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

The last 10 days have been a wild ride in American political history

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 Donald Trump throws hats to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport
President Donald Trump throws hats to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Duluth, Minn.Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — Four years ago this week — October 7, 2016 — was one of the craziest days in modern American politics: the Access Hollywood video, the beginning of the WikiLeaks releases and the Obama administration’s announcement that Russia was interfering in the election.

But that day doesn’t hold a candle to the last 10 days in this 2020 election.

September 29: President Donald Trump and Joe Biden clash in unruly and insult-filled debate.

October 2: Trump reveals he tested positive for coronavirus; is flown by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

October 4: Trump takes a ride in a hermetically sealed SUV with Secret Service agents to wave to gathered supporters.

October 5: Trump returns to the White House, instructs Americans not to be afraid of the coronavirus and says in a video: “And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives.”

October 6: Trump scuttles bipartisan negotiations for another coronavirus relief package before the election.

October 7: Vice President Pence and Kamala Harris debate in VP showdown.

October 8: Prosecutors bring charges against men plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before the election; New York Times reports that the president lashed out at his cabinet for not indicting his political rivals; and Trump refuses to participate in a virtual presidential debate, throwing the rest of the debate schedule into limbo.

These last 10 days have been our October 7 from four years ago: a historically ugly debate, a hospitalized president, angry tweets and a thwarted kidnapping of Michigan’s Democratic governor.

And guess what today brings us? Trump’s going to call into Rush Limbaugh’s show, and then he’s set to appear on Tucker Carlson’s 8:00 p.m. ET Fox News program, where he’ll get a medical evaluation from Fox’s on-air doctor.

Tweet of the day

Democratic Senate candidates are outspending GOP opponents 2-to-1 over the airwaves

If you want to see how the current political and fundraising environment could help Democrats down the ballot in November, just check out these numbers compiled by NBC’s Ben Kamisar below.

Democratic Senate candidates (including independent Al Gross running in Alaska) are outspending their GOP opponents over the TV and radio airwaves by almost a combined 2-to-1 margin, $135 million to $71 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics through Sept. 30.

Now that Democratic advantage narrows to a smaller $345 million-to-$288 million edge when you account for outside spending by Super PACs and other groups.

But remember, those outside groups don’t get the same discounted ad rates that campaigns do – so they get less bang for the buck.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,643,636: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 53,453 more than yesterday morning.)

213,995: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 886 more than yesterday morning.)

112.12 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

10 percentage points: Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump in a new Pew poll.

2020 Vision: Back on the trail?

Last night, President Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox that he was looking to get back to rallies as soon as this Saturday — his physician cleared him to go back to public engagements starting this weekend, according to a Thursday memo.

“I think I'm going to try doing a rally on Saturday night if we have enough time to put it together, but we want to do a rally probably in Florida on Saturday night,” the president said.

But even when asked by Hannity, the president would not disclose when his last negative Covid-19 test was, and he said he would most likely receive another test today, adding: “There's no reason to test all the time.”

That’s a vastly different message than the White House had before the president tested positive when they reasoned their non-socially distanced events on the amount of testing done.

Dr. Anthony Fauci poured some cold water on the president’s recovery on Thursday, saying, “It is entirely conceivable that he is already well on his way to being out of the woods. The one thing that his physicians are well aware of, and anyone who takes care of COVID-19 patients are aware of, is that this is a strange type of a virus – because you can feel good for a few days in a row, and then you could have a really unexpected downturn, where your condition worsens.”

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden stumps in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Lid: Palmetto Prize

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on the South Carolina Senate race.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s the latest on the foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Young voters are pessimistic about the future, a new NBC News / Quibi poll finds.

GOP consultants say Trump’s vow to skip the next debate is “sure to backfire.”

Mitch McConnell says he’s avoided the White House over coronavirus concerns.

Here’s how both parties are preparing for a possibly contested election.

The Louisville police department gathered negative information about Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend after her shooting.

Longtime GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy is likely to plead guilty after being charged as acting as a foreign agent.