IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Both parties are making very different early bets for 2022

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: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks to press during a tour for a delegation of Republican lawmakers of the US-Mexico border, in El Paso
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks to press during a tour for a delegation of Republican lawmakers of the US-Mexico border, in El Paso, Texas, on March 15, 2021.Paul Ratje / Reuters

WASHINGTON — More than 600 days until Election Day 2022 — yes, we’re still 600 days out until those midterms — Democrats and Republican have been making two fundamentally different early political gambles.

President Biden and the Democrats have bet big on the coronavirus and the economy, ramping up vaccine distribution, passing the Covid-19 relief law, and getting $1,400 checks in the hands of most Americans.

Today, Biden heads to Chester, Pa. (just outside of Philadelphia), to visit a small business as he promotes his new law.

Republicans, meanwhile, are no longer even trying to message on the coronavirus and the Covid-19 relief law — and they’re instead focused on immigration and the influx of migrants at the border.

Yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy visited El Paso, Texas, where he attacked the Biden administration for creating a “crisis” at the border, per NBC’s Garrett Haake.

These different messages have exposed political vulnerabilities for the other side.

Republicans have taken their eye off a pandemic that’s killed more than 500,000 Americans, and when it comes to the economy, they’re arguing that a boom was coming even before Biden’s stimulus.

But for a Democratic Party that’s breaking from Donald Trump’s immigration policies, they’ve stopped emphasizing border enforcement and security, even as DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conceded in a statement this morning that “we are on pace to encounter more individuals at the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

“The Republicans will turn around and use this for a political weapon against Democrats — that we’re weak on the border, we’re not doing enough, we’re letting everybody in,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told the Washington Post.

Democrats have bet big on governing and the economy; Republicans have focused on the border.

And both moves have highlighted potential midterm weaknesses for the opposition.

Ready for the recall

Tomorrow is the deadline for supporters to submit the nearly 1.5 million valid signatures needed to trigger the recall of Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

And yesterday, Newsom and his allies launched their effort against the recall — called “Stop the Republican Recall” — and they released an online ad tying the recall to Donald Trump, QAnon and the national GOP.

Last night, Newsom went on MSNBC, telling host Joy Reid that he’d appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Senate if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., retires.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

50 percent: The share of New York voters who say Gov. Andrew Cuomo should not resign immediately, according to a new Siena College poll.

$10 million: The amount of a donation from Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel to a Super PAC backing a potential Ohio Senate bid by Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance.

$10 million: The price tag on a new ad push by a coalition of environmental groups who are advocating for big spending on climate change.

1 in 4: The share of members of the U.S. House who had not yet received a coronavirus vaccine as of early March.

60 percent: The share of New York voters who give Cuomo favorable marks for his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

29,613,315: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 53,664 more than yesterday morning.)

538,376: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 859 more than yesterday morning.)

109,081,860: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

11.1 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

44: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

Tweet of the day

Senate clears Haaland for Interior secretary

By a 51-40 vote on Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be President Biden’s Interior secretary, NBC’s Frank Thorp report.

Haaland, after she’s sworn in, will become the nation’s first Native American cabinet secretary.

Four Republicans voted to confirm her: Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Haaland’s exit from Congress will trigger a special election for her seat.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland (confirmed)

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (confirmed)

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack (confirmed)

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg (confirmed)

Energy: Jennifer Granholm (confirmed)

Interior: Deb Haaland (confirmed)

Education: Miguel Cardona (confirmed)

Commerce: Gina Raimondo (confirmed)

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge (confirmed)

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough (confirmed)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (confirmed)

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan (confirmed)

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden (withdrawn)

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

Chair of Council of Economic Advisers: Cecilia Rouse (confirmed)

And the number of the week is ... 56 percent

That’s the share of Republicans who say that their party should not be accepting of elected GOP officials who vocally criticize former President Trump. Check it out over at The Chuck Toddcast.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

When a Justice Department official called North Korea a “criminal syndicate” last month, some Biden national security aides worried that the rhetoric was too provocative.

Democrats keep citing what they call Obama’s mistakes during the 2009 stimulus rollout as they plan an aggressive sale of the new Covid-19 relief bill.

Donors are getting impatient as Biden faces pressure to dole out fewer ambassadorships to political allies.

Some big-name companies — like Coca-Cola and Home Depot — are coming out against Georgia’s proposed voter restrictions.

The House will hold a hearing on DC statehood on March 22.

Some major European countries are hitting the pause button on the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot fears.

Here’s what you need to know about New York Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul as Gov. Cuomo continues to face intense pressure to step aside.

The change of power in Washington is an X-factor in the latest round of Israeli elections.