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 months out until Iowa
After the Thanksgiving holiday and a relatively quiet week last week on the campaign trail, here is the reality -- we are now just over 60 days until the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Here’s where your GOP race stands with two months to go: Trump (after the Paris terrorist attacks) is leading in almost every poll; Ted Cruz is rising; Ben Carson is dropping; Marco Rubio remains in double digits; and Jeb Bush is stuck in the single digits. How strong is Trump? That could very well be the most important question over the next two months. And here’s where your Democratic race stands: Hillary Clinton is comfortably ahead of Bernie Sanders in the national polls, but the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire (in particular) are much closer given their white electorates and the fact that Sanders hails from the state right next door to New Hampshire. Oh, and a reminder: While we’re 63 days away until the Iowa caucuses, it’s really more like 45 days -- due to Christmas and New Year’s. After the last two presidential cycles starting Iowa right after New Year’s, you can bet on the political world taking those holidays off.
All eyes on the climate talks in Paris
But today’s biggest political story isn’t playing out on the 2016 campaign trail; it’s taking place in Paris. “Some 150 world leaders including President Barack Obama joined U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday in kicking off two weeks of high-stakes climate talks near Paris. Environmental activists hope that the images from the United Nations conference will send a powerful message of unity on the issue of global warming,” NBC’s Rachel Witkin and Halimah Abdullah write. The New York Times adds that there’s a reason for optimism in the climate talks. “The biggest [difference] is the breakthrough agreement between the United States and China. Last year the world’s two largest carbon polluters and historically the biggest obstacles to a deal announced plans to jointly enact emissions reduction policies.” But the Times notes that any agreement won’t be in the form of a treaty. “Traditionally, negotiators have sought to forge a legally binding treaty that needed ratification by the governments of the participating countries to have force. There is no way to get that in this case, because of the United States. A treaty would be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill without the required two-thirds majority vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. So the voluntary plans are taking the place of mandatory, top-down targets — or what one negotiator called ‘legal jujitsu’ that avoids the legal definition of a treaty.” While the climate talks are a big legacy play for President Obama, the beginning has been overshadowed by remembrances of the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris.
Domestic (not international) terrorism in Colorado
It was jarring that after a heightened security presence within the United States in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, it was domestic -- not international -- terrorism that was responsible for the most violent event over the Thanksgiving holiday. NBC News: “The day after a gunman killed three people and shot nine others at a Colorado Planned Parenthood office, officials tell NBC News a motive remains unclear, but say the suspect talked about politics and abortion. Robert Lewis Dear, a North Carolina native who was living in a trailer in Colorado, made statements to police Friday at the scene of the Colorado Springs clinic and in interviews that law enforcement sources described as rantings. In one statement, made after the suspect was taken in for questioning, Dear said ‘no more baby parts’ in reference to Planned Parenthood, two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case told NBC News.” On “Meet the Press” yesterday, conservative and liberal panelists agreed that events like the Colorado shootings should be called acts of domestic terrorism.
GOP’s slow reaction to the Colorado shootings
It also was striking how slow the GOP 2016 reaction was to the Colorado shootings. Before Sunday, NBC News found that Ted Cruz was the only Republican presidential candidate to weigh in on the shootings. Then on Sunday, the Republicans commented after being asked about the shootings on the Sunday shows. “I think it's terrible. I mean, terrible. It's more of the same. And I think it's a terrible thing. And he’s a maniac! He's a maniac,” Donald Trump said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. Ben Carson added, “I think any hateful rhetoric directed at anyone from any source is too much. It's something that we need to get away from.”
Christie gets a lifeline with Union Leader endorsement
The other notable development in the 2016 race was Chris Christie getting the endorsement from the conservative-leaning New Hampshire Union Leader, NBC’s Kailani Koenig reported. Bottom line: This is a lifeline for Christie, who now has a survival path at least until the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary. And note that the Union Leader says the paper will try to help Christie and take down Trump. “Christie is the guy who can take the fight to Trump, Hillary, ISIS,” publisher Joe McQuaid said on “Meet the Press.”
Booing the fact-checkers
How low trust in media is shaping the 2016 race: Finally, as one of us writes, “It hasn't exactly been a banner year for truth-telling in the 2016 election, with flubs, rumors, misleading stats and flat-out falsehoods uttered on the campaign trail and ping-ponged around the social media universe with regularity. But in many cases, furious fact-checking from the mainstream media has not only failed to prompt solemn apologies from the worst offenders — it's made them stronger.”
On the trail
Donald Trump holds a rally in Macon, GA at 7:30 pm ET… Hillary Clinton, in DC, gives a speech to the Atlantic Council on “women in leadership” and then attends an event where female Dem senators endorse her… Marco Rubio campaigns in New Hampshire… Ted Cruz is in Iowa… Jeb Bush and John Kasich are also in the Hawkeye State… Carly Fiorina stumps in South Carolina… And Chris Christie campaigns in New Hampshire.
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