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America's democratic guardrails have been bent, but they haven't broken – yet

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: Trump Supporters Hold \"Stop The Steal\" Rally In DC Amid Ratification Of Presidential Election
Pro-Trump supporters storm the Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.Samuel Corum / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... President Biden and VP Harris deliver remarks on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. ... Democratic senators will give their own speeches beginning this morning. ... Speaker Pelosi leads a moment of silence on the House floor at noon. ... And there’s a bicameral prayer vigil this evening.

But first: America’s democracy and its democratic norms hung on after the 2020 presidential election — by just enough.

Although it took more than two weeks to get there, the General Services Administration ascertained Biden’s victory, opening up the resources for his presidential transition.

After a reversal, Wayne County’s canvassing board in Michigan certified its election results.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused Donald Trump’s pleas to find him additional votes.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey didn’t pick up his phone when Trump was calling him as he in the middle of certifying his state’s election results.

Despite more than a 100 House Republicans voting to object, Congress certified the Electoral College count.

Vice President Mike Pence performed his ceremonial duties during that count.

And maybe most importantly, Democrats and Republicans condemned the violence on Jan. 6.

So from Nov. 3, 2020 through Jan. 6, 2021, the democratic guardrails held.

“Our institutions held, but they only held because of the people who were willing to stand up against the pressure from former President Trump,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said on “Today” this morning.

But does anyone think those guardrails will hold again?

The newest member of Wayne County’s canvassing board says he wouldn’t have certified the 2020 results. Raffensperger is now in the fight of his political life in Georgia. Ducey won’t be Arizona governor in 2024. And the bipartisan condemnation of the Jan. 6 attack? It’s almost disappeared a year later.

It can get worse.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 93

That’s how many pages it took the Maricopa County Elections Department to refute all of what the department calls misleading or false claims from the GOP-backed audit of the state’s 2020 presidential election.

Arguing that “nearly every finding” from the audit “included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws," the debate is yet more proof of how former President Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have metastasized into an attempt to discredit elections across the country.

Other numbers you need to know today:

57: The number of people running for office, per Politico, who spent Jan. 6 either “attending the Save America rally that preceded the riots, gathering at the Capitol steps or breaching the Capitol itself.”

4,000: The number of children hospitalized with Covid, per the Washington Post, a record-high.

727,701: The number of new confirmed Covid cases in the United States in the last 24 hours, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

835,285: The number of Covid deaths in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

Midterm roundup

Jan. 6 has not been a central issue on the campaign trail, thanks in part to persistent concerns about the pandemic and the economy. But the anniversary led some Democrats to launch new digital ads tying Republicans to the Capitol attack. Those included the super PAC Priorities USA and a Democrat in Wisconsin’s 3rd District, whose GOP opponent walked to the Capitol that day. Wisconsin Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski, the state treasurer, also launched a digital ad against GOP Sen. Ron Johnson. And MoveOn Political Action released ads targeting three House Republicans who opposed establishing an independent commission to investigate the attack.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced he raised $800,000 from October through December for his campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. That lags behind Republican Blake Masters, who runs billionaire Peter Thiel’s investment firm and foundation. Masters raised $1.4 million in the last quarter of 2021 for his own Senate bid.

The super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with House GOP leadership, announced its first-ever endorsements of 11 candidates for its Trailblazers Fund, a new arm of the group that can direct funds to GOP candidates.

And with Maryland's Democratic primary for governor still six months away, seven of the candidates running to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan participated in a forum on education Wednesday night, per NBC's Alexandra Marquez.

Though the forum was meant to differentiate the candidates from each other, the contenders piled on Hogan, blaming him for not doing enough to address broadband accessibility and condemning his 2020 veto of the 2020 Blueprint for Maryland's Future, a bill funding more than $4 billion in educational programs and advancements for over a decade.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Biden will travel to Atlanta on Tuesday for a speech on voting rights as Democrats pivot to pushing legislation on elections and voting.

Politico reports on how Biden spent his Jan. 6 last year, with fresh interviews from Biden-world.

Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., voted to certify his state’s Electoral College votes, but none of the Republicans running to replace him would say if they would have done the same, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The New York Times reports on the CDC’s messaging woes.

The Postal Service wants a temporary exemption from the administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate out of fears it could snarl mail delivery.

North Korea claims to have tested another hypersonic missile.