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Florida's Senate race just got very interesting

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: Val Demings
Val Demings asks questions during the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability" on Capitol Hill, on June 10, 2020.Greg Nash / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The good news for Democrats: They’re now expected to have a top-tier candidate to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2022.

NBC News has confirmed the Politico report that Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., plans to run for Rubio’s seat (when there had been chatter that she might run for governor instead).

The bad news for Dems: In the last 10 years — with the lone exception of Barack Obama in 2012 — Florida has been Lucy while the Democrats have been Charlie Brown trying to kick that football, as the party has lost top statewide races there in 2010, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Still, here’s what the Demings news means:

  1. A Rubio-vs.-Demings race in pricey Florida is certain to be the most expensive Senate contest of 2022, especially with both Rubio and Demings having national profiles.
  2. Demings running for the Senate and Charlie Crist and/or Nikki Fried for governor would give the Democrats a strong top of the ticket in what’s been a difficult state for the party.
  3. Demings’ move produces a dilemma for Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who also has been eyeing a Senate challenge to Rubio. Does she run against Demings for the Democratic nomination? Or does she set her sights on a safer Central Florida House seat after redistricting?
  4. With Demings now expected to run, it produces yet another House vacancy for Democrats. Crist. Demings. Maybe Murphy. We know redistricting produces a lot of uncertainties, but those exits will create holes for a Democratic Party that controls the House by the narrowest of margins.
  5. Chuck Schumer now has a counter to Mitch McConnell’s likely get of Gov. Chris Sununu to run against Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., in the Granite State. And in a lot of ways, New Hampshire has almost been as frustrating for national Republicans as Florida has for national Democrats.
  6. Democrats now have what appears to be five legitimate Senate pick-up opportunities in 2022 – with chances in (in order) Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and now Florida. Republicans, meanwhile, currently have three pick-up opportunities in New Hampshire, Arizona and Georgia, but still need to find candidates in those last two states. (And Nevada could be competitive, too, if they find the right candidate.)

Bottom line: Demings running is a significant development in the battle for the Senate, which currently stands divided at 50-50 — with Democrats holding the vice presidency and thus the tiebreaker.

But we also have a ways to go until Nov. 2022.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

More than 100: The number of missiles launched by Israel into the Gaza Strip overnight.

Just over $600,000: Joe and Jill Biden’s income in 2020, according to their newly-released tax returns.

More than $5.1 million: The price tag on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book on leadership during the coronavirus crisis.

33,133,187: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 30,845 more than yesterday morning.)

274,411,901: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

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

Manchin makes his counteroffer on voting rights

“Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, wrote a letter Monday calling on Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, seeking to jump-start a debate on a bipartisan path to bolstering voting access,” NBC’s Sahil Kapur writes.

More from Kapur: “While the letter didn't name the bill, a Manchin aide said the senators are referring to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to require states with a recent record of discrimination in voting rights to get federal pre-approval before changing their election laws.”

And: The Manchin-Murkowski letter “comes as Manchin faces progressive criticism for being the lone Democratic holdout on the ‘For The People Act,’ a sweeping bill that aims to allow more ballot access and that all states must follow. The Democratic-controlled House approved that bill but it hasn't taken up the bill named for John Lewis.”

McClellan’s not-so-subtle swipe at McAuliffe

In Virginia’s Democratic race for governor, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan is up with a new TV ad — airing in the Richmond market — that takes a not-so-subtle swipe at frontrunner Terry McAuliffe.

“For 15 years, my perspective and experience has helped Virginia's legislature make meaningful progress,” McClellan, who is Black, says in the ad.

The ad then scrolls past the portraits of the state’s previous governors, who have all been white men, save for Douglas Wilder. “But for 245 years, the perspectives of Virginia governors — while different in some ways — have more in common than not,” with the ad stopping on a picture of Terry McAuliffe.

“This moment demands something different,” McClellan’s ad concludes.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The House will vote on a new spending bill to provide security for members and their families.

Mike Pence is speaking out against the Biden administration’s “weak” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The deputy director of the CDC is retiring.

Maricopa County officials are calling on Arizona Republicans to stop the “spectacle” of its 2020 recount.