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Making sense of Donald Trump's bump in the polls

His message and supporters matter more than his actual presidential prospects.

Making sense of Trump’s bump in the polls … His message and supporters matter more than his actual presidential prospects … What’s Trump’s actual message? He’s “a refreshing figure who is unafraid to fight back” … What’s the better stage for the rest of the GOP field: Being at that first debate with Trump, or at the earlier forum without him? ... Joel Benenson, call your office: Quinnipiac polls show Hillary struggling in CO, IA, VA … The Undisciplined John Kasich … And an aggressive Chamber of Commerce.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann.


Which moments are shaping the presidential race? Click the image above to see an interactive timeline of the 2016 race.
Which moments are shaping the presidential race? Click the image above to see an interactive timeline of the 2016 race.

*** Trump’s message and supporters matter more than his actual presidential prospects: And keep this in mind about Romney: Along his not-so easy path to winning the GOP nomination, he co-opted the messages from his rivals. Remember Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan? Well, Romney was later forced to unveil his own big tax plan. (And the Obama camp poked holes in it throughout the general election.) Remember Romney’s “severely conservative” line? It came as he was fighting Rick Santorum in February 2012. What this tells us is that eventual GOP nominee in 2016 might very well end up co-opting some of the messages and support that Trump is tapping into. And that, maybe more than anything else, is why Trump matters, even if he flames out as a candidate.

*** Trump’s message: He’s “a refreshing figure who is unafraid to fight back”: So what is the message that Trump is tapping into? Conservative writer David Limbaugh has an answer. “I don't think for a second this means Trump has a realistic chance of getting the GOP presidential nomination, much less winning the presidency, but it is a powerful indication that people are tired of what's been going on in the country. In supporting Trump, people are rebelling against political correctness and the refusal of the political class to control our borders.” More: “People are also tired of leftists controlling the narrative and bullying conservatives into silence. They see Trump as a refreshing figure who is unafraid to fight back. That doesn't mean they agree with everything he says.” Bottom line from Limbaugh: The more the political class screams about Trump, he becomes more credible with these voters.

*** What’s the better stage for the rest of the GOP field: Being at that first debate with Trump or at the earlier forum without him? Here’s one final point we’ll make about Trump: Given how we expect that first GOP debate to play out with Trump playing the starring role, will it really be a negative to be at Fox’s kid’s table -- the earlier forum for the candidates who aren’t in the top 10? Think about it: It might be EASIER for a candidate to stand out at the earlier forum, rather than what promises to be a surreal debate with Trump as the center of attention. An honest question: Do the other GOP candidates want to be with Trump or without him?

*** Joel Benenson, call your office: If it weren’t for the huge focus on Trump, these Quinnipiac poll numbers out of the battleground states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia would get more attention: Hillary Clinton is trailing in all three states against the top GOP competition. More significantly, her fav/unfav rating in all three states is upside down -- and in the minus-20s in Colorado and Iowa. We’re sure that Democrats will quibble with the polls’ methodology, and they’ll argue that these state polls are inconsistent with what the national polls are showing. But can party I.D. and methodology makeup 20 points of unfavorable ratings? These polls aren’t a good story for Hillary or Democrats, and they feed a larger narrative that something is simply off with the campaign, even if the national polls still show her leading her GOP opposition. What say you, Joel Benenson and Geoff Garin?

*** The Undisciplined John Kasich: First, let us acknowledge this fact: John Kasich deserves to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. He’s the two-term governor of Ohio; he has a 60% approval rating in his state; and as the former House Budget Committee chairman, he certainly knows how Washington works. That said, Kasich’s long-winded, rambling presidential kickoff speech underscores his biggest weakness outside of expanding Medicaid in his state: He’s undisciplined. In fact, he makes Joe Biden – of all people – seem disciplined by comparison. Undisciplined candidates make for great stories and colorful quotes. But they don’t usually win hyper-focused presidential contests.

