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Joe Biden’s bad week: Rough polls, bad breaks and an awkward meeting

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: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden participates a virtual summit with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the leaders of India and the United Arab Emirates, on July 14, 2022.Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... President Biden heads to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. ... Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says no to climate and tax provisions in Biden agenda bill. ... NBC News confirms the Secret Service erased agents’ text messages on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021. ... Democrat Donna Edwards is getting outspent 7-to-1 in Maryland-04. ... Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, unloads on GOP opponent J.R. Majewski in Ohio 09. ... And John Fetterman trolls Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania Senate- — with Snooki. 

But first: President Joe Biden has had some rough weeks lately, but this one especially stands out.  

On Monday, a New York Times/Siena poll showed nearly two-thirds of Democratic primary voters wanting someone else other than Biden for 2024. 

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed inflation had grown by 9.1% over the past year.

On Thursday morning, another poll — via CNBC — found Biden’s job rating falling to 36% and his economic handling dropping to 30%, both numbers lower than either Barack Obama or Donald Trump ever had in CNBC/NBC polling. 

On Thursday evening, Joe Manchin pulled the plug on any climate and tax provisions on Biden’s agenda bill (though he left open the door for drug pricing and Obamacare funding). 

And today, Biden meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — something he didn’t want to have to do. 

“Pulling off the visit was a ‘herculean effort,’ as an official described it, after the Saudis demanded nothing short of personal presidential attention to make amends for Biden’s having maligned the kingdom’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi,” NBC’s Carol E. Lee, Courtney Kube and Andrea Mitchell report

“‘It took several months before the president was totally on board,’ said a senior administration official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations,” Lee, Kube and Mitchell add. 

Ironically, this rough week for Biden comes amid what’s been a great month for Democratic candidates, especially on the Senate side. 

Generic ballots are up for Dems. Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz are struggling in the polls and on the trail. Roe vs. Wade’s overturn has energized Democratic voters. 

With three-plus months before the midterms, maybe the most important storyline is whether Democratic candidates keep outperforming Biden.

Or whether they revert back to the norm of a president’s standing and the overall midterm fundamentals. 

Tweet of the day

 Data Download: The number of the day is … 7-to-1

That’s the ad spending advantage Maryland Democrat Glenn Ivey and his allies have over primary rival Donna Edwards, the former Democratic congresswoman, and her allies — all ahead of next week’s Maryland 4th Congressional District primary.

The pro-Ivey spending is largely been shouldered by the United Democracy Project, a super PAC aligned with and partially fundedby the pro-Israel group AIPAC, with an assist from the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. UDP has spent weeks blanketing the district with ads hammering Edwards by calling her first stint in Congress unproductive and antagonistic. The progressive pro-Israel group J Street has tried to help Edwards fight back, with a spot criticizing UDP for having some high-profile GOP donors and touting Edwards’ support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But the pro-Edwards team has been massively outspent on the airwaves by Ivey’s side, $876,000 to $6.7 million. 

It’s the latest Democratic primary upended by massive AIPAC spending — read more in today’s New York Times about the race and the bigger picture. 

Other numbers to know:

73: How old Ivana Trump — former President Donald Trump’s first wife and the mother of Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — was when she passed away Thursday.

$7.5 million: How much Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s campaign says she raised during the second fundraising quarter

$7 million: How much Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign says he raised during the second fundraising quarter

$2.3 million: that’s how much Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance’s campaign says he raised (across his campaign and affiliated committees) in the second quarter. His Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan, previously said he raised $9.1 million over that same period.

Midterm roundup: GOP Super PAC raising big bucks

The GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, the party’s top super PAC in the race for the Senate, tells NBC News it raised $37.6 million in the second fundraising quarter (including a $17 million transfer from its affiliated non-profit), enough to push the group’s cash reserves over $100 million for the second half of 2022.

The massive war chest is about $9 million ahead of the group’s pace at this point in the 2020 cycle, and it comes as Senate Democratic candidates have been announcing massive second-quarter fundraising hauls.

Steven Law, the group’s president, told NBC News in a statement that “these resources will help us level the playing field against well-funded Democrat opponents.” But he went on to address the stakes of Republicans flipping the Senate in the fall, not just providing a check on the Biden administration on issues like the economy, but that a GOP Senate “gives Republicans leverage in any future Supreme Court battles.

Read more on the MTP Blog

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: 

Pennsylvania Senate: Snooki of the 2010s reality show “Jersey Shore” stars in a new video from Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign needling Republican Mehmet Oz over carpetbagging allegations. Oz’s response: a tweet pointing at the story of Fetterman pointing a gun at a Black jogger years ago after hearing gunshots. 

Washington Senate: Republican Senate hopeful Tiffany Smiley is out with two new ads, one featuring her husband, an Iraq War veteran who lost his eyesight in a suicide bombing there, and another spot that plays up her biography. Both spots also take aim at the economy and inflation.  

Florida Governor: A Las Vegas space entrepreneur cut Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a $10 million check for his re-election. 

Michigan Governor: A progressive group is trying to remove Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ryan Kelly from the ballot over his arrest for his alleged actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Florida-10: The Hill reports that Rev. Jesse Jackson is backing gun control activist Maxwell Frost’s congressional bid. 

Washington-04: A new ad from Washington Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse attacks his Trump-backed GOP rival, Loren Culp, as a “failed politician” who is “only in politics to make money.” 

Ad watch: Kaptur goes there vs. Majewski

Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur is going right at her opponent, Republican J.R. Majewski, in a new spot centered on his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 rally outside the Capitol surrounding the attack there. 

The new ad includes a photo of Majewski laid on top of footage from the attack on the Capitol, connecting him to the attack, and uses audio from an interview in the days after to accuse him of criticizing police. 

“We need leaders who support law enforcement, not dangerous extremists who don’t respect the law,” the ad’s narrator says. 

Majewski was photographed with rallygoers that day but hasn’t been charged with any crime and denies he did anything wrong. He’s threatened to sue Kaptur over her characterization of his actions that day (Kaptur’s campaign has repeatedly pointed to comments he and allies made in the days after the attack to question Majewski’s position).

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Sources tell NBC News that months of intense lobbying by Biden’s team persuaded the president to go to Saudi Arabia.

Texas sues Biden administration over requiring abortions in medical emergencies.