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Can John Kasich Get Traction in the Summer of Donald?

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.
Image: Potential Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich answers questions from reporters following a tour of the Red Hook Brewery in Portsmouth
Potential Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich answers questions from reporters following a tour of the Red Hook Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire July 13, 2015. REUTERS/Brian SnyderBRIAN SNYDER / Reuters

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.

Can John Kasich get traction in the Summer of Donald?

If the two-term governor of all-important Ohio -- with a 60% approval rating in his state -- announces a presidential bid and no one hears it, did it really happen? That’s John Kasich’s challenge as he makes his White House run official today at 11:00 am ET amid all of the Donald Trump headlines. Trump leads nationally in another poll! Trump is running second in Iowa! The Des Moines Register wants Trump out of the race! Trump is still feuding with John McCain! And oh, Donald Trump just killed a guy with a trident! Yes, we made that last one up (it’s from “Anchorman”), but you get the point: It’s the Summer of Donald, and it’s become hard for the other GOP presidential hopefuls to break through. Remember that Scott Walker officially announced his presidential bid last week, and he barely broke through all the Trump news, at least nationally.

Two weeks out, Kasich has work to do to make that first GOP debate

And cutting through the Trump noise is doubly important for Kasich since -- as of right now -- he’s on the outside looking in of making that first debate next month in his home state. Below are the polling averages from the last five national polls (WaPo/ABC, Fox, USA Today/Suffolk, Monmouth, CNN). And remember that the Top 10 make the debate stage.

  1. Trump – 16.8%
  2. Bush – 14.8%
  3. Walker – 9.8%
  4. Rubio – 6.2%
  5. Huckabee – 6.2%
  6. Paul – 6.2%
  7. Carson – 5.8%
  8. Cruz – 5.2%
  9. Christie – 2.8%
  10. Perry – 2.4%
  11. Santorum – 1.8%
  12. Kasich – 1.6%
  13. Jindal – 1.4%
  14. Fiorina – 0.8%
  15. Graham – 0.2%

Who is John Kasich?

Our colleague Kasie Hunt has a good piece on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” profiling the Republican Ohio governor. “Ohio Gov. John Kasich can sound pretty different from the 15 other Republicans running for president. ‘Just read Matthew 25. Did you feed the hungry? Did you clothe the naked? If we¹re doing things like that, to me that IS conservatism.’ He doesn’t necessarily govern like them, either. He expanded Medicaid under Obamacare and favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And even voted for an assault-weapons ban.” More from Hunt: “Kasich grew up near Pittsburgh, the son of a mailman. He was raised Catholic, but drifted from religion until both his parents were killed by a drunk driver… He went to Ohio State, then served eight terms in Congress. He led the Budget Committee during the contentious fiscal fights of the 1990s, ultimately playing a key role in balancing the budget.” And as we mentioned above, Kasich has a 60% approval rating in his home state. Name another current senator or governor running for presidential with that high of an approval rating.

Trump exploits the GOP’s two great weaknesses

Turning back to Trump, it is remarkable that his rise in the polls (and his impact on the GOP) comes after the Republican National Committee tried to do everything it could to prevent these kinds of sideshows after what happened in 2012. The RNC after-election report said the party should work to pass immigration reform to improve its standing with Latino voters. It limited the number of debates. And it worked to shorten the nominating calendar. But here we are -- it’s the Summer of Trump. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza writes, Trump has “exposed and exploited the Republican Party’s two great weaknesses: the fact that many of its voters don’t agree with Party leaders on immigration and the fact that the Party is powerless to do much about it.”

Over/under on 2016 TV ad spending: $4.4 billion -- and that might be a lowball projection

Our friend Elizabeth Wilner as CMAG puts the over/under of total TV ad spending in the 2016 cycle to be $4.4 billion. And that might be a lowball figure! As Wilner writes, “According to OpenSecrets, $2.8 billion was spent on U.S. Senate and House races in 2006, $2.5 billion in 2008—contrasted with $3.6 billion in 2010 and 2012, followed by $3.8 billion in 2014. Presidential spending, on the other hand, stayed flat across the Citizens United divide: $2.8 billion in 2008 followed by $2.6 billion in 2012. This presumably was due to the absence of a Democratic primary, a less competitive Republican primary than in 2008, and a battleground that shrank by half.” More from Wilner: “While we expect a jump in presidential spending, we see little or no growth in spending on statewide and House races. Today’s list of competitive House races is short: 30 Leans and Toss-Ups compared to 48 at this point in the 2012 cycle. With control of the chamber not in doubt, donors’ attention will focus on the races where party control is at stake.”

Andrea Mitchell interviews John Kerry

Finally, don’t miss Andrea Mitchell’s exclusive interview with Secretary of State John Kerry on the two other big issues out there -- 1) Cuba opening its embassy in the U.S., and 2) the Iran deal.

On the GOP-led Congress not confirming a U.S. ambassador to Cuba and denying that embassy money: “Are they gonna do that, because they can show so much change that's taken place in the last 60 years? That this is a crazy path? I mean, it just doesn't make sense to prevent our diplomats from carrying the very message you and I were just talking about -- to not be able to meet with more people in Cuba, to know what is going on is a huge cutoff of opportunity. So I-- I just think it's-- it's cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

On the UN Security Council giving its blessing to the Iran deal before Congress has reviewed it: “We went through the United Nations as appropriate. But we put into the measure in the UN that it doesn’t take effect for 90 days-- so that the Congress has no pressure, ample opportunity to take a look at this and to-- make its judgment. And-- and so I don't-- I really think the complaint is without merit.”

On opponents spending as much as $20 million in ads against the Iran deal: “[T]hey don't have an alternative. And the status quo is unacceptable. Because in the status quo, Iran was marching full square towards having a bomb… There is no way the Ayatollah is gonna come back to the table and negotiate again. There's no way our colleagues are gonna keep sanctions in place. So this is actually a very potentially destructive process that runs counter to common sense. And I think, over time, people will see that.”

The full Kerry-Mitchell interview will air at noon ET on MSNBC.

On the trail

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Donald Trump are all in South Carolina… Bobby Jindal holds a town hall event in Iowa… And Marco Rubio campaigns in New Hampshire.

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