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.
Two interviews, two different (and revealing) answers
On Sunday, NBC’s “Meet the Press” featured interviews from the only two women in the 2016 presidential field, and they gave two very different (and revealing) answers to the questions that have been dogging their campaigns. For Hillary Clinton, it was the controversy over her emails. When NBC’s Chuck Todd asked if she can reassure Democrats that no other shoe might drop in the controversy, Clinton replied, “Well, it is like a drip, drip, drip. And that's why I said, there's only so much that I can control. But what I have tried to do in explaining this is to provide more transparency and more information than absolutely that I'm aware of who's ever served in the government, and I'm happy to do that because I want these questions to be answered.” When you combine those words with husband Bill Clinton’s interview on CNN over the weekend -- “The other party doesn't want to run against her. And if they do, they'd like her as mangled up as possible… We're seeing history repeat itself [referencing Whitewater from the 1990s]” -- you almost get the sense the couple is essentially telling skittish Democrats this message: “We’ve seen this before and we’ll survive this, too. But let’s not be naïve -- more is likely to come out.” And there’s another message as well: Unlike a couple of months ago, we’re taking this very seriously.
Fiorina on the Planned Parenthood videos
“That scene absolutely does exist”: For Carly Fiorina, it was her claim in the Sept. 16 GOP debate: “As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” But Chuck told Fiorina that when news organizations, including NBC News, had examined the videos she was referring to, it was stock footage of a fetus on a table -- but with no links to Planned Parenthood. Yet Fiorina stood her ground. “That scene absolutely does exist. And that voice saying what I said they were saying, ‘We're going to keep it alive to harvest its brain’ exists as well.” When Chuck followed up that her description was, at best, a reenactment, Fiorina replied, “Do you think this is not happening? Does Hillary Clinton think this is not happening?... This is happening in America today. And taxpayers are paying for it. That is a fact. It is a reality. And no one can run away from it.” Fiorina’s decision to double or triple down on this will likely NOT hurt her in the short term, since her audience is GOP voters. But given that the videos are accessible to all, she will continue to get questions about them from the reporters following her. She has become an unlikely fighter for the anti-abortion movement -- a movement that sometimes believes the GOP takes them for granted. We say “unlikely” because it was only in 2010 that she said “Roe” was essentially “settled.”
The new NBC/WSJ poll on the GOP and Dem races
Clinton and Fiorina also are two of the storylines in our new national NBC/WSJ poll. “Donald Trump and Ben Carson are running neck and neck in the national Republican presidential horserace, while Carly Fiorina is now tied for third place with Marco Rubio… And on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has lost ground to Bernie Sanders — she leads him by just seven points with Joe Biden in the race, and 15 points without the vice president. That's down from Clinton's 34-point lead over Sanders in July and her whopping 60-point lead in June.”
- The numbers on the GOP side: Trump 21%, Carson 20%, Rubio 11%, Fiorina 11%, Bush 7%, Kasich 6%, Cruz 5%.
- The numbers on the Dem side: Clinton 42%, Sanders 35%, Biden 17%; without Biden -- Clinton 53%, Sanders 38%.
Just to be clear: This is NOT a fall for Trump in our poll, as some are trying to claim. He was at 19% in our July NBC/WSJ poll, and he’s at 21% percent (+2). Our screen of GOP primary voters has always been tighter than most other polls (it doesn’t include as many GOP-leaning independents, who often don’t participate in Republican primary contests). As for Clinton and the Dem race, our poll is just more evidence that the possibility of Biden hurt her A LOT more than it does Sanders.
Introducing MTP Daily at 5:00 pm ET on MSNBC
By the way, we’ll have much more on the NBC/WSJ poll and Part 2 of the Clinton interview in the debut edition of Chuck Todd’s new program, MTP Daily, which begins on MSNBC at 5:00 pm ET. The full NBC/WSJ poll comes out at 5:00 pm ET.
Is Marco Rubio John Edwards, or is he John Kerry?
