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.
WASHINGTON — Remember when Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., denounced their party's president? That was just one week ago. And remember when the rest of the party didn't join Corker and Flake in criticizing President Trump? Well, here are numbers from this week's NBC/WSJ poll that help explain why the rest of the party didn't follow:
Positive-negative scores among Republican respondents:
- Donald Trump: 78 percent positive, 13 percent negative (+65)
- Republican Party: 61 percent positive, 16 percent negative (+45)
- Republican members of the U.S. House: 49 percent positive, 21 percent negative (+28)
- Republican members of the U.S. Senate: 41 percent positive, 25 percent negative (+16)
- Mitch McConnell: 23 percent positive, 21 percent negative (+2)
- Steve Bannon: 17 percent positive, 15 percent negative (+2)
- John McCain: 35 percent positive, 44 percent negative (-9)
- Democratic Party: 5 percent positive, 80 percent negative (-75)
So Trump is, by far, the most popular figure inside the Republican Party. And his takeover of the Republican Party is pretty much complete.
But demonstrating that popularity with your party/base is only PART of the story. Look at these same politicians and institutions among ALL respondents (Democrats, Republicans, independents):
- John McCain: 43 percent positive, 28 percent negative (+15)
- Democratic Party: 32 percent positive, 42 percent negative (-10)
- Donald Trump: 36 percent positive, 54 percent negative (-18)
- Republican Party: 27 percent positive, 46 percent negative (-19)
- Mitch McConnell: 12 percent positive, 37 percent negative (-25)
- Steve Bannon: 8 percent positive, 42 percent negative (-34)
So among all respondents, McCain is the most popular figure in the NBC/WSJ poll, but he has a net-negative rating with Republicans. Meanwhile, Trump is incredibly popular with Republicans, but he's toxic with Democrats (7 percent positive, 86 percent negative) and independents (31 percent positive, 56 percent negative).
Two things can be true: Trump is holding strong with his base, and he's losing ground with everyone else, including the middle of the electorate.
The GOP's math (and process) problem on taxes
As House Republicans are set to release their tax bill today, they have a problem that goes well beyond the early tough poll numbers for the tax plan — math.
The New York Times: "The tax rewrite is pitting businesses against individuals, as lawmakers look for ways to offset trillions of dollars of personal and corporate income tax cuts by limiting popular individual tax breaks, including preferential treatment for 401(k) plans and the state and local tax deduction. Business groups, meanwhile, say lawmakers run the risk of putting the United States at a global disadvantage if it does not reduce the corporate tax rate to a level commensurate with other industrialized nations."
As NBC's Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Alex Moe add: "President Donald Trump has made it clear he doesn't want to hit middle-class families with tax hikes, but he also won't compromise on the 20 percent corporate tax rate... Many Republicans don't want to raise the deficit — and the tax plan's total pricetag can't exceed $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the budget rules. It's all led to the last-minute scramble to find more money."
Our take: The reason the GOP has a math problem is because they have a PROCESS problem. Why do they have to find offsetting funds? Because, just like with health care, they're pursuing a partisan bill via reconciliation (so they need only 51 Senate votes instead of 60).
But if the GOP was shooting for a bill that could get 60 Senate votes, they wouldn't have these kinds of problems.
Trump expected to nominate Jerome Powell as next Fed chair
A White House official confirms to NBC News that President Trump is expected to nominate Jerome Powell as the next Fed chair, NBC's Kristen Welker reports. The Wall Street Journal first broke this news yesterday.
NBC has reported throughout the week that Powell was a leading candidate.
Powell currently serves as a Federal Reserve governor, and is seen as a choice that will likely give investors a sense of continuity in monetary policy, Welker adds. His views are seen as in-line with the current fed chair Janet Yellen. When asked about Yellen on Wednesday, the president called her "excellent" but wouldn't commit to reappointing her.
As Bloomberg notes: "If Trump chooses someone to replace her, Yellen, 71, would become the first chair of the central bank not to be reappointed since 1979, when President Jimmy Carter replaced G. William Miller with Paul Volcker. Her term ends in February."
This position requires Senate confirmation. Trump makes his Fed-chair announcement at 3:00 pm ET.
Trump calls U.S. judicial system a "joke" — and then recommends death penalty for suspect in the NYC terrorist attack
Speaking at his cabinet meeting yesterday, President Trump said this about suspected terrorists after the attack in New York City: "They'll go through court for years. At the end, they'll be — who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than we have right now," he said, per The Hill. "Because what we have right now is a joke and it's a laughing stock and no wonder so much of this stuff takes place."
Then last night, Trump tweeted: "NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!"
The problem with Trump's death-penalty comment? "Presidents are typically advised never to publicly weigh in on pending criminal cases," the New York Times writes. "Such comments can be used by defense attorneys to argue that their clients cannot get a fair trial — especially when the head of the executive branch that will prosecute a case advocates the ultimate punishment before a judge has heard a single shred of evidence at trial."
Doug Wilder isn't endorsing either Northam or Gillespie in VA GOV race
"Former [Virginia] Gov. Wilder joined Chuck Todd in the latest episode of 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast for a wide-ranging discussion about the state of Virginia politics. He continued to decline to endorse either candidate for governor this year, as he did in 2009 when he withheld his endorsement from Sen. R. Creigh Deeds."
"But Wilder did conspicuously heap praise on Justin Fairfax, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. 'You can tell from the way I'm talking that I feel very good about Justin Fairfax. I think that he's someone who's highly qualified,' he said. 'You don't elect people like him, then who are you going to have?' But Fairfax, who is African-American, has struggled to gain the favor of Democratic insiders in the state. Wilder said, "You can't eliminate race" as a reason for the distance between Fairfax and his party."