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First Read: Hillary Clinton Returns to Iowa

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
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/ Source: NBC News

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

For Hillary, it’s back to the scene of the crime -- Iowa

This afternoon, Hillary Clinton holds her first official campaign event in Iowa, where she finished third in 2008. As of one us writes, “Last time, Iowa was the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton... Now, she's returning to the state that plagued her nearly eight years ago to again make her case to Democrats and to the country that she's the candidate who can best represent the famously meticulous voters of Iowa.” Today’s event is a roundtable with educators and students at 2:15 pm ET in Monticello. Tomorrow’s is a small-business roundtable in Norwalk. Both are small towns, and you can tell a candidate who’s trying to win Iowa by how many times they visit small towns in the Hawkeye State vs. Des Moines. (Just ask Rick Santorum, the GOP’s 2012 winner.) The questions we have for Hillary: How comfortable will she be? How will she handled shouted questions from the press? And will she actually try and show something of where she stands on key issues?

Rubio turns a lemon into lemonade

Yes, Hillary Clinton campaign start stepped on Marco Rubio’s presidential announcement yesterday. But Rubio was able to use Clinton in the news to make a contrast with her -- and also, by extension, Jeb Bush. “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday,” he said of Clinton without mentioning her name. “But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.” More: “Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.” And: “At the turn of the 19th century, a generation of Americans harnessed the power of the Industrial Age and transformed this country into the leading economy in the world. And the 20th century became the American Century. Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century.” Whether it’s Rubio, Walker, Paul, or Cruz, the GOP candidates using this past-vs.-future punching bag against Hillary also will be hitting Jeb Bush, too. You get two hits for the price of one. As for Rubio’s speech, it was a solid performance. But you could also tell he was nervous. Then again, who wouldn’t be nervous?

Biography vs. policy: But here’s a question worth pondering when it comes to this generational fight

What matters more to the new generation of American voters -- biography or policy? After all, polls show that two of the biggest issues for millennials are combating climate change and supporting gay marriage, both of which Rubio opposes. Indeed, check out this age breakdown on supporting same-sex marriage from our March NBC/WSJ poll:

  • 18-34: 74% favor, 20% oppose
  • 34-49: 54% favor, 34% oppose
  • 50-64: 55% favor, 37% oppose
  • 65+: 45% favor, 46% oppose

So policy is a challenge here for Rubio. Remember, both JFK and Obama tapped into a new generation of American voters not just because they were young, but also because their policies spoke to this generation. On the flip side, Hillary’s challenge will be biography. As we wrote yesterday, since 1992 (with just one exception), the winner of the general election has always been the youngest candidate.

Rubio on “Today"

On the “Today” Show this morning, NBC’s Matt Lauer asked Rubio a few questions. Here were his answers:

  • On the argument that he has the same level of experience as Barack Obama did in 2007: Replied that, unlike Obama, he served as Florida House speaker and will have completed a full Senate term by the time of the next presidential inauguration
  • On his relationship with Jeb Bush: Said that they’re still friends. But: "I just honestly believe that at this moment in our history, we need to move in a new direction as a country."
  • On potentially being the nation’s first Latino president: Said it would be an honor and a sign of America’s diversity.

Christie’s Hail Mary on Social Security

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- remember him? -- is in New Hampshire today, where he’s throwing a long ball on reforming Social Security. Per his expected remarks, he will call for means-testing Social Security, including eliminating it for Americans who have $200,000 in other income. “Do we really believe that the wealthiest Americans need to take from younger, hard-working Americans to receive what, for most of them, is a modest monthly social security check? I propose a modest means test that only affects those with non-social security income of over $80,000 per year, and phases out social security payments entirely for those that have $200,000 a year of other income,” Christie is expected to say. He’ll also call for raising Social Security’s retirement age to 69, raising Medicare’s eligibility age to 67 by 2040; and eliminating the payroll tax for seniors who stay in the workforce past the age of 62. Here’s the thing about Social Security: It wins you lots of style points with conservative intellectuals. But it’s increasingly risky for Republicans to talk about this, given that their base is white seniors. Remember when Greg Walden, chair of the House GOP’s campaign arm, attacked Obama’s chained CPI proposal on Social Security? The reason: Changing/reforming/restructuring it is TOUGH politics.

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