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Democrats’ pause on same-sex marriage effort brings rewards — and one big risk

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.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 13th, 2022.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 13th, 2022.Nathan Posner / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Friday ... President Biden meets at the White House with South Africa’s president. ... A federal judge appoints a special master to review documents seized from Donald Trump’s residence. ... Almost 8,000 migrants are crossing U.S.-Mexico border daily, per NBC’s Julia Ainsley… National NYT/Siena poll finds  Democrats remaining competitive in battle for Congress. ... New poll shows how ranked choice helps Murkowski, Peltola in Alaska. ... And GOP groups blast Democrat Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire Senate.

But first: Senate Democrats could have had a wedge issue dividing Republicans on a popular issue less than two months before the midterms. 

Instead, they and GOP negotiators opted to delay a vote until after the midterms to give it a better chance of getting the 60 votes needed to advance it through the Senate and ultimately pass it.  

That’s the takeaway after Democratic and Republican negotiators — led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. — postponed a Senate vote to codify same-sex marriage.

“We’re very confident that the bill will pass, but we will need a little more time,” said Baldwin, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.

“The possibility of a stronger bipartisan vote after the election seems to me to be likely,” added Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, one of the GOP negotiators. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., disagreed with the delay. “We need to vote on equal marriage today, every single member of Congress should be willing to go on the record. And if there are Republicans who don’t want to vote on that before the election, I assume it is because they are on the wrong side of history.”

There is a real risk here for Democrats: If Republicans win the Senate in November, they could get cold feet — denying the legislation 60 votes during the lame-duck session after the midterms, and then refusing the bring up the measure when they’re in charge. 

But the practical reality is that Democrats don’t have 60 votes right now. 

And if your goal is codifying same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade — instead of putting the likes of Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on the spot right before the midterms — then delaying until after the midterms might be your only real choice. 

“We don’t have enough votes to move forward,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told NBC’s Capitol Hill team. “Sen. Baldwin has worked very, very hard on this. So has Sen. [Susan] Collins, so has Sen. [Kyrsten] Sinema… What I respect is that they are continuing to try and work to get a result.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … almost 8,000

That’s about how many migrants are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border each day, according to data obtained by NBC News that’s at the center of Julia Ainsley’s new reporting on the friction between the Biden White House and its Department of Homeland Security over immigration. 

Two U.S. officials familiar with the discussions told Ainsley DHS has floated flying migrants to the border with Canada or to other American cities to cut down on overcrowding, and the agency wants the White House to start preparing for moving migrants now instead of waiting until the number of daily crossings hits the White House’s internal trigger of 9,000 per day. 

Read more from Ainsley here

Other numbers to know:

23: The percentage-point increase between the NYT/Siena July poll and its new September poll in Democrats who say the country is on the right track. The share of independents feeling the same jumped 18 points, while the GOP mark stayed the same.

$3 million: How much Trump’s PAC has paid new attorney Chris Kise, per Politico, as he represents the former president in the Justice Department’s investigations into the Jan. 6 attack and the presence of classified information at Mar-a-Lago. 

54%: The share of likely California voters who oppose a new internet sports gambling proposition, per the Public Policy Institute of California.

75: How many days in prison a Jan. 6 defendant who was seen wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt was sentenced to after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

63%: The decline in monkeypox infections in America from the August 10 peak, per the NBC News data visualization team.

20: The number of major singles titles won by tennis superstar Roger Federer, who announced he would retire within weeks

Midterm roundup: How ranked choice helps Murkowski, Peltola in Alaska

A new AARP poll in Alaska shows just how much the state’s Top 4 primary and ranked-choice voting systems could help Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola and GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski win in November.

The poll surveyed likely Alaska voters for their ranked choices in the state’s House and Senate races before simulating a ranked-choice election. This means that whichever candidate received the least first choice votes was eliminated and their voters were reassigned to whatever candidates the voters ranked second in the survey. After all but two candidates in each race were eliminated in the survey’s simulation, Peltola held a commanding lead over former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin and Murkowski was virtually tied against her top opponent, Republican Kelly Tshibaka.

In the House race, it was a third-choice candidate’s voters who doomed Palin in the poll. After Republican Nick Begich was eliminated after the second round of voting, 30% of his voters didn’t rank a second choice and 14% ranked Peltola second, meaning Palin was denied 44% of the voters from the second-most popular Republican in the race. Peltola wins the simulation by a margin of six percentage points.

And, in the Senate race, Murkowski’s support among Democrats helped propel her to a tie. Fifty-four percent of registered Democrats polled selected Murkowski as their first choice, while only 44% selected the actual Democrat in the race, Pat Chesbro. After Chesbro was eliminated following the second round, 77% of her voters ranked Murkowski second.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Saving Arizona, a super PAC supporting Republican Blake Masters, has spent $30,000 on a “30 minute infomercial” launching Oct. 1, per AdImpact. And Sentinel Action Fund, a super PAC tied to the conservative group Heritage Action for America, placed its first ad spending in Arizona, reserving $1.4 million on the airwaves. The group plans to spend $5 million, Politico reported earlier this week.

Georgia Senate: A Democratic super PAC is up with a new ad that uses old footage and a book excerpt to discuss “Herschel Walker’s history of violence.” Walker, who has struggled with dissociative identity disorder, has accused opponents of stigmatizing those with mental illness. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a new deep-dive out Friday on Walker’s past violence

New Hampshire Senate: Retired Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc, who just won the GOP primary, completely reversed his position on the 2020 election, telling Fox News on Wednesday, “The election was not stolen” and that Biden is “the legitimate president,” despite previously insisting that Trump actually won the election. Meanwhile, EMILY’s List’s independent expenditure arm Women Vote launched its first statewide ad in the race focused on abortion. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman sat down with MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight, where he said that “all of my doctors on the team believes I’m absolutely fit to serve” after he suffered his stroke. 

Kansas Governor: The Republican Governors Association launched a new ad against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly featuring swimmer Riley Gains, who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. “Laura Kelly vetoed laws to protect women and girls in sports, not once, but twice,” Gains says in the ad. “If Laura Kelly can’t protect women, she shouldn’t be governor of Kansas.”

Michigan Governor: Trump announced that he’ll be holding a rally in Michigan on Oct. 1 featuring GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, as well as two election deniers running for statewide office, attorney general nominee Matthew DePerno and secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo.

Ad watch: New Hampshire general officially kicks off

Following New Hampshire’s primary election earlier this week, Republican launched new attacks against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. Two new ads by Republican groups aligned with Senate leadership were released this week, attacking Hassan over inflation and her tendency to vote in line with President Biden.

One of these ads was funded by Senate Leadership Fund, a group linked to Senate GOP leadership, and attacked Hassan for her closeness to Biden.

“Maggie Hassan claims she’s independent … she’s trying to trick you, because Hassan votes with Joe Biden over 96% of the time,” a narrator in SLF’s ad says.

The Senate GOP’s campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, dropped an ad featuring a New Hampshire mother who claimed she couldn’t vote for Hassan amid rising inflation.

Immediately following the state’s primary, it wasn’t clear whether outside groups would spend significant amounts to support their new nominee, but both groups seem to be coalescing around Hassan’s official Republican opponent, retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc, at least for now. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world 

Central American migrants are caught in the middle as some governors with 2024 presidential ambitions clash over the bussing and flying migrants to other states, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo report.

President Biden is set to meet with the families of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan amid efforts to push for the release of both Americans from detention in Russia.

The FBI arrested a Massachusetts woman for allegedly making a false bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital last month. The hospital has been targeted for providing care to transgender minors.