First Read: Ted Cruz Makes His Move in Iowa

by Mark Murray , Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann /  / Updated 

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Cruz makes his move in Iowa

Just before the Thanksgiving pause in the 2016 presidential race, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Donald Trump (at 25%) and Ted Cruz (at 23%) at the top among likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers, per a brand-new Quinnipiac poll. They’re followed by Ben Carson (at 18%), Marco Rubio (13%), Rand Paul (5%), and Jeb Bush (at 4%). That’s a big jump for Cruz, who was at just 10% in last month’s Quinnipiac Iowa poll. And it’s a significant decline for Carson, who led that October Iowa poll at 28%. While it’s just one poll, it does give us a good indication of where things stand in the Republican race about two months out before the Iowa and New Hampshire contests: Trump is back in front; Cruz is gaining ground; Carson is losing ground; Rubio remains in double digits; and Bush is stuck in single digits. Gobble, gobble.

PHOTOS - On the Stump: Ted Cruz's Presidential Campaign

Rubio’s first broadcast TV ad on his father, the bartender

Meanwhile, NBC’s Hallie Jackson first reported on Marco Rubio’s newest TV ad -- the candidate’s first early-state broadcast ad in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. (The Rubio ad we reported on yesterday was a cable buy.) And this broadcast ad is a bio spot about Rubio’s father -- a bartender from Cuba. “That journey from behind that bar to this podium, that’s the essence of the American Dream,” Rubio says in the ad (it’s from his presidential announcement last spring).

PHOTOS - On the Stump: Marco's Presidential Campaign

Can a 501c4 “social welfare” group benefit a single presidential candidate?

Speaking of Rubio and TV ads, has a piece looking at Conservative Solutions Project, the 501c4 outside group that has aired nearly $8.5 million in TV ads before Rubio’s campaign started its own ads this week. And according to campaign-finance watchdogs, these Conservative Solutions Project ads appear to be breaking the law. Why? Because a tax-exempt 501c4 “social welfare” group isn’t supposed to benefit an individual presidential candidate. "I think they're breaking the law," Paul C. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center tells NBC News. Earlier this month, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, another campaign-finance watchdog, asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation into Conservative Solutions Project. "The publicly available facts indicate that Conservative Solutions Project is little more than a single-candidate 501(c)(4), with no other mission than to advance the presidential aspirations of Marco Rubio," the Campaign Legal Center said in its statement calling for an investigation.

Conservative Solutions Project: We’re “focused on issue education and helping the conservative movement”

Officials at Conservative Solutions Project deny that the organization is supporting Rubio's presidential candidacy. "Conservative Solutions Project, as a 501(c)(4), is not about any one specific elected official or candidate," spokesman Jeff Sadosky told NBC News. " It's focused on issue education and helping the conservative movement most effectively communicate with American families so that we win the battle of ideas and are able to enact conservative solutions to the problems they face." A spokesperson for Rubio's presidential campaign declined to comment. (Campaigns are barred from strategizing with 501c4s and super PACs.) Yet there are some clear ties between Conservative Solutions and efforts to benefit Rubio's presidential candidacy -- including 1) that Rubio is the only 2016er featured in the group’s TV ads, 2) that the group shares staff with the pro-Rubio Super PAC, and 3) that at least two advertising filings with the FCC appear to show Conservative Solutions Project’s advertising being on behalf of Rubio’s behalf.

Anti-Defamation League: “When this kind of rhetoric goes unchecked, it fuels anti-Islamic behavior”

Be sure not to miss Benjy Sarlin’s MSNBC article on Trump’s anti-Muslim comments regarding his made-up claim that Muslim Americans in New Jersey cheered the falling of the World Trade Center towers. From the story: “The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, issued a statement saying it was ‘dismayed and concerned by presidential candidates’ incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric.’ Besides Trump’s flirtation with a Muslim database, the ADL noted Cruz’s call to take in only Christian Syrian refugees and Carson’s use of a metaphor likening concerns over refugees to a ‘rabid dog.’ Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, told MSNBC he had been encouraged to see Republicans condemning Trump’s comments on Muslims. But he said the trend worried him. ‘When this kind of rhetoric goes unchecked it fuels anti-Islamic behavior and I don’t say that in some abstract way,’ Greenblatt said.”

Obama and Hollande at the White House

Beyond the 2016 campaign trail, here is the biggest news of the day within the United States: President Obama meets with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the Paris terrorist attacks. The two men hold a joint news conference at 11:30 am ET.

Turkey shoots down Russian jet

And here is the biggest news of the day OUTSIDE the U.S.: “Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border after it violated Turkish airspace on Tuesday, officials said, per “The Russian aircraft was warned 10 times in five minutes before being shot down, according to the Turkish air force. It was the first time a NATO member's military has downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s, according to Reuters.” And so you say you want a no-fly zone in Syria…

On the trail

Hillary Clinton stumps in Colorado, making stops in Boulder and Denver… Donald Trump holds a rally in South Carolina… Rubio continues his swing through Iowa… Jeb Bush is in South Carolina… And Lindsey Graham campaigns in New Hampshire.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is our last morning column of the week. We’ll see you bright and early next Monday morning. Have a happy (and safe) Thanksgiving.

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