IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Here Comes the TV Ad Cavalry to Help Trump

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: Trump arrives for rally in Louisville
President Donald Trump arrives for a 'Make America Great Again' rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky on March 20, 2017.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

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

On Day 70, TV ad cavalry rushes in to help Trump

There have been so many remarkable/extraordinary/unprecedented developments in President Trump’s first few weeks in office. Here’s another: On his 70th day, the outside group Making America Great — financed by the conservative Mercer clan — begins airing a $1 million TV-ad campaign in 10 states and Washington DC to ostensibly help prop up Trump’s declining poll numbers after his health-care defeat.

“Results — not common in Washington, DC,” says the ad, which was first reported by Bloomberg’s Josh Green. “298,000 new jobs 1st month in office. Reducing EPA regulations. Greenlighting Keystone XL pipeline. Withdrew from Trans-Pacific Partnership. And it’s only just begun.”

Of course, what the ad DOESN’T say is arguably the real context. An approval rating at 35%, per Gallup. A failed health-care bill. A blocked travel ban (more on that below). The ad airs from today through April 3, and the 10 states are states Trump won where a Democratic senator is running for re-election in 2018. Here’s the buy info, according to Advertising Analytics:

  • DC: $183,585
  • FL: $200,046
  • IN: $66,677.50
  • MO: $97,823
  • MT: $7,420
  • ND: $10,010
  • OH: $87,092
  • PA: $178,365
  • WV: $30,615
  • WI: $46,630.50

Another way to view this: Someone who typically shunned TV-ad campaigns in the 2016 election is being helped by one 70 days into his presidency. And it’s the earliest kind of re-election ad we’ve ever seen, even if it’s not that big of a buy ($1 million for 10 states, plus DC).

Rich Lowry: Trumpism isn’t working because it really hasn’t been tried yet

Writing for Politico, the National Review’s Rich Lowry attributes President Trump’s struggles to the fact that his brand of populism really hasn’t been tried yet, especially when it came to the failed health-care reform effort.

“[T]he product of the Ryan-Trump partnership on health care was a bill bizarrely at odds with a national election Republicans had just won on the strength of working-class voters. Under the GOP replacement, fewer people would have had coverage, and workers further down the income scale would have been particularly hard hit. For whatever reason, neither of these facts seemed to exercise the White House, at least not enough to try to do anything to fix them. Maybe Ryan doesn’t ‘get’ the new political reality created by Trump’s victory, as the president’s boosters like to say. But what excuse does the president himself have for evidently not ‘getting’ it, either? His energies were taken up trying to placate the conservative House Freedom Caucus.”

Hawaii judge extends order blocking Trump’s revised travel ban

“A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday extended his previous ruling blocking President Donald Trump's so-called ‘travel ban’ that would have restricted entry to the United States by refugees and people from some predominantly Muslim countries,” NBC News reports. “U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted a motion by the state to turn his temporary restraining order blocking Trump's revised executive order into a preliminary injunction. The move extends the ban on enforcement while the case moves forward.

Your two Russia developments of the day: Be sure to read these two articles

  • “Who is ‘Source D’? The man said to be behind the Trump-Russia dossier’s most salacious claim” – the Washington Post
  • Trump Russia dossier key claim 'verified' -- the BBC

Burr, Warner show House how it’s done

As Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) actions over the past week have stalled things over at the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intel panel yesterday demonstrated that it’s still functional.

“In a conspicuous show of bipartisanship during a fractious time at the Capitol, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee vowed to forge ahead by interviewing key players connected to Mr. Trump and pressing intelligence agencies to provide all relevant information,” the New York Times says. “But their display of collegiality seemed intended primarily as a contrast to the explosive and often bewildering statements in recent days from the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, whose perceived closeness with the Trump White House has raised doubts about his ability to conduct an impartial investigation.” The Senate Intelligence Committee holds two open hearings on Russia today – at 10:00 am ET and 2:00 pm ET.

It’s official: China’s Xi to meet with Trump at Mar-A-Lago April 6-7

Per NBC’s Peter Alexander, the White House released a statement saying that Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Trump April 6-7 at Mar-A-Lago in Florida.

Trump, Ryan to punt on upcoming government-funding bill? It certainly looks that way.

As we mentioned yesterday, Ryan doesn’t want a fight over Planned Parenthood — at least not yet. “House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday there was a better way to eliminate federal spending on Planned Parenthood than attaching it to a must-pass measure next month to keep the government open. Rather than include a ‘defund Planned Parenthood provision on the upcoming bill to fund the federal government, the Wisconsin Republican said Republicans still plan to use their budget reconciliation framework to overhaul health care to stop federal money from flowing to the women’s health service provider,” Morning Consult reported. And then at yesterday’s White House press briefing, Sean Spicer didn’t explicitly say that funding for a border wall was non-negotiable.

Q: The President talked a lot about it in the campaign, and in his budget request funding for a border wall on the southern border with Mexico. Is that a deal-breaker for the President in any sort of government funding measure in the next month or so?SPICER: So on April 29th, the CR expires -- the continuing resolution -- and we are going to be working with Congress on that -- on the FY17 budget that needs to go forward. I know Director Mulvaney has talked about that. I’m not going to get into the specific details. I know that, if you saw the budget they put out, I think it’s $1.6 billion or $1.7 billion that he’s initially put in the FY17 for the beginning of that wall, and there’s $2.5, $2.6 —Q: $1.6 billion is in there —SPICER: Again, I think that is our request, and we will continue to work with Congress on how to move forward with the rest of fiscal year 17’s budget.

Ryan’s threat to the House Freedom Caucus: If you don’t work with Trump, he’ll work with Democrats

That’s our interpretation of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s remarks to CBS: “What I worry about ... is that if we don't do this, then [Trump will] just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare and that’s not – that’s hardly a conservative thing,” he said in an interview.

But it’s striking that Ryan, who cut a budget deal with Senate Democrats during Obama’s final years in office, is treating bipartisanship as a bad thing. Is that what things have come to?

North Carolina politicians reach a deal on HB2 controversy, but gay-rights advocates aren’t happy with it

“Lawmakers in North Carolina announced late Wednesday night that they had reached an agreement to repeal a measure that restricts which public restrooms transgender people can use,” the Washington Post reports. But gay-rights groups are crying foul over the other parts of the deal, including passing a law prohibiting local governments from regulating private accommodations (like bathrooms), and a moratorium until 2020 on cities and localities adopting non-discrimination ordinances. "The rumored HB2 'deal' does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement.

Beto O’Rourke to take on Ted Cruz in Texas

The Houston Chronicle: U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat and ex-punk rocker who pulled an upset to win his House seat six years ago, plans to declare his candidacy on Friday for the Senate seat held by Ted Cruz, according to Democratic sources in Texas. O'Rourke's fledgling campaign scheduled an announcement on Friday in El Paso, his hometown. He has traveled around Texas over the last three months making contacts, barely concealing his political plans.”

Special Election Watch

In the GA-6 special election, Republican Karen Handel is up with a TV ad responding to the Club For Growth’s attack on her.

What were other presidents doing on March 30?