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First Read: Mike Pence's Big Moment

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.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a Welcome Home Rally, Saturday, July 16, 2016, in Zionsville, Ind. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced Pence as his vice presidential running mate.Darron Cummings / AP

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.

Mike Pence’s big moment

CLEVELAND -- Now that the Republican convention has stabilized a bit after a very rocky start, tonight’s attention turns to VP running mate Mike Pence. Thanks to a less-than-typical VP rollout, Pence probably has a more challenging task to sell himself -- and Trump -- to the American public in his speech tonight than his predecessors did in 2008 or 2012.

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Neither Sarah Palin nor Paul Ryan were overshadowed the way Trump overshadowed Pence when he formally unveiled him, speaking for 29 minutes before Pence got his chance to talk. Neither Palin nor Ryan got in 900 words in the first joint-ticket TV interview -- compared with the presidential nominee’s 2,160 words -- in what happened during Sunday’s Trump-Pence interview on “60 Minutes.” And neither Palin nor Ryan had to experience reports that the presidential nominee had immediate doubts he was making the right pick.

According to a new online NBC|SurveyMonkey poll, almost half of voters (48%) don’t know enough about Pence about whether to have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. (The rest are split: 26% are favorable, 26% unfavorable.) What’s more, while 47% of self-identified conservatives say that Pence is a good running-mate choice for Donald Trump, the other 43% don’t know enough to give an opinion here. And that’s why Pence’s speech tonight here at the Republican convention is such a big moment for him and the GOP ticket.

Day Three’s lineup

The theme for tonight is “Make America First Again,” and the speakers besides Pence include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (via video), Ted Cruz, Eric Trump, and Newt and Callista Gingrich.

Last night’s 13 anti-Clinton speeches vs. the six pro-Trump ones

As for last night’s speeches, it was striking to observe the mostly pro-Trump speeches versus the anti-Trump one. By our count, there were a total of 19 scheduled speeches on Tuesday night, and 13 of them were mostly anti-Clinton (Sharon Day, Asa Hutchinson, Leslie Rutledge, Michael Mukasey, Ron Johnson, Chris Cox, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Chris Christie, Shelley Moore Capito, Ben Carson, and Kimberlin Brown).

That’s compared with six that we viewed as being mostly pro-Trump (Dana White, Andy Wist, Natalie Gulbis, Tiffany Trump, Kerry Woolard, and Donald Trump Jr.) What do those six speakers have in common? They aren’t GOP politicians or politicos. All of last night’s pro-Trump speeches came from Trump’s family, friends, and business associates.

Original draft of Melania Trump’s speech didn’t contain lifted passages

As for the controversy over Melania Trump’s speech, here’s NBC’s Alex Jaffe: “The original draft of Melania Trump's Republican National Convention speech did not include the section that appears to have been lifted from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech, according to documents obtained exclusively by NBC News…. [T]he documents, including the original draft and corroborating emails, obtained by NBC News, suggest the passage in question originated within the Trump campaign, and raises new questions for the GOP nominee's top aides, who spent much of Tuesday deflecting blame and insisting there was nothing wrong with Melania Trump's speech.”

The New York Times has more. “It was Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, who commissioned the speech from Mr. Scully and Mr. McConnell — and praised their draft. But Ms. Trump decided to revise it, and at one point she turned to a trusted hand: Meredith McIver, a New York City-based former ballet dancer and English major who has worked on some of Mr. Trump’s books, including ‘Think Like a Billionaire.’ It was not clear how much of a hand Ms. McIver had in the final product, and she did not respond to an email on Tuesday.”

Yet another speechwriting/speech-giving controversy

Last night, there was another speech/speechwriting controversy. “Donald Trump Jr. in his headline address at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland delivered a near-exact repetition of a small part of an American Conservative article written by F.H. Buckley, titled ‘Trump vs. the New Class,’” NBC’s Alex Jaffe says. “‘Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now they're stalled on the ground floor. They're like Soviet-Era Department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers,’ Trump's son said in his speech Tuesday night.

The line in Buckley's article reads, ‘Our schools and universities are like the old Soviet department stores whose mission was to serve the interests of the sales clerks and not the customers.’” But Buckley later explained that he HELPED write the speech, so there wasn’t word theft. “In an interview with NBC News, Buckley downplayed the similarities. He said he didn't initially think he had copied word-for-word from his original piece, and ‘even if I had I didn't think it would be problem.’” Our take: On the one hand, would we even be talking about this had it not been for the Melania controversy? On the other, you think the Trump campaign would have been more careful.

Veepstakes Watch

The New York Times writes that Clinton is looking for a vice presidential pick with foreign policy know-how… The Washington Post writes, as we’ve been reporting, that Tim Kaine and Tom Vilsack are at the top of the list… The Wall Street Journal writes that, while Tom Perez speaks frequently of how his grandfather was expelled from the Dominican Republic for opposition to a repressive regime, the truth is a bit more complicated… And the AP profiles Tom Vilsack.

On the trail

Donald Trump and Mike Pence hold a rally in Cleveland at 2:00 pm ET… And Ted Cruz holds a thank-you event for his delegates at 1:00 pm ET.

Countdown to Dem convention: 5 days