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Democrats face a daunting 2024 Senate map, jeopardizing control of chamber

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.
Sherrod Brown departs a Senate Democratic Caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol.
Sherrod Brown departs a Senate Democratic Caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, on Nov. 29, 2022. Francis Chung / POLITICO via AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... A Jury convicts Oath Keepers founder of seditious conspiracy for Jan. 6 attack on Capitol. ... The Senate passes a bill codifying protection of gay marriage by 61-36 vote. ... House Democrats are set to elect a new generation of leaders. … Democrats dominate the airwaves in Georgia's Senate runoff. ... And NBC’s Marc Caputo has more on that Trump-Ye-Fuentes dinner. 

But first: Here’s one clear reason why next week’s Georgia Senate runoff election matters for Democrats, even though they’re already guaranteed to control the Senate next year. 

Their 2024 map is so daunting, so they need every single Senate seat they can to even have a chance of retaining control after the next cycle of elections. 

As we wrote yesterday, Democrats have a reasonably good chance of winning back the House in 2024, because there are 17 House Republicans who won in congressional districts carried by President Biden — and that number could increase to 18 — versus just five House Democrats who won in districts carried by Donald Trump. 

But it’s an entirely different situation for them with the 2024 Senate map. 

Overall, 21 Senate Democrats will be up for re-election, plus the two independents who caucus with them. That’s compared with just 10 Senate Republicans up for re-election. 

Three of these Senate Democrats hail from states Trump won in 2020: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

An additional five are from states that Biden won by less than 4 percentage points: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. 

Another is from a state where the GOP had success a year ago (Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.), and one more is facing an ongoing investigation (Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.). 

That’s as many as 10 potentially vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2024, versus just maybe two for Republicans — Sens. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas (but neither are in states where Democrats feel like they have the upper hand). 

The good news for Democrats is that this is arguably their strongest set of candidates. Stabenow first won in 2000; Brown, Casey and Tester all first won in 2006; Baldwin, Kaine and Manchin first won in 2012; and Sinema and Rosen first won in 2018 — as Brown, Manchin and Tester all held on in their red states. 

In fact, it’s why there’s only two possible Senate pick-up opportunities for Democrats in 2024 — they did so well in 2006, 2012 and 2018 (given that challenging map), there’s little room more growth.  

Yet it also means that none of these Democrats has ever run in a bad cycle for the party. 

To win — especially for Brown, Manchin and Tester — they’ll have to outperform their presidential nominee. 

In 2012, Manchin ran 25 points ahead of Obama; Tester ran 7 points ahead of him; and Brown got exactly the same vote share. 

And that was during a much less politically polarized time. 

Headline of the day: Convicted

Data Download: The number of the day is … 61

That’s how many senators voted to pass federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage on Tuesday, sending the bill to the House before President Joe Biden can sign it into law. 

Twelve Republicans backed the measure, along with all 49 Democrats in attendance (Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock missed the vote campaigning ahead of his runoff election in Georgia). 

The 12 GOP senators who backed the measure included three retiring senators: Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio. The group also included Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Mitt Romney of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. 

Read more from NBC News’ Sahil Kapur

Other numbers to know:

9: That’s the number of days lawmakers in Washington have to avoid a rail strike and impose a labor agreement on unions and rail companies. The House is expected to pass legislation to avert a strike today, per NBC News’ Scott Wong and Julie Tsirkin. 

5: The number of people who were injured but not shot in a Nov. 19 shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, a revision from a previous estimate that one person was injured.

11,230: The number of Twitter accounts that had been suspended under Twitter’s Covid mitigation policy, which the company is no longer enforcing.  

-26%: The difference in the rate of Black voter turnout compared to white voter turnout in 2022 in three key states — Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina — according to an analysis by the New York Times.

$53 million: The amount of money the U.S. is pledging to help rebuild Ukraine’s electrical grid, according to the New York Times.

7: The amount of gun deaths per 100,000 women last year, an increase of 71% from 2010, according to a new research paper reported by the Associated Press.

Runoff watch: Democrats dominate the airwaves

The ad-spending discrepancy in Georgia’s Senate runoff is staggering — a more than 2-to-1 advantage for Democrats, who have spent $36.5 million on TV/radio/digital ads since Election Day (per AdImpact) compared to the GOP’s 15.3 million. 

In other runoff news, former first lady Michelle Obama recorded robocalls for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign. And CNN reports on new audio of Republican Herschel Walker saying during a 2022 speech “I live in Texas” and that he made his decision to run while “I was sitting in my home in Texas.” (During a rally on Tuesday, Walker said about Georgia, “I’ve lived here my whole life,” per video from CNN.) 

And the Georgia Secretary of State’s office reports the state had a record 309,083 early voters cast ballots yesterday, breaking the record set on Monday. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that both parties are optimistic about the high turnout, with Walker’s campaign manager Scott Paradise noting that much of Monday’s high turnout came in counties that Walker carried in November. 

Eyes on 2024: More on that Trump dinner

NBC News’ Marc Caputo has the backstory on how Trump’s controversial dinner with the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes came together. 

The fallout: The dinner sparked criticism from other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who said Tuesday, “There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.” Trump responded to McConnell in an interview with Fox News, calling the Senate leader, “a loser for our nation and for the Republican Party,” and claiming he was not aware of Fuentes’ views. 

GOP primary watch: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley again signaled Tuesday that she’s considering running for president, despite saying last year that she wouldn’t run if Trump was in the race. Haley said at a Turning Point USA event, “We are taking the holidays to kind of look at what the situation is. If we decide to get into it, we’ll put 1,000% in, and we’ll finish it,” per the Associated Press.

Toomey’s take: Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told NBC10’s Lauren Mayk that he won’t support Trump for president again, calling Trump a “very, very badly flawed individual.” Toomey was one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.  

Biden’s charm offensive: The White House is ramping up its courtship of Democratic donors ahead of a potential Biden re-election campaign, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki, Peter Nicholas and Jonathan Allen report. And Nicholas writes from Bay City, Mich., that Biden “sounded every bit like a president hungering for another term” during a Tuesday speech in the battleground state focused on manufacturing. 

No regrets: Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who is up for re-election in 2024, wrote in a Washington Examiner op-ed that he has no regrets about releasing his 11-point policy plan, which drew bipartisan criticism. He also noted his unsuccessful run for GOP leader, writing, “My effort to change the way the Senate operates is not over. In fact, it is just beginning.”

West Virginia Governor: GOP state Del. Moore Capito, the son of GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, announced Tuesday that he’s running for governor. Republican Gov. Jim Justice is term limited.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Democratic House lawmakers are set to vote for a new leadership team this morning, which is expected to include Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California.

Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. On Tuesday the committee also spoke to former President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato.