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.
GOP is divided ahead of looming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare
If the P.R. battle over the 2013 government shutdown taught us anything, it’s that the party that’s united has the advantage, while the party that’s divided is in trouble. And with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule on the health-care law -- regarding whether or not subsides are legal for states operating on the federal exchange -- the Republican Party is divided on how to respond if the court nixes the subsidies in more than 30 states, affecting nearly 6.4 million Americans. On the one hand, you have folks like Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), up for re-election in 2016, who has proposed extending the subsidies until Aug. 2017 -- after his re-election contest -- in exchange for repealing the law’s individual mandate. On the other hand, you have folks like the Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint, who has called to “Let the subsidies die.” And some Republican members agree with him. (Nevertheless, the RNC is up with a web video arguing that Democrats are to blame for any adverse outcome, since they passed the law. Then again, it was Republicans who filed briefs supporting the lawsuit against the subsidies.) By comparison, Democrats appear to be united in how to respond. Earlier this month, President Obama said, “Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.” Indeed, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says that Democrats already have a one-sentence bill written. "It's one sentence and it's already been written," he said, per Reuters. "I hope we don't need it."
The real-life consequences if the subsidies expire
And it’s possible that this whole conversation becomes moot if the court upholds the subsidies -- a prospect that’s at least 50%-50%, if not greater. And as we’ve written before, the GOP might breathe a sigh of relief if the subsidies are upheld. But beyond the politics are the real-life consequences of the subsidies expiring for more than 6 million Americans. The New York Times: “Charles R. Drapeau, 63, and his wife, Diane, 62, of East Waterboro, Me., have insurance purchased through the federal exchange. Mr. Drapeau has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and takes a drug that costs more than $10,000 a month. The premium for the couple’s insurance is $1,600 a month. The subsidy is $755, and the amount the couple pays is $845. (Their annual income, about $61,000, is close to the maximum allowed for a couple receiving subsidies.) Insurance covers the cost of the pill after Mr. Drapeau meets his annual deductible of $4,000. ‘I am nervous about the Supreme Court decision, very nervous,’ he said. ‘If I don’t take that pill, the cancer will come back.’” Don’t miss Benjy Sarlin’s piece on how the Obamacare ruling could scramble 2016 politics.
NBC/WSJ poll: Views on Obamacare unchanged ahead of looming court decision
Before the Supreme Court ruling on health care, a new NBC/WSJ poll shows that views on the law remain essentially unchanged. Just 8% of Americans say the law is working well, while a plurality -- 40% -- believes it needs only minor modifications to improve it. Those numbers are identical to the results from an April 2014 NBC/WSJ poll on the same question. In the new poll, another 25% of Americans say the law needs a major overhaul -- down three points from April 2014. And an additional 25% believe it should be “totally eliminated” -- up four points from a year ago. (These mostly unchanged results stand in contrast to a recent CBS poll, which found the health law’s popularity increasing, though that’s a different question from what the NBC/WSJ poll asked.) Of course, the political parties are split when it comes to the health-care law: A combined 77% of Democrats say the law is working well or needs only minor modifications, while a combined 84% of Republicans believe it needs a major overhaul or should be totally eliminated.
NBC/WSJ poll: 57% want the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage
As for the other big Supreme Court ruling coming in the next few days -- on gay marriage -- the NBC/WSJ poll finds that nearly six-in-10 Americans (57%) want the court to rule that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. By contrast, 37% oppose such a ruling. This finding is essentially unchanged from an April 2015 NBC/WSJ poll, when the split was 58% favor/37% oppose. Once again, there's a clear difference by party in the current poll: 74% of Democrats and 62% of independents favor the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage, versus just 33% of Republicans.
A little perspective on today’s buzzy polls
There are a couple of buzzy polls worth noting. A national Fox poll shows Donald Trump in second place (behind Jeb Bush) at 11%. And a pair of Bloomberg polls of Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire finds Hillary Clinton still at 50% or above, but with Bernie Sanders picking up more support. But a little perspective on these surveys: One, as we saw in 2012, Republicans are going to get bounces after their announcements. But as our own NBC/WSJ poll showed, 66% of Republicans can’t see themselves supporting him. Yes, it’s more than likely Trump will make the first debate (if he submits all of his presidential paperwork!), but his upside is VERY limited. Two, Sanders is picking up more support. But Hillary Clinton’s fav/unfav in Iowa is 88%-10%, and it’s 86%-11% in New Hampshire. And in both states, 80% believe Hillary will be the party’s Dem nominee.
Bobby Jindal: “I’m running for president to do something”
Per NBC’s Alex Stambaugh, here were some of the notable points Bobby Jindal made in his presidential announcement yesterday. “I’m not running for president to be somebody, I’m running for president to do something,” he said. “I will do the things that you cannot do in Washington, I will say the things you cannot say.” More: “Hillary Clinton is always trying to divide us by ethnicity, by gender, by economic status. I don’t know about you, but for me I’m sick and tired of people dividing Americans.” And: “You’ve heard Jeb Bush saying that we have to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general election. We're going to help him do that. Let me translate that – I’m going to translate that political speak into plain English. What Jeb Bush is saying is that we have to hide our conservative ideals, but the truth is, if we go down that road again, we will lose again.”
Why three GOP governors running for president aren’t popular in their states -- and why one is
In the Washington Post, liberal writer Paul Waldman made a provocative observation: Three of the sitting Republican governors running for president (Jindal, Chris Christie, Scott Walker) all have poor approval ratings in their states. And one has an approval rating above 50% (John Kasich). Waldman’s take: It’s hard to directly appeal to today’s conservative primary voters (no Medicaid expansion, no raising taxes), but appeal to 50% or more of the voters in your state.
On the trail
Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum are in Iowa… Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio are in New Hampshire… And Bernie Sanders speaks on the estate tax in DC.