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It's another Primary Day. Here are seven storylines we're watching.

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.
by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann /
Image: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., during remarks to a Foxconn facility on June 28, 2018, in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.Evan Vucci / AP file

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WASHINGTON — Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin today become the latest states to hold their primary contests for the 2018 midterms. Here are the races and storylines we’re watching:

1. Which Democrat takes on Scott Walker in WI-GOV?

A crowded field of Democrats is running to challenge GOP Gov. Scott Walker, and the frontrunner appears to be State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers, who was ahead at 26 percent among likely voters in last month’s NBC/Marist poll. (No other Dem got more than 7 percent in the poll, although 38 percent were undecided.) Other Democrats to watch include former state Rep. Kelda Roys, state fire fighters union president Mahlon Mitchell, and former state party chair Matt Flynn.

Walker is vulnerable, and he’s facing the most challenging political environment of his career; the NBC/Marist poll showed him losing to Evers in a hypothetical matchup.

2. How much does #MeToo resonate in Minnesota?

After Al Franken’s resignation from the U.S. Senate, the high-profile contests in Minnesota have featured accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary – which includes Rep. Tim Walz, state Attorney General Lori Swanson and state Rep. Erin Murphy – Swanson’s running mate (Rep. Rick Nolan) was accused of hiring a longtime aide for his 2016 campaign who was accused of sexual harassment. Nolan apologized and said that, in hindsight, the aide shouldn’t have been hired.

And in the Dem primary for state attorney general, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., was recently accused of domestic violence by a former girlfriend. Ellison has denied the accusation.

Also in Minnesota, vulnerable Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., has received scrutiny for misogynistic comments he made in the past.

3. Does TPaw survive a challenge from the right? (It looks like he will.)

Also in Minnesota, former Gov. — and former 2012 presidential candidate — Tim Pawlenty is running for his old job, but he’s getting a primary challenge from Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Last month’s NBC/Marist poll showed Pawlenty comfortably ahead, 49 percent to 34 percent among likely primary voters.

But the poll also had TPaw trailing in the general election against the three major Democratic challengers – Walz, Swanson and Murphy.

4. Who will be Tammy Baldwin’s GOP opponent in Wisconsin?

The polling out of Wisconsin shows that the Senate GOP race between Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson is neck and neck, with Nicholson at 38 percent among likely voters and Vukmir at 35 percent, per last month’s NBC/Marist poll. The winner will face incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in November.

5. Which Democrat will face incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott in Vermont?

A handful of Democrats are running against Republican Gov. Phil Scott, including Vermont Electric Coop CEO Christine Hallquist (who would become the nation’s first transgender governor if she wins) and Lake Champlain International Executive Director James Ehlers. Even though Vermont is a reliably Democratic state, the Cook Political Report currently rates VT-GOV as Solid R.

6. Who are the Dem and GOP nominees in CT-GOV?

In Connecticut, where incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy is retiring, Ned Lamont (remember him from back in 2006?) is the favorite in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, while there’s a crowded field on the GOP side, including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and financial executive Bob Stefanowski.

7. And who wins the primaries for some of the most competitive House races in November?

For the House races we’ll likely be watching in November, there are competitive primaries in MN-1 (on the GOP side), MN-8 (on the Dem side) and WI-1 (the seat that Speaker Paul Ryan is vacating).

Breaking down the ad spending in today’s top contests

By the way, here are the ad-spending numbers for today’s top contests, according to data from Advertising Analytics:

WI-GOV

Walker campaign: $2.6 million

Americans for Prosperity (pro-Walker): $1.2 million

Roys campaign: $571,000

Mitchell campaign: $257,000

Evers campaign: $224,000

Flynn campaign: $146,000

Soglin campaign: $91,000

Forever Wisconsin (pro-Evers): $79,000

Strong Wisconsin (pro-Mitchell): $38,000

WI-SEN

Baldwin campaign: $5.7 million

Concerned Veterans for America (anti-Baldwin): $3.5 million

Restoration PAC (pro-Nicholson): $3.5 million

Wisconsin Next PAC (pro-Vukmir): $2.5 million

Club for Growth Action (pro-Nicholson): $2.1 million

Great America PAC (pro-Nicholson): $1.9 million

Vote Vets Action Fund (pro-Baldwin): $1.5 million

Solutions for Wisconsin (pro-Nicholson): $1.2 million

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce (anti-Baldwin): $1 million

