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First Read: Bad News for the GOP and for Hillary Clinton

Image: Leslie McDermott

Leslie McDermott of Washington, left, votes in the District of Columbia primary election at Eastern Market in Washington, Tuesday, April 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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.

Why the new NBC/WSJ poll contains rough news for the GOP

With just over 13 months until Election Day 2016, the Republican Party should be sitting pretty. The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has seen her popularity drop considerably in the new NBC/WSJ poll. What’s more, 62% believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, which isn’t good news for the party holding the White House. And President Obama’s approval rating -- at 47 percent -- isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either. But here is the challenge for the GOP: Almost every other indicator in the poll is a real problem for the party. For starters, the Republican Party (29%-45% fav/unfav rating) is significantly more unpopular than the Democratic Party (41%-35%). Its current presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, is the most unpopular figure in the entire poll. In addition, GOP voters are in revolt against their own leaders: 72% are dissatisfied with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (which helps explain why Boehner is stepping down from his job). And Republicans are in a MUCH different place than Democrats and independents on issues like abortion, gay rights, and race.

  • On more restrictive laws on abortion: Democrats (-43), independents (-11), and the nation as a whole (-9) see them a step in the wrong direction, while Republicans (+37) see them as a step in the right direction.
  • On legislation protecting gay rights: Democrats (+67), independents (+31), and the nation as a whole (+36) see it as a step in the right direction; Republicans see it as a step in the wrong direction (-3);
  • On racial, ethic minorities increasing as a percentage of U.S. population: Democrats (+41), independents (+15), and nation as a whole (+21) see it as a step in the right direction; Republicans see it as a step in the wrong direction (-3).

If these were the days of the smoked-filled rooms where party leaders could call the shots, the GOP could solve many of these problems. But we’re living in a time when GOP leaders are no longer calling the shots (see: Boehner, John).

Hillary Clinton breaks with White House on how to handle Syria 0:42

Why the NBC/WSJ poll contains some rough news for Hillary, too

So that’s the bad news for the GOP; the bad news for the Democratic Party in the NBC/WSJ poll is Hillary Clinton’s precipitous drop -- from a 56%-25% fav/unfav rating (+31) when she left her secretary of state post to 39%-47% now (-8). And get this: She has a higher negative rating among independents (51%) than Trump does (49%). When you think about it: No one needs Joe Biden to decide sooner than Hillary does, because Biden’s Hamlet period is hurting her. Not only does Hillary’s lead over Bernie Sanders go from 7 points to 15 points without Biden in the race, but Biden continues to out-poll Clinton -- in both popularity and head-to-head numbers against the GOP field (which shouldn’t be surprising for someone who hasn’t begun to campaign yet). And then there’s this: If Biden gets in, he’ll get a honeymoon, which will make things look even worse politically for Clinton in the short run.

Planned Parenthood -- the most popular political entity in the poll

At 10:00 am ET, Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee over those controversial Planned Parenthood videos. Yet here’s the thing: Planned Parenthood over the last two months might have received more negative press of any organization in American politics and … it’s the most popular political entity in our NBC/WSJ poll. Either the Planned Parenthood story hasn’t penetrated (though 65% of Americans in the poll say they’ve heard or read either “a lot” or “some” about the videos), or it has penetrated but it’s become only a conversation on the right. Regardless, the poll shows why a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood would have been disastrous for the GOP.

Obama’s Forward vs. Trump’s Make America Great Again

The NBC/WSJ poll also asked this question -- which of these two statements comes closer to your point view:

  • This is the time to have a president who will focus on progress and help move America forward (essentially the Obama “Forward” from 2012);
  • This is the time to have a president who will focus on protecting what has made America great (essentially Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again).

The results: 84% of Democrats, 56% of independents, 33% of Republicans, and 60% of the nation pick the “progress” choice, while 63% of Republicans, 40% of independents, 14% of Democrats, and 38% of the nation choose “making America great again.” If you want to see today’s D-vs-R divide, this is how you do it.

Compromise vs. Stand Your Ground

Or you can look at it this way: 60% of Democratic primary voters in the new NBC/WSJ poll say they prefer a presidential candidate who will make compromises to gain consensus, versus 35% who want them to stick to their positions. By contrast, 49% of GOP primary voters want a candidate who will stick to their positions, and 48% want someone who will make compromises. Among conservative GOP primary voters, the numbers are even more stark: 55% stick to positions, 41% compromise.

Jeb Bush to unveil his energy plan

“Jeb Bush will call for ‘embracing the energy revolution’ as part of his plan of achieving four-percent economic growth when he unveils his energy reform plan Tuesday in Pittsburgh,” NBC’s Jordan Frasier previews. “‘The U.S. is still in the early stages of capitalizing on this economic opportunity,’ the GOP presidential candidate writes in a Medium post detailing his plan. The plan includes lifting bans on oil and natural gas exports, approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a reduction in regulation and increased deference to states. ‘Taken together, these policies will fully unleash the Energy Revolution creating more jobs, higher wages, cheaper gas, and cheaper electricity while better protecting our interests abroad and our environment,’ Bush writes of his plan.”

Donald Trump: My tax plan ‘will be a rocket ship for the economy’ 5:20

Who benefits the most from Donald Trump’s tax plan? Answer: Donald Trump

As for Donald Trump’s tax plan, MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin writes that the person who might benefit the most from it is … Donald Trump. “After weeks of worrying traditional anti-tax Republicans with talk of a crackdown on the rich, experts across the political spectrum say Trump’s plan looks like a windfall for the wealthiest of the wealthy and for big corporations. The top tax rate for individuals would be reduced to 25% from 39.6%, the top corporate tax rate would be cut by more than half to 15% from 35%, and the estate tax – which only applies to inheritances over $5.4 million – would be eliminated entirely,” Sarlin says. Trump SOUNDED populist yesterday. But what he actually put down on paper is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT story.

Why we could still see a government shutdown in December

Finally, while it appears that a government shutdown has been averted for now, budget expert Stan Collender says there probably will be one in December. "House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation last Friday steeply reduced the likelihood there will be a government shutdown this week but precipitously increased the possibility of a shutdown in December... [I]t will be a very different story when this soon-to-be-passed CR expires in December. All the factors that make a shutdown this week so improbable will make it far more likely to happen near the end of the year."

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