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Pennsylvania Senate contests offer the clearest examples of the evolution of party politics

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday … Audio reveals House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he would ask Donald Trump to step down after Jan. 6, contradicting McCarthy’s earlier denial. … NBC’s Dasha Burns captures the explosive exchange during the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic debate last night. … President Biden delivers an Earth Day speech from Seattle. … A new ad takes aim at Madison Cawthorn in NC 11. … NBC’s Natasha Korecki reports on progressive tensions against the establishment in the Nevada Democratic Party. … And all eyes are on the second round of the French presidential election on Sunday.

But first: In 2012, Conor Lamb (military vet, successful activist, moderate credentials) and David McCormick (West Point grad, Bronze Star, Bush 43 administration service, wealthy self-funder) would have been sure to be their respective party’s supporters nominated for the open Pennsylvania Senate seat.

Yet in 2022, both are struggling ahead of the May 17 primary, with Lamb trailing John Fetterman by double digits in public polls, and with McCormick losing Donald Trump’s endorsement to Mehmet Oz.

It all reflects how much both political parties have changed, and it’s why the Pennsylvania Senate race is arguably the most fascinating midterm contest to watch this year.

On the GOP side, fame now trumps – pun intended – everything. (See Trump of Oz, JD Vance and Herschel Walker endorsements.)

On the Democratic side, being the moderate in the race is now a liability rather than a strength – at least for now. (Just look at the Fetterman vs. Lamb fundraising numbers below.)

And for Fetterman and Oz, having off-the-beaten-track brands and eccentric behaviors is now worth their weight in political gold in today’s environment.

That said, there is still a month left for these competitions. As Jessica Taylor of the Cook Political Report notes, McCormick has a geographic advantage (as the only GOP candidate from the western part of the state) and a lot of money. And Fetterman had a shaky debate performance on Thursday night.

But both political parties… they’ve changed.

Data download: The figure of the day is… 2.6 million dollars

That’s how much more Fetterman has spent on ads in the Democratic primary so far than Lamb. Fetterman’s campaign spent $4 million Thursday night, per AdImpact, while Lamb spent $1.4 million. But Lamb also received support from the Pennsylvania Progress super PAC, which spent nearly $1.1 million on ads. State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta spent just $262,000.

The disparity is a product of Fetterman’s wider financial advantage in the race. So far he has raised $15.1 million, while Lamb has raised $5.7 million. Fetterman also had more money, with $4.2 million in his campaign account as of March 31, while Lamb’s campaign had $2.2 million.

Lamb’s campaign earmarked an additional $1.8 million in future airtime through the primary, which exceeds Fetterman’s $671,000 according to AdImpact tracking. But that can change quickly, as the candidates define their strategies for the home stretch.

Other numbers you need to know today:

12: The number of Democrats in competitive races who opposed the Biden administration’s decision to lift the Title 42 border rule, reports NBC News’ Adam Edelman.

3: How many members of the Ohio GOP House Trump endorsed yesterday, ahead of the May 3 state primary. Trump supported Representatives Brad Wenstrup, Bill Johnson and Mike Carey.

4: That’s the number of days Philadelphia’s last indoor mask mandate was in effect, starting Monday before the Board of Health voted to scrap it by Thursday.

81,065,030: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

995,525: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far.

Tweet of the day

Mid-Term Review: 2013 Gun Incident Debate

Covering Thursday night’s Democratic Pennsylvania Senate debate in Harrisburg, NBC’s Dasha Burns reports that the most explosive exchange came after a question about a 2013 incident when front-runner John Fetterman chased an unarmed black jogger with shotgun after claiming to hear gunshots.

When asked if he would do anything differently about today’s incident, Fetterman said he was “the only Democrat on this stage who has come to terms with crime and armed violence”.

His main rival, Conor Lamb, replied: “Not only will John not admit that he pointed the finger, but he will not admit that he was pointing the gun at this person. He also won’t really answer your question of whether he did something wrong and should have done it differently. And I just think that’s disqualifying for all of us who have to work hard to earn the trust of the black community.

Then State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, who is black, asked Fetterman if he would apologize for the incident.

Kenyatta: “Have you pointed a 20-gauge shotgun at a black man’s chest? And you have the opportunity, with all of Pennsylvania watching, to say ‘I’m sorry’. You’re going to say ‘I am sorry’ today, John?”

Fetterman: “Okay, that never happened. It never happened.”

Kenyatta: “So you still refuse to say I’m sorry? To this day?”

Fetterman: “I am the only Democrat to have successfully confronted gun violence.”

Kenyatta: “You are the only Democrat to have used a shotgun to hunt an unarmed black man.”

Burns also reports that other contrasts emerged on the suspension of the federal gasoline tax (Fetterman for, others against), the wealth tax (boosting Fetterman’s phrase of the night “you’ll know it when you’ll see it” for who should pay more), marijuana legalization (Fetterman says let’s go, Lamb wants to take it easy).

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Alabama Senate: Republican Mike Durant offers a new spot rebutting an attack ad that includes his 2011 gun control comments as a “phony attack.”

Arizona Senate: NRSC launches ‘seven-figure’ TV ad buy for Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, with new ad linking Kelly to Biden on immigration

North Carolina Senate: Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory attempts to paint GOP Rep. Ted Budd as a liberal in a new ad by noting how billionaire George Soros invested in a family business. Meanwhile, Budd’s new spot features President Trump praising Budd at a recent rally.

New Hampshire Senate: The GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan was a little more crowded with investor and entrepreneur Vikram Mansharamani jumping into the race, according to WMUR.

Governor of Illinois: Bloomberg profiles billionaire Ken Griffin, who is investing millions in a bid to replace Democratic Governor JB Pritzker.

South Carolina 01: GOP Rep. Joe Wilson backed Republican Katie Arrington in his first bid against one of his own colleagues, South Carolina GOP Rep. Nancy Mace, according to The State newspaper.

FL redistricting: Florida’s GOP-led State House on Thursday passed a new congressional map pushed by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis that gives Republicans an edge and eliminates a majority black congressional seat, after a Democratic sit-in .

Silver State Scramble: NBC’s Natasha Korecki reported from Nevada, one of the most important states on the 2022 midterm map, and one where Democrats are at a crossroads.

Some Democrats have raised concerns that infighting between moderates and progressives could hurt the party in a difficult medium-term environment. But in a lengthy interview with NBC News, Progressive Party chair Judith Whitmer didn’t sound like a revolutionary trying to overturn Harry Reid’s legacy. Instead, she downplayed past disputes with the Reid Machine, loyal agents and politicians who broke into their own entity, Nevada Democratic Victory.

At the same time, she insisted that establishment Democrats must also come to the table, noting Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 caucus victory.

Advertising watch: Cawthorn under attack

An outside group in North Carolina attacks Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R.C., ahead of her May 17 primary in the state’s 11th district.

NC Results began running a new announcement Thursday accusing Cawthorn of lying about his acceptance into the Naval Academy. “On a perpetual quest for stardom, Cawthorn will lie about anything,” says the commercial’s narrator.

Although the ad offers no alternative candidates, Results for NC supports Senator Chuck Edwards, a Republican seeking to oust Cawthorn in the primary. According to documents filed by the FEC, it is funded by various people inside and outside of North Carolina.

ICYMI: What else is going on in the world?

President Joe Biden is losing support among young voters, a group Democrats must form midterm in 2022 to retain control of Congress.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ chief of staff leaves the White House.

Two men pleaded guilty on Thursday to embezzling solicited donations to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.