Republicans have dominated debt-ceiling messaging. But can they declare victory?

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.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy at the Capitol on May 24, 2023.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

If it’s FRIDAY… Officials in Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial office — not his campaign — solicit campaign cash from state lobbyists, NBC’s Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen report… NBC’s Henry Gomez interviews North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who’s expected to jump into the 2024 GOP presidential race… Republican Doug Mastriano announces he won’t run for PA-SEN…Justice Department investigates whether Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., received expensive gifts from business that won government contract.

But FIRST… House Republicans have won the messaging war in the debt-ceiling debate. 

 Just look at the Fox News poll showing that more voters would blame President Biden (47%) than congressional Republicans (44%) for default. (When Fox asked this same question in 2011, 32% said they would blame Obama, versus 47% who said they’d blame the GOP.)  

Now can House Republicans land the plane and accept victory as the nation approaches the June 1 deadline when the U.S. Treasury will no longer be able to pay bills if the debt ceiling isn’t raised?

 That question comes as both sides appear to have made substantial progress to reaching a deal to raise the debt limit and avoid default. 

 “The White House and Republicans in the House of Representatives are haggling over budget cuts and caps on future spending,” NBC’s Ryan Nobles reported on “TODAY” this morning. “They are working to find a sweet spot that will appease cost-conscious conservatives and progressives worried about the impact on social programs.”

The New York Times, which first reported the contours of this possible deal, has more: “It would impose caps on discretionary spending for two years, though those caps would apply differently to spending on the military than to nondefense discretionary spending. Spending on the military would grow next year, as would spending on some veterans’ care that falls under nondefense discretionary spending... The deal would also roll back $10 billion of the $80 billion Congress approved last year for an I.R.S. crackdown on high earners and corporations that evade taxes.”

IF this deal comes to pass, it would be a big win for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. (Who saw this coming after he barely won the speakership?)

And while it would produce short-term pain for Biden and congressional Democrats, it could be a long-term winner — with the White House focused on 2024 and the overall economy. 

 Paraphrasing Kenny Rogers: You gotta know when to hold’em; know when to fold’em; know when to walk away; and know when you’ve already won.

 Quote of the day: Raising eyebrows in Tallahassee

“What the f--- am I supposed to do?” one lobbyist said. “I have a lot of business in front of the DeSantis administration.” 

— on the reporting that Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial office is soliciting 2024 campaign cash from Florida lobbyists, per NBC’s Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen. 

Data Download: The number of the day is … 18

That’s the number of years that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to federal prison on Thursday for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Rhodes’ sentence is the longest imposed to date on any Jan. 6 defendant. He was convicted of seditious conspiracy in November, along with a fellow member of the Oath Keepers. That fellow member, Kelly Meggs, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison, the third-longest sentence handed down to a Jan. 6 defendant.

 At least two other members of the Oath Keepers are slated to be sentenced on Friday.

Other numbers to know:

More than 150: How many military officials Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has blocked promoting in protest of a Defense Department rule on abortion. The hold will apply to Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr., who President Joe Biden nominated to be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

20: The number of articles of impeachment recommended on Thursday by a Texas House investigative committee against Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton.

$10 million: The amount that Shell has agreed to pay to Pennsylvania for exceeding emissions limits at a plastics plant in Beaver County.

More than a third: By how much the share of residents 65 or older grew in the U.S. between 2010 and 2020, according to new Census data. 

12: The number of common long Covid symptoms identified in a new, large-scale study published Thursday.

40%: The chance of a near-normal hurricane season this year, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

Eyes on 2024: DeSantis’ first full day as a candidate

 Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis spent the first day of his presidential campaign making the rounds on conservative programs and raking in campaign cash. 

The campaign announced Thursday that it raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours after DeSantis launched his run, NBC News’ Natasha Korecki, Matt Dixon and Dasha Burns report. DeSantis’ team outlined the campaign’s strategy to around 100 donors who attended the summit, describing the GOP primary as a two-person race between DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, and suggesting the primary could be decided after Super Tuesday.

Dixon and NBC News’ Jonathan Allen also report that official staffers for DeSantis’ gubernatorial office have been soliciting campaign donations from Florida lobbyists. They write that the move is “a breach of traditional norms that has raised ethical and legal questions and left many here in the state capital shocked.”

DeSantis, meanwhile, made the rounds on several conservative programs and podcasts. 

During an interview on “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show,” DeSantis suggested he would consider pardoning some people involved in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, and he left the door open to pardoning Trump if he is convicted on federal charges. DeSantis also appeared on Newsmax, and said he was surprised to see Trump attacking him “from the left,” per NBC News’ Abigail Brooks. 

“I’m not sure what his strategy is, but I think he’s taking positions that are a little bit different than four or five years ago,” DeSantis said. 

DeSantis did not roll out any new congressional endorsements in the first day of his campaign. Instead, Florida GOP Rep. Daniel Webster said he was endorsing Trump. 

In other campaign news…

Pricey primary: Presidential ad spending is already outpacing the last election, with ad spending in the GOP primary set to eclipse $30 million over the weekend — 50 days earlier than Democratic primary four years ago.

Another governor jumping in: North Dakota GOP Gov. Doug Burgum is expected to jump into the presidential primary in the coming weeks, NBC News’ Henry Gomez reports. Gomez caught up with Burgum in his home state, where he drew indirect contrasts with his potential rivals and said “he sees a path for himself by focusing less on culture war grievances and more on the economy, energy policy and national security,” Gomez writes. 

Scott’s take: Presidential hopeful Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said Thursday that his home state’s six-week abortion ban was “good news” and that the state is “trying to protect the culture of life.” 

Sununu’s View: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu joined “The View,” and declined to directly address his own presidential ambitions, per NBC News’ Julia Jester. But asked if he was satisfied with the current field, he said, “It’s still months away from the first debate, right? We don’t know who can take a punch or give a punch. I think there’ll be other candidates that get in.” 

Re-run time: Republicans are “nervously bracing” for some far-right candidates who lost in 2022 to run again next year, NBC News’ Allan Smith and Henry J. Gomez report.

Except for these two: Those potential candidates, however, no longer include Pennsylvania GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who lost last year’s race for governor. Mastriano announced Thursday that he is not running for Senate, while former hedge fund executive David McCormick responded with a statement that he was “seriously considering a run.” 

And in Arizona, Karrin Taylor Robson, who ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2022 and lost, said she won’t run for Senate in 2024, per a press release.

Menendez gifts in the spotlight: The Department of Justice is investigating whether Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. and his wife accepted luxury gifts in connection with a local business that won an exclusive government contract.

Tug-of-war in the Golden State: In California, Democratic voters will decide which side of the party they’ll embrace when sending a new senator to Washington — a leader of the anti-Trump movement in Rep. Adam Schiff, or a more diverse, liberal and female member of the party, which could be Rep. Katie Porter or Rep. Barbara Lee, the Washington Post reports

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

A Supreme Court decision on Thursday struck a blow to the 1972 Clean Water Act, a landmark water pollution law.

The White House on Thursday unveiled a new strategy to combat antisemitism.