Can Trump run as the insurgent in 2020? He's going to try

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.
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President Donald Trump waves as he walks from Marine One to the White House on May 3, 2020.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — President Trump has gone from "Make America Great Again," to"Keep America Great," back to "Make America Great Again."

That's our takeaway from the Trump campaign's TV ad it released Monday — entitled “American Comeback” — which portrays the United States roaring back from the coronavirus pandemic, and which ends with the words from Trump: “And we will make America great again.”

And it underscores Trump's challenge as he faces re-election six months from now: This all happened on his watch.

Nearly 70,000 American fatalities and counting. More than 30 million who have filed for unemployment benefits. An economy in free fall.

As the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter points out, Trump used his Fox News town hall on Sunday night to cast blame on others — China, the WHO, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

He’s still trying to run as the outsider insurgent.

And in their recent New York Times op-ed, Obama alums David Axelrod and David Plouffe argue that Joe Biden needs to be the insurgent in the race.

“[T]he challenger needs to behave more like an insurgent, building the capacity to wield facts, humor and mockery at lightning speed in those surreal moments of opportunity that Mr. Trump regularly provides.”

And the Trump camp is out this morning with another TV ad on the coronavirus — once again portraying the incumbent president as the insurgent.

“His action saved countless lives. Dispatching hospital ships, mercy and comfort, mobilizing companies to make ventilators, taking fast action on vaccines, treatments and tests. Not always polite. He does it his way, not the Washington way. But he gets it done.”

Fauci shoots down Chinese lab theory

In an interview with National Geographic, Dr. Anthony Fauci knocked down the idea that the coronavirus was man-made.

“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated ... Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” he said.

Fauci also doesn’t buy that someone brought the coronavirus to a Chinese lab, and then it escaped.

“Based on the scientific evidence, [Fauci] also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory — that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped,” National Geographic writes of its interview with Fauci.

This all comes as President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have promoted the theory that the virus came from a Chinese lab.

“Intelligence officials stand by the public statement put out Thursday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which said that the intelligence community has concluded that the virus was not man-made but that it had reached no conclusion about whether it emerged accidentally from a lab or was transmitted to humans through animals,” NBC’s Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee write.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,189,677: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 22,436 more than yesterday morning.)

69,149: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,073 more than yesterday morning).

7.29 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

3,000: The number of coronavirus deaths per day the United States may see by June according to one leaked CDC projection.

Nearly 7,500: The number of people warned by police at a popular Miami Beach park for failing to wear a face mask before the area was shut down entirely.

15 percent: The drop in Tyson’s second-quarter net income as the meat provider continues to deal with outbreaks at its plants.

$13: The immediate emergency minimum wage that Joe Biden is calling to be provided for all frontline workers.

$8 billion: The amount of a new global effort — in which the U.S. declined to participate — to seek a coronavirus vaccine

15: The number of children who have been hospitalized in New York City with mysterious symptoms that may be linked to Covid-19.

2020 Vision: Warren stands by Biden

Capitol Hill reporters asked Elizabeth Warren on Monday night about Tara Reade’s allegation against Joe Biden, and here’s how the Massachusetts Democrat responded, per NBC’s Julie Tsirkin:

“I saw reports of what Ms. Reade said, I saw the interview with Vice President Biden. I appreciate that the vice president took a lot of questions, tough questions, and he answered them directly and respectfully. The vice president’s answers were credible, and convincing. I support the vice president, I support his campaign, and I am proud to endorse him for president.”

NBC’s Deepa Shivaram and Ali Vitali add that Warren “is not one to wobble around on statements like these. She’s in it all the way or she’s not. And her statement here goes further than some of the ‘that’s not the Joe Biden I know’ rhetoric we’ve heard from other women leaders the past few days.”

Our take: It’s noteworthy that every single national Democrat who’s been asked about Reade’s allegation has stood by Biden’s defense.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar: Georgia on my mind

Today’s Ad Watch heads back to Georgia, where this time we take a look at the GOP special Senate primary.

Appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., has tried to pivot from defense to offensive after criticism of her selling stocks ahead of the coronavirus outbreak that sent the markets falling. (Loeffler has argued third-party advisers handle her portfolio).

One ad argues that liberals (showing photos of Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) are “targeting” Loeffler just like President Trump, but both are “standing tall.”

That spot goes on to highlight Loeffler’s personal donations as well as how she used her private plane to deliver supplies.

Two other ads — here and here — strike similar tones, framing the attacks as “liberal lies” and her being “unfairly targeted all because she’s a strong conservative woman,” going on to tout her work on relief efforts.

Loeffler is locked in an increasingly tense primary with Rep. Doug Collins, with a recent poll conducted for Georgia state House Republicans showing Collins with a double-digit lead (the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes in its write-up of the poll that it was conducted for a Collins ally).

Masked men (and women)

So what did the Capitol look like on Monday? Per NBC’s Hill team, plenty of masks and senators hurrying off the floor.

Our team reports: “Mostly all senators were in masks, Republicans and Democrats, and social distancing was followed with some notable exceptions. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) was not wearing a mask, even when leaving the Republican leadership meeting side-by-side with a masked Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD). Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who recovered from COVID-19 last month, was also not wearing a mask.” And when it came time to vote on the floor, “many senators arrived just before the vote time, and slipped out of the Capitol as quickly as they came in.”

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Begun, the TV messaging wars have

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we dove into the Trump-v-Dems TV ad wars over coronavirus messaging.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Joe Biden’s campaign is looking at his past oversight of the economic stimulus bill as a selling point for his 2020 candidacy.

Here’s the latest on the back and forth between Joe Biden and the Secretary on the Senate, as Biden’s campaign seeks to make any records of a complaint filed by Tara Reade public.

The president is not happy about an anti-Trump GOP group’s new ad, “Mourning in America.”

What exactly is going on with two Americans reportedly being held in Venezuela?