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Supreme Court fight gives Biden the reset he's been looking for

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: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at the Atlanta University Center Consortium in Atlanta, Ga., U.S., on Jan. 11, 2022.Dustin Chambers / Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... President Biden is set to appear with retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. ... DCCC adds seven more names to its “frontline” list, per NBC’s Ali Vitali and Haley Talbot. ... Sen. Raphael Warnock raises an eye-popping $9.8 million for the quarter and ended the year with $23 million in the bank. ... There are two new Georgia polls to chew on. ... And Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue says it helped raise $1.3 billion last year.

But first: We told you that President Biden and congressional Democrats needed a reset, and it looks like they’re going to get it in the coming weeks as they get to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

Need to improve the president’s declining poll numbers among Black voters? Fulfilling his promise to appoint a Black woman to the court can certainly help.

Want to get your party fired up ahead of the midterms as Republicans enjoy an enthusiasm advantage? A debate over the court — and especially one involving abortion — can do the trick.

Need to take some heat off Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.? A court battle when they’ve always voted for Biden’s judicial nominations could be what the doctor ordered.

Want to give the “Build Back Better” negotiations a little breathing room? A Supreme Court nomination is going to dominate everything else on Capitol Hill.

And finally, need — in the worst way — to put a win on the political scoreboard? Confirming a new justice to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court would do exactly that.

That’s assuming, of course, that nothing goes wrong during the vetting and confirmation-hearing stages.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup

With more states approving their congressional maps, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is shaking up its Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents, adding seven more lawmakers, and expanding its target list, NBC’s Ali Vitali and Haley Talbot report.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., raised a massive $9.8 million in the final quarter of 2021, ending the year with $23 million on hand, per a press release.

Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday shows very competitive races in Georgia — whether it’s the GOP primary for governor, the gubernatorial general election and the likely Warnock-vs.-Herschel Walker Senate race.

And a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll also shows close contests in these races, but with President Biden’s approval rating way underwater.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took sides in three House primaries yesterday, including backing Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., and Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., in their primaries against fellow House members.

Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, the only GOP Senate candidate who isn’t hugging Trump in the primary, nabbed a local county party endorsement. NBC’s Henry Gomez pointed out the endorsement is notable given other candidates have longer relationships with party activists.

Data Download: The number of the day is … $1.3 billion

That’s how much money flowed to Democratic campaigns and groups through the online fundraising platform ActBlue in 2021, a record for an off-year, according to figures shared first with NBC News.

The 4.5 million donors who made contributions through ActBlue last year fueled nearly 18,000 Democratic organizations, according to figures shared first with NBC News. Nearly $353 million was raised through the platform in the last three months of the year alone. The 2021 figure is more than double the $523 million that flowed through the platform in 2017, as Democratic online fundraising exploded ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Republicans have tried to replicate Democrats’ online fundraising success, launching their own platform known as WinRed in 2019. Donors sent $559 million to GOP campaigns and organizations through WinRed in 2021, including $158 million in the final fundraising quarter of the year.

Other numbers you need to know today:

14.5 million: The number of people who have signed up for health insurance through government-run exchanges since November, which is a new record.

8: The number of Black women Biden has nominated to federal appeals courts, per NBC’s Mike Memoli.

39 percent: Biden’s approval rating in a new Monmouth University poll.

200: The number of people who have pleaded guilty to charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, per Buzzfeed News.

$2.1 million: The share of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s $2.8 million haul that’s missing required donor information, according to the Dallas Morning News. Paxton’s campaign blamed the failure to disclose those donors on “technical issues.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A Texas Republican state senator gave sworn testimony in court that his party violated federal voting rights laws when drawing one of the state’s legislative districts.

San Jose became the first city in the U.S. with insurance requirements for gun owners.

Advocates and judges allege that Black and Latino voters have been “shortchanged” in the redistricting process, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

A former classmate of Ketanji Brown Jackson, a potential pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, told the Miami Herald “she was a star in the making,” at her Florida high school.