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The soul of the post-Trump GOP isn't in D.C., it's in the nation's statehouses

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.
Tracie Davis
Florida Rep. Tracie Davis is surrounded by supporters as she speaks during a legislative session, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.Wilfredo Lee / AP

WASHINGTON — If you really want to see today’s post-Trump Republican Party in action, don’t look at Washington.

Instead, take notice of what’s happening in GOP-controlled state legislatures across the country.

They’re passing new restrictions on voting, even in states Trump won in 2020. “Florida's Legislature [on Thursday] passed an election bill Thursday that includes restrictions on drop boxes and voting by mail,” NBC’s Ben Kamisar writes.

They’re pushing through legislation that allow people carry handguns without a permit; that ban transgender athletes from playing women’s sports; and that give immunity to drivers whose vehicles injure protesters in the streets.

Oh, and there’s that bizarre “audit” of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Ariz.

The front lines of the voting and culture wars are in the states.

And that’s what’s defining today’s GOP and its future — even as others are looking instead at Washington.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6.4 percent: The U.S. GDP in the last quarter, the second best quarterly reading since 2003

89 to 2: The Senate’s overwhelming vote yesterday to pass a water infrastructure bill

32,445,333: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 65,111 more than yesterday morning.)

579,396: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,090 more than yesterday morning.)

237,360,493: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

27.6 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

Talking policy with Benjy: Capital punishment

President Biden is proposing trillions in new taxes on the rich and corporations to fund his agenda, but they also would mostly miss the affluent suburbanites who have provided Democrats with key votes and donations in the Trump era, writes NBC News policy editor Benjy Sarlin.

Biden, who has pledged to shield incomes under $400,000 from new taxes, has focused his proposed hikes mostly on wealthy investors. This includes corporate shareholders, investors making over $1 million and heirs to large stock portfolios.

So far, he’s much less interested in taxing wages, however even among the tippy top of earners that might still consider themselves upper middle class. Biden proposes restoring the top income tax rate from 2017 to 39.6 percent, which currently kicks in at $523,600, rather than raising it further.

All in all, the proposed capital gains and income tax hikes would affect less than 1 percent of taxpayers, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Some relatively high-earning professionals might even get a tax cut. Democrats think the politics favor them as a result — so much so that Biden’s 2020 pollster John Anzalone has told them to actively play up the tax increases on the rich.

This also helps explain why the state and local tax deduction (SALT) is so much more divisive among Democrats. Former President Trump capped the deduction, which tends to benefit high-income households, at $10,000 and the White House wants to leave it there. Democrats in wealthier districts are in revolt, though, with some threatening to tank any bill that doesn’t repeal the cap.

Only 9 percent of taxpayers would see any effects from the SALT change, and most of the benefits would go to the Top 1 percent, but it’s a group that runs more into the doctors, lawyers and computer engineers rather than just super-rich hedge funders. For Democrats, keeping their new coalition happy might mean making sure the line between the billionaires and the merely well off is bright and clear.

Deep in the heart of Texas

On Saturday, voters in Texas’ Sixth Congressional District will go to the polls in the crowded and unpredictable race to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, who died from Covid-19 complications in February.

A whopping 23 candidates are running (including 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats) in an all-party primary on May 1. It’s very likely that no candidate will reach the required 50 percent+1 to win, setting up a Top 2 runoff at a date still to be determined.

Former President Donald Trump has loomed large over the Republicans in the race. He recently endorsed the likely GOP frontrunner, Wright’s widow Susan. The field also includes state Rep. Jake Ellzey, former Trump DHS official Brian Harrison, anti-Trump republican Michael Wood, former WWE wrestler and Nevada Republican Congressional hopeful Dan Rodimer, 2016 GOP faithless elector Christopher Spurun, and former Trump SBA official Sery Kim (who lost endorsements thanks to comments about Chinese immigrants).

The top Democrats are 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez, former Baylor professor and state House candidate Lydia Bean, and Shawn Lassiter, who works in education.

By the numbers, the suburban district in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area looks potentially competitive — but perhaps only on paper. Donald Trump only won it by a modest 3 points in 2020. But turnout is expected to be low in a weekend special election, likely favoring the GOP. And the possibility remains that Democrats could be entirely shut out of the runoff if their party’s candidates split the Democratic vote.

Read more about the race from NBC’s Allan Smith here.

Shameless plug

NBC’s Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb will co-host “Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List,” Saturday, May 1 at 8:00 pm ET/PT on NBC and Telemundo.

The primetime special will honor Alex Trebek & Jean Trebek, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bubba Wallace, Becky Hammon, José Andrés, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the Inspiration4 Crew and America’s Teachers.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Bruce Mehlman looks at Biden’s next 100 days.

Virginia Republicans are in a bit of a mess over their own voter ID requirements, per NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald.

Jennifer Carroll Foy has as new TV ad in Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary that’s airing in the DC media market.

Biden says he was not briefed in advance about a raid on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh says most gig workers in the United States should be classified as employees.

The Washington Post writes: “The FBI warned Rudolph W. Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President Biden politically ahead of last year’s election.”