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.
Chris Christie’s Challenge: When Mr. Electable no longer looks so electable
In the summer of 2013 -- before his blowout re-election victory in New Jersey -- Gov. Chris Christie had a simple message for his party: Just win, baby. “We are not a debating society,” Christie told the RNC meeting in Boston two years ago. “We are a political operation that needs to win.” In a way, it also was a message to sell the audience on how someone like him (who had stood with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy, who had expanded Medicaid in his state) could possibly be the GOP’s standard bearer in 2016. “For our ideas to matter, we have to win because, if we don’t win, we don’t govern.” There’s a problem with that kind of message, though: It doesn’t work as well when you no longer seem that electable. And that is Chris Christie’s challenge as he announces his presidential bid from his old high school in Livingston, NJ at 11:00 am ET. In last week’s NBC/WSJ poll, 55% of GOP primary voters said they couldn’t see themselves supporting him -- the second-worst percentage here behind only Donald Trump’s 66%. Due to the Bridge-gate scandal and the credit downgrades in his state, Christie’s approval rating in his own state is now at 30%.
Remember, Christie had a problem with conservative voters before Bridge-gate
There are two paths to winning a party’s presidential nomination. One, you sell yourself as the right candidate to win over the base on the issues -- i.e., the ideological warrior. But that was never going to be Christie’s route. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Christie had a problem with GOP primary voters BEFORE Bridge-gate. Two, you sell yourself as the person who is the most electable, the candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton -- i.e., the winner. But that route for Christie looks much less promising for him than it did two years ago.
Previewing Christie’s announcement
Per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, Christie will work without a prompter and without a prepared text. The setting in the high school gym will look like a town hall, but it will not include Q&A. His remarks, O’Donnell adds, will include some discussion of his roots in Livingston New Jersey, his biography, his record as governor and his vision for the country. He will make mention of the four policy addresses he has already done and will indicate others will follow. He will connect how his biography has informed his leadership style. He will talk about being a Republican governor in a blue state. After his announcement, he heads to conduct a town hall event in New Hampshire – where he’ll spend the next four days. Christie also will speak with NBC’s Matt Lauer for his first post-announcement interview.
Keeping track of the 2016 money chase
Just more than two weeks from now, we’ll reach our next milestone in the 2016 presidential contest: The first results from the money race. The 2nd fundraising quarter (April 1 thru June 30) ends at midnight, and the campaigns and Super PACs are required to report their results with the Federal Election Commission by July 15. So that’s the date when we’ll find out which campaigns have raked in the most money, as well as which big donors have written hefty checks to Super PACs. Keeping track of the 2016 money race will be harder than ever before -- given all of the different candidates, the different Super PACs, the different 501c4s. Here are some of the questions we’ll be looking to answer:
- Does Hillary Clinton surpass the nearly $33 million Barack Obama had raised in the 2nd quarter of 2011?
- Does she come close to the nearly $63 million she had raised by June 30, 2007? (Caveat: She had raised that amount in two quarters in 2007, but this one will be her first of 2016.)
- Did those pro-Ted Cruz Super PACs really bring in $31 million-plus?
- How much did Rand Paul’s campaign raise?
- Did Jeb Bush’s Super PAC exceed $100 million?
One thing worth remembering: We’re really not going to see campaign numbers for Scott Walker and John Kasich, since they will be announcing AFTER June 30. And we’ll get just ONE DAY for Christie’s campaign.
Jeb Bush to release 33 years of tax returns
Speaking of money… An aide confirms a Fox News report that Gov. Jeb Bush will release 33 years of personal tax returns on his web site this afternoon. (Here’s our writeup.) The move is intended to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and contrast the 2016 GOP candidate’s approach with persistent questions about Hillary Clinton’s emails and financial data. The Bush campaign notes that the three decades of tax returns represents the most disclosure from any presidential candidate in US history.
Obama announces new overtime-pay rules
Speaking of money, Part 2… “President Obama announced Monday night a rule change that would make millions more Americans eligible for overtime pay,” the New York Times reports. “The rule would raise the salary threshold below which workers automatically qualify for time-and-a-half overtime wages to $50,440 a year from $23,660.” The Times adds, “The administration has the power to issue the regulation, which would restore the overtime salary threshold to roughly where it stood in 1975 in terms of purchasing power, without congressional approval.” As liberal economist Jared Bernstein tells the Times: “I can’t think of any other rule change or executive order that would lift more middle-class workers.”
Abortion and the 2016 presidential race
Well, the Supreme Court’s term has ended, and here’s a case that it will likely take up next year -- Texas’ abortion law. NBC’s Pete Williams: “The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas. Four of the court's conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented… So for now, enforcement of the Texas law is on hold and will remain so until the court decides whether to hear the full appeal.” As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon puts it, we’re likely to get the first major abortion case since 2007 next term, just in time for the 2016 election. Just what the 2016 race needs: abortion and affirmative action as big-ticket Supreme Court cases.
The real deadline to get a final-final Iran deal: July 9
Finally, today is SUPPOSED to be the deadline in the Iran nuclear talks to get a final-final deal. But as we know, that deadline isn’t going to be met. But here’s the real deadline: July 9. Under the Corker bill that President Obama signed into law, the congressional review time is 30 days. But if the deal is submitted to Congress AFTER July 9, that review period expands to 60 days.
On the trail
Hillary Clinton raises money in New York City… Rand Paul headlines a meet-and-greet in Denver, CO… Rick Santorum stumps in Charleston, SC… And Donald Trump is in New Hampshire.