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Election denialism again spurs political violence, this time in N.M.

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.
Solomon Pena, center, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken into custody by Albuquerque Police officers, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in southwest Albuquerque, N.M.
Solomon Pena, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken into custody by Albuquerque Police officers on Jan. 16.Roberto E. Rosales / The Albuquerque Journal via AP

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Thursday ... The U.S. reaches debt limit, setting up congressional showdown later this summer. ... 62% of voters believe  Biden acted inappropriately in handling classified documents after leaving Obama White House, Quinnipiac poll finds. ... Biden heads to California to inspect storm-damaged areas. ... Donald Trump prepares  for return to Twitter and Facebook, NBC’s Marc Caputo and Jon Allen write. ... And New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announces she’s stepping down and won’t seek re-election.

But first: There was Jan. 6. Then Brazil. There was even that attack on Paul Pelosi — by a man immersed in 2020 conspiracies. 

And now comes the latest instance of election denialism leading to political violence.

“A failed candidate for the New Mexico state House described by police as an ‘election denier’ was arrested Monday in a string of shootings at the homes of state and local Democratic leaders,” NBC News reported earlier this week

“Republican Solomon Pena is accused of conspiring with and paying four men to carry out shootings at the Albuquerque-area homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators, Albuquerque police said. No one was hurt in the shootings.”

New Mexico GOP leaders have condemned Pena and say he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Yet ever since the brief moment of togetherness after the Jan. 6 attacks, Republicans across the country haven’t accepted the premise that election denialism is a danger — not just to the future of American democracy, but also as this type of violence continues. 

They condemn the incident and the individual who was arrested.

But they haven’t condemned the underlying cause.

Headline of the day: U.S reaches debt limit

Data Download: The number of the day is … 62%

That’s the share of registered voters in a new Quinnipiac University national poll who believe “President Biden acted inappropriately in how he handled classified documents” after serving as the vice president. The partisan split is clear — 85% of GOP voters, 64% of independents and 36% of Democrats said Biden acted inappropriately. 

Only 21% of registered voters in total said his actions were appropriate. 

Forty-one percent called his handling of classified documents “very serious,” 32% called it “somewhat serious” and 22% said it was either not too serious or not serious at all. 

Read more about the poll on the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know:

3: The total number of Black governors elected in U.S. history, which rose as Maryland Gov. Wes Moore was sworn in on Wednesday in Annapolis as the state’s first Black governor. 

17: The number of states with a Democratic trifecta in state government, per the New York Times, a statistic that has come into larger focus as many state legislatures began their sessions this month. 

2: The number of times the Supreme Court declined to block a New York gun law this month.

10: The number of New York state senators on the body’s Judiciary Committee who voted against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nomination for the state’s highest court. 

More than 600: The number of points the Dow Industrial Average dropped on Wednesday amid fears of an oncoming recession. 

Up to 3,000: The estimated number of foreign fighters that have come to Ukraine to help fight the country’s war against Russia, the Washington Post reports.

$2.6 million: The amount that a Saudi Arabian businessman paid for a special ticket to watch soccer stars Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo compete against each other at an upcoming match.

Eyes on 2024: Potential Senate candidates weigh their options

Just three weeks into the 2024 election cycle, the list of candidates moving toward potential Senate runs continues to grow.

In Arizona, where independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has not yet said if she’s running for re-election, the Washington Post reports that the list of potential GOP candidates includes Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor last year and Blake Masters, who lost last year’s Senate race. 

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb and Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost the GOP primary to Lake last year, are also weighing runs for Senate. The Post reports that former GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is not likely to run, citing a person familiar with his thinking. 

The Post also dives into the Michigan Senate race, where multiple Democratic women are weighing runs to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Rep. Elissa Slotkin “ is moving swiftly toward a run,” per the Post, while Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is also considering a run (though she previously told Meet the Press NOW that she was focused on this election cycle “not as a candidate,” but as an election administrator.)

And in Indiana, Politico reports that former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels “appears increasingly poised” to jump into the Indiana Senate race, which could set up a brutal primary for the open seat.

In other campaign news:

Biden his time: President Joe Biden won’t announce another run for the White House before his State of the Union address on Feb. 7, NBC News’ Mike Memoli reports.

Trump pokes Facebook: NBC News’ Marc Caputo and Jonathan Allen report that former President Donald Trump’s campaign wrote a letter to Meta to ask the company to reinstate him, after two years of being banned from Facebook in the wake of the 2021 attack on the Capitol. 

Pence puts out policy papers: Former Vice President Mike Pence’s organization put out a list of legislation he supports, including a suite of bills that restrict abortion access and funding, as well as repealing the prohibition on religious groups endorsing or opposing politicians.

Stein jumps in: Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein jumped into the North Carolina governor’s race on Wednesday, using his announcement to criticize a GOP official who has not yet announced his own campaign.

Inside the Bayou baseball: The Louisiana state GOP’s chairman warned GOP Rep. Garret Graves not to run for governor, reports, as the state party has backed Attorney General Jeff Landry. Graves didn’t comment on the letter when asked by IlluminatorLA, adding that he did not know if he would run for governor.  

FEC sides with Google over GOP: The Federal Election Commission ruled against a GOP complaint that claimed Google’s spam filter amounted to an unreported campaign contribution to Democrats, the Wall Street Journal reports

Dolan out the cash: Ohio Republican Matt Dolan, who spent almost $11 million on his Senate bid last cycle and whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, says he will use some of his personal wealth again. He also didn’t rule out the idea of endorsing Trump’s presidential bid, but said the party should look forward and not be “running a campaign of grievances,” per Spectrum News 1

Boy meets campaign: Actor Ben Savage, who starred in the 1990s sitcom “Boy Meets World” appears to be running for Congress, according to Deadline, in the district currently represented by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who might be eying a bid for Senate. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Florida GOP Rep. Greg Steube “sustained several injuries” after “an accident on his property” Wednesday afternoon. The details of the accident are still unclear. 

Derek Chauvin, a former police officer convicted for killing George Floyd, is asking an appeals court to throw out his conviction, citing alleged legal and procedural errors.

Opening arguments began on Wednesday in a trial between Tesla and the company’s own shareholders, who allege CEO Elon Musk misled them in a tweet about funding, costing investors money.