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Keep an eye on how the GOP handles overtime in Pennsylvania 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.
Image: David McCormick
David McCormick, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks during a campaign stop in Lititz, on May 13, 2022.Matt Rourke / AP

If it’s Thursday… President Biden invokesDefense Production Act to address baby formula shortage… Senate confirms Biden’s pick for ambassador to Ukraine… Fox News poll has Gov. Brian Kemp up big in GA-GOV primary… Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is headed to campaign for Jessica Cisneros tomorrow in the TX-28 runoff… And Biden meets with the leaders of Sweden and Finland at the White House before he departs on his South Korea trip.

But FIRST… 1,241 votes. At our publication time, that’s the margin separating leader Mehmet Oz and David McCormick in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania Senate – with 98 percent of the estimated vote in.

And how the Republican Party handles this close vote, as well as the likely recount, is the top political story we’re following today.

(By comparison, mind you, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Pennsylvania by 82,000 votes in 2020.)

Already, Trump has called on Oz – whom he has endorsed – to declare victory, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reports.

But Oz hasn’t gone there. Neither has McCormick, as both campaigns remain optimistic about the outstanding vote in places like Allegheny County (where McCormick has overperformed), Schuylkill County (where Oz has slightly overperformed) and Lancaster County (where they’ve been about even).

A hard-fought – but by-the-books – recount would remind us of how rival campaigns used to handle close counts without casting the legitimacy of the entire system aside.

Though even if Republicans get behind a clean recount now, they just voted for 2020-election denying Doug Mastriano as their gubernatorial nominee.

And remember, it’s not in Trump’s interest to see the outstanding count and recount go by the books, because it only draws comparison to how he and his allies behaved in 2020.

One other important point here: The Oz-vs.-McCormick overtime couldn’t have come at a better time for John Fetterman and Democrats in the general election – in large part because it gives him additional time to recuperate after his stroke and surgery.

Data Download: The number of the day is ... 93,776.

That’s the current difference between the Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary turnout and Democratic turnout, with a few more votes left to count, a margin that’s quite close in a key state for both parties in the fall.

On the Republican side, 1,334,369 people voted in the Senate primary, per NBC’s count this morning, compared to the 1,240,593 who voted in the Democratic primary.

Lackluster Democratic turnout in Ohio raised concerns about whether voters are engaged enough there. So Democrats keeping it close in Pennsylvania could be encouraging to the party even as they run in a tough cycle.

Other numbers you need to know

$11 million: About how much Hunter Biden and his company made from 2013 through 2018, according to new NBC News analysis of his hard drive and iCloud account released by Republicans.

$211,529: That’s how much former Alaska Governor and current House hopeful Sarah Palin made from Cameo videos, per her financial disclosure.

706,172: That’s the number of gallons of hand sanitizer New York made through prison labor that are currently sitting on an airport runway unused.

1-in-3: That’s the share of Americans living in an area with high Covid rates right now, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

$4: That’s at least how much it costs to buy gas in every state in America, a mark hit for the first time on Wednesday.

157: The number of Navy deserters in 2021, more than in 2020 and 2019 combined, per a NBC News investigation into concerns about a mental-health crisis in the branch.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: The other uncalled races

The GOP’s PA-SEN primary isn’t the only uncalled race from Tuesday’s contests.

In Oregon, the Republican primary for governor is still too close to call. Per NBC’s current vote counts, Christine Drazan is leading a crowded field with 23.5 percent of the vote. Right behind her are Bob Tiernan with 18.4 percent and Stan Pulliam with 10.2 percent.

Also in Oregon, NBC News hasn’t called the Dems’ OR-5 race, where challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner leads incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader, 61 percent to 39 percent, though with just 51 percent of the vote counted.

And NBC News hasn’t called the Dem primary in PA-12, where progressive Summer Lee is hanging on to a narrow lead over Steve Irwin in that district, 41.7 percent to 41.3 percent – with fewer than 500 votes separating them.

(By the way, PA-SEN and PA-12 could head to an automatic recount. The state’s election law requires a recount if the difference between two candidates is 0.5 percent of the vote or less.)

Elsewhere on the campaign trail…

GA-SEN: Former football star Herschel Walker leads the field in his GOP Senate primary race by 58 points, per a new Fox News poll.

PA-SEN: NBC News’ Sahil Kapur examines how Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate John Fetterman plans to win the general election in November.

GA-GOV: Gov. Brian Kemp leads former Sen. David Perdue by 32 points in a new Fox News poll just days before the primary. And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is endorsing Perdue’s gubernatorial bid.

MD-GOV: Though she supported restrictions on abortion when she served in the state legislature, Republican candidate for Maryland governor Kelly Schultz vows not to change current state laws allowing abortion if she’s elected, the Baltimore Sun reports.

NV-GOV: Former Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller is out with a new ad in his campaign for governor where he talks about teaching his daughters to shoot firearms for self-defense.

KS-3: The state Supreme Court green-lit the state’s new congressional map, which Democrats fear will make it harder for Rep. Sharice Davids to win re-election.

NC-11: Fresh off his primary victory over Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Republican Chuck Edwards wouldn’t say whether he would have voted to certify the 2020 election in a new interview with NBC’s Antonia Hylton.

NY-10: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is launching an exploratory committee for the state’s 10th District.

TX-28: Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is heading to San Antonio to campaign for Democrat Jessica Cisneros in her primary runoff against Rep. Henry Cuellar.

NY-Redistricting: Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is attacking the special master’s new congressional map, accusing the plan of trying to “rob” Black Democrats of the gains they’ve made, adding that “it’s enough to make Jim Crow blush.”

Ad watch: Inflation on the airwaves

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is out with his first TV ad in the Democratic race for Senate. In it, he highlights the inflation facing Wisconsin families and positions himself as the best person to fix it.

“Most senators couldn’t tell you the cost of a gallon of milk. Or how much beef has gone up this year. But I'm not like most senators or any of the other millionaires running for Senate.”

The second sentence is a dig at two of Barnes’ top opponents, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. Both are partially self-funding their campaigns.

The three are competing for the Democratic nomination and the chance to face Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in the general election this fall. So far, Godlewski’s campaign has spent $2 million on ads this cycle and Lasry’s has spent $5.7 million. Johnson’s campaign just trails Lasry’s, having spent $5.1 million on ads so far.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

The Dow dropped over 1,000 points on Wednesday, prompting fears that the U.S. is headed for a recession.

NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald spoke to one of two brothers behind a super PAC dumping millions to support Democratic candidates in this year’s midterms.