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August was a tough month for Biden — and September could be worse

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: President Biden Meets Virtually With Governors Affected By Hurricane
Joe Biden meets virtually with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and governors and mayors from states and cities impacted by Hurricane Ida in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Aug. 30, 2021 in Washington.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — August has proved to be a brutal month for President Biden.

Rising Covid cases and deaths. The Taliban toppling Kabul and the Afghan government. Declining poll numbers. The killing of 13 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. And a hurricane pummeling Louisiana and now heading to the East Coast.

As we wrote two weeks ago, the next month won’t get any easier for Biden and his party — with likely congressional hearings on Afghanistan (competing for attention with those Jan. 6 hearings), with increasing progressive-vs.-centrist tensions on infrastructure/reconciliation, and with the 9/11 anniversary coming up(which will re-up the Afghanistan story).

So for Team Biden, the real question to ask isn’t how bad was August.

Instead, it’s how bad September and October could actually be.

Make no mistake: There have been bright spots for the Biden White House during this challenging month. Daily vaccinations on the rise. A gangbusters jobs report. The airlift of Americans and Afghans out of Afghanistan — once the U.S. government rolled up its sleeves on the evacuation effort.

And those bright spots could pay dividends later this fall.

But don’t bet on the next month or two getting any easier for Biden.

Biden delivers speech on Afghanistan withdrawal

At 1:30 p.m. ET from the White House, President Biden will deliver remarks on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

Under 200: The number of Americans left in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, per Secretary of State Blinken.

1 million: The number of people in Louisiana without power, a similar figure from Monday, amid the devastation of Hurricane Ida.

5: The number of states being investigated by the Department of Education over bans on school mask mandates.

70 percent: The share of Republicans in 2016 who had at least some trust in national news organizations, per Pew.

35 percent: The share of Republicans now.

39,163,749: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 278,919 more since yesterday morning.)

642,953: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,951 more since yesterday morning).

369,556,911: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 693,177 more since yesterday morning.)

52.4 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

63.4 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Dueling new TV ads in Virginia governor's race

In Virginia’s gubernatorial contest, Republican Glenn Youngkin is up with a new TV ad hitting Democrat Terry McAuliffe on crime.

And McAuliffe counterpunches with a spot knocking Youngkin on abortion.

Here’s Youngkin’s new ad, which features a Loudon County sheriff speaking directly to camera: “It’s been a tough year, but it helps when elected officials have our back. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t,” this sheriff says. “As governor, McAuliffe’s handpicked parole board had one mission — cut ’em loose, releasing violent criminals early, including a cop-killer.”

The sheriff concludes, “The fact is, Terry McAuliffe won’t be safe with four more years of Terry McAuliffe’s policies.”

Here’s McAuliffe’s ad, which features a doctor speaking directly to camera: “I’ve been a doctor for 37 years and I’m committed to giving my patients the best care possible. So I know what it means to Virginia women when Glenn Youngkin says he wants to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

There are fears that a U.S.-made biometric system shared in part with the Afghan government could be used by the Taliban to identify and target those who cooperated with the government.

Hurricane Ida victims could overwhelm Louisiana's already Covid-stretched hospitals.

The House select committee that’s investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is preparing to ask telecommunications companies to preserve the phone records of a group of Republican lawmakers.

The man convicted of murdering University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018 was sentenced to life in prison.

A group of abortion-rights advocates and providers have filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court asking the justices to block implementation of a new Texas law that bans procedures as early as 6 weeks.

The Los Angeles Times talks to former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker about the lessons California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom could learn from his recall.