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Trump turns 2020 election into a referendum on health care

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.
President Donald Trump Participates In Prison Reform Summit And First Step Act Celebration At The White House
President Donald Trump leaves an in the East Room of the White House on April 1, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In a trio of tweets Monday night, President Trump simultaneously caved on health care and made the 2020 election a referendum on the issue.

“The Republicans,” he said, “are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win......back the House.”

Of course, we know Republicans don’t have a plan – at least one that could pass Congress in 2017-2018. And now Democrats are in charge of the House for at least the next year and half.

But for the short term, Trump’s decision to punt on health care for the time being relieves some anxiety for congressional Republicans after Trump’s Justice Department said the entire Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, is unconstitutional.

Thought bubble for a GOP senator: “Phew, we don’t have to come up with another plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

But in the long term, at least through the 2020 election, Trump’s tweets allow every Democratic campaign to say, “The president wants the presidential election to be a referendum on health care!”

And we saw how that played out in 2018 …

Biden’s inevitable campaign no longer seems so inevitable

After Friday’s accusation against Joe Biden – and after another one on Monday – there’s a question that should be on every single political reporter’s mind:

Is the former vice president really going to run for president in 2020?

What seemed inevitable a month ago no longer seems that inevitable right now.

Buzzfeed’s Katherine Miller nicely sums up the dilemma for Biden, as well as for the political news media: “Everybody already knows what they think about Joe Biden putting his hands on people, because we’ve all seen this happen in public. We’ve seen Biden kiss people at public events! We’ve all had years to think about it! Does anyone need a photograph of Lucy Flores and Joe Biden to know that, at some point, somewhere, over the last 40 years, someone might have been uncomfortable because the situation wasn’t quite right?”

More from Miller: “But the current system still isn’t ready to handle a well-known, gray-area subject like this. As she said on TV over the weekend, Flores didn’t consider it sexual harassment, she just was uncomfortable, and we all know what she means.”

Harris reports $12 million for 1st quarter

Kamala Harris’ campaign last night said it raised $12 million for the quarter from 218,000 individual contributions — since launching her presidential bid on January 21.

To put Harris’ $12 million into perspective:

  • Pete Buttigieg, the only other Dem 2020er to reveal his first quarter numbers so far, said he raised more than $7 million. (He announced his exploratory committee on January 23.)
  • Beto O’Rourke raised $6.1 million in his first 24 hours after launching on March 14.
  • Bernie Sanders raised $5.9 million in his first 24 hours, and appears to be on pace to raise more than $20 million for the quarter after announcing on February 19.

The candidates have until April 15 to file their first quarter numbers with the Federal Election Commission.

2020 Vision: We The Policy Proposers

At yesterday’s “We The People” presidential forum in DC, several of the 2020 Dem hopefuls spelled out policy proposals, per NBC’s Ben Kamisar.

Julian Castro: felons should be allowed to vote in every state after they serve their time; $15 minimum wage; abolish the Electoral College; make Congress subject to Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs).

Cory Booker: more policies to stop mass incarceration; increased regulations on tech companies to protect privacy and security; defended the Senate filibuster.

Amy Klobuchar: In first 100 days as president, push for DC statehood, rejoin the Paris climate accord and pass comprehensive immigration reform. Also supported passing laws to allow felons to vote after leaving prison, and to have automatic same-day voter registration.

Beto O’Rourke: executive order for cabinet secretaries to hold a town hall each month with the public; redistricting reform; new Voting Rights Act; constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United.

Elizabeth Warren: get rid of private prisons; overturn Citizens United; equal access to voting; new bill for public housing; more aggressive enforcement to protect voting rights; and pursue her anti-corruption and anti-monopoly policies.

More from NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald, Lauren Egan and Eileen Street at the forum: “Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he does not support expanding the size of the Supreme Court, as a growing number of progressives have advocated, which would allow a Democratic president to tilt the ideological balance of the court back in their favor.”

On the campaign trail today

Kamala Harris travels to Nevada, where she keynotes a Battle Born Progress event in Carson City.

Tweet of the day

Shameless Plugs

The Meet the Press: First Read newsletter isn’t the only thing in the NBC News Political Unit that’s getting an upgrade.

Check out this week’s new changes to our blog. And we’re cooking up some changes to Chuck’s podcast, too, so stay tuned.

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Data Download: The number of the day is … 48 percent.

Forty--eight percent.

That’s the share of regular viewers of Fox News who say — based on what they’ve heard about the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s report — that the special counsel’s investigation has cleared Trump of wrongdoing.

That’s compared with 29 percent of Americans overall who say Trump has been cleared. About one-in-five (22 percent) of those who regularly watch broadcast news to stay informed say the same, along with just 15 percent of regular MSNBC viewers.

More MSNBC viewers say that Trump HAS NOT been exonerated, versus Fox News viewers who say that he HAS been cleared.

About two-thirds (64 percent) of MSNBC viewers say Trump was not cleared by the Mueller investigation, while 28 percent of Fox News viewers say he was cleared.

The Lid: LGBT? NBD!

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how a majority of Americans now say they’re enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay or lesbian candidate for president.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

If it’s Tuesday… Keep an eye on elections today in Chicago, Wisconsin, the Pittsburgh suburbs, and Ferguson, Mo.

A GOP-led disaster funding bill failed in the Senate after clashes about whether it contained sufficient funding for Puerto Rico.

Will Trump really name an “immigration czar”?

Beto O’Rourke says he’ll sign an executive order requiring Cabinet secretaries to hold monthly town halls

Other news that’s out there…

Trump agenda: Blowing the whistle

Whistleblower Tricia Newbold told Congress that the Trump administration overturned 25 security clearance denials.

Progressive groups are getting ready to hold nationwide protests over the release of the Mueller report.

Lawmakers are getting more and more worried about the fiscal cliff.

House Republicans are trying to court women voters for 2020. It’s a bit of a rocky ride.

2020: Biden World’s pushback

Joe Biden’s allies are pushing back on “smears and forgeries” they say misrepresent his conduct with women.

Kamala Harris says she raised $12 million in the first quarter.

2020 Democratic hopefuls used yesterday’s cattle call in DC to push big changes to the political system.

The New York Times follows up on all that chaos in Virginia politics (remember that?)

Ben Ray Lujan is officially running for Senate.