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Out of hundreds, here are 25 consequential midterm races to follow 

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.
Image: Herschel Walker
Herschel Walker campaigns in Emerson, Ga., on Sept. 7, 2021.Bill Barrow / AP file

WASHINGTON —  If it’s MONDAY… Hurricane Ian barrels toward Cuba and Florida. ... The Biden White House warns Russia of “catastrophic consequences” if it goes down “dark road of nuclear weapons use.” ... President Biden welcomes 2021 World Series champs Atlanta Braves to the White House and then discusses his competition agenda. ... NBC’s Andrew Davis and Dasha Burns report on canvassers searching for voter fraud. ... And it’s 43 days until the 2022 midterms.

But first: With the midterms now just six weeks away, we’re introducing what we consider to be the most consequential Senate, House and gubernatorial contests in the country.

They will help determine which party controls the House and Senate, how key states handle abortion access after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and which party has a leg up on 2024 in the most important battleground states. 

Meet the 25 races that matter. 

Nine Senate races: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

Because Senate control is hanging by just a single seat, we’re listing nine Senate races as being consequential in determining which party holds the majority next year.  

Republicans’ path to Senate control remains simple: hold on to their seats in Pennsylvania (where Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is retiring) and Wisconsin (where Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is running for re-election) — and flip one of the Toss Up/Lean D states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada or New Hampshire. Or, if they lose Pennsylvania, they need to flip two of those Democratic-held seats. 

But Democrats’ path to keeping their majority is equally simple: 1) have all of their incumbents win re-election; 2) flip one GOP seat (Pennsylvania, for example) if one of their incumbents loses; or 3) flip two GOP seats (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) if two Democratic incumbents lose. 

Eight gubernatorial races: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

Seven of these are in the most important battleground states, and Republicans are running election-denying nominees in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (They’re also running election-denying nominees for secretary of state in Arizona, Michigan and Nevada.)

Abortion also is an important storyline in some of these contests, with abortion access and legality in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin largely coming down to which party wins these governors’ mansions. 

Eight House races: The GOP pick-up opportunities in Colorado-08 (new seat), Minnesota-02 (Craig), Nevada-03 (Lee), Pennsylvania-08 (Cartwright) and Virginia-02 (Luria), and the Democrats pick-up opportunities in California-22 (Valadao), North Carolina-13 (open) and Nebraska-02 (Bacon)

Republicans need a net pickup of just five House seats to win control of the U.S. House — the fewest number of seats the out-of-power party has needed since 1932.

But after Roe’s fall, Democrats now see a path — though it’s incredibly narrow — to keep their House majority.

These eight races are your majority-makers: If Democrats run the table here (or come close), then they have a shot at keeping their majority. If not, they don’t. 

There will be hundreds of races to watch on Election Night. But if you want to know which party controls the House, Senate and the most important governors’ mansions, you only need to focus on these 25 contests. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 83

That’s how many of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees have been confirmed by the Senate, putting Biden ahead of Trump’s confirmations at this point in his presidency, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports.

Trump saw a total of 231 judges confirmed during his time in office, the highest number for a first-term president in decades. And Kapur reports that the fate of Biden’s future judicial picks depends on whether Democrats hold onto the Senate in November. 

“I made clear confirming more of President Biden’s judicial nominees would be a top priority for Senate Democrats, and we’re making good on our promise,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schuer told reporters, per Kapur. “We’ve come a very long way but there’s much work left to be done.”

Other numbers to know:

11: The number of states that have seen groups launch door-knocking programs in search of election fraud, per NBC News’ Andrew Davis and Dasha Burns.

$15 million: How much the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA plans to spend on efforts to fight voter suppression and boost turnout among people of color, per NBC News’ Adam Edelman. 

39%: President Biden’s approval rating in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

1 percentage point: The GOP’s advantage on the congressional ballot in that same poll, with 47% backing Republicans and 46% backing Democrats. 

60%: How much digital fundraising dropped for Democratic Rep. Val Demings in the nine days after Queen Elizabeth’s death, which became the focus of cable news and caused a broader drop in donations, per the New York Times.

Midterm roundup: There’s no place like home

An abortion rights victory in Kansas earlier this year sent shockwaves through the political world as an early sign that abortion could be a top motivating issue in the midterms. But Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly isn’t focusing on the issue in her campaign, NBC News’ Adam Edelman reports. 

Kelly and aligned outside groups have so far avoided the issue as they’ve outspent state Attorney General Derek Schmidt on the airwaves. That’s because Kelly, the only Democrat up for re-election in a state former President Donald Trump won in 2020, needs support from Republicans who may take more conservative positions on abortion if she wants to win. 

But not every Kansas Democrat is avoiding abortion. Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, who is in a competitive race in the 3rd District, launched a new TV ad targeting Republican Amanda Adkins on abortion, per NBC News’ Allan Smith. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Indiana Senate: GOP Rep. Victoria Spartz is eyeing a run for Senate in 2024 if GOP Sen. Mike Braun runs for governor, Politico reports.

Iowa Senate: Iowa Democrat Mike Franken denied that he tried to kiss his former campaign manager, telling Politico, “I am an active supporter of any effort to uncover and disclose assaults of any matter. But this one didn’t happen.” 

North Carolina Senate: Former President Donald Trump traveled to North Carolina Friday night for a rally boosting his preferred candidates, including GOP Senate hopeful Ted Budd, who told the crowd, “I think I can speak for all of us here: we are glad to have Donald J. Trump back in North Carolina!,” per NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard. Trump also closed his rally with a song tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which comes as Trump has appeared to reference the theory on his social media platform.  

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s clemency efforts have become a new focus of Republican Mehmet Oz’s attacks, NBC News’ Henry Gomez reports. Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Fetterman held his first campaign rally in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Arizona Governor: Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said she would do “everything I can to make sure that Kari Lake is not elected.” The Arizona Republic reported that Lake’s opponent, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, failed to report the income she earned as an Uber driver while serving in the state Senate.

Maine Governor: Former GOP Gov. Paul LePage and his wife “received property tax breaks reserved for permanent Florida residents” from 2009-2015, which included some of his term as governor, and since 2018, the New York Times reports.

Michigan Governor: Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon joked about the 2020 kidnapping plot against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying Friday: “For someone so worried about getting kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage and holding it for ransom.”

Michigan-07: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Republican Tom Barrett faced off in a debate Sunday, where they sparred over the economy and abortion rights, per the Detroit News. During the debate, Barrett questioned Slotkin’s residence, following a Detroit News report that she is leasing a condo from a business executive who is also a campaign donor.

Ad watch: Georgia groups spend big

The Georgians First Leadership Committee, a group affiliated with GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign, is out with a new ad alleging that Stacey Abrams is a celebrity “bankrolled by liberal elites.”

“A perfect governor for liberal elites, just not hard-working Georgians,” the ad’s narrator says at the end of the ad.

Abrams, a Democrat, and Kemp, a Republican, each have a “leadership committee,” affiliated with their campaign that’s allowed to raise unlimited contributions. Since the state’s May 24 primary, the two leadership committees have been the top spenders on the airwaves in this race. Kemp’s Georgians First has spent over $11 million on TV ads, while Abrams’ One Georgia has spent over $17 million, according to AdImpact.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy rolled out a new Republican party platform, dubbed the “Commitment to America,” on Friday, just weeks ahead of the midterms.

Abortion clinics across Arizona stopped providing the procedure after a judge ruled the state could enforce a near-total abortion ban.