That’s the question we have now seeing Rubio standing tied for third place (and in double digits!) in our NBC/WSJ poll. Is Rubio the attractive, young communicator who looks great on paper, but who seems built more to be the party’s VP nominee than the person on the top of the ticket (John Edwards in 2003)? Or is he the compromise choice in a crowded field that helps the party shore up a significant weakness -- which could allow him to run the table in Iowa and New Hampshire (John Kerry)? We know many folks have been searching for analogies for this year’s GOP primary. We can’t help but use the Democrats in 2004 as the potential model. Outsider surges out of nowhere (Dean) while a bunch of establishment types flounder (Gephardt, Kerry etc)… Eventually, the establishment strikes back and a Kerry benefits as the compromise candidate.
Make-or-break time for Jeb?
Don’t miss this Washington Post piece: “Jeb Bush is entering a critical phase of his Republican presidential campaign, with top donors warning that the former Florida governor needs to demonstrate growth in the polls over the next month or face serious defections among supporters. The warnings, expressed by numerous senior GOP fundraisers in recent days, come as Bush and an allied super PAC are in the early stages of an aggressive television ad campaign they say will help erase doubts about his viability.” Folks, this is clearly a warning shot to Team Bush: Fix things in a month -- or else!
Trump to unveil his tax plan
In other 2016 news today, Donald Trump will be unveiling his tax plan. On “60 Minutes” last night, Trump previewed portions of his tax plan, calling it “a substantial reduction for middle income people” that incentivizes corporations and economic growth, NBC’s Ali Vitali reports. When pressed who it would raise taxes on, he said “some very wealthy” despite CBS’ Scott Pelley reminding him that Republicans don’t raise taxes, to which he answered that he’s “not raising [them]…I’m a pretty good Republican…But I will tell you this, I have some differences. I don’t want certain people on Wall Street to get away paying no tax” He also said that a “large segment will have a zero rate” – the people in a low-income bracket, many who, Trump says, don’t pay taxes anyway. He also says he’ll cut corporate income taxes. Vitali adds that this tax plan will be released Monday with a presser at Trump Tower.
More NBC/WSJ poll: 72% of GOP voters dissatisfied with Boehner, McConnell
In a sign of just how quickly the news cycle moves these days, the big news from Friday -- John Boehner resigning his speakership -- seems so old, right? Our NBC/WSJ poll helps explain why Boehner decided to jump ship. “A whopping 72 percent of Republican primary voters said they are dissatisfied with House Speaker John Boehner's and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's ability to achieve GOP goals, according to results from a brand-new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. That includes 44 percent of GOP primary voters who said they are "very" dissatisfied with Boehner and McConnell, and 36 percent who want them immediately removed from their leadership positions.” Meanwhile, Boehner “slammed hard-line conservatives as ‘false prophets’ who are merely ‘spreading noise’ rather than trying to achieve anything tangible,” NBC’s Alex Jaffe recounts. “Speaking on CBS' ‘Face the Nation,’ the retiring Speaker pointed to the 2013 Affordable Care Act fight as an example of a tactic that ‘never had a chance’ of success." Um, then why did he try it?
On the race to replace Boehner
As for the race to replace Boehner, it appears that it’s Kevin McCarthy’s race to lose -- McCarthy is currently the No. 2 as House Majority Leader. Both Reps. Steve Scalise and Cathy McMorris Rodgers appear to be running for McCarthy’s job as majority leader. Remember, if Scalise (the majority whip) or Rodgers (the No. 4 in House leadership) loses, they get to keep their current post, so both essentially have a free shot. . Meanwhile, it’s interesting that Rep. Jeb Hensarling isn’t trying to make a run for speaker (or even Majority Leader). Is he the Texas Hamlet? Perhaps. But maybe his attitude to see what happens later this year, especially if McCarthy has to make decisions that could alienate House conservatives.
Obama’s big day at the UN
Last but not least, President Obama addresses the United Nations at 10:00 am ET, and he holds a bilateral with Russian President Putin at 5:05 pm ET. The topics of that meeting, of course, will be ISIS and Syria. And speaking of Syria, be sure to tune in to “MTP Daily” for what Clinton has to say about the administration’s current approach there.
On the trail
Donald Trump unveils his tax plan at 10:30 am ET in NYC… Ben Carson campaigns in North Carolina… Marco Rubio hits The Villages, FL… Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal are in Iowa… Lindsey Graham stumps in South Carolina… And Rick Santorum is in Ohio.
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