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First Read: Welcome to the Wild, Wild West of Super PACs

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: Ted Cruz
Republican Presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a campaign event at Park Place Event Centre, Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Waterloo Courier, Matthew Putney)Matthew Putney / AP
/ Source: 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

Welcome to The Wild, Wild West of Super PACs

In the last presidential election four years ago, every CANDIDATE, it seemed, had a Super PAC helping to run expensive TV ads. But now we’ve entered a new Super PAC Era, where big-time DONOR apparently could have his or her own Super PAC. It raised our eyebrows when Bloomberg reported yesterday that Super PACs supporting Ted Cruz were preparing to contribute $31 million by the end of the week. And this follow-up story by Bloomberg is even more eyebrow-raising: The four pro-Cruz Super PACs will be controlled by four different donor families -- one of whom is New York mega-donor Robert Mercer’s family. “Each of the [Cruz] super-PACs—Keep the Promise and three ‘sub-super-PACs’ dubbed Keep the Promise I, Keep the Promise II and Keep the Promise III—will be controlled by a different donor family, and will likely develop different specialities, such as data mining, television advertising and polling, the strategist said.” Chew on this: The $31 million that the different pro-Cruz Super PACs will bring in could be FIVE times more than whatever Cruz raises by the end of June. So you’re entering a new world where the actual campaign will pay for staff and travel, and the Super PACs -- controlled by different families -- will pay for everything else. This is uncharted territory.

The upside and downside to this new Super PAC Era

The upside to all of this -- especially for a candidate like Cruz -- is that the Super PACs will give you all the resources you need to compete. The downside is a lack of control. And as we found out last cycle, when a Super PAC messes up (runs a controversial ad, a donor says something controversial), the actual candidate is going to have to own it. And then there’s the corruption angle. Don’t forget: One of the central charges against Sen. Bob Menendez is that his donor friend contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Democratic Super PAC to benefit Menendez’s re-election, while Menendez gave favors in return to his donor friend. So with every big-time donor hypothetically running their own Super PACs to benefit candidates, what are they going to get in return?

There are plenty of conservative Latinos; they’re just not Republicans

In the new MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll, which contained a Latino oversample, Democrats enjoy a 31-point advantage in party ID among Latinos, 47%-16%, with 36% identifying themselves as independents. That’s compared with Democrats having 7-point advantage among all voters in the poll. But get this: Political ideology among Latinos is almost identical to all voters.

  • Latinos: 27% liberal, 39% moderate, 35% conservative
  • All voters: 29% liberal, 35% moderate, 36% conservative

In other words, there are PLENTY of conservative Latinos. They’re just not willing to identify themselves as Republicans. Here’s another way to look at this, according to the Marist pollsters who conducted the poll:

  • Among all national adults who identify themselves as conservative: 50% are Republicans, 31% are independent, and 17% are Democrats
  • Among Latinos who identify themselves as conservative: just 23% are Republicans, 49% are independent, and 26% are Democrats.

Bottom line: This is a brand problem for Republicans. This is why so many Republicans believe that the minute you get immigration out of the way, the GOP might be able to win over more Latinos. The problem: Immigration isn’t going away.

Exhibit A why the Iran deal is hardly a done deal

Folks, here is the reason why the Iran framework deal that was reached last week is the final-final deal: “Iran's top leader on Thursday stopped short of giving his endorsement to the framework nuclear deal struck last week between Teheran and world powers, while the country's president warned separately that Tehran's approval of a final deal depends on the immediate lifting of all sanctions related to its controversial nuclear program,” the AP reports. “The comments, taken together, could represent simply a tough bargaining stance by the Islamic Republic ahead of a final deal, which is expected by June 30. But President Hassan Rouhani's demand of an immediate full sanctions relief is likely to complicate efforts to reach a final deal.” Remember, there are two good outcomes for Iran in all of this: 1) a deal that lifts their sanctions, or 2) a deal that falls apart and the world blames the U.S. for it.

Some context on Rouhani’s comments, per NBC’s Andrea Mitchell

“Rouhani's comments are not substantively different from what Foreign Minister Zarif said throughout the Lausanne talks -- immediate end to sanctions. That said, this is likely for domestic consumption on Iran's Nuclear Day. All the reporting out of Tehran has been that the hardliners are following the lead of the Supreme Leader, who signed off on the terms of the negotiations. There is also a lot of diplomatic wiggle room, because there are multiple layers of sanctions: UN, EU, and several types of U.S. sanctions. The timing to cancel or suspend sanctions is one of the key issues to be negotiated between now and June 30th, and Rouhani is also likely "working the refs" before the talks resume.”

Why is Congress more concerned about a not-yet finalized nuclear deal with Iran than with an actual war against ISIS?

That’s the provocative question that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) is asking. “Congress should be spending its time debating an [authorization for military force],” Murphy told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. “We have a war going on in Iraq and Syria that is unauthorized and extra-Constitutional. We should be voting on an AUMF, which is required by the Constitution, rather than debating an Iran nuclear deal which hasn’t even been signed.” More Murphy: “I’m first in line to reassert the power of Congress to stand next to the executive on foreign policy. We have a Constitutional obligation to approve or disapprove of the war against ISIS. We do not have a Constitutional obligation to approve or disapprove an executive agreement with Iran.”

Three public-policy questions raised by the shooting in South Carolina

The police shooting in South Carolina has been the dominant story over the past two days. And while it’s not a political story – in fact, it’s the rare story that has united both Democrats and Republicans outraged by the video of a policeman shooting an unarmed black man in the back eight times – it does raise some public-policy questions:

  • Where do you get the money to install police cameras for every officer?
  • How do you implement these cameras?
  • And are there any 4th Amendment issues, where the cameras could aid illegal searches?

Indictments coming in the Bridge-gate scandal?

If you were wondering, “What happened to Chris Christie in the 2016 conversation?” this story might answer your question: “The federal investigation into the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge appears to be coming to a head, with an announcement of indictments as early as next week,” the New York Times reports.

On the trail

Rand Paul holds a rally in Mt. Pleasant, SC at noon ET, while Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum participate in “Homeschool Day at the Iowa Capitol” in Des Moines at 3:00 pm.

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