A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) looks over campaign materials at a town hall meeting hosted by the candidate at Valley High School on July 24, 2015 in West Des Moines, Iowa.
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All major candidates unpopular in two key states — except Bernie Sanders

The Unpopularity Contest … Almost all the major candidates are unpopular in Iowa and New Hampshire, per new NBC-Marist polls — with one exception … As Obama goes, so goes Hillary … But we still have 15-plus months until the general election … Looking at the NBC-Marist horserace numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire … Bill Clinton vs. George W Bush … Kasich: “Grow up” … Priebus doesn’t criticize Trump in “Today” interview … And the prize for the most overheated political rhetoric goes to … Mike Huckabee. 

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** The Unpopularity Contest: The numbers inside the new NBC-Marist poll tell a story beyond the horesraces in Iowa and New Hampshire. They underscore how most of the top presidential candidates are unpopular right now with the general-election audience in both states. And that’s especially true for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and (not much surprise here) Donald Trump. The one exception? Bernie Sanders. Take a look at the numbers:

Candidate fav/unfav scores among registered voters in Iowa

  • Bernie Sanders: 30%-27% (+3)
  • Rubio: 31%-32% (-1)
  • Scott Walker: 30%-31% (-1)
  • Jeb Bush: 34%-46% (-12)
  • Hillary Clinton: 37%-56% (-19)
  • Donald Trump: 32%-60% (-28)

Candidate fav/unfav scores among registered voters in New Hampshire

  • Sanders: 41%-29% (+12)
  • Bush: 40%-45% (-5)
  • Walker: 28%-34% (-6)
  • Rubio 28%-34% (-6)
  • Clinton: 37%-57% (-20)
  • Trump -27%-67% (-40)

These numbers, in particular, aren’t good news for Hillary – and they match what a recent Quinnipiac poll also found in Iowa. That said, the national story is a bit different, with a new CNN poll finding Hillary’s fav/unfav rating nationwide at 45%-48% (-3), versus Trump’s 33%-58% (-25) and Jeb’s 33%-43% (-10).

*** As Obama goes, so goes Hillary: Our NBC-Marist polls of Iowa and New Hampshire also make this pretty clear: As Obama goes, so goes Hillary. The president’s approval rating stands at 43% in Iowa and 41% in New Hampshire. And his fav/unfav numbers are upside down in both states – 46%-51% in Iowa (-5) and 43%-53% in New Hampshire (-10).

*** But we still have 15-plus months to go: Yet here is a VERY important reminder about looking ahead to the general election: It was at this time exactly four years ago that Washington and President Obama were rocked by the debt-ceiling crisis. Remember that? Indeed, in our NBC-Marist poll of Oct. 2011, Obama’s approval rating in the Hawkeye State was at 42%, and his approval in New Hampshire was even worse – at 38%. And guess what: Obama ended up winning both states in the 2012 general election pretty easily, it turns out.

*** Looking at the NBC-Marist horserace numbers: As for our primary/caucus horserace numbers in the NBC-Marist poll, Trump leads the GOP field in New Hampshire, getting support from 21% of potential GOP primary voters. He’s followed by Jeb Bush at 14%, Scott Walker at 12% and John Kasich at 7%. In Iowa, Walker and Trump are in the Top 2 – with Walker at 19% among potential Republican caucus-goers and Trump at 17%. They’re followed by Bush at 12%, Ben Carson at 8%, Mike Huckabee at 7% and Rand Paul at 5%. Meanwhile, in the Democratic presidential race, the polls show that Hillary is ahead, but that Bernie Sanders has gained ground on her since earlier this year. In Iowa, Clinton leads Sanders by 29 points, 55% to 26%, with Martin O’Malley at 4% and Jim Webb at 2%. In New Hampshire, Clinton is ahead of Sanders (who represents neighboring Vermont in the U.S. Senate) by 13 points, 47% to 34 %. They’re followed by O’Malley at 5% and Lincoln Chafee at 2%.

*** Bill Clinton vs. George W. Bush: Our NBC-Marist polls also examined the popularity of former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In Iowa, Bill Clinton’s numbers among Democrats is 83%-12%, and 53%-41% among all registered voters. By comparison, Bush’s are 75%-19% among GOP voters and 45%-50% among all registered Iowa voters. The numbers are pretty similar in New Hampshire: Clinton’s standing is 84%-13% among Democrats and 56%-41% among all voters, while Bush’s are 74%-20% among NH Republicans and 48%-46% among all Granite State voters. Just a reminder of what a GENERIC “Clinton” vs. “Bush” contest might look like. 

*** Kasich: “Grow up”: Finally, maybe the biggest surprise in our NBC-Marist poll is John Kasich sitting in fourth place in New Hampshire. (Then again, the pro-Kasich New Day for America has spent $2.1 million on Kasich’s behalf in the Granite State.) And Kasich sat down with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “If we’re running for these offices just to get elected, I mean, we’re not running for class president,” Kasich said. “We’re running to be the commander-in-chief and the leader of the United States of America. Grow up.” The toughest foreign-policy challenge for the next president? “Well, radical Islam really is a giant one. We should be there, including boots on the ground. And we need to degrade and destroy ISIS.” So that means sending more U.S. troops into Iraq? “Well, I would have them in a role where they’re going to be on the ground fighting.” What about immigration? “What I support is a guest worker program expanded so people can come in and then go home. Seal the border…  Guest worker program, the 12 million that are here, if they violated the law, they go out or they go to jail. But if they’re hardworking, God-fearing, family people, they go to church, they work with us, let them stay. They’re going to have a pay a fine.”  

