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First abortion ballot test after Roe’s fall takes place in Kansas

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.
Savannah Stalker listens to a speaker outside the Kansas Statehouse during a rally to protest the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion, on June 24, 2022, in Topeka, Kan.Charlie Riedel / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... President Biden meets virtually with Democratic governors to discuss abortion after the overturn of Roe. ... White House, Democrats reel after a month of brutal other Supreme Court rulings against the party. ... NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard wraps up Thursday night’s debate between Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and primary challenger Harriett Hageman. ... New TV ad goes after Mehmet Oz on abortion in Pennsylvania Senate. ... And we’ll be back the week after July 4.  

But first: Next month, the nation will see its first direct ballot test on abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. 

In Kansas. 

On Aug. 2, voters in the state will decide the fate of an amendment to the state constitution declaring that a right to an abortion doesn’t exist in Kansas. 

Some important context: In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution protected a right to an abortion. But after the GOP’s political gains in the state following the 2020 election, the legislature cleared the two-thirds vote needed to put the amendment on the ballot. 

Importantly, the amendment doesn’t ban abortion in the state — or place restrictions on it — but it does pave the way to allow the GOP-controlled legislature to pass them if the amendment is approved. 

The state’s governor, Laura Kelly, is a Democrat, but she’s also up for re-election in November. 

Proponents of the constitutional amendment — who want Kansans to vote “yes” — argue that the 2019 state Supreme Court ruling has led to an increase of abortions in the state, and that the legislature should have the power to regulate and restrict the practice. 

“Kansas has become an abortion destination,” goes one TV ad by the main group pushing for the amendment. “Because of a radical court decision, out of state residents are coming to Kansas to have abortions in record numbers.”

Opponents — who want “no” — say the amendment could lead to banning most or all abortions in the state. “It’s a government mandate that could ban all abortions with no exceptions, even rape and incest,” goes an ad from the main organization opposing the amendment. “It’s dangerous and ties the hands of doctors in Kansas.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $9.2 million

That’s how much ad spending is booked in Wisconsin’s Senate race this month, more than any race in the country over that time period. 

The primary may still be a month away, but the vast majority of the spending is aimed at the general election — $4.2 million from the GOP and $4.3 million from the Democrats. 

The only candidate right now with significant ad time booked in July is Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, but expect there to be more as Democrats near the final stretch. 

Read more about the races drawing the most ad spending this month on the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know:

7: The number of Democratic governors who will join Biden for a virtual meeting on abortion today, NBC News’ Mike Memoli reports. Attendees include Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Kathy Hochul of New York, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gavin Newsom of California, Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington.

75%: The share of the vote won by the average House Republican in a primary, per a Politico analysis. Republicans who voted for the independent Jan. 6 commission averaged a lower primary vote share with 62%. 

38%: The share of adults who said they are “extremely proud” to be Americans, the lowest since Gallup first started asking the question in 2001.

2: The number of states, Florida and Kentucky, where courts Thursday temporarily blocked new abortion limitations that had been slated to go into effect if the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.  

48%: The share of adults in a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll who said Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Midterm roundup: Cheney, Hageman clash in debate

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., faced off against her primary challenger, Harriet Hageman, as well as three other candidates on the debate stage Thursday night, NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard reports.

Cheney to Hageman: “I’d be interested to know whether or not my opponent Ms. Hageman is willing to say here tonight that the election was not stolen. She knows it wasn’t stolen. I think that she can’t say that it wasn’t stolen because she’s completely beholden to Donald Trump.”

Hageman deflected a question about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying the only time “the J six situation” comes up when she talks to voters “is when people talk about how unfair this entire committee is. They’re terribly concerned about the lack of due process.”

Hageman said there are “serious questions.” about the 2020 election. The Wyoming primary is set for Aug. 16.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Missouri Senate: Show Me Values PAC, the PAC that’s spending against former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, has booked another $1.6 million in TV time over the next two weeks. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Republican Mehmet Oz has struggled in recent public polling following a brutal primary, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. 

Maryland Governor: The Democratic Governors Association is running a new ad in Maryland, highlighting state Rep. Dan Cox’s bid for governor. It appears to be another attempt by the national group to push Republican primary voters to nominate a right-wing candidate with less appeal to the general electorate, rather than a moderate Republican like former Commerce Secretary Kelly Schultz. 

Michigan Governor: The New York Times reports that “none of the 5 GOP gov [candidates] voiced support for same-sex marriage” when asked if the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion should open the door for other reversals. 

Texas Governor: GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign has spent nearly $20 million on early ad reservations in his race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Tribune reports. 

Michigan-07: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin is going up with $84,000 on television in her first TV buy. 

New York-12: Democrat Suraj Patel is up with his first ad featuring the candidate (who is running against two Democratic incumbents) calling for a new direction for the Democratic Party. 

Rhode Island-02: Retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin named his preferred successor, endorsing state Treasurer Seth Magazinerahead of the state’s Sept. 13 primary, per the Boston Globe.

Ad watch: 'Just too extreme'

In Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood’s super PAC is telling voters the Republican nominee for Senate, Mehmet Oz, is “just too extreme,” for the state, citing his views on abortion in a new ad. 

“Mehmet Oz: taking away control over personal health decisions. He’s just too extreme for Pennsylvania,” the ad’s narrator says, after showing a clip of Oz at a primary debate where he tells the moderator, “I am pro-life.” 

So far, the group has spent just over $250,000 running ads in this race, but they’ve also booked over $2.7 million worth of future spending. That could change, but it’s likely Oz will face more heat about his view on abortion before November’s general election. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world 

Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice Thursday, becoming the first Black woman to serve on the court. 

The Supreme Court will hear a case of GOP legislators in North Carolina questioning whether state legislatures, instead of courts, have the final say on running federal elections in the state. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence is back in the spotlight amid the Jan. 6 committee hearings. But can he thread the needle between his newfound goodwill and frustration from Trump-world into a presidential bid? 

Heads up: Our newsletter will be off all of next week; we’ll be back July 11. Have a great July 4th.