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

From gun fights to cannibalism, the most provocative 2022 campaign ads so far

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.
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake acknowledges the crowd at a rally on Jan. 15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz.Ross D. Franklin / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Russia intensifies its attacks on Ukraine, pushing closer to capital Kyiv. ... President Biden announces that he’s revoking Russia’s “most favored-nation” trading status, and then marks the one-year anniversary of his Covid relief law with an event in Philadelphia. ... The Senate passes $1.5 trillion government-funding bill containing nearly $14 billion in aid for Ukraine. ... Inflation hits another high. ... And let’s play ball — finally.

But first: Meet the most provocative ads of the 2022, so far.

In one of them, Arizona GOP Senate candidate Jim Lamon faces off in an OK Corral-style shoot-out with Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz. — and the ad received backlash since Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, was a victim of gun violence.

In another race, an outside group invokes murder and cannibalism to slam Oklahoma GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt in one ad. “Gov. Stitt’s catch and release policies led to the largest mass release of felons in U.S. history. One felon released by Gov. Stitt was Lawrence Anderson. Anderson brutally murdered his neighbor, then tried to feed her organs to his family. When his family refused, Anderson killed them, too.”

Here’s one that features the Joker, Captain Hook and Maleficent — to attack Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., who voted for Donald Trump’s second impeachment.

Here’s a Democratic ad from progressive Jessica Cisneros that goes right at the FBI raid on primary opponent Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas. Cuellar and Cisneros now face off in a May 24 runoff.

Here’s another Democratic ad from Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers, who smokes marijuana in it.

This ad from Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Dave White puts the spotlight on two white young children in the classroom: “This girl is a racist. So is he. All of them born racist. The left calls this Critical Race Theory.”

Here’s Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s introductory ad: “Hi, Arizona. I'm Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor. If you're watching this ad right now, it means you're in the middle of watching a fake news program. You know how to know it's fake? Because they won't even cover the biggest story out there: the rigged election of 2020.”

In this ad, Alabama GOP Gov. Kay Ivey can’t find anything nice to say about President Biden.

While in this ad — from Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate David McCormick — chants “Let’s go, Brandon” about Biden over and over.

And folks, it’s just March. We have eight more months to go.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 5 percent

That’s the estimated undercount rate of Hispanics and Latinos in the 2020 census, a rate three times the estimated undercount in 2010. Census officials believe they undercounted the Black population by 3.3 percent and indigenous people on reservations by 5.6 percent (indigenous people not living on reservations weren’t undercounted).

By comparison, the overcount rates for non-Hispanic whites and Asians were 1.6 and 2.6 percent respectively.

The count was disrupted by the pandemic, which prompted the Census Bureau to halt in-person door-knocking for months, as well as a fight within the Trump administration over stopping the count early.

The new Census figures help guide both federal aid and reapportionment decisions.

Other numbers you need to know today:

549: The number of confirmed civilian deaths in the assault on Ukraine, along with 957 injuries, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell, who noted “the actual figure could be much higher.”

27,000: That’s how many mail ballots in Texas were flagged for rejection during the primary this month, a much higher rate than previous elections.

42 percent: That’s the share of Americans approving of Biden’s job performance in a new Wall Street Journal poll.

25: That’s at least how many senators Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has met with as she readies for her Supreme Court confirmation, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.

150: The number of days in prison actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to after he was found guilty of felony disorderly conduct after falsely claiming he was the victim of a hate crime.

79,638,168: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

969,684: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup

Democrats took some time for reflecting and strategizing this week, with lawmakers in both chambers heading to their retreats, and the DNC holding its first in-person meeting in two years.

At the DNC meeting, Biden warned that GOP control of Congress would lead to “a sad two years,” per NBC’s Mike Memoli.

But Democrats can’t agree on the best strategy to make sure that doesn’t happen, NBC’s Sahil Kapur and Scott Wong report from House Democrats’ retreat in Philadelphia. Some believe Democrats need to rack up more legislative victories. DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., disagreed, instead advising fellow Democrats to “talk like real people.”

In the battle for the Senate, Democratic primaries are beginning to heat up, but the party isn’t taking sides. “At this point, it is not our intention to get involved in the primaries. It's simply not necessary right now,” DSCC Chairman Gary Peters told reporters yesterday, noting the contests have multiple candidates who could win in November.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, is skipping next month’s primary debate hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission

Former South Carolina GOP governor and potential 2024 contender Nikki Haley endorsed Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a top Democratic target.

Former Oklahoma Republican state House Speaker T.W. Shannon is jumping into the increasingly crowded race to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe.

The Biden administration’s decision to start talks with Venezuela amid rising gas prices could cause political shockwaves in Florida, Politico reports.

Ad watch

Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., is out with his first ad in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. He follows Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who released his first ad in the same race earlier this month.

While Republican Senate hopefuls are engaged in a full scale ad war, Fetterman and Lamb are so far focusing on highlighting their careers and strengths to voters, rather than tearing each other down.

“Conor Lamb believes our democracy is worth fighting for,” a narrator says at the beginning of his ad. The narrator goes on to highlight Lamb’s rhetoric in Congress, “standing up,” to the Republicans after January 6 and “calling out their lies.”

The ad positions Lamb as “the best chance to defeat the Republicans this fall,” looking past the primary to this November’s general election, and highlighting his pivotal 2018 special election win and subsequent re-election.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Politico reports that Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to delay Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s confirmation to be ambassador to India so he can investigate whether Garcetti knew about sexual harassment and assault allegations against a top ally.

A new military report is raising criticism about military training and a “culture of complacency” after three American military personnel were killed in Kenya in 2020, according to the AP.