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.
The Birthright Citizens’ Brigade
Usually, what happens in August tends to stay in August -- think Michele Bachmann’s straw poll win in 2011 or Rick Perry electrifying conservatives at the Red State convention that same year. And a year from now, we MIGHT (for emphasis on that word) add the Summer of Donald Trump to this list. But there are some things that happen in August that stick around for another 14 months, and the birthright citizenship debate within the Republican Party could be one of them. Indeed, maybe the most significant storyline over the last 72 hours has been the discussion that Donald Trump started when he unveiled his immigration plan -- ending birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States. The GOP field is divided: Trump, Paul, Santorum, Graham, Christie, Carson and Jindal are in favor of ending birthright citizenship; Bush and Rubio are opposed; Kasich has flip-flopped (used to support it now opposes it); and Scott Walker appeared to support but also appeared to walk it back. We always knew that immigration was going to be a hot topic inside the GOP field. But we doubt that anyone was counting on birthright citizenship being a subject we’d be talking about this August.
How birthright citizenship could be an issue 14 months from now
So how could birthright citizenship play out 14 months from now? Liberal writer Paul Waldman takes a stab at envisioning a hypothetical TV ad Democrats could air on Spanish-language media: “My name is Lisa Hernandez. I was born in California, grew up there. I was valedictorian of my high school class, graduated from Yale, and now I’m in medical school; I’m going to be a pediatrician. But now Scott Walker and the Republicans say that because my mom is undocumented, that I’m not a real American and I shouldn’t be a citizen. I’m living the American Dream, but they want to take it away from me and people like me. Well I’ve got a message for you, Governor Walker. I’m every bit as American as your children. This country isn’t about who your parents were, it’s about everybody having a chance to work hard, achieve, and contribute to our future. It seems like some people forgot that.” As many readers of “First Thoughts” know all too well, there’s no path to the White House for the GOP if their nominee can’t at least come close to 35% of the Hispanic vote. And ending birthright citizenship could easily turn into the wedge issue NEXT fall, a la Todd Akin. Greg Sargent makes this additional point: “The 14th amendment and birthright citizenship rank among the great and defining accomplishments of the Republican Party, back when it was the Party of Lincoln.”
For Hillary, that email story isn’t going away
After watching Hillary Clinton’s testy news conference yesterday over her emails and server, here is this stark reality for the Clinton campaign: This issue isn’t going away -- at least for a couple of more months (when Clinton testifies before the Benghazi committee in October). And there’s just no other way to look at this story but to conclude she has done it to herself. She tried to conflate the private server issue a bit, claiming that we’d have the same questions for her regarding classified information if her emails were on a state.gov server or her own. But that ignores a few facts, including: the existence of the private server only came to light via congressional investigation and the fact that she doesn’t yet have a good explanation of why she decided to have a private server in the first place. Convenience is a tough one for the public to buy, given that the private server conveniently made FOIA requests and Congressional oversight of her email nearly impossible. But her campaign does have some good news to tell jittery Democrats: Despite all of the bad press she has received, a new CNN poll continues to show her leading the GOP field (Clinton 52%, Bush 43%; Clinton 51%, Trump 45%; Clinton 52%, Walker 46%; Clinton 53%, Fiorina 43%), and she leads Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race, 47%-29% -- though that’s down from 56%-19% in July.
Hillary’s new TV ad
“You know the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top”: Meanwhile, Clinton is airing a new TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire -- as part of the five-week buy her campaign announced last month. "When you see that you've got CEO's making 300 times what the average worker's making, you know the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top," Clinton says in the straight-to-camera ad. "We need to have people believing that their work will be rewarded. So I'm going to be doing everything I can to try to get that deck reshuffled so being middle class means something again."
Trump’s and Jeb’s dueling town halls in New Hampshire
This is going to be a fun story to watch tonight. Donald Trump (in Derry, NH) and Jeb Bush (in Londonderry, NH) are both holding town halls – just about three miles apart.
Jindal vs. Walker on health care
This is another interesting story via National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru: Bobby Jindal pounced on the health-care plan that Scott Walker unveiled yesterday. “In Governor Walker’s plan, a new entitlement is created for every single American human being from the time they are born right up until they grow old and become eligible for Medicare. It is frankly shocking that a Republican candidate for President would author a cradle to grave plan like this.” But Ponnuru adds some perspective: “What Jindal hasn’t mentioned in any of these criticisms is that for several years he was himself an advocate of tax credits, the policy he now characterizes as an “entitlement,” Obamacare lite, and so on.”
It doesn’t look like Congress will be able to stop Iran deal
When it comes to the Senate, here are the magic numbers that the Obama White House needs to ensure that Congress don’t block the Iran deal: It needs either 34 Democrats to thwart a veto override, or it needs 41 Democrats to filibuster the GOP resolution of disapproval. And after yesterday’s announcements -- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) came out against the Iran deal, while Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said they were supporting it -- 23 Senate Democrats back the Iran deal (vs. two who oppose), per the tally kept by NBC’s Frank Thorp. That means that the White House needs another 11 Senate Dems to hit that *34* number, and 18 more for that *41* number. In fact, if Democrats get to 41, that means that Obama won’t even have to issue a veto -- given that a filibuster would block the disapproval. So that’s the state of play in the Senate. And we’re not even counting the House, which looks like even a tougher climb for Iran deal opponents. Our colleague John Harwood makes a good point in the New York Times: Today’s partisanship is going to contribute to Obama’s likely victory on the Iran deal.
Super PACs might be paying 10 times the amount that campaigns are when airing TV ads
For everyone keeping track of the 2016 money race, remember this important point from National Journal: Super PACs are sometimes going to pay TEN TIMES the amount that campaigns will pay for a single ad. “Both Marco Rubio's campaign and the super PAC backing Scott Walker have already reserved ad time during The Tonight Show for the weeks before Iowa's caucuses, according to contracts with the NBC station in Des Moines. While the two groups will air their messages to the same audience at the same time, behind the scenes, there's a major difference. Rubio's campaign is set to pay $150 each for its 30-second spots. The pro-Walker PAC is on the hook for nearly 10 times that much: $1,300 apiece.”
Rand Paul is financing the Kentucky presidential caucus
And speaking of money, don’t miss this story from the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Sam Youngman: “U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has transferred $250,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky as a down payment on the presidential caucuses he has asked the party to conduct in March, he told members of the state party's central committee in an email Monday. Paul is seeking the party's help in bypassing a state law that prohibits him from running for president and for re-election to his Senate seat on the same ballot next year. He wrote to the party's state central committee, which has nearly 350 members, in an effort to quell concern about the cost of a caucus.”
On the trail
It’s a busy day in New Hampshire, with Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker in the Granite State to participate in a town hall on education from Londonderry, NH… Donald Trump also will be in New Hampshire… Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio are all in Iowa… Ted Cruz stumps in Wyoming… And Mike Huckabee is in Israel, while Rand Paul is in Haiti (to perform humanitarian eye surgeries).