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Defeat in Ohio’s abortion proxy war another red flag for GOP

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.   
Dennis Willard, spokesperson for One Person One Vote, celebrates the results of the election during a watch party in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 8, 2023.
People celebrate the results of the election during a watch party in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.Jay LaPrete / AP

Defeat in Ohio’s abortion proxy war another red flag for GOP: If it’s WEDNESDAY … … The field in the Mississippi governor’s race is officially set … Former President Donald Trump’s campaign is running ads in Atlanta as a possible indictment looms … President Biden speaks in New Mexico … Activist David Hogg launches a new PAC … A super PAC backing North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is out with new ads … The first GOP presidential debate won’t have opening statements

But FIRST … Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a change to their constitutional amendment process in a Tuesday special election that served as a proxy battle over abortion rights. 

In election after election since the fall of Roe vs. Wade, voters continue to give the same answer on abortion. 

An up-or-down vote in a swing state like Michigan during their general election, a late-summer vote in a red state like Kansas and an indirect vote in Ohio dressed up more as process than substance all delivered the same result — a win for the pro-abortion rights side. 

Tuesday’s vote is yet another warning sign for Republicans as they enter the ring in 2024, where they could have trouble dodging the one–two punch of abortion and former President Donald Trump.

Remember the midterms? Republicans were supposed to have a banner year, and the economy was supposed to be the top issue. Republicans narrowly took control of the House, but Democrats defied expectations, in part because Trump-backed candidates lost in top battlegrounds and abortion galvanized the left, even while the economy remained an important issue. 

Since Roe was overturned, there has been a lot of evidence that both abortion and Trump have been detrimental to Republicans. 

So Republicans have to grapple with two difficult questions heading into 2024: What’s the scenario where the general election doesn’t include one — or both — of these factors? And what’s their strategy to counterpunch? 

Headline of the day

 Data Download: The number of the day is … 384,000

That’s how many signatures abortion-rights advocates in Arizona will need to gather by July 3 next year to place a measure enshrining abortion rights in the state’s constitution on the November ballot. Advocates launched their effort on Tuesday, releasing the language of their proposed amendment, per NBC News’ Adam Edelman. 

The language would protect the right to an abortion up until a fetus is viable, or around 22 weeks of pregnancy, and allows abortions after that point to protect “the life and health” of the woman. Most abortions in Arizona are currently legal up until 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

State officials have one month to review the language and approve it, at which point advocates can begin collecting signatures. 

Eyes on 2024: Trump vows to keep talking

Trump continued to hit the campaign trail this week amid multiple indictments, and he vowed to keep talking even as prosecutors aim to limit his public comments in the 2020 election interference case. 

“I will talk about it, I will,” Trump said during a rally in New Hampshire on Tuesday, per NBC News’ Jonathan Allen and Jake Traylor. “They’re not taking away my First Amendment rights.” 

Trump’s comments came as federal prosecutors sought to limit his comments about evidence in the case where he faces charges for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump’s attorneys did not object to that request but asked that it be narrowed. The judge presiding over the case ordered attorneys to meet on Friday to discuss the issue. 

Meanwhile, the federal grand jury that voted to indict Trump was back at work at the D.C. courthouse on Tuesday, but NBC News’ Daniel Barnes and Dareh Gregorian write that “it wasn’t clear whether they were hearing testimony from witnesses.” Politico also reported on Tuesday that Special Counsel Jack Smith is continuing to probe the fundraising and spending from Trump’s PAC between Election Day 2020 and the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

This all comes as Trump could face yet another indictment in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis has been investigating Trump’s election interference efforts in the state. 

Trump’s campaign is hitting the airwaves in Georgia, placing a $79,000 on cable starting Wednesday and running through Aug. 13.  

In other campaign news … 

Campaign shakeup: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced his campaign manager, Generra Peck, with his gubernatorial Chief of Staff James Uthmeier. Peck will remain on the team as chief strategist. 

Debate watch: Semafor reports the format for the GOP’s first presidential primary debate on Aug. 23 includes no opening statements. Candidates will have one minute to respond to a question and 30 seconds for follow-ups. And Fox Business will host the second debate, set for Sep. 27.

Trump takes on Christie: Trump mocked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight during a rally in New Hampshire Tuesday, NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reports. 

Haley takes on Tuberville: Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville for his blockade on military promotions. Tuberville has been holding up promotions over the Defense Department’s policy to pay for travel expenses relating to reproductive health care, including abortions. 

Senate waiting game: Axios reports that failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is preparing to jump into the Arizona Senate race, eyeing an October launch. In Montana, GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale continues to staff up as he preps for a Senate run, per Politico. And in Tennessee, Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson, one of the “Tennessee Three” who protested over gun control in the state House chamber, formed an exploratory committee to take on GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

Blue state battle: Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, laid out its 2024 strategy in a new memo — including a $100 million “Blue State Project” to build up GOP infrastructure in Democratic-leaning states home to multiple competitive House seats, per CNBC’s Brian Schwartz. 

On to November: As expected, Tuesday’s primaries in Mississippi set the fall matchup between GOP Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. 

Dueling ads in Kentucky: Two new television ads in Kentucky get to some of the issues at the heart of the governor’s race there — Democrats trying to link Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron to former GOP Gov. Matt Bevin and Republicans arguing that issues like crime, the economy and the opioid epidemic haven’t gotten better under Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:

Thousands of city employees in Los Angeles went on strike Tuesday, protesting working conditions and staff shortages, per NBC News’ Michael Mitsanas.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Joe Biden’s proposed regulations on so-called ghost guns to remain in place. 

Biden said during a fundraiser in New Mexico that he is planning to travel to Vietnam.