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No urgency in Washington as death and economic tolls grow

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: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump tours the Whirlpool Corporation facility in Clyde, Ohio, on Aug. 6, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

WASHINGTON — Three months ago, we warned against minimizing — or becoming numb to — the death and economic devastation that the coronavirus has produced in the United States.

And that’s when the U.S. death toll stood at 87,000, and when a combined 36 million Americans had filed unemployment claims.

Today, the death toll exceeds 160,000 (that’s likely an undercount), and the unemployment claims total stands at 55 million since late March.

Those 160,000-plus deaths are almost three times the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the Vietnam War, and they’re more than fifty times the number of Americans who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

All in the span of just six months.

And as NBC’s Tom Costello reported on “Today,” a new University of Washington model says the U.S. death toll could near 300,000 by the end of the year — easily surpassing the American combat deaths in World War I, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

Where is the urgency? It certainly isn’t coming from the president, who’s at his golf resort today in New Jersey with no events on his schedule.

And it’s not coming from Congress, which remains at a stalemate in the negotiations over more economic relief.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

4,895,284: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 58,581 more cases than yesterday morning.)

160,553: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,155 more than yesterday morning.)

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

$64 million over three years: How much NRA officials cost the organization because of improper spending, according to a new lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James.

$14 million: The amount spent on 2020 presidential TV ads in the Phoenix media market from April 1 to August 6, making it the top market in the country.

About 11 points: Bill Hagerty’s margin of victory over Manny Sethi in the Tennessee Senate primary.

$8,420: The campaign fundraising total for Marquita Bradshaw, the progressive organizer who defeated DSCC-backed candidate James Mackler in Tennessee’s Democratic Senate primary. Mackler raised $2.1 million.

2020 Vision: Hagerty waltzes to victory in Tennessee

In the GOP Senate primary to fill retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander’s seat, establishment favorite Bill Hagerty defeated Manny Sethi, 51 percent to 39 percent.

In the general election, Hagerty will face Marquita Bradshaw, who won a surprising victory in the Democratic primary.

Hagerty will have a gigantic advantage in this red state in November.

As we pointed out yesterday, the combative Hagerty-versus-Sethi race certainly suggests that the Republican Party in Tennessee is no longer Lamar Alexander’s (or Bob Corker’s or Bill Frist’s) party anymore in the Volunteer State.

Tweet of the day

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch looks at a primary coming up next week that’s featured a whole lot of spending, some nasty attacks and a big name Democrat.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar is on the ballot on Tuesday, when the member of the “Squad” takes on Antone Melton-Meaux, a political newcomer who works as a mediator.

Both candidates have raised over $4 million this cycle, and Melton-Meaux has outspent Omar on the airwaves $1.9 million to $800,000.

Melton-Meaux’s recent spots take either explicit or implicit digs at Omar — one says he won’t be “chasing cameras or selling books” and will instead focus on things like ending “Trumpism” and ensuring equal rights, and another calls Omar “controversial” and “divisive.”

Omar’s most recent ad seizes on the pandemic and the protests for racial justice, framing Omar as someone still fighting for the progressive values like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and “homes for all.” She’s gone negative at times too, criticizing Melton-Meux’s law work to accuse him of not being a true progressive.

The rough-and-tumble race heads to a close on Tuesday as Democrats see if Omar can survive the primary like her fellow “Squad” member Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib did this past Tuesday, or if the well-funded Melton-Meaux can knock her out of the House.

“Very far apart”

Another week and still no deal on coronavirus relief legislation, per NBC News’ Hill team. After a Thursday night meeting, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were unable to come to a deal — and there’s no commitment for the four to meet again before the weekend.

“We have some further exchange of paper to be clarified, to see if we can find some further common ground but we’re very far apart. It’s most unfortunate,” Pelosi said.

And Schumer said that he sees the president with two choices: negotiate with Democrats, given that Republicans don’t have the votes to pass something on their own, or lead through executive order.

Mnuchin told reporters that President Trump has said he will look to alternatives if there isn’t a compromise between the two sides by tomorrow: “If we conclude tomorrow that there is not a compromise position on the major issues the president has alternatives and executive orders.”

And Meadows is continuing to push for a short-term “skinny” bill to address concerns like unemployment insurance: “My frustration is that we could've passed a very skinny deal that dealt with some of the most pressing issues.” He added that the White House team was going to reevaluate Thursday night.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Commission on Presidential Debates is rejecting the Trump’s campaign’s request to move the debates earlier or add one.

Trump issued an executive order barring U.S. companies from doing business with TikTok’s Chinese parent company.

Joe Biden says that “racism against Latinos” is “baked into” Trump’s presidency.

After a second test, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he’s negative for coronavirus after all.

The president ran on his skills as a deal-maker. But once again, he’s sitting on the sidelines amid another high-stakes negotiation.

Facebook has removed a troll farm that posed as Black supporters of Trump.

Career officials at DHS say they’re being kept in the dark about decisions and ignored by top leaders.

Here’s the latest on that very odd photo posted by Jerry Falwell Jr — and the fallout from conservatives over it.