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With less than a month to go, both parties seek to expand 2022 Senate battleground

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.
Senate candidates Blake Masters, a Republican, and Cheri Beasley, a Democrat.
Senate candidates Blake Masters, a Republican, and Cheri Beasley, a Democrat.Getty Images; Pool via AP

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Friday ... The Jan. 6 committee votes to subpoena Donald Trump and releases new video showing congressional leaders calling for help when Capitol was being attacked. ... The Supreme Court rejects Trump request in dispute over Mar-a-Lago documents. ... NBC’s Dasha Burns interviews Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania Senate: “I don’t want any federal rules limiting what states do with abortion,” Oz says… GOP Sen. Ron Johnson and Dem Mandela Barnes clash in feisty Wisconsin Senate debate… So do Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and challenger Tudor Dixon in a Michigan Governor's debate. ... And it’s Debate Night between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate. 

But first: The 2022 Senate map is getting bigger, not smaller, with 25 days to go until Election Day.  

In North Carolina, Senate Majority PAC — the Democrats’ main Senate Super PAC — just placed another $4 million ad buy, per AdImpact (on top of $4 million it spent last week). 

And in Arizona, the Washington Post reports that conservative megadonor Peter Thiel is planning to spend as much as $5 million to help the GOP nominee he supported in the primary, Blake Masters (even as the Mitch McConnell-backed Senate Leadership Fund hasn’t committed to spend more).   

Yes, the Senate majority is likely to come down to which party can win two of these three states — Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

But the parties (or their megadonors) are trying to find more pieces on the 2022 chess board. 

One important caveat to all this: The New York Times notes — as we’ve pointed out frequently here — that Super PACs often have to pay “double, triple, quadruple and sometimes even 10 times more” than candidate ads do, because they don’t get the same discount rates. 

So these outside groups don’t get the same bang for their buck as candidates do. 

Candidate money remains the most valuable currency in American politics. And Democrats, for the most part, have more of it. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 1.4 million

That’s how many people have already voted early in the general election, according to data collected by the U.S. Elections Project.

Of the eight states with early voters that also report party registration (Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota), the data shows that Democrats make up the largest share of those early voters. A majority of those early voters — 53% — are Democrats, while 31% are Republicans and 16% do not align with either party.

Other numbers to know:

6: The number of House districts Biden carried in 2020 where national Democratic groups aren’t airing TV ads, per Politico. 

$17.35 million: That’s at least how much the Republican Governors Association gave to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political group so far this cycle, per the latest campaign finance information pulled by the Miami Herald

69: How many years it’s been since Congress subpoenaed a former president, per NBC News’ Kyle Stewart. 

8.7%: Next year’s increase in Social Security benefits due to a cost-of-living adjustment. 

5: At least how many people were killed by a teenage gunman who opened fire in a neighborhood in Raleigh, N.C.

Midterm roundup: Oz goes one-on-one with NBC News

NBC News’ Dasha Burns caught up with Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz for an interview on some of the biggest issues in the race against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.  

On his campaign’s comments about Fetterman: Confronted with his campaign’s harsh rhetoric about Fetterman’s stroke, Oz initially dodged. But when asked if he would ever talk to his patients like his campaign talks about Fetterman, he said “No.”  

On crime: When asked what he could do specifically in the Senate to stem crime, Oz pivoted to the economy and education, arguing that school choice would help improve educational opportunity and building a new liquid natural gas facility in Philadelphia that would address “the poverty and lack of wealth in our communities.” 

When pressed again on a list of issues, Oz said he didn’t support mandatory minimums because “judges should be empowered to make the difficult decisions.” He said he wants an “appropriate, harsh penalty for people especially bringing fentanyl into this country,” not closing the door on the death penalty. And he called President Biden’s recent decision to pardon thousands for simple federal marijuana possession “a rational move.” 

On abortion: Oz said he feels “very strongly the federal government should not, I’ll repeat, should not get involved in state issues around abortion” because “I understand how difficult and sensitive it is.” When asked if he’d back South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham’s 15-week abortion ban, Oz reiterated those comments, adding “I don’t want any federal rules limiting what states do with abortion.” 

On guns: Oz said he has “major concerns” about red flag laws, but added that “the national identification database that we have doesn’t get all the data into it that it needs.”

On Black Lives Matter: Asked whether he supports the Black Lives Matter movement, Oz said, “I don’t, because I think it was a hijacked effort to address some of the deep problems we have with race in America. And I don’t think the Black Lives movement did justice to the real struggle that we have.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Colorado Senate: American Policy Fund is adding another $4.6 million in ads backing Republican Joe O’Dea, per AdImpact. 

Georgia Senate: Some of Republican Herschel Walker’s Black supporters say they are standing by the candidate despite controversy because they’re more concerned about control of the Senate, NBC News’ Curtis Bunn reports. 

New Hampshire Senate: Vanity Fair reports that GOP Senate nominee Don Bolduc agreed with a Democratic operative posing as a Republican who said the disposal of embryos, which can occur during in vitro fertilization, is “disgusting” and kept the door open to supporting banning the practice. Bolduc’s campaign did not respond to Vanity Fair’s request for comment, but Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan responded by telling the outlet his comments amounted to a “stance against IVF.” 

Nevada Senate: Nevada is the only Senate battleground where the candidates have not agreed on a debate, and NBC News’ Natasha Korecki reports on how that stalemate is unlikely to be resolved before Election Day.

Ohio Senate: Republican J.D. Vance says the campaign raised more than $6.9 million in the third quarter and has $3.3 million in cash on hand. And Democrats in the state are pressing the national party to invest in the race, per the Associated Press.

Wisconsin Senate: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes did six interviews on RT (Russia Today) in 2015 and 2016. The paper also looks at a fresh criticism against Johnson about a provision in the 2017 tax law that could allow Johnson’s family members to write off purchases of private planes. 

New Mexico Governor: Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti is booking another $1.2 million in ads, per AdImpact. 

Pennsylvania-12: Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle is reiterating that the Mike Doyle on the ballot this fall in this race is not him, but a Republican candidate not related to him who is running against Democrat Summer Lee. 

Ad watch: A spotlight on Social Security in Arizona

In a new ad funded by the Arizona Democratic Party and shared first with NBC News, a narrator asks, “Is [Republican nominee for governor] Kari Lake serious about secession?”

“Yep, she’s serious,” the narrator later answers, citing a time when Lake said, “We need to fire the federal government,” and listing a variety of federal programs they claim would be at risk if Lake were elected governor, including Social Security, Medicare and the state National Guard.

It’s the latest in a line of ads aired by Democrats that claim Republicans are coming after voters’ entitlement programs.   

And with just over three weeks to go until Election Day, the ad could help boost Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs. The Cook Political Report rates the race a “Toss Up.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

A jury rejected the death penalty, instead recommending life in prison without parole for the man who killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida in February 2018.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has been hospitalized after “not feeling well.”