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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day.

OBAMA AGENDA: Satisfaction

From one of us(!): "More Americans are satisfied with the economy than at any point in the past 10 years, helping to increase President Barack Obama's key job ratings, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released before his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night."

And, we take a look back at past highlights of the president's State of the Union speeches.

Also from the latest NBC/WSJ poll, from one of us(!): Six in 10 Americans say they approve of the nation's recent move to provide diplomatic recognition of Cuba by the United States.

The Washington Post on the State of the Union: "The president will enter the House chamber Tuesday night for his sixth State of the Union address riding a wave of confidence driven by an improving economy and brightening public approval ratings. And he seems as defiant as ever."

And here's the New York Times' take: "With the American job market surging to life, President Obama plans to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to effectively declare victory over the economic hard times that dominated his first six years in office and advocate using the nation’s healthier finances to tackle long-deferred issues like education and income inequality."

Heads up: The Trade Benefits America Coalition is on Twitter at @TPA4USJobs and plans an active level of social media engagement around Tuesday's State of the Union address in its push for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. The coalition represents over 200 business and agriculture companies and associations.

The Wall Street Journal, on Obama's tax proposals: "President Barack Obama’s plan for billions of dollars in tax increases and higher government spending, to be outlined in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, is reigniting familiar partisan debates about overhauling the tax code and how to best aid the middle class."

Breaking overnight on NBC News: "ISIS militants released a video purporting to show two Japanese hostages on Tuesday and demanded a $200-million ransom. Global security firm and NBC News counterterrorism consultant Flashpoint Intelligence said the video appeared to be authentic. It features two handcuffed men in orange garb similar to the jumpsuits worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees kneeling next to a masked jihadi who brandishes a knife."

Also from our new poll: Seven in ten African-Americans disagree with the statement that, in America, people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


The GOP hub for the SOTU response is here, with streaming video of Joni Ernst's response and lots of social media.

Team Boehner has this new video explaining the backstory of past SOTU photo showing him admiring Joe Biden's "fancy suit."

NBC's Frank Thorp reports that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will back at the Capitol today.

From Roll Call: "Congressional Black Caucus Sees Leverage in Steve Scalise Protests"

OFF TO THE RACES: Both Mitt and Jeb lose ground in NBC/WSJ poll

From one of us(!): "Potential 2016 candidates Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have earned plenty of headlines after publicly acknowledging that they're revving up likely presidential campaigns, but, so far, they haven't gained positive marks from the public, according to the newest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. In fact, both candidates have lost ground since pollsters last measured Americans' feelings towards them - including a dip in approval from members of their own party."

The AP notes: " Key elements of the economic proposals President Barack Obama will outline in his State of the Union address Tuesday appear to be aimed at driving the debate in the 2016 election on income inequality and middle-class economic issues, rather than setting a realistic agenda for Congress. Obama's calls for increasing taxes on the wealthy, making community college free for many students and expanding paid leave for workers stand little chance of winning approval from the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill. But the debate over middle-class economics is looking critical for the coming campaign."

BUSH: The Washington Post digs into Jeb Bush's role with InnoVida, a Miami company that marketed prefab housing materials and eventually faced criminal charges for fraud.

The former Florida gov is in D.C. today.

CLINTON: "In the last weeks before her expected entry into the 2016 presidential contest, Hillary Rodham Clinton is assembling a heavily research-driven campaign designed to prevent a repeat of her poor performance in 2008," writes the Washington Post. MORE: "[B]ackers say this time Clinton is developing a smarter, more relevant campaign message focused on economic opportunity and her lifelong work to better women’s lives. The former secretary of state is also trying to play down any sense of inevitability and aims to adopt many of the same data-focused strategies that Barack Obama used to snatch the race from her in 2008."

CRUZ: The Washington Examiner on Team Cruz: “The Republican senator from Texas tentatively plans to fill senior campaign positions with the triumvirate he signed last summer to expand his political operation. At the top is Jeff Roe, whose organizational title is undefined but who would be the campaign’s chief strategic and logistics decision-maker. Jason Miller would shape and oversee campaign messaging; Lauren Lofstrom would direct fundraising.”

JINDAL: From NBC News: "In a foreign policy speech delivered Monday in London, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that in the West, "non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home."

PERRY: Rick Perry tells the New York Times: "“I think most people think we’re probably going to run, but we’ll announce our intentions in May or June. I haven’t tried to be coy at all. I’ve been very forthright with my intentions to do the preparatory work that’s required, and we’ve done that.”

Perry is heading to New Hampshire February 11 and 12.

WALKER: The Journal Sentinel delves into Walker's RNC address for 2016 hints.

Around the country...

ILLINOIS: Tammy Duckworth tells Roll Call that she's "taking a real serious look" at a challenge to Sen. Mark Kirk.

CALIFORNIA: Tom Steyer will announce his Senate intentions “within days” and pledges that he’ll only serve one term if he can’t achieve his goals, per the LA Times.

KENTUCKY: Alison Lundergan Grimes is eyeing another statewide run. “"Everything from governor to attorney general, to secretary of state,” she told the AP.

VIRGINIA: Gov. Terry McAuliffe is in the hospital after doctors found fluid in his chest cavity due to breaking seven ribs in an equestrian accident.


*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall speaks with Democratic Senator from Maryland Benjamin Cardin, Washington Post Columnist Nia Henderson, The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, and Presidential Historian and Professor with American University Dr. Allan Lichtman about President Obama’s second to last State of the Union address, and infrastructure expert Barry Lepatner regarding the highway bridge collapse in Cincinnati last night.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell will host a special State of the Union preview special with an exclusive interview with Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Patrick Leahy, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Fmr. White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod and NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Luke Russert.