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Trump has a 50 percent problem in the new NBC News/WSJ 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 Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. Patrick Semansky / AP

WASHINGTON — One figure continually stands out for President Trump in our new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: 50 percent.

And not in a good way for him.

Fifty percent of all registered voters in our poll “strongly” disapprove of the president.

Fifty percent say there is no chance at all they will vote for him.

Fifty-two percent — in a separate question — say they’re “very uncomfortable” about his candidacy.

Fifty-one percent are backing Joe Biden in the horserace, versus 40 percent for Trump.

One of the old maxims of American politics used to be that an incumbent (for any office) needs to be at 50 percent to be safe for re-election — otherwise there’s a majority of voters who exist that don’t support him or her.

But Trump has a different problem at hand: He’s got 50 percent (or more) of the national electorate saying they strongly oppose him.

And that’s something that a new campaign manager alone can’t fix. (By the way, it’s remarkable that Trump has switched his chief of staff and campaign manager in an election year, and they’re just blips as stories.)

Meet the voters who are up for grabs

As mentioned above, our NBC News/WSJ poll has 50 percent of registered voters saying there is no chance at all they will vote for Trump.,

And another 37 percent of voters saying the same about Biden.

That leaves 13 percent who are up for grabs, saying there is a fair/small/slight chance they might change their minds about either Trump or Biden.

So who are these 13 percent? They have negative impressions of both Trump and Biden, but Biden’s fav/unfav with them is slightly worse (11 percent positive, 45 percent negative) than Trump’s (22 percent positive, 43 percent negative).

They prefer Republicans in control of Congress by almost a 2-to-1 margin, 42 percent to 25 percent.

But their 2016 vote was split four different ways: 20 percent of them voted for Trump, 21 percent for Hillary Clinton, 21 percent voted third party, and 27 percent didn’t vote.

And it’s that last thing that should give us pause about these up-for-grabs voters: Just 40 percent of them have high interest in the 2020 election, versus 77 percent of all voters in our poll.

Bottom line: Many of them aren’t likely voters.

Understanding Joe Biden’s declining favorability rating

The other major 2020 storyline from our new NBC News/WSJ poll is Joe Biden’s fav/unfav rating falling in one month.

In June, it was 37 percent positive, 38 percent negative (-1).

Now it’s 34 percent positive, 46 percent negative (-12) – only slightly better than Trump’s 39 percent positive, 54 percent negative rating (-15).

So what happened to Biden over the past month? Well, the poll shows that key parts of the GOP coalition — men, whites, self-identified Republicans — are more down on Biden than they have been in previous NBC News/WSJ surveys.

But it also shows part of the Dem coalition — especially younger voters — are more negative about Biden.

Remember, however: Many of the young voters who have a negative opinion about Biden are still voting for him.

Per our poll, 10 percent of all voters have a negative opinion of both Trump and Biden. And Biden is leading among these voters, 62 percent to 4 percent.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

3,520,538: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 67,741 more cases than yesterday morning.)

138,355: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 971 more than yesterday morning.)

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

37 percent: The share of voters who approve of how Trump is handling the coronavirus, per the new NBC News/WSJ poll.

At least $115,000: The money sent to scammers who seized control of many high-profile Twitter accounts — including those belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Elon Musk — yesterday to ask for bitcoin investments.

74 percent: The share of voters in the latest NBC/WSJ poll who say they always wear a mask when they go shopping, go to work or are around other people outside their home — up from 63 percent last month.

About $70 billion: How much may be floated by Republicans for elementary and secondary schools in a new COVID relief bill, as White House officials eye tying school aid to reopening.

2020 Vision: Sky-high interest

There are two other important findings in our new NBC News/WSJ poll – beyond the horserace.

One, interest in the election is sky high: 77 percent of all voters say they have high interest in the election. The last time that number was that high in our poll was in October 2012.

By the way, Democrats have slightly more high interest (80 percent of them say this) than Republicans do (74 percent).

Two, voters care a lot more about controlling the coronavirus than they do reopening businesses.

Asked which congressional candidate they’d more likely vote for, 57 percent said it would be the candidate who focuses more on controlling the virus, versus 25 percent who said it would be the candidate who focuses more on reopening businesses.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at a pretty clear instance of meddling in a primary election, in this case, Kansas’ Republican Senate primary.

It’s clear that many establishment Republicans want nothing to do with the controversial Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race for the party. So while Kobach and Roger Marshall have been locked in a bitter battle ahead of next month’s primary, it appears that a Democratic group is trying to pick their party’s opponent.

Here’s how the new ad from Sunflower State, a mysterious group with Democratic ties, describes both candidates in its new spot.

Kobach: “Too conservative” and too committed to building the border wall and getting tough with China.

Marshall: A “phony” who backed a “Mitt Romney-like candidate for president,” a politician “soft on Trump and weak on immigration,” and in case it wasn’t clear what they were getting at, “fake, fake, fake.”

One of those descriptions is going to play much better with the GOP primary electorate to which the ad is targeted. The question is, will the likely Democratic meddling (the group has booked about $900,000 through the primary, according to Advertising Analytics) help boost Kobach and give Democrats the candidate they want to face off against their likely candidate, the well-funded former Republican state Sen. Barbara Bollier?

Check out more on the MTP Blog from Liz Brown-Kaiser.

Tweet of the day

In and out

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previewed what will be in and what will be out of the Republicans’ next proposition on coronavirus relief.

In: More direct checks – McConnell said he’s going to “look at additional direct checks”, and has previously said he might cap those checks to people making less than $40,000/year.

In: Liability protections – “I'm not going to put a bill on the floor of the Senate that doesn't have liability protections in it,” McConnell said.

Out: Unemployment insurance bonus – “The one mistake I think we made in the unemployment area was providing a bonus I think actually made it more attractive for many people to stay home rather than go back to work. I think that probably should not continue but the basic unemployment insurance needs to continue because we're going to have a period of high unemployment for some time to come.”

The Senate comes back to Washington next week, and the House bill that passed is likely to be a non-starter in Congress’ upper chamber.

The Lid: Poll-a-palooza

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked under the hood of our brand new NBC/WSJ poll.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s our NBC team’s take on the Trump campaign shakeup.

Trump allies are warning that his attacks on Biden’s mental fitness could backfire.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is out of the hospital.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has tested positive for COVID-19.

Anthony Fauci called the White House’s attempts to undermine him “bizarre.”

Trump’s political appointees are facing interviews intended to gauge their loyalty, Politico reports.