeat over the weekend, passing their sweeping plan to address the climate and health care, a plan they say will also curb inflation and lower the deficit. 

And as long as the House sticks to that plan — which is not a given — Democrats will be poised to head into Labor Day pointing to some big wins on their agenda items, as well as some key bipartisan victories too. 

That didn’t appear to be the case just weeks ago, when the latest hesitance from West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin ripped open yet another round of Democratic recriminations. But Manchin and Schumer kept talking, surprising their fellow Democrats when they announced late last month that they had a deal. 

For Schumer, navigating an evenly divided Senate — and balancing that reality with a push from progressives who think the party hasn’t done enough in power — hasn’t been easy.  

“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had, with a 50-50 Senate, a big agenda and intransigent Republicans,” Schumer told the New York Times just after remarking: “We’ve had an extraordinary six weeks.”

Now, Schumer is on the precipice of a pretty successful stretch, where he’s helped navigate victories for his party on not just this legislation, but on bipartisan agreements on semiconductors, gun safety and veteran care. 

Neither the Democratic leader, nor Democrats, made it easy on themselves. 

They let the process dominate the debate and inflame tensions between members and the party’s various constituencies. We’ll never know if Democrats could have ended up with a better deal, or a quicker one, if Schumer had been as tough on the left (possibly prompted by his state’s own leftward drift) as he was on Manchin. 

And even amid the big win, Democrats failed to secure a path forward for some key agenda items measures like the Child Tax Credit. 

But landing the plane helps Democrats write a new narrative with months to go before Election Day. And if the ends justify the means, then Schumer and the Democrats have some results to showcase. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 103

That’s how many campaign ads — out of the 476 AdImpact tracked in July — that mentioned inflation last month. The issue topped NBC News’ monthly analysis of Senate, House and gubernatorial campaign ads for the second month in a row.

Abortion was the second most mentioned issue in ads last month, with 67 ads in July touching on the issue. July was the first full month of campaign ads following the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish federal protections for abortion, but it was the third month in a row where abortion was in the top two most mentioned issues in campaign ads.

Read more on the Meet The Press blog.

Other numbers to know:

1,300: At least how many domestic flights were canceled in the U.S. over the weekend, per the flight-tracker FlightAware

4: The number of congressional maps drawn by GOP lawmakers in use this cycle that courts have nixed moving forward

69%: The share of CPAC attendees who said they’d vote for former President Donald Trump if he runs for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with 24%, is the only other candidate to get above 2%. 

$19.9 million: How much the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC announced Friday it would be adding to its fall television buys across 23 markets

50%: The percentage of Latinos who are expected to identify as Protestant by 2030, up from 25% now. The move towards evangelical faiths could signal a coming politically rightward-shift among Latinos, Axios reports.

$49.3 million: The amount of money conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay to the families of a victim of a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Midterm roundup: Trump on the trail

Former President Donald Trump rallied his supporters in Wisconsin on Friday ahead of tomorrow’s primary, touting his preferred candidate for governor, businessman Tim Michels, and engineer Adam Steen, who is taking on state Rep. Robin Vos. Trump’s continued to press Vos to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. 

The governor’s race has become a proxy war of sorts between Trump and more traditional Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who have backed former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the race. 

While Trump has continued to push his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, Michels has diverged from other Trump-backed candidates and has not directly said whether he’d attempt to overturn the 2020 results or if he would certify the 2024 election, per the Washington Post. 

Michels’ comments about the 2020 election on Friday night were brief, per NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard: “If we don’t have fair and transparent elections, our entire constitutional system comes crumbling down! Was it rigged? Was it fixed? I’m going to stop it!”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Colorado Senate: NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard reports that Colorado Republican Joe O’Dea told KOA radio on Friday, “As far as Trump’s concerned, I hope he doesn’t run. I don’t want to see him as president.” Hillyard notes that O’Dea did say during the GOP primary that he would ultimately vote for Trump in 2024 if he were the nominee.

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will return to the campaign trail this week, holding his first campaign rally Friday since suffering a stroke in May.

Arizona Governor: After campaigning against the eventual GOP nominee for governor, Kari Lake, Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted Sunday that “it’s important for Arizona Republicans to unite behind our slate of candidates,” and noted the Republican Governors Association, which he chairs, “is already active on the airwaves supporting Kari Lake’s candidacy.” Hillyard also reports that the RGA has reserved $11 million in TV airtime in Arizona.

Michigan Governor: Reuters reports that Trump-backed Republican nominee Matthew DePerno “gained unauthorized access to voting equipment,” prompting Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office to call for a special prosecutor, per the Detroit News

Rhode Island-02: Politico reports on the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, the first quadriplegic in Congress

Washington-04: Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of the 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Trump, is projected to advance to the general election and overcome a challenger backed by the former president. 

Wyoming At-Large: GOP Rep. Liz Cheney is prepared to lose her primary next week against a Trump-backed challenger, telling the New York Times, “If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

Ad watch: The Club attacks Kleefisch, again

Ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in Wisconsin, the conservative Club For Growth Action is attacking Kleefisch in a new ad.

The ad’s narrator alleges Kleefisch is part of the “Madison swamp,” and claims, “Donald Trump ran for president to drain the swamp. The Madison swamp tried to stop him. Rebecca Kleefisch led the charge, repeatedly attacking him in the media, praising never Trumpers, refusing to join Trump’s coalition”

The narrator continues, “That’s not conservative. It’s disloyal and disqualifying.”

This is Club for Growth’s third ad in the last month attacking Kleefisch, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. The ads never explicitly endorse another candidate, but Kleefisch’s leading contender in the race for the Republican nomination for governor is Michels. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

NBC News’ Jonathan Allen, Peter Nicholas and Carol E. Lee spoke with over a dozen top Democratic insiders who worry top party donors are disenchanted with President Biden and would prefer a different nominee in 2024.

Biden tested negative for Covid twice over the weekend, allowing the president to leave isolation. 

Indiana’s legislature became the first in the post-Roe era to approve a near total abortion ban

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel pledged that the committee would remain neutral in 2024’s GOP presidential primary, but that could prove tough if Trump runs for president again, NBC News’ Peter Nicholas reports.