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OPEC decision could raise gas prices at home as midterm elections approach

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.
A nozzle pumps gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Los Angeles on Oct. 5, 2022.
A nozzle pumps gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... President Biden heads to Upstate New York, where he’ll promote American manufacturing. ... The Daily Beast unloads another bombshell: Woman who alleged Herschel Walker urged her to get an abortion is also the mother of one his children. ... Debates take place in Arizona Senate, Iowa Senate, Illinois Governor and Oregon Governor. ... Third-quarter fundraising numbers continue to come in. … And 36 people are dead in a Thai daycare shooting. 

But first: So much for President Joe Biden’s earlier visit to Saudi Arabia and even that fist-bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  

On Wednesday, OPEC announced it was cutting back oil production by 2 million barrels a day — which will drive up gas prices at home and abroad — dropping the second big October surprise in the last three days.

“In a statement, the Biden administration said it was disappointed in the decision, calling it ‘shortsighted’ in light of global energy prices already lifted higher by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” NBC News reports.  

“‘At a time when maintaining global supply of energy is of paramount importance, this development will have the most negative impact on lower- and middle-income countries that are already reeling from elevated energy prices,’ it said.”

It’s important to take stock of the context — recession fears are sweeping the West and Democrats here at home fear that any last-minute rise in prices before the midterms could spell trouble. And against that backdrop, Russia, which is part of OPEC+, continues to stumble in its war with Ukraine both militarily and diplomatically. 

So while the West blasts this new price hike, it’s going to be received warmly in Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin needs more money to finance his war effort as many countries try to wean themselves off Russian oil in protest of its actions in Ukraine. 

It also benefits Republicans, especially since Dems’ stronger midterm fortunes have coincided with gas prices going down. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 65 points

That’s by how much self-described conservative Latinos have swung towards Republicans, per the recent NBC News/Telemundo poll. That survey found 73% of conservative Latinos saying they preferred Republicans control Congress, while just 17% prefer Democrats — a 56-point edge for Republicans. 

In the merged NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls of 2012, 49% of self-described conservative Latinos said they preferred Democratic control of Congress, versus 40% who wanted Republicans in charge — a 9-point advantage for Democrats. 

For more on this shift and how liberal and moderate Latinos have shifted over time, check out the Meet the Press Blog

Other numbers to know:

36: At least how many people are dead in Thailand after a former police officer opened fire at a daycare.

1%: How much the FBI estimates violent crime decreased nationally from 2020 to 2021, per NBC News’ Ken Dilanian.  

10: How many House race ratings the Cook Political Report shifted on Wednesday. 

44%: President Biden’s approval rating in the new NPR/Marist poll

23: The percentage point difference between Democrats and Republicans when asked in the new NPR/Marist poll whether they have confidence in the November election, 92% for Democrats and 69% for Republicans. 

Midterm roundup: The Walker allegation deepens

Late Wednesday night, the news cycle involving an allegation that GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker paid for his ex-girlfriend’s abortion took another turn, again with a story from the Daily Beast. The outlet reported that the woman at the center of the allegation is the mother of one of Walker’s children

NBC News has not independently verified either allegation and the woman at the center says she asked the Daily Beast not to name her for privacy concerns. Walker said in a new statement Wednesday night: “As I have already said, there is no truth to this or any other Daily Beast report.”

The revelation continues the saga focused on Walker, who is locked in a tight race against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Walker has tried to use the allegations as a unifying moment for Republicans like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz , who have brushed aside the allegations and continue to call for Republicans to rally around him.

Walker’s campaign says it raised $500,000 between Monday night and mid-Wednesday. And the campaign released a new video where he sidesteps the allegations, notes his mental health struggles and criticizes Warnock. 

Even so, this story appears unlikely to go away anytime soon. Other Republicans are rattled, and Walker notably does not appear to have filed the defamation lawsuit he immediately claimed he would in order to clear his name. And on top of that, he’s still trailing in resources — while Walker’s campaign announced Wednesday it raised $12 million from July through September, his Democratic rival raised $26 million over the same period. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Iowa Senate: Former Chinese Ambassador and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., endorsed GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley for re-election. 

North Carolina Senate: Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is reserving an additional $4 million in TV ads in the race, with ads launching next week, according to spending figures shared first with NBC News. That brings the group’s investment in boosting Democrat Cheri Beasley to $10.5 million. 

Ohio Senate: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan fundraising announced a $17.2 million third quarter haul, per a press release. The Associated Press reported that Ryan received campaign contributions over the last 15 years from three companies tied to the opioid crisis, which Ryan’s campaign noted the donations are a small fraction of what Ryan has raised over those years.  

New Hampshire Senate: The Associated Press reports that Republican nominee Don Bolduc has again shifted his public stance on whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. He’s repeatedly echoed false claims about the election but has changed his tune since becoming the nominee. 

Pennsylvania Senate: A new Monmouth University poll found a close Senate race, with 48% of registered voters saying they would “definitely” or “probably” vote for Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, while 43% said the same about Republican Mehmet Oz. Fetterman announced Thursday morning that his campaign raised $22 million in the third fundraising quarter.

Fetterman is also holding events Thursday with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. And the Democrat’s campaign manager took to Twitter Wednesday to criticize a Democratic PAC for trying to fundraise off of the race

Arizona Governor.Secretary of State: During a speech in Tempe, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney told voters that if they “care about democracy” an “care about the survival of our republic” that they need to reject Republican nominees for governor and secretary of state, Kari Lake and Mark Finchem respectively.

Kansas Governor: Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the GOP nominee for governor, did not call for additional restrictions on abortion during a Wednesday debate, following Kansas voters’ recent rejection of a ballot initiative that could have opened the door to further restrictions, per the New York Times. 

Oregon Governor: New fundraising reports show independent Betsy Johnson leading the fundraising field thanks to some new six-and-seven figure donations, per The Oregonian, which also reports the Republican and Democratic Governors Association sent seven-figure donations recently to their candidates too. 

Ad watch: A toss up race heats up

In a new ad, Republican Bo Hines is encouraging voters to “Go with Bo.” 

“How do we restore our American economy?” a narrator in the ad asks, “Go with Bo.”

Hines is the GOP nominee for North Carolina’s 13th District, a closely watched race that pits him against state Sen. Wiley Nickel, the Democratic nominee, in an open seat. The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates the race a “Toss Up.”

So far, Nickel has outspent Hines on the airwaves, spending $674,000 on ads, compared to Hines’ $284,000, per AdImpact. But, Hines has been boosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has spent over $2.3 million on the airwaves so far.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

big GOP emphasis on crime appears to have helped the party move the needle in the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Senate races. 

NBC News has learned that a boutique law firm in Miami who says its goal is to push back on “woke cancel culture” in “Big Law” is joining Trump’s legal fight against the FBI after the summer search of his Florida estate related to an investigation into the mishandling of sensitive documents.