*** Priebus doesn’t criticize Trump in “Today” interview: On the “TODAY” show this morning, RNC Chair Reince Priebus didn’t criticize Donald Trump. “He is speaking out to people who are frustrated.” Priebus disagreed that Trump could do damage to the GOP brand. “Everyone speaks for themselves.” But he added, “I do agree that tone matters.” Finally, Priebus said he doesn’t see Trump running as an independent candidate. “Our candidates should pledge not to run as a third-party candidate.”

*** The prize for the most overheated political rhetoric goes to … : Lastly, as “Meet the Press” noted yesterday, some of the GOP candidates NOT NAMED Donald Trump have done some, well, interesting things to break through with all of the attention Trump. There was Rand Paul taking a chainsaw to the tax code. There was Lindsey Graham destroying his cell phone. And there was Ted Cruz picking a fight with Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor. But this might take the cake for being over the top: Mike Huckabee said the Iran deal “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” President Obama responded to the comments Monday morning, deriding Huckabee’s arguments as “ridiculous” at a news conference in Ethiopia. The comments, he said, are “part of a general pattern that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.” More: “Presidential debates deserve better,” Obama added, suggesting that Huckabee may have been aiming to push Donald Trump out of the headlines. “We just don’t fling out ad hominem attacks like that because it doesn’t help inform the American people,” he added.

*** On the trail: Clinton remains in Iowa… Jeb Bush is in Florida… Marco Rubio stumps in South Carolina… Scott Walker is in Illinois… Martin O’Malley campaigns in New Hampshire… And

Carly Fiorina gives a foreign policy speech at the Reagan Library in California.

OFF THE RACES: Breaking down the IA/NH races

From one of us(!): Here’s all you need to know from our NBC/Marist polls of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The exodus of Puerto Ricans to Florida could change the swing state’s political dynamics, writes the Washington Post.

From The New York Times: “With help from a well-funded, well-researched and invigorated anti-abortion movement, Republican politicians have refined how they are talking about pregnancy and abortion rights, choosing their words in a way they hope puts Democrats on the defensive.”

Reince Priebus, to NBC’s “TODAY” show: “Certainly, I think our candidates should pledge not to run as a third-party candidate. I don’t see that happening. I think everyone understands that if Hillary Clinton’s going to get beat, she’s going to get beat by a Republican. And most people that run for president run to win, and if our candidates want to win, then they’ll have to run as a Republican.”

BUSH: From Bloomberg: “Bush takes as many questions, if not more, than other candidates. The strategy is a double-sided sword: His candidness often earns him support from crowds and favorable stories in the media, but also one that can also lead to more confusion than clarity, and reinforce one of his biggest problems on the trail.”

CHRISTIE: He had a contentious back-and-forth with a gun rights activist in Iowa, CNN reports.

CLINTON: A new batch of emails are scheduled to be released on Friday amid concerns that classified material could be among them.

She unveiled her climate change plan over the weekend – but she didn’t weigh in on the Keystone pipeline.

CRUZ: He’s not backing off his claims that Mitch McConnell lied to him.

HUCKABEE: He told Breitbart News of the Iran deal: “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal.”

JINDAL: From NBC News: “The gunman who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater should not have been allowed to legally buy the gun he used to kill two people and injure nine because of his mental history, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sunday.”

More: “On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. Jindal called for states to adopt laws similar to Louisiana’s that feed information about mental illness into a federal background check system for potential gun buyers.”

KASICH: He told one of us(!) that presidential candidates need to “grow up.” “If we’re running for these offices just to get elected, I mean, we’re not running for class president. We’re running to be the commander-in-chief and the leader of the United States of America. Grow up.”

PERRY: He says he’s not going to “go quietly” on Donald Trump.

RUBIO: POLITICO notes that he leads the pack in missing Senate votes.

SANDERS: He said on “Meet the Press” that economic inequality and institutional racism are “parallel problems.”

The Times-Picayune reports on his rally in Kenner, La. “Racial divisiveness, income inequality and the ills of Wall Street were familiar touchstones for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders Sunday (July 25) as he whipped up a thunderous crowd of 4,500 at a rally in Kenner.”

TRUMP: The Wall Street Journal talks to Iowans who are drawn to his message. “I am the silent majority. He talks for me,” said one Oskaloosa retiree.

He targeted Scott Walker during an appearance in Iowa, saying “Wisconsin is doing terribly. First of all it’s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They borrow money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus and instead of a $1 billion — I wrote this stuff all down, although I don’t need it because I have a really good memory — but they projected a $1 billion surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion.”

And around the country…

“The governing board of the Boy Scouts of America is expected Monday to lift its ban on openly gay employees and adult volunteers, a decision that is likely to keep the massive youth organization out of court but could divide it further,” writes the Washington Post.

OBAMA AGENDA: Obama fires back at Huckabee’s “oven” comments

The president responded to Mike Huckabee’s assertion that the Iran deal “is marching Israelis to the door of the oven,” saying that the comments are “ridiculous” and “part of a general pattern that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.”

CONGRESS: Watching Jeff Flake on the Iran deal

The Wall Street Journal looks at how Jeff Flake could be the key vote in the Iran deal.

Roll Call has all the details of Sunday’s Ex-Im bank vote: ” In a pair of losses for conservatives, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Sunday to revive the Export-Import Bank while failing to overcome a filibuster of an attempt to repeal Obamacare — with more fireworks to come. The rare Sunday votes set the stage for the Senate to send a long-term highway bill tied to the Ex-Im Bank to the House later this week, but not before facing other gambits by conservatives, including a procedural vote forced by Sen. Ted Cruz regarding the Iran deal and an effort to deploy a maneuver akin to the “nuclear option.”

—NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed to this report. 

Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Reince Priebus

All major candidates unpopular in two key states — except Bernie Sanders