Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker examines whether abortion can be a decisive issue for Democrats, not just a winning one. Plus, the five things you need to know ahead of Donald Trump’s first criminal trial.

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Abortion is a winning issue for Democrats. But will it be decisive?

By Kristen Welker

What stands out, politically, about the abortion debate after the Dobbs decision is how it’s become a 60%-40% issue in today’s 50%-50% political world.

More than 60% of voters disapproved of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, per a June 2023 national NBC News poll.

A majority of voters have voted to protect abortion rights in ballot initiatives in states from Kansas and Kentucky to Michigan and Ohio.

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And even in battleground Arizona — whose top court ruled that a near-total abortion ban is now enforceable — 62% of voters in the 2022 midterms said they believed abortion should be legal always or most of the time, according to the NBC News exit poll.

So abortion appears to be a winning issue for President Joe Biden and Democrats in 2024.

But will it be decisive? That remains to be seen.

Just look at Arizona in the 2022 midterms. Despite that near supermajority support for abortion rights, Democrat Katie Hobbs barely beat Republican Kari Lake in the state’s gubernatorial contest, 50.3% to 49.6%.

Indeed, 30% of Lake voters said they believed abortion should be legal, and 20% said they disapproved of Roe being overturned. 

A focus group that NBC News recently observed is also instructive. In that focus group of Pennsylvania women who voted for Trump and said they back abortion rights, all but two of the 15 participants said they would still vote for Trump.

“I think people should have their own right to choose what they want to do with their own bodies. But, I mean, it’s not a No. 1 factor on who I’m going to vote for either way,” said Stacey M., a 50-year-old woman from Philadelphia. 

There is no doubt that abortion is a motivating issue for Democrats. And supporting abortion rights is popular with the general electorate.

But is it a winning issue in a straight Democrat-versus-Republican, Biden-versus-Trump contest?

We won’t know the answer to that until November.

5 things to know about Trump’s first criminal trial

 By Dareh Gregorian and Adam Reiss

Former President Donald Trump leaves the courtroom during a break in the pre-trial hearing on March 25, 2024 in New York.
Former President Donald Trump during a break in the pre-trial hearing in criminal court on March 25, 2024 in New York.Mary Altaffer / Pool via Getty Images file

Donald Trump will become the first former president to stand trial in a criminal case next week, an unprecedented event that will cast a giant shadow over the 2024 campaign.

Jury selection begins Monday in New York City, and the trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Whether you’ve been following every twist and turn of the case or are just tuning in, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to know and what’s expected to happen.

What is Trump charged with? Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Trump with 34 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, a low-level felony. Trump faces a maximum of four years behind bars if he’s convicted. 

How long is jury selection expected to last? One to two weeks. Starting Monday, prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers will seek to whittle a pool of potentially hundreds of people to 12 jurors and six alternates, who will all be anonymous. Each juror will answer 42 questions designed to discern whether they can be impartial about the former president.

To reach a verdict, all 12 jurors must agree on whether Trump is guilty or not guilty of a specific charge. 

What is the prosecution alleging? At the heart of the case are allegations of various sex scandals that prosecutors say Trump tried to suppress with the help of his lawyer Michael Cohen and top executives in charge of the National Enquirer. In the final days of the election, Cohen paid $130,000 to one of the women, adult film star Stormy Daniels, to keep silent about her claim she’d had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the allegation.

After he was elected, Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of checks from his trust that were processed through the Trump Organization and labeled as payments “for legal services rendered” — a claim the DA says was false.

What is Trump’s defense? While Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen, he has said he didn’t know details about what Cohen was doing. His lawyers are likely to target Cohen on the witness stand by painting him as a liar who loathes the former president and whose testimony shouldn’t be believed. 

Will Trump have to be in court every day? Since the case is criminal, Trump is required to be in court every day to participate in his defense. The trial will run every weekday except Wednesday from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Trump has suggested he might do campaign events afterwards at night.

Read more →

🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 🏁 Across the finish line: The House voted to renew a powerful surveillance program on Friday, two days after a band of conservative privacy hawks revolted against Republican leadership and blocked the legislation on the floor. Read more →
  • 🌵 Arizona abortion latest: GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake has made calls to Arizona lawmakers urging them to repeal the 1864 near-total abortion ban that the state Supreme Court upheld this week. Read more →
  • Next up: Colorado organizers say they’ve gathered enough signatures to qualify an amendment enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution for the November ballot. Read more →
  • 💰 A progressive plays ball: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has never donated to the committee aimed at helping her House Democratic colleagues win their races – until now, the New York Times reports. Read more →
  • 💸 Deal or no deal? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene previously bought shares in Trump’s media company. But she won’t say what she did with them. Read more →
  • 🎒 More student debt relief: The White House announced another round of student loan cancellations, this one to the tune of $7.4 billion. Read more →
  • 📅 Calendar complications? Republican secretaries of state in Alabama and Ohio are telling Democrats their late nominating convention might cost Biden ballot access in their state. But those problems have been solved easily in the past. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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