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Donald Trump's Tough Act to Follow

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: U.S.  President Obama meets with President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYKEVIN LAMARQUE / Reuters

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.

Trump’s Tough Act to Follow

The good news for Donald Trump and the Republican Party come January 20: They will control both the White House and Congress. But here’s the potential bad news: They will have a tough act to follow, especially when looking at these key statistics over the last eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency (with one more month to go). The “then” figure is the best-available number for when Obama first took office in 2009. And the “now” is the most recent figure.

Federal budget deficit

Federal spending as a percentage of GDP

  • THEN: 24.4% (FY 2009)
  • NOW: 21.4% (FY 2016) projected

So those numbers are the challenge for someone who has promised to “Make America Great Again.” Four years is a long time, and Trump’s presidency will be judged in part on whether those figures are better in 2020 (or remain close to where they are) -- or whether they’re worse. Of course, the bad news for Democrats is that, by and large, these statistics are markedly better than they were when Obama first took office. But they’re losing control of the White House. Indeed, just look at the reduced number of Democratic governors, senators, and House members. (And given those reduced numbers, is there any motivation for Democrats to cooperate with Trump? Republicans mostly made Obama and Democrats work alone, and look at the political results.)

Trump Continues His “Thank You” Tour

At 7:00 pm ET, Donald Trump speaks at rally in Fayetteville, NC as part of “Thank You” tour to the voters who elected him. As it turns out, all of the states he’s visiting on this tour -- Ohio (last week), North Carolina (today), Iowa (Thursday), and Michigan (Friday) -- are battlegrounds he won last month. But as we mentioned last week, isn’t it incumbent on Trump to also reach out to places and states he DIDN’T win in November, especially given that he won just 46% of the popular vote? Team Trump, however, has pushed back on his popular-vote percentage. “The idea that Donald Trump doesn't have a mandate, after he got 100 more electoral votes than Mitt Romney did, he got 306 electoral votes, it wasn't close, he won states that had not gone Republican in decades,” former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “And by the way, had this been a race for the popular vote, we would have won that too, because Mr. Trump would have campaigned in California, in New York, stayed in Florida, gone to Illinois, perhaps.”

GOP Elector Won’t Vote for Trump

“The long-shot campaign to convince the electoral college to deny Donald Trump the White House got a boost Monday night when a Republican elector from Texas called on his party to follow his lead and dump their nominee,” per NBC News. “In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Christopher Suprun said his decision wasn't about policy. Nor was it about Trump losing the popular vote. Instead, Suprun wrote, it was about having to cast his vote for someone ‘who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.’ Citing everything from Trump's call on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails to his recent appointments as president-elect and his decision to ‘stoke fear and create outrage,’ Suprun said that he could not vote for Trump on Dec. 19, when electors across the country will cast their ballots for president and vice president.”

Biden Mulls 2020 Run (But He Will be 78 by November 2020)

“Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said Monday he wouldn’t rule out a 2020 run for president. ‘I’m not committing not to run,’ Biden told reporters off the Senate floor,” per Roll Call. “‘I’m not committing to anything. I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening.’ Biden had been asked about a White House bid in four years, when he initially replied, ‘yeah I am. I am going to run in 2020.’ He then took a long pause before committing to be noncommittal. Yet come November 2020, Biden will be 78 years old, while Trump will be 74. But as we all know, Biden is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, and here you have someone realizing that IF he had run in 2016, he MIGHT have won.

Al Gore Visits Trump Tower

“Former Vice President Al Gore met with President-elect Donald Trump for what he described as ‘an extremely interesting conversation at Trump Tower on Monday,” NBC’s Andrew Rafferty writes. “Gore, who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, declined to say what exactly he and Trump spoke about during the meeting. But he said he met with both the president-elect and Ivanka Trump, who reportedly wants to make climate change one of her signature issues. ‘I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground... I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that,’ Gore told reporters after the meeting. Later Monday, Gore spoke to MNSBC's Chris Hayes and reiterated that he felt good about the meeting, adding ‘we're in this wait and see period, but I was happy to have the opportunity and to have the exchange of views.’”

Is the Growing List of Secretary of State Possibilities all About Helping Giuliani?

Every day, it seems that Donald Trump’s secretary of state list keeps expanding -- yesterday was Jon Huntsman’s turn in the spotlight. But here is something to chew on: Is this expanding list (see our Cabinet Watch below) all about helping Rudy Giuliani, the original frontrunner for the job? Every time that someone new is examined (whether Huntsman or Mitt Romney or David Petraeus or that Exxon-Mobil CEO), does that help Giuliani’s case?

Cabinet Watch

Here is our running list of possible candidates we’ve been hearing about so far. We’ll continue to update it as the president-elect’s team makes its choices final.

  • Secretary of State: Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Rex Tillerson, Lee Raymond, John Kelly, Jon Hunstman
  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions OFFERED
  • Treasury: Steve Mnuchin OFFERED
  • Defense: Mattis OFFERED
  • Homeland: Michael McCaul, David Clarke, John Kelly
  • Interior: Sarah Palin, Mary Fallin
  • HHS: Tom Price OFFERED
  • HUD: Ben Carson OFFERED
  • Education: Betsy DeVos OFFERED
  • Commerce: Wilbur Ross OFFERED
  • Transportation: Elaine Chao OFFERED
  • Agriculture: Rick Perry, Sid Miller
  • CIA Director: Mike PompeoOFFERED
  • UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley OFFERED
  • National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn OFFERED
  • RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel, David Urban