IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

GOP campaign ads put the focus on immigration and inflation

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.
Asylum-seeking migrants walk near the border wall in El Paso, Texas, after crossing the Rio Grande
Asylum-seeking migrants walk near the border wall in El Paso, Texas, after crossing the Rio GrandeJose Luis Gonzalez / Reuters

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... The Senate takes the final confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. ... The North Carolina Senate race gets chippy. ... The House holds former Trump aides Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress, referring matter to the Justice Department. ... And a report by Arizona’s attorney general (who’s running for the Senate) finds no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities in 2020 election in key county.

But first: We reviewed 210 unique political ads that aired last month in House, Senate and gubernatorial contests, and we found that one-in-five of them (46) specifically mentioned the border/immigration or inflation/cost of living.

All of the border/immigration ads were from Republican candidates.

“Biden's open border is killing Alabamians,” goes one of them by Alabama Senate candidate Katie Britt. “Christian conservative Katie Britt will fight back. She'll build the wall, stop the trafficking of drugs and young girls, support law enforcement and protect your right to protect your family.”

Notably, this immigration focus is coming as some Democratic senators — including those up for re-election this year — are breaking with the Biden White House over its decision to end Title 42, which allowed the administration to turn away asylum-seekers at the border due to the pandemic.

When it comes to the inflation ads, however, it’s just not Republicans airing them.

Here’s one from Democrat Andrew Kalloch, who’s running for the Democratic nomination in Oregon 04: “The price of gas, housing, prescription drugs: soaring. The old way of doing things isn't working,” he says in the ad.

Also, we’ve continued to keep track of the top monthly “boogyeman” appearing in midterm ads, and that honor goes to President Joe Biden — again.

And it comes as we saw one incumbent Democratic governor — Laura Kelly of Kansas — use Donald Trump positively in one of her ads.

“When adversity hit, she worked with both sides, always putting what’s best for Kansas ahead of party politics,” the ad goes.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 7

That’s how many House Republicans former President Donald Trump endorsed last night, all in solidly Republican districts. Trump backed GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Carol Miller of West Virginia, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, Greg Murphy of North Carolina, and Kat Cammack and Brian Mast of Florida.

The flurry of endorsements underscores how Trump could potentially bolster his win/loss record by backing incumbent officials, who are often favored in their races. Trump has backed 78 incumbents so far, making up the majority of his 141 endorsements, per an NBC News analysis.

Trump’s focus on primaries in solidly Republican districts is frustrating to some in his party, NBC’s Jonathan Allen and Allan Smith report. Some Republicans are grumbling that Trump is stockpiling millions of dollars for a future presidential run, when he could be using the money to boost the GOP in competitive races.

Other numbers you need to know today:

6: The number of state attorneys general who warned the NFL could be investigated for workplace harassment.

46 percent: The percent of women over age 50 who named the rising cost of living as the most important issue they face, according to a new AARP survey.

35 percent: The portion of women in the same survey who listed division and lack of unity as one of the top issues facing Americans.

24,636: That’s how many mail ballots were rejected in the Texas primary.

80,474,970: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

988,745: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far.

Midterm roundup: Tar Heel tussle

The GOP Senate primary in North Carolina is heating up ahead of the May 17 contest. Trump is headed to the state on Saturday for a rally featuring his Senate pick, GOP Rep. Ted Budd, and controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorn.

The Club for Growth PAC, which is backing Budd, released a poll yesterday showing Budd leading former Gov. Pat McCrory, with 44 percent of those surveyed backing Budd and 31 percent backing McCrory. Former GOP Rep. Mark Walker was in third place with 11 percent. A candidate needs to win more than 30 percent of the primary vote to avoid a runoff.

The Club for Growth has been spending in the race and another outside group with ties to the Club is up with a new ad knocking former McCrory over critical race theory. McCrory’s campaign also released a digital spot tying Budd to Cawthorn ahead of Saturday's rally (McCrory’s ad dubbed the event the “Budd-Cawthorn rally.”)

Arizona Senate: Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is a top candidate for Senate, issued a report stating there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election in Maricopa County, but there were concerns with some voting procedures, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard and Zoë Richards report. Trump has not yet endorsed in the race, but he has criticized Brnovich in the past.

Ohio Senate: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is working to win back white, working-class voters as he runs for Senate, telling the New York Times, “I feel like I am representing the Exhausted Majority.”

Georgia Secretary of State: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is hitting the airwaves ahead of his May 24 primary race against Trump-backed GOP Rep. Jody Hice. Raffensperger’s campaign reserved $419,000 worth of airtime in his first media buy of the election tracked by AdImpact.

North Carolina 13: Local conservatives are opposing Trump’s pick in North Carolina’s 13th District, Bo Hines, who doesn’t live in the district, Politico reports.

Ohio 07: Rep. Bob Gibbs announced yesterday that he’s not running for re-election in the newly drawn 7th District, becoming the 17th Republican to retire. Gibbs had been drawn into the same district as former Trump aide Max Miller, who has Trump’s endorsement.

Ad watch: McKinley gets some help

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is wading into an ad war in the West Virginia 02 congressional race. The Republican primary pits two congressmen against each other, due to redistricting.

So far, Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney have spent a combined $1.4 million on ads in the district, bashing each other over their voting records and whether they’re actually from West Virginia.

Now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has bought almost $160,000 worth of ad time to promote McKinley. In their new ad, a narrator credits McKinley with having “a plan to fix the situation,” on inflation.

“Call David McKinley and thank him for fighting for cheaper gas prices and to keep putting West Virginia first,” the narrator tells viewers.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Trump said he regretted not marching to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and once again deflected blame for the violence that day, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Covid relief is stalled in the Senate after a clash over the lifting of Title 42, a pandemic-era border policy that the Biden administration plans to get rid of in May.

Auditors across the country are uncovering fraud in Covid unemployment claims, totaling anywhere from $100 million to $400 million in stolen aid money.

And a new report outlines threats to elections.

Sign up for First Read; Get First Read from Meet the Press for fresh reporting and analysis on the top political stories.