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Trump vs. Trump-y in today’s Kentucky primary

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.
Kentucky gubernatorial candidates Daniel Cameron and Kelly Craft.
Kentucky gubernatorial candidates Daniel Cameron and Kelly Craft.Timothy D. Easley / AP

If it’s TUESDAY… President Biden meetswith congressional leaders at 3:00 pm ET to discuss the debt ceiling… Four New Hampshire Republicans who had endorsed Donald Trump now back Ron DeSantis, NBC’s Dasha Burns and Jon Allen report… Mike Pence visits New Hampshire, as a new pro-Pence Super PAC forms… And it’s Primary Day in Kentucky and Philadelphia, as well as Runoff Day in Jacksonville, Fla. 

But FIRST… It’s Donald Trump’s candidate versus the candidate who has campaigned in Trump’s style. 

That’s one way to view today’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Kentucky featuring state Attorney General Daniel Cameron (whom Trump endorsed early) and former Trump U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft (who has attacked “woke ideology” and liberal indoctrination of schools).

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, state Auditor Mike Harmon and lawyer Eric Deters also are running for the right to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in the fall.  

Strikingly, Cameron hasn’t run a super Trump-y campaign — at least by today’s standards. 

His TV ads have hit Beshear and Biden; they’ve attacked Covid shutdowns, illegal immigration and abortion; and they’ve highlighted Trump’s endorsement. 

Cameron also has downplayed his deep ties to Senate Minority Mitch McConnell. “Look, I’m my own man,” Cameron told voters, per NBC’s Dasha Burns’ deep-dive on the race

Meanwhile, it’s Craft who has seized on the culture wars and being an outsider — as she’s outspent her GOP rivals over the airwaves. 

“Our schools are under attack. Woke bureaucrats parachuting in to hijack our children’s future, forcing woke ideology into the classroom,” goes one of her ads.  

 “Here in Kentucky, we have big challenges ahead -- and need an outsider to solve them,” Craft says in another

So what’s the bigger force? Trump’s early endorsement and Cameron’s political ties to the state? Or Craft’s big bucks and her Trump-y campaign?

We’ll find out tonight after final polls close at 7:00 pm ET (they close in the eastern part of the state at 6:00 pm ET and western part at 7:00 pm ET).

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $30 million

That’s how much money has been spent on television ads for the presidential race this year, per data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. 

The top two spenders, far and away, are the two super PACs backing former President Donald Trump and Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. The pro-DeSantis Never Back Down has spent about $10.7 million while the pro-Trump MAGA Inc. has spent about $10.1 million. 

But while both groups have spent about the same, they have differing strategies. Never Back Down has spent more in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, while MAGA Inc. has spent significantly more on national advertising. And while Never Back Down’s ads largely boost DeSantis’ record (with a smaller amount of spending on criticizing Trump), MAGA Inc. ads almost exclusively needle DeSantis. 

Read more about the state of the presidential ad spending on the Meet the Press Blog.  

Other numbers to know:

300: The number of pages in a special counsel report released Monday accusing the FBI of acting negligently while investigating former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

18,000: The number of migrants in Customs and Border Patrol processing facilities as of Monday evening, NBC News’ Julia Ainsley reports, down from the last few days but still nearing the facilities’ capacity.

18: The number of Russian missiles Ukraine shot down over Kyiv on Tuesday morning as it defended against an attack by drones and missiles, per the Associated Press. 

More than 8,800: The number of civilian deaths in Ukraine since Russia invaded over a year ago, according to the U.N., CNBC reports. 

At least three: The number of people killed in a New Mexico shooting on Monday

4: The number of days that parts of the Pacific Northwest have been under a rare and historic heat wave.

$17 trillion: The value of consumer debt in the first quarter of 2023, the highest it’s ever been, CNBC reports.

Between $1.09 million and $2.57 million: The value of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden’s assets, per a new financial disclosure report that showed little change from last year. 

$2 million: The value of a lawsuit filed against Rudy Giuliani by a woman claiming that he coerced her into sex and owes her unpaid wages, allegations the former New York City mayor denies.

