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

For all of Biden’s troubles, he’s still more popular than Trump in the NBC News poll

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Biden signs antilynching law in Washington
President Joe Biden enters the Rose Garden to sign into law H.R. 55, the "Emmett Till Antilynching Act" during a ceremony at the White House, on March 29, 2022.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are expected to resume. ... President Biden delivers remarks on the March jobs report. ... A Climate group goes on offense, per NBC’s Benjy Sarlin. .... Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., pushes Biden not to end Title 42. ... NBC News poll shows Ukraine’s Zelenskyy with favorable/unfavorable numbers that rival Pope John Paul II’s. ... Vladimir Putin has numbers that match Saddam Hussein’s. ... And none of that is an April Fool’s joke. 

But first: For all of Biden’s problems in this week’s NBC News poll, he has one important thing going for him.

He’s not Donald Trump. 

It doesn’t appear that Americans have buyer’s remorse after 2020. Whether Biden’s election was fueled more by voters who supported him, or those who wanted to cast a ballot against Trump, is debatable. But these numbers certainly suggest many were voting against Trump. 

Trump’s favorable/unfavorable rating in the poll (36 percent positive, 50 percent negative) is slightly worse than Biden’s (37 percent positive, 46 percent negative). 

The poll also shows more voters say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump (47 percent say this) than a candidate endorsed by Biden (42 percent). 

And it’s all coming with Biden in office and Trump out of it — when an ex-president’s numbers usually start improving. But Trump isn’t the typical ex-president who goes quietly into retirement. 

He’s still active on the campaign trail (he’ll be rallying supporters in Michigan tomorrow). And, even without a social media megaphone, he’s making controversial statements about the news of the day.

Just look at Trump’s controversies over the past week: 

He asked Putin to dig up dirt on Biden’s son. (“In time, Russia may be willing to give that information,” he said.)

He dissed NATO — again: (“Look I’m not particularly thrilled with it. I figure when you need it, it won’t be there, or maybe it will, but we can get together pretty fast,” he said in Georgia.)

He said SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson was hateful to GOP senators. (“She had total disdain and even hatred for them.”) 

Oh, and there’s that 7-hour gap in Trump’s phone calls on Jan. 6. 

Bottom line: Biden’s unpopularity one year-plus into office hasn’t accrued to Trump’s benefit.

But it has accrued to the GOP’s — with the Democratic Party’s favorable/unfavorable worse than the Republican Party’s for the first time in our poll since 2004. 

Which raises this question for 2024: Is the GOP really better with Trump? Or without him? 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 60 percent

That’s the net positive rating for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the latest NBC News poll — 67 percent had positive views of Zelenskyy, while 7 percent viewed him negatively. 

For comparison, the late Princess Diana, had a net positive rating of 75 percentage points in a survey conducted shortly after her death. Zelensky’s rating is also on par with Pope John Paul II, who had a 58 percent net positive rating.

At the other end of the spectrum, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s net negative rating was minus 87 percentage points, with 88 percent of Americans viewing Putin negatively and just 1 percent viewing him positively. That rating put Putin just behind Saddam Hussein, who had a net negative rating of minus 91 percentage points. 

Other numbers to know:

6: The number of hours the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol interviewed Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner yesterday. 

$7 million: That’s how much energy executive and Arizona GOP Senate hopeful Jim Lamon will report raising in the first fundraising quarter of 2022, per the Washington Examiner, which includes a $5 million contribution from Lamon himself. 

$10 million: The amount of money the super PAC Protect Our Future, which is backed by cryptocurrency executives, plans to spend on Democratic primaries this year. 

39 percent: Biden’s approval rating in the new Marist College poll. 

80,303,966: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. 

985,569: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. 

Talking policy with Benjy: Climate group looks to gain upper hand on gas prices  

Just as President Biden is trying to reframe rising gas prices as a story of private companies gouging workers, environmental groups are looking to make the message stick in congressional races. 

The League of Conservation Voters is launching a new $100,000 digital and TV ad buy in four districts, targeting GOP incumbents Mike Garcia and Michelle Steel in California and Maria Salazar and Carlos Gimenez in Florida, while Climate Power is spending $200,000 on a national and DC ad hitting similar themes.

“As Vladimir Putin wages war, oil companies are making billions by price gouging us at the pump and Republicans are helping them do it,” the national ad, “Higher Profits,” begins. “They took millions from big oil and blocked a clean energy plan that will lower costs for families. They’re leaving us dependent on oil and at the mercy of foreign dictators.”

Republicans have highlighted gas price issues with gusto, arguing it shows the need to empower a party that’s traditionally more supportive of domestic oil production, even if there may not be any one simple policy fix. The latest NBC News poll found voters favored politicians who backed more drilling. 

