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
All About Hillary
It’s striking to think about it, but today is just Day 9 of Hillary Clinton’s official presidential candidacy. And predictably, the 2016 conversation has been all about her. Well, almost. Reporters today begin covering her every move (that we know about it) in another early presidential-nominating state -- this time New Hampshire. Over the weekend, at their own cattle call in the Granite State, the Republican presidential candidates aimed their rhetorical fire at her. And there’s a new anti-Clinton book, set to hit the bookstores in next month, that’s generating plenty buzz. Part of the reason why there’s so much focus on Clinton right now is that she’s the 2016 front-runner (see CNN’s latest poll). Another reason is that there most likely won’t be much of a Democratic primary fight, so if you want to kick the tires, now’s the time to do it before the more competitive GOP contest truly gets underway. And here’s a third -- and obvious -- reason: She’s a Clinton.
Two consequences of being the early frontrunner
There are two consequences of having an early presidential contest become all about you. One, being the early frontrunner and the focus of everyone’s attention isn’t always an envious place to be. Think Romney in 2011. Rudy in 2007. McCain in 2007 (after his campaign imploded). And, of course, Hillary in 2007-2008. As the frontrunner, you get the bulk of the slings and arrows -- as well as the tough media attention. Indeed, it’s preferable to be the primary-season candidate who sneaks up one everyone and times his/her ascent perfectly, a la Obama in Jan. 2008, McCain in Jan. 2008 (after his campaign regrouped), and John Kerry in 2004. The other consequence of having an election become all about you is that it becomes an exhausting. If you can endure -- or better yet, outlast -- the scrutiny, the story will change, especially in today’s rapid-fire media climate. But you’ve got to survive it first. And thrive. It’s a process that wears you down. But the successful candidates at least LOOK like they’re enjoying it.
Previewing Hillary’s two days in New Hampshire
As mentioned above, Hillary Clinton today begins spending two days in New Hampshire -- Monday in Keene, Tuesday in Concord. Per a Clinton campaign official, “In Iowa, Hillary Clinton laid out the ‘Four Fights’ she believes need to be waged on behalf of American families that will be central to her campaign. In New Hampshire, she’ll be focused on the first of those four fights -- building an economy that works for tomorrow.” Today’s event in Keene, the official adds, is a focus on small business. “She will tour Whitney Brothers, a small, family-owned, family-friendly business, and meet their employees. She will then participate in a roundtable with employees and organizational leadership.” The event begins at 1:45 pm ET. Tomorrow’s focus is on community college.
Republicans are abuzz about a new book -- by conservative author Peter Schweizer -- which argues that foreign entities donating big checks to the Clinton Foundation received favors from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Schweizer's “examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department,” the New York Times writes. The question here is if Schweizer can prove that the Foundation money directly translated into a favor for the foreign entity. As Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith mused, “The question in all these Clinton $ stories is whether you can show a quo.” Indeed, quid-pro-quos are always hard to prove. And the argument the Clinton campaign is making is that the actions Schweizer cites were all Obama administration priorities -- not something Hillary was doing on her own. Then again, what hurts Hillary with these kinds of stories is that the Clintons never seem to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to money and favors.
Clinton camp on the book
Here’s the Clinton campaign’s statement on the book from spokesman Brian Fallon: "We always expected that while Hillary Clinton focused on helping everyday Americans get ahead, the Republicans would focus on attacks rather than ideas. It appears that this book is being used to aid this coordinated attack strategy, twisting previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories. It will not be the first work of partisan-fueled fiction about the Clintons' record, and we know it will not be the last."
Kasich on 2016: “I’m trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants”
Turning to the 2016 Republican field, it’s possible there might be another candidate -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “I haven't decided yet,” he said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “But listen, yesterday, I was in South Carolina in the morning. And then I was in New Hampshire in the afternoon. It reminded me of Live Aid. Remember when Phil Collins jetted from England over to Philadelphia? ... Look, all my options are on the table here. And I'm, you know, more and more serious, or I wouldn't be doing these things. And I have a pretty heavy schedule coming up.” What could keep him from running? “Well, my family is a consideration. And number two, the most important thing, what does the Lord want me to do with my life? You know, He puts on Earth, all of us on Earth, to achieve certain purposes. And I'm trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants. And I'm not going to figure that out lying in bed and hoping lightning strikes.”
Could this be the week for Lynch’s confirmation vote?
This could be the week when Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick to replace Eric Holder at attorney general, gets her confirmation vote -- after being first NOMINATED for the position back in November. On “Meet,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) explained why he and other Republicans have opposed Lynch:
CHUCK TODD: What is the endgame in delaying her nomination, considering all of the anger that many conservatives like yourself had toward Eric Holder?
MIKE LEE: There are a lot of concerns with Loretta Lynch that focus a lot on what President Obama did with our immigration code back in November. He basically rewrote--
CHUCK TODD: Loretta Lynch didn't do that.
MIKE LEE: No, she didn't. But when questioned in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, she refused to acknowledge that there are limits to prosecutorial discretion, limits that must be taken into account, for example, when you have a president, effectively, undoing a huge swatch of federal law.
Here’s what Obama said Friday about the delay in confirming Lynch: “‘There are times when the dysfunction in the Senate goes too far. This is an example of it,’ Obama said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. ‘Enough…. This is embarrassing.’”
Manchin to stay in Senate, won’t run for West Virginia governor
Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he will remain in the Senate and not run for governor in 2016, an announcement sure to be a relief to Senate Democrats who would have faced a tough special election race to keep his seat if he chose to leave, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. Manchin, who served as West Virignia governor from 2005 to 2010, would have likely won if he chose to run for the post again. Manchin isn't up for Senate re-election until 2018,” Thorp adds. "I will admit that it has been a harder transition than I had expected, but I believe that, after five years, we are beginning to make a difference," Manchin said in his statement. "We are simply bringing a greater sense of bipartisanship and commitment to working together for the good of the American people. It is because of that optimism that I have decided to continue serving the people of West Virginia in the United States Senate."
Introducing The Lid
First Read helps you start your day with incisive analysis and breaking political news from the NBC Political Unit and the brains behind Meet the Press. And, starting today, you don’t have to settle for just one helping! We’re debuting The Lid, an afternoon note that offers a look back at the day in politics, with highlights from NBC’s 2016 coverage, all the most important stories from around the campaign trail, a quick pop of analysis and maybe even a laugh or two. The Lid, quarterbacked by NBC’s Carrie Dann and Andrew Rafferty, hits inboxes at 4:30 pm ET. Sign up here.