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DeSantis loses momentum before his campaign has even started

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.   
Ron DeSantis during the New Hampshire GOP's Amos Tuck Dinner in Manchester, N.H.
Ron DeSantis during the New Hampshire GOP's Amos Tuck Dinner in Manchester, N.H., on April 14, 2023. Scott Eisen / Getty Images

If it’s TUESDAY… President Biden, after his trip to Ireland, delivers remarks about child care at 2:00 pm ET… NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard interviews Asa Hutchinson, the one 2024 GOP presidential candidate willing to take on Trump directly… Senate Republicans reject Feinstein committee swap, NBC’s Sahil Kapur and Frank Thorp report… Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., sets up legal defense fund around criminal probe… And Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., announces bid for re-election.

But FIRST... Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who travels to DC today to attend a policy discussion with a handful of GOP congressmen, has had a rough last month.

All before he even officially launches his expected presidential campaign.

On Monday, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., endorsed Donald Trump over his home state’s governor — after DeSantis’ team had made a concerted effort to prevent Steube and other members of Florida’s GOP congressional delegation from endorsing the former president.

Last week, he signed Florida’s six-week abortion ban into law in private and didn’t mention the ban in his speech at Liberty University — suggesting the law could be a potential general-election liability.

And yesterday, he lashed out at Disney after the corporation’s legal end-run around earlier legislation the governor had signed punishing the theme-park giant — saying he might even build a state prison next to Disney World.

“People have said maybe create a state park, try to do more amusement parks. Someone said another state prison. Who knows?” DeSantis said, per NBC’s Matt Dixon. “The possibilities are endless.”

Make no mistake: There’s plenty of time for DeSantis to turn things around. After all, we remember Barack Obama’s rough spring and summer of 2007.

But DeSantis has definitely lost momentum — in the national polls and in perception.

Before his campaign has even begun.

Quote of the day: Meet the one GOPer willing to take on Trump“Donald Trump has taken us back to bitterness. He’s taken us back to you know what, a personal vendetta. Whenever you look at what he wants to do as president, it’s more about getting even with his political enemies than leading our country, and that concerns me.”

— Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, to NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard. 

Data Download: The number of the day is ... $5.9 million

That’s how much the average Senate Democrat facing a competitive race, per the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, had in his or her campaign account at the end of the first fundraising quarter. On average, a vulnerable Senate Democrat raised $2.3 million in the first three months of the year, per campaign finance reports filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission.  

The six Democrats — including Montana’s Jon Tester, Nevada’s Jacky Rosen, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — raised a combined $14 million during the first three months of the year, and had a combined $35.7 million on hand as of March 31.

West Virginia’s Joe Manchin is the only one of the group of Democrats who has not yet said if he’s running for re-election. That could explain his relatively small fundraising haul — he raised just $371,000. But Manchin’s campaign had more money in its account than any of the other vulnerable senators, ending the quarter with $9.7 million.

The size of the Democratic hauls is even more important this cycle, as the map largely forces them to play defense, rather than offense. 

Read more on the Meet the Press Blog.

Other numbers you need to know today

22.5 years: The length of a sentence that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will continue to serve after the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld his conviction on Monday for the killing of George Floyd.

2: The number of felony counts a Missouri man faces after shooting a teenager who rang the wrong doorbell

8: The number of Ohio police officers involved in a fatal shooting of a Black man last year whom a grand jury declined to indict on Monday.

0.5%: The monthly penalty Americans can accrue on any unpaid taxes if they don’t file their taxes by the end of the day Tuesday.

185: The number of civilians who have died in Sudan amid days of fighting in the capital of Khartoum.

2: The number of Chinese nationals arrested Monday for allegedly operating an illegal police station in New York City used to surveil critics of China’s government.

More than 30: The number of bills introduced in state legislatures this year targeting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education.

Eyes on 2024: Uncertainties abound across Senate battlefield

Monday’s developments across the Senate battlefield underscore how fluid the race for Senate control is. 

Politico reports that Republicans are beginning to sweat the forthcoming primary fights between Club-for-Growth-backed candidates and the establishment — particularly in West Virginia, Ohio and Montana. 

Two quotes underscore the divide — North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis saying that “there’s a lot of work to be done on understanding the main goal is not to make a point on any one political issue, but to win,” and Club for Growth President David McIntosh declaring that “the milquetoast kind of establishment Republicans actually do worse” in elections than more conservative Republicans. 

The battle starts early in West Virginia, where the establishment-backed One Nation just booked about a month of broadcast and radio ads for $1.6 million, per AdImpact. 

In Wisconsin, Republicans may be getting an unexpected face joining their Senate primary — Rep. Tom Tiffany, who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his team bought two domain names as he considers launching a Senate bid. 

And there’s one more headline to keep an eye on amid the evolving Senate battlefield: “Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey to set up legal defense fund amid criminal probe,” from NBC News’ Jonathan Dienst, Ken Dilanian and Zoë Richards. While Menendez has beat criminal charges before, the uncertainty surrounding new potential legal issues could throw a new wrinkle into a race that wasn’t necessarily expected to be prominently on the radar next year. 

In other campaign news…

Mum’s the word: Former President Donald Trump has been quick to criticize Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but NBC News’ Natasha Korecki and Jonathan Allen write that Trump has been unusually silent on DeSantis recently signing a six-week abortion ban.  

Pondering opponents: Democrats are torn on whether they’d rather see Biden face Trump or DeSantis next year, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports. 

Trump’s court drama: A judge denied Trump’s request to delay a civil rape trial, stemming from writer E. Jean Carroll’s allegation that Trump raped her in the mid-1990s, which Trump has denied. 

Knowing RFK, Jr.: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is set to announce a run for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday, and the New York Times delves into his history of “vaccine skepticism.” 

He’s running: Embattled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., who embellished his resume and is facing multiple investigations, announced Monday that he is running for a second term

She’s running: Democrat Emily Busch announced Monday that she is running in Michigan’s 10th District against GOP Rep. John James. Busch became a gun safety advocate after her son survived the mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2021.

And so is he: Ohio Republican businessman Bernie Moreno officially announced his Senate bid Tuesday (NBC News’ Henry Gomez wrote last week about Moreno’s impending bid). 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world?

A former Fox News producer told the court in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against the network that she just found new evidence relevant in the case. Follow the latest on the trial with NBC News’ live blog.

Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt is calling for the resignation of several officials in a rural county who were caught on tape discussing violence against local reporters and making other racist remarks.

CORRECTION (April 18, 2023, 12:29 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated Emily Busch’s position. She is not a member of the Michigan state House, having lost her bid in 2022.