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First Read: A Rough Summer for Onetime GOP Frontrunners

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
Image: Republican 2016 presidential candidate Bush looks over at Trump and Walker as the candidates pose with seven other candidates at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland
Republican 2016 presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) looks over at businessman Donald Trump (C) and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (L) as the candidates pose with seven other candidates at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder BRIAN SNYDER / Reuters

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

Bush, Rubio and Walker struggle in the Summer of Donald Trump

For all of the troubles that Hillary Clinton has experienced recently, here’s the stark reality: The three men widely considered to be the Republican frontrunners -- Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker -- are having an even rougher time. Just look at the latest national CNN poll conducted after that first GOP debate: Trump 24%, Bush 13%, Carson 9%, Rubio 8%, Walker 8%, Paul 6%, Cruz 5%, Fiorina 5%, Kasich 5%, and Huckabee 4%. (Chris Christie, at 3%, falls out of the Top 10 in this poll.) What’s more, Bush finds himself once again playing defense on immigration in the wake of Trump’s immigration plan; Walker is playing catch up to Trump in Iowa; and Rubio -- despite getting positive reviews in that GOP debate -- is having trouble gaining traction. The good news for all three Republicans is that the GOP race remains wide open. And if/when Trump falters, they will be in a position to pick up the pieces. But they aren’t faring well so far in this Summer of Donald Trump.

Walker to unveil plan to repeal and replace Obamacare

Walker’s struggles are particularly striking. Just a few months ago, he was considered the great conservative hope -- and, importantly, was getting the benefit of the doubt from conservatives. Now? He’s trying to take back the immigration ball that Trump essentially stole from him. Walker also APPEARING to walk back his earlier agreement with Trump on ending birthright citizenship isn’t a profile in courage. (When asked if he misspoke on birthright citizenship, Walker said, per NBC’s Shaquille Brewster: “No, we had a three hour rolling gaggle there. It’s— you answer part of the question, somebody turns and asks you something. My point is, yeah I empathize with people who have concerns about that but until we fundamentally secure the border.” Our take: If this isn’t a walk-back, it’s ducking the question.) Walker’s current struggle is the context for his 11:00 am ET speech on repealing the federal health-care law. "On my first day as president, I will send legislation to the Congress that will repeal Obamacare entirely and replace it in a way that puts patients and their families back in charge of their health care - not the federal government," Walker plans to say, per NBC’s Brewster.

How the GOPers reacted to Trump’s immigration plan

The GOP field is essentially divided on Trump’s immigration plan and comments. Walker hugged Trump. “It’s similar to what I brought up about four to five months ago,” Walker said (vaguely) on Fox Monday morning. And until he appeared to walk it back, Walker also embraced Trump’s call to end birthright citizenship.

MSNBC’S KASIE HUNT: We should end birthright citizenship?

WALKER: Yeah, to me it’s about enforcing the laws in this country.

Carly Fiorina also hugged Trump -- to an extent. “Donald Trump has part of it right, there’s no question we should be defunding sanctuary cities if they won't enforce the laws, there's no question that we should be deporting illegals who have committed major crimes, there's no question we should have an employer verification system that actually works so we can make it mandatory,” Fiorina told Kelly O’Donnell yesterday. But Jeb Bush distanced himself from Trump. Mr. Trump now has a plan, if that’s what it’s called. But I think that the better approach is to deal with the 11 million people here illegally in a way that is realistic and to have border security that is done in the right way to lessen the number of people crossing our border," he said. Ditto Lindsey Graham. “Our leading contender, Mr. Trump, is going backward on immigration. And I think he's going to take all of us with him, if we don't watch it,” Graham told CBS on Sunday.

Clinton campaign: No bed-wetting

As Hillary Clinton today campaigns in Las Vegas, NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that her campaign is sending out this message: No bed-wetting. The mantra, Welker reminds us, is a familiar one and borrowed from the 2008 Obama campaign when top aide David Plouffe used the phrase to calm jittery Democrats in the face of hurdles. Our take: Despite some takes that Clinton hasn’t changed since 2008, there is a DEFINITE change in how the Clinton campaign has handled this email story. Back in 2007-2008, the campaign would be responding by going after the press -- and each other. This time, they are hunkering down. But for a candidate who has promised to be a fighter and grinder, it’s notable how little her campaign activity has been so far. “They need to show her being bold and being a fighter and breaking out of this carefully constructed, opportunistic package that people think she is,” a Democrat told the Washington Post. “There’s clearly emotion out there and she’s just not going anywhere near it, and she needs to find a way to.”

On Jeb and the border fence

In remarks he made yesterday in South Carolina, Jeb Bush made this claim: “I’ve talked to governors that, including myself 'cause we're a border, Florida was in ways, has immigration challenges as well. I’ve talked to the southwest governors -- nobody thinks that we should be building a fence as the solution to security there is a way to secure the border.” No southwest governor has said this? Well, here’s a TV ad that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey aired in his campaign last year: "As governor, I'll fight back with every resource I have -- fencing, satellites, guardsmen, more police and prosecutors." That said, Ducey has appeared to strike a different tone on border security now that he’s in office.

Iran deal update

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) will announce his position on the Iran deal in remarks at Seton Hall at 1:00 pm ET. It’s widely assumed that Menendez, a big hawk on Iran, will join fellow Democrat Chuck Schumer in opposing the deal. Meanwhile, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has becomes the latest Democrat to SUPPORT the Iran deal. Per the tally from NBC’s Frank Thorp, 21 senators -- all Democrats –- support the Iran deal, while 32 senators oppose it. So far, Chuck Schumer is the only Senate Democrat to oppose the Iran deal, though Bob Menendez would make it two. A reminder: 67 Senate votes are needed to override an Obama veto, which means that Obama needs support from 34 senators.

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