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.
The most important person to watch at Thursday’s debate? Try Jeb Bush
As the political world remains transfixed on Donald Trump, here’s maybe your most important storyline heading into tomorrow’s first GOP debate: No one has more riding on a solid performance than Jeb Bush does. After all, Bush has had a rough last week. There was his “I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues” line, which Hillary Clinton eagerly pounced on. There was the GOP criticism that Jeb didn’t fight back after Clinton attacked him on Medicare and Obamacare at last Friday’s National Urban League event. And there’s our recent NBC/WSJ poll, which not only showed Bush falling from first to third in the Republican horserace -- but which also found his personal ratings dropping among Republicans and very conservative voters. Thursday night is going to be a big moment for Jeb, especially in this Summer of Donald Trump. Remember, Mitt Romney had plenty of challenges in his 2012 bid for the GOP nomination. But more often than not, he used solid debate performances to boost his position with Republican primary voters. Can Jeb do the same?
Hillary punches Jeb -- again
As for Bush’s comments yesterday on Planned Parenthood and women’s health, he later issued a statement saying he “misspoke” (though the original email statement omitted the “misspoke” part). “[T]here are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need,” he said. But it was too late. First, Hillary Clinton tweeted to Bush, “You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong” -- about not needing half a billion dollars for women’s health issues. And then she used her campaign event in Denver to deliver another punch. “Now he’s got no problem giving billions of dollars away to super wealthy and powerful corporations, but I guess women’s health just isn’t a priority for him,” Clinton said, per NBC’s Monica Alba. “Now, I’d like to ask him, Gov. Bush, try telling that to the mom who caught her breast cancer early because she was able to get screened in time. Was her health not worth the money? Tell it to the teenager who avoided an unintended pregnancy because she had access to contraception. Tell it to everyone who was protected by an HIV test." Ouch.
The fine line between abortion and women’s health
As conservatives have declared war on Planned Parenthood (and remember that was the context of Bush’s remarks yesterday), it’s important to remember that there’s a fine line between abortion/Planned Parenthood and broader questions about women’s health. Don’t forget: In 2012, the Obama campaign absolutely crushed Mitt Romney with TV advertisements (like this one) in Northern Virginia and the Denver suburbs on the subject of women’s health and Planned Parenthood. And as our NBC/WSJ poll shows, while there’s considerable GOP opposition to Planned Parenthood, the rest of the country -- at least right now -- doesn’t share that same opinion.
Another day, another Hillary email story
But it wasn’t just the Bush campaign that was playing defense yesterday. Last night, the Washington Post reported that the FBI is now looking into the security of Hillary Clinton’s email server. Per NBC’s Pete Williams, a government official familiar with the FBI’s involvement says the FBI is right now trying to get an understanding of how the system worked and how classified information was handled. The official added to Williams, “This is an investigation of the system, not of any person.” Indeed, it appears this is all part of the security-related referral that we already knew about late last month. What is new here is that the Justice Department/FBI is now looking into it and it has reached out to the Denver-based firm that set up Clinton’s server.
Obama still trying to sell the Iran deal
Outside the 2016 race, other top political story we’re watching is President Obama’s 11:20 am ET speech on the Iran deal at American University. As our recent NBC/WSJ poll found, the American public still hasn’t made up its mind on the issue -- 35% support the deal, 33% oppose it, and 32% don’t know enough to have an opinion. That’s why Obama is still trying to sell the deal and why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is still trying to oppose it. That said, Sens. Tim Kaine, Bill Nelson, and Barbara Boxer endorsing the deal yesterday signals that the Democratic votes to override any Obama veto probably aren’t there. Yes, a couple of high-profile House Democrats (Steve Israel, Nita Lowey) said they were opposed to the Iran deal, but the New York Dems were never going to be swing voters here. By the way, Obama using American University to deliver today’s speech is noteworthy. As MSNBC’s Joy Wang writes, it’s “the same location where President John F. Kennedy outlined a plan to curb nuclear arms in a historic address delivered more than 50 years ago.”
Examining the Latino vote
While we reported Donald Trump’s numbers among Hispanics from our recent NBC/WSJ/Telemundo Latino oversample, here are all of the numbers from that poll of 250 Latinos:
- Obama’s job approval is at 63% -- up from 57% in December
- 67% of Latinos believe government should do more, versus 28% who believe it should do less
- And 52% prefer a generic Democrat to be president, compared with 27% who want a generic Republican
What’s more, here are the fav/unfav among these Latino respondents:
- Obama: 59%-25% (+34)
- Clinton: 57%-28% (+29)
- Democratic Party: 51%-22% (+29)
- Rubio: 28%-21% (+7)
- Bernie Sanders: 17%-10% (+7)
- Bush: 30%-29% (+1)
- Walker: 12%-13% (-1)
- Paul: 18%-20% (-2)
- Huckabee: 18%-22% (-4)
- Ted Cruz: 22%-27% (-5)
- Republican Party: 25%-43% (-18)
- Trump: 13%-75% (-62)
Examining Donald Trump’s support
Donald Trump's support from Republican voters tends to come from men, seniors and those having a high school education or less, according to results from an online NBC News/SurveyMonkey survey of more than 3,000 GOP primary voters. Trump also has widespread ideological backing from Republicans - as he gets the most support of any candidate from moderate, conservative and very conservative GOP primary voters.
Dispatches from the campaign trail
Finally, don’t miss these two dispatches yesterday from two of our new embeds: NBC’s Ali Vitali: “Trump Says ‘Call Me’ After Phone Number Goes Public”; NBC’s Kailani Koenig: Christie Talks Border Security, Birth Control and Tom Brady at Town Hall.”
On the trail
Martin O’Malley is in Iowa, while Marco Rubio attends a “welcome to Cleveland” rally with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who has endorsed him.