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Sinema’s independent move throws a wrench into Democrats’ 2024 plans

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.
Kyrsten Sinema at the U.S. Capitol
Kyrsten Sinema at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 14, 2022. Graeme Sloan / Sipa USA via AP file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves the Democratic Party and registers as an independent. ... Sinema says she won’t caucus with Republicans. ... Brittney Griner arrives back in U.S. ... President Biden notches some big wins to end the year. ... Donald Trump’s Super PAC has more than $50 million cash on hand. ... NBC’s Marc Caputo goes inside Herschel Walker’s failed campaign. ... And the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is set to release its final report. 

But first: So much for Democrats’ smooth 51-49 Senate majority. 

The breaking news that Sen. Krysten Sinema is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as a political independent won’t upend Democrats’ control of the Senate. 

At least not yet. 

Sinema told Politico that she won’t caucus with Republicans, and she said in a CNN interview that she expects to keep her committee assignments, which suggests she’ll work out a deal to caucus with Democrats.

Still, as NBC’s Garrett Haake notes, Sinema’s move definitely makes her harder for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to manage. 

Yet to us, the biggest implications are for 2024 — Sinema’s re-election and Rep. Ruben Gallego’s, D-Ariz., possible/likely/certain primary challenge. 

If the last few years in Arizona politics have taught us anything, it’s that the party dealing with infighting doesn’t win in the state. 

(Remember Donald Trump’s battles with Jeff Flake and John McCain? How did that work out for the GOP? What about Trump’s attacks on outgoing GOP Gov. Doug Ducey?)

Sinema’s independent move also throws a wrench into the political math that’s helped Democrats win statewide in Arizona in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

Given that Democrats trail Republicans and independents in party registration, the formula for Dem success has been winning all Democratic voters, a vast majority of independents and crossover Republicans. 

(That’s how Mark Kelly and Katie Hobbs won in November, despite an R+6 statewide electorate per the exit poll, as well as an R+9 edge in all-important Maricopa County.)

But what happens if Sinema and Gallego are both on the general-election ballot in Nov. 2024? That math no longer adds up. 

Maybe the biggest question is for Schumer and President Biden: Do they ultimately give an independent Sinema their blessing — a la how they’ve operated with an Angus King or even Evan McMullin last cycle? All to discourage a Gallego bid? 

Or do they get 100% get behind Gallego or another Democrat?

The choice will have enormous ramifications on 2024, including in a presidential contest. 

Chart of the day

GOP’s voter-registration edge in Arizona

Data Download: The number of the day is … $53.4 million

That’s how much money MAGA, Inc., the Trump-aligned super PAC, had on hand as of Nov. 28, per a new fundraising report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. 

The super PAC, which launched in late September, became Trump’s main political arm. The vast majority of the $73 million the super PAC raised since it was founded through Nov. 28 came from transfers from Trump’s PAC, Save America. 

MAGA, Inc., spent $18.7 million, including $15 million on independent expenditures to boost Trump-backed candidates in five competitive Senate races. The group spent $3.7 million in Arizona, $3.5 million in Pennsylvania, $3.4 million in Georgia, $2.4 million in Ohio, and $2 million in Nevada. 

And now it will be able to spend to boost Trump’s presidential bid. 

Other numbers to know:

258: That’s how many House members supported the Respect for Marriage Act on Thursday, codifying federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, including 39 Republicans. The bill now heads to the president’s desk.

350: How many House members voted to pass a sweeping defense authorization bill, which included $858 billion in defense spending. It also included a provision rescinding the Covid vaccine mandate for the military. 

107: The number of Republican National Committee members backing Ronna McDaniel’s re-election as chairwoman

$2 billion: How much the Department of Homeland Security wants to address the possibility of a surge of migrant border crossings, per a new exclusive report from NBC News’ Julia Ainsley. 

46%: President Biden’s approval rating in a new CNN poll

More than 100: How many times Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder said he did not know or gave “misleading” answers during congressional testimony over the summer, per a 79-page report from the House committee investigating the team amid allegations of harassment and a toxic workplace. 

Midterm roundup: Inside Herschel Walker’s failed campaign 

NBC News’ Marc Caputo has a new deep dive into what went wrong on Georgia Republican Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign. 

A power struggle between the campaign staff and Walker and his wife, a candidate who didn’t come clean about all the skeletons in his closet, a misplaced hope that Walker’s celebrity brand would conquer all and an effort that got massively outraised all contributed to the GOP falling just short in the pivotal Senate race. 

Read more on

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Former President Donald Trump declined to appeal the latest ruling in his case against the Justice Department, effectively ending his lawsuit regarding the government’s August search at Mar-a-Lago.

Despite lackluster poll numbers, President Biden has notched a series of political, policy and diplomacy wins to close out 2022. 

U.S. police departments are plagued by officer-on-officer sexual assault, an investigation by NBC News’ Emily R. Siegel and Simone Weichselbaum finds.