It’s Primary Day in Texas. Here are six storylines to watch.

It's Primary Day in Texas. Here are six storylines to watch.

Election results: Key races in West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio

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

WASHINGTON — For more than a year, we’ve written about, reported on and analyzed the 2018 midterms. And today, they’re finally here — the first official primaries of the midterm season — in Texas.

1. Do Democrats turn out almost at the same rate as Republicans?

As we noted yesterday, nearly 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans voted early in Texas’ largest 15 counties — a reversal from 2014, when early-voting Republicans easily outnumbered Democrats in the same counties. Now these large counties don’t include the more rural (and GOP-leaning) areas, so here’s the comparison to track tonight: In 2014, 1.3 million Republicans voted in the gubernatorial and Senate primaries, versus roughly 500,000 Democrats. How much closer do those numbers get tonight?

2. Can George P. Bush avoid a runoff?

It’s not every day that we pay attention to a race for land commissioner. But it’s also not every day that a Bush scion – in the Trump Era — happens to be on the ballot. Incumbent Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush, needs to surpass 50 percent to avoid a May 22 runoff against former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who wants his old job back. President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have endorsed Bush. But is that enough when the GOP, even in the Lone Star State, is the party of Trump and not of the Bushes? (102) add

3. Who wins the Dems’ gubernatorial primary?

In maybe the least talked-about major primary race in Texas, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez faces off against businessman Andrew White (son of former Gov. Mark White) in the Democratic race to take on incumbent GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. Yes, Abbott is a shoo-in to win re-election, but either Valdez or White will be on the top of the Democratic ticket with likely Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke.

4. Does Laura Moser make the runoff in TX-7?

This has been the race with all the Democratic drama after the DCCC dropped oppo on fellow Democrat Laura Moser (for criticizing small-town Paris, Texas while she was a writer living in DC). The question tonight will answer: Did the oppo work for the DCCC? Or backfire? Before the Dems’ House campaign arm intervened, the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman identified lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (backed by EMILY’s List) and attorney Alex Triantaphyllis as the top Dem candidates to challenge GOP Rep. John Culberson, who is very vulnerable in this affluent Houston district.

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5. Who wins the GOP’s TX-21 primary?

A whopping 18 Republicans are running to replace retiring Rep. Lamar Smith in this San Antonio/Austin suburbs district — led by former Ted Cruz staffer Chip Roy, former U.S. Rep. Quico Canseco, state Rep. Jason Isaac, Bexar County GOP Chair Robert Stovall and former Bush administration official Jenifer Sarver (who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016). With the wrong candidate, there’s an outside chance Democrats could make this race interesting.

6. Who wins the Dem TX-32 primary?

Another vulnerable GOP congressman is Rep. Pete Sessions (Hillary Clinton won his district in 2016), and the top Dems are former Obama State Department official Ed Meier, attorney and former NFL player Colin Allred and former USDA official Lillian Salerno, who is backed by EMILY’s List.

With the official start of the 2018 primary season, we’ve unveiled our new “MTP 2018 Rundown Blog,” which features the latest news, analysis and data for the midterms. Yesterday’s posts included the ad spending in next week’s PA-18 special election (which is expected to top $12 million), our Top 10 Senate takeovers, George P. Bush’s ads, how Trump’s tariffs are playing in the midterms, a new Wisconsin poll, and Thad Cochran’s upcoming resignation, which will trigger a special election in November.

For all the attention on former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg’s multiple cable TV appearances Monday, the day’s biggest Russia-related news came from Jane Mayer’s New Yorker profile on dossier author Christopher Steele. Among the news and nuggets from the article:

As for Nunberg, here’s NBC News: “After a day spent belligerently defying special counsel Robert Mueller, former Donald Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg appeared to reverse himself Monday night and said he likely will cooperate with a subpoena seeking campaign documents related to the Russia investigation. Nunberg helped Trump prepare for the first Republican presidential primary debate in August 2015 along with the man he has described as his mentor, veteran Republican operative Roger Stone. He made a bravado tour of television talk shows Monday declaring he wouldn’t cooperate with the subpoena.”

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“‘The president’s right, it’s a witch hunt,’ Nunberg told MSNBC’s Katy’s Tur. But Monday night, Nunberg, who said he still hadn’t talked with his attorney, told NBC News that he would probably cooperate with Mueller in the end.”

The other big story playing out today… “President Trump, facing an angry chorus of protests from leaders of his own party, including the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, insisted on Monday that he would not back down from his plan to impose across-the-board tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. But the White House was devising ways to potentially soften the impact of the measures on major trading partners,” the New York Times writes.

More: “The intense maneuvering, which began before Mr. Trump’s unexpected announcement of the tariffs last Thursday, is likely to delay any formal rollout of the measures until next week, according to several officials who have been briefed on the deliberations. On Monday, Mr. Ryan, the most powerful Republican in the House, broke with the president, declaring through a spokeswoman, ‘We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan.’”

Finally, “Citing ill health, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that he will resign his Senate seat, effective April 1,” per NBC’s Jonathan Allen. “The early departure clears the way for Gov. Phil Bryant, a fellow Republican, to appoint an interim successor — perhaps Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — and sets up a special election on Nov. 6. It also raises the possibility that State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who announced a primary challenge to Republican Sen. Roger Wicker last week, will switch races to take on Bryant’s pick.”

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