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Here’s why this upcoming Wisconsin election is so important

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.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly speaks during a candidate's forum in Madison on Nov. 19, 2019.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly speaks during a candidate's forum in Madison on Nov. 19, 2019.John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal via AP file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... Liberal Janet Protasiewicz and conservative Daniel Kelly advance to Wisconsin Supreme Court general election. ... Democrat Jennifer McClellan easily wins the Virginia-04 special election, becoming first Black woman to be elected to Congress in Virginia. ... The grand jury investigating possible election interference by Donald Trump and allies recommended indicting more than a dozen individuals, grand jury foreperson tells NBC’s Blayne Alexander. ... Trump visits East Palestine, Ohio after the train derailment there. ... And Sen. Jon Tester is running for re-election in Montana, per NBC’s Liz Brown-Kaiser.

But first: Get ready for what will likely be the country’s most competitive and consequential general election until we get to 2024. 

It’s Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court contest, which will determine whether conservatives or liberals have a 4-3 majority on the all-important court — in arguably the nation’s most important swing state.

It takes place on April 4.

“In the last four years, we’ve seen lawsuits about the 2020 election, the use of absentee ballots, redistricting, stay-at-home orders other health precautions related to the pandemic, education, policy, school choice. All of those things have ended up before the Supreme Court, and now we add abortion to that because of the Dobbs decision last year,” Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told NBC’s Shaquille Brewster and Kailani Koenig.

“That has made this race more important than probably any Supreme Court race in the history of the state,” Burden added.

Now the candidates are set for the general: liberal Janet Protasiewicz (who got 46.4% of the vote in the primary) and conservative Daniel Kelly (who got 24.2%, besting fellow conservative Jennifer Dorow’s 21.8%). 

Note: The candidates don’t run as Democrats or Republicans, but the issues they’re running on make their ideology crystal-clear to voters in hyperpolarized and hypercompetitive Wisconsin.

Here was Protasiewicz last night: “I value a woman’s freedom to make her own reproductive health care decisions with her doctor, family, and faith. I also value our democracy and believe every Wisconsinite deserves to be fairly represented.”

And here’s one the TV ads backing Kelly: “Madison liberals are trying to take over the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That’s why we need to elect conservative Justice Dan Kelly. Dan Kelly has a proven record of protecting our freedoms and cast the deciding vote to end the Covid lockdowns of our schools and businesses.”

NBC’s Adam Edelman also reports that Kelly, whom Donald Trump endorsed in his unsuccessful bid to the state court in 2020, worked on the GOP effort to reverse the presidential outcome in Wisconsin by using “fake electors.”

A Kelly spokesman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, however, that Kelly believes Joe Biden is the duly elected president, and that a lawyer’s work for a client doesn’t always reflect the lawyer’s personal views.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … more than a dozen

That’s how many people the Georgia grand jury investigating possible 2020 election interference recommended indicting, the jury foreperson told NBC News Tuesday. 

While the foreperson, Emily Kohrs, told NBC News’ Blayne Alexander that “there are definitely some names you expect” on that list, she didn’t provide specifics as to whether the grand jury recommended charging former President Donald Trump or his key allies. 

So far, only a small portion of the grand jury’s report has been made public — un-redacted portions released last week showed the panel interviewed 75 witnesses and said it believed some of those had lied to the grand jury. It’s up to Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis to decide whether to act on the grand jury’s recommendations. 

Watch the interview and read more here

Other numbers to know: 

11: The number of people, including Republican Reps. Don Bacon and Zach Nunn, whose personal military records were improperly released, sparking GOP calls for an investigation.  

145,000: That’s how many cans of Enfamil ProSobee baby formula were recalled out of concerns they have been contaminated with bacteria. 

$100 million: The amount for which the family of Malcolm X, a civil rights leader who was assassinated in the 1960s plans to sue the CIA, FBI and NYPD for allegedly having a role in his death.

42 million: Roughly the number of people, from California to Maine, under winter weather alerts ahead of expected snowstorms and blizzards.

2.5%: The amount the Nasdaq fell on Tuesday in the worst day for Wall Street so far this year. 

44,000: The amount of hours of security footage from the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that Tucker Carlson claims to have been granted access to.

More than $16 million: The amount that former President Donald Trump’s leadership PAC spent on legal services in 2022, CNN reports.

Eyes on 2024: Another Republican jumps into WH race

Republican author and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy announced his presidential bid Tuesday. A multimillionaire, he recently told Politico that he is looking to Trump’s 2016 run as an example of how a businessman and political outsider can find success. 

Ramaswamy launched his run aiming to solve what he calls a “national identity crisis,” staking his race on the country’s culture wars. 

“Faith, patriotism and hard work have disappeared, only to be replaced by new secular religions, like Covidism, climatism, and gender ideology,” Ramaswamy said in his launch video. “We hunger to be part of something bigger than ourselves yet we cannot even answer the question of what it means to be an American.” 

In other campaign news:

Virginia is for history makers: As expected, Democratic state Sen. Jennifer McClellan is projected to win Tuesday’s special election in Virginia’s 4th District and become the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress.  

Biden preview: President Joe Biden’s speech in Poland on Tuesday voicing continued support for Ukraine offered a preview of some of his re-election messaging, NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reports. 

DeSantis’ view of the world: DeSantis said during a Fox News interview that China poses a greater threat than Russia, and warned of U.S. involvement in Ukraine amounting to a “proxy war.” 

Haley names names: Asked about her call for mental competency tests for politicians, GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley said that politicians like Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as Democratic politicians like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and California Rep. Maxine Waters, are why she’s proposed that policy. But Politico reports the call isn’t landing well with older voters

Scott heads to Iowa: As South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott heads to Iowa Wednesday, he tells Fox News “it’s really about the mission more than it is the timeline.”

Lee jumps in: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., launched a Senate run on Tuesday. She brushed off concerns about her age in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, saying, “If Bernie Sanders can win a primary in California, then Barbara Lee certainly can win to be the next United States senator. Come on.”

Thinking about it: Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, is considering running for Senate against Republican Ted Cruz, the Dallas morning News reports. 

Special election coming soon: Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., is resigning from Congress at the end of may to lead the Rhode Island Foundation. The timing of the special election to replace Cicilline is unclear, but Democrats are expected to hold onto the seat. 

Santos emerges: Embattled New York GOP Rep. George Santos, who has not yet said if he’s running for re-election, said in an interview that he didn’t think his lies about his background would be discovered because “I ran in 2020 for the same exact seat for Congress, and I got away with it then.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The EPA is demanding Norfolk Southern pay for the clean up associated with the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, while Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro says his office has made a criminal referral related to the accident. 

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a case regarding the limits to social media platforms’, specifically Youtube’s, immunity from responsibility over the content on their platform.

NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports on the tradition of judicial blue slips, and the debate over whether to end the practice