Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Ariz.
Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty

Trump exploits the GOP’s two great weaknesses

Can John Kasich get traction in the Summer of Donald? … Kasich announces his presidential bid at 11:00 am ET from Ohio … But he has work to do to make that first GOP debate … MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt profiles John Kasich … Trump exploits the GOP’s two great weaknesses, per the New Yorker … Over/under on 2016 TV ad spending: $4.4 billion — and that might be a lowball projection … And Andrea Mitchell interviews John Kerry.

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** Can John Kasich get traction in the Summer of Donald? If the two-term governor of all-important Ohio — with a 60% approval rating in his state — announces a presidential bid and no one hears it, did it really happen? That’s John Kasich’s challenge as he makes his White House run official today at 11:00 am ET amid all of the Donald Trump headlines. Trump leads nationally in another poll! Trump is running second in Iowa! The Des Moines Register wants Trump out of the race! Trump is still feuding with John McCain! And oh, Donald Trump just killed a guy with a trident! Yes, we made that last one up (it’s from “Anchorman”), but you get the point: It’s the Summer of Donald, and it’s become hard for the other GOP presidential hopefuls to break through. Remember that Scott Walker officially announced his presidential bid last week, and he barely broke through all the Trump news, at least nationally.

*** Two weeks out, Kasich has work to do to make that first GOP debate: And cutting through the Trump noise is doubly important for Kasich since – as of right now – he’s on the outside looking in of making that first debate next month in his home state. Below are the polling averages from the last five national polls (WaPo/ABC, Fox, USA Today/Suffolk, Monmouth, CNN). And remember that the Top 10 make the debate stage.

  1. Trump – 16.8%
  2. Bush – 14.8%
  3. Walker – 9.8%
  4. Rubio – 6.2%
  5. Huckabee – 6.2%
  6. Paul – 6.2%
  7. Carson – 5.8%
  8. Cruz – 5.2%
  9. Christie – 2.8%
  10. Perry – 2.4%
  11. Santorum – 1.8%
  12. Kasich – 1.6%
  13. Jindal – 1.4%
  14. Fiorina – 0.8%
  15. Graham – 0.2%

*** Who is John Kasich? Our colleague Kasie Hunt has a good piece on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” profiling the Republican Ohio governor. “Ohio Gov. John Kasich can sound pretty different from the 15 other Republicans running for president. ‘Just read Matthew 25. Did you feed the hungry? Did you clothe the naked? If we¹re doing things like that, to me that IS conservatism.’ He doesn’t necessarily govern like them, either. He expanded Medicaid under Obamacare and favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And even voted for an assault-weapons ban.” More from Hunt: “Kasich grew up near Pittsburgh, the son of a mailman. He was raised Catholic, but drifted from religion until both his parents were killed by a drunk driver … He went to Ohio State, then served eight terms in Congress. He led the Budget Committee during the contentious fiscal fights of the 1990s, ultimately playing a key role in balancing the budget.” And as we mentioned above, Kasich has a 60% approval rating in his home state. Name another current senator or governor running for presidential with that high of an approval rating.

*** Trump exploits the GOP’s two great weaknesses: Turning back to Trump, it is remarkable that his rise in the polls (and his impact on the GOP) comes after the Republican National Committee tried to do everything it could to prevent these kinds of sideshows after what happened in 2012. The RNC after-election report said the party should work to pass immigration reform to improve its standing with Latino voters. It limited the number of debates. And it worked to shorten the nominating calendar. But here we are — it’s the Summer of Trump. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza writes, Trump has “exposed and exploited the Republican Party’s two great weaknesses: the fact that many of its voters don’t agree with Party leaders on immigration and the fact that the Party is powerless to do much about it.”

*** Over/under on 2016 TV ad spending: $4.4 billion — and that might be a lowball projection: Our friend Elizabeth Wilner as CMAG puts the over/under of total TV ad spending in the 2016 cycle to be $4.4 billion. And that might be a lowball figure! As Wilner writes, “According to OpenSecrets, $2.8 billion was spent on U.S. Senate and House races in 2006, $2.5 billion in 2008—contrasted with $3.6 billion in 2010 and 2012, followed by $3.8 billion in 2014. Presidential spending, on the other hand, stayed flat across the Citizens United divide: $2.8 billion in 2008 followed by $2.6 billion in 2012. This presumably was due to the absence of a Democratic primary, a less competitive Republican primary than in 2008, and a battleground that shrank by half.” More from Wilner:  “While we expect a jump in presidential spending, we see little or no growth in spending on statewide and House races. Today’s list of competitive House races is short: 30 Leans and Toss-Ups compared to 48 at this point in the 2012 cycle. With control of the chamber not in doubt, donors’ attention will focus on the races where party control is at stake.”

*** Andrea Mitchell interviews John Kerry: Finally, don’t miss Andrea Mitchell’s exclusive interview with Secretary of State John Kerry on the two other big issues out there — 1) Cuba opening its embassy in the U.S., and 2) the Iran deal.

