Biden is facing a crisis in Ukraine that has little political impact back home.

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.

Biden is facing a crisis in Ukraine that has little political impact back home.

WASHINGTON -- Wednesday, President Biden warns the U.S. that it hasn't confirmed Russian troops leaving Ukraine's border. NBC's Benjy Sarolin examines the cold reaction to a gas tax holiday. ... Biden directs National Archives that Trump's visitor logs be turned over to the Jan. 6 Committee. A new poll shows Marco Rubio leading in Florida's Senate race. However, it is by a smaller margin that Gov. Ron DeSantis is now leading. ... San Francisco voters were able to recall the three school board members.

First, Biden sees little upside in the Ukraine situation. The goal is to avoid larger political downgrades before the November elections.


 

If all goes according to plan, Russia will withdraw its troops and war will be avoided. In this scenario, Biden would be unlikely to get credit from American voters. They are more concerned about the direction of the country, Covid, inflation, and the state the economy is in general.

However, if Russia invades, either fully or partially, war breaks out and blood is shed. The West responds with economic sanctions. This could have serious domestic political implications for the president.

"A Russian invasion in Ukraine... would likely drive up gas prices amid high inflation for decades, wipeout significant gains in stock markets and give Republicans a new line to attack Biden's foreign policies acumen -- putting an already unpopular president on even more unstable ground with voters heading to the fall midterms elections, Democratic strategists, and pollsters stated . NBC's Shannon Pettypiece and Scott Wong write .

There is little upside. Big potential downsides.

Particularly if war is getting in the way of other plans.

The White House and some Democrats are considering a break-glass solution to rising gas prices: suspending the 18.4 percent gas tax.

According to the Washington Post the proposal is gaining traction as the Biden administration seeks concrete steps to prove they are not inflating. This story was published the same day that President Biden warned Americans that gas costs could rise further if Russia invades Ukraine. He also stated that he would take steps to assist customers in such an event.

In 2008, a gas tax holiday was not under discussion. Barack Obama, then-candidate, distinguished himself from John McCain and Hillary Clinton by opposing the idea. He called it an election-year "gimmick", which would save "pennies per day" and defund an already stressed Highway Trust Fund that finances repairs and maintenance.

Notably, Sens. Mark Kelly, D.Ariz. Ralph Warnock (D-Ga.), Catherine CortezMasto (D-Nev.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) are all fighting for re-election. Instead of plugging the trust fund's hole, they propose general tax revenue.

While a lot has happened since 2008, the reaction of political wonks has been more hostile than Obama's. After a Super Bowl filled with advertisements for electric vehicles by climate activists, they worry about slowing down the transition to renewable fuels. Larry Summers and other inflation hawks worry that a new tax cut could pump more money into the economy at a time when the Fed is trying cool down hot spending.

On Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats who were involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill came out against it. To make up for the shrinking revenue, the group looked at raising last year's gas tax to increase it. It could be difficult to reverse a temporary tax reduction due to the same political factors that thwarted their efforts.

Ellen Wald, president at Transversal Consulting, said that it was not clear how much a gas tax holiday could achieve its goals. A drop in gas prices could encourage consumers to drive more, which would cause prices to rise again.

Wald stated that while it might be temporary relief, the problem will only get worse by the time summer arrives.

There may not be many options. Wald stated that the root of the problem was the reduction in investment for drilling after years of low profits.

For immediate relief, the best option is to seek peace. Peace on Earth.

Wald stated that the price of a barrel in the nineties has a lot to with Russia's geopolitical situation. "There is a lot uncertainty on the market right now."

Data Download: The number for the day is... 5

The number of senators who caucus alongside the Democrats (four Dems and an Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders), who voted against the administration's pick for the Food and Drug Administration. This appointment was narrowly approved Tuesday.

Democratic Senators joined Sanders. Richard Blumenthal, Conn. Maggie Hassan (N.H.); Joe Manchin (W.Va. ; and Ed Markey (Mass. Confirmed with the smallest margin (50 votes but not the need to tiebreaker), Dr. Robert Califf assumes control of the agency that plays a major role in the U.S. response to the pandemic.

You need to be familiar with the following numbers:

61 Percent: A decrease in hospitalization rates from Covid in babies 6 months and younger whose mother was vaccinated against it (two shots either Moderna, Pfizer, or Moderna) during pregnancy, according to a New CDC study

$11.7 Million: The amount that Devin Nunes (ex-Californian Republican Rep.) had in his campaign account as well as the leadership committee at the end of 2021.

$600,000. This sum is what two West Virginia GOP House Members, Alex Mooney, and David McKinley spent on advertising while they were facing each other in West Virginia’s 2nd District.

78.208,662 This is the number of confirmed cases of Covid in the United States, according to the most recent data available from NBC News. (That's an additional 117,918 since yesterday morning.

929.004: Total number of people who have died from the virus. (That's 2,747 additional deaths since yesterday morning.

Roundup of the midterm

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) became the 30th House Democrat not to run for re-election. This is the largest number of House Democratic retirements in the past decade, when 28 legislators left the House for good. According to Brookings' Vital Statistics on Congress, this is the highest number of House Democratic retirements.

A new Mason-Dixon poll shows that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is leading Democrat Val Demings with 7 points among Florida voters. He leads by 49 percent to 42 percent. With 9 percent undecided, it's a tie. A poll found that 40% of voters approve of Biden's performance as president, and 55% disapprove.

The Star Tribune reports that the new map was released Tuesday by the panel of judges who were charged with drawing Minnesota's new congressional borders . This leaves the political dynamics in each district virtually unchanged.

Texas Democrat Jessica Cisneros is receiving support from more progressive groups in her tight 28th district primary race against Rep. Henry Cuellar. J Street Action Fund announced Tuesday that it would drop $100,00 on digital ads in English or Spanish in her name.

Politico reports that a new super-PAC is backing two top Republican women running to the Senate -- Vicky Hartzler from Missouri and Katie Britt from Alabama.

Bill de Blasio , former New York City Mayor, isn't running to Congress.

Ad Watch: Buckeye State fight continues

In a new advertisement , Mike Gibbons (an investment banker) is blasting his fellow candidates for the Republican nomination. He compares Jane Timken, former Ohio Republican Party Chair, and J.D. In the new commercial, Vance refers to President Joe Biden as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The ad's narrator said that Vance and Timken are no different from Democrats because they're weak. "J.D. Vance called Donald Trump an idiot, and denigrated his America-first policies for being immoral and absurd. Jane Timken defended a RINO Congressman after he impeached Trump," continues the narrator.

Notably, only Gibbons' two competitors are targeted in the ad, leaving two other candidates (ex-state treasurer Josh Mandel, and state senator Matt Dolan) unharmed.

ICYMI: What other happenings around the world

The CDC is expected to relax its guidelines regarding indoor masking by next week.

Jan. 6: The Jan. 6 Committee issued six subpoenas in connection to the push for "alternate electors." These include Kelli Ward, Arizona Republican Party Chair, Doug Mastriano (Pennsylvania Republican State Senator), who is running to be governor, and Mark FInchem, Arizona GOP Secretary-of-State candidate.

Arizona takes one step closer at banning abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a Georgia judge has finished hearing arguments regarding redistricting. He could make a decision next week to scrap the new maps and delay the state’s primary election.


 

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