Discuss as:

First Thoughts: Four months to go

Four month to go until Election Day… GOP’s tax argument on health care cuts both ways… Roberts switched his vote?... Why this matters to conservatives: They realize they were thisclose to overturning the whole law… Obama makes plea to his donors… And RGA/DGA announce 2ndQ fundraising numbers.

*** Four months to go: Heading into this July 4 holiday week -- and with both President Obama and Mitt Romney without events today and tomorrow -- it’s not a bad time to look down the road to see what remains ahead of us in the presidential contest. At the end of this week, we’ll reach the four-months-out point of the race. In addition, now that we’ve cleared the Supreme Court/health care mile marker we have three more markers to pass: Romney’s VP pick (coming either this month or next), the conventions (in late August and early September), and the presidential debates (in September and October). And those are just the things we know are coming down the road; the unexpected also awaits us.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Health care overhaul supporters hold signs during a rally at Daley Plaza in Chicago.

*** A taxing issue: As for Thursday’s Supreme Court decision, so far it appears to have created a political status quo. But the right has done their best to make lemonade out of the health-care lemons by taking advantage of the court’s rationale that the mandate is a tax. Make no mistake: House and Senate Republicans want to run against something, and this gives them their opening. (Then again, don’t forget that Republicans -- in 2010 -- ALREADY used this strategy, arguing that the health-care law raised taxes.) But this strategy puts Romney in a box. After all, he signed into law legislation creating a mandate, too. So was that also a tax? Indeed, the Obama campaign highlighted this exchange yesterday between FOX’s Chris Wallace and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Wallace: “If the Obama mandate is a tax on the middle class, isn't the Romney mandate a tax on the middle class?” McConnell: “I think Gov. Romney will have to speak for himself on what was done in Massachusetts.” Ouch. By the way, how many Democratic candidates for House and Senate will use Romney to push back against these attacks? We’re betting many of Romney’s health-care sound bites will become more well-known on the congressional level.

Eric Fehrnstrom, senior advisor to the Romney Campaign, joins The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd to discuss the health care ruling. Fehrnstrom says in Massachusetts Romney called the health care mandate a penalty, not a tax, and explains the difference between the language of the two.

*** Roberts switched his vote? Over the weekend, CBS reported what many had been speculating ever since the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the federal health-care law: that Chief Justice John Roberts had switched his vote. “… Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations.” More from CBS: “Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy - believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law - led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.”

*** Why this matters to conservatives: This reporting has raised the obvious question: Who leaked these deliberations? Supreme Court clerks? The justices themselves? Whoever it was, this explanation is now going to be the only one conservatives will believe and accept, even if somehow other leaks from the court end up contradicting this storyline. Until they go to their grave, most conservatives will believe Roberts somehow flipped and did so under pressure. Here’s another question: Does it even matter? But to conservatives, it matters A LOT. Why? They now realize they were thisclose to overturning the whole law. Trust us, many still can’t believe they had Kennedy for a full overturn.

In Monday's First Reads, The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd explains why the GOP is hoping to put Democrats on the defensive over the Supreme Court's justification that the penalty for not buying health insurance in actually a tax.

*** Spare some change? Also over the weekend, the Daily Beast got its hands on a recording of a fundraising call Obama made to his donors while he was returning from Colorado aboard Air Force One. His message: Given all the GOP-leaning outside money, he needs help from his contributors. “‘The majority on this call maxed out to my campaign last time. I really need you to do the same this time,’ the president said in a highly unusual (and presumably legal) fundraising pitch from Air Force One on his way back to Washington from Colorado Springs, where he’d been assessing the terrible damage caused by uncontained wildfires. A special phone on the government aircraft is dedicated to political calls that are paid for by the campaign. More: “‘I’m asking you to meet or exceed what you did in 2008,” the presidential pitchman continued… ‘Because we’re going to have to deal with these super PACs in a serious way. And if we don’t, frankly I think the political [scene] is going to be changed permanently. Because the special interests that are financing my opponent’s campaign are just going to consolidate themselves. They’re gonna run Congress and the White House.’”

*** Must be the money! Speaking of fundraising… The Republican Governors Association says it raised $16.7 million in the second quarter, which it notes is twice the amount it brought in during the second quarter of 2008. And so far this year, the RGA has raked in $29 million -- slightly more than it raised at this point in 2010, when there were 37 gubernatorial races around the country. (Think the Walker recall helped here?) For its part, the Democratic Governors Association says that it raised $13 million across all of its entities (including its Super PAC and 501c4) this quarter, and that it has raised a total of $21 million for the first half of this year. The RGA number doesn’t include the money it raised through other entities.

*** A final note: Our morning column will be off tomorrow and Wednesday, but we’ll return on Thursday. As always, of course, we’ll update the blog as news warrants. Happy Fourth of July!

Countdown to GOP convention: 56 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 63 days
Countdown to Election Day: 127 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower