Another poll shows Hillary Clinton running away with the Democratic 2016 primary should she decide to run. Clinton gets 73% of Democrats in a Washington Post/ABC poll, followed by Vice President Joe Biden at 12% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 8%. Clinton has a 58%/38% fav/unfav. On the Republican side, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) leads with 20% followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 18%, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 13%, Sen. Ted Cruz 12%, Sen. Rand Paul 11%, Sen. Marco Rubio 10%. Cruz has a wide lead among strong Tea Party backers; Christie is weakest with that group. Ryan leads with white evangelicals. Clinton would beat Christie by 12 points, 53%-41%. And more people, by a 46%-43% margin think the bridge scandal is a sign of bigger problems rather than an isolated incident. And he is a net-negative fav/unfav now at 35%/40%.
Given Ryan’s recent poll strength and having said he does not want to be speaker, Politico looks at what Ryan’s up to.
Perhaps no one benefits more from Christie’s fall more than Bush. He says he will decide later this year if he’s getting in. He tells CBS Miami: "I'm deferring the decision to the right time which is later this year and the decision will be based on, can I do it joyfully, because I think we need to have candidates lift our spirits. It's a pretty pessimistic country right now; and, is it right for my family? So I don't even want to think about that till it's the right time and that's later on." (h/t: Political Wire.)
AP: “The campaign committee for House Democrats raised $5.6 million in December, bringing its fundraising total for 2013 to nearly $76 million. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has about $30 million in the bank heading into the election year. After picking up eight seats in 2012, Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats in November to capture control of the House. The National Republican Congressional Committee hasn't yet released its December totals. But at the end of November, Democrats had $8 million more on hand than Republicans and were poised to outraise them for the year. Both committees were debt-free.”
The Washington Post looks at how Republicans are trying to show care and concern for the poor and middle class through a series of initiatives and hearings. “The challenge for Republicans is convincing voters that their newfound concern is sincere. After three years of budget cuts and fiscal crises that badly damaged the GOP brand, voters not only rejected presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 but also have told pollsters that they view Republicans generally as indifferent to middle-class interests,” the Post writes. “That must change if the party hopes for a different outcome in the 2014 midterm elections and beyond, senior Republicans say.”
NBC’s Avery Powell reports: The liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee held a conference call on Wednesday praising President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage to 10.10 per hour. Adam Green, co-founder of the PCCC, argued that the president was adopting Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) economic populism. Also on the call were Democratic candidates the PCCC has endorsed in this year’s election cycle – such as Maine Senate candidate Sheena Bellows, South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland – who also praised the minimum-wage hike and Obama’s speech.
But, Powell adds, some disagreed with the president on a few issues. Bellows, for example, stated that Obama was not courageous enough on the issue of privacy and called for him to end the NSA’s surveillance program and repeal the Patriot Act.
ARKANSAS: Roll Call: “Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., intends to make the farm bill a driving issue in his competitive re-election race against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. Minutes after the conference report passed the House 251-166 on Wednesday morning, Pryor called Cotton’s vote against the five-year reauthorization of the nation’s agriculture and nutrition programs “reckless and irresponsible.” Pryor noted that Cotton was the only member of the state’s all-Republican House delegation to oppose the legislation.”
FLORIDA: Charlie Crist (D) leads Rick Scott (R), 46%-38%, in a new Quinnipiac poll.
*** Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: As the House Republican Conference holds their retreat in Cambridge, MD we’ll have a live report from NBC’s Luke Russert. Plus, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joins us live in studio. Then, we’ll talk about the economy with former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Princeton Professor Alan Blinder. Then, Senator Orrin Hatch will talk to Chuck about healthcare. All that plus the latest on the storm that crippled Atlanta Metropolitan Area and Chuck’s Thursday Takeaway.
*** “MSNBC Live” Line-Up at 11:00 am ET: MSNBC’s Alex Witt interviews Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, MSNBC’s Karen Finney and The Grio’s Goldie Taylor. Today’s Agenda Panel includes The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar and MaddowBlog’s Steve Benen.
*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Roy Blunt, Mark and Maria Shriver, Olympic medalist Bonnie Blair, NBC’s Luke Russert and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.
The Michael Grimm story of threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony because of a question the New York Republican didn’t like has begun to take on a life of its own.
It’s following an all-too-familiar pattern -- a controversy, an inadequate first response, a massive media glare, an apology, and finally the desire to move on.
But this isn’t the first time a shiny-metal object -- with little-to-no political consequence, beyond perhaps hurting Grimm for his reelection -- has distracted from the substance of an address to Congress and the nation in the Obama Era.
Here’s a look back:
2009: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Republican response was lampooned as being “Kenneth the Page”-like.
