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For November’s losing party, a reckoning awaits

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.
Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman  and Republican Pennsylvania candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz debate.
Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Pennsylvania candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz participate in the Nexstar Pennsylvania Senate Debate in Harrisburg, Pa., on Oct. 25, 2022.Greg Nash / The Hill via NewsNation

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Barack Obama holds an evening rally for Sen. Raphael Warnock and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in Atlanta (the former president heads to Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday). ... President Biden and VP Harris, in Philadelphia, speak at a fundraising reception for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. ... NBC’s Sahil Kapur writes how Biden and Democrats are facing “political gravity.” ... NYT/Siena releases poll results from four key House races. ... And NBC’s Natasha Korecki looks at the “sleeper county” that could decide the Senate.

But first: The political blame-game, backstabbing and internal strife are all coming. 

We just don’t know which underperforming party is going to face them — and be forced to address its shortcomings heading into the 2024 presidential election.  

If Democrats underperform and lose both the House and Senate, you’re going to see establishment Democrats point the finger at progressives for moving the party too far to the left; you’re going to see progressives blame leaders for not being bold enough; and you’re going to see critics point out that the current Democratic leadership (Biden, Pelosi, Schumer) is simply too old for the current times. 

If Republicans underperform and fail to win the Senate or barely win control of the House, you’re going see blame directed at Donald Trump and his personally endorsed candidates; you’re going to see Trump retaliate; and you’re going to hear from GOP strategists that abortion is a problematic issue for them in a post-Roe world. 

But guess what? Only the losing side is going to be forced to deal with its political shortcomings, while the winning side will largely get a pass on dealing with its own obvious problems. 

This is one reason why victories in midterms don’t necessarily carry over to presidential cycles. See Republicans from 1994 to 1996, or from 2010 to 2012, for example. 

Or even if they do, they still have problems that come back to bite them. See Democrats from 2018 to 2020. 

Both political parties have their flaws. But just one side will have to answer them after what happens in November. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $1.1 billion

That’s how much the top 50 biggest political donors this cycle have donated to federal races, per a Washington Post analysis. 

The top Democrat is philanthropist George Soros, who has donated $128.5 million through September. And the top Republican donors are Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein, the shipping magnates who donated $70.2 million. 

Click here to read more from the Washington Post, and here to watch our Meet the Press Reports episode “American Oligarchs,” which delves deeper into the world of political mega donors. 

Other numbers to know:

2.6%: The increase in GDP in the third quarter, per new economic data released Thursday

$100,000: About how much it will cost Senate Majority PAC to run an ad during the first game of the World Series that evokes Republican Mehmet Oz’s recent comments on abortion. 

4: The number of swing House districts the New York Times and Siena College polled recently, which showed Democrats either tied or leading. (The four: KS-3, NV-1, NM-2 and PA-8.)

7.5: How many years in prison a Jan. 6 rioter who dragged former Washington, D.C., Police Officer Michael Fanone into the crowd on the steps of the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to on Thursday

$275 million: The size of another aid package, including additional weapons, that the U.S. is sending to Ukraine, per the Associated Press. 

6 million: The size of California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s email list, per Politico, which delves into Newsom’s “digital juggernaut.” 

Midterm roundup: Democrats try defying “political gravity”

In an election cycle with some unexpected twists and turns, Democrats are concerned the political dynamics are reverting back to a traditional midterm, which is typically bad news for the party in power, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports. 

Democratic strategists told Kapur that the “best-case scenario” involves holding onto the Senate and weathering single-digit losses in the House.

Sean McElwee, who runs the left-leaning polling firm Data for Progress, put it this way: “I definitely think that the political gravity is starting to reinforce itself. There’s concern that the situation will deteriorate. You’re probably going to see polls worsen and it’s possible Democrats underperform those polls as well.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Alaska Senate: GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski faced off against Republican Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro in a debateThursday, where they clashed over the Covid pandemic, gun control and the Supreme Court, per the Associated Press.

Arizona Senate: The Club for Growth is adding another $1 million of television and radio spending, per AdImpact, while the Senate Majority PAC is adding $750,000 to its ad spending there. On Thursday the Club launched a Spanish language TV ad tying Kelly to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the “defund the police” movement. 

New Hampshire Senate: In the second debate between Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Republican nominee Don Bolduc, Hassan criticized Bolduc for saying Trump won the 2020 election, while Bolduc criticized the Democrat on border security. Also on Thursday, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott endorsed Bolduc.

Nevada Senate: NBC News’ Natasha Korecki unpacks the importance of Washoe County in Nevada’s hotly contested Senate race.

Pennsylvania Senate: The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Mehmet Oz’s campaign are going up with another $900,000 in joint ad spending, per AdImpact. 

Arizona Governor: Authorities made an arrest in the break-in of a campaign office belonging to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs. Meanwhile, the Arizona Democratic Party is adding another $1.1 million in television ads to its bookings there, with the party joining with Hobbs for another $500,00 in joint ad spending. 

New York Governor: Democrats are increasingly concerned about the tightening governor’s race, launching a last minute ad blitz, per the New York Times. Meanwhile, the Times also reports that the State Board of Elections is investigating whether GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin’s campaign illegally coordinated with super PACs

Ohio Governor: Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine raised $1.3 million between Oct. 6 and Oct. 26, compared to Democrat Nan Whaley’s $646,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 24, per

Wisconsin Governor: Democratic Gov. Tony Evers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he does not regret his administration’s response to the Covid pandemic, which has become an issue in his race, saying, “We saved lives. We saved thousands of lives by doing that. That’s worth it — that is worth it. I’ll take all the criticism coming.”

Michigan-07: Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney endorsed Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin

New York-17: Politico reports on how Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has found himself in such a competitive re-election fight. AdImpact shows that VoteVets is booking $2.2 million in ad spending there too. 

Oregon-06: House Majority PAC is booking another $1.2 million on cable ads through the election, per AdImpact. 

Texas-34: HMP is also booking $1 million more on television ads in this south Texas district. 

Washington-03: While Democrats are largely on defense in the battle for the House, HMP is going on offense against Republican Joe Kent, launching a new TV ad painting Republican Joe Kent as “extreme,” per Axios.

Ad watch: Budd goes on offense in North Carolina Senate

North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Ted Budd is out with a new TV ad hitting his opponent, Democrat Cheri Beasley, on crime.

“If Cheri Beasley gets her way, dangerous criminals will get out of jail free,” a narrator in the ad says, highlighting Beasley’s position in favor of ending cash bail.

The ad displays a page on Beasley’s campaign website that says she, “supports reforming sentencing, including ending some mandatory minimums and ending the cash bail system particularly for nonviolent offenders.”

Budd joins Republican groups and candidates in Senate races across the country who have attacked their Democratic opponents for supporting bail reform. It’s part of a broader strategy by Republicans to paint their opponents as “soft on crime.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Billionaire Elon Musk is now running Twitter, and the company’s CEO, CFO and head of legal policy are out. 

A federal appeals court denied former President Donald Trump’s attempt to shield his tax records from a House committee. He can still appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Dozens of subpoenas have been issued in a criminal investigation involving several people, including Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J, NBC News’ Jonathan Dienst, Tom Winter and Courtney Copenhagen report.