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McConaughey steps into the void on gun violence as public sours on politicians

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.
Matthew McConaughey speaks about gun violence in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on June 7, 2022.
Matthew McConaughey speaks about gun violence in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on June 7, 2022.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin gets recalled in San Francisco. ... It’s Rick Caruso vs. Karen Bass in L.A.’s race for mayor. ... Michael Franken easily wins the Democratic nomination to face Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa in the fall. ... Republican Mark Ronchetti wins GOP nod to challenge Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico Governor. ... President Biden heads to California to host Summit of the Americas. ... House committee holds hearing featuring victims and families from the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings. ... And Raphael Warnock is running — literally — in new Georgia Senate ad.

But first: Last night’s primaries and other election results weren’t the top political story from Tuesday. 

That honor, instead, went to actor Matthew McConaughey’s call for gun reform from the White House podium. 

“We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before, a window where it seems like real change — real change can happen,” he said.

His speech cut across party lines. “Enough with the counterpunching. Enough of the invalidation of the other side. Let’s come to the common table that represents the American people.”

It was personal. “Uvalde, Texas, is where I was born. It’s where my mom taught kindergarten less than a mile from Robb Elementary. Uvalde is where I learned to master a Daisy BB gun.”  

It sounded so different than other speeches. “We can’t truly be leaders if we’re only living for reelection.”

And after he delivered it at the Biden White House, McConaughey gave an interview to Fox News. “I’m not someone from the entertainment industry that decided to swing by for an open cause,” he said. “This landed on my — I got the calling. It happened in the town I was born in, so it got very personal for me.

Now we get he’s a movie star (and that celebrities always get more attention); we get his bipartisan call is going to appeal to some and not others; and we get that it was just one speech and one day in the political spotlight. 

But also don’t underreact to McConaughey’s performance — and why it captivated the country yesterday. 

As we wrote on Tuesday, two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans believe all or most political candidates run for office to benefit their personal interests, not the community’s.

That’s a big reason why McConaughey’s speech felt so different.  

It wasn’t someone trying to raise money, gear up for a primary election or score political points. 

Instead, it was someone speaking from the heart. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 50 percent

That’s by how much gas prices have risen this year, making it the greatest rise in fuel costs to this point in the year of any other midterm election season dating back to 1976, per NBC News’ Nicole Childers and Emily Pandise. 

On Tuesday, the national average price of gas hit $4.91.

Since 2000, there have only been two other midterm election seasons — 2002 and 2006 — where the price of gas rose more than 20 percent. In 2002, the GOP won both chambers of Congress, with a sitting Republican president. And in 2006, the Democrats won both chambers, under the same sitting Republican president.

Other numbers you need to know

1: That’s how many primary challengers Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has faced since his first run for Senate in 1980, the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel told Meet the Press Now. Grassley defeated GOP state Sen. Jim Carlin on Tuesday.

18: How many states now prohibit transgender women and girls from playing on female school sports teams after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards allowed the ban to become law in Louisiana.

20: The number of fighter jets from the U.S. and South Korean militaries that flew in the latest show of force aimed at deterring North Korea from conducting a nuclear test.

$52 million: The amount of money Congressional Republicans’ campaign arm has booked to spend on the airwavessupporting GOP candidates this fall, according to Politico.

$1 billion: That’s how much 90 women, including some of the country’s best female gymnasts, are suing the FBI for and claiming the bureau mishandled its sexual abuse investigation into former Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar. 

Midterm roundup: The results are in

Voters cast their ballots yesterday in California, New Jersey, Iowa, New Mexico, Mississippi, South Dakota and Montana. While all the dust still hasn’t settled, here’s a look at where things stand in some key races, with the NBC News Decision Desk call in parenthesis:

California-03: Democrat Kermit Jones 39 percent, Republican Kevin Kiley 37 percent (both advance to general election).

California-22: Democrat Rudy Salas 47 percent (advancing), Republican David Valadao 26 percent, Republican Chris Mathys 19 percent. 

California-22 (special election under old lines): Republican Connie Conway 60 percent (winner), Democrat Lourin Hubbard 41 percent. 

California-40: Democrat Asif Mahmood 40 percent (advancing), Republican Young Kim 34 percent, Republican Greg Raths 25 percent.  

Los Angeles Mayor: Rick Caruso 42 percent, Karen Bass 37 percent (both advancing).

San Francisco District Attorney recall: Chesa Boudin recalled 60 percent (recall projected to succeed).

California Senate (special): Democrat Alex Padilla 54 percent, Republican Mark Meuser 22 percent (both advancing).

California Senate: Democrat Alex Padilla 54 percent, Republican Mark Meuser 14 percent (both advancing).

Iowa Senate (Democratic): Michael Franken 55 percent (projected winner), Abby Finkenauer 40 percent. 

Iowa-03 (GOP): Zach Nunn 66 percent (winner), Nicole Hasso 19 percent. 

Mississippi-03 (GOP): Michael Cassidy 48 percent, Michael Guest 47 percent (race not called yet, data per the Associated Press/New York Times).

Mississippi-04 (GOP): Steven Palazzo 32 percent, Mike Ezell 25 percent (data per the Associated Press/New York Times). 

Montana-01 (GOP): Ryan Zinke 41 percent, Al Olszewski 40 percent (too close to call)

New Jersey-03 (GOP): Bob Healey 53 percent, Ian Smith 39 percent (has not been called yet)

South Dakota At-Large (GOP): Dusty Johnson 59 percent (winner), Taffy Howard 41 percent. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: Republican Blake Masters said in a podcast interview in April that America’s gun violence problem is “gang violence,” adding “it’s people in Chicago, St. Louis shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly.”

Nevada Senate: Trump is participating in a tele-rally tonight for former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt ahead of next week’s primary, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki reports . 

Georgia Senate: GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign launched its first ad of the general election, featuring Stacey Abrams’ remarks at a Democratic fundraiser where she called Georgia the “worst state” in the country to live (before listing several issues like maternal mortality and incarceration rates), NBC News’ Blayne Alexander reports. 

New York-17: New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is backing the progressive state lawmaker challenging DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, Alessandra Biaggi. 

Ad watch: Warnock’s running — literally

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is airing a new TV ad casting himself as the most qualified candidate without naming his GOP opponent, former football player Herschel Walker. 

The ad, shared first with NBC News, starts with Warnock jogging on a racetrack and saying, “If the race between me and my opponent were out here, I could understand why you might choose him.”

“If it were here? Of course!” Warnock says while playing football as a kid tackles him.  

“But this campaign is about who’s ready to represent Georgia,” Warnock says in the next shot where he is doing sit-ups at the gym.

Warnock goes on to tout a series of his efforts, flashing local news headlines about his work to cap insulin prices, investigate military base housing conditions, and pressure banks to stop overdraft fees. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Senators negotiating gun violence legislation are at a stalemate over background checks.  

Republicans are divided over how to defend former President Donald Trump ahead of this week’s Jan. 6 committee hearing. 

One of the hearing’s witnesses will be a Capitol Police officer who was one of the first officers injured as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.