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First Read: A Third Dose of Cold Water from Joe Biden

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.

For a third time, Biden throws cold water on a 2016 bid

Vice President Joe Biden’s interview last night with Stephen Colbert was honest, heartfelt, and so emotional. It also was the third time in the last three weeks that Biden told an audience he probably doesn’t have the heart for a presidential run:

  • Aug. 26: He told DNC members on a conference call about Iran that his heart and soul “are pretty well banged up.”
  • Sept. 3: At a synagogue in Atlanta, Biden said, "I'll be straightforward with you: The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run.”
  • Sept. 10: And last night on Stephen Colbert’s new show, Biden said this: “I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless: No. 1, they know exactly why they would want to be president and No. 2, they can look folks out there and say I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this.” He added, “And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there. It’s a um— I’m being completely honest. So nobody has a right in my view to seek that office unless they’re willing to give it 110% of who they are. And I am — as I said I’m optimistic, I’m positive about where we’re going — but I find my self — you understand it — sometimes it just overwhelms you.”

How many more ways does he have to say he doesn’t have the stomach to join this campaign?

There is no doubt that Biden has taken steps to consider jumping in -- the meetings with Elizabeth Warren and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, the Labor Day event in Pittsburgh, pow-wows with top strategists (which are happening with some frequency). But here is the fundamental question: Can someone who wears his heart his sleeve campaign that way? Biden clearly is signaling he is NOT comfortable being a candidate who is being driven more by emotion. That said, the worse Clinton’s poll numbers get (and the better Biden’s numbers get at least in general election matchups), the more pressure Biden may actually be feeling. But then there’s the other consideration: The clock is ticking on being able to run a credible campaign for a sitting vice president.

Question for the House GOP rebels

What is their plan to defeat Obama? Yesterday, we wrote about the coming GOP chaos on Capitol Hill -- and about how Speaker John Boehner’s job is more unsecure than ever before. The reason: A band of House conservatives don’t believe Boehner and House leaders are doing everything they can to beat President Obama. But here is a question to ask that same band of House conservatives: What is their strategy? How do they stop the Iran deal when most (but not all) of the Democratic Party is behind Obama and when the rules of the game are that the president needs just one-third of Congress to override a veto? What is their strategy on Planned Parenthood and abortion when the GOP doesn’t control the White House -- and so either need the president’s signature or a supermajority to override his veto? Boehner’s problem, however, is that apparently there are a growing number of conservatives who are willing to simply see what happens when they start the fire. Careful what you wish for…

Walker falls from 1st to 10th in Iowa

That’s at least according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, which finds Donald Trump and Ben Carson leading the pack in the Hawkeye State -- but Scott Walker dropping to 10th. It’s ok to audibly gasp or say “wow” when you ponder the Walker fall. Here are the numbers:

  1. Trump 27%
  2. Carson 21%
  3. Cruz 9%
  4. Bush 6%
  5. Fiorina 5%
  6. Kasich 5%
  7. Rubio 5%
  8. Huckabee 4%
  9. Paul 4%
  1. Walker 3%.

How the national polls look like the Iowa/New Hampshire polls. And vice-versa

When you look at today’s Quinnipiac poll as well as the national CNN one released last night -- showing Hillary Clinton’s national lead down to 10 points -- it’s striking how similar the Iowa and New Hampshire polls look to the national polls. (The one exception is John Kasich in New Hampshire, where he has popped in the state but not as much in national polls.) Are the national polls looking like Iowa/New Hampshire? Or are Iowa/New Hampshire looking like the nation? It’s a fascinating question to ponder, especially in the days when there is so much political media in DC and NYC and not as much in the states.

CNN to have 11 on debate stage next week

Last night, CNN announced the GOP candidates who will be on its main debate stage next Wednesday: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie -- AND Carly Fiorina. Of course, Fiorina makes this main debate stage, because CNN changed its rules to reflect polling after the first GOP debate. The Republicans who will make the earlier “kiddie table” debate: Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham. The one candidate who made the first junior debate but didn’t get invited to this one: Jim Gilmore.

Hillary Clinton and ideological whiplash

Given her other problems right now (the email story, sinking poll numbers), why on earth did Hillary say this in Ohio yesterday? "You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center," she said. “I plead guilty.” Now she went on to add, per NBC's Alex Stambaugh: “I think sometimes it's important when you’re in the elected arena you try to figure out how do you bring people together to get something done instead of just standing on the opposite sides yelling at each other.” But that certainly looks like a message for a year from now -- not one heading into the Democratic primary season, no? And it only reinforces the narrative that Clinton doesn’t have an ideological core that she shifts with the prevailing winds. Of course, most successful politicians shift… the successful ones shift without it getting noticed.

On “Meet” this Sunday

Chuck Todd’s guests include Bernie Sanders and Chris Christie. Also on tap: a debate over DC’s GOP leadership team with GOP Rep. Tom Cole and former SC Sen. Jim DeMint.

On the trail

Scott Walker and Rand Paul campaign in Iowa… Ben Carson is in Missouri, where he attends a roundtable discussion on Ferguson before speaking at the Eagle Forum in St. Louis… Jeb Bush stumps in New Hampshire… Carly Fiorina is in Arizona… Rick Santorum visits Tennessee… And Bernie Sanders raises money in Georgia.

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