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First Read: Donald Trump Has Nowhere to Go but Down

Here’s a fairly safe prediction: Trump’s poll position in the GOP race is going to go down.
Image: 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06: Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

Why Trump has peaked -- and has nowhere to go but down in the GOP race

On Wednesday, we reached peak Donald Trump, with two national TV interviews, including one by NBC News’ Katy Tur. We also learned on Wednesday that RNC Chair Reince Priebus called Trump and asked him to tone down his rhetoric on immigration -- yet another acknowledgement of how the New York real-estate mogul is hurting the party. But here’s a fairly safe prediction: Trump’s poll position in the GOP race is going to go down. It might not happen tomorrow, or next month before the first debate, or the month after that. But it’s going to happen. And it won’t be due to immigration, but instead past statements on a slew of important issues to the GOP base.

Party like it’s 1999

Exhibit A: His comment to NBC’s Tim Russert in 1999 that “I’m very pro-choice.” (That ’99 quote is striking, especially considering what he told CNN last month: TRUMP: “Right, I’m pro-choice.” CNN: “You’re pro-choice or pro-life?” TRUMP: “I’m pro-life. I’m sorry.”) Exhibit B: His remark on not opposing gays serving in the military in that same 1999 interview. “Hey, I’ve lived in New York City and Manhattan all of my life. So my views are a little different than had I lived in Iowa.” (Expect that line in a TV ad to Iowa voters.) Exhibit C: Another 1999 quote from Trump via Buzzfeed. “I’m very liberal when it comes to health care,” he said. “I believe in universal health care.” Make no mistake, GOP rivals and outside groups will make Iowa and New Hampshire voters know about those lines if Trump is still riding high in the polls by November or December. And remember, our own NBC/WSJ poll from last month found 66% of Republicans saying they couldn’t see themselves supporting Trump.

On Jeb’s “People need to work longer hours”

Put us in the camp that Jeb Bush’s “People need to work longer hours” line is more akin to Obama’s “You didn’t build that” remark in 2012 -- i.e., something that in isolation sounds bad but doesn’t as much in context -- vs. Mitt Romney’s more damaging “47%” comment. Here is what Bush said in full to the New Hampshire Union Leader’s editorial board: "My aspiration for the country -- and I believe we can achieve it -- is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in." But the Washington Post notes that Bush later said the “people need to work longer hours” was in reference to getting folks from part-time work to full-time work. "If we’re going to grow the economy people need to stop being part-time workers, they need to be having access to greater opportunities to work," he said.

Is productivity the problem? Or is it wage stagnation?

Still, that hasn’t stopped Democrats from pouncing on his remarks. “Anyone who believes Americans aren't working hard enough hasn't met enough American workers,” Hillary Clinton tweeted, with a chart showing worker productivity far outpacing worker pay. Jeb fired back at Hillary, “Anyone who discounts 6.5 million people stuck in part-time work & seeking full-time jobs hasnt listened to working Americans.” But while Jeb has explained he was talking about part-time work, here’s the macroeconomic problem with his quote from yesterday: The U.S. workforce has been plenty productive, but wages haven’t kept up. The Atlantic: “Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.”

Done deal

Legislation removing Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse grounds heads to governor for her signature: It looks like removing the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s statehouse grounds is a done deal. “The South Carolina House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly early Thursday to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, just weeks after the fatal shootings of nine black church members reignited the flag debate,” per NBC News. “The final vote of 94-20 after some 13 hours of debate is a stunning turn for the state that was the first to leave the Union and the site of the first battle of the Civil War. The Confederate flag was raised at its Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago.” The legislation, already passed by the state Senate, now heads to Gov. Nikki Haley, who supports it.

Come again? House congressional Republicans offer amendment to allow Confederate imagery on federal lands?

Given the news coming from South Carolina, this is a discordant headline from Roll Call: “Republicans [in DC] to Vote on Allowing Display of Confederate Flag.” From the story: “In a rapid and dramatic policy shift, Confederate flag imagery could be allowed to remain displayed on graves on federal land in some circumstances under a Republican-sponsored amendment that will be voted on in the House on Thursday. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., announced the unexpected change of plans Wednesday evening as floor debate wrapped up on the fiscal 2016 Interior-Environment spending bill (HR 2822). The Interior-Environment Appropriations chairman and floor manager set a roll call vote on the Confederate flag amendment for Thursday, when lawmakers are scheduled to vote on final passage of the $30.2 billion measure. The move came just 24 hours after the House adopted by voice vote a trio of Democratic amendments that would restrict Confederate flag imagery on federal land. That was the House’s first move in a national debate over the flag’s place in American society, a discussion that was spurred by fatal, racially motivated shootings at a black church in South Carolina last month.”

Grayson enters FL SEN race, DSCC ignores him

Well, after the last three cycles of the GOP facing bloody ideological primary battles in Senate races, it’s now the Democrats’ turn -- with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) now challenging Patrick Murphy (D-FL) for the Democratic nomination in the race for Marco Rubio’s seat. How have national Democrats responded to Grayson’s entry? Answer: By ignoring him. Here’s the statement from the DSCC: “Patrick Murphy has spent his career fighting for Florida families, women, seniors and the environment, and he has proven himself to be a hard-working and responsible representative for his constituents. He is running a strong campaign that’s focused on Florida, and we are confident that he will make a terrific Senator for the Sunshine State which is why he endorsed him.” For his part, Murphy issued this statement on Grayson joining the race: "I look forward to a clean, honest discussion of the issues in this primary.” Make no mistake: Grayson’s entry is the second setback for Senate Democrats, after not getting Kay Hagan to run again in NC SEN. At the very least, Murphy and national Democrats are going to have to spend money on taking down Grayson, who (fairly or not) is going to be portrayed as the Democrats’ Sharron Angle or Donald Trump.

On the trail

Carly Fiorina is in New Hampshire… Marco Rubio remains in Iowa… And Bernie Sanders delivers a speech in Arlington, VA.

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