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By Mark Murray, Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann

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

So who gets left out of the first GOP debate?

Well, it turns out that the first GOP presidential debate on August 6 won’t feature 18 candidates on one stage, or won’t display two different trial heats of nine participants. Instead, host Fox News -- with the Republican National Committee’s blessing -- decided to limit the debate to the Top 10 announced candidates in the polls, based on an average of last five national polls before Aug. 4 at 5:00 pm ET. (Note: This isn’t a cap at 10, since there could be a tie for 10th place, and thus you could have 11 participants.) If you take the five last national polls that NBC News recognizes -- Fox, NBC, Quinnipiac, CNN, Monmouth -- here are your Top 10 Republicans by average. (For this purpose, not being listed = zero.)

  • 1. Jeb Bush 15.8%
  • 2. Scott Walker 12.0%
  • 3. Marco Rubio 11.6%
  • 4. Ted Cruz 8.8%
  • 5. Rand Paul 8.6%
  • 6. Mike Huckabee 8%
  • 7. Ben Carson 6.8%
  • 8. Chris Christie 5.4%
  • 9. Rick Perry 3.0%
  • 10. Donald Trump 2.2%

This means that, based on these national polls, the Republicans who would not be included are: Carly Fiorina (the only female candidate in the GOP field), Rick Santorum (the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses), Bobby Jindal (the sitting governor of Louisiana), John Kasich (the sitting governor of Ohio) and Lindsey Graham (the most senior U.S. senator in the GOP field).

Are national polls the best way to determine who participates and who doesn’t?

In fairness, we understand how hard it is to come up with criteria determining who debates and who doesn’t. But are polls the best -- and only -- way to do this? After all, if Donald Trump does announce he’s running (and we have our doubts about that), he’ll make the Top 10 due to name identification alone. And then are the outstanding questions: Do national polls need to start listing ALL announced candidates? What happens to the candidates who aren’t listed? Do they count as a zero? By the way, CNN, which hosts the second GOP debate, has decided to take two fields: 1) the Top 10, and 2) everyone else. But here’s the thing to consider if you’re in that second group: Once you’re out of the first debate, it’s hard to get back in. See Gary Johnson in 2011-