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Here's what four Penn. GOP Senate candidates say about Biden's legitimacy

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: President Joe Biden walks to the West Wing from Marine One on the South Lawn off the White House on Nov. 21, 2021.
President Joe Biden walks to the West Wing from Marine One on the South Lawn off the White House on Nov. 21, 2021.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

WASHNGTON — If it’s Monday ... President Biden meets with German Chancellor Scholz at the White House and holds a joint news conference with him. ... Russia has already assembled a sizable force needed to invade Ukraine. ... Stacey Abrams deletes tweet of her sitting mask-less with masked Atlanta schoolchildren. ... Joe Manchin endorses Lisa Murkowski. ... And meet the 2022 boogeymen (and boogeywomen).

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But first: NBC’s Dasha Burns interviewed four of the Pennsylvania Republicans running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

And here’s how all four of them answered, in separate interviews, the question of whether Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.

Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz: “Well, you can tell he's the president. I think it's pretty obvious from the mistakes we've been making.”

Former hedge fund executive David McCormick: “Well, listen, it's you can't go across Pennsylvania without hearing over and over again about the broad irregularities in our elections. So the three-day extension of the ballot, the lack of secure ballot boxes, the lack of oversight in many of the precincts of Philadelphia, so the majority of Republican voters in Pennsylvania do not believe in the outcome of the election. That's a terrible thing. If you're somebody who served in the military for the specific purpose of making sure that our democracy thrives, that's a major problem. So we have to fix that and one way to fix that is to have a great senator win in 2022. That makes sure that we have an accurate election in 2024.”

2018 Lt. Gov. nominee Jeff Bartos: “Well, I've been asked this many, many times over the last year, as you probably know, and each time I've consistently said, I believe Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania and won the presidency. We definitely had problems here in Pennsylvania.”

Conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette: “I believe there are a number of questions and I believe, unfortunately, our nation has not allowed those voices who feel uncomfortable about what happened.”

Be sure to check out Burns’ snapshot of the GOP’s Pennsylvania Senate race, which will air today on MSNBC and NBC News Now.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 70 percent

That’s how much of the fighting force needed to invade Ukraine that Russia has already assembled, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situation estimated. The official also estimated that an invasion would lead to 50,000 civilian casualties (dead or wounded), and lead to up to 5 million people becoming refugees.

That estimate comes as things remain tense on the border between the two nations, with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan telling “Meet the Press” Sunday that “an invasion of Ukraine could happen at any time.”

Sullivan went on to warn that America and its allies “are ready” in case of an invasion and that “President Biden has spoken to the fact that if a Russian tank or a Russian troop moves across the border, that's an invasion.”

Other numbers you need to know today:

3: The number of medals, all silver, that the U.S. Olympic Team has won so far in the Winter Olympics. Russia currently leads with six medals.

14: The number of current and former staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy who have raised concerns about a toxic work environment, per a Politico report on a new internal investigation.

$100 million: The amount pledged by Spotify Chief Executive Daniel Ek toward spending on content from “historically marginalized groups” as he defended the streaming platform amid criticism for hosting controversial podcaster Joe Rogan.

Midterm roundup

Republicans are expected to make gains in November, but NBC’s Peter Nicholas and Allen Smith report that the RNC meeting in Salt Lake City ended with the party divided over whether to focus on former President Donald Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election or the upcoming midterms. Smith also unpacks how that divide is playing out in the battlegrounds.

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams caught some heat from her GOP opponents for governor for a now-deleted tweet of a photo of an unmasked Abrams with masked children, NBC’s Blayne Alexander and Charlie Gile report. Gov. Brian Kemp’s spokesman Cody Hall said to expect to see this photo in campaign ads, while Kemp’s primary challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, released a video highlighting the photo. An Abrams campaign aide confirmed to NBC News Abrams wore a mask to the event, removing it temporarily for the photo and while speaking to be heard better.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., crossed party lines to endorse Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski for re-election. It’s not the first time he’s done this — Manchin backed Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in 2019.

Members of the Pennsylvania GOP state committee declined to endorse a candidate in the crowded Senate or governor’s races.

In case you missed it on Friday: The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s newly drawn congressional and legislative maps. State lawmakers have until Feb. 18 to redraw the maps.

And Democrat Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, ended her campaign for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat. Arkoosh was the only high-profile woman competing for the Democratic nomination.

Ad watch: Meet the boogeymen (and boogeywomen)

A new ad from gubernatorial candidate Tim James, R-Ala., attacks quite a few “boogeymen” rather than any of his opponents. In the commercial, which has aired in Alabama over 150 times since Friday, James vows to “fight back” against looting and riots, LGBTQ norms, Democratic politicians and cancel culture.

“If you stand up to them, they'll get you fired from your job. The hour's late. This may be our last chance to get it right,” James, a businessman and son of former Gov. Fob James, says in the ad.

Calling out “boogeymen” rather than one’s own opponent has been a trend in political ads. An NBC News analysis found that in January, 45 of 129 ads we tracked featured a “boogeyman.” The top boogeyman was President Joe Biden, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and China joining the president near the top of the list.

We’ll continue tracking the top boogeymen of the election cycle and we’ll update you each month with our findings.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The New York Times reports that Jill Biden, the first lady, will admit Monday that her signature policy, two years of free community college, is “no longer a part” of the Build Back Better negotiations.

New Jersey is dropping its mask mandate in schools.

A handful of Georgia Republicans are trying to take down Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in a primary.

President Biden called Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to offer him support amid criticism about his low profile, which has been simmering for months.