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After one quarter, here’s what we’ve learned about the 2022 primary season

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: Brian Kemp
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks at a campaign event on the eve of the general primary election on May 23, 2022, in Atlanta, Ga.Elijah Nouvelage / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and with Fed Chair Jerome Powell. ... NBC’s Carol E. Lee, Peter Nicholas, Kristen Welker and Courtney Kube report on a Biden White House that’s adrift. ... Uvalde families begin holding funerals for the victims of last week’s mass shooting. ... Donald Trump campaigns against Liz Cheney in Wyoming. ... And a GOP ad hits Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., on inflation.

But first: Thirteen states have held their primary contests in 2022, with 37 states still to go. 

And here are our main takeaways so far:

1. Trump’s endorsed candidates can be beat, especially in non-federal races

First, we saw Charles Herbster lose in the Nebraska Governor's primary. Then Janice McGeachin in Idaho Governor. Then David Perdue in Georgia Governor And even Jody Hice in Georgia's Secretary of State primary. 

Now Trump’s record has been much better in U.S. House and U.S. Senate primaries (see Alex Mooney in West Virginia-02, Ted Budd in North Carolina Senate and J.D. Vance in Ohio Senate). 

But those gubernatorial losses have GOP strategists believing that non-Trump-endorsed candidates can win Republican primaries — as long as they aren’t antagonistic towards the former president and are committed to the party’s policies and goals. 

There is no room to be anti-Trump in today’s Republican Party. But you can be a Republican without the former president’s endorsement. 

2. GOP turnout has exceeded Democratic turnout

Reflecting the Republican enthusiasm we see in polls, nearly twice as many Republicans turned out in Texas’ March gubernatorial primary (1.95 million) as Democrats did (1.075 million).

In Ohio’s gubernatorial primary earlier this month, GOP turnout (nearly 1.1 million) was more than twice Democratic turnout (502,000).

The one race where Democratic turnout (1.28 million) got close to GOP turnout (1.34 million) was in Pennsylvania Senate.  

3. Republicans have nominated some problematic nominees

They include — so far — Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania Governor and J.R. Majewski in Ohio-09 (who will face Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur).

It will be an important story to follow if this list grows during the summer. 

4. There are still several uncalled races

They include the GOP recount in Pennsylvania Senate between Mehmet Oz and David McCormick (where Oz leads by just 959 votes), the Texas-28 runoff between Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros (where Cuellar leads by 177 votes) and the Oregon-05 Democratic primary (where incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader trails). 

All of the uncalled races, per NBC News' Decision Desk:

May 3

Ohio-04 (no call in Democratic primary to take on Jim Jordan) 

May 17 

Oregon Senate GOP primary- too early to call 

Oregon-05 Democratic primary

North Carolina-07 Democratic primary

Kentucky-03 GOP primary

Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary

May 24

Texas-28 runoff (D)

Georgia-01 (D)

Texas-15 runoff (D)

Texas-24 runoff (D)

5. Progressives have had a mixed win-loss record

Nina Turner lost — again — in Ohio-11. Erica Smith and Nida Allam lost in North Carolina-01 and North Carolina-04, respectively. And Jessica Cisneros trails in Texas-28.

But the good news for progressives have come with Summer Lee’s victory in Pennsylvania-12, as well as Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s current lead over Schrader in Oregon-05. 

6. Democratic leaders’ endorsements haven’t been all that hot, either

Donald Trump hasn’t been the only party leader who has seen his endorsed candidate lose/trailing. 

Remember, President Biden endorsed Schrader in Oregon-05. 

And despite getting the endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Whip Jim Clyburn, Cuellar is leading by fewer than 200 votes in Texas-28. 

Bottom line: Both establishments have shown some vulnerabilities.  

7. Republican incumbents haven’t paid a price for certifying the 2020 election results

Several months ago, it sure looked like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would lose their primaries — simply for certifying the 2020 presidential results. 

But both won last week. 

One other way to look at this trend: Being the super-Trumpy candidate — either Perdue in Georgia Governor, Hice in Georgia Secretary of State, or Herbster in Nebraska Governor — isn’t a guarantee to victory. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $18.6 million

That’s how much New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul had in her campaign account by May 23, according to new campaign finance reports filed ahead of her gubernatorial primary.  

