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First Read: Viewing Politics Through America's Starkest Divide

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.
Image: MainStreet
The Insurance Store, Inc. building is one of the few left on Main Street in downtown Baker, Montana, two hours southeast of Circle. At least a half dozen small towns hang like charms along the route of the line, but few stand to benefit as much as Baker-the would-be "on-ramp" for oil from the Bakken. Without the line, this building is likely to continue as a story of decline: built as a bank in 1910, its upstairs was converted to include apartments in the 1960s. That space is now used for storage.Jim Seida / NBC News

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.

Urban America vs. Rural America: Two different reactions to last week’s news

Maybe the best way to look at last week’s ground-shifting political news -- on gay marriage, health care, and trade -- is through the country’s oldest and starkest divide: Urban America vs. Rural America. Our colleague Dante Chinni has crunched the numbers: 62% of those living in urban areas wanted to see the U.S. Supreme Court legalize gay marriage, while a plurality of rural residents (47%) opposed it, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll. In Urban America, 57% believe the federal health-care law is working well or needs just minor modifications, versus 63% in Rural America who wanted it overhauled or totally eliminated. And 50% of rural residents think free trade has hurt the United States, compared with just 27% who believe that in urban areas. Bottom line: New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles were thrilled by last week’s news; Jamestown, NY; Litchfield, IL; and Redding, CA probably weren’t as much. Given this divide, we’re going to see a political backlash, especially on the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage and health-care rulings. And it’s going to play out inside the GOP since the Republican Party has largely become the party of rural America. Indeed, the same NBC/WSJ poll finds 55% of urban respondents identifying as Democrats, versus just 31% of rural respondents who are Dems.

Supreme Court today set to deliver last three decisions, and we’re watching the Arizona case

As NBC’s Pete Williams reminds us, the Supreme Court is set to deliver three more decisions on its final day of the current term. And this one could be another big political story: Can states try to end partisan gridlock by having independent commissions -- and not the legislatures -- draw the boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts? The state of Arizona is challenging an independent commission there, Williams says.

Greece is the word

It’s not going to be a good day for the stock market -- and reason is the situation in Greece. “The deepening Greek crisis hit global markets on Monday, as the country imposed capital controls ahead of a national referendum on creditors' bailout conditions,” CNBC writes. And the New York Times’ Neil Irwin argues that the next few days in Greece -- with a referendum taking place on July 5 -- will likely transform the country and Europe. “A ‘Yes’ vote means that Greece will continue the grinding era of austerity that has caused so much pain to its citizens over the last five years, in exchange for keeping the euro currency and the monetary stability it provides. A ‘No’ vote almost certainly means that the country will walk away from the euro and create its own currency (which will surely devalue sharply), bringing financial chaos in the near term but creating the possibility of a rebound in the medium term as the country becomes more competitive with its devalued currency.”

Not so “rico” anymore?

Greece isn’t the only place with serious financial problems. Just look a bit closer to home: “Puerto Rico’s governor, saying he needs to pull the island out of a ‘death spiral,’ has concluded that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts, an admission that will probably have wide-reaching financial repercussions,” the New York Times says. “The governor, Alejandro García Padilla, and senior members of his staff said in an interview last week that they would probably seek significant concessions from as many as all of the island’s creditors, which could include deferring some debt payments for as long as five years or extending the timetable for repayment.”

Final three GOP announcements are now set

Turning to the 2016 race, the last three Republican presidential announcements are set for the next month, and they’re all three sitting Republican governors. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces tomorrow in his home state. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is set to go the week of July 13. And last night, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt confirmed that Ohio Gov. John Kasich will be holding his announcement on July 21 at Ohio State. “The July launch gives Kasich a shot at raising his national profile enough to qualify for the first GOP debate, on Aug. 6 in his home state. But participation in the Cleveland debate will be based on national polling, and Kasich advisers admit that qualifying will be tough, even with his announcement bump,” Politico says.

Jeb’s past business deals get scrutiny

The Washington Post has a tough look at Jeb Bush’s past business deals and relationships. “[R]ecords, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.” It’s another reminder how many of Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses – the wealth, the Clinton Foundation donations – are potentially canceled out if Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee.

Pro-Jindal group up with ad buy in Iowa

The pro-Bobby Jindal Super PAC Believe Again tells NBC News that it’s up with a $500,000 advertising buy in Iowa (over two weeks) promoting Jindal’s candidacy. Here’s the TV ad. This very early buy is likely a consequence of the first GOP presidential debates being limited to the Top 10 Republicans in national polls. If you want to make the debate stage, you better start spending – now.

Rand Paul finally reacts to Supreme Court’s gay-marriage ruling

Rand Paul now has a habit of reacting VERY slowly to big news developments. Forty-eight hours after the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage ruling, he finally issued a response: Government should get out of the marriage business altogether.

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