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New York race could provide clues for November

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: Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado speaks at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Restoration Plaza on July 28, 2022 Brooklyn, N.Y.
Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado speaks at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Restoration Plaza on July 28, 2022 Brooklyn, N.Y.Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... The call came from inside the house — the Wall Street Journal reports that there’s a government informant in Trump’s inner circle. … Trump invokes the 5th Amendment during a deposition with the New York A.G.’s office. … U.S. gas prices fall below $4 a gallon. … Biden kicks off his family vacation in South Carolina. … And Pelosi says the House will vote on the Inflation Reduction Act on Friday.

But first:  House Democrats have been bracing for a rough midterm. But there are a few signs it might not be so bad. 

This week, there was a closer-than-expected special election in Minnesota, which followed a surprisingly narrow margin in a Nebraska special election in late June. There was also the blockbuster turnout and defeat of an anti-abortion rights ballot initiative in ruby red Kansas. 

And there’s another test of midterm momentum later this month.

On Aug. 23, two county executives, Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Marc Molinaro, will face off in a special election in New York’s 19th District to replace former Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, who was tapped to be the state’s lieutenant governor. 

“New York 19 is pretty evenly divided, so it reflects that polarization that’s in the country,” said former GOP Rep. John Faso, who represented the district from 2017-2019. Voters there backed former President Barack Obama twice, supported former President Donald Trump in 2016, and then went narrowly for President Joe Biden in 2020.

So the sprawling district along the Hudson River is fertile ground for both parties to test their strategies three months out from Election Day. 

Yesterday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a joint TV ad with Ryan’s campaign focused squarely on abortion rights. (The DCCC’s spending is notable — the committee did not invest significant resources in a Texas special election just two months ago, arguing the seat would soon disappear due to redistricting). The National Republican Congressional Committee teamed up with Molinaro for a TV ad highlighting inflation. 

“The outcome that we see here is going to tell us a lot about what’s to come in the midterms. It’s also going to tell us a lot about how to message,” said Ryan’s campaign manager, Chris Walsh. 

Of course, as the cliché goes, special elections are special. The timing of this election late in the summer, on the same day the state’s congressional primaries, which were delayed from June, makes turnout unpredictable. 

Remember just two months ago, when Democrats lost that special election in Texas? Some Democrats saw it as a sign that they were losing ground among Latino voters, and were headed for a wipeout in November. Mixed together with a shaky economy and Biden’s low favorability rating, those dynamics could still be devastating for Democrats in the fall. 

It’s tempting to read a lot into these special elections. But they can still provide some clues about where the political winds are blowing.

So what could the New York special election reveal? 

”I’ll tell you on Aug. 24,” Faso said.

Tweet of the Day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $9.7 billion

That’s how much money AdImpact projects will be spent on political ads during the 2022 cycle — more than any other midterm or even presidential cycle.

To put that in comparison, AdImpact tracked $9.02 billion in ad spending in the 2020 presidential cycle and $3.96 billion during the last midterm election cycle of 2018. So for 2022’s projection to come in higher than a presidential year — and more than twice that of 2018 — is stunning. 

And one more piece of perspective — last July, AdImpact predicted we’d see $8.9 billion in ad spending this cycle. So $9.7 billion reflects a massive increase from where things stood just a year ago.  

Other numbers to know:

440: How many times former President Donald Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment during a Tuesday deposition as part of the New York Attorney General’s investigation of his business practices, NBC News’ Adam Reiss reports

6: The number of states where GOP Sen. Tim Scott’s PAC is airing TV ads. 

60%: The share of eligible Latino voters in a new UnidosUS/Mi Familia Vota poll who said the country is on the wrong track.

$3.99: The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in America, per AAA, down from $4.68 a month ago. 

$43 million: How much billionaire and conservative donor Ken Griffin spent to buy a copy of the constitution.

3: How many times former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has attempted, and failed, a comeback to political office since he lost his post in 2016. 

Midterm roundup: Badger State battles

It’s taken no time for Wisconsin’s gubernatorial and senatorial elections to heat up, as both parties gear up for a tough battle. 

A new ad from Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels typifies how Republicans want to keep the pressure up on Gov. Tony Evers and the Democrats — by keeping the focus on Biden and the economy.

“Tony Evers, Joe Biden, they’re two peas in a pod,” Michels says.

But as NBC’s Adam Edelman reports, Evers and the Democrats have been quick to hit the self-funding businessman both for his wealth and as a pawn of Trump, who endorsed Michels in the primary. 

With just over 12 weeks until Election Day, Wisconsin’s relatively late primary affords little time for a rest. That’s why we’re seeing things heat up already in the state’s pivotal Senate race too, where Republicans and Democrats are racing to cast Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Sen. Ron Johnson as outside the mainstream. 

Read more from NBC’s Natasha Korecki here

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Colorado Senate: Republican Joe O’Dea released a new TV ad of the general election, saying he’s “not focused on political parties.”

Georgia Governor: Democrat Stacey Abrams tested positive for Covid Wednesday, one day after delivering a major economic speech.

Maine-02: Democratic Rep. Jared Golden’s new TV ad touts his vote against a sweeping Covid relief package last year. “I was the only Democrat to vote against trillions of dollars of President Biden’s agenda because I knew it would make inflation worse,” Golden says in the ad. 

New York 23: The New York Times profiles Republican Carl Paladino, a longtime divisive figure in state politics who may win a seat in Congress this fall. 

Pennsylvania-10: After news broke that the FBI seized GOP Rep. Scott Perry’s cell phone, Perry’s attorney said in a statement that the Justice Department said “Perry is not a target of its investigation,” per NBC News’ Kyle Stewart and Daniel Barnes. The Justice Department has not commented on the investigation. 

Michigan Secretary of State: Republican Secretary of State nominee Kristina Karamo claims she was hacked after she shared a post that said Trump will “be back in the White House before the end of this year,” per MLive’s Simon Schuster

Ad watch: Republicans flip the script

A new, upbeat ad is airing in Georgia thanking Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock for being a progressive that Biden can count on. But there’s a twist — Republicans are behind it. 

“Raphael Warnock has Joe Biden’s back. While other Democrats may abandon the president, Joe Biden doesn’t have to worry about Warnock,” the ad’s narrator tells viewers, tying Warnock to Biden’s low approval numbers and low popularity. 

There’s not a lot of money behind this ad — the group has only booked about $100,000 so far — but we’ll be watching to see if any other groups or candidates take on the same kind of messaging campaign moving forward.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Joe Biden signed a bill expanding benefits to veterans affected by toxic burn pits that were used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Justice Department is putting its credibility on the line with its handling of the search of Trump’s residence. 

Ukraine says nine Russian planes were destroyed in a blast in Crimea.

The funeral for GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., will take place Thursday. Walorski and three other people, including two members of her staff, were killed in a car crash last week.