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First Read: A One-Two Punch of Tough News for Hillary Clinton

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.

'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.

A Double-Whammy for Clinton, Part One:

After months of resistance, Hillary Clinton’s campaign says that the former secretary of state will turn over to the Justice Department her private server and a thumb drive containing copies of her emails. (And that news came on the same day that we learned that two of the emails that the inspector general for the intelligence community reviewed contained “top secret” information, the highest classification of government intelligence.) This is exactly the scenario that many people assumed would play out beginning six months ago – that Clinton would resist and resist and resist and then relieve the pressure when it became absolutely necessary. The big problem for her camp is that now, instead of looking proactive, Clinton looks like she’s been dragged into turning these materials over. Team Clinton argues, by the way, that the “top secret” designation can be attributed to a bureaucratic fight between the State Department and the intelligence community about how information should be categorized. (The State Department says that it is still assessing the information.) The bottom line: We know we sound like a broken record in saying that this issue isn’t going away for Clinton, but these fights over potentially classified materials guarantees a continued drip-drip-drip.

And Part Two: A new poll shows Bernie Sanders ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire

And here’s Part Two of the double-whammy for Clinton the day after this new flurry of email stories: A fresh poll from Franklin Pierce University and the Boston Herald shows Sanders leading Clinton 44 percent to 37 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. And/but: While Democratic voters like Sanders, they still view Clinton as the likely nominee, with 65 percent saying that she’ll emerge as the general election candidate, compared to just 11 percent who say Sanders will win the nomination. That second set of numbers raises a really interesting set of questions about Sanders backers: If they’re largely convinced that their guy won’t be the ultimate winner, does that mean that New Hampshire Democrats KNOW that this is a protest vote – but don’t care? In order to beat this Sanders surge back, Hillary Clinton has to figure out how to message that there are major consequences to her losing – and make voters believe it.

Trump waffles on releasing policy positions?

There are signs that Donald Trump is trying to mount something that looks a little bit more like a frontrunner’s presidential campaign – he’s staffing up, he sent out his first fundraising appeal, and he’s indicated that some policy proposals should be forthcoming. (Last night, that came in the form of this statement: “I think you’re going to see lots of plans.”) But then there’s this: He told a New York Times reporter after his press conference yesterday that “When you’re dealing, and that’s what I am, I’m a dealer, you don’t go in with plans. You go in with a certain flexibility. And you sort of wheel and deal.” How long are those kinds of statements tenable before Trump fans say: “Okay. Tell us how.”

This Koch’s for you

Presidential campaign season is upon us, sure, but here’s a reminder of the hard-fought downballot contests that are a-comin too – and the impact they can have on 2016 messaging.Senate Majority PAC is up with its first ad of the cycle, targeting New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. The broadcast ad, which runs today through August 21, links Ayotte to the Koch brothers. “With the Koch Brothers and Kelly Ayotte busy helping each other, who’s helping New Hampshire families get ahead?” a narrator says. A source tracking ads says it’s a $250,000 buy. Plenty of presidential candidates with big footprints in New Hampshire are vying for a boost from the Kochs; ads like this ensure that the Koch name – and the implication of money-in-politics that it brings – remains in the bloodstream in the Granite State.

Larry Lessig explores a bid

Speaking of money-in-politics,Larry Lessig is exploring a long-shot presidential bid focused on campaign finance reform, pushing a strong narrative that “the system is rigged.” Sure, it’s a long-shot, but we don’t see this as an insignificant development. Campaign finance reform really does seem to gaining traction; you’ve got both folks on the left (Lessig and Sanders) and on the right (Donald Trump) bringing up this issue, and seemingly getting rewarded for it. And New Hampshire is the one state where this might resonate the most.

Dispatches from the trail

NBC’s Jordan Frasier reports on Jeb Bush’s attacks on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy positions last night.NBC’s Monica Alba notes that Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists after they were sent to an overflow room at her Keene, NH event yesterday – and that the group plans to release video of their talk with her. And NBC’s KailaniKoenig notes that influential New Hampshire Republican Tom Rath with endorse John Kasich for president, just as the Ohio governor is experiencing a surge in the Granite State.

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