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Tuesday's elections confirmed abortion’s power and Trump’s influence on the GOP

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.
Image: Kansas vote, abortion
Activists cheer during the pro-choice Kansas for Constitutional Freedom primary election watch party in Overland Park, Kan., on Aug. 2, 2022.Dave Kaup / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... Kansas votes overwhelmingly to uphold abortion rights. ... Kari Lake narrowly leads Karrin Taylor Robson in “too close to call” GOP's Arizona governors race. ... Blake Masters wins Republican nomination in Arizona Senate. ... Rep. Peter Meijer, who voted for Trump’s impeachment, goes down to defeat in Michigan-03. ... Rep. Haley Stevens beats Rep. Andy Levin in Democratic member-vs.-member Michigan-11 contest. ... Eric Schmitt gets Republican nomination in Missouri Senate. .... Tudor Dixon wins GOP Michigan governor's contest… And Rusty Bowers, who testified before Jan. 6 committee, loses his Republican primary in Arizona.

But first:  There were two big takeaways from last night’s elections. 

One, protecting abortion rights is most definitely a galvanizing issue for Democrats after the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade.

And two, the Republican Party’s traditional wing had one of its best primary nights — outside of Georgia — but it doesn’t look like it was enough to overcome Donald Trump’s pull within the party. 

On abortion and its galvanizing effect, just look at the turnout in that Kansas constitutional amendment to curtail abortion rights, which went down to defeat by a 59%-41% margin — in ruby-red Kansas. 

It was almost presidential-level turnout in August, per the Kansas Secretary of State's office and NBC News:

  • 2014 primary: 350,699
  • 2016 primary: 386,527
  • 2016 general 1,225,667
  • 2020 general: 1,375,125
  • Last night: 908,747 (so far) 

Just as significantly, abortion rights played better than any recent winning Democratic presidential candidate. Look at these numbers from Johnson County, Kansas’ most populous county (right outside of Kansas City): 

  • 2022: "No" on constitutional amendment 68%, "yes" 31%
  • 2020: Biden 53%, Trump 45%
  • 2012: Romney 58%, Obama 40%
  • 2008: McCain 54%, Obama 45%

Bottom line: We had assumed abortion could be a powerful motivating issue for Democrats. But we actually saw it play out that way in Kansas Tuesday night. 

On our second takeaway, traditional Republicans put up quite the fight. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., almost won. Eric Greitens lost in Missouri Senate. And it’s closer than expected in Arizona Governor, but Trump-backed Kari Lake appears to have the edge (thanks to those day-of primary voters). 

Still, that fight might not have been enough — the GOP remains Trump’s party. 

Even Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House speaker who testified before the Jan. 6 committee, lost his primary. 

Add up the takeaways, and they raise these important questions three months before the midterms: Are Democrats more motivated than we thought?

And are Republicans maybe more divided than we had assumed?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 10

That’s how many House members have lost primaries so far this cycle, including Michigan GOP Rep. Peter Meijer on Tuesday, who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Meijer had won 48% of the vote to Trump-backed John Gibbs’ 52%, per NBC’s Decision Desk. 

Michigan Democratic Rep. Andy Levin also lost his primary against fellow Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens, who won 60% of the vote to Levin’s 40%. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., easily won their primaries against challengers who alleged the progressives focused too much on their national profiles. 

The fate of three other House incumbents is still unclear. As of 7:00 a.m. ET, Washington Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse were among the top two vote-getters in their all-party primaries, but only about half the expected vote was counted so far. Both faced Trump-backed challengers after voting for Trump’s impeachment. And Arizona GOP Rep. David Schweikert, who faced a tough primary challenge amid multiple ethics violations, was leading the primary field but the race has not yet been called.

Other numbers to know: 

$6.7 million: How much money Senate Leadership Fund, the outside group aligned with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, donated to the super PAC attacking disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens on the airwaves, as first reported by Politico

44%: The share of the $700 million spent on political digital ads that has been spent on streaming TV, a significant uptick in political ad-spending on the platform. 

2: How many states have not recorded a monkeypox case, per the NBC News data graphics team.  

8%: The share of people in America without health insurance, per the Department of Health and Human Services, a record low. 

Midterm roundup: The primary results are in

Meijer and Levin’s losses were just two of the races we were watching last night. Here’s a look at the results in some of the other key contests, with the projected winners per NBC’s Decision Desk as of 7:00 am ET: 

Arizona Governor: The GOP primary between Trump-backed former news anchor Kari Lake and former Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson is too close to call. Lake is leading with 46% while Robson has nearly 45%. Whoever wins will face Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in November.

Arizona Senate: Blake Masters, a top associate to billionaire Peter Thiel who had Trump’s endorsement, won the GOP primaryto take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters led the crowded field with 39%, with the next closest Republican, energy executive Jim Lamon, garnering 29% of the vote. 

Arizona Secretary of State: State Rep. Mark Finchem, an election denier backed by Trump, won the GOP primary for Secretary of State with 41% of the vote. The Democratic primary is too early to call. 

Arizona Legislature: State House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who served as a witness in a televised Jan. 6 Committee hearing, lost the GOP primary to Trump-backed state Sen. David Farnsworth. With 57% of the expected vote in, Farnsworth had won 64% of the vote while Bowers had won 36%.

Michigan Governor: Conservative media personality Tudor Dixon won the Republican primary for governor in Michigan with 40% of the vote, beating businessman Kevin Rinke, who won 22% of the vote and chiropractor Garrett Soldano, who won 18% of the vote. Dixon will face Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the fall.

Missouri Senate: State attorney general Eric Schmitt won the GOP primary in Missouri, with over 45% of the vote, beating Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who won 22%, and disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, who won 19% of the vote. Schmitt will face Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune who has also worked as nurse, in November.

Kansas Attorney General: The controversial Kris Kobach has won the primary for attorney general with 42%.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Ohio Senate: The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican J.D. Vance are going up with a $1 million ad buy that features Vance’s first ad of the general election, NBC News’ Henry Gomez reports. Vance is also getting outside reinforcements from the GOP-aligned non-profit One Nation — the New York Times reports the group is $3.8 million on ads the next month there. 

Illinois Governor: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is up with a new spot that includes Republican nominee Darren Bailey saying“The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion.”

Kansas-03: Vulnerable Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids launched her first TV ad tracked by AdImpact, and it focuses on lowering gas prices.

Maine Governor: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is up with her first two ads of the general election cycle, with one that plays up her biography and another that argues she has an independent streak

Minnesota-02: Asked whether she’d support President Biden running for re-election, Democratic Rep. Angie Craig said she wants a “new generation of leadership.” 

New York-12: Both Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler balked at saying whether President Biden should run for re-election during their debate Tuesday night, with Democrat Suraj Patel saying Biden should run again. 

Ad watch: Kotek hits the airwaves in Oregon Governor 

Democrat Tina Kotek, her party’s nominee for governor in Oregon, is launching her first ad of the general election campaign, one that plays up her approach to poverty, treatment and homelessness. 

The new ad now means all three major candidates in the race — Kotek, Republican nominee Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson — are up on the airwaves. Johnson has paced the ad spending since the May primary, spending more than $2.5 million on ads, per AdImpact. Drazan jumped onto the airwaves with her first general election ad last week, with Kotek following this week. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan yesterday and met with the Taiwanese president, drawing fury from China.

The Senate passed a major veterans health bill that expanded benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

The Justice Department is suing Idaho, alleging its abortion ban violates federal law.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are backing Democratic Rep. Karen Bass’ mayoral bid