Eyes on 2024: Clues from Tuesday’s other races

On top of the GOP gubernatorial primary in Kentucky, there are other contests taking place on Tuesday that could provide some clues about 2024 — even though it’s hard to draw too many lessons from individual races. 

For a sense of whether election-denying candidates still hold sway within the GOP, keep an eye on the secretary of state race in Kentucky, where Republican incumbent Michael Adams is facing two primary challengers who have campaigned on voter fraud claims. NBC News’ Jane Timm reports that Adams has worked to expand voter access, and he acknowledged he could lose his job for pushing back on false claims of widespread election fraud. 

Voters are also heading to the polls in Pennsylvania, which is hosting a crowded Democratic primary for Philadelphia mayor. The race will test progressives’ strength, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., traveling to the city over the weekend to boost former city councilmember Helen Gym. The race will also serve as another test for how crime is impacting big-city politics.

Two races will also provide some insight into voter attitudes in two key counties in two crucial battlegrounds. 

In Pennsylvania, a special state House election in Delaware County could decide which party controls the state house, and President Joe Biden waded into the race on Monday, endorsing the Democratic candidate

And a mayoral runoff in Jacksonville, Fla., will provide a clue about the political winds in Duval County. The city is the largest in the country with a Republican mayor, who is term-limited.

In other campaign news… 

First in First Read: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is launching a digital ad aimed at Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. The ad focuses on recent reporting from NBC News’ Henry J. Gomez, who found that Brown received an extra property tax credit and was charged late fees on tax payments. 

The ad is part of a five-figure buy and will play on Facebook and Twitter. “After nearly 50 years in politics, it’s clear Sherrod Brown has lost touch with the voters who elected him,” NRSC spokesman Philip Letsou said in a statement.  

Speaking of Sherrod Brown: The Messenger delves into Brown’s race, and his bipartisan appeal in the increasingly red state. Brown also demurred on whether he would campaign with President Joe Biden, saying it “depends on my schedule.” 

DeSantis making moves (literally): Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political team moved out of state GOP headquarters and into a new office on Monday, per NBC News’ Matt Dixon, another sign DeSantis is moving towards a presidential run. Politico also reports that DeSantis is huddling with donors next week.  

On Monday DeSantis also signed a bill into law “restricting how race and gender can be taught in Florida’s public higher education institutions and banning them from using state or federal funding for diversity programs,” per NBC News’ Rose Horowitch. 

And four New Hampshire Republicans who previously backed Trump announced they are now backing the Florida governor (one says she’s endorsing both men). 

Scott’s team: Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is building out his campaign team ahead of his expected presidential announcement next week, naming former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam as a national co-chair, Politico reports. 

Ready for Mike and ready to ride: Former Vice President Mike Pence’s allies, including former Texas GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling and longtime Republican strategist Scott Reed, are launching a super PAC to back him. In other Pence news, he will attend Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride” event next month, per Fox News (former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is also attending). 

Haley’s financial disclosures: Haley reported earning between $1.2 and $12 million in speaking fees from March of 2022 through this past January, per the personal financial disclosures required of presidential candidates.  

Also for Alsobrooks: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Monday that he is not running for the open Maryland Senate seat, and instead endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Jumping in: Former state Rep. Leslie Love jumped into the Democratic Senate primary in Michigan on Monday. 

Taking on Santos: Axios reports that another Democrat, nonprofit founder Zak Malame, has jumped into the race against embattled GOP Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y.

Min’s arrest: The Washington Free Beacon obtained footage of the drunk driving arrest of California state Sen. Dave Min, a Democratic congressional hopeful. 

SCOTUS watch: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case involving South Carolina’s 1st District, which a lower court determined was racially gerrymandered.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

The U.S. is still on track to breach the debt ceiling on June 1, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a letter to Congress Monday.

Some officials believe that the Biden administration is suspending a plan to move U.S. Space Command to Alabama due to the state’s abortion restrictions, NBC News’ Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee report.