Hochul’s war chest is far greater than the $2.7 million banked by Rep. Tom Suozzi, her best-funded primary challenger. The incumbent raised $10.3 million between mid-January and late-May, per the new reports, compared to Suozzi’s $3.8 million (New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams raised about $250,000). 

Her would-be Republican challengers — Rep. Lee Zeldin and businessman Harry Wilson — raised far less than Hochul ($3.2 million and $1.9 million, respectively). But Wilson has relied on millions more from his own deep pockets, which has allowed him to blanket the state in ads. 

We wrote when Hochul took office that her elevation gave her a chance to consolidate her party around her and shore up the power of incumbency. While it didn’t necessarily look that way in the early months (when state Attorney General Letitia James briefly announced a bid and other Democrats flirted with runs of their own), the more recent months have shown she’s on the path to doing just that. 

Other numbers you need to know:

25: The number of bills signed into law in Texas since 2007 that loosened gun restrictions. 

12: At least the number of mass shootings that took place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (where at least four people, not including the shooter, were killed), per The Washington Post.

54 percent: The portion of seats in the Ohio state legislature that Republicans are expected to control after pushing their preferred maps, NBC News’ Jane C. Timm reports. 

$1 million: How much a new PAC (backed by former South Carolina state Rep. Bakari Sellers) plans to spend to boost Detroit County Clerk Janice Winfrey’s bid to unseat Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib in a Democratic primary. 

$4.622: The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas, per AAA, another new record. 

Midterm roundup: Trump’s top target

Fresh off some big primary losses in Georgia, former President Donald Trump is setting his sights on another top target. On Saturday, Trump traveled to Casper, Wyo., to go after GOP Rep. Liz Cheney. 

The rally featured a who’s who of Trump allies in Congress, as well as the state party chairman who was on a restricted part of Capitol grounds the day of the Jan. 6 riot, all supporting Cheney’s primary challenger, GOP activist Harriet Hageman. 

Trump called the race “the most important election we have,” per NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard.

But Trump may find it easier to take down Cheney in deep-red Wyoming, NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reports. Some Republicans are skeptical that Cheney’s anti-Trump message will resonate among enough primary voters to pull off a win. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: 

Alabama Senate: Katie Britt’s first ad of the GOP primary runoff mashes up her speech at her victory party last week where she said “every single day that Joe Biden is the president, we are weaker and more vulnerable as a nation.” 

Pennsylvania Senate: Despite the state officially declaring a recount in the GOP primary, doctor and television star Mehmet Oz declared himself the “presumptive” Senate nominee. 

Oregon Govenor: The newly minted Democratic nominee, state House Speaker Tina Kotek, hopes to become America’s first lesbian governor. 

N.Y.-12: Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney spoke to the New York Times about their member-on-member primary, with Nadler admitting he tried to push Maloney to run for a different seat, telling her he would defeat her. 

S.C.-1: Trump-backed Katie Arrington’s new ad features former supporters of GOP Rep. Nancy Mace trying to “return” her at the store and upgrade to Arrington.

L.A.-Mayor: Kim Kardashian endorsed self-funding businessman Rick Caruso’s mayoral bid just over one week before primary day, specifically pointing to his plan for homelessness and crime. 

Ad watch: Pricey attack

One Nation, the non-profit arm of Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is up with a new TV ad attacking Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., on inflation.  

“We’ve seen the highest inflation in 40 years, triggered by a massive surge in government spending. Georgia’s been hit hard,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. The ad goes on to call Warnock the “deciding vote” for the pandemic relief package known as the American Rescue Plan, which the ad claims led to skyrocketing inflation (Democrats, on the other hand, have touted the legislation on the trail). 

The ad is part of a new ​​$43.5 million effort targeting Democratic senators over the summer. The group is planning to spend $17.1 million in Georgia. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

 President Joe Biden said an assault weapons ban could be a “rational” gun control policy in response to recent mass shootings. 

The Justice Department will review law enforcement’s response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.  

CNN reports that the Supreme Court’s investigation into this month’s leak of a draft opinion is requiring clerks to turn over cell phone records and sign affidavits.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed legislation freezing handgun purchases and a gun buyback program.