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.
Scott Walker's big moment
As Scott Walker officially kicks off his presidential bid in Waukesha, WI at 6:15 pm ET, the Wisconsin governor starts as the Iowa frontrunner and one of three overall co-frontrunners (joining Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for this honor). The question is: Can he be something more? Tonight might offer a hint of that answer, and that's why it's a big moment for him. Remember, the last two Republican Iowa winners -- Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum -- never captured the GOP presidential nomination. And this big moment for Walker comes as Donald Trump has sucked up most of the oxygen in the GOP race, and after Jeb Bush has had a very good last 30 days. So is Walker for real? We'll get an early clue tonight.
Walker has three strengths he brings to the GOP field. The first is his conservative record and his three statewide wins in four years. "We fought and we won," he says in his announcement video. "In the Republican field, there are some who are good fighters, but they haven't won those battles. There are others who have won elections but haven't consistently taken on the big fights. We've shown we can do both." His second strength is that he touches all three legs of the Republican Party stool -- social conservative, Tea Party, establishment. And his third strength is his Midwest advantage, given that Wisconsin borders Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota.
And his weaknesses
But Walker also has two weaknesses that could prevent him from truly taking off in the Republican field. One, does the two-term governor have the foreign-policy chops to be president? In his speech tonight, he'll invoke Ronald Reagan -- again -- to help answer this question. "During my lifetime, the best president on national security and foreign policy was a governor from California," he's expected to say, according to excerpts his campaign has released. Two, has he tried TOO HARD to be Mr. Iowa (see his flip-flop on immigration, as well as calling for a constitutional amendment to allow states to define if gay marriage should be legal) that could make him seem less electable to Republican elites and voters? After his official presidential announcement in Wisconsin, Walker heads to Las Vegas on Tuesday, South Carolina on Wednesday, New Hampshire on Thursday, and then he spends three days on a Winnebago tour through Iowa.
Hillary to outline her economic vision
The other big 2016 event today is Hillary Clinton's economic speech at 10:00 amET at the New School in New York City. And maybe the best way view it is as a full-throated rebuttal to Jeb Bush's call to grow the U.S. economy by a 4% rate. "The measure of our economic success should be how much incomes rise for middle-class households, not an arbitrary growth figure," a Clinton campaign said in previewing Hillary's speech. Indeed, Clinton will propose profit sharing as a way to boost middle-class incomes. "Hard-working Americans deserve to benefit from the record corporate earnings they helped produce," she will say, according to excerpts of her remarks. "So I will propose ways to encourage companies to share profits with their employees. Clinton also will call for an increase in private/public investment, and she will say that the wealthiest need to pay their fair share in taxes. Our take: Hillary's economic vision isn't much different than you'll hear from President Obama. So tell us what the U.S. economy looks like a year from now, and we'll tell you how strong her chances are in the general election.
Iran nuke talks hit a snag
Outside of those two 2016 stories -- Walker's presidential announcement, Hillary's economic speech -- the other major political news we're watching today is whether negotiators will be able to announce a FINAL-FINAL nuclear deal with Iran. There's a very good chance we'll see an announcement in the next 24-48 hours, but the final talks have hit some snags. NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Abigail Williams report that these snags include issues that were thought to have been resolved to everyone's satisfaction -- such as Iran's accounting of its past suspect nuclear activity, as well as the timing of any agreement to lift a longstanding UN arms embargo on Iran, and the amount of advanced nuclear research Iran will be able to do at the end of the agreement.
Update on the 2016 money race
This morning, we learned that Marco Rubio raised $12 million in the second quarter, compared with a combined $31.8 million that a pro-Rubio Super PAC and pro-Rubio 501c4 have raked in. And that, in a nutshell, is your early 2016 money story: The outside groups (which can bring in unlimited amounts of money) are DRAMATICALLY outraising the actual campaigns (which are restricted to $2,700 per donor for the primaries and another $2,700 per donor for the general election). Indeed, the GOP outside groups that have released their figures have raised a whopping $203.5 million, versus a combined $53 million from the campaigns themselves. That's nearly a 4-to-1 ratio, folks. And that's compared with the $60.4 million the Democratic campaigns have raised, versus $24.3 million from the Dem outside groups.
What the campaigns have raised so far
With the July 15 reporting deadline coming up next week, here is what the CAMPAIGNS have raised so far in the second quarter:
- Hillary Clinton campaign: $45 million
- Bernie Sanders campaign: $15 million
- Marco Rubio: $12 million
- Jeb Bush: $11.4 million
- Ben Carson: $10.5 million
- Ted Cruz campaign: $10 million
- Rand Paul: $7 million
- Carly Fiorina: $1.4 million
- Rick Perry: $1.07 million
- Lincoln Chafee: $393,000
What the Super PACs and 501c4s have raised so far
- Right to Rise (Bush): $103 million
- Keep the Promise groups (Cruz): an estimated $37 million
- Rick Perry Super PACs: $16.8 million
- Conservative Solutions PAC (Rubio): $16 million
- Conservative Solutions Project 501c4 (Rubio): $15.8 million
- Priorities USA (Clinton): $15.6 million
- American Bridge (Clinton): $7.7 million
- American Bridge 501c4 (Clinton): $1 million
- CARLY for America (Fiorina): $3.4 million
- John Kasich 527s groups: $11.5 million
What the combined amounts (campaign + outside groups) are
- Team Jeb: $114.4 million
- Team Hillary: $69.3 million
- Team Cruz: $51 million (that includes the $4 million his campaign raised in the 1stQ)
- Team Rubio: $43.8 million
- Team Perry: $17.9 million
- Team Carly: $4.8 million
A reminder: Because of the difference between how the organizations can raise money, plus the different ad rates they get, it's important to compare apples to apples (the campaigns), oranges to oranges (the Super PACs), and grapefruit to grapefruit (combined amounts).
Perry's poor fundraising performance comes as he's gotten better as a candidate
A final note on these fundraising numbers: It's bad, bad news for Rick Perry that his campaign raised just $1.07 million in the quarter -- in fact, compare that with the $17 million his 2012 campaign raked in during its first quarter. What's striking is that poor fundraising performance from Perry comes as he's definitely improved as a candidate (just see his speech on African Americans from a couple of weeks ago).