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With DeSantis and key primaries, Florida returns to political spotlight Tuesday

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.
Image: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Holds News Conference In Fort Lauderdale
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference held at the Broward County Courthouse on Aug. 18, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... A Judge says he’s inclined to unseal parts of Mar-a-Lago search affidavit. ...Fox News polls show Democrats up in Arizona Senate and Wisconsin Senate. ... Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell admits GOP might not flip the Senate, citing candidate quality. ... NBC’s Antonia Hylton interviews Democrat Cheri Beasley in North Carolina Senate. ... And 73% of second year college Democrats don’t want Biden to run in 2024, poll finds

But first:  It’s Florida, Florida, Florida — well, at least for next week. 

The Sunshine State has dropped from the top spot of America’s most consequential battleground states, due in large part to the GOP’s continued statewide success in the state since Barack Obama’s victory there in 2012. 

But Florida returns to the spotlight when it and New York hold primaries on Tuesday. 

You have Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — along with his 2024 possibilities — running for re-election. And we’ll find out which Democrat (either Charlie Crist or Nikki Fried) will take him on in November. 

So far, DeSantis has found success wading in the Trump Era waters, picking social fights that energize the Republican base, but also touting his economic stewardship during Covid (see this TV ad, for example). 

You also have Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., Senate showdown with Democrat Val Demings, though there’s not really any primary action in that race. 

And you have controversial Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., getting a primary challenge; you have several open congressional seats (due to redistricting and retirements); and you have Democrats trying to make a comeback in South Florida’s 27th District. 

One of the conundrums of Florida politics over the last 10 years is how both Republicans and Democrats have been treating it more and more like a ruby-red state when, in fact, the races there are almost always close. 

(And we have a strong feeling that both the state's gubernatorial and senate races will be within 5 points in November.)

The other thing to watch: Do national Democrats — and especially the folks over at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — begin paying more attention to Florida’s gubernatorial race in the fall, given the potential 2024 implications?  

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $28 million

That’s how much the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund is booking in TV and radio ad time for the fall to help boost Republican author J.D. Vance in Ohio’s Senate race. 

It’s a signal the calvary is coming to help Vance, who made it through his primary thanks to the help of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump and major financial backing from venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

But since then, he’s been outspent by an overwhelming figure — Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has spent $18.6 million on ads since the primary, compared to just $382,000 from Vance and another $1.6 million spent on coordinated ads from Vance and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The combined Democratic effort has regularly hit $700,000 or more a week, while the combined GOP spend didn’t eclipse $20,000 per week until August. 

Read more about the ad spend and dynamics in the race in this story from NBC News’ Henry Gomez

Other numbers to know: 

65%: The share of South Dakota registered voters in a new South Dakota News Watch poll who said they backed a statewide referendum on abortion access. 

73%: The percentage of second-year college Democrats who say they don’t think Biden should run for president again in 2024. 

20: Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced Thursday that the state is arresting 20 ex-felons for voter fraud as part of an investigation from the new Office of Election Crimes and Security.

5.9%: The decline in home sales in July, per the National Association of Realtors.

3: The number of men charged in the death of infamous mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger while he was incarcerated in West Virginia. 

108,214: The average of daily new Covid cases, per NBC’s data visualization team

543: The average of daily Covid deaths, per NBC.

Midterm roundup: Tar Heel tussle

North Carolina has been an elusive state for Senate Democrats in recent election cycles, but Democrat Cheri Beasley says she’s taking a different approach to the campaign trail. She told NBC News’ Antonia Hylton that she’s planning to focus on rural parts of the state as well as Democratic strongholds in urban centers. 

“No one should feel discounted, no one should feel a sense of disengagement,” Beasley told Hylton after a recent event with rural voters.

Beasley has been distancing herself from leaders in Washington. Her latest TV ad features voters who say, “The same old politicians aren’t working. Something needs to change.” 

Her GOP opponent, Rep. Ted Budd, recently launched a joint TV ad with the NRSC where he focuses on inflation and the cost of groceries. He doesn’t mention Beasley by name and instead says President Joe “Biden’s reckless spending gave us record inflation.”

Read more about Hylton’s interview with Beasley on the Meet the Press Blog.  

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly leads Republican Blake Masters 50% to 42% in a new Fox News poll, with Kelly winning the typically more conservative constituencies of older and rural voters. 

Nevada Senate: Republican Adam Laxalt is hitting the airwaves with a joint ad buy with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, reserving $95,000 on the airwaves for a buy starting next week, per AdImpact. 

Oklahoma Senate: Roll Call speaks with former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn about her attempt for a comeback bid for Senate in Oklahoma

Pennsylvania Senate: The NRSC and Republican Mehmet Oz are teaming up on a new TV ad attacking Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as a “radical socialist.”

Wisconsin Senate: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is up with a new ad criticizing Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes by linking him to the Democratic House members who call themselves “The Squad.” Meanwhile, a new Fox News poll found Barnes with a 4 point lead over Johnson, 50% to 46%. 

Texas Governor: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott booked $2.4 million in ads for the next month, per AdImpact. Democrat Beto O’Rourke also placed his first broadcast spending, reserving just $46,000 on the airwaves so far. 

New York-10: Nuestro PAC is spending $500,000 on new TV and digital ads in English and Spanish to boost New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera

New York-23: Controversial Republican Carl Paladino, who is running in the open seat with GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik’s endorsement, said in a recent radio interview that Attorney General Merrick Garland “probably should be executed,” later adding that he was “just being facetious.”

Ad watch: Evers goes negative

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is out with three news ads this week, blasting his opponent, Republican Tim Michels, and calling him a “divisive radical.”

The first ad highlights Michels’ position on abortion, including a clip where Michels agrees he wouldn’t provide exceptions for rape and incest. The second ad highlights Michels’ plan to cut education funding. It includes a clip of Michels telling viewers, “We’re already throwing so much money at education.” A third ad highlights Michels’ position on guns, alleging that he wants to allow teenagers to buy assault rifles.

“Is that the kind of divisive radical you want as your governor?,” the narrator asks at the end of all three ads. 

These are Evers’ first attack ads against Michels since the Aug. 9 primary, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Before that, Evers spent millions on the airwaves on largely positive spots, highlighting his work during the pandemic of helping small businesses and boosting education.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

A Florida federal judge ordered the Justice Department to redact parts of the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit, saying he’s inclined to unseal parts of it.

Former Trump Organization top official Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple tax fraud charges in a case involving the organization.