Later that year, Obama went before Congress to deliver an address on health care. That’s when South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson blurted out, “You Lie!”Watch on YouTube
2010: Justice Samuel Alito shakes his head at the State of the Union, mouthing “not true” at President Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
2011: Michele Bachmann delivered the Tea Party response. In a bit of poor planning, she wound up looking at wrong camera for the television audience. She was looking at the livestream web camera for Tea Party Express, but most people were watching on broadcast and cable television.
2012: Mitch Daniels’ despair/unhopeful response lampooned by Jon Stewart. It was also a State of the Union that was delivered in the heart of the GOP primary.
2014: Michael “Throw you off the Balcony” Grimm and before that a Duck Dynasty star being another controversial guest (as well as a handful of others).
By the way, Twitter was invented in 2006 and, perhaps not so coincidentally, started to gain real popularity in 2009.
On the road again: Obama takes his State of the Union message to Lanham, MD (at 10:25 am ET) and West Mifflin, PA (at 1:45 pm ET)… It was an agreeable and well-polled speech -- which was still criticized by red-state Democrats… Obama last night: “America has never come easy”… The other Great Disconnect in American politics: An increasingly improving economy at a time when Americans are become more pessimistic about the country’s direction… On the GOP’s response: McMorris Rodgers’ effective speech -- but which gets overshadowed by Rep. Grimm threatening a reporter... And how will Democrats respond to a House immigration bill that omits a path to citizenship?By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** On the road again: President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union address last night was optimistic in tone, was modest in ambition, expressed a desire to work with Congress, yet acknowledged that the president would take whatever executive action he could if Congress doesn’t act. It also was a political speech without being too partisan -- it served as an organizing principle for his party ahead of the midterms, but was largely devoid of controversy (more on that below). The White House’s challenge now is to make sure last night’s State of the Union isn’t a one-day event. Today, President Obama gives a 10:25 am ET speech at a Costco in Lanham, MD, where he’ll talk about the importance of raising the minimum wage. Then he heads to West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, where he’ll give a 1:45 pm ET address on boosting retirement security. Tomorrow, Obama heads to Wisconsin and Tennessee. Follow-through has been a shortcoming of this administration -- it sometimes appears that it will set out to emphasize a message, but only drop it a week or two later. Much of that is due to all of the external (and unexpected) events a White House must confront. But last night’s speech will only be successful if it lives past today and tomorrow.
*** An agreeable speech -- which was still criticized by red-state Democrats: When it came to the issues, Obama’s State of the Union was agreeable in tone -- he laid out what he was for (on the economy, immigration, health care) but did so hoping that some Republicans could agree with him. It wasn’t confrontational. And not surprisingly, it tested well: According to CNN’s instant poll, 76% of viewers had a positive reaction to the speech (though the sample was made up of a disproportionate number of Democrats because those folks were more likely to watch the address). It also seemed designed to unite the Democratic Party ahead of this year’s upcoming midterm elections. Almost every issue he discussed was something that both Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) could agree on. That said, as Politico notes, red-state Democrats like Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Pryor all issued critical statements of the speech. “While the President delivered a lot of sound bites that may sound good in a speech, we need to hear a clear plan and commitment to economic growth," Begich said. “Overall, I'm disappointed with the President's State of the Union address because he was heavy on rhetoric, but light on specifics about how we can move our country forward,” Pryor added. These statements, in fact, seemed written beforehand. Then again, that’s what happens when your approval rating is 43% and obviously lower than that in states like Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
*** “America has never come easy”: Last night’s speech also ended on an emotional -- and upbeat -- note when Obama recognized Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, who was almost killed in Afghanistan and continues to recuperate from a brain injury. “My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy,” the president said. “Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble, we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress.” That story could also apply to Obama himself: Nothing in his seven years on the national political stage (2007-2014) has come easy. The 2008 race for the Democratic nomination. Even that general election. The health-care law. The re-election campaign. And now the president’s current situation in which he finds himself bloodied and bruised after the botched health-care rollout. Perseverance is an important quality for any president. Bill Clinton was usually able to talk his way out of sticky situations. But Obama’s M.O. is to grind it out. That, more than anything else, was the message he wanted to send last night -- both he and the country are grinding it out.
*** The other Great Disconnect in American politics: One challenge for the White House to crack is what has become one of the more interesting disconnects in American politics -- an increasingly improving economy at a time when Americans are growing more pessimistic about the country’s direction. Think about it: The Dow is up more than 2,000 points since last year; the unemployment rate has dropped 1.2 percentage points; and consumer confidence is on the rise. See here:
Jan. 2013: 7.9%
Dow Jones Average
Jan. 29, 2013: 13,910
Consumer Confidence (per the Conference Board)
But then look at the numbers from our new NBC/WSJ poll compared with where they were last January:
Jan. 2013: 35%
Jan. 2013: 52%
Optimistic/satisfied about Obama’s remaining time in office
Jan. 2013: 51%
In his speech last night, the president -- no longer fearful about overhyping the economic progress – made the case the economy is getting better. “The lowest unemployment rate in over five years,” he said. “A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world -- the first time that’s happened in nearly 20 years.” The question for the White House is if the public truly begins to FEEL this progress in the coming months -- and also if the economy continues to IMPROVE.
