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Two years in, it’s still Biden versus Trump

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday … The New jobs report shows 315,000 jobs created in August with the unemployment rate at 3.7%. … President Biden says democracy can’t survive under MAGA extremism. … Former President Donald Trump holds rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Saturday. … Inflation once again tops the list of monthly midterm TV ad topics. … Former NFL star Brett Favre gets attached to Mississippi welfare fraud scandal, NBC’s Ken Dilanian and Laura Strickler report. … And Artemis I rescheduled launch is set for Saturday. 

But first: With two months to go until the 2022 midterms, it feels like we’re picking up where 2020 ended. 

President Biden, in a primetime speech from Philadelphia, called out former President Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters. 

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said. 

Trump, meanwhile, heads to Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (where Biden just happened to be earlier in the week) for his own rally on Saturday, as the former president has once again been caught up in scandal, controversy and investigation.

It’s Biden vs. Trump — again, and again, and again.

Sept. 2, 202203:15

 Yet it comes at a time when the two men have switched places, as the New York Times’ Peter Baker writes. It is Republicans who are trying to make the upcoming election a referendum on President Biden, blaming him for rising prices, economic anxieties, and the country’s division.

And it’s Democrats who are trying to turn November into a choice, highlighting the Trump-backed 2020 election-deniers who are on the 2022 ballot and a Trump-picked Supreme Court majority that overturned Roe v. Wade.

This 2020 rematch — either real or by proxy — also comes after the FBI recovered classified documents from Trump’s Florida home, after Trump called for a new election “immediately,” and after he promised pardons for Jan. 6 rioters. 

As for Biden’s speech last night, what stood out to us was Biden’s move to get out in front of the newfound Democratic momentum — rather than ride the wave (especially since it’s come as Biden has largely been out of the news). 

And what we’ll be watching for when Trump takes his own stage on Saturday is whether the former president takes the bait that Biden dangled in front of him — as Democrats try to turn the midterms into a choice election.  

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 192

That’s how many unique ads mentioned inflation in the month of August, according to an NBC News analysis of ads tracked via AdImpact. It was the fourth month in a row in which inflation topped the list of ad themes. Most of those ads featured candidates touting their plans to reduce inflation, a persistent concern for voters according to recent polling. 

Many ads, though, were funded by Republican groups and super PACs, which blamed Democrats for high prices. One of the groups behind these types of ads, One Nation, spent over $20 million across the country just last month to attack Democrats on inflation, according to AdImpact.

Other numbers to know:

5: The number of House races the Cook Political Report shifted in Democrats’ favor

$2 billion: How much has been spent on federal lobbying so far in this year, per OpenSecrets. 

$1.1 million: How much the state of Mississippi paid former football player Brett Favre for speeches that he never gave, per the state auditor, which revealed that the state mishandled $70 million in federal welfare funds. 

176: How many long guns Rep.-elect Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, has in her home, she told PBS NewsHour. 

10: How many years in federal prison a retired New York City police officer was sentenced to for attacking a police officer during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol

Midterm roundup: Those meddling Democrats

A GOP super PAC jumped into the New Hampshire Senate race to boost state Sen. Chuck Morse in the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. And they might have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling Democrats. 

On Thursday, the Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC reserved $3.2 million in airtime ahead of the Sept. 13 primary, and launched a new ad tying Morse to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Morse is a top candidate competing against the far-right retired Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc, who has led recent public polls. 

Meanwhile, two more outside groups are hitting the airwaves. Granite State Leadership Fund spent $353,000 on ads, launching a spot boosting Republican consultant Vikram Mansharamani. It’s not clear who’s funding the group — it had not raised any money as of June 30, per FEC filings. And Stand for New Hampshire, a super PAC backing Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, spent $84,000 on TV ads, per AdImpact. 

And, as with most GOP primaries, Trump could still shake up the race with a last-minute endorsement. In a radio interview Wednesday, Trump seemed open to still endorsing in the GOP primary and he praised Bolduc as “a strong guy.”

Hassan, meanwhile, continues to run ads of her own. And she’s gotten some help from New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, per Politico. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

North Carolina Senate: Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to North Carolina Thursday, where she told donors the state’s Senate race is crucial to eliminating the filibuster, per the News & Observer. The Democratic nominee, Cheri Beasley, did not join Harris at her events. Her campaign spokesperson said that Beasley “is focused on her campaign,” per WRAL’s Bryan Anderson

Arizona Governor: The Arizona Democratic Party and Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs are up with a new ad attacking Republican nominee Kari Lake for her opposition to abortion rights

Maine Governor: The Maine Republican Party is up with a new bio spot about former Gov. Paul LePage, their nominee this cycle against Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, that centers on how he overcame childhood hardship.

Michigan Governor: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer raised almost $2.4 million between July 18 and Aug. 22, while her GOP opponent, Tudor Dixon, raised $686,000. 

Pennsylvania Governor: GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano is suing the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to avoid testifying. And WHYY reported that Mastriano’s campaign staff includes “self-proclaimed prophets” and a right-wing conspiracy theorist. Mastriano is set to appear at a Trump rally Saturday along with GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz and Republican Jim Bognet, who is running against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright.

Wisconsin Governor: Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels plays up his “businessman [and] outsider” persona with a new spot that says “Biden caused the inflation, Evers made it worse and we’re paying the price.” 

New Hampshire-01: Defending Main Street, the super PAC for the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, is jumping into the GOP primary with a new ad attacking Karoline Leavitt, a former aide for Trump and GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, as a “woke Gen Z’er.” The group has backed former Trump aide Matt Mowers in the race. Leavitt launched her own ad calling Mowers “another swamp doormat.”

Ad watch: Calling Oz a “scammer”

In a new ad, Democrat John Fetterman blasts his Republican opponent in the race for Senate, Mehmet Oz. 

“Oz spent his career scamming people on TV, now he’s scamming Pennsylvania,” a man in Fetterman’s commercial tells viewers, referencing an ad Oz ran in conjunction with the NRSC, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.

The Oz ad alleged that Fetterman wants to “eliminate life sentences for murderers,” something Fetterman says is untrue and the non-partisan fact-checking site PolitiFact says is “mostly false.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A federal judge wants to make public a more detailed list of what the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago when it searched the estate in August amid an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information. 

The CDC is recommending the new Covid boosters that target the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant. 

The lead United Nations nuclear inspector says he’s worried about the integrity of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine.

The Washington Post reports that Ginni Thomas, the wife of former Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, emailed Wisconsin lawmakers asking them to choose their own electors instead of approving slates backing Biden.