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How a close 2018 race still shapes American politics

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.
Florida Gubenatorial Candidates Trade Attacks in Second Debate
Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum, debate at Broward College on Oct. 24, 2018.Wilfredo Lee / Pool via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... The Jan. 6 committee holds its latest hearing to look at Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on the Justice Department. ... Ukraine suffers military setback in its eastern campaign. ... The Senate is set for key procedural vote on bipartisan gun legislation, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team. ... Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells NBC’s Dasha Burns she won’t weigh in on whether Biden should run in ’24 (“If he does run he’ll have my support,” she adds). ... And a new Wisconsin poll shows tight races across the state.

But first: Two developments on Wednesday reminded us that seemingly minor developments in American politics — like which candidate wins a particular primary — can end up having far-reaching effects years later.

Development No. 1: Democrat Andrew Gillum, the party’s nominee for Florida governor in 2018, was indicted on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and making false statement on Wednesday (Gillum says he’s innocent). 

Development No. 2: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who beat Gillum by 32,000 votes, is leading Donald Trump narrowly in New Hampshire, per a 2024 poll of the state (yes, we know it’s way early).

Gillum’s 2018 primary win, of course, was a big surprise. Aided by endorsements and money from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, and Tom Steyer — as well as other candidates ganging up on front-running Democrat Gwen Graham — Gillum upset Graham.

In fact, Graham’s loss was one of the rare statewide primary defeats for establishment-backed women in the ’18 cycle. 

The Florida Democratic Party hasn’t recovered since, while DeSantis’ 2024 buzz couldn’t be bigger right now. 

It’s all a reminder how primaries and the events in them can lead to long-term consequences. 

And if you recall, Barack Obama’s own path to the White House was aided by multiple Republican candidates — Jack Ryan and Mike Ditka — dropping out of or declining to run in Illinois’ 2004 Senate race.  

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 6

That’s how many of former President Donald Trump’s endorsed candidates in Georgia have lost their primary bids so far this year. That’s more than half of the 11 Trump-backed candidates who have lost so far this cycle. 

It’s true that the vast majority of Trump’s endorsements win their primaries. And he’s above water in races the NBC Political Unit deems competitive — 21 wins and 11 losses. But his record in Georgia’s competitive races, two wins and six losses, sticks out, especially after two more losses in Georgia on Tuesday. 

Why is Trump struggling so much in Georgia this cycle? One theory is that the states and races where he’s been least effective are places where Trump has been blamed for hurting the GOP in competitive elections. Read more on the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know:

2 percentage points: That’s the difference between Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Trump in an online poll from The University of New Hampshire among likely GOP 2024 presidential; primary voters in the state, with DeSantis leading 39% to 37%. 

3: At least how many people have received new grand jury subpoenas related to an investigation into the attempt to create a slake of fake presidential electors in the hopes of challenging the 2020 election, per the New York Times.

6 percentage points: That’s Democrat John Fetterman's lead over Republican Mehmet Oz in a new AARP Pennsylvania poll(50% to 44%), with Oz’s favorability rating significantly underwater. The same poll also finds Democrat Josh Shapiro slightly ahead of Republican Doug Mastriano in the state’s race for governor, 49% to 46%. 

Midterm roundup: Badger State battleground

Wisconsin is home to competitive gubernatorial and Senate races in November, and a new Marquette Law School poll shows both contests are up for grabs.

In the Democratic Senate primary, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes leads the field at 25%, with Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry just 4 percentage points behind. Every potential general election matchup with GOP Sen. Ron Johnson was within just a few percentage points. 

(Johnson, meanwhile, has continued to make his case on the airwaves. His campaign announced Wednesday that it was teaming up with the National Republican Senatorial Committee to launch a new ad on inflation.)

In the Republican primary for governor, the Marquette poll finds businessman Tim Michels, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are virtually tied at the top, at 27% and 26% respectively. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ lead over the GOP field ranges from 4 points to 17 points. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: FreedomWorks is hosting a forum with all of the top GOP Senate candidates tonight. 

Missouri Senate: Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee is endorsing GOP Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s Senate bid. 

Illinois Governor: The Democratic Governors Association is booking another $1.5 million in ad time, per AdImpact, as it looks to sink GOP Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s chances in his Republican primary. 

Michigan Governor: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told NBC News on Wednesday that she won’t “weigh in’’ on President Joe Biden’s decision whether or not to run for reelection in 2024. And, she added that she’s too busy to consider her own presidential campaign at the moment.

New York Governor: Former Vice President Mike Pence is expected to endorse GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin for governor, per the New York Times.

Alaska At-Large" A top state elections official said that nonpartisan candidate Al Gross’ withdrawal from the upcoming special House election won’t elevate another candidate into the ranked choice election in August because Gross withdrew too late.  

Illinois-15: Two outside groups (Club for Growth and Conservative Outsiders PAC) backing GOP Rep. Mary Miller have booked $300,000 in TV ad time the final days before next week’s primary, while Miller’s primary opponent, Rep. Rodney Davis, has booked another $123,000 in TV time, per AdImpact. 

Ad watch: Ad-ing it all up in Maryland

Less than one month ahead of Maryland’s gubernatorial primary, Democratic candidates and the groups backing them are hitting the airwaves

The latest ad comes from PAC For The People, an outside group backing former Education Secretary John King. The ad highlights his work in the Obama administration and a narrator tells viewers, “John is a public school parent with progressive values. He has a record of fighting for civil rights and equality.”

According to AdImpact, the group has so far spent almost $75,000 on ads, but they’ reserved an additional $86,000 in airtime between now and the July 19 primary. 

Read more about the Maryland ad wars on the Meet the Press Blog.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

The Uvalde school district is putting Police Chief Pete Arredondo on leave.

President Joe Biden called on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months.