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With Supreme Court pick, Trump is once again on the wrong side of public opinion

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.
Amy Coney Barrett teaches at Notre Dame Law School on April 11, 2013.
Amy Coney Barrett teaches at Notre Dame Law School on April 11, 2013.Matt Cashore / University of Notre Dame

WASHINGTON — The good news for President Trump is that he’s been able to change the national political conversation from the coronavirus to the Supreme Court — well, at least before Sunday’s bombshell New York Times story on his taxes (more on that story below).

The bad news for Trump is that his stance on the Supreme Court vacancy is unpopular with a majority of voters.

On Friday, a Washington Post/ABC poll found 57 percent of Americans — including more than six-in-10 independents and women — saying that the Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should be decided by the winner of the 2020 election.

And yesterday, two NBC News/Marist polls of Michigan and Wisconsin also showed majorities of likely voters in those battlegrounds — 54 percent and 56 percent, respectively — saying that filling the SCOTUS vacancy should be determined by whoever wins in November.

These surveys were conducted before Trump went ahead on Saturday and nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with less than 40 days before the election.

Still, they underscore how almost all Democrats and approximately 60 percent of independents oppose the move, putting Trump on the wrong side of public opinion. (It’s that same Democratic-independent coalition that has the president trailing nationally and in battlegrounds like Michigan and Wisconsin.)

What’s more, the issues surrounding the Amy Coney Barrett pick — the possible dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions, as well as overturning Roe v. Wade — aren’t popular, either. (See here and here.)

And as we discovered in the 2018 midterms (when Trump’s Obamacare repeal-and-replace and his tax-reform law were on the ballot), being on the wrong side of public opinion isn’t a safe space in an election year.

About that bombshell New York Times report

After obtaining President Trump’s tax records from over the last two decades, the New York Times reported on Sunday that:

  • Trump paid just $750 in federal incomes taxes in 2016.
  • He paid only another $750 in 2017.
  • He paid no incomes taxes in 10 of the last 15 years (because he reported losing more money than he made).
  • And he claimed a $72.9 million tax REFUND – which is the subject of a decades-long battle with the IRS.

“Trump said Sunday that the story was ‘totally fake news’ and ‘made up,’ although he acknowledged that he ‘didn't know anything about the story’ ahead of its publication, which came moments before his news conference began,” per NBC News.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,147,707: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 134,638 more than Friday morning.)

205,940: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,883 more than Friday morning.)

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

$750: How much Trump paid in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency, according to the New York Times.

10 of 15: The number of years before 2016 in which Trump paid no income tax at all because he reported losing more than he earned.

65 percent to 34 percent: Biden’s national lead over Trump among women who are likely to vote, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll.

2020 Vision: Just say no

Trump yesterday doubled down on his ask that he and Biden both take drug tests before the debate, because of Biden’s last debate performance:

“I'm willing to take a drug test, I think he should too, because he's had a very uneven — I watched him with some of the, when he was with you know debating Pocahontas and Harris who treated him so badly but I watched him. And he was out of it,” Trump said, adding: “Then all of a sudden, he debated crazy Bernie Sanders, and you know what the truth is, he was, he was okay. And I said, how did he go from there, those horrible performances, to where he was okay?”

Remember, of course, what Trump said about Hillary Clinton before their final debate:

“We should take a drug test prior because I don’t know what’s going on with her. But at the beginning of her last debate — she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, ‘Oh, take me down.’ She could barely reach her car.”

Meanwhile, NBC’s Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report that Biden began ramping up his debate practice last week — but without the stagecraft and production value his team deployed before his VP debates in 2008 and 2012.

Campaign legal adviser Bob Bauer has been serving as Trump in practice sessions, Memoli and Sotomayor add.

On the campaign trail today

Kamala Harris stumps in North Carolina.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch heads down to Alabama, a state where football is so ingrained into its DNA that the GOP Senate nominee is former college football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Unlike Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, Tuberville doesn’t have much of a political record to pick through. So what’s Jones doing instead? Attacking Tuberville’s coaching record.

The Democrat released this spot over the weekend (just in time for the return of SEC football) that compiles a litany Tuberville’s coaching lowlights — how he left Ole Miss days after declaring he’d be there until he died, how Auburn paid him a hefty buyout after he left the program, how a Texas Tech recruit said Tuberville left him at a dinner table to go take another head-coaching job, and more.

While incumbents have a lot of advantages, political newcomers have the benefit of not having a record in elected office, which means their opponents usually have less to work with. So this ad is a good example of how the Jones campaign is trying to turn Tuberville’s coaching record into a liability the way one might pick through an opponent’s political record.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: (Not So) Great Expectations

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at the polling showing most voters don’t believe the upcoming debates will be that important when it comes to making their choice.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

CDC leader Robert Redfield told a colleague during a phone call overheard by NBC News that Dr. Scott Atlas is sharing misleading information about the pandemic.

The first debate could be Biden’s best chance to counter Trump’s attacks on his mental fitness.

A new poll by a Democratic firm shows that battleground state voters may not be buying Trump’s pitch on China.

Is mail theft on the rise? USPS says it can’t tell for sure.

Amy Coney Barrett may draw scrutiny for her address to a training for Christian lawyers.

The New York Times profiles the Fox News Decision Desk.

What happens if the presidential election gets thrown to the House?