First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Begun, the Cruz-Rubio Immigration War has
The immigration fight between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio is fully on -- after Cruz blasted Rubio at Tuesday's debate for his co-authorship of the "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill, and then after Rubio fired back on Wednesday. "[Cruz] clearly supported legalization. I know he doesn't say that in Iowa, he takes it out of his stump speech," Rubio told NBC's Hallie Jackson yesterday. "But I know for a fact that he supported an amendment in the U.S. Senate when we were debating the immigration bill where he flat out bragged about the fact that he wasn't undoing the legalization." Cruz has responded that the amendment Rubio is talking about was a "poison pill" amendment intended to thwart the overall legislation. And Cruz gets a boost here when you find out that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), maybe the most hardline anti-immigration voice in the Senate, voted for the same amendment that Cruz backed. Still, you have to credit Team Rubio for muddying the waters on what could very well be his campaign's biggest liability -- Gang of Eight. And Cruz's performance in that Fox News interview was shaky at best. But ask yourself what conservative voters will care about in the next six weeks: Rubio standing shoulder to shoulder with Chuck Schumer, or Cruz voting with Jeff Sessions?
Once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny
Here's another question we have: Which side -- Team Cruz or Team Rubio -- goes up first with TV ads hitting the other on this immigration issue? For more on this immigration debate, be sure to read MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin, who has everything you wanted to know about this fight. And here is NBC's Hallie Jackson behind the scenes with Rubio on the campaign trail.
Do -- or do not. There is no try
So the story about Jeb Bush MAYBE deciding to say he won't vote for Trump has been more than 24 hours old. But here's the deal: The longer Bush deliberates this plan of action, it only explains why his campaign and candidacy seem so flawed in this political environment. Indeed, while campaigning in Arizona yesterday, Trump already said he didn't care what Bush ultimately does. "I don't care if a guy like Jeb Bush never endorses me; it wouldn't bother me at all. I think it's a negative." As Yoda -- who we've been quoting in our headlines today with the new "Star Wars" movie out -- might also say here: "That is why you fail."
Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice
The New York Times last night scooped that Defense Secretary Ash Carter ALSO used private email to conduct official business -- even after the story about Hillary Clinton's emails broke. "Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter relied on a personal email account to conduct a portion of his government business during his first months at the Pentagon, according to White House and Defense Department officials and copies of Mr. Carter's emails obtained by The New York Times." More: "Mr. Carter continued the practice, which violated Defense Department rules, for at least two months after it was publicly revealed in March that Hillary Clinton had exclusively used a personal email account as secretary of state, the officials said. It is not clear when Mr. Carter stopped using the account. But an administration official said that when the White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, learned about Mr. Carter's email practices in May, Mr. McDonough directed the White House Counsel's Office to contact the Defense Department to ask why Mr. Carter was relying on the personal account." Ouch.
Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future
A funny thing has happened: After congressional Republicans cut a deal with Democrats and the Obama White House on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill, the conservative right has been pretty quiet (at least so far). A question we have: Had John Boehner and/or Kevin McCarthy cut the same deal, would the right have revolted? It seems that new House Speaker Paul Ryan has been enjoying an earlier honeymoon. How long does that last? Here's the Washington Post on the spending bill: "The 2,009-page spending legislation and a companion 233-page tax bill are the final product of months of sparring both inside and between the two parties. They also represent the first major negotiation conducted by new House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who immediately sought to distance himself from the proposed legislation Wednesday, even as he embraced the importance of compromise."
Around the survivors, a perimeter create
Finally, in the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders picked up one of his biggest endorsements yet - from the Communication Workers of America union. The scoop from NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Alex Seitz-Wald: "The group represents about 700,000 workers nationally, making it by far the largest union to back Sanders yet. CWA's endorsement, which will be announced at a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday at the union's headquarters in Washington, comes as Sanders has lost out on a string of major union endorsements to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, whose campaign now claims the support of unions representing 12 million workers."
On the trail (may the Force be with you)
Hillary Clinton, along with husband Bill, hosted a closed-press DNC Victory Fundraiser in NYC with Sting… Ted Cruz holds rallies in Las Vegas at 1:00 pm ET and St. Paul, MN at 7:00 pm ET… Marco Rubio spends his day in Iowa… Ben Carson also is in the Hawkeye State -- as are John Kasich and Mike Huckabee.
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