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Here are the primary races to watch in August

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: Gwen Graham
Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham arrives at Miami Gardens Park, before announcing she is running for Florida governor on May 2, 2017.Alan Diaz / AP file

WASHINGTON — August marks the last big month of primary races for the 2018 midterm season (although a handful of states hold their intraparty contests in early September). Here are the primaries we’re watching this month, beginning with Thursday’s races in Tennessee:

Tennessee (Aug. 2)

There’s the crowded field of GOP gubernatorial candidates, including Rep. Diane Black, businessman Bill Lee and state House Speaker Beth Harwell. On the Democratic side for governor, it’s former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. And in TN-8, current GOP David Kustoff (whom President Trump endorsed via Twitter) is getting a primary challenge from radiologist George Flinn.

Kansas (Aug. 7)

Secretary of State Kris Kobach and a handful of other Republicans are taking on GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer. And the Dem primary in KS-3 to challenge Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., features EMILY’s List-backed Sharice Davids and Bernie Sanders-backed Brent Welder.

Michigan (Aug. 7)

Another EMILY’s List-vs.-Sanders race is the Dem gubernatorial contest between Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed — along with businessman Shri Thanedar. A recent NBC/Marist poll showed Whitmer leading the field. And in the GOP race for governor, it’s state Attorney General Bill Schuette (endorsed by President Trump) versus Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. In the GOP race to face Sen. Debbie Stabenow, it’s John James versus Sandy Pensler.

Washington (Aug. 7)

The Democratic field to fill the congressional seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., is led by pediatrician Kim Schrier, former prosecutor Jason Rittereiser and former CDC official Shannon Hader. The overwhelming GOP front-runner in WA-8 is former Senate/governor candidate Dino Rossi.

Hawaii (Aug. 11)

Gov. David Ige is getting a primary challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii.

Minnesota (Aug. 14)

There’s a crowded field of Democrats running to replace retiring Gov. Mark Dayton, including Rep. Tim Walz, state Attorney General Lori Swanson and state Rep. Erin Murphy. On the GOP side, it’s Tim Pawlenty — TPaw! — running for his old job as governor against Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. The NBC/Marist of Minnesota had Pawlenty ahead in this GOP race.

Wisconsin (Aug. 14)

It’s Leah Vukmir vs. Kevin Nicholson in the GOP primary for the right to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in the fall. The NBC/Marist poll of Wisconsin found the Vukmir-Nicholson race neck and neck.

Arizona (August 28)

The GOP Senate primary is a three-way race featuring establishment-backed Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio. The winner will take on likely Dem nominee Kyrsten Sinema.

Florida (Aug. 28)

In the GOP gubernatorial race, it’s Rep. Ron DeSantis (whom President Trump campaigned for last night), versus Adam Putnam, with DeSantis now the overwhelming favorite. And in the Dem gubernatorial primary, it’s former Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (who was just endorsed by Bernie Sanders), Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessman Jeff Greene.

It’s Day 2 at the Manafort trial

Here’s The New York Times on Day 1: “Paul Manafort’s trial on financial fraud charges opened on Tuesday with an effort by his defense team to deflect blame to the government’s star witness in the case, Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s longtime political consulting partner. The defense strategy pits the credibility of Mr. Manafort, a former campaign chairman for President Trump, against that of Mr. Gates, who has pleaded guilty to charges in the same case and is cooperating in the inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. And it sets up a dramatic courtroom showdown between Mr. Gates, who is scheduled to take the stand for the prosecution.”

NBC’s Michelle Dubert adds, “The prosecution’s Uzo Asonye also said Manafort paid his tax preparers $10,000 every year. They would ask him in writing if he had foreign bank accounts. ‘Every year he lied,’ Asonye said. ‘Then he lied to the IRS,’ thus falsifying his tax returns. Asonye said Manafort funneled millions from foreign accounts to pay vendors in the U.S., including $21,000 for a watch and $15,000 for a jacket made from ostrich.”

And NBC’s Ken Dilanian: “The prosecution's first witness was Tad Devine, a well-known Democratic strategist who worked for Manafort in Ukraine. The prosecution used him to explain to the jury the ins and outs of how Manafort was running a team of consultants working for Ukraine's Party of Regions, a political party that was backed by Russian-leaning oligarchs. On cross examination, Manafort’s lawyers got Devine to make clear that he respects the work that Manafort did running campaigns in Ukraine.”

Maybe more than anything else, the Manafort trial is going to expose the unseemly side of K Street, especially when it comes to foreign clients. Is Robert Mueller doing more to “drain the swamp” than anyone else right now?

Manafort is on trial. Facebook uncovers midterm meddling. And Trump declares, “Collusion is not a crime”

Let’s take a step back: The president’s former campaign chairman is on trial; Facebook revealed on Tuesday that it had uncovered “a new covert campaign to spread divisive political messages on its social network”; and the president of the United States is arguing that “collusion is not a crime” — but if collusion happened, it was by the Democrats?

Experts confirm to NBC News that North Korea is still producing ballistic missiles

NBC’s Courtney Kube and Andrea Mitchell: “Arms control experts confirm to NBC News that both satellite photos and U.S. intelligence show North Korea is continuing to produce ballistic missiles and work on its missile program, even after the historic June summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The experts point specifically to a July 7 satellite photo that shows activity consistent with missile production.”