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Conor Lamb makes his contrast argument for Pennsylvania Senate bid

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.
Rep. Conor Lamb Makes Announcement In Pittsburgh
Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Aug. 6, 2021 in Pittsburgh.Jeff Swensen / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Reports of new shelling in Ukraine raise invasion fears. ... New York judge orders Donald Trump and his children to testify under oath in civil probe. ... Congress sends spending bill to Biden’s desk to avert government shutdown. ... House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorses challenger to Rep. Liz Cheney. ... And Jessica Cisneros outraises Henry Cuellar as the primary race enters the home stretch in Texas' 28th Congressional District.

But first: We told you on Thursday that top Democratic primary candidates have been holding their fire so far when it comes to negative ads and attacks.

Well, we got our hands on an interview that NBC10 Philadelphia political reporter Lauren Mayk conducted with Pennsylvania Senate Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, in which Lamb makes his contrast argument versus fellow Democratic frontrunner John Fetterman.

The interview will air on Sunday, but here’s a sneak peek Mayk sent us.

Q: Why should you be Pennsylvania's next senator?

Lamb: “I think I have the experience of doing the job serving in Washington. I have actually worked on and voted for most of the really important bills that we need our next senator to vote for. ... I've also shown I can win in tough areas.”

Q: Can you represent Philadelphia's progressive voters?

Lamb: “I always ask people how you define a word like progressive. I think you should define it by results, just not the rhetoric you use or speeches you give. What are the results that you get? And by choosing someone like Joe Biden as our president, which Philadelphians did, and by sending people like me back to Congress that kept us in the majority, we got one of the most progressive pieces of legislation ever done in our lifetime. It was the American Rescue Plan.”

Q: Do you consider yourself a progressive?

Lamb: “Absolutely, yeah. I'm someone that does this job because I want to make progress.”

Q: How do you distinguish yourself from John Fetterman?

Lamb: “I think based on our records. It's about achievements, it's about getting things done. I can tell you all the bills I've passed and voted for. ... I've won three elections under a tough spotlight. ... His experience is much different. He doesn't have those votes, he doesn't have any accomplishments as a legislator. He's never beaten a Republican in a big race before.”

Fetterman versus Lamb (along with fellow Democrat Malcolm Kenyatta) is arguably the top Democratic primary in maybe the most important Senate contest in the country — especially when it comes to Democrats’ ability to maintain their Senate majority.

And this establishment/progressive/results/ideology debate comes as Democratic strategists and candidates assess whether they went too far to the left during the Trump years, as the Washington Post writes.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $707,000

That’s how much Democratic challenger Jessica Cisneros raised between Jan. 1 and Feb. 9, per the latest round of FEC reports, a massive advantage over her primary opponent, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar.

Cuellar, by comparison, raised just $147,000.

But Cuellar had a spending edge over Cisneros during that time — he dug deep into his cash reserves, spending $1.2 million and ending Feb. 9 with nearly $1.3 million in cash on hand. Cisneros spent $791,000 and had $410,000 in the bank. Both candidates spent the bulk of their campaign cash on ads. Cuellar’s campaign spent $794,000 on media buys and ads while Cisneros’ campaign spent $583,000 on TV spots.

Other numbers you need to know today:

21: The number of days until the new government funding deadline after senators approved a bill last night averting a government shutdown and extending the deadline to March 11.

67 percent: The decline in the two-week average of Covid cases, as of Thursday evening, a trend that’s prompted cities across America to lift vaccination requirements.

57 percent: The percentage of voters in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s internal polling who said Democrats “have taken things too far in their pandemic response,” per SFGATE.

11.6 million: The potential number of Hispanic voters in this year’s midterm elections, per an estimate from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

Midterm roundup

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Harriet Hageman yesterday in her primary race against Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, who replaced Cheney in leadership, also announced this morning that she is backing Hageman.

Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, issued a statement yesterday backing a bill in Wyoming that would end the practice that allows voters to choose their party affiliation on primary day.

The GOP super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with McCarthy, is spending ahead of the March 1 Texas primaries. CLF spent $528,000 on the airwaves to bolster Morgan Luttrell in the solidly Republican 8th District, per AdImpact. And in the 15th District, the group also launched a radio ad knocking Monica de la Cruz’s primary opponent. De la Cruz also nabbed Trump’s endorsement yesterday.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate hopeful Dave McCormick dropped out of Monday’s GOP primary debate after finding out that a top rival, Mehmet Oz, was not attending. Politico first reported the decision. Meanwhile, in the Keystone State, Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty endorsed McCormick.

In Ohio, the state Democratic Party endorsed Rep. Tim Ryan, despite Ryan having a primary challenger in Morgan Harper.

Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof won’t be on the ballot in Oregon’s gubernatorial race after the state Supreme Court refused to overturn the secretary of state’s decision that he didn't meet residency requirements.

Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell, D-Fla., announced yesterday that she won’t run for Congress this year.

Ad watch: The campaign versus Ron Johnson

A new ad accusing Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., of corruption and questioning his integrity is on the airwaves in Wisconsin, according to AdImpact. It’s the third such ad funded by the group Opportunity Wisconsin to attack the sitting senator, who announced his bid for re-election last month.

The ad opens with a narrator saying, “He should have used his power to serve Wisconsin. Instead, Ron Johnson served himself.” The ad goes on to accuse Johnson of pushing for a tax loophole in the 2017 tax law that benefitted his family business and his wealthy donors. (Johnson defended his efforts as part of his push to simplify the tax code and help businesses remain competitive.)

“Ron Johnson has doubled his wealth since taking office. Look up the facts and tell Ron Johnson to stop passing tax laws that benefit himself,” the narrator says at the end of the ad.

It’s a refrain Opportunity Wisconsin keeps using in ads blasting Johnson. One ad from January has a Navy retiree repeating the same message.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Texas voters incorrectly sent thousands of mail-in ballot requests to the secretary of state’s office instead of local election offices at the direction of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s campaign, The Texas Tribune reports.

Special Council John Durham, who Trump appointed to investigate the Russia investigation, distanced himself from the right-wing media outcry over a recent court filing from his investigation, per the New York Times.

Donald Trump will hold a fundraiser at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida next month to benefit former Sen. David Perdue in his campaign to oust Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp.

Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., is facing scrutiny in his campaign for the U.S. Senate for possibly being too close to union leaders who’ve been indicted or convicted on corruption charges, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, makes her pitch to reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act in a New York Times op-ed.

And NBC News Now looks at the history — and impact — of Olympic boycotts.