Michigan highlights the promise and peril for Trump in 2020

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Total Sports Park in Washington, Michigan on April 28, 2018. Copyright Mandel Ngan AFP - Getty Images
Copyright Mandel Ngan AFP - Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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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 — It shouldn't be a surprise why President Trump is holding a rally in Michigan tonight.

In 2016, he over-performed more in the state than in any other battleground.

Remember, Barack Obama won Michigan by 16 points in 2008 and 9 points in 2012. Yet Trump took it by 10,704 votes in the last presidential race.

But in last year's midterms, the state reverted back to form — well, sort of.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the state's gubernatorial contest by nearly 10 points; Sen. Debbie Stabenow won re-election, though by a smaller 6.5 point margin; and Democrats picked up two House seats in the Wolverine State.

On the plus side for Trump, Michigan exemplifies how rural, white working-class voters have broken away from the Democratic Party — and have given the GOP a much better chance to win the state than during the Obama years.

On the negative side, however, Trump's political problems in the suburbs — hello, Oakland and Macomb counties — highlight his challenge for 2020.

In 2016, Trump won Macomb by 12 points, while Whitmer and Stabenow won it by narrow margins in 2018.

Tonight, though, Trump campaigns in GOP-friendly Grand Rapids (Kent County), which Mitt Romney won in 2012.

Meanwhile, a new national NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll shows 43 percent of Americans believe Trump and the GOP will win the presidency in 2020, while an equal 43 percent think the Dem candidate will win.

And a differently worded Quinnipiac poll finds 53 percent of national voters saying they definitely wouldn't vote for Trump in 2020.

Tweet of the day

Highlights of Lester Holt's interview with James Comey

It also shouldn't be a surprise what to expect from Trump's first rally in a battleground state since 2018 (his other rally this year was in El Paso).

He's going to spike the football from the summary of the Mueller report - even though Congress and the public hasn't read the full report.

Here's former FBI Director James Comey, in his interview with NBC's Lester Holt, shedding some perspective on Mueller:

On Mueller not making a recommendation on an obstruction-of-justice charge: "It does [surprise me]. The purpose of a special counsel is to make sure the politicals, in this case the attorney general, doesn't make the ultimate call on whether the subject of the investigation, the president of the US should be held criminally liable for activities that were under investigation."

On whether the full Mueller report should be made public: "Oh, it has to. It's the bedrock of the Department of Justice, which Bill Barr loves and Bob Mueller loves and I love, is that people have faith and confidence that is not part of a political tribe… And the only way to establish that and to protect that bedrock of their confidence is to show them your work and so we have to see it here."

On why Mueller didn't subpoena the president: "I don't know the answer to that. I have the same question about how the Attorney General could resolve the question which he says in his letter turns upon the President's intent without the President having been asked what his intent is."

On Trump's admission to Holt — back in 2017 — that he fired Comey due to the Russia investigation: "I thought that's potentially obstruction of justice and I hope somebody is gonna look at that. Again the president appears to be saying, I don't know what's in his head which is why I can't reach the conclusion, what he appears to be saying is."


On Trump's claim that this kind of investigation should never happen to another American president: "Close your eyes, again, change the names. Let me make one up for you. The Iranians, this is totally made up, the Iranians interfere in the election to help elect Barack Obama, because they think they'll get a better nuclear deal from him and during that election, an Obama aid meets with the Iranians and talks about the dirt they have that will help Obama get elected."

Data Download: The number of the day is … 56 percent

Fifty-six percent.

That's a majority of Americans who say that, based on what they have heard about the Mueller probe, they believe the president and his campaign have NOT been exonerated of any collusion with Russia, according to a new CNN/SSRS online poll.

The poll, which was in the field March 25-26, found that 43 percent of the public believes that Trump HAS been exonerated.

We wrote last week that it was a good bet that partisans would end up in their corners, no matter what the probe reportedly found.


The CNN poll bears that out, with 77 percent of Republicans saying Trump has been exonerated, while 80 percent of Democrats say he has not.

2020 Vision: Booker talks pragmatism, Klobuchar talks about infrastructure

Politico on Cory Booker's CNN town hall last night: "Cory Booker sought to distinguish himself from fellow Democratic White House hopefuls Wednesday, calling for more pragmatic solutions to progressive policy goals and embracing his position as the only African-American male running for president."

And Amy Klobuchar is proposing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.

On the 2020 campaign trail today: John Delaney is in New Hampshire… So is Bill Weld… And President Trump campaigns in Michigan.

The Lid: I'm Ron Burgundy…?

Don't missthe pod from yesterday, when we looked at new numbers about how the public views local news.


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Trump says that DOJ and FBI will review the Jussie Smollett case.

The New York Times has the backstory on the meeting that led to the White House's new legal strategy to gut Obamacare.

The status of Brexit is... still at a standstill.

And here's other news that's out there...

Trump agenda: Trump vs. Puerto Rico

The Trump administration is taking more heatfor its opposition to hurricane relief funds for Puerto Rico.


It doesn't look like AG William Barr is going to make Democrats' April 2 deadline for submitting the full Mueller report.

Trump owns the economy now.

The president isn't ruling out a pardonfor Michael Flynn and other aides.

Mike Pompeo repeatedly declined to blame Kim Jong Un personally for rights abuses.

2020: Harris picks up endorsements in South Carolina


Kamala Harrisis landingsignificant endorsements in South Carolina.

Team Biden has its eyes on Iowa.

Michael Grimm wants back in.

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