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Poll shows decreasing U.S. support for war in Ukraine

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Training session of Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk Oblast
Ukrainian soldiers during tank training in Donetsk Oblast, on Oct. 29, 2023. Diego Herrera Carcedo / Anadolu via Getty Images

Happening this Thursday: President Biden calls for humanitarian pause in Israel-Hamas war as foreign nationals, including Americans, hope to leave Gaza… President Biden holds bilateral meetings with the presidents of Chile and the Dominican Republic… Donald Trump speaks in Texas… Nikki Haley and Chris Christie campaign in New Hampshire… Tim Scott is in Iowa… And Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., survives vote to expel him from Congress.  

But FIRST… With much of the world now focused on war in the Middle East, a new Gallup poll (conducted Oct. 4-16) shows that American support for that other war — in Ukraine — has declined.

According to the poll, 41% of Americans say the United States is doing too much to help Ukraine, which is up from 24% who said this in Aug. 2022 and 29% who said this in June of 2023. 

That compares with 33% who believe the U.S. is doing the right amount (down from 43% who said this in June 2023), and another 25% who think the U.S. is not doing enough (essentially unchanged from June).  

The drop in American support for Ukraine has come primarily from Republicans and independents. 

Sixty-two percent of Republicans believe the U.S. is doing too much — up from 43% who said this in Aug. 2022. 

Among independents, 44% say the U.S. is doing too much — up from 28% in Aug. 2022. 

And among Democrats, just 14% think the U.S. is doing too much — it was 9% in Aug. 2022.

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … 2

That’s the number of House Republicans who announced on Wednesday that they aren’t running for re-election in 2024.

Reps. Ken Buck, R-Colo., and Kay Granger, R-Texas announced their decisions a week after the House Republican conference chose the next speaker, ending weeks of drama. Both Buck and Granger, who leads the powerful Appropriations Committee, opposed Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan’s unsuccessful bid to be the next speaker.

“I’m joining Kay and probably some others in the near future, but I’ve decided that it is time for me to do some other things,” Buck told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday, adding, “I always have been disappointed with our inability in Congress to deal with major issues, and I’m also disappointed that the Republican Party continues to rely on this lie that the 2020 election was stolen and rely on the Jan. 6 narrative.”

Granger said her decision stemmed from the need for a new generation of leaders from her district, saying in a statement, “It’s time for the next generation to step up and take the mantle and be a strong and fierce representative for the people.”

Eyes on 2024: DeSantis hits the Iowa airwaves

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign launched his first TV ad in Iowa Thursday, contrasting him with Biden and touting his work leading Florida. 

“Biden fails, DeSantis leads,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot, which will air on broadcast and cable networks throughout the state, NBC’s Alec Hernández reports. The ad goes on to highlight DeSantis’ efforts to bring Americans home from Israel, rebuild after a hurricane and send members of the Florida National Guard to the southern border. 

NBC’s Dasha Burns reported last month that the DeSantis campaign was going all-in on Iowa, spending $2 million on an ad buy in the state. But that’s a fraction of the $61.7 million that Republicans have already spent on ads in the Hawkeye State, per AdImpact, with the bulk of that spending coming from outside groups. The pro-DeSantis, Never Back Down, has led the pack with $13.6 million in ad spending.

DeSantis’ decision to highlight his efforts to bring Americans home from Israel amid the country’s war with Hamas underscores how the issue has become a top concern for GOP voters. NBC’s Alex Tabet writes that the issue is a particularly salient one for evangelical Christians in Iowa, who view protecting Israel as “God’s will.”

And as DeSantis focuses his efforts on Iowa, former President Donald Trump’s campaign is hoping to deal a “knockout blow” to DeSantis and Trump’s other rivals in the January caucuses, per the Washington Post. 

In other campaign news… 

Biden’s Minnesota mission: President Joe Biden traveled to Minnesota on Wednesday to tout his economic policies, focusing on how they have affected rural Americans. But local Muslim leaders organized protests around Biden’s trip, and NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald, Julia Jester and Gabe Gutierrez write that the protests were “the latest sign that Muslim American voters may turn against the president after having supported him in 2020.”  

Trump’s Florida flips: Trump allies in Florida are encouraging state lawmakers who have backed DeSantis to instead endorse the former president, and some could do so next week, NBC’s Matt Dixon and Dasha Burns report.

DeSantis takes a shot: The New York Times explores how DeSantis’ campaign is leaning on vaccine skepticism to win over GOP voters, but his case against Trump’s Covid policies hasn’t resonated.  

No Labels, no problem: While a No Labels-backed presidential bid is fueling anxiety in the White House, Axios reports that the Biden camp’s strategy is to “avoid antagonizing” the group, in hopes it will eventually back down. 

Christie’s case: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign stressed to donors that Christie is looking to make it to Super Tuesday, per Politico, noting his low spending means Christie could outlast his rivals. 

Hutchinson’s struggles: Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson tapped his former chief of staff to serve as his new campaign manager, per NBC’s Jillian Frankel. Hutchinson also opted not to appear on the South Carolina primary ballot.   

Ohio issue: Ohio GOP Senate hopeful Bernie Moreno recently made a false claim about the state’s abortion rights ballot measure, suggesting it could result in a “a girl be able to be raped and having a rapist force her to have an abortion — all without your consent — as a minor.” 

It’s all in a name, or not:  The New York Times explores Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s re-election strategy, in a campaign where he’s running “on President Biden’s record and agenda, but never mentions the party’s unpopular leader by name.” 

Fiery debate: Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves, who is seeking a second term next week, engaged in a raucous debate against his opponent, Democrat Brandon Presley, on Wednesday night, where both accused each other of lying. And, in a new TV ad, Reeves touts his endorsement from Trump

No censure: House lawmakers on Wednesday voted against censuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., following her comments about the Israel-Hamas war. Still, she faces other political blowback, like a new TV ad in her district by Democratic Majority for Israel that accuses Tlaib of being “on the wrong side of history and humanity.”

Still hanging on: Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., who has been indicted on federal fraud charges, survived a vote to expel him from the House on Wednesday and called for due process after the vote, NBC News Capitol Hill team reports.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world 

According to U.S. officials, Hamas is hoarding fuel for the rockets it fires into Israel and for the generators that give power to the group’s underground tunnels while hospitals in Gaza run dangerously low on fuel. 

Senate Democrats on Wednesday night launched an effort to bypass the hold on military promotions set by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., over his views on the Defense Department’s policies on abortion.