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As public opinion changes on police reform, so does the GOP rhetoric

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: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., center, and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., right, lis
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., center, and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., right, listen.Susan Walsh / AP

WASHINGTON — We’re seeing what happens when public opinion fundamentally changes: Politicians — including ones you’d never expect — move in the same direction.

At least for a moment.

That’s the political situation right now with polling showing increased support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as surveys (like our NBC News/WSJ poll) finding voters much more concerned about George Floyd’s death rather than the protests that followed it.

“Young black men have a very different experience with law enforcement in this nation than white people, and that’s their impression and experience and we need to be sensitive to that and do all we can to change it,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told his GOP colleagues yesterday, per NBC’s Kasie Hunt and Frank Thorp.

(That Cotton statement comes after he said this for a Politico article that publishes on Monday: "I do not think you can paint with a broad brush and say there's systemic racism in the criminal justice system in America.”)

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says that President Trump wants police reform “sooner rather than later,” and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has a proposal to begin that conversation on the GOP side.

Of course, we’ve seen this movie before, and it’s possible we might not get a deal on police reform. (Remember what happened on guns and immigration?)

And arguably the biggest hurdle here is President Trump (can he make a deal and still keep support with police unions?), as well as whether Democrats want to cut a deal, especially in an election year.

But the movement — at least when it comes to rhetoric — is real for now.

“Complete Meltdown” in Georgia

On Tuesday morning, we wrote about the looming nightmare for November that it might take a week – not a single night — for some battleground states to count their ballots in the upcoming presidential contest.

Just hours later yesterday, we saw another looming nightmare for November play out in Georgia, where voters in predominately African-American precincts had to contend with long lines and faulty voting machines.

“COMPLETE MELTDOWN” is how the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described it on its front page.

“Hourslong waits, problems with new voting machines and a lack of available ballots plagued voters in majority minority counties in Georgia on Tuesday — conditions the secretary of state called ‘unacceptable’ and vowed to investigate,” per NBC News.

“Democrats and election watchers said voting issues in a state that has been plagued for years by similar problems, along with allegations of racial bias, didn't bode well for the November presidential election, when Georgia could be in play.”

And also when Georgia has two key contests for the U.S. Senate.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,988,007: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 18,088 more than yesterday morning.)

112,742: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 988 more than yesterday morning).

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

$104 million: The price tag of Georgia’s new voting system, which — due to long lines and poll workers’ struggles with the new system — caused massive voting delays Tuesday, especially in the metro Atlanta area

98-0: The Senate’s vote to confirm Gen. Charles Brown Jr. as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, making him the first black service chief.

20,000 to 25,000: The number of retail stores expected to shutter this year, with the majority in shopping malls, according to a new analysis by Coresight Research.

21: The number of states where Covid-19 cases are now on the rise.

More than a month: The amount of time since the last White House coronavirus task force briefing.

2020 Vision: Breaking down last night’s primary results

In Georgia’s Democratic Senate primary, Jon Ossoff is on the cusp of surpassing the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. With just 65 percent in, Ossoff has 48.5 percent to the vote to Teresa Tomlinson at 15 percent and Sarah Riggs Amico at 13 percent.

In South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Democrat Jaime Harrison cruised to victory in their respective Senate primaries, and the two will face off in November.

In NV-3, Dan Rodimer won the Republican primary for the right to take on Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., in this competitive district.

And in NV-4, Jim Marchant won the GOP primary, and he’ll face Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., in the fall.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Yesterday was a big day for Charles Booker. The Kentucky Democrat and underdog in this month’s Senate primary won endorsements from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, as well as the nod from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

And he started running a new ad making a contrast with Democratic frontrunner Amy McGrath, where he says that “in this crisis, Kentucky needs a real Democrat to take on Mitch McConnell.”

The ad includes McGrath on MSNBC saying that “the things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done.” And it ends with Booker saying that “Democrats only win by mobilizing young and old, black, brown and white. Fighting for real change.”

With Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez asking their supporters to donate to Booker, it appears likely he’ll receive a fundraising boost. Booker quickly turned around on Tuesday to drop $69,000 on a new ad buy, according to Advertising Analytics, a buy larger than the amount he had spent on air to date.

McGrath has been the clear frontrunner for the entire primary — she’s spent $8 million more than Booker has on TV and radio ads this cycle, and she’s been locked in a bitter back and forth with Mitch McConnell from the start of the campaign.

Here’s what Tim Scott is proposing on police reform

Senate Republicans seem to be coming around to their own police reform proposal after congressional Democrats released their bill on Monday. Per our Hill team, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the Senate’s sole African-American Republican, briefed the GOP on his proposal.

It includes anti-lynching legislation, as well as a requirement that states which receive federal police funding must report incidents when police shoot someone (including names, race and a description of the event).

But Scott’s bill doesn’t include a ban on choke holds, and it doesn’t ban no-knock warrants like the Democrats’ bill does.

And qualified immunity is still being grappled with in the GOP conference. (Currently, police officers are not personally liable for damages or loss of life, and changes to qualified immunity is something that the president considers a red line.)

The Lid: Head-to-head

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we did a deep dive into the Trump-vs-Biden numbers from our latest NBC/WSJ poll.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The RNC is increasingly eyeing Jacksonville as the new destination for its convention.

Republicans on the Hill were not eager to talk about the president’s tweet accusing a 75 year-old protestor in Buffalo of being an Antifa operative.

NBC’s Lauren Egan profiles DC mayor Muriel Bowser.

The Washington Post checks in with the state of the PPP program.