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Poll: GOP is winning on the economy, immigration; Democrats are ahead on abortion and health care

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: President Biden Holds DNC Rally In Maryland
Supporters cheer at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) rally on Aug. 25, 2022 in Rockville, Md.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... President Biden attends Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. ... Biden says “the pandemic is over” in interview with “60 Minutes.” ... In the same interview, president says yet again the U.S. would defend Taiwan if attacked by China. … Latest NBC News poll finds congressional preference tied at 46%-46%, with Biden’s approval rating at 45% (up 3 points from last month). ... Donald Trump stumps for JD Vance in Ohio Senate. ... And Joe O’Dea pitches himself as pro-abortion rights in Colorado Senate while Democrats push back.

But first: What maybe stands out the most from the latest NBC News poll are the two very different issue campaigns Democrats and Republicans are running with 50 days to go until the midterms. 

The Republican Party holds all-time high advantages on the economy, crime and border security, while the Democrats have an all-time high on abortion and a double-digit edge on health care.

Just look at these numbers when registered voters were asked in our poll which party better handles 12 different issues: 

“There are essentially two campaigns in America right now,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, the GOP half of the NBC News poll. “There is a campaign about the economy, cost of living, crime, and border security, and Republicans are winning this campaign.”

“But there is a second campaign on abortion, democracy, and climate change, and Democrats are winning that campaign,” he added. 

One way to think about the upcoming elections in November: If they’re about the economy (as well as crime and immigration), Republicans are going to be the big winner. 

But if they’re about anything else, then Democrats have the chance to pull off a midterm surprise. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 507 

That’s the seven-day average in daily Covid deaths in America, per the NBC News data visualization team, a decrease of 1.7% over the last two weeks. Cases are down almost 26% in the last two weeks to a daily average of 60,731, while hospitalizations are down 12% to 31,800. 

It’s against that backdrop that President Biden declared the pandemic “over” in a new interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes.” 

“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lotta work on it, but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so, I think, it’s changing.”

Politico reports that Biden’s comments caught some in his own administration by surprise, as it wasn’t part of what he had planned to say. Last week, the head of the World Health Organization said that the “end is in sight” as global cases dipped 22% week-over-week to about 11,000. 

Other numbers to know:

Nearly 1.5 million: That’s how many customers in Puerto Rico have no power after Hurricane Fiona hit, cutting off power to the entire island. The National Hurricane Center is warning the island could face 12 to 18 inches of rain moving forward, even 30 inches in some local areas. 

1 in 10: The portion of Covid rapid tests that iHealth Labs is now making compared to its production in February, per new reporting from NBC News’ Shannon Pettypiece that looks at how Covid test providers are scaling back production. 

24: The percentage-point advantage that Democrats have over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot with Latino voters in the new New York Times/Siena Poll.

More than 100: How many local school board candidates backed by the 1776 Project PAC, a group that has financial backing from GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein. 

6: The number of GOP primaries where Democrats spent money helping to pick their preferred Republican nominee where Democrats now look heavily favored to win in November, per Axios’ analysis. 

Midterm roundup: Trump hits the trail in Ohio

Former President Donald Trump traveled to Ohio over the weekend to boost GOP Senate hopeful J.D. Vance, and Trump pushed back on a New York Times report that some Republican candidates are distancing themselves from himas they head into November. 

“The New York Times did a fake story today, big front page, that J.D. wasn’t sure if you wanted my support,” Trump said at the Youngstown rally, per NBC News’ Jesse Kirsch. “J.D. is kissing my ass. He wants my support.”

Vance’s spokesman Luke Schroeder told Kirsch that Vance “has been calling on the president to join us on the campaign trail, both publicly and privately, throughout the summer,” but the Times reported that Vance did not specifically invite Trump to the state. The rally also came as Vance finds himself in an unexpectedly tight race against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.

Not every GOP Senate candidate is eager to campaign with Trump. Colorado Republican Joe O’Dea noted on “Meet the Press” that Trump has not endorsed him, adding, “I don’t want to see him run again.” Trump’s favorability also reached a new post-presidency low in the latest national NBC News poll.

For his part, Trump once again teased another run for the White House, telling the crowd in Ohio, “Stay tuned, everybody, stay tuned.” 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Georgia Senate: Republicans are focusing new attacks on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock on his “financial gains” since taking office, Politico reports. 

Pennsylvania Senate: The Philadelphia Inquirer delves into the cognitive tests that Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman took as he recovers from a stroke. And Politico reports that an internal Fetterman campaign memo raised concerns about increased GOP ad spending

Arkansas Governor: Arkansas Republican gubernatorial nominee Sarah Sanders says she is “cancer free” after surgery for thyroid cancer, and released a statement from her doctor saying: “I don’t anticipate any of this slowing her down.” 

Arizona Governor: NBC News’ Liz Brown-Kaiser confirmed that Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin plans to campaign with Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake. 

Nevada Governor: NBC News’ Adam Edelman reports on how GOP gubernatorial nominee Joe Lombardo is focusing heavily on education issues as he tries to win in a purple state. He’s also facing criticism from the Las Vegas Sun editorial board for speaking at a church it called “infamous for its violently anti-gay rhetoric.”

Maine-02: The Associated Press reports on how the rematch between Democratic Rep. Jared Golden and former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin could be a bellwether

Texas-34: The Texas Tribune reports that Republican Rep. Mayra Flores’ district director resigned amid sexual harassment allegations stemming from both his time in Flores’ office and at the county Republican Party. The former staffer denies the allegations. 

Ad watch: O’Dea pitches himself as pro-abortion rights

In a new ad out over the weekend, Republican Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea’s daughter tells viewers, “He’s a different kind of Republican, too. My dad supports a woman’s right to choose.”

O’Dea’s in favor of allowing abortion up to five months, after which he would only support the procedure in cases of rape, incest and “medical necessity,” he told “Meet the Press”.

It’s a position on abortion that is different from that of his fellow Republican Senate candidates, many of whom favor stricter bans with few exceptions. But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from attacking him on the issue, warning that he could give the GOP the majority it needs to push for stricter abortion regulations, and pointing to his vote on a 2020 ballot measure that didn’t include those exceptions.

O’Dea is styling himself as a moderate in his bid against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, bucking his party on issues like immigration.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, signed into a law an abortion ban that applies to all stages of pregnancy and includes exceptions only for victims of rape and incest and medical emergencies.

The Justice Department is asking a federal appeals court to block a lower court’s ruling that prevents it from accessing classified documents that were recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this year. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis got a standing ovation at an event in Kansas over the weekend after he flew migrants from the Southern border to Martha’s Vineyard last week.

The Taliban released an Illinois Navy veteran in a prisoner swap that NBC News’ Ken Dilanian reports was personally approved by the president. In exchange, America is commuting the sentence of an Afghan drug lord who has been in custody for 17 years.