*** On the GOP’s response: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered the best official GOP response we’ve seen in the Obama Era. Of course, that’s a relatively low bar (just think of the Jindal and Rubio past responses). But hers was a simple speech, wasn’t that confrontational, and tried to get across the message that Republicans have empathy, too. Unfortunately for the GOP, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) threatening a reporter for asking him a question doesn’t help on the empathy front. And the danger is that more people will be talking about that today instead of McMorris Rodgers’ response.
*** How will Democrats respond to a House immigration bill that omits a path to citizenship? And finally, House Republicans hit their retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The big topic will be immigration. It appears Republicans are set on NOT providing a path to citizenship. The question is how Democrats -- and the Gang of Eight -- respond to this. Be sure to watch Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) talk about this issue and others on “Daily Rundown” this morning.
http://is.gd/ccxyrR%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank">Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on http://is.gd/TzuR1b%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank">Facebook and also on http://is.gd/hkhSDT%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank">Twitter. Follow us @http://twitter.com/#!/chucktodd">chucktodd, @http://twitter.com/#!/mmurraypolitics">mmurraypolitics, @http://twitter.com/#!/DomenicoNBC">DomenicoNBC
AP: “President Barack Obama's year of action could amount to a lot of running in place. The constitutional constraints on his authority and lack of cooperation in Congress are a recipe for low-yield initiatives with limited reach. But limited executive actions, such as the ones he announced Tuesday night, might be all government can bear to do in an election year when Congress' balance of power is on the line.”
Susan Page: “The contrast between President Obama's State of the Union Address a year ago and the one he delivered Tuesday night is the difference between soaring ambitions — understandable for someone who had just decisively won a second term in the White House — and downsized dreams. It reflects a political journey from the aspirational to the achievable.”
NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard writes: Stan Greenberg, the longtime Democratic pollster, said Tuesday night that the president performed “impressively” based on the significantly positive response among swing voters to his speech. Greenberg’s organization, Democracy Corps, tracked the instant responses and post-speech reflection of 44 swing voters, including 16 unmarried women—a key voting demographic, in Denver. The biggest home run for the president came during his passage on women and pay equity, initiating “off the charts” marks, especially from the unmarried women. Overall, the president’s personal rating shot up by 28 points because of his “realistic solutions” for the economy—Greenberg noted the voters came in “almost as if they had no sense of the president’s plan to move the economy forward.”
But, including Democrats, the voters did not respond well to his statements that the deficit went down, the economy has seen great gains, and they dismissed the notion that the U.S. is prepared for a 21st Century economy. A significant portion of the focus group was, though, particularly drawn to his lines on stagnant wages, upward mobility and education, per Greenberg. And though the voters first responded skeptically to the president’s mention of the Affordable Care Act, he saw bumps—including from Republicans--when he relayed the protection guaranteed to those with pre-existing conditions. Greenberg’s tracking showed a 13-point favorability increase of the Affordable Care Act. The president’s pitch for expanding early childhood education gained traction among Democrats.
AP fact checks Obama and Republican respondent Cathy McMorris-Rodgers: “It seems to be something of an occupational hazard for President Barack Obama: When he talks about his health care law, he's bound to hit a fact bump sooner or later. So it went Tuesday night, when he declared Medicare premiums have stayed flat thanks to the law, when they've gone up. As for an even bigger theme of his State of the Union address, the president's assertion that ‘upward mobility has stalled’ in America runs contrary to recent research, while other findings support him.”
On McMorris-Rodgers: “It's true that a large part of the still-high unemployment rate is due to jobless workers who have given up looking for a job. There are roughly three people seeking every job opening, a circumstance that can discourage others from trying. But one big reason people aren't seeking employment is that there are so many boomers — the generation born in the immediate aftermath of World War II — and therefore more than the usual number of retirements.”
FactCheck.org also found some cherry picked facts from Obama, including that nine million number of health-care enrollees. “Medicaid estimates include renewals, along with new enrollees,” they write.
Politico has its own fact check.
Vice President Biden made the rounds on the morning shows and echoed Obama’s call to go around Congress where they could. "We're just not going to sit around and wait for the Congress if they choose not to act,” Biden said on CBS.
But he also contested that Obama would simply go around Congress on NBC’s Today: “That’s not what he said, he said, ‘I’ll work with the Congress, I want to work with them.’ I think you’ll see much more cooperation with the Congress this year than you have the past five years.”
