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How the Jet Crash Could Change Things for Putin – and for the U.S.

Image: Vladimir Putin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin arrives for an official group photo during the BRICS summit at the Itamaraty palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) Felipe Dana / AP

How Thursday’s tragedy could change things

An international tragedy -- and what seems to be an unprovoked attack -- has brought American politics to a standstill. It also has the potential to change things, both abroad and maybe even at home. Less than 24 hours later, here is what we know about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Eastern Ukraine, which killed all 298 on board: Senior U.S. officials told NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski that the Malaysian airliner was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Ukraine’s leaders have pointed the finger at the pro-Russian separatist rebels who control the region; they also released what they say is intercepted audio of rebels appearing to acknowledge shooting down a civilian plane. NBC News has not independently verified the authenticity of that audio. Meanwhile, Russia has denied playing any role in the downing of the passenger plane. As for the Obama White House, it is demanding access for international investigators -- already worried that evidence has been tampered with. “It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. We urge all concerned – Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine – to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site,” the White House said last night.

Expect more international pressure on Putin

So how can the tragedy change things? For starters, yesterday was a VERY bad day for Vladimir Putin. Given that the plane was carrying passengers from numerous countries -- especially from Europe -- that will likely increase international pressure on Putin and Russia to de-escalate in Eastern Ukraine. Remember, sanctions and other penalties on Russia (like the ones the United States announced on Wednesday before the plane was shot down) work better if the world is on board. And while Putin and Russia argue that they had nothing to do with the downed jetliner, the New Republic’s Julia Ioffe writes that Putin unleashed the current hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. “The one thing we know now is that this conflict is now officially out of control. As we've been saying at The New Republic all along, Putin has started something he can't finish, unleashing a dangerous force he no longer fully controls—nor does he seem to care to—and it's costing more and more lives.”

Could it also change politics in this country?

The tragedy could -- and we stress COULD -- also change politics at home, at least in the short term. The Obama administration has yet to confirm if any of the passengers were Americans. But if there were, that could possibly signal a unifying event (bringing Democrats, Republicans, independents together) that’s been lacking in this country for a while. As for whether we’ll hear from the president today, perhaps if there is confirmation of lost American lives. But don’t be surprised if the White House is a bit cautious in sending him out today until they have more facts. Of course, it’s also possible that yesterday’s event doesn’t change things at home at all, and that we’ll quickly move on to the next story and event. But something tells us that might not be the case, at least for a while.

Ground invasion in Gaza begins

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 wasn’t the only major event that took place yesterday. What also happened: Israel launched a ground invasion against Hamas in Gaza. The reporting from NBC’s Richard Engel: “The ground invasion began with Israeli attacks on several sides of Gaza, from the North and East and the sea. We watched the tracers from Israeli guns firing over Gaza. They show where the rounds are going. The Israel military ordered foreign journalists to evacuate hotels near the coastline, because more fire was coming. Illumination flares were shot over Gaza city, the most densely populated part of the Gaza strip.. home to nearly two million Palestinians.”

Boehner doubts border supplemental can pass before August recess

Back to domestic politics, it looks like the Obama administration’s request for funding to deal with the unaccompanied minors coming across the border isn’t going to happen before Congress departs on its August recess. The Washington Post: “House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) raised doubts Thursday that Congress will be able to fulfill President Obama’s funding request to address the influx of illegal migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border before lawmakers leave Washington for their summer recess in two weeks.” Democrats are increasingly opposed to changing the 2008 law granting extra protection to children from Central American countries, while Republicans (like Ted Cruz) want to overturn the Obama administration’s 2012 executive action allowing the qualified children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. If Congress is unable to pass this emergency spending, it will be yet another indictment against the legislative branch -- that it can’t even do the bare minimum anymore.

Jeb Bush is raising private-equity funds

Does this mean Jeb Bush isn’t going to run in 2016? “As other Republicans travel the country laying the groundwork for 2016 presidential campaigns, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is raising private-equity funds for oil and gas ventures,” Bloomberg reports. “Bush, 61, whose family made much of its fortune in Texas oil, has teamed with former Credit Suisse Group AG and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankers to create an investment firm based in Coral Gables, Florida, according to regulatory filings disclosed last month.”

Additional numbers from our NBC/Marist polls

Finally, here are some additional 2016-related numbers from our recent NBC/Marist polls of Iowa and New Hampshire. First, here is ranking of the overall fav/unfavs in Iowa:

  • Hillary: 52%-42% (+10)
  • Rand Paul 40%-37% (+3)
  • Marco Rubio: 32%-29% (+3)
  • Scott Walker: 24%-26% (-2)
  • Chris Christie: 35%-42% (-7)
  • Ted Cruz: 26%-34% (-8)
  • Biden: 40%-49% (-9)
  • Jeb Bush: 33%-44% (-11)

Here is the ranking of the overall fav/unfavs in New Hampshire:

  • Hillary: 52%-44% (+8)
  • Marco Rubio: 34%-29% (+5)
  • Scott Walker: 26%-24% (+2)
  • Rand Paul: 41%-40% (+1)
  • Christie: 39%-43% (-4)
  • Jeb Bush: 38%-43% (-5)
  • Biden: 41%-49% (-8)
  • Ted Cruz: 27%-35% (-8)

Here is a ranking of the fav/unfavs among New Hampshire independents:

  • Hillary: 54%-41% (+13)
  • Marco Rubio: 34%-25% (+9)
  • Rand Paul: 39%-37% (+2)
  • Scott Walker: 23%-21% (+2)
  • Christie: 40%-40% (even)
  • Jeb Bush: 37%-42% (-5)
  • Ted Cruz: 24%-33% (-9)
  • Biden: 38%-50% (-12)

Here is the Iowa GOP horserace among “very conservative” Republicans:

  • Cruz 18%, Paul 15%, Santorum 11%

And here is the New Hampshire GOP horserace among “very conservative” Republicans:

  • Ted Cruz at 26%, Rand Paul 22%, Scott Walker 9%

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