*** An aggressive Chamber of Commerce: Finally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is up with new TV ads for John McCain in Arizona and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. Yes, it’s early. But if you want to get ahead of the TV-ad clutter that’s coming next year, why not get a head start? And these aren’t their first ads of the cycle. They’ve been up in Nevada, Ohio and Illinois, out-maneuvering Democratic-supporting counterparts.

*** On the trail: Jeb Bush stumps in both South Carolina and New Hampshire … John Kasich, a day after announcing his presidential bid, is also in the Granite State, as is Lindsey Graham … Carly Fiorina stumps in Iowa … Martin O’Malley and Rick Perry both deliver speeches in D.C. … And Scott Walker is in Nashville, TN.

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OFF TO THE RACES: Poll: Hillary struggling in CO, IA, VA

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton struggling in head-to-head matchups with Rubio, Bush and Walker in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia.

CHRISTIE: Meg Whitman is signing on as Chris Christie's national finance co-chair.

CLINTON: Via the AP: “A day after proposing higher capital gains taxes on short-term investors, Clinton raised at least $450,000 Tuesday night at the Chicago home of Raj Fernando, a longtime donor. His firm, Chopper Trading, specializes in high-frequency transactions and was recently purchased by Chicago-based competitor DRW.”

GRAHAM: He was spotted at a D.C. movie theater still answering calls on his cell phone -- and getting Sen. Kelly Ayotte's kids to help him out.

If you were curious: Roll Call offers an explainer of how Graham would go about getting a new cell phone number.

JINDAL: The Des Moines Register: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday he could see a role for the federal government in setting a national standard for labeling foods made with genetically modified organisms."

KASICH: From yesterday, our story on Kasich's announcement in Ohio.

But his late start could really hurt his chances, notes Perry Bacon Jr.

The Washington Post editorial board has kind words for Kasich: "Whereas some GOP governors boast about clamping down on the working poor, he insists that “we’re not going to bang you over the head because you’re trying to get ahead.” Whereas many Republicans do little to confront the reality of persistent racial inequality, Mr. Kasich seems eager to talk about it."

Bloomberg looks at how he's trying to head off criticisms about his time at Lehman Brothers.

O'MALLEY: He moved his planned policy speech on Wall Street reform out of the National Press Club because he objected to organization's planned format.

SANDERS: He was a guest on morning newsletter The Skimm, saying "We have income and wealth inequality almost greater than any country on earth, and I think that’s unfair….I don’t think that that’s the nation that America wants to be. And I think that we need leadership to stand up to the billionaire class…and make sure that our government works for all of the people, and not just a handful of wealthy people."

TRUMP: NBC's Perry Bacon Jr. notes how Donald Trump is getting an assist from the media.

The Washington Post reports from South Carolina that Trump's brashness may be eating away at his support.

Here's our report on his decision to give out Lindsey Graham's cell phone number to the public.

The New York Times delves into his contentious relationship with Rupert Murdoch.

Trump will visit the Texas-Mexico border with a stop in Laredo this week, writes the Texas Tribune.

WALKER: He's touring New Hampshire with former Sen. Scott Brown, The Wall Street Journal reports.

OBAMA AGENDA: Doing the Daily Show

Obama appeared on The Daily Show Tuesday, noting that there's still "a bunch of other things we want to get done" in his last year and a half in office.

The New York Times writes on Obama's faltering Guantanamo strategy: "The administration’s fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again. Ashton B. Carter, in his first six months as defense secretary, has yet to make a decision on any newly proposed deals to transfer individual detainees. His delay, which echoes a pattern last year by his predecessor, Chuck Hagel, is generating mounting concern in the White House and State Department, officials say."

From the Washington Post: "Months after the discovery of a massive breach of U.S. government personnel records, the Obama administration has decided against publicly blaming China for the intrusion in part out of reluctance to reveal the evidence that American investigators have assembled, U.S. officials said."

The latest in the Sandra Bland case. "Texas Department of Public Safety authorities said late Tuesday they were looking into alleged edits to a 52-minute dashcam video of the traffic stop and arrest of Sandra Bland, who subsequently died in her jail cell three days after her arrest."