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First Read: What We Got Wrong

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day.
Image: Trump speaks at a rally
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Novi, Michigan, on Sept. 30, 2016.John Locher / 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.

What we got wrong in the 2016 presidential election

If you believe in learning from your mistakes, here is everything we and plenty others seemed to get wrong in the general election:

  • That the poll numbers showing Donald Trump’s percentage in the high 30s and low 40s couldn’t grow;
  • That a seemingly stable race -- with Hillary Clinton holding a consistent lead -- wouldn’t change at the end;
  • That the votes out of Urban America and its suburbs would overwhelm the votes out of Rural America;
  • That Clinton was the one expanding the political map versus Trump doing it;
  • That changing demographics assured Democratic success in presidential contests, unless the GOP made an explicit appeal to minority voters;
  • That the Obama coalition could be transferred to another Democrat;
  • That Trump couldn’t win if he got a lower percentage of white voters than Mitt Romney did four years ago;
  • That the party’s that’s more united has the advantage in a presidential contest over the more divide party;
  • That the conventions and presidential debates actually mattered;
  • That a small band of partisans couldn’t get away with trying to delegitimize the media;
  • And that a presidential candidate who demolished so many norms (not releasing tax returns, talking about jailing an opponent, threatening not to respect the election’s outcome) would pay a price for them in the end.

Mr. President meets Mr. President-Elect

Talk about an awkward meeting at the White House today at 11:00 am ET. You have President Barack Obama meeting with the man who helped lead the “birther” crusade against him, trying to delegitimize the nation’s first African-American president. And then you have President-Elect Donald Trump meeting with the man who declared that the real-estate mogul would never be president, and who did everything he could to defeat him. “Now, it is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” Obama said yesterday. “But remember, eight years ago President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush's team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running. And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency and the vice presidency is bigger than any of us. So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush's team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect.”

Trump Transition Watch

As NBC’s Katy Tur reported on NBC’s “Nightly News” last night, the cabinet talk for now is Rudy Giuliani as attorney general, Newt Gingrich as secretary of state, Reince Priebus as chief of staff. A Trump campaign source cautions Tur that the roles could change once Trump gets more involved in the process. On MSNBC’s “11th Hour” last night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is Trump’s transition chair, told Brian Williams that he might step down as governor for the right job in a Trump administration. “Very much depends upon what job was offered,” he said. And on “Today” this morning, Christie was asked what kind of role he wants. “We have not talked about anything.”

Urban America vs. Rural America

As we’ve noted before, perhaps the chief hallmark of the Trump-vs.-Clinton presidential race was how it pitted Rural America vs. Urban American (even though both candidates were New Yorkers!!!). And on Tuesday night, it was Rural America that held the upper hand in the battle for 270-plus electoral votes. And so last night in some of the country’s largest cities, including in New York, thousands took to the streets to protest Trump. The question for Urban America over the next four years: Will it be more energized than it was Tuesday night (when Democratic turnout didn’t match turnout from 2012)? And will its compatriots in Columbus, OH; Detroit, MI; and Milwaukee, WI be as fired up as the protestors in New York, Chicago, and LA were?

Republicans will hold a 52-48 Senate majority

With Democrat Maggie Hassan the apparent winner of New Hampshire’s Senate contest, Republicans will most likely enjoy a 52-48 majority in the Senate next year. It’s striking that the three GOP Senate candidates who lost on Tuesday -- Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk, and Joe Heck -- were the ones who distanced themselves from Trump. Guess that didn’t work out so well. By the way, here are the undecided races, per NBC’s Decision Desk:

Presidential contest

  • Arizona
  • New Hampshire
  • Michigan

Senate contest

  • Louisiana – this was called as going to a run-off which will take place on Dec. 10.


  • North Carolina


  • Louisiana House 3 – going to December 10 run-off between two Republican candidates
  • Louisiana House 4 – going to December 10 run-off
  • California House 7
  • California House 49