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The conventional wisdom was off in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Will it be right in 2022?

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
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks in Allendale, Mich., on Nov. 7, 2016.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks in Allendale, Mich., on Nov. 7, 2016.Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images file

If it’s FRIDAY… It’s the final sprint until Election Day… President Biden begins his day in California and then travels to Chicago for a fundraiser… Trump, in Iowa, teases a 2024 run: “Get ready,” he says, per NBC’s Gary Grumbach… Oprah Winfrey endorses John Fetterman over Mehmet Oz in PA-SEN… Blake Masters, in AZ-SEN, says he’s tired of sending money to Ukraine, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard and P.J. Tobia… And tomorrow is a big day in Pennsylvania — Biden and Barack Obama hold a joint rally in Philadelphia, while Donald Trump has an event in Latrobe, Pa.

But FIRST… Four days to go, and the conventional wisdom from the nation’s capital is pretty much set. 

Republicans have the definite momentum

Democrats are scrambling

And either a red wave, a red ripple or something in between is going to happen on Tuesday night — as well as the days following

That could very well be right. We have polling data, as well as historical precedent, to confirm those growing sentiments. 

But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? 

After all, the conventional wisdom in 2016 was that Hillary Clinton’s declining national lead was enough to protect her, especially in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (It wasn’t enough.)

The conventional wisdom in 2018 wasn’t just that Dems were headed to win back the House, but they also were poised to win statewide contests in Georgia, Florida and even in places like Iowa and Ohio. (Dems lost in Georgia, Florida, Iowa and Ohio.)

And the conventional wisdom in 2020 was that Democrats weren’t only going to win the White House, but that they were going to pick up House seats — as well as win Senate contests in Maine and North Carolina. (Dems lost House seats, as well as those races in Maine and North Carolina.)

Now it’s possible in 2022 that the conventional wisdom could be correct. It’s also possible that the polling misses (in both public AND private tracking) have always overestimated Democratic performance, not GOP performance. 

But we are just reminding everyone that in these extraordinary political times — with sky-high polarization, election interest and turnout — that the Washington chatter has been wrong before. 

Tweet of the Day

Data Download: The number of the day is ... $261 million

That’s how much money has been spent or reserved on the airwaves in the Pennsylvania Senate race this election cycle, per AdImpact, making it the most expensive Senate race in terms of ad spending. 

The massive spending in the race also underscores the boom in campaign ad spending in recent election cycles. Six years ago, the Pennsylvania Senate race was also the most expensive in ad spending. But roughly half of the current sum was spent in 2016, with a combined $138 million spent on ads, per AdImpact. 

For more on spending in the race head to the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know:

6: How many GOP candidates Trump endorsed Thursday, all in open House races. The endorsements included Mark Alford in Missouri’s 4th District, Eric Burlison in Missorui’s 7th District, Erin Houchin in Indiana’s 9th District, Josh Brecheen in Oklahoma’s 2nd District, Gerlad Mallow in Vermont’s At-Large District, and Mike Ezell, who defeated GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo in a primary in Mississippi’s 4th District. 

$154 million: How much has been spent on ads in attorney general races this election cycle, per AdImpact.

13 to 30: The projected net gain for House Republicans per a new round of race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales.  

$24.5 million: The Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC’s closing ad buys across seven Senate Races, per Rob Pyers of CA Target Bot.

More than $90 million: How much Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign still had in cash on hand, per Politico. 

180: How many North Korean planes the South says it picked up flying near the border, prompting South Korea to scramble its own fighters

Midterm roundup: So much for the pivot

Arizona Republican nominee Blake Masters emerged from a tough and expensive primary trying to soften his image on issues like casting doubt on the 2020 election and abortion.

But as NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard and P.J. Tobia report from Ahwatukee, Masters’ comments — at an event alongside the three other statewide candidates backed by former President Donald Trump — delivered some red meat. 

