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GOP will allocate a clear majority of delegates before Trump’s D.C. trial ends

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Donald Trump Accepts the Republican Presidential Nomination
Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for President at the 2016 RNC in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.Samuel Corum / Anadolu via Getty Images file

Happening this Thursday: Cease-fire in Gaza extends for another day… President Biden and first lady participate in National Christmas Tree lighting… Ron DeSantis debates Gavin Newsom at 9:00 pm ET… Vivek Ramaswamy stumps in Iowa, while Chris Christie and Doug Burgum are in New Hampshire… And Henry Kissinger dies at age 100.  

But FIRST… It’s now official: The day after former President Donald Trump’s federal election-interference trial begins in DC on March 4 — so after Super Tuesday — Republicans will have allocated nearly half of their delegates (47%) from the contests in the 2024 GOP presidential race. 

A week later, by March 12, that percentage will grow to 54%. After the primaries on March 19, it will be 69%. And after Louisiana’s primary on March 23, 71% of all delegates in the Republican race will have been allocated.  

That’s the stark delegate math the Republican National Committee’s counsel’s office sent to the different GOP presidential campaigns earlier this week, which NBC News obtained. The document lays out the party’s official primary calendar, its delegate-allocation rules, and the number of delegates it will award in each contest. 

Yet more than anything else, that delegate math underscores the political reality that a clear majority of the Republican Party’s presidential delegates will have already been allocated before that March 4 Trump trial concludes. 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: If you’re a Republican presidential candidate who wants to stop Trump, it’s got to start in Iowa on Jan. 15. 

Otherwise, Trump’s path to a majority of delegates is pretty clear — before you get to the month of April.

By the way, the RNC says the grand-total of delegates it will allocate from the 2024 primaries and caucuses is 2,429.

That means the magic number — a majority of delegates — is 1,215. 

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … $8.6 million

That’s how much SFA Fund Inc., a super PAC backing former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley in the GOP presidential contest, has spent on TV ads since the start of November. It’s more than any other candidate or entity has spent on ads this month, according to AdImpact,

SFA Fund has spent $3.2 million just in Iowa this month, the top group to spend there in November.

By contrast, Never Back Down, a super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the race, has spent $5.4 million on ads since Nov. 1, with $2.3 million of that just in Iowa. They are the second top-spender on ads in the race this month.

And MAGA Inc, the group backing former President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, has spent $3.6 million overall in the race in November, with $2.6 million of that concentrated in Iowa.

For more on ad spending in the GOP primary, check out the Meet the Press Blog.

Eyes on 2024: Biden hits the road

President Joe Biden traveled to Pueblo, Colo., on Wednesday to tout his economic agenda. And even though the trip was an official event — and not hosted by his re-election campaign — the politics were unavoidable. 

Biden took aim at GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert’s opposition to the Inflation Reduction Act, and he also name-checked former President Donald Trump and “MAGA Republicans” for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and opposing investments in education and health care programs. 

One word that didn’t come up? “Bidenomics.” NBC’s Megan Lebowitz, Ghael Fobes and Peter Nicholas found that Biden has used the term 101 times since June, but he hasn’t uttered the phrase in any speeches since Nov. 1. They write that “some Democratic strategists and Biden allies have criticized the branding.”

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Biden’s campaign is zeroing in on health care in a new TV ad, per NBC’s Monica Alba. The ad doesn’t name Trump directly, but a nurse featured in the spot says, “The last administration’s policies were so troubling.” The new ad comes as Trump has doubled down on his comments that he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, per NBC’s Sahil Kapur.

But even as Biden’s team tries to focus on health care and the economy, Vice President Kamala Harris’ appearance at the New York Times DealBook Summit underscored that the campaign continues to face questions about Biden’s electability and age

Harris dismissed polls showing Biden struggling against Trump, and said “age is more than a chronological fact.” She said of Biden, “Not only is he absolutely authoritative in rooms around the globe, but in the Oval Office.”

In other campaign news … 

Newsom vs. DeSantis: NBC’s Jonathan Allen previews Thursday night’s debate between Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis’ travel ban: Back in 2015, when he was a congressman, DeSantis proposed his own version of a travel ban to bar refugees from certain countries in the Middle East, NBC’s Natasha Korecki reports.  

Trump’s debate plans: Trump will not attend next week’s GOP debate — instead he’ll hold a private fundraiser in Florida, NBC’s Jake Traylor and Jonathan Allen report. 

State of Vivek: Entrepreneur Vivek Ramswamy’s political director has left his campaign to join the Trump team, per NBC’s Emma Barnett, Katherine Koretski and Jonathan Allen. Ramaswamy, meanwhile, has ramped up his focus on Iowa, opening his campaign’s first headquarters in the state, per Koretski and NBC’s Alex Tabet. 

Donor plea: JPMorgan CEO Jaime Dimon implored business leaders to “help” former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign, per CNBC’s Brian Schwartz.

No shark in the White House: Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban on Wednesday dismissed rumors that he plans to run for the White House in 2024. 

Weighing in: In New Hampshire on Tuesday, Haley argued that discussion of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians is “not a true conversation,” because one side has always opposed it, NBC News’ Emma Barnett, Sarah Dean and Greg Hyatt report.

Counting on abortion to defend the majority: Red-state Democrats, like Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, are hoping that the issue of abortion rights could propel them to victory in otherwise tight races next year. 

Already eying bigger wins next year: Democrats are hoping to carry their momentum from state legislative wins in Virginia earlier this month to more expansive wins in closely-contested state legislatures across the country next year.

 ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

An Arizona grand jury voted to indict two local officials who delayed the certification of midterm election results in the state last year.

In an address on the Senate floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned about repercussions if Americans don’t condemn anti-semitism

A Texas man was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to posting a threatening message online against Georgia election officials following the 2020 election.