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These numbers show how much Democrats are struggling in Rural America

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.
Rural voters enter a polling place
Voters enter a polling place at dusk to cast their ballots at Sherman Township Hall in Zearing, Iowa on Nov. 3, 2020.Mario Tama / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... President Biden announces congressional request for more Ukraine aid. ... Moderna asks FDA to authorize Covid vaccine for children under 6. ... New York’s top court delivers big blow to Democrats’ redistricting hopes. ... Poll shows warning signs for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania Senate. ... Poll also shows that the Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary is now a dead heat. ... And it’s ads galore in Ohio.

But first: Democrats are struggling in Rural America, as tonight’s “Meet the Press Reports” episode will detail. (Be sure to watch on NBC News Now and Peacock at 10:30 pm ET.)

And these three sets of NBC News poll numbers help tell that story.

One, the GOP’s party identification advantage (R vs. D) among respondents from rural areas and small towns has increased by more than 20 points over the past decade, per the poll’s merged year-by-year data.

  • 2010: R+5
  • 2011: R+6
  • 2012: R+9
  • 2013: R+7
  • 2014: R+10
  • 2015: R+12
  • 2016: R+14
  • 2017: R+16
  • 2018: R+16
  • 2019: R+18
  • 2020: R+23
  • 2021: R+26

By contrast, the Democrats’ party ID edge in Urban America increased from D+23 to D+27 during this same stretch of time, while party ID in the suburbs has been pretty much even.

Two, President Biden’s job rating is at a net minus-50 in Rural America, according to our March 2022 poll.

  • Urban core counties: 49 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove (+7)
  • Urban ring: 52 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove (+7)
  • Outer suburbs: 33 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove (-29)
  • Rural: 22 percent approve, 72 percent disapprove (-50)

And three, Republicans now enjoy a 30-point-plus lead in congressional preference in Rural America, per merged numbers from our January and March polls of this year.

  • Urban core: D+24
  • Urban ring: D+12
  • Outer suburbs: R+10
  • Rural: R+34

All of these numbers raise the important question for 2022, 2024 and beyond: What are Democrats doing — when it comes to organizing, tactics and policy — to improve their rural deficit?

Because if you’re walking away from Rural America, you’re also walking away from Senate majorities.

At the very least.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: Crossing the line(s)

New York’s top court dealt Democrats a blow Wednesday by overturning the state’s congressional map, ruling the party’s plan violated the state’s anti-gerrymandering laws.

Under the maps drawn by the Democratic-majority legislature, Democrats would have had a registration edge in all but four of the state’s 26 districts. Now, an outside expert known as a special master, will draw maps for a primary that will likely need to be kicked to August, NBC News’ Jane C. Timm reports.

Democrats have repeatedly assailed Republicans for drawing partisan maps in states like Florida, Kansas and Ohio. But this isn’t the only state where courts have ruled Democrats went too far. Last month, a Maryland judge tossed the Democratic map there for being an “extreme partisan gerrymander.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Ohio Senate: Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC backing J. D. Vance, is dropping $1.4 million on a new ad buy, per AdImpact. Vance’s campaign also announced Wednesday that Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., are campaigning with him on Saturday, while Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz is stumping for Josh Mandel on Friday. The pro-Mandel USA Freedom Fund is also up with a new ad featuring Vance’s statement where he said, “I don’t really care what happens in Ukraine.”

North Carolina Senate: Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Rep. Ted Budd’s Senate bid.

Arizona Governor: Democrat Aaron Lieberman is going up with his first TV buy of the primary election, $562,000 per AdImpact starting Thursday.

Nevada Governor: Former President Donald Trump endorsed Joe Lombardo, the Clark County Sheriff, in his bid for governor.

Wisconsin Governor: Businessman Tim Michels, who announced his GOP gubernatorial bid this week, is going up on the airwaves with a $140,000 ad buy, per AdImpact. While Michels wasn’t included in the new Marquette poll, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads the GOP gubernatorial primary with 32 percent, with military veteran Kevin Nicholson at 10 percent and state Assemblyman Tim Ramthun at 5 percent.

Illinois 15: GOP Rep. Mary Miller says Trump will stump for her in June.

North Carolina 04: Democrat Clay Aiken is out with his first TV ad, featuring a mother talking about Aiken helping kids with special needs.

North Carolina 11: Amid the slew of damaging stories about Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the freshman congressman took to Instagram to argue there is a coordinated movement aimed at attacking him.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 37 percent

That’s the share of potential GOP primary voters in Pennsylvania who have an unfavorable view of celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in a new Monmouth University poll, while 48 percent view Oz favorably. Despite having former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Oz had the highest unfavorability rating of the GOP candidates. Both Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick had high name recognition, but just 15 percent viewed McCormick unfavorably, while 51 percent viewed him favorably.

On the Democratic side, potential primary voters hold positive views of both Lt. Gov John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb. A higher share — 68 percent — have a favorable view of Fetterman, versus 5 percent who have an unfavorable view. Rep. Conor Lamb is viewed favorably by 51 percent of those surveyed, while 6 percent see him in an unfavorable light.

For more on the poll, check out the Meet the Press Blog.

Other numbers you need to know today:

$125 million: That’s how much the GOP super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund is spending on its initial ad buy for the fall across 50 media markets in its effort to flip the House, Politico reports.

51 percent: The portion of Americans in the new Quinnipiac poll who say people should not be required to wear masks on airplanes.

48 percent: That’s the share of likely Democratic primary voters who don’t know who they will support in the Wisconsin Senate Democratic primary, per a new Marquette Law School poll.

$3.5 million: That’s how much money the Democratic Governors Association has spent on ads in the Illinois governor’s race, including a new $700,000 buy tracked by AdImpact, where they’ve regularly taken shots at Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

Ad watch: RINOs vs. Democrats

In a heated new ad, a candidate for Congress in Ohio calls some Republicans “worse than the radical left.”

Ohio state Rep. Craig Riedel, who’s running for the Republican nomination in Ohio’s 9th District and is seeking to eventually unseat Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, has been running ads for weeks, positioning himself as, “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump.”

He’s endorsed by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who is a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and has featured him in ads, too.

But Riedel’s latest ad targets his primary opponent, state Sen. Teresa Gavarone by calling her and other alleged “RINOs,” (Republicans in Name Only) worse than Democrats. The narrator in the ad says, “What's worse than the radical left and their destructive agenda? Weak, spineless RINOs who play right into their hands.”

With just days before Ohio’s May 3 primary election, Riedel has already spent $290,000 on ads, per AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Gavarone has spent just $43,000 and touts the endorsement of nearby U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A federal judge blocked the Department of Homeland Security from lifting a pandemic border restriction, known as Title 42, which the Biden administration plans to rescind next month.

National Republican groups filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Google mail’s spam filter disproportionately sent GOP fundraising pitches to spam.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is using virtual reality in a new exhibit featuring testimonies from some of the remaining survivors.