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.
A week of overheated -- if not shameful -- rhetoric on the 2016 campaign trail
A week has now passed since the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, and let’s just say that the week hasn’t brought out the best in the 2016 field when it comes to rhetoric. Especially on the Republican side. Consider:
- Donald Trump: "I would certainly implement [a database system tracking Muslims]. Absolutely,” he said in Iowa yesterday, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases," he added. "We should have a lot of systems."
- Ben Carson: “Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Thursday suggested that concerns about Syrian refugees in the United States are akin to a parent's concerns about ‘mad dogs.’ ‘If there's a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you're probably going to put your children out of the way.’”
- Ted Cruz: "If you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey, you can do it in foreign countries, but I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face," he said, per NBC’s Frank Thorp.
- Marco Rubio: “[Not saying ‘radical Islam’] would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves. We are at war with radical Islam… This is a clash of civilizations.”
- Jeb Bush: “I do think we have a responsibility to help with refugees after proper screening,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “And I think our focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore.”
- John Kasich: “As part of a broad national security plan to defeat ISIS, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich proposed creating a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world,” NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reported.
And it hasn’t just been GOP presidential rhetoric: Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the Charlie Hedbo attackers had a “rationale.” And as we wrote earlier this week, President Obama was more willing -- in two press conferences after the Paris attacks -- to attack Republicans than comfort jittery Americans. But for the candidates running for office, times of tragedy and fear are good test runs to see how they might handle the job. And it’s clear that many of them failed. Big time.
Is anyone in the GOP going to call out Trump’s rhetoric toward Muslims?
Jeb Bush was the first to do so: And no one is testing the bounds of political decency right now more than Donald Trump. His rhetoric on the campaign trail this week has bordered on being outrageous, shameful, and scary -- whether it was his Muslim-database-tracking line, not ruling out that Muslims might have to carry a form of special identification, or saying that the United States should close down some American mosques. This is a big gut check time for the Republican Party: Do we see any major GOP figures or presidential candidates criticize him? How the party responds to its current presidential frontrunner will be telling. As it turns out, Jeb Bush was the first to criticize Trump, per NBC’s Hallie Jackson. "You talk about internment, you talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people - that's just wrong. I don't care about campaigns," Bush said on CNBC this morning. In the past, we’ve seen Trump benefit, not get punished, for over-the-top rhetoric. It’s not surprising that Bush is the first to hit Trump, but will he be alone among the first or second tier candidates? Can’t help but wonder if some campaigns are hesitant to attack Trump now for fear that it strengthens him.
The polling situation a week after the Paris attacks: Trump is up, Carson is down
Speaking of Trump being the GOP frontrunner, a brand-new NBC/SurveyMonkey online poll is the latest to show Trump leading the Republican field after the Paris attacks. And it finds that Carson has taken a bit of a hit. The numbers: Trump 28%, Carson 18% (down eight points since the last SurveyMonkey poll), Cruz 18%, Rubio 11%, and Bush 4%. Meanwhile, in the Democratic race, it’s Hillary Clinton 49%, Bernie Sanders 33%, and Martin O’Malley 1%, per the NBC/SurveyMonkey online poll. A new Bloomberg poll has these national numbers on the Dem race: Clinton 55%, Sanders 30%, O’Malley 3%.
Kasich vs. Trump
The dispatch from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell: “Donald Trump and John Kasich descended into an all-out Twitter war Thursday after it emerged that a super PAC backing the Ohio governor was launching a $2.5-million advertising blitz aimed at knocking the tycoon off his place at the top of the polls. Pro-Kasich New Day for America PAC is planning to air radio, TV, mail and online ads in New Hampshire, the early-voting state that's make or break for Kasich and other establishment contenders — and where Trump has a wide lead. The line of attack is one that hasn't yet been tried on Trump: Arguing he's inexperienced and unsuited for the demands of the White House. According to Politico, the group's first ad invokes the Paris attacks and ties Trump to President Obama, declaring, "On-the-job training for president does not work." Is Kasich here playing Dick Gephardt to Trump’s Howard Dean? It perhaps marks a new phase in the campaign.
Watching Hillary’s general-election numbers
The most recent NBC/WSJ poll had Hillary Clinton leading or tied vs. the GOP field, and McClatchy/Marist also had her ahead. But do note the Marquette Law poll -- the gold standard in Wisconsin -- showed her trailing all of the GOP candidates (except for Trump) in that battleground state, while it had Bernie Sanders ahead of all of them. (It also showed Russ Feingold beating Ron Johnson by 11 points.) Yes, it’s early. But with Hillary pulling away in the Dem race, her general numbers become more and more important to watch.
On “Meet” this Sunday -- Panetta, Kasich
NBC’s “Meet the Press” this Sunday will have former Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, as well as GOP presidential candidate John Kasich.
On the trail
Hillary Clinton stumps in Tennessee… Donald Trump gives a speech in Spartanburg, SC at noon ET… Ben Carson hits both New Hampshire (where he files his paperwork) and Iowa (holding a rally in Spencer, IA)… Also in Iowa for tonight’s Family Leader presidential forum: Carson, Cruz, Fiorina, Rubio, Paul, Huckabee, Santorum… And Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Lindsey Graham are all in New Hampshire.
Click here to sign up for First Read emails. Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone. Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @carrienbcnews