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.
Breaking down Trump’s brutal June
Let us count the ways in which Donald Trump lost/squandered the month of June in his race against Hillary Clinton:
- The polls: Trump now trails Clinton by six points nationally in the RealClearPolitics average, when Clinton’s lead had been just one point in late May.
- The money: He had just $1.3 million in the bank, according to the last campaign-finance report, versus $42 million for Clinton.
- The ads: For the month, Clinton and her allies outspent Team Trump over the battleground-state airwaves, $26 million to $0, though the NRA starts spending $2 million on Trump’s behalf in battlegrounds starting today (more on that below).
- The travel: Despite having a month-long head start on Clinton in getting to the general election, the only battleground states that Trump has visited more than his rival are Pennsylvania (2 visits to 1), Florida (1 to 0), and New Hampshire (2 to 0, including today’s event), while Clinton has the advantage in Ohio (3 to 1) and North Carolina (2 to 1, including Tuesday’s upcoming appearance with President Obama).
- The controversies: Whether it was the attack on the federal judge or his reaction to the Orlando terrorist attack, the attention Trump received in June was mostly negative. Per our NBC/WSJ poll, 55% of all voters said they had less favorable impression of Trump from what they had seen, heard, or read of him, compared with 20% who had a more favorable view (-35). Clinton’s score here was 38% less favorable, 27% more favorable (-11).
Four ways how Trump can turn things around in July
The glass-half-full view here for Trump is that, despite all of these disadvantages, he’s still in the race with four months to go until Election Day. And there are four ways he can turn things around in July. The first way is with his VP pick, which could come any time in the next two weeks. A second way is the GOP convention, which (outside of the debates) could be his best opportunity to prove to swing voters that he’s up for the job of being president. A third way is his upcoming fundraising report. Does he show some life in the dash for cash? Or does he continue to trail Clinton by a wide margin? And a fourth and final way is by putting the political focus back on Hillary Clinton. His second-straight anti-trade speech, which he delivers in Manchester, NH at 3:30 pm ET, is a start.
But can Trump go two-straight days without attacking his party?
Yet for Trump to be able to turn the focus back on Clinton, he has to go at least two days without attacking his party. Can he do that? Because he didn’t do it yesterday. “Without naming specific politicians, Trump called those 2016 candidates who have yet to endorse him in accordance with the RNC pledge ‘sore losers’ who ‘should never be allowed to run for public office again,’” per NBC’s Ali Vitali. “Among those names yet to officially and explicitly endorse Trump are Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Names that could, come next election cycle, be back in play once again.” And don’t miss Sen. Mike Lee unloading on Trump. Politico: “‘Hey look, Steve, I get it. You want me to endorse Trump,’ Lee (R-Utah) told NewsMaxTV host Steve Malzberg. ‘We can get into that if you want. We can get into the fact that he accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK. We can go through the fact that he’s made statements that some have identified correctly as religiously intolerant. We can get into the fact that he’s wildly unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church. A people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838. And, statements like that make them nervous.’” Wow.
The NRA rides to Trump’s rescue (mostly in Ohio)
As mentioned above, the NRA today starts airing a $2.4 million TV-ad buy in the battleground states hitting Hillary Clinton on Benghazi. It is the first pro-Trump cavalry into the battleground states (with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads sitting on the sidelines). The market-by-market breakdown shows that the buy is really for Ohio, with GOP base areas thrown into the mix:
- Colorado Springs: $109,000
- Jacksonville: $103,000
- Bangor: $51,000
- Reno: $100,000
- Cleveland: $545,000
- Columbus: $414,000
- Dayton: $115,000
- Toledo: $127,000
- Wheeling: $19,000
- Pittsburgh: $83,000
- Norfolk: $89,000
- Fox News: $374,000
- Colorado Rockies sports network ($45,000)
- Washington Nationals sports network ($50,000)
- Pittsburgh Pirates sports network ($37,000)
- Cleveland Indians sports network ($113,000)
After Trump stumps in Maine, Clinton camp expands ad buy to Nebraska
So Trump was in Bangor, ME yesterday, and the NRA is airing $51,000 there -- all in an effort to put one Maine electoral vote into play. And now we’ve learned that the Clinton campaign is extending its battleground-state ad buy to Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District (read: Omaha) to pick up one electoral vote there. Here are the two ads Clinton is airing in Omaha (here and here).
POLITICO writes that Tim Kaine reported more than $160,000 in gifts between 2001 and 2009, according to public disclosures. While legal under Virginia’s notably lax gift laws, the gifts – like clothes and a vacation - could become fodder for attack ads… Alex Seitz-Wald notes that Warren is the pick that makes Democrats most likely to contribute to Clinton’s campaign… Radio host Howie Carr mocked Elizabeth Warren by making a “war whoop” at a Maine rally… The Dallas Morning News offers a good primer on Julian Castro’s life and career… Scott Brown showed up at Trump’s event in Boston… Newt Gingrich penned an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune to say that Democrats should remember the perils of causing chaos on the House floor… CNBC notes that Trump once donated to Jeff Sessions’ opponent… And newly filed court documents show Chris Christie used a personal email account for work as the Bridgegate scandal unfolded.
On the trail
Donald Trump campaigns in Manchester, NH at 3:30 pm ET… Don’t forget to check out the political unit’s rolling minute-to-minute coverage of all the latest 2016 developments at the On the Trail liveblog at NBCNews.com.