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The GOP took back a slim House majority, but can they manage it?

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.
Kevin McCarthy at a news conference after winning the House Speaker nomination, in Washington., on Nov. 15, 2022,
Kevin McCarthy at a news conference after winning the House Speaker nomination, in Washington., on Nov. 15, 2022, Patrick Semansky / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces she’s stepping down as leader but will remain in Congress. ... Republican Kevin McCarthy, likely the next speaker, skips Pelosi’s speech. ... President Biden delivers remarks on the economy. ... Twitter sees mass resignations and temporarily closes its offices. ... Then there were 10: Breaking down the remaining uncalled House and statewide races. ... And our morning newsletter will be off all next week, but back on Nov. 28. 

But first: Nancy Pelosi just made Kevin McCarthy’s job a lot harder. 

For one thing, by stepping down as leader but remaining in Congress, Pelosi is helping Democrats avoid a congressional vacancy that could take three or fourth months to fill via a special election.  

Remember, Republicans most likely will end up with a 221-214 or 222-213 majority once all the midterm races have been decided — which means that every single vacancy, absence or defection will matter to get a majority vote in the next Congress. 

So Pelosi staying in Congress — rather than creating a temporary vacancy — puts more pressure on McCarthy and the GOP to produce majority votes. 

Yet the other way Pelosi is making McCarthy’s job more difficult is that by exiting leadership, she will be denying the Republican leader a boogeyman he could use to twist arms to get the 218-plus votes he needs to be speaker. 

Here was McCarthy on Fox News last night: One-party Democrat rule in Washington is finished. We have fired Nancy Pelosi.”

But with Pelosi now gone — from leadership — does that kind of rhetoric still pack the punch it once did? 

Over two decades, Pelosi proved she could exert control over her caucus, even with the bare majority she had in the last Congress. 

Now we’re about to see if McCarthy can do the same.  

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 106.5

That’s how many combined years House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip James Clyburn have all served in the House amid the news that all three won’t be seeking those leadership spots in the forthcoming Congress. 

All three haven’t made any announcements about leaving Congress, but Pelosi’s Thursday announcement she wouldn’t seek a leadership spot in the 118th Congress led to the news that neither men would run for the top spot in the Democratic caucus. 

Other numbers to know:

96: How many days until the primary in a Wisconsin Supreme Court election that’s expected to draw significant spending from both sides of the aisle. 

1946: The last time a nonincumbent Pennsylvania governor won with a larger margin of victory than Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro did this month. 

4.1 million: The estimated number of young Latinos who will be eligible to vote by the 2024 election.

78%: The share of pediatric hospital beds that were full nationwide, per NBC News analysis of government data, as the Biden administration sidestepped calls from pediatric groups to declare a RSV public emergency

4: How many feet of snow could blanket Buffalo, N.Y., as a winter storm hits the area, with 11 counties in western and northwestern New York under a state of emergency..

Midterm roundup: Then were 10 … uncalled races

Although control of Congress and most battleground races have been decided, a handful of uncalled contests still remain. Here’s a look at the races where the results are still unclear, per the NBC News Decision Desk with their latest vote totals as of 7 a.m. ET:

Statewide

Alaska Governor: The governor’s race is too early to call with 81% of the expected vote in. GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy leads the pack with 51% of the vote among voters’ first choice. He’ll need to hold that share of the vote to avoid instant runoffs under the state’s ranked choice voting system (which is how the state’s Senate race will be decided). Democrat Les Gara has the next highest vote share at 24%.

Arizona-AG: This race is too close to call, with 97% of the expected vote in. Democrat Kris Mayes leads Trump-backed Republican Abraham Hamadeh by just 236 votes.

Wisconsin-Sec. State: The race between Democrat Doug LaFollette and Republican Amy Loudenback is also too close to call with 99% in. LaFollette is leading by roughly 7,600 votes.

House races

Alaska-At Large: It’s still not clear if Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola will clear the 50% threshold on voters’ first choices to avoid instant runoffs. With 81% of the vote in, she’s leading with 48% while Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich are at 26% and 24% respectively. 

California-03: Just 60% of the expected vote for this open seat race is in, and Republican Kevin Kiley is at 52% while Democrat Kermit Jones is at 48%.

California-13: Republican John Duarte is leading this open seat race against Democrat Adam Gray by just 827 votes, with 71% of the expected vote in.

California-22: With just 51% of the expected vote in, GOP Rep. David Valadao is at 53% while Democrat Rudy Salas is at 47%.

California-34: This race features two Democrats, Rep. Jimmy Gomez and David Kim, thanks to the state’s Top 2 primary system. Gomez is at 52% while Kim is at 48%, with 83% of the expected vote in.

California-47: With 91% in, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is leading Republican Scott Baugh, 52% to 48%. 

Colordao-03: GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert is leading Democrat Adam Frisch by just 551 votes, with 99% of the expected vote in.

Runoff watch: Millions hit Georgia’s airwaves

Candidates and outside groups are on track to spend over $30 million on TV ads in Georgia’s Senate runoff so far, according to AdImpact’s analysis of booked airtime from Nov. 9 through Dec. 6.

The spending is on track to be relatively even, despite the fact that in the first week of the runoff race, Democrats spent a combined over $7 million on ads, while Republicans spent just over $1 million.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., has gone on the offensive, releasing a TV ad Thursday featuring a clip of former President Donald Trump praising Republican nominee Herschel Walker and telling viewers, “Get out and vote for Herschel. And he deserves it — he was an incredible athlete. He’ll be an even better senator.”

And, other groups, like Democratic-leaning Priorities USA, are gearing up to invest on the digital side. In a release, the group said it plans to spend over $1 million on digital ads targeting minority voters. 

“Priorities will target voters who live within a one-mile radius of a polling place with information on how, when and where to vote,” the release said.

Planned Parenthood Votes is also planning to invest in digital ads supporting Warnock, adding a seven-figure investment, “to fund voter outreach and engagement in the Peach State,” per a press release from the group. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

The Jan. 6 Committee has interviewed Bobby Engel, former President Donald Trump’s lead Secret Service agent on the day of the riot at the Capitol.

As Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse plans to leave the Senate next year to accept a position as the president of the University of Florida, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is term limited, said he’s open to accepting an appointment to serve the rest of Sasse’s term, NBC News’ Allan Smith reports.

Democrats in states where the party found success in the midterms are vying to put their state first in the presidential primary lineup, NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald and Natasha Korecki report.