But environmental groups also see a unique opportunity to make the case for independence from fossil fuels on national security grounds. They see signs in polling that Americans blame gas companies in part for high prices, a message President Biden has tried to run with by accusing companies of not using existing permits to increase production and lower prices. A strategy memo from Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, commissioned by LCV and Climate Power, urges Democrats to go on offense on the issue. 

“There’s this notion that Republicans are on safe footing around gas prices and that there’s only a price to pay for Democrats, and it’s wrong,” Lori Lodes, Executive Director of Climate Power, told NBC News. “There really is a special place in gas price hell for Republicans who are taking contributions from fossil fuel companies.”

Midterm roundup: Border politics 

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., encouraged Biden not to end the order known as Title 42 that’s prevented immigrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border during the pandemic, amid fears that rescinding the authority would cause a surge of migrants at the southern border. Kelly and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., stressed that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t appear to have a plan “to maintain a humane and orderly process” at the border. 

A surge of migrants could create yet another headache for Biden, but also for senators like Kelly, who are top GOP targets. Republicans have long been hammering Kelly and other vulnerable Democrats on immigration, and a surge of migrants could provide another opening for GOP attacks. 

New York redistricting: A state judge struck down New York’s congressional and state legislative maps as unconstitutional gerrymanders, giving legislators until April 11 to draw new district lines. 

Georgia Senate: Two super PACs backing GOP Senate candidates Gary Black and Latham Saddler are planning seven-figure ad buys attacking Republican frontrunner Herschel Walker ahead of the May 24 primary, in an attempt to force Walker into a primary runoff, Politico reports. 

Wisconsin Governor: Former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson met with former President Donald Trump at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club as Thompson weighs another run for governor, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running for governor, also met with Trump earlier in March. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced yesterday he’d participate in three Senate primary debates. But Rep. Conor Lamb still criticized Fetterman for skipping a debate this weekend, claiming Fetterman is afraid to answer questions about a 2013 incident where he pulled a gun on a Black man who was jogging. (Fetterman has said he pursued the man after hearing gunshots, and he “didn’t know what race that individual was.”)

Florida Governor: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s campaign is signaling that she plans to question Rep. Charlie Crist’s past relationship with Trump in the Democratic primary for governor, NBC’s Marc Caputo reports. 

Secretaries of State: Secretary of State races have drawn candidates who embrace conspiracies about the 2020 election, per the Associated Press, with seven of the eight GOP secretaries running for re-election drawing such primary challengers.

Michigan 10: Trump endorsed Army veteran John James, who is running in Michigan’s open 10th District after two unsuccessful runs for Senate. 

Michigan Attorney General: An outside group dropped a new ad in the Palm Beach, Fla., media market pushing Trump to abandon his preferred candidate for Michigan attorney general, Matt DePerno, per the Washington Examiner. 

Ad watch: Primary meddling

The Democratic Governors Association is hitting Illinois Republican candidate for governor, Richard Irvin — but not from where you might expect. 

In a new ad out Thursday, the DGA hits Irvin for being soft on crime, an attack usually used by Republicans. The ad highlights Irvin’s career as a defense attorney, with a narrator saying he “[profited] by defending some of the most violent and heinous criminals, domestic abusers and sexual assault, a kidnapper who molested a child, reckless homicide, even accused child pornographers.” Irwin told Politico the ad was part of a “smear campaign” against him.

The ad comes just a week after Senate Republicans attacked Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings for being soft on crime as a public defender, while Democrats backed her, saying attorneys have a duty to represent clients no matter what crimes they may have committed.

That’s why this ad raises eyebrows — Democrats are putting their name on an ad attacking a conservative candidate from the right, picking a lane usually reserved for Republicans. Some saw it as a ploy to meddle in the GOP primary and ultimately bolster Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who’s running for re-election. Pritzker donated $250,000 to the DGA last year, according to Politico, but his campaign downplayed the donation. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A federal judge blocked much of Florida’s new restrictive voting law Thursday, but the ruling will likely be appealed, NBC’s Jane C. Timm reports. 

The Senate is one step closer to an agreement on funding for a Covid relief package.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, hired a Republican firm to spread negative stories smearing rival platform TikTok, The Washington Post reports.

A dozen House Republicans joined Democrats to pass a bill capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month. Now, the bill heads to the Senate.

The war in Ukraine continues as Russia abandons the highly contaminated Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Ukranians brace for renewed attacks, according to AP

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., plans to vote against confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, despite his vote just last year to elevate her to a D.C. appeals court.