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First Read: The Joe Biden Honeymoon

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.
Image: Vice President Joe Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a memorial service to honor those killed In Chattanooga shooting at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's McKenzie Arena on August 15, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Jason Davis / Getty Images

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.

Here’s your Biden honeymoon

Maybe the biggest news from the newest batch of swing-state Quinnipiac polls (of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania) is the political honeymoon that Biden is experiencing as he mulls a presidential run. His fav/unfav numbers among Democrats are slightly better than Hillary’s in these three states:

  • Florida: Biden 80%-10%, Hillary 80%-15%
  • Ohio: Biden 79%-10%, Hillary 77%-11%
  • Pennsylvania: Biden: 87%-5%, Hillary 81%-11%

And Biden fares as well (or better) in general-election matchups against Jeb Bush:

  • Florida: Jeb 49%, Hillary 38%; Jeb 51%, Biden 38%
  • Ohio: Hillary 41%, Jeb 39%; Biden 42%, Jeb 39%
  • Pennsylvania: Jeb 43%, Hillary 40%; Jeb 43%, Biden 42%.

Yes, Hillary Clinton continues to lead in the Democratic horserace in these three states. And, yes, these Biden-vs-Hillary numbers are almost identical. Still, if these Quinnipiac polls are just more than a blip, they will fuel this Biden chatter even more. And look here: Obama’s top Florida strategist in 2008 and 2012 is joining the Draft Biden movement.

A tale of two VERY different New Hampshire town halls

The New York Times puts it well: “At a serious and sober town hall meeting here Wednesday night, Jeb Bush dropped statistics like New Year’s Eve confetti… But the real party, complete with a blaring Aerosmith soundtrack for fans while they waited, was just a short drive to the east, where Donald J. Trump was speaking at a school auditorium in Derry. He never saw Mr. Bush or his audience. But he said he could channel how they were probably feeling. ‘You know what’s happening to Jeb’s crowd right down the street?’ he asked his overflowing crowd. ‘They’re sleeping.’” Ouch. Jeb fired back at Trump at his own town hall. "Mr. Trump doesn't have a proven conservative record," Bush said, per NBC’s Jordan Frasier. "He was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican.” It will be interesting to see if Bush continues -- and even strengthens -- that line of attack. As of now, Trump has pinpointed a weakness of Bush’s in the GOP race: He’s too passive.

Jeb Bush refers to children of undocumented children as “anchor babies”

Want another example of how Trump is driving the immigration debate within the GOP field? Look no further than what Jeb Bush -- Mr. Comprehensive Immigration Reform who’s married to a Latina -- told conservative radio host Bill Bennett yesterday: “If there’s abuse, if people are bringing — pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement,” he said, per Politico. That’s [the] legitimate side of this. Better enforcement so that you don’t have these, you know, ‘anchor babies’, as they’re described, coming into the country.” Hillary Clinton shot back on Twitter, “They’re called babies.” The Clinton campaign also has produced a video on Jeb’s “anchor babies” remark. Bottom line: Jeb Bush is beginning to make the same mistake he criticized Mitt Romney for on immigration back in 2012. Bush is finding out that it isn't as easy keeping an eye on the general as he thought it would be when it comes to primary rhetoric. We can only imagine what Romney and Stuart Stevens are thinking today after Jeb’s "anchor babies" remark.

Why this birthright citizenship story is awkward for the GOP

Neither of Rubio’s parents was a U.S. citizen when he was born in 1971: This whole birthright citizenship/”anchor baby” debate is awkward on the GOP side -- because of this one fact: Neither of Marco Rubio’s parents was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth in 1971. “Mario and Oriales Rubio were economic migrants who came to this country in 1956 with little education and little or no English, making it unclear whether either would have had the technical skills or expertise Rubio says the immigration system should reward,” National Journal writes. Neither of his parents was a citizen at the time of Rubio's birth in 1971 in Miami. They did not become naturalized until 1975.” The Rubio campaign responds to First Read that Rubio has rejected repealing the 14th amendment, and that Rubio’s parents didn’t come into the U.S. just to have Marco Rubio become a U.S. citizen. “They lived here for over a decade before they had Marco,” spokesman Alex Conant emails.

Carson suggests he’s open to using drone strikes to police the border

Here’s another example of how Trump is influencing the immigration debate: Ben Carson says he’s open to using drone strikes to police the U.S. border. "You look at some of these caves and things out there one drone strike, boom, and they're gone," Carson told reporters near the border Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate KPHO, CNN writes.

Rubio addresses Detroit Economic Club

At 12:45 pm ET, Marco Rubio will address the Detroit Economic Club. Some excerpts of his remarks: “Hillary Clinton believes the way to win the race for the future is to drive in reverse – to revert back to more regulations, higher taxes, and bigger government. I believe the way forward is to embrace the future and modernize our government. I believe if we once again make America the best place in the world to create jobs, and empower every American to fill those jobs, then our generation will embrace The New American Economy and lay the foundation for A New American Century.” More: “As president, I will begin by fundamentally overhauling our tax code to make it pro-growth and pro-family, because currently it’s neither.”

A tough day for the White House on the Iran deal

Yesterday was a tough day for the Obama White House when it comes to the Iran deal. Here’s the dispatch from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: Iran will inspect itself at its most sensitive known military complex to clear up suspicions of past military activity, NBC News has confirmed. Iran is required to ‘close the file’ on past military dimensions of its nuclear program before it can get sanctions relief and proceed with the long-term nuclear deal negotiated in Vienna. But, Wednesday night, two senior U.S. officials told NBC News that the unusual arrangement between the IAEA and Tehran relates only to past military activity and that UN inspectors, including IAEA Director Yukiya Amano, would be on site to supervise the Iranians at every step of the way.” The good news for Team Obama is that the math is still on its side: According to the tally kept by NBC’s Frank Thorp, 25 Senate Democrats are in favor of the Iran deal – which means the White House needs only nine more to thwart a veto override.

On the trail

Jeb Bush remains in New Hampshire, holding another town hall there this morning… Ted Cruz gives a speech in Wyoming… Carly Fiorina stumps in the Granite State… Bobby Jindal is in South Carolina… Martin O’Malley campaigns in California… Marco Rubio delivers a speech to the Detroit Economic Club… Rick Santorum gives an immigration-policy address in DC… And Scott Walker campaigns in New Hampshire.

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