Breaking down the gap between Obama and congressional Dems… Obama test-drives a new message we might hear in the fall… Palin addresses NRA's annual meeting in Charlotte, NC… Bill McCollum was against Arizona's immigration law before he was for it… What's the matter with Arizona?... First Read's Top 10 Primaries (the Super Senate Tuesday contests make our Top 4)… And Scott Brown stumps for Tim Burns in PA-12.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Mind the gap: As we noted yesterday, the biggest news from our brand-new NBC/WSJ poll was how stable the overall political environment is, despite all the newsworthy events over the past few weeks. But perhaps the most important NEW data in our survey was the gap we found between President Obama and his own party in Congress. On the issue of financial reform, a majority (51%) said Obama was looking out for average Americans versus corporate interests. But only 35% said that of congressional Democrats -- a 16-point gap. A credibility gap between the president and his own party in Congress will have ramifications in the fall; the question is how. So we dug inside the numbers to see where this gap was coming from.
*** Obama vs. Congressional Dems: And the answer gives you a sense of the demographic groups that A) haven't lost faith in Obama yet, and B) the president could help congressional Dems win back on the campaign trail -- i.e., your Obama surge voters. Here are the groups where the difference between the president and congressional Democrats was GREATER than 16 points on this question:
-- folks in the Northeast (55%-33%) and West (49%-32%)
-- those in the 18-34 age group (57%-36%)
-- those with income between $30K-$50K (51%-29%)
-- African Americans (72%-55%)
-- Hispanics (65%-46%)
-- those who live in urban areas (59%-40%)
-- actual Democrats (73%-54%)
-- independents (46%-22%)
-- low-interest voters (59%-39%)
-- folks undecided on the congressional ballot (46%-22%)
*** Will these folks vote in 2010? Congressional Democrats in 2010 need to worry that these folks won't vote. Why? They may have been cynical about politics for years and only turned out for Obama. The good news for Obama is that they haven't become cynical about him yet. But what kind of hold does he really have on them? And should the president worry that the negative image of congressional Democrats might rub off on him?
*** The 'keys' to victory? Speaking at a DCCC fundraiser in New York City last night, President Obama test-drove a new line aimed at congressional Republicans. Will we see it on the campaign trail this fall? "So after [Republicans] drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can't drive! We don't want to have to go back into the ditch! We just got the car out! We just got the car out!" Still, perhaps the biggest disappointment for the White House is that Americans -- so far -- aren't necessarily crediting the White House for getting the economy back on track. According to our poll, a plurality (42%) said that last year's stimulus would NOT help improve the economy. Just 18% said it was already helping improve the economy, and another 20% said it would help the economy in the future. Amazingly, these numbers on the stimulus have only gotten worse since we started polling this question -- despite the statistics suggesting that the stimulus stabilized things.
*** Get your gun: Yet another GOP-oriented cattle call takes place beginning today with the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Charlotte, NC. Sarah Palin delivers the keynote address this afternoon (she also speaks at 9:30 am ET at a fundraiser for the anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List). Other speakers today at the NRA confab include Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, and Chuck Norris. The big draws on Saturday are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and FOX's Glenn Beck. The last time the NRA held its convention in Charlotte, the late Charlton Heston was still president, and he gave us that iconic image of him holding up a musket and launching into the "cold dead hands" line
*** I was against the law before I was for it: Remember when we told you that Rick Scott's entry into Florida's GOP gubernatorial primary was going to push front-runner Bill McCollum to the right? Well check this out, courtesy of the Miami Herald: "The Republican Party's front-runner for governor, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, threw his support Thursday behind a tough new immigration law in Arizona that he criticized as 'far out' just two weeks ago," the Miami Herald reports. "By coming out in favor of the law, McCollum joined U.S. Senate contender Marco Rubio in abandoning his previous opposition to the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the nation." Is Jeb Bush now the only prominent Florida Republican who is still critical of the law?
*** What's going on in Arizona? Speaking of Arizona, we suppose every news organization will soon begin sending reporters to find out what's going on down there. First, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) -- who was not elected to her post, but succeeded Janet Napolitano (D) -- signed the controversial immigration legislation into law. Then the state was mulling (before eventually tabling) a so-called "birther bill" requiring presidential candidates to prove they were born in the U.S. And now Brewer has signed into law a measure to end ethnic studies courses in Tucson's schools. The New York Times: "Under the law signed on Tuesday, any school district that offers classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote resentment of a race or a class of people would risk losing 10 percent of its state financing."
*** First Read's Top 10 primaries: If it's Friday, it means another First Read Top 10 list -- this time our look at the cycle's top primaries. The top four on this list all take place on Super Senate Tuesday, May 18. The number in parentheses is our ranking from our last month.
1. PA SEN -- D (5): Last month we said that Joe Sestak had failed to catch on in the polls. Well, that's no longer true, and Arlen Specter could very well be the third incumbent this month to go down to defeat.
2. AR SEN -- D (1): Can Blanche Lincoln get the 50% needed to avoid a runoff against Bill Halter? And if not, would Halter sit in the driver's seat?
3. KY SEN -- R (3): Rand Paul vs. Trey Grayson isn't a great story because of how close the race is (Paul is pulling away, according to the polls). It's a great story because of the national implications -- the Tea Party's influence, Mitch McConnell's influence, and the establishment vs. anti-establishment storyline.
4. KY SEN -- D (6): Now THIS is the competitive race in Kentucky. If Paul is the GOP nominee, who is the Dems' better general election candidate -- Jack Conway or Dan Mongiardo?
5. NV SEN -- R (unranked): "Barter-gate"/"Chicken-gate" has wounded front-runner Sue Lowden and has provided an opening for Danny Tarkanian and Sharron Angle for the chance to face Harry Reid in November.
6. CA SEN -- R (7): Rep. Tom Campbell continues to lead Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore in what is a highly competitive primary to take on Barbara Boxer. Sarah Palin endorsed Fiorina, but DeVore's Tea Party backers weren't happy about it.
7. AZ SEN -- R (9): One thing is for sure: John McCain has done everything he can to win this primary, including a new ad showing him as a hardliner on immigration. But August is a long ways away…
8. SC GOV -- R (8): Like in the Lincoln-Halter race in Arkansas, this four-way primary looks headed for a run-off. The eventual winner -- Henry McMaster, Gresham Barrett, Andre Bauer, or Nikki Haley -- will become the overwhelmingly favorite in November and an instant 2012 GOP kingmaker.
9. UT SEN -- R (2): Sen. Bob Bennett lost, but don't forget about Tim Bridgewater vs. Mike Lee. The winner on June 22 will likely be the state's new senator.
10. CA GOV -- R (unranked): Look out, but in what's the nation's most expensive primary, Steve Poizner is suddenly catching up to Meg Whitman in the polls.
*** More midterm news: In Pennsylvania, Scott Brown is stumping for Tim Burns in the special election to fill the late Jack Murtha's congressional seat… In South Carolina, Palin has endorsed Nikki Haley and will appear at a rally for her at 5:30 pm ET.
Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries, and PA-12 special: 4 days
Countdown to HI special election: 8 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 172 days