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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.
Explaining the appeal of Ben Carson: Outsider + Christian
In this summer of Donald Trump, there’s another political outsider is now surging in the polls: Ben Carson. In addition to Saturday’s Des Moines Register poll that showed him a close second to Donald Trump in Iowa, a Monmouth poll released yesterday finds the former neurosurgeon tied with Trump in the Hawkeye State. What’s going on here? Well, part of Carson’s appeal can be explained by his outsider status. Remember, the Des Moines Register poll found that 75% of Republican Iowa caucus-goers said they were unsatisfied or mad as hell at their own party in Congress. But what sets Carson apart from the other GOP outsiders -- Trump and Carly Fiorina, who is in third in that Monmouth poll -- is his explicit Christian faith. Here was Carson talking about taxes at last month’s Cleveland debate: “What I agree with is that we need a significantly changed taxation system. And the one that I've advocated is based on tithing, because I think God is a pretty fair guy,” Carson explained. “And he said, you know, if you give me a tithe, it doesn't matter how much you make. If you've had a bumper crop, you don't owe me triple tithes. And if you've had no crops at all, you don't owe me no tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about that. And that's why I've advocated a proportional tax system.”
Why he could be a player in Iowa
Indeed, Carson’s outsider status and these kinds of references to his Christian faith COULD make him formidable in the evangelical-heavy Iowa caucuses. And remember, while Carson is a mild-mannered guy, his rhetoric can be almost as fiery as Trump’s. (Here’s what he said about Hillary Clinton at the debate: “She is the epitome of the progressive -- the secular progressive movement. And she counts on the fact that people are uninformed, the Alinsky Model, taking advantage of useful idiots.”) Of course, Carson will have to contend with some significant obstacles between now and February. Do GOP voters believe he has the qualifications to be president, despite his impressive medical credentials? Can he survive the ups and downs that are always a part of our brutal business of picking a presidential candidate? And do Republicans view him as a formidable general-election opponent against Hillary Clinton?
And why Carson could benefit if Trump stumbles
And if Donald Trump somehow stumbles in the months ahead, Carson could benefit. As one Iowa voter told NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard, per The Lid: “I think Trump has done a good thing by stirring everybody up and making the average American believe that there are other people who have the ability to be in power, thinking the same way we are. But he doesn't necessarily have the finesse… I like [Carson’s] demeanor. I think Trump is acting like a spoiled child, and he needs to stop that."
Hillary Clinton and the negative feedback loop
Another monthly email dump last night has produced another round of mainly negative stories for Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Portions of 125 emails were upgraded after the fact to classified status (even though that’s routine with the FOIA process)! Conversations with Sidney Blumenthal and Mark Penn! Daughter Chelsea complaining about relief to Haiti! Gefilte fish! Legally, Hillary Clinton’s story holds up -- if the concern is KNOWINGLY mishandling classified information, these emails don’t contain a smoking gun. But politically, this month’s release (and next month’s and the next month’s after that) are creating a negative feedback loop for the campaign, where many (if not most) of the stories about Hillary are focused on her emails or declining poll numbers. Of course, that’s political life as the frontrunner. And the goal is simply to outlast this coverage when the conversation eventually changes.
The most damning email from last night
Maybe the most damning email released last night was aide Huma Abedin acknowledging that the State Department’s IT team didn’t realize Hillary Clinton had her own email account. “Ur email must be back up!!” Abedin wrote to Clinton. “What happened is judith sent you an email. It bounced back. She called the email help desk at state (I guess assuming u had state email) and told them that. They had no idea it was YOU, just some random address so they emailed. Sorry about that.” In short, the IT department didn’t even realize that Clinton had her own private account. Can anyone still justify this private account for convenience’s sake? (The only thing that seems remotely convenient with this kind of system is avoiding FOIA requests.) Clinton now has taken “responsibility” for not conducting State Department business on a dot-gov account. “It clearly wasn’t the best choice,” she told reporters last week. Ya think?
Trump vs. Jeb continues
By the way, Donald Trump yesterday released another Instagram video hitting Jeb Bush -- this time over Bush’s “act of love” quote on illegal immigration. And the Bush campaign has fired back with its video -- highlighting Trump’s past liberal positions on issues like abortion.
Coons to announce position on Iran deal
At 2:00 pm ET at the University of Delaware, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will announce his position on the Iran deal. Per the count by NBC’s Frank Thorp, 31 senators (all Democrats) have announced their support for the Iran deal -- which is just three away from the 34 votes President Obama needs to uphold a veto.
Obama’s regulatory changes restoring protections for workers
Finally, don’t miss this article from the New York Times: “With little fanfare, the Obama administration has been pursuing an aggressive campaign to restore protections for workers that have been eroded by business activism, conservative governance and the evolution of the economy in recent decades. In the last two months alone, the administration has introduced a series of regulatory changes. Among them: a rule that would make millions more Americans eligible for extra overtime pay, and guidelines suggesting that many employers are misclassifying workers as contractors and therefore depriving them of basic workplace protections. That is an issue central to the growth of so-called gig economy companies like Uber.”
On the trail
Jeb Bush attends a “back to school” town hall in Miami… John Kasich remains in Michigan… Marco Rubio is still in Nevada… Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum are in Iowa… Rand Paul hits the trail in New Hampshire... And Lindsey Graham files his paperwork to be on the ballot in South Carolina.
*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell will interview Fmr. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs PJ Crowley, International Rescue Committee Director of Policy & Practice Sanj Srikanthan, NextGen Climate Pres. Thomas Steyer, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, Craig Melvin and Claudio Lavanga.