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Supreme Court nomination battle will set the stage for court's abortion ruling

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: Pro-Life Activists Protest Outside Washington, DC Planned Parenthood
Anti-abortion activist pass out signs during a protest outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic on Jan. 20, 2022 in Washington.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... President Biden speaks on the supply chain in Pittsburgh. ... Democratic candidates John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro are skipping the Biden event due to “scheduling conflicts,” while Conor Lamb will be there. ... NBC’s Mike Memoli and Carol Lee lay out the White House’s midterm strategy. ... Republican Mark Walker is running for North Carolina senate after all. ... And the (Bidens’) cat is out of the bag.

But first: Due to the timing, Biden’s upcoming Supreme Court nomination (before the end of February) is going to serve as an appetizer to the main course of the Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade and the future of abortion in this country (which could come in June).

So while Biden’s SCOTUS replacement gives him an opportunity to reset, the abortion case has the potential to alter the midterms’ trajectory and issue matrix.

And we stress “potential” here, because abortion hasn’t been a top-tier midterm issue.

At least not yet.

By the way, NBC’s Pete Williams reminds us that even though Justice Breyer isn’t set to retire until the summer, the U.S. Senate can still vote beforehand to fill an expected vacancy.

The nominee — even though confirmed by the Senate — doesn’t become a justice until both the constitutional and judicial oaths are administered, Williams says.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup

Biden said last week he plans to hit the road and help Democrats in tough races, and the White House is rolling out a strategy to do just that, NBC’s Mike Memoli and Carol Lee report. The president has already been inviting Democrats to travel with him on Air Force One and contribute to his speeches.

But some Democrats may opt not to appear with Biden amid his sagging poll numbers. Two of Pennsylvania’s top Democratic officials — Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the party’s likely nominee for governor, and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a top Senate candidate — cited scheduling conflicts in declining invitations to appear with Biden as he travels to Pittsburgh today. Rep. Conor Lamb, who is also running for Senate, will attend Biden’s event.

Republican Kevin Nicholson jumped into the Wisconsin governor’s race yesterday, pitching himself as a political outsider. Nicholson is a Marine veteran who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for Senate in 2018.

Former North Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Walker, who had been considering a House run, announced that he’s remaining in the open Senate race instead.

Is another House Democrat eyeing the exits? Hawaii Rep. Kai Kahele didn’t rule out a run for governor in an interview with Hawaii News Now.

Andy Parker, whose daughter Alison was shot and killed while reporting on television in 2015, announced yesterday that he’s running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District.

YouTube removed an ad from Missouri GOP Rep. Billy Long, who is running for Senate, that claimed the 2020 election was stolen, McClatchy reports.

Data Download: The number of the day is … -17

That’s Vice President Harris’ net positive/negative rating – in percentage points – in the latest NBC News poll. Thirty-two percent of adults surveyed said they had positive feelings about the vice president, while 49 percent rated their feelings about her as negative.

Here’s how where other recent vice presidents stood after their first year in office, per the NBC News poll:

  • Mike Pence: - 6 (33 percent positive, 39 percent negative)
  • Joe Biden: +9 (38 percent positive, 29 percent negative)
  • Dick Cheney: +51 (62 percent positive, 11 percent negative)
  • Al Gore: +25 (48 percent positive, 23 percent negative)

Also, Harris’ personal -17 net score is the widest gap for her yet, with the share of respondents who rated Harris positively dropping steadily since peaking at 42 percent in late October of 2020.

Other numbers you need to know today:

$125 million: How much billionaire George Soros is contributing to a super PAC this election cycle. That’s up from the $80 million he gave the group during the 2020 election.

$1 million: That’s what Republican Wesley Hunt, an Army veteran, raised in the last fundraising quarter in his race for Texas’ new 38th District, Roll Call reports, underscoring the fundraising strength from GOP candidates of color this cycle.

13: The number of congressional maps a Pennsylvania state court could choose from to finalize redistricting in the state.

594,430: The seven-day average for Covid cases in the U.S., which is the lowest rate since Jan. 5, per an NBC News analysis.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman gave his first interview since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, telling a podcast the day “could have been a bloodbath” if not for the officers who showed restraint with deadly force, per NPR.

Right-leaning groups are starting to support Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz, as leftist groups promise to support a primary challenge.

Families across the country are completing their first month without a child tax credit payment and many blame Biden for the loss of monthly checks, Politico reports.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office states that the Department of Health and Human Services is failing to meet its responsibilities to respond to the pandemic and other health threats.