The U.S. is a little closer to Ukraine -- at least for now

First Read is a briefing from "Meet the Press", and the NBC Political Unit about the most important political stories of the day and why they are important.

The U.S. is a little closer to Ukraine -- at least for now

WASHINGTON -- Wednesday, Ukraine President Zelenskyy speaks to Congress in an attempt to request more U.S. aid. NBC's Carol E. Lee reports that President Biden spoke afterward to announce additional $800 million in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. ... The Fed expects to increase interest rates. Ohio Senate examines Mike Gibbons. Andrew Cuomo spends millions on advertising. NBC's Benjy Sarralin explains why "energy independence" can be difficult. ... And Herschel Walker muses on evolution.

First, the United States is united in Ukraine, at least for now.

Take a look at this Pew poll released Tuesday.

85 percent of Americans, including 88 percent of Democrats (and 85 percent of Republicans), want Russia to maintain strict economic sanctions.

77% of adults, including 81 percent of Democrats, and 75 percent percent of Republicans support the retention of large numbers of U.S. troops in NATO countries close to Ukraine.

A majority of Americans, including 80% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans, favor the admission of thousands of Ukrainian refugees to the U.S.

We aren't saying that this is a return of U.S. unity after 9/11 or the relative kumbaya of the Cold War.

There have been many policy differences on Ukraine, including over whether the U.S. should provide more aircraft or if it should establish a no fly zone. President Biden is also criticized for being weak.

We are witnessing a relief from the political back-and forths this country has experienced -- even on issues such as vaccine mandates and masks.

It is a reminder that having a clearly identifiable foreign enemy distracts from the domestic political opposition living next door.

Even if it is temporary.

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Data Download: The number for the day is... $2.4 Million

This is how much the former New York Democratic Governor spent on ads. Andrew Cuomo spent $2.5 million on advertising since his resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct. He is not currently running for office.

Cuomo claims that the allegations against him are politically motivated and unfounded. While Cuomo was not convicted of any charges stemming out the long Attorney General report, one prosecutor dropped a misdemeanor case against him, the same prosecutor called Cuomo’s accuser "credible" while a trooper is suing for harassment

This is a huge amount of money, even for someone who isn’t running for office. AdImpact reports that he has spent more in March than any other politician except two.

You need to be familiar with the following numbers:

47 Percent: According to a Pew poll, the percent of Americans that approved Biden's response in support of Russia's invasion Ukraine. This was more than his overall approval rate of 43 percent for his job.

$16.3 Million: The amount the Republican National Committee claims it has raised in February. This is more than the $14.4million that the DNC claimed it raised in February.

8 The number of Democratic senators that voted against the transportation mask requirement.

9 The number of House Democrats who have been positive for Covid over the past few days after the retreat of the caucus and a late-night voting series.

79.777,616 The number of confirmed cases in the United States of coronavirus, as per the most current data from NBC News, health officials, and . (That's 28447 more than yesterday.

975.060: The total number of Americans who have died from the virus. This is 1,454 more than yesterday.

Midterm roundup: Gibbons' gamble

The Ohio GOP Senate primary attracted millions of dollars in advertising spending due to the self-funding of candidates such as Mike Gibbons, an investment banker. Henry J. Gomez of NBC reports that Gibbons was a recent Senate hopeful to get a meeting in person with Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Florida. Trump has not yet to endorse the race.

With Gibbons' increasing poll numbers comes more scrutiny. The New York Times reported Gibbons used offensive stereotypes of Asians in 2013. An AP report also featured Gibbons, a former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken, and JD Vance (author) highlighting how they have ties to Russian business interests.

The primary battle for airwaves continues. Timken has a new TV advertisement that focuses on the border.

Georgia Governor: Former Sen. David Perdue didn't write the same checks to his previous races, so some are giving Perdue's primary rival, GOP Gov. According to the AP, Brian Kemp.

Nevada Senate: Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is out with a Spanish-language ad. School Freedom Fund, which backs former GOP Attorney General Adam Laxalt is up with a spot promoting him by criticizing the "critical race theory." According to AdImpact, the Republican Governors Association earned $1.7 million in the governor’s race that began after Labor Day.

