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Republicans still can’t quit Trump — even after last week’s election results

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.
Former President Donald Trump greets supporters during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport on Oct. 8, 2022 in Minden, Nev.
Former President Donald Trump greets supporters during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport on Oct. 8, 2022, in Minden, Nev.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... Democrats retain Senate control after holding Nevada and Arizona. ... Republicans need to win seven of uncalled 19 House races for control of chamber; Democrats need to win 13. ... Democrat Katie Hobbs leads Republican Kari Lake by 26,000 votes in “Too Close to Call” Arizona gubernatorial contest. ... President Biden meets with China’s Xi at G-20 meeting in Bali. ... And the TV ads are already airing in the Georgia Senate runoff.

But first: After losing in a third-straight election cycle, after the multiple impeachments, and amid the ongoing investigations and legal scrutiny, Republicans still can’t say no to Donald Trump.  

At least not yet. 

And that might be his remaining power as the former president is expected to announce another bid for the White House on Tuesday. 

Here was Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on “Meet the Press” yesterday when he was asked if he could imagine supporting Trump if he became the party’s presidential nominee in 2024. 

“Our party should be about the future. I think our next candidate will be looking to the future, not to the past, and I think our next candidate will win. And so I anticipate supporting a candidate who’s looking to the future.”

But when the follow-up question was “What if the next candidate is Trump?” here was Cassidy’s reply.

“You’re giving me a theoretical, which actually I don’t think will come to transpire because we have to be looking to the future.”

Remember, Cassidy is a Republican senator who already voted to convict Trump in his last impeachment trial and who isn’t up for re-election until 2026. 

Now it is true that some Republican members and conservative voices have tried to distance themselves from Trump after last week’s midterm losses. They’ve also pinned their hopes on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or another GOP alternative. 

But are they willing to completely close the door on Trump if it means him versus the prospect of Democrats maintaining control of the White House? 

That’s the essential question.

After all, every time the GOP has been given an off-ramp from Trump, they’ve either actively refused or passively kept on driving. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 62%

That’s the percentage of candidates who have denied or cast doubt on Biden’s 2020 victory who have won their races for governor, Senate, secretary of state or the House, as of Monday morning, per an NBC News analysis. Out of 268 total candidates, 166 have won and 90 have lost. Two are headed to runoffs and 10 are in races that have not yet been called. 

Almost all of the candidates who won their races — 154 of the 166 — were in contests the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rated as Solid Republican or in secretary of state races in red states (the Cook Political report did not rate those races). Just one candidate won a Toss Up race — ​​Republican Jen Kiggans, who flipped Virginia-02.

Unlike Trump, whose lies about the 2020 election they echoed, some of these candidates have been willing to concede. That group even includes Pennsylvania GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a leading proponent of Trump’s election lies, who conceded his race for governor over the weekend.

Other numbers to know:

1: That’s how many incumbent governors who so far lost their re-election, now that NBC News is projecting Republican Joe Lombardo has defeated Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.

$3.3 million: How much Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock reserved in airtime on Friday for the Georgia Senate runoff, per AdImpact. Walker reserved $2.2 million on the airwaves from Nov. 14 — Nov. 27, while Warnock reserved nearly $1.1 million from Nov. 12 — Nov. 15. 

$4.6 million: How much the Democratic super PAC Georgia Honor reserved on Friday in airtime from Nov. 12 -18 for the Senate runoff, per AdImpact. 

$1.2 million: How much the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century reserved on Friday in airtime from Nov. 12 — Nov. 21, per AdImpact 

8: The number of Republican senators calling for a delay in Senate leadership elections, per NBC News’ Frank Thorp, Ryan Nobles and Garrett Haake. 

2: The number of California Democrats so far running to lead the DCCC — Reps. Tony Cárdenas and Ami Bera. 

Midterm roundup: What’s left to decide the House majority? 

The biggest news from over the weekend was that NBC News Decision Desk projected that Democrats will maintain control of the Senate (with Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly holding onto their seats). 

Now, the spotlight turns to the key statewide races still undecided (like Arizona’s gubernatorial race), and to the handful of uncalled House races that will decide which party controls the chamber (the Decision Desk currently estimates a final margin of 219 GOP seats to 216 Democratic seats, but that’s with a four-seat margin-of-error, so we can’t project control yet). 

The Decision Desk still hasn’t projected 19 House races — right now, Republicans are the projected winners in 211 to the Democrats’ 205. That means Republicans need to win seven of the outstanding races to clinch the House majority, while Democrats need 13. 

Over the weekend, NBC News projected victories for New Mexico Democrat Gabriel Vasquez, Colorado Democrat Yadira Caraveo, Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, California Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley, Maryland Democratic Rep. David Trone, Washington Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and a few calls in safe races where ballots have been slow to count. 

Here’s a look at what’s left, guided by pre-election race ratings from The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter:

Toss ups: 

  • AZ-1: GOP Rep. David Schweikert vs. Democrat Jevin Hodge.
  • CA-13: An open seat race with Republican John Duarte vs. Democrat Adam Gray.
  • CA-22: GOP Rep. David Valadao vs. Democrat Rudy Salas.
  • CA-27: GOP Rep. Mike Garcia vs. Democrat Christie Smith.
  • CA-47: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter vs. Republican Scott Baugh.
  • CA-49: Democratic Rep. Mike Levin vs. Republican Bryan Maryott.
  • ME-2: Democratic Rep. Jared Golden vs. Republican Bruce Poliquin.
  • NY-22: An open seat with Democrat Francis Conole vs. Republican Brandon Williams.
  • OR-6: A new district with Democrat Andrea Salinas vs. Republican Mike Erickson.

Other competitive races: 

  • AK-AL: Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola vs. Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye.
  • AZ-6: An open seat with Republican Juan Ciscomani vs. Democrat Kirsten Engel.
  • CA-3: An open seat with Republican Kevin Kiley vs. Democrat Kermit Jones .
  • CA-9: Democratic Rep. Josh Harder vs. Republican Tom Patti.
  • CA-41: GOP Rep. Ken Calvert vs. Democrat Will Rollins.
  • CA-45: GOP Rep. Michelle Steel vs. Democrat Jay Chen.
  • OR-5: An open seat, with Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer vs. Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

A surprisingly close race: 

  • CO-3: GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert vs. Democrat Adam Frisch.

Safe seats: 

  • The Decision Desk hasn’t yet projected two safe seats President Biden won by more than 20 and 60 percentage points respectively in 2020, CA-21 and CA-34, as ballots continue to be counted. 

Ad watch: All eyes on Georgia — again

Last week, NBC News projected Georgia’s Senate race would head to a Dec. 6 runoff election, and already new ads are out defining each candidate in the race.

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock released a new ad over the weekend telling voters what’s at stake in the upcoming runoff. “It’s about who has the competence and character to represent us, who’s willing to tell the truth, who has the knowledge needed for the job, who will work for every corner of our state,” a narrator in the ad says.

Republican nominee Herschel Walker is also out with a new ad today, featuring a Georgia man telling voters, “The quality and the fabric of the man is top notch and his values have been formed in small-town Wrightsville, Georgia. And those are good values.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who lost a closer-than-expected race for governor last week, is fielding calls from supporters urging him to run for Republican National Committee chair.

Staffers on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol were informed that the committee’s final report would focus more on former President Donald Trump than on failures by law enforcement entities leading up to the attack, NBC News’ Ken Dilanian, Ryan J. Reilly and Jonathan Allen report.

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly says Trump wanted the IRS to investigate perceived political opponents like former FBI Director James Comey, the New York Times reports.