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This week's primaries offer more evidence of how Trump is reshaping 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.
Former President Trump Rallies Supporters In Nebraska
Former President Donald Trump speaks to at a rally at the I-80 Speedway on May 1, 2022 in Greenwood, Neb.Scott Olson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Monday ... Russia’s Putin links Ukraine war with World War II during military parade in Moscow. ... President Biden speaks on his administration’s efforts to lower high-speed internet costs via the bipartisan infrastructure law. ... First Lady Jill Biden visits Slovakia after making secret trip crossing into Ukraine. ... Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., becomes a punching bag in 2022 Democratic primaries. ... The Club for Growth has a lot on the line in May. ... And 20 Democratic state and territorial parties apply to be early-window presidential primaries for 2024.

But first: This Tuesday's primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia not only feature a couple of high-profile endorsements by former President Donald Trump.

They also demonstrate just how much Trump has transformed the Republican Party — especially if his candidates end up winning.

In Nebraska, Trump has endorsed businessman Charles Herbster, who faces multiple groping allegations (which Herbster has denied).

Herbster is competing against University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen (who's backed by term-limited Gov. Pete Ricketts) and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom (supported by Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert).

Trump headlined a rally in Nebraska for Herbster on May 1, just weeks after eight women accused Herbster of groping in a report by the Nebraska Examiner. Herbster denied the allegations and ran an ad comparing himself to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, who’ve also faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

In West Virginia, meanwhile, Trump is backing U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., in the GOP’s competitive member-vs.-member primary versus Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

Trump has criticized McKinley for supporting the bipartisan infrastructure package, as well as voting for the creation of an independent Jan. 6 commission.

McKinley, by contrast, has been endorsed by GOP Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, both of whom McKinley has featured in recent ads. And McKinley has labeled his opponent “Maryland Mooney,” citing Mooney’s service in the Maryland state legislature for 12 years before running for office in West Virginia.

So if you want to see how much Trump has tried to remake the Republican Party in his own image, look no further than his elevation of Herbster and his choice of Mooney over McKinley.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup: Sticking it to the Man(chin)

If it feels like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is on an island in his own party, these two new stories from over the weekend help demonstrate why.

In Democratic contests across the country — like the Texas-28 runoff, the Oregon-05 showdown and Pennsylvania’s Senate primary — progressive candidates are using Manchin as shorthand for a politician who is standing in the way of progress. That’s no surprise, particularly as Manchin appeared on the airwaves in West Virginia to defend a Republican by criticizing Build Back Better.

But there’s another side to the coin too: Manchin is a linchpin for just about anything Democrats want to do in the Senate, and he’s shown he’s open to some sort of deal that Democrats can tout as a victory ahead of the midterms. And sources close to Manchin tell NBC News that if the party wants to thread the needle on a new reconciliation plan, it should be up to them, not Manchin, to come up with that new plan.

That tension encapsulates what Democrats face heading into a tough midterm election cycle — the party wants to make more progress on Biden’s agenda so they have more to sell to voters in the fall, but progressives already feel like they’ve been let down by moderates like Manchin.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Pennsylvania Senate: Republican David McCormick is up with a new ad that derisively uses old footage from Mehmet Oz’s television show featuring him discussing transgender issues. McCormick is also set to campaign with Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz later this week after former President Trump campaigned for Oz on Friday.

Pennsylvania Governor: The New York Times looks at how the issue of abortion could affect the race for governor in the swing state where there’s a fierce divide between how likely Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro and his Republican rivals would handle abortion rights if Roe vs. Wade is overturned.

Georgia-14: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ruled that GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green is eligible to remain on her primary ballot after a judge rejected a bid to disqualify her over accusations she helped incite the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Minnesota-01: Defending Main Street is up with a new ad boosting Republican Brad Finstad in this month’s special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

Ohio-09: CNN digs into Republican nominee J.R. Majewski’s deleted personal tweets that feature QAnon hashtags (Majewski has denied believing in the conspiracy theory).

Data Download: The number of the day is … $25.9 million

That’s how much the conservative Club for Growth’s independent expenditure arm, known as Club for Growth Action, has spent on ads supporting its candidates facing May primaries, per AdImpact. This month presents key tests of the Club’s power in GOP contests, with half of the group’s endorsed candidates facing primaries this month.

The bulk of the Club’s ad spending so far this month has been focused on three Senate races: Ohio, where the Club failed to help former state Treasurer Josh Mandel win the GOP nod after spending $8.9 million on ads; North Carolina, where the Club has spent $11 million on ads boosting GOP Rep. Ted Budd; and Alabama, where the Club has dropped $4.3 million on the airwaves backing Rep. Mo Brooks.

The Club has also spent $571,000 supporting GOP Rep. Alex Mooney, who faces fellow GOP Rep. David McKinley in a primary in West Virginia’s 2nd District on Tuesday. Law student Bo Hines has also benefited from nearly $1.1 million in ad spending so far in his race in North Carolina’s open 13th District.

Read more about the Club’s May primary tests on the MTP blog.

Other numbers you need to know today:

30: The median age for U.S. women giving birth, per the Census Bureau, the highest on record.

Between $150 billion and $200 billion: The price-tag of a slimmed-down child care proposal being pitched by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., according to NBC’s Julie Tsirkin.

Between $5 billion and $7 billion: How much Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country would need “in support” in the fight against Russia.

20: The number of state and territorial Democratic parties that applied to be considered in the early window of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process, per NBC’s Natasha Korecki (note: this is just the first step, many of the states that applied face significant hurdles).

21 percent: The increase in the two-week average of daily Covid hospitalizations, per NBC News.

Ad watch: Abortion access on the airwaves

Nida Allam, a Democratic candidate in North Carolina’s open 4th District, speaks about the abortion care she received last year in a new ad out this morning.

The ad opens with Allam telling viewers, “Last year, I had an abortion that saved my life. Now the Supreme Court is taking away our right to choose.”

It’s the latest personal appeal from a Democrat following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade that was obtained by Politico last week.

Allam adds in the commercial, “People like us won't have access to care and we will die. That's what's at stake.”

ICYMI: What elses is happening in the world

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the passage of a national abortion ban “possible” if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, but added he wouldn’t be in favor of eliminating the filibuster to pass a ban.

NBC News’ Shannon Pettypiece, Sahil Kapur and Scott Wong examine President Biden’s desire to campaign on his signature infrastructure law.

A federal appeals court allowed Florida to temporarily reinstate a restrictive voting law that limits drop boxes, third party voter registration and certain support to voters waiting in long lines at the polls.