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N.Y. special election results provide latest signs the 2022 environment has changed

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 candidate Pat Ryan at a campaign rally Monday in Kingston, N.Y.
Democratic candidate Pat Ryan at a campaign rally Monday in Kingston, N.Y. Mary Altaffer / AP

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Wednesday ... Democrats win the bellwether N.Y.-19 special election. ... Rep. Jerry Nadler defeats Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the N.Y.-12 primary. ... Dan Goldman leads crowded N.Y.-10 race (but it’s too close to call). ... Charlie Crist comes out on top in Florida's Democratic gubernatorial primary for the right to take on GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. ... And Markwayne Mullin wins GOP runoff in Oklahoma Senate.

But first: The red wave that had been gaining strength over the past year sure looks like it has weakened less than three months before the midterms. 

That’s the clear takeaway from two congressional special elections in New York — one the Democrats won and one where the GOP triumphed.

In swingy N.Y.-19 (which Barack Obama won in ’08 and ’12, which Donald Trump won in ’16 and which Joe Biden won by 1.5 points in ’20), Democrat Pat Ryan bested Republican Marc Molinaro by 2 points, 51%-49%. 

Meanwhile, in red N.Y.-23, Republicans won that special election last night by 7 points, but Trump won it by 11 points two years ago. 

Margins matter when gauging midterm energy, and we’ve now seen four special elections since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. And in all four of them, Republicans have underperformed Trump’s 2020 margins, while Democrats have overperformed or equaled Biden’s. 

By contrast, before the Dobbs decision, Republicans were the ones overperforming in special elections. 

Bottom line: The Dobbs decision has been very good for Democrats. 

It has energized the party (see our recent NBC News poll), and the political environment — at least when it comes to enthusiasm — looks more like 2020 than it does 2006, 2010, 2014 or 2018.

But three important caveats when interpreting last night’s special elections in New York: One, it’s still August, and special elections in the dead of summer aren’t the same thing as what we’ll see in November. 

Two, even a ripple could flip the House and Senate; Republicans don’t need a wave to take control of either chamber. 

And three, it’s very possible to see the political issue matrix change once again — from abortion and the investigations into Trump, to something else entirely. 

Like canceling student loan debt. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 45%

That’s the share of registered voters in the new national NBC News poll who said the federal government is not doing enough to address climate change. That amounted to a plurality of voters surveyed, with 36% saying the federal government doesn’t need to be involved and 15% who said the government is doing enough. 

Those views split along party lines, with 67% of Republicans saying the federal government does not need to be involved, and 71% of Democrats saying the government is not doing enough to address climate change. 

Even amid record heat waves and disastrous storms, more voters in the survey said other issues were more pressing than climate change. Just 9% named climate change as the most important issue facing the country.

Other numbers to know:

$10,000: How much federal student loan debt per borrower making $125,000 or less that President Biden is expected to cancel. 

$3 billion: The size of a package of weapons and equipment the U.S. is preparing to send to Ukraine, two Defense officials tell NBC News. 

3: The number of years of probation that a judge sentenced Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband to after pleading guilty to a DUI charge. While Paul Pelosi was also sentenced to five days in jail, he may not serve any additional time — he had already served two days, has been credited two days served and could replace the final day with a work program. 

2: The number of people convicted in a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. 

9: The number of GOP Senate candidates expected to attend a September fundraiser together, per Puck News. 

21: At least how many school board candidates backed by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis are poised to win their Tuesday elections, per Politico, wins that could shift the balance of power on those boards. 

Midterm roundup: Last night’s results are in

The dust is still settling on primaries in New York, Florida and Oklahoma, but it’s clear Tuesday was a pivotal night on the election calendar. 

Here’s a look at the results in the major races, per the latest vote counts from NBC’s Decision Desk:

Florida Governor: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist (59%) is projected to defeat Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (35%) and will face Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November

Florida-01: Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (70%) is projected to win a primary challenge from former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo (24%). He’ll face Democrat Rebekah Jones (63%), who is projected to win her primary, in November. 

Florida-04: Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean (68%) is projected to win his open-seat primary and is heavily favored to win in the fall. 

Florida-10: Democratic activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost (35%) is projected to win his primary in a heavily Democratic seat, beating state Sen. Randolph Bracy (25%), former Rep. Allan Grayson (15%) and former Rep. Corrine Brown (10%). 

Florida-11: Republican Rep. Daniel Webster (51%) is projected to defeat far-right activist Laura Loomer (44%) in a surprisingly close race. 

Florida-13: Republican activist Anna Paulina Luna (44%) is projected to defeat attorney Kevin Hayslett. She’ll face former Obama administration appointee Eric Lynn in the Republican-leaning district in November. 

New York-10: The race is too close to call with former House impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman (26%) leading Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (24%) and Rep. Mondaire Jones (18%) in a crowded field in a safely Democratic seat.

New York-12: Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler (55%) is projected to win his primary over fellow Rep. Carolyn Malone (24%) and Suraj Patel (19%) in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. 

New York-16: Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman (56%) is projected to defeat Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi (23%) and likely secure his re-election. 

New York-17: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (67%) is projected to defeat state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (33%) in a race the Cook Report  rates Lean Democrat.

New York-23 : State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy (52%) is projected to defeat controversial businessman and former school board member Carl Paladino (46%) in a heavily Republican seat. 

Oklahoma Senate (special runoff): Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin (65%) is projected to defeat former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon (35%) and will go onto face off against former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn in the heavily Republican seat. 

Oklaoma-02 (runoff): Former state Sen. Josh Brecheen (53%) is projected to defeat state Rep. Avery Frix (48%). 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: 

Colorado Senate: NBC News’ Henry Gomez delves into how Republican Joe O’Dea is working to defeat Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. ​

Missouri Senate: Independent candidate John Wood ended his Senate bid Tuesday, saying “there is not a realistic path to victory.” 

Pennsylvania Senate: Republican Mehmet Oz’s campaign grabbed more attention Tuesday after a senior advisor for the campaign spokeswoman told Business Insider, “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke.” Fetterman responded on Twitter, criticizing the “nasty” politics of “ridiculing someone for their health challenges.” 

Meanwhile, Oz and the NRSC added another joint $1.5 million in ad spending, while the Oz campaign itself reserved $479,000 on the airwaves per AdImpact. 

Illinois Governor: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is accusing a GOP super PAC involved in the governor’s race of darkening her skin tone in a recent ad, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki reports.  

Ad watch: Rubio on the attack

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is out with a new ad in Florida, blasting his opponent, Democratic Rep. Val Demings for being a “radical rubber stamp.”

The ad highlights soundbites to frame Demings as a “blame America first radical,” highlighting how Demings said “America has failed” in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis (Demings made the comments on The Ellen Show and was talking about the “injustices involving African Americans”). 

Demings (who was the first Black female police chief of Orlando before she ran for Congress) and Rubio faced no significant primary challenges Tuesday. Both were officially nominated by their respective parties last night. 

Because of that, the two have been focused on the general election for months. Rubio has already spent over $1 million on ads, while Demings has spent over $22 million so far, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. A new, $1.7 million TV ad buy from Rubio starts Wednesday. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The National Archives confirmed Tuesday that documents received from Trump at Mar-a-Lago back in January  included those classified with the most sensitive classification.

A former Louisville police detective pleaded guilty Tuesday for helping to falsify the warrant that police relied upon to justify the search that led to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in a botched raid.

The FDA plans to authorize a new series of Covid boosters from Pfizer and Moderna around Labor Day, according to new NBC News reporting.