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First Read: The First GOP Debate is the New Ames Straw Poll

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Charlie Neibergall / AP

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

The first GOP debate is the new Ames Straw Poll

For political observers who are pleased that the Republican Party’s Ames Straw Poll no longer exists, here’s a question to chew on: Is the first GOP debate on Aug. 6 -- limited to the Top 10 in national polls -- a suitable replacement? After all, that is what the first debate has essentially become. Think about it: It will serve to winnow the Republican field just as the Ames poll did. (So instead of Tim Pawlenty dropping out of the 2012 race because he can’t beat fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann in the straw poll, you’re likely going to see GOP candidates drop out, or at least lose support from donors, from being left off the first debate stage.) In addition, just like candidates would spend big bucks on the Ames Straw Poll, we’ve seen the GOP candidates and outside groups backing them spend nearly $8 million in TV advertisements -- mostly to boost their poll numbers. Of course, the money spent on the Ames Straw Poll went to the Iowa Republican Party, to help build the party before the caucuses. But what is this new money spent on? Answer: Building name ID for the candidates.

Huckabee doesn’t back down from controversial comment

The other unintended consequence of the eligibility criteria for that first debate is that most of the GOP presidential candidates are DESEPERATE to get attention. See Mike Huckabee, who on “Today” this morning refused to back down from his controversial comments equating the Iran nuclear deal to the Nazis sending Holocaust victims to the “oven.” Huckabee told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “The response from Jewish people has been overwhelming positive.” Ask yourself: For Huckabee’s poll standing and fundraising, has his controversial remark been a success or failure? He’s picked a fight with the Democratic president; he’s fundraised off it; and he’s now appeared on national TV. Folks, get ready for more.

Who’s in (and who’s out) for that first GOP debate

As mentioned above, the first GOP presidential debate is restricted to the candidates who are in the Top 10 of averaged national polling as of Aug. 4 at 5:00 pm ET. And here is where that race to make the debate stands after we crunched the numbers from the last five national polls that meet NBC’s standards:

  1. Trump: 18%
  2. Bush 14%
  3. Walker 10.6%
  4. Rubio 6.2%
  5. Paul 6%
  6. Cruz 6%
  7. Huckabee 5.6%
  8. Carson 5.2%
  9. Christie 3%
  10. Perry 2.2%
  11. Kasich 2%
  12. Santorum 1.6%
  13. Jindal 1.4%
  14. Fiorina 0.8%
  15. Graham 0.2%

GOP ad spending before the debate: almost $8 million

Also as mentioned above, Republican presidential campaigns and outside groups supporting them have spent nearly $8 million in TV advertisements so far ahead of next week’s first GOP debate (as of July 24). The biggest spenders, according to the ad-buying data from SMG Delta: 1) A non-profit backing Marco Rubio called Conservative Solutions Project (which doesn’t have to disclose its donors); and 2) A group supporting John Kasich. By comparison, only about $1 million was spent at this point in the 2012 GOP presidential contest, per SMG Delta. The only Democratic entity that has been spending money on a presidential candidate is the Super PAC supporting Martin O’Malley – and it’s just $25,000. Here are the numbers:

  • Conservative Solutions Project (Pro-Rubio): $2.6 million
  • New Day for America (Pro-Kasich): $2.1 million
  • Opportunity and Freedom PAC (Pro-Perry): $1.3 million
  • Believe Again PAC, American Future Project, America Next (Pro-Jindal): $1.1 million
  • Christie campaign, America Leads PAC (Pro-Christie): $500,000
  • We The People, Not Washington (Pro-Pataki): $272,000
  • Cruz campaign: $35,000
  • Paul campaign: $12,000
  • Fiorina campaign: $3,000
  • TOTAL: $7,922,000

Highlights from Jeb Bush’s Spanish-language interview with Jose Diaz-Balart

Jeb Bush sat down with MSNBC’s/Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart in his first Spanish-language interview of the campaign. Some of the highlights (translated into English):

  • On immigration reform: “I do make that commitment and I know we can do it [comprehensive immigration reform if elected president].”
  • On the influence of Hispanic culture in his life: “We eat Mexican food at home, our children are Hispanic, and yes the Hispanic influence is important.”
  • On Huckabee’s Israel comments: “In the case of Mike Huckabee, who is my friend, those words, that use of those type of words doesn’t help, doesn’t help. We must have a more civil policy in this country.”
  • On Donald Trump’s stance on immigration: “I was hurt hearing somebody speaking in such a vulgar fashion. This makes the solving of this problem much more difficult. When we have politicians talking like that, we cannot progress.”

The Iran deal as the new Obamacare?

This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew all testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Iran nuclear deal. And here’s one way to think of the Iran deal: It’s the new Obamacare. Opponents using overheated rhetoric to criticize the deal? Check. The administration arguing that opponents have produced no alternative? Check. Polls showing that Democrats and Republicans are split over the deal (but with independents siding with Republicans for now)? Check. And just like with Obamacare, the smart money is that the deal won’t go down in Congress, given that it will take two-thirds votes in the Senate and House to override President Obama’s veto.

Viewing the Iran deal outside the U.S.

Views of the Iran deal OUTSIDE the U.S. and Israel are mostly positive. Why? Because the deal benefits other countries. “As Iran reenters the global economy, its consumer market of 78.5 million people—the second largest population in the Middle East after Egypt—will attract plenty of international interest. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman will reap the first obvious gains from trade with and investment in Iran. Also in line to benefit are international oil companies,” Ian Bremmer wrote earlier this month. “China, Russia, and France are also likely to benefit from Iran’s revival. All are well-placed to do more business in Iran. And all will gain as the increasingly anxious Saudis look to diversify away from deep dependence on the United States for defense supplies and markets for Saudi oil exports.”

On the trail

Ben Carson, on Capitol Hill, delivers remarks at a rally protesting Planned Parenthood… Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton are in New Hampshire… Rick Santorum stumps in South Carolina… And Scott Walker holds cheesesteak meet-and-greets in Philly.

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