Oklahoma Senate: Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn entered the Oklahoma open Senate race. According to Politico, GOP Rep. Kevin Hern has entered the race for the Oklahoma Senate.

Michigan 04 - Michigan state Rep. Steve Carra was on the wrong side of a rollercoaster ride in recent months. Redistricting placed Upton in a member on member primary against GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga, once Fred Upton was Trump's candidate for Michigan GOP Rep. Last week, Trump endorsed Huizenga , causing Carra to withdraw Tuesday.

Ad watch: Lasry makes big again

Wisconsin Democratic Senate hopeful Alex Lasry is reopening his pockets with a new seven figure ad campaign. This is his first direct attack on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, NBC News reports.

Lasry's spot uses Johnson's support of Fla. GOP Sen. Rick Scott’s policy plan, as well as recent comments dismissing how important it is to push for new USPS trucks being built in the state -- to argue that Johnson isn't on behalf of working people.

It plays up Lasry’s union endorsements to portray him as the one unions believe is "the strongest Democrat that will beat Ron Johnson."

Lasry, which includes the new spending, had already spent more ($3.5M) than any other candidate for Senate in Wisconsin (including Johnson and his Democratic opponents). They've only spent just over $3M total.

Watch the ad and learn more on the MTP blog.

Talking with Benjy about policy: "Energy independence" is easier said than done

Russia's invasion in Ukraine has caused energy prices to go through a major swing. This is despite the fact that there was a surge in U.S. production.

Experts and public officials around the globe have increased their calls for clean power and electric vehicles faster, even though they sometimes call for greater oil production in the near future. Not only Russia is the problem, but also back-up options such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are a major security and human rights concern.

However, "energy independence" is not the same as "clean power". There are many benefits to avoiding fossil fuels, but old-fashioned pollution still quietly kills millions.

In 2020 , the U.S. Geological Survey reported 23 key minerals that are at risk in their supply chains. Many of these minerals go into clean technology. Since the invasion of Ukraine, the price of nickel , which is used in electric vehicle batteries, has risen. This could hinder rollout of lower-cost EV models. Cobalt is another important battery resource. It's found in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are concerns over labor conditions, corruption, and Chinese influence. Nearly 80 percent of the rare earth metals that are key to renewable energy technologies are imported from China. The majority of the solar panels in the world are also made by China.

Melanie Kenderdine of the Energy Futures Initiative stated that "We will be competing for these metals & minerals with many countries which have net-zero emissions targets", NBC News. China might supply us rare earths, but other countries will also need them in order to transition to clean energy.

While electric vehicles and wind turbines need more resources than their fossil-fuel counterparts, the same supply chain concerns are applicable to dirtier tech. The shortage of semiconductors has caused auto manufacturing to slow down. This industry is another hotspot for conflict.

This is a growing focus for policymakers in both parties. The Biden administration made the top priority very early in its tenure and recently granted grants for private domestic mining operations and recycling companies. Both the Senate and House are currently discussing bipartisan bills that will encourage domestic high-tech manufacturing. There are also a number of bipartisan proposals for encouraging more rare earth mining in America.

The private sector is also taking note, with Ford's CEO warning about the need for "the supply chain to reach the mines" in order to produce EVs. This is partly to avoid dependence on countries that raise red flags.

"There are resources in this region. The question is how to access them, how they can get there cost-effectively, and how to get them back to sustainability," Brett Smith, technology director at Center for Automotive Research, said to NBC News.

ICYMI: What other happenings around the world

After Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced his opposition, Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew her nomination to vice chair of Federal Reserve.

According to the New York Times, David McCormick , a Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate is under scrutiny about how his hedge fund managed teacher-pension funds. The AP also has a deep dive on McCormick's approach to the race.

The Senate approved a bill that made daylight savings time permanent.

Shalanda Young was the first Black woman in the White House Budget Office.

The AP provides a primer on , the special election that will replace the former GOP. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.


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