Senate Majority PAC (pro-Baldwin): $876,000

Majority Forward/Vote Vets Action (pro-Baldwin): $446,000

Vukmir campaign - $340,000

John Bolton Super PAC (pro-Nicholson) - $298,000

Nicholson campaign - $130,000

Freedomworks for America (anti-Baldwin) - $87,000

WI GOP/Vukmir campaign: $50,000

Planned Parenthood (pro-Baldwin): $43,000

WI GOP (pro-Vukmir): $32,000

Stars and Stripes Forever PAC (anti-Baldwin): $28,000

Priorities USA Action (pro-Baldwin): $18,000

MN-GOV

Alliance for a Better MN (anti-Pawlenty): $1.4 million

Pawlenty campaign: $641,000

MN Victory PAC (pro-Walz): $452,000

Walz campaign: $448,000

Swanson campaign: $396,000

Murphy campaign: $261,000

MN DLF (pro-Murphy): $234,000

Minnesotans for Bold Reform (pro-Johnson): $165,000

Pro Jobs Majority (anti-Dems): $146,000

Johnson campaign: $131,000

FBI fires Strzok. And Trump’s purge of the bureau is now complete

“Peter Strzok, the senior FBI official who helped lead the initial probe of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until it was discovered he sent anti-Trump texts, was fired from the agency on Monday,” per NBC News. “Strzok, a 21-year veteran of the department, had exchanged text messages criticizing President Donald Trump with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he had an affair, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Both worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation and also on special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

Writing for Politico, national-security lawyer Bradley Moss adds: “What is concerning here is the continuous and repeated appearance of political considerations seeping into the traditionally apolitical disciplinary process at the FBI. President Trump made no bones about his distaste for Agent Strzok, just as he similarly publicly criticized Director Comey and Director McCabe prior to their terminations. All three men played or were still playing a role in the investigation into the president’s campaign before they were fired.”

“With the firing of Peter Strzok, the president’s purge of senior FBI leadership who helped launch that investigation is now complete. For those wondering whether Trump would allow the bureau to do its job without political interference from the White House, I think we have our answer.”

Trump snubs McCain during signing of legislation meant to honor the senator

NBC’s Jonathan Allen: “Congress wanted to honor the ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. President Donald Trump did not. In extended remarks during a visit to Fort Drum in upstate New York to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 — this year's version of an annual bill that sets defense policy — Trump chose not to mention the former prisoner of war and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who is battling brain cancer. He even omitted McCain's name when citing the title of the bill.”

Meet the Top 10 midterm media markets

Here are the top media markets for the 2018 midterms (in terms of TV and radio ad spending), according to data from Advertising Analytics as of August 13:

1. Chicago, IL: $57.4 million

2. Orlando/Daytona Beach/Melbourne, FL: $38.6 million

3. Tampa/St. Pete/Sarasota, FL: $34.8 million

4. Los Angeles, CA: $32.6 million

5. Detroit, MI: $22.1 million

6. Pittsburgh, PA: $18.3 million

7. Las Vegas, NV: $18.2 million

8. St. Louis, MO: $18.2 million

9. West Palm Beach/Ft. Pierce, FL: $16.3 million

10. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, FL: $16.0 million

The 10 most expensive Senate races

More numbers from Advertising Analytics on the most expensive Senate races in terms of TV and radio ad spending:

1. FL-SEN: $40.5 million

2. IN-SEN: $28.5 million

3. WI-SEN: $25.1 million

4. MO-SEN: $24.8 million

5. WV-SEN: $16.3 million

6. NV-SEN: $13.4 million

7. MT-SEN: $13.2 million

8. AZ-SEN: $11.4 million

9. NJ-SEN: $8.4 million

10. ND-SEN: $7.8 million

The 10 most expensive House races

1. PA-18 special: $11.9 million

2. OH-12 special: $10.4 million

3. CA-49: $9.0 million

4. CA-48: $5.0 million

5. PA-1: $4.4 million

6. TX-2: $4.0 million

7. CA-39: $3.9 million

8. MD-6: $3.7 million

9. NM-1: $2.6 million

10. AZ-8 special: $2.5 million

The 9 most expensive gubernatorial races

1. FL-GOV: $88.6 million

2. IL-GOV: $87.4 million

3. TN-GOV: $32.9 million

4. MI-GOV: $28.3 million

5. GA-GOV: $20.5 million

6. NV-GOV: $15.3 million

7. OH-GOV: $14.7 million

8. PA-GOV: $13.0 million

9. ID-GOV: $6.1 million

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