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First Read's Top 10 issues

From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
If it’s Friday, it’s time for another First Read Top 10 list. Today, we look at what we consider the top issues playing out in midterm races across the country. The number in parentheses is our ranking from last month.

1. Washington/anti-establishment (1): This week, South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis (R) became the fifth incumbent to lose a primary for re-election, and Gresham Barrett (R) became the third sitting senator or member of Congress to lose a bid for higher office. And check out this number from our current NBC/WSJ poll: just 26% say they are comfortable with a candidate who has served in Congress for more than 10 years.

2. Economy/jobs (3): This is still the overarching issue in campaigns across the country, and we're seeing it in TV ads like this one from Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

3. TARP/bailouts (4): How toxic are those 2008 TARP votes? Consider that all the members of Congress who have lost their primaries either for re-election or for higher office -- save one, who wasn't serving in Congress at the time -- voted for TARP. And another who voted for it, Blanche Lincoln, only narrowly won her primary earlier this month.

4. Barack Obama (6): Although his declining poll numbers still don't compare to Bush's in '06, Obama remains a key midterm issue, especially in the remaining GOP primaries where the candidates are trying to prove who is more conservative.

5. Social Security (unranked): As we turn to the general election, we're already seeing Democrats pounce on Republicans who have advocated privatizing or phasing out Social Security -- like Harry Reid in this TV ad against Sharron Angle. In our NBC/WSJ poll, wanting to phase out Social Security was the worst candidate attribute one could have.

6. Afghanistan/national security (10): Last month, this was at the bottom of our list. Now it's moved up after this week's McChrystal/Petraues news. In fact, check out this Web ad by Colorado Senate candidate Jane Norton, which aired before this weeks' developments.

7. Oil spill (unranked): Now that the spill has gone on for two months -- with no immediate end in sight -- candidates across the country, but especially in Gulf states, are having to respond to this issue. And it has given some candidates, like Charlie Crist, important leadership moments.

8. Competence (8): This remains an issue, whether it's the ex-governors (Barnes, Branstad, Brown, Kitzhaber) running for their old offices, or the female CEOs (Fiorina, McMahon, Whitman) on the campaign trail.

9. Immigration (5): As time has passed since Arizona passed its controversial immigration law, this topic has moved down our list. But it's still an issue -- as this Spanish-language TV ad by Meg Whitman suggests, in which Whitman tries to moderate her stance with Hispanics in the state.

10. Health care (7): Three months ago, when the health care bill passed Congress, few would have predicted this issue would be No. 10 on our list. But poll numbers like this from our NBC/WSJ poll -- a Democratic candidate who supports giving the law a chance beats a Republican calling for repeal, 51%-44% -- is one reason why the issue is no longer resonating as much as it once did.