He questioned why Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly can “find $50 billion to secure Ukraine’s border with Russia but can’t find $10 billion to secure our own border with Mexico.” He went on to say that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “deserves to see the inside of a prison cell,” and called Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs “not the smartest person in the world.” Elsewhere on the campaign trail…

Florida Senate: GOP Sen. Marco Rubio released a minute-long closing ad where he touted American exceptionalism. He closed the ad by saying, “This is our country. And if you don’t love it, you’re free to leave it. But we will never allow anyone to destroy it.” 

North Carolina Senate: GOP Rep. Ted Budd’s closing TV ad ties Democrat Cheri Beasley to Biden, whom he blamed for rising prices. “If you’re stretched thin and had enough, you definitely can’t afford Cheri Beasley,” a narrator says in the ad. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Oprah Winfrey endorsed Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Thursday, despite her role in launching Republican Mehmet Oz’s television career. “Doctor Oz loves Oprah and respects the fact that they have different politics,” the Oz campaign said in a statement to NBC News’ Dasha Burns. Fetterman also made an additional $1 million TV buy, per AdImpact. And Marist’s new poll has Fetterman with a 6-point lead among “definite” voters and a 5-point lead among registered voters. 

Wisconsin Senate: Time Magazine looks at how the issue of crime has taken center stage in Wisconsin’s Senate race. 

Arizona Governor: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs responded to her GOP opponent Kari Lake’s calls on her to resign, telling Hillyard, “I took an oath of office to do the job that voters elected me to do.” The High Ground poll also found a neck-and-neck race for governor with Lake at 47% and Hobbs at 45%.   

Florida Governor: Insider profiles Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ closest confidante, his wife, Casey. 

Michigan Governor: NBC News’ Henry J. Gomez reports that the race for Michigan governor and other statewide posts “have erupted into a scramble, with tightening polls, hostile tones and dire warnings from both parties.” However, a new poll from EPIC-MRA pegged Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with 54% to Republican Tudor Dixon’s 43%. 

New Mexico Governor: Biden stressed an economic message during a campaign stop to boost New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, NBC News’ Peter Nicholas reports. 

Pennsylvania Governor: Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro isn’t taking his sizable lead in the polls for granted, traveling across the state as the governor’s race comes to a close, NBC News’ Allan Smith reports. 

Florida 27th Congressional District: In a relatively foreign-policy free election cycle, the issue looms large in this South Florida district

North Carolina 14th Congressional District: New reports say there was a shooting at the home of Republican congressional nominee Pat Harrigan’s family last month while his children were sleeping. Police say an investigation is ongoing. 

NH-1: The Washington Post reports on Republican Karoline Leavitt’s quest to become the youngest person, and the first of Generation Z, in Congress. 

Ad watch: Freed after 28 years

In Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman is out with a new TV ad featuring Dennis and Lee Horton, two brothers who were incarcerated for almost 28 years for a crime they say they didn’t commit.

Both brothers were released in 2020 when the state’s Board of Pardons, led by John Fetterman, recommended they be granted clemency.

“We wrote everybody; the city council, District Attorney’s office, to the Justice Department. Nobody cared. Nobody was looking,” the brothers say in the ad, adding, “Until John Fetterman. He brought us home. John knew he would be attacked, but it was the right thing to do. So, he did it.”

The Hortons now work for Fetterman’s campaign — top Republican surrogates and GOP nominee Mehmet Oz’s campaignhave assailed that decision to attack Fetterman as weak on crime. The Democrat has tried to dismiss that charge on the trail and in television ads, arguing he gave people a second chance, and is now launching his first spot featuring the Hortons right before Election Day. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Election officials across the country are bracing for conspiracy-fueled threats as the election gets closer, NBC News’ Allan Smith and Adam Edelman report.

Immigration officials confirmed on Thursday that David DePape, the suspect accused of assaulting Paul Pelosi with a hammer, was in the country illegally. This news came the same day Pelosi was released from the hospital.

Days after Elon Musk took over the company, Twitter will begin laying off workers on Friday.