Perhaps Roll Call summed it up best: “Obama 'Eager' to Work With Congress, but Ready to Act Alone.”
He also said he believed "in my heart," he could be a good president, AP notes. But he says he hasn’t made a decision yet. "I haven't made a decision to run and I haven't made a decision not to run,” he said. “Jill and I will make that decision later down the road."
While President Obama takes his message on the road Wednesday, going to a Costco in Lanham, Md., and a steel plant in Pennsylvania, Republicans are heading for their retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The story of soldier Cory Remsburg lit up Twitter, which USA Today notes had, “seemed more focused on surface than substance.”
Speaking of more surface than substance, Twitter was obsessed with Joe Biden’s facial expressions.
A George W. Bush speechwriter accused Obama of plagiarizing his former boss on FOX for using the phrase “hope and opportunity.” But Dylan Byers finds, “A quick text compare shows that no lines were directly lifted from Bush's 2007 speech in the one Obama gave on Tuesday. There are some minor similarities between the two: Obama use a version of the word "opportunity" more than ten times in his speech, Bush used the word at least eight times. Both speeches also ended with a moving story about a wounded veteran.”
“House Republicans are getting ready to surrender: There will be no serious fight over the debt limit,” Politico writes. “The most senior figures in the House Republican Conference are privately acknowledging that they will almost certainly have to pass what’s called a clean debt ceiling increase in the next few months, abandoning the central fight that has defined their three-year majority.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in his Tea Party address accused Obama of the being the one who caused income inequality with Obamacare. “Obamacare – all by itself – is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs.”
(But that doesn’t really make sense given the least well off benefit most from the health care law.)
One hot Republican reaction had nothing to do with President Obama after the State of the Union. Rep. Michael Grimm went all Staten Island on a reporter from local NY1, threatening to “throw you off this (expletive) balcony” and that he’d "break (Scotto) in half" for asking about allegations involving his campaign finances. Here’s NBC’s and AP’s write ups.
Josh Kraushaar: “There's one candidate who isn't generating much buzz and whose résumé compares favorably with any of the top-tier candidates. He's a battleground-state governor who's looking in strong position to win a second term. He defeated one of the more popular Democratic governors in the country, who happened to be a major Clinton ally. He's from the Midwest, likely to be the critical region in the 2016 presidential election. He entered office as a prominent fiscal conservative but compromised on Medicaid expansion. And most important, Republican officials familiar with his thinking say he's seriously considering a presidential campaign. Enter Ohio Gov. John Kasich.”
Speaking of potential 2016 Republicans, National Journal notes, “The United States is having a libertarian moment. And Rand Paul is getting ready to capture it by himself. The Kentucky Republican delivered his own response to President Obama's State of the Union on Tuesday night via YouTube. But the rebuttal wasn't so much about what Obama said Tuesday as much as it was an opening salvo for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, the bulk of it coming as a directed argument against big government.”
National Journal: “Senate Democrats have a big problem. Historically, Senate candidates struggle where their party's president is the least popular. And, as Gallup's 2013 state approval-rating averages show, President Obama is very, very unpopular in the states Democrats have to defend in the 2014 elections.”
Christine Todd Whitman on Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ response, per the LA Times: "It's hard for me to phrase this politely. Sometimes Republicans think that just putting a woman up front means somehow that women are going to feel good about the party. It is not about the messenger. It's about the message. And until we figure that one out, while it's nice that we have a woman as a spokesperson, if the message itself doesn't get changed a bit, it's not going to work." (H/T: Political Wire.)
*** Wednesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: On our post State of the Union show, Chuck will interview Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin to get his reaction on President’s Obama speech. Then Chuck will talk with House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan. Plus, we’ll take a Deep Dive into our new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal Poll with pollsters Fred Yang and Micah Roberts. Plus a jam-packed data bank and Chuck’s Wednesday takeaway.
*** “MSNBC Live” Line-Up at 11:00 am ET: MSNBC’s Richard Lui interviews Ben La Bolt – former National Press Secretary for Obama for America, Fmr. Rep Tom Davis (R-VA), MSNBC host Ronan Farrow and msnbc.com’s Zachary Roth. Today’s Agenda panel includes The Daily Beast’s Jamelle Bouie, msnbc.com’s Suzy Khimm, and MSNBC contributor Victoria DeFrancesco Soto.
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Fmr. Sen. Olympia Snowe, NBC’s Chuck Todd, Fmr. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, Fmr. Clinton chief speechwriter Michael Waldman, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and we’ll carry President Obama’s post-SOTU speech in West Mifflin, PA.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Sen. Bob Casey, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reuters columnist Zachary Karabell, cnet.com’s Dan Ackerman, and Sirius XM’s Michael Smerconish.