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First thoughts: Get your gun

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Get your gun: Yesterday's Supreme Court decision on the 2nd Amendment elevated an issue -- guns -- that hadn't received that much attention until now. Remembering that the subject hurt Al Gore in 2000 and somewhat damaged Kerry's image in 2004 (after his widely panned hunting excursion) will guns also be a problem for Obama? On the one hand, many of the swing states (actually check that, EVERY swing state) are places where the electorate tends to have pro-gun views and where the Mike Bloomberg position wouldn't fly. On the other hand, as some have pointed out today, the Supreme Court ruling may actually help Obama because Republicans might no longer be able to argue that Democrats want to take your guns away. "The Supreme Court has said you can't do that," Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told the Washington Post. In addition, since Gore's loss in 2000, many Dems have moved to the center on guns. Nothing was more emblematic of that than Obama's statement on the court's decision yesterday. "As president, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne." And then there's the question of whether wedge issues like guns -- or abortion or the death penalty or gay marriage -- will resonate at all in what's looking to be a change election. Also, McCain hasn't been seen as the NRA's best friend in Congress. So while the pro-gun crowd is very leery of Obama, they aren't necessarily that fired up about McCain.

VIDEO: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals right to own a gun, outlining the Constitutional protections for the 80 million Americans who do. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

*** Moving to the center, moving to the right: Pegged to Obama's statement on guns, there are quite a few press accounts today noting how the Illinois senator has moved to the center on several issues (guns, FISA, death penalty for child rapists). And the Republican National Committee is seizing on these moves to label him a "typical politician." But what we find fascinating is that as Obama has moved to the center on some thorny subjects, McCain keeps on making overtures to the right. At his meeting yesterday with social conservatives in Ohio, according to participants, McCain said that he was open to learning more about their opposition to embryonic stem cell research (which he supports), that he would talk more openly about his opposition to gay marriage, and that he would listen seriously to their requests that he choose an anti-abortion running mate (bad news for Tom Ridge?). In modern politics, the formula has always been the same: You curry favor with your base in the primaries and then you tack to the center in the general election. McCain isn't necessarily following this path. Then again, McCain didn't win his nomination by running to the right, either. Nothing he's done this campaign year has been conventional.

*** A "typical" attack: Going back to the RNC labeling Obama a "typical politician," it's worth remembering that Clinton tried this, too. The problem with trying to use this line with Obama is that the historical nature of his candidacy makes it harder for the voter to think the word "typical" when they see him. (And, of course, Clinton had her own problems on this issue.) That said, Obama continues to fuel this line of attack by making conventional decisions like ducking the town hall idea, flipping on campaign finance, trying to straddle the fence on guns, etc. And unlike McCain, Obama doesn't have years of good will with his brand; he only really has about 18 months. McCain has made a lot of subtle shifts away from his so-called maverick independent streak. But because his brand was cemented over years, he's been given more of a benefit of the doubt with the public. Obama's brand reservoir isn't as deep, and he should be much more sensitive to this collecting narrative that he isn't what he claims.

*** We are family … get up everybody and sing: Today is finally the day: Early this afternoon, Obama and Clinton will rally together in Unity, NH. Despite reports in the press, the Clinton-Obama rift is not as wide as some might think. The people who are most upset are major fundraisers who aren't happy about their role in the Obama campaign and, frankly, about their future place in the party. Many of these folks have been major players in the Democratic Party for 16 years, living off the reflected glory of the Clintons. Now, they aren't going to be the top dogs anymore and that's been a tough pill to swallow. It's simply human nature. That said, Obama's meeting last night with Clinton and her top donors appeared to be a mostly positive event. Yes, there were some tough questions. And, yes, some of Clinton's top supporters are still upset that Hillary won't be the nominee. But as one attendee told First Read, Obama was received fairly well (remember, these are her top supporters). And he, in turn, was pretty humble and magnanimous.

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd talks about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's joint event in Unity, New Hampshire and discusses who needs the event more.

*** Just asking: Who benefits more from today's Clinton-Obama event? Who needs it more? Two weeks ago, the unanimous CW would have said Obama. But now, an argument can be made that Clinton needs this event as much as Obama... Considering Obama's place in the polls, it's clear he's already gotten his Clinton bounce. Today's event is about Clinton showing the country one more time that she's a good loser. Compare what Clinton has done for Obama with what McCain didn't really do for Bush until much later in the 2000 campaign.

*** "There are no safe GOP seats in this election": Just how worried are House Republicans about November? The AP reports that GOP leaders -- after their losses in special elections this year in Illinois, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- have come out with a report that underscores the potential for big losses this fall and that recommends Republican candidates show "deep empathy towards the voters" and rely on local issues rather than national ones. "This is a challenging environment," NRCC communications director Karen Hanretty told the AP. "Any Republican running for office has to run basically on an independent platform, localize the race and not take anything for granted. There are no safe Republican seats in this election." The mood among House Republicans is VERY bad; it's as if they all went into the field in their own supposedly safe districts last month and came out with bad numbers. 

*** On the trail: Elsewhere today, McCain is in Ohio, holding a town hall then a media avail at a GM plant in Warren and later raising money in Youngstown and Hunting Valley.

Countdown to Dem convention: 59 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 66 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 130 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 207 days
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