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First Thoughts: Team Obama's work to do on health care

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.Charlie Riedel / AP

Team Obama’s work to do on health care… On the road again: Obama talks about the economy in Jacksonville, FL at 2:35 pm ET… House amendment to defund NSA program falls short... NBC/WSJ poll: Plurality supports abortion restrictions after 20 weeks… Steve King doubles down… Rand Paul’s balancing act in the ’14 KY SEN race… The latest in that NYC mayoral race… Booker raises $2 million in last 24 days… And Jack Lew to appear on “Meet” this Sunday. 

*** Team Obama’s work to do on health care: During his expansive speech on the economy yesterday in Illinois, President Obama devoted a good chunk of it to health care’s implementation. “If you’re one of the 85% of Americans who already have health insurance either through the job or Medicare or Medicaid, you don’t have to do anything, but you do have new benefits and better protections than you did before,” he said. “If you don’t have health insurance, then starting on October 1st, private plans will actually compete for your business, and you'll be able to comparison-shop online.” And our NBC/WSJ poll shows why he continues to mention it: 34% see the law as a good idea, versus 47% who believe it’s a bad idea, which is unchanged from June. In other words, his administration still has a lot of work to do to sell the law to the American public. The good news for the administration in our poll is that a majority of adults -- 51% -- believe Republicans should stop trying to block the implementation of the law. But here’s a bit more bad news: A whopping 79% of Republicans say the GOP should do everything it can to prevent it from going into effect. That’s the conundrum the president find himself in on this issue: If GOP lawmakers act rationally in their own political self-interest, it means more repeal attempts because it’s what their base wants.

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.Charlie Riedel / AP

*** On the road again: After his speeches in Illinois and Missouri yesterday, Obama today heads back on the road to talk about the economy in Jacksonville, FL at 2:35 pm ET. In the past, he has used a series of speeches to re-energize his presidency. (Think the jobs act he was selling after the debt-ceiling debacle in 2011.) Yet the question we have: Will there be follow through? Will the White House still be doing this after Labor Day? By the way, one of the chief messages he delivered in Illinois was challenging Republicans to lay out their vision to help the middle class. “I’m laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot.  So now it’s time for you to lay out your ideas. You can't just be against something. You got to be for something,” he said. “Repealing Obamacare and cutting spending is not an economic plan. It’s not.” But the speech itself didn’t contain new ideas (as the White House admitted during its buildup for this speech). Of course, the president believes his consistency and the inability of Congress to support his prescriptions make pushing this message over and over again worthwhile. Bottom line: It appears these events are as much about the president and West Wing trying to re-energize itself as it is to try and move the public. But will the president’s road show penetrate the public beyond supporters?

*** House amendment to defund NSA program falls short: Last night, the House defeated an amendment -- by a close 205-217 vote -- that would have defunded the NSA’s data-gathering program Edward Snowden disclosed more than a month ago, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. And that strange-bedfellows vote (when is the last time Nancy Pelosi and Michele Bachmann voted the same way?) ALMOST reflected popular opinion. Per our NBC/WSJ poll, 55% of Americans say they're more worried the United States will go too far in violating privacy rights. That's a significant shift from the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when an equal number in the Dec. 2001 NBC/WSJ poll -- 55 percent -- worried more that the United States wouldn't go far enough in monitoring potential terrorists who live in the U.S. In yesterday’s vote, we saw the libertarian wings of both parties (the Democrats’ civil-libertarian wing and the GOP’s libertarians) join forces to produce 205 votes. It’s not every day you see that…

*** Poll: Plurality support abortion restrictions after 20 weeks: Also in our NBC/WSJ poll, a plurality of Americans -- 44% -- say they support efforts to ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, assuming the mother’s life isn’t in immediate danger. Yet on the broader issue of abortion, Americans continue to be split: 49% believe abortion should be legal either always or most of the time, while 48% say it should either be illegal with exceptions or banned outright. There is a striking divide when it comes to intensity: Among those who believe abortion legislation should be a high priority for state and federal lawmakers, a combined 70% say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. And among those who think it should be a low priority, 65% say it should be legal either always or most of the time. Bottom line: Social conservatives have intensity on their side here, and they always do much better when the discussion is about procedures (so-called “partial-birth” abortions) and timelines (20 weeks). But they find themselves on rockier ground when the conversation turns to rights and access. All that said, a majority in the poll say they are more concerned about the GOP going too far to promote a conservative social agenda than about Democrats pushing a liberal one

*** Steve King doubles down: Turning to the issue of immigration, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) yesterday doubled down on his much-criticized comments about young undocumented immigrants -- that for every valedictorian, there are another 100 running drugs across the border. "Every night there are dozens and scores of people that are smuggling drugs across our border. I've been down there multiple times. I've sat along the border at night," he said on CNN. "This isn't something made up in thin air," he said. "I've seen it with my eyes and watched the data and video that support what I say, and the longer this dialogue goes, the more the American people will understand what I'm saying is factually correct." By the way, here are the immigration numbers from our NBC/WSJ poll: 44% of adults (including 49% of Latinos) say they would blame Republicans if Congress doesn’t pass legislation by the end of its current term. By comparison, 21% of respondents (including 21% of Latinos) would blame the president, and 14% would blame congressional Democrats. Additionally, 59% of all adults (and 79% of Latinos) believe the notion that immigration reform must wait until the border is secure is an excuse to block reform, while only 36% say it’s a legitimate excuse.

*** Rand Paul’s balancing act in ‘14 KY SEN race: Any political junkie has to LOVE this year’s Kentucky Senate race -- now that there’s a GOP primary in addition to a competitive general election. And here’s the latest story from that race: Rand Paul’s balancing act. “So as McConnell descends into a GOP civil war with tea party-backed candidate [Matt] Bevin to defend his Senate seat in 2014, Paul must perform a careful balancing act: Show complete support for McConnell, all the while avoiding alienating the same tea party supporters who helped him in 2010 and whom he'll need in 2016,” Politico writes.

*** New York, New York: No we turn to that -- shall we say -- colorful mayoral race in New York City. We’ve been saying this for a while, but a new Quinnipiac poll (conducted before the latest news about Anthony Weiner) is evidence that Bill Thompson is the sleeper in this race. Though Weiner leads in the overall primary, he looks to be fatally damaged -- and Thompson leads both Weiner and Quinn in a runoff.  And here’s the latest reporting by NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell: Sources close to Huma Abedin tell NBC News that she did not know about the most recently revealed incidents of sexting by her husband until last fall, more than a year after his resignation from Congress and the fallout that deeply embarrassed her. Accordingly, sources say Abedin was not aware the behavior had continued when she participated in an image repair profile in People Magazine in June 2012. Sources say Abedin nearly left their marriage late last year after she found out that her husband had not stopped contacting other women online.

*** Booker raises $2 million in last 24 days: For next month’s Democratic primary in New Jersey’s Senate contest, Cory Booker will report raising $2 million from July 1 to July 24, according to a campaign source. That’s on top of the $4.6 million he raised last quarter and the $1.9 million he raised in the first quarter.

*** Lew to appear on “Meet”: Lastly, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will appear on “Meet the Press” this Sunday.

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