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

The GOP's bid to retake the Senate is encountering early struggles

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.
Missouri Ethics Commission fines ex-governor $178,000 for campaign finance violations
Former Gov. Eric Greitens speaks in St. Charles, Mo., in 2018.Laurie Skrivan / TNS via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden warns that Putin’s “back is against the wall” and could retaliate with severe tactics. ... It’s Day 2 of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearing (Q&A time). ... Eric Greitens’ ex-wife accuses him of abusing her and their son, as opponents call him to drop out of Missouri's Senate race. ... Greitens denies the accusation. ... And Alaska gears up for special election to replace the late Rep. Don Young.

But first: The latest allegations against Missouri Senate Republican candidate Eric Greitens underscore just how messy, crowded and potentially flawed the GOP’s Senate fields of candidates are — with the chamber up for grabs in November.

Consider these all of these different problems:

  • In Georgia, GOP frontrunner Herschel Walker (who is much more likely than Greitens is to win the Republican nomination and has largely consolidated the party around him) has admitted his own past violent behavior as part of his struggle with mental illness.
  • Republicans struck out in recruiting their top choices in Arizona (Gov. Doug Ducey), Maryland (Gov. Larry Hogan) and New Hampshire (Gov. Chris Sununu).
  • The GOP’s field in Ohio has gotten unruly and chippy (see last night’s debate, which we recap below).
  • And even in a solid-red state of Alabama, Donald Trump has been considering rescinding his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

Now given the overall political environment, Republicans can still win in places like Arizona, Georgia and certainly in Ohio — and eventually wind up with solid nominees.

But they — and especially Trump (with his endorsements, non-endorsements and beefs with Ducey/Hogan) — haven’t done themselves any favors with their fields of candidates.

Democrats have a lot of problems. But they don't have near the candidate issue that Republicans are experiencing.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $29.8 million

That’s how much money Republicans have spent on ads so far in the Ohio GOP Senate primary, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. Investment banker Mike Gibbons, who has largely self-funded his campaign, has outspent the rest of the field by far, dropping $8.7 million on ads. Gibbons’ ads have helped establish him as a top candidate, and have made him former state Treasurer Josh Mandel’s main target on the debate stage.

Outside groups backing Mandel and author J.D. Vance have spent millions more, as have state Sen. Matt Dolan ($3.9 million), former state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken ($3.1 million) and Mandel’s campaign ($2.1 million).

And the spending is still intensifying. Yesterday Mandel’s campaign made a $914,000 TV ad buy starting today and running through May. From now through the May 3 primary, Gibbons has reserved $3 million worth of airtime, but he’s been edged out by Dolan, another wealthy self-funder, who has reserved $3.6 million in ad time.

Other numbers you need to know today:

3.5 million: The number of people who have fled Ukraine for refuge since the start of Russia’s attacks on the country, according to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, 2 million of which have arrived in Poland.

3: The number of Black senators who have served on the Judiciary Committee. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, the first Black man to serve on the panel, used his opening statement during yesterday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing to note the “historical nature” of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination.

25 percent: That was the increase in alcohol-related deaths between 2019 and 2020, according to a new report that looks at the consequences of the rise in alcohol use during the beginning of the pandemic.

0: The number of countries that met the World Health Organization’s air quality standard in 2021.

79,975,691: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

977,118: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far.

Midterm roundup: Allegations rock the Missouri Senate race

Former Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens left office in 2018 amid multiple scandals. And in new court documents released yesterday, Greitens’ ex-wife detailed allegations of domestic abuse against the now-Senate hopeful.

In a sworn affidavit as part of an ongoing child custody case, Greitens’ ex-wife accused him of physically abusing her and their children, as well as threatening himself and their family while they were married. Greitens joined Steve Bannon’s podcast and called the allegations “completely baseless,” accusing his ex-wife of conspiring with allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Greitens opposes.

Three GOP candidates — Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Rep. Billy Long, and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt — as well as Democrat Lucas Kunce called on Greitens to drop out of the race. And Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who has endorsed Hartzler, tweeted to call for the same, adding “if you hit a woman or a child, you belong in handcuffs, not the United States Senate.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Ohio Senate: Monday night marked another debate in Ohio’s increasingly chippy GOP Senate primary. Some highlights: no candidate committed to voting for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to be majority leader, Dolan and Vance tangled over Ukraine and the Cleveland Guardians baseball team (which Dolan’s family owns), and moderators asked the field to clarify controversial comments they have made in recent weeks.

Pennsylvania Senate: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has committed to join the April 27 Senate debate, featuring the other top Democrat, Rep. Conor Lamb, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Meanwhile, Lamb’s campaign reserved an additional $2.6 million in TV ads through the May 17 primary, per AdImpact. A super PAC supporting Lamb released a poll showing the congressman trailing Fetterman by 30 points, Politico reported.

Alabama Senate: It looks like someone may be trying to nudge former President Donald Trump to dump GOP Rep. Mo Brooks after Trump said he might rethink backing Brooks in Alabama’s Senate race. The Group “No More Mo” reserved $55,000 worth of cable ads in the West Palm Beach media market, per AdImpact, where Trump lives.

Alaska At-Large: Alaska gears up for special election to replace the late Rep. Don Young.

Mask politics: Axios reports that DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney and other vulnerable House Democrats signaled they’re open to supporting a GOP bill to repeal mask mandates on public transit.

Ad watch: Blaming Biden

In a new ad out yesterday, former hedge fund manager and Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate David McCormick blamed President Joe Biden for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia invaded Crimea under Obama. They invaded Ukraine under Biden. You know what Russia didn't do when Trump was president? Invade anywhere,” McCormick says in the ad.

“Joe Biden's weakness was an invitation for invasion because tyrants like Putin only respect one thing: strength,” he adds.

It’s an argument that Trump himself has employed in the weeks since the invasion — and the ad comes days after NBC News reported that Trump’s wife, Melania, likes McCormick’s primary foe, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

NBC’s Sahil Kapur wraps Day 1 of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing.

The Federal Reserve chairman said he was open to raising interest rates higher if it’s deemed appropriate to address inflation.

The U.S. is designating the attacks by Myanmar on the Rohingya Muslims as a genocide.

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has vetoed a bill banning transgender females from participating in girls school sports, saying it “falls short” of providing “fairness in K-12 sports.”