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Shame is no longer enough to force elected officials from office

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: New York Governor Cuomo Holds Briefing In Manhattan
Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on July 1, 2020 in New York City.Byron Smith / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Ten years ago, New York GOP Congressman Christopher Lee resigned from Congress after reporting surfaced that he sent a woman a bare-chested photo of himself.

Today, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is refusing to step down after a state investigation found he sexually harassed 11 different women, nine of whom are former or current employees, violating state and local law.

And a difference between those two tales of New Yorkers is something we’ve noticed over the past decade: It’s become harder and harder to shame politicians out of office or off the campaign trail, no matter the evidence against them or the people who’ve called for them to resign.

Think about it: Donald Trump after “Access Hollywood” or the other accusations against him. Roy Moore. Scott DeJarlais. Matt Gaetz. You can even go all the way back to Bill Clinton — after he didn’t tell the country the truth about his affair with a White House intern.

In the last few years, the only way we’ve seen politicians resign from office after a sex scandal or allegations of sexual impropriety is when their political party pretty much abandoned them. See: Eric Greitens (who is making a comeback) and Al Franken. The most prominent female politician in recent memory to face allegations of sexual impropriety, Katie Hill, announced her resignation days after allegations first surfaced.

And the political question we have this morning for Cuomo is whether he puts his party through of all of this, especially ahead of the 2022 midterms.

By the way, New York Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who would replace Cuomo if he steps down or is impeached, got her start in national politics when she won the special congressional election to replace, you guessed it, Christopher Lee.

What happened in Ohio’s special primaries last night

In the Democratic primary to fill HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge’s seat in Ohio 11th Congressional District, Cuyahoga County Council member Shontel Brown beat Bernie Sanders 2020 national co-chair Nina Turner, 50 percent to 45 percent.

It’s the latest high-profile defeat for progressives in the Biden Era — after primary wins by Terry McAuliffe in Virginia and Eric Adams in New York City.

And it’s a reminder that Bernie Sanders and the movement he created don’t play well in cities like Cleveland with substantial Black populations. In the 2020 Ohio Democratic primary, Sanders got just 16 percent of the vote in Cuyahoga County, while Joe Biden got 70 percent.

So it only makes sense that the candidate promising to be the stronger Biden ally won this race.

Meanwhile, in the GOP primary to fill former Rep. Steve Stivers’ seat in Ohio's 15th Congressional District, the Trump-endorsed Mike Carey won, getting 37 percent of the vote in an 11-candidate field.

Carey’s closest competitor — the Stivers-backed Jeff LaRe — got 13 percent.

On Tuesday, we asked which would prove to be stronger force in this contest: national politics (with Trump’s endorsement) or local politics (with Stivers’)?

Well, we got our answer — at least when the field has 11 different candidates.

Brown and Carey will be the overwhelming favorites to win their special general elections in November.

Bottom line: We learned last night that it’s still Joe Biden’s Democratic Party (even if progressives have a seat at the governing table), and that it’s Donald Trump’s Republican Party (especially in a crowded field).

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

14 percent: The share of people who say they will “definitely not” get a Covid vaccination in a new poll.

84.9 percent: Annual inflation in Lebanon in 2020, as the county faces a massive financial crisis.

35,347,854: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 145,269 more than yesterday morning.)

617,932: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 674 more than yesterday morning.)

347,377,149: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 452,804 since yesterday morning.)

49.7 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

60.6 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here are 10 key excerpts from the investigation into Cuomo, which detailed repeated accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching of women by the governor.

The New York Times reports that the FDA is hoping to fully approve the Pfizer vaccine by around Labor Day.

A Pentagon police officer was shot and killed on Tuesday just outside the building.

ABC reports that a Trump Justice Department official asked superiors to sign a letter aimed casting doubt on the election results in Georgia, but was rebuffed.

The CDC announces a more targeted eviction moratorium after days of pressure

The Washington Post reports the Biden administration is considering offering Covid vaccines to migrants in U.S. custody along the border with Mexico.

GOP Rep. Billy Long is running for Senate in Missouri.