On the GOP-led Congress not confirming a U.S. ambassador to Cuba and denying that embassy money: “Are they gonna do that, because they can show so much change that’s taken place in the last 60 years? That this is a crazy path? I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to prevent our diplomats from carrying the very message you and I were just talking about – to not be able to meet with more people in Cuba, to know what is going on is a huge cutoff of opportunity.  So I– I just think it’s– it’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

On the UN Security Council giving its blessing to the Iran deal before Congress has reviewed it: “We went through the United Nations as appropriate. But we put into the measure in the UN that it doesn’t take effect for 90 days– so that the Congress has no pressure, ample opportunity to take a look at this and to– make its judgment. And– and so I don’t– I really think the complaint is without merit.”

On opponents spending as much as $20 million in ads against the Iran deal: “[T]hey don’t have an alternative. And the status quo is unacceptable. Because in the status quo, Iran was marching full square towards having a bomb… There is no way the Ayatollah is gonna come back to the table and negotiate again. There’s no way our colleagues are gonna keep sanctions in place.  So this is actually a very potentially destructive process that runs counter to common sense.  And I think, over time, people will see that.”

*** On the trail: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Donald Trump are all in South Carolina… Bobby Jindal holds a town hall event in Iowa… And Marco Rubio campaigns in New Hampshire.

OFF TO THE RACES: Trump leads the GOP pack — again

Here’s the latest Washington Post/ABC poll showing a big lead for Trump – with the caveat that the poll was mostly taken before Trump’s comments about John McCain. The key grafs: “Support for Trump fell sharply on the one night that voters were surveyed following those comments. Telephone interviewing for the poll began Thursday, and most calls were completed before the news about the remarks was widely reported. Although the sample size for the final day was small, the decline was statistically significant.”

The Wall Street Journal notes the Democratic Party’s recruiting problem.

POLITICO’s Dylan Byers: “The Fox News Republican presidential forum on August 6 – also known as the mid-day consolation event for GOP candidates who fail to make the channel’s primetime debate – is being moved to 5 p.m. and shortened to one hour, the On Media blog has learned.”

BUSH: He pushed his government reform plan yesterday in Tallahassee, one of us(!) reports.

More, from The New York Times: “Portraying himself as a political outsider — despite his family’s 12 years in the White House — Mr. Bush called for a 10 percent reduction in the federal work force, an immediate hiring freeze, a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a six-year waiting period before members of Congress can lobby on Capitol Hill.”

CLINTON: The New York Times writes on how Clinton is benefiting from the Trump surge.

Here’s how Clinton says she would have answered those Netroots Nation protesters — a bit of a do-over after she was criticized last month for saying “all lives matter.”

KASICH: The New York Times previews his announcement: “Gov. John R. Kasich, a blunt-spoken and unorthodox Republican who bucked his party by expanding Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law and says politicians must “reach out and help those who live in the shadows,” is expected to announce Tuesday that he is joining his party’s long list of candidates for president.”

From Dan Balz: “Kasich would begin the race far back in the pack, according to most polls. But as the governor of one of the nation’s most important general election states, and with a political style unlike that of others in the race, Kasich’s advisers say they believe he can become a credible threat to win the nomination. His detractors question whether he has the discipline required to win a long and grueling presidential race.”

TRUMP: The Des Moines Register op-ed board: “It’s time for Donald Trump to drop out of the race for president of the United States.”

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump characterized his spat with McCain as “a misunderstanding.”

Where was Trump when McCain was a POW? Our video here.

CNN’s MJ Lee looks at what Trump is doing - and not doing - to win over local party leaders in key states.

WALKER: Benjy Sarlin offers a deep dive into how Scott Walker plans to win Iowa. “The governor’s pitch was clear as he toured the state: I’m a Midwesterner like you, I’m as conservative as the tea party 2016 contenders, I’m as electable as the mainstream ones, and I’ve left a paper trail of legislation advancing every major conservative fight of the Obama era. And did I mention I’m a Midwesterner?”

Outside groups backing him have raised more than $26 million, The Washington Post reports.

He’s leading the pack in Iowa, a new Monmouth poll finds.

And around the country …

NEW JERSEY: From The Washington Post: “Lawyers for Sen. Robert Menendez accused federal prosecutors and FBI agents Monday of lying to win a corruption indictment against him this spring, saying the Justice Department would “stop at nothing” to try to convict the powerful lawmaker.”

OBAMA AGENDA: Kerry: History is on our side

In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Secretary of State John Kerry said that history will prove that the U.S. did the right thing in its agreements with Iran and Cuba.

The president’s day, via the AP: “President Barack Obama is facing a convention of veterans and taking questions from Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” as concerns run high about Iran, veterans’ care and a shooting rampage against U.S. Marines.”

The Wall Street Journal writes that Obama’s Kenyan roots have translated into a powerful brand in the African nation - from pop songs to comedy routines.

POLITICO writes that lawmakers are looking for congressional leaders who can negotiate a high-intensity spending deal to stave off a shutdown.

—NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

Donald Trump, John Kasich and John Kerry

Trump exploits the GOP’s two great weaknesses