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Michelle Obama "goes high" — right at Trump's chin

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: Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.2020 Democratic National Convention / DNC via Reuters

WASHINGTON — Four years ago at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, former First Lady Michelle Obama instructed Democrats that when the opposition goes low, “we go high.”

Last night at the virtual Democratic convention (due to the coronavirus pandemic), she responded to the three and a half years of Donald Trump’s presidency by going high – right at the opposition’s chin.

It is what it is.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is,” Michelle Obama said.

She also sounded the alarm on the urgency of November’s vote. “If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”

Night One for the Democrats summed up the entire premise of Joe Biden’s candidacy.

There was Michelle Obama appealing to female and Black voters; there was Bernie Sanders calling for unity; there was Republican John Kasich reminding independents and disaffected Republicans that Biden won’t get pushed around by progressives; and there was Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking to Midwest voters.

But in a sign of how the next 77 days are about to go into negative overdrive, as Michelle Obama made the most explicit case against the president so far, the Trump camp has a new digital ad going directly at Biden’s mental faculties.

That ad both raises the stakes and lowers the bar for Biden’s speech on Thursday.

Tweet of the day

Cause and effect

If you want to know why Americans are less confident that the election will be counted accurately than they were four years ago, per the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, just look at President Trump’s tweet yesterday attacking drop boxes for mail-in ballots.

“Some states use ‘drop boxes’ for the collection of Universal Mail-In Ballots. So who is going to “collect” the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country. Only Absentee Ballots acceptable!

The facts: There is absolutely no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing when it comes to drop boxes. And Trump’s own lawyers say the terms “absentee” and “mail in” are interchangeable.

It’s looking like Memorial Day all over again

If it weren’t for the Democratic convention or President Trump’s words and actions directed at the U.S. Postal Service, this might be the biggest story in America.

The coronavirus keeps on winning — every time the public and institutions pretend that it’s over.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced it would shift to remote learning for all undergraduate classes starting Wednesday,” the New York Times writes.

“The university, with 30,000 students, was one of the largest in the country to open its campus during the pandemic. Officials said 177 students had been isolated after testing as of Monday, and another 349 students were in quarantine because of possible exposure.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5,461,289: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 41,110 more than yesterday morning.)

171,606: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 723 more than yesterday morning.)

67.62 million: The number of coronavirus tests administered in the U.S., according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

177: The number of cases confirmed among students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which has now abruptly reversed its decision to start in-person classes this week.

Only three weeks: How long unemployment benefits may be extended by President Trump’s executive order as Congress remains gridlocked.

10: The number of states banding together to implement a new testing strategy amid frustration with the federal government.

44 percent: The share of Americans who say they WOULD get a government-approved coronavirus vaccine if it was widely available.

$60 million: How much Mike Bloomberg has pledged in a new effort to grow Democrats’ House majority.

2020 Vision: Day Two’s lineup at the Democratic convention

Here’s Tuesday night’s lineup of speeches, which will take place from 9:00 pm ET to 11:00 pm ET:

  • Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Dr. Jill Biden

Also tonight at the Dem convention, several young Democrats will jointly deliver the keynote address, and the roll call vote by state — virtually — takes place in the 9:00 pm ET hour.

As for the Republican counter-programming, President Trump delivers remarks in Yuma, Ariz. And before that, he visits Iowa to inspect the damage there from the derecho.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

As Congress and the White House sit at a deadlock over the next round of pandemic relief, One Nation, a non-profit aligned with Senate Republicans, is hammering the airwaves in the hopes of turning the congressional response to coronavirus into a positive for vulnerable Republicans.

In new ads out today, One Nation highlights Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ role in crafting the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as the pushes by North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Georgia Sen. David Perdue to get federal aid to their states’ hospitals and businesses.

The latest NBC/WSJ poll found that 58 percent of registered voters disapproved of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, with just 40 percent approving. And 61 percent said they found America’s coronavirus response to be unsuccessful.

So as those feelings loom large, One Nation is hoping to soften that sentiment up by drawing a line between popular pieces of the congressional response to its GOP members.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

Senate Republicans plan to introduce another coronavirus relief plan, NBC’s Hill team reports.

The narrow bill will include $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, according to GOP Sources.

Per our Hill team, the bill has little chance in the Democratic House and is likely to look more like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s $1 trillion plan and less like the House Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act.

But here’s what we know about their plan so far:

  • $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, the compromise number from previous coronavirus negotiations – though it’s unclear if that’s for the one-year timeframe Democrats were once willing to agree to (the original Democratic demand was $25 billion over three years.
  • $300 per week in the federal unemployment insurance benefit, but it’s unclear how long that benefit will last.
  • Another round of PPP funding and liability protections.
  • Some money for schools and testing – Democrats have been demanding more than the GOP has been willing to give.

On the Democratic side, the House will vote on Saturday to give $25 billion to the USPS and roll back policy changes put in place by the Postmaster General.

The Lid: Poll position

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we ran through everything you need to know about our latest NBC/WSJ poll.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

If you missed last night’s convention coverage, you can catch up with the news as it happened from’s live blog.

Last night was mostly about party unity, but there was still a dust-up between John Kasich and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Washington Post looks at the role Jill Biden is playing in her husband’s campaign.

And the New York Times previews Bill Clinton’s speech tonight.

The Postmaster General will appear for testimony on Capitol Hill next week.

Veterans of the Post Office are placing blame for recent delays squarely on Louis DeJoy’s overhauls.

Will the slow response to Iowa’s devastating storms last week nudge voters away from Republicans?