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Jan. 6 takes center stage in tonight’s primaries: From the Politics Desk

Plus, why split-ticket voting could make a return in this fall's presidential and Senate races.
A split side by side image of Derrick Evans and Harry Dunn
West Virginia congressional candidate Derrick Evans and Maryland congressional candidate Harry Dunn.AP file

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, we preview two primaries tonight that have a connection to the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. Plus, national political correspondent Steve Kornacki breaks down whether there could be a surge of split-ticket voting this fall.

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Jan. 6 takes center stage in tonight’s primaries

By Bridget Bowman, Ben Kamisar and Adam Wollner

It’s primary Election Day in four states — and the Jan. 6 attack is at the center of two of the biggest races. 

 In Maryland, there’s a former police officer who defended the Capitol from a mob the day Donald Trump’s Electoral College loss to Joe Biden was certified. In West Virginia, there’s a former state lawmaker who was part of that mob and served prison time as a result.


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Maryland’s 3rd District: Harry Dunn, a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police force, is running in a crowded Democratic primary for an open House seat. 

Following the Jan. 6 riots, he became one of the most public figures representing the hundreds of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect the Capitol. He gave emotional testimony during the televised congressional hearings investigating the attack, became a fixture on the cable news circuit and wrote a book about the ordeal and his life.

Dunn is now running against several experienced state legislators for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Paul Sarbanes. Dunn has been the top fundraiser in the Democratic field and has spent more than $2 million on ads, according to AdImpact, including some that highlight his actions on Jan. 6

Meanwhile, the United Democracy Project, a super PAC aligned with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has spent more than $3.5 million on ads to boost state Sen. Sarah Elfreth. One of her colleagues, state Sen. Clarence Lam, is also running. 

West Virginia’s 1st District: One of the rioters Dunn sought to protect the Capitol from on Jan. 6 is challenging Republican Rep. Carol Miller in her primary.

Former state Del. Derrick Evans was convicted of a felony for storming the Capitol and served three months in prison. He touted his actions on Jan. 6 in a TV ad, saying he “stood with President Trump to peacefully and patriotically protest the stolen election” and claimed he had been held “hostage” as a “political prisoner.” (Evans pleaded guilty to a felony count of civil disorder in March 2022.)

Miller, who has outspent Evans on the airwaves, has cited Evans’ past candidacy as a Democrat. Miller also aired an ad featuring Trump praising her, even though the former president hasn’t endorsed in the primary. If Evans upsets Miller, she would be the second member of Congress to lose a primary this election cycle. 

Neither district will be competitive in the general election, meaning Dunn and Evans would likely serve together in Congress if they win their respective primaries. 

Read more about what to watch in tonight’s primaries in Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina and West Virginia →


Will 2024 see a rise in split-ticket voting?

By Steve Kornacki

Maryland Democrats today are selecting a candidate to oppose former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, in the race for a vacant Senate seat. General election polling has thus far been scant and sporadic, but in an average of the four surveys taken since March, Hogan leads both of his potential Democratic foes, Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

The prevailing expectation, though, is that this early Hogan strength will melt away come November. It’s a presidential election year and Maryland is about as blue as they come, the thinking goes, which will generate a mighty partisan tide that even a popular figure like Hogan can’t overcome.

Recent history certainly backs this up. Ticket-splitting has long been on the decline, even more so in the Trump era. In the 2016 and 2020 elections, there was a grand total of one Senate race in which the winner came from the opposite party of the presidential candidate who carried the state.

That lone split-ticket outcome in 2020 came in Maine, where GOP Sen. Susan Collins won by 9 points even as Biden himself carried the state by 9. To win in Maryland, which Biden took by 33 points in 2020, Hogan will need to attract far more split-ticket voters than even Collins managed to get.

Anecdotally, there are also two Senate races from the recent past that mirror the basic dynamics of this year’s Maryland contest. In Massachusetts in 1996, GOP Gov. Bill Weld, who’d just won re-election by 42 points, challenged Democratic Sen. John Kerry. But Bill Clinton’s 33-point landslide in the state at the top of the Democratic ticket doomed Weld.  

Similarly, Linda Lingle, the only Republican ever to win two terms as Hawaii’s governor, sought to parlay her popularity into a Senate bid in 2012. But Barack Obama’s crushing 43-point triumph in the state was far too much for Lingle to overcome. 

But this week’s New York Times/Siena polls have brought a ray of hope for Hogan, and for every Senate candidate in need of split-ticket votes. 

Four of the states surveyed — Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — will not only be critical in determining the presidential race, but the battle for Senate control. Each of these seats is now held by a Democrat, and despite Trump leading in three of these states, the Democratic Senate candidates hold advantages in all four.

It at least raises the possibility of a rise in split-ticket voting this fall, one that could result in a number of states siding with presidential and Senate candidates from opposite parties.

Granted, Hogan will need a level of split-ticket voting in Maryland far and above anything indicated in these polls. So, for that matter, will two Democratic incumbents running in red states — Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana. And the Democratic strength in these Senate polls could be illusory; after all, none of the Democratic candidates are breaking 50%. If they can’t grow their support further, they could all be caught as voters are forced to make a final decision.

But the idea of renewed split-ticket voting does make some sense. With polls showing broad public frustration with both parties’ presidential candidates, is it crazy to wonder if there’s an unusually large pool of voters who won’t feel wedded to a single party as they work their way down the ballot?


Michael Cohen details Trump’s role in his repeated lies about hush money payment

By Adam Reiss, Jillian Frankel, Gary Grumbach and Dareh Gregorian

Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen returned to the witness stand Tuesday and told jurors he repeatedly lied about his hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 campaign in order “to protect Mr. Trump.”

Cohen said he’d claimed to be the sole person behind the $130,000 payment to Daniels to protect his boss, “to stay on message, to demonstrate continued loyalty.” In reality, he told the jury, everything he did was “at the direction of Donald J. Trump.” 

Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified business records relating to those payments by classifying them as legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement. Cohen testified Monday in New York City that no such retainer agreement existed.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche began his cross-examination in fiery fashion in the afternoon, telling Cohen that they’d never met but that Cohen had referred to him on TikTok as a “crying little s---.”

“Sounds like something I would say,” Cohen replied. Asked if he’d called Trump a “dictator douchebag,” Cohen gave a similar answer.

Read more from Day 17 of the Trump trial →



🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 📈 Reality check: NBC News’ Mark Murray breaks down what recent polling actually tells us about the race between Biden and Trump — and what it doesn’t. Read more →
  • 🎰 A 2024 gamble: The New York Times delves into the battle for Nevada, where its recent survey showed Biden struggling mightily. Read more →
  • 🚗 It’s electric: Biden is rolling out new tariffs on Chinese exports, including quadrupling the tariff on electric vehicles. Read more →
  • ⚖️ SCOTUS watch: The Supreme Court is set to decide a series of closely watched cases by the end of its term in June. Keep tabs on where these cases stand with our new tracker. Read more →
  • 📖 Book club: Potential vice presidential contender Ben Carson is calling for a national abortion ban in his new book, breaking with Trump on the issue, and for an end to no-fault divorce laws. Read more →
  • 👔 Fashion show of support: Trump’s trial is turning into a proving ground for his potential running mates, who have shown up at the courthouse to show their support — with some even sporting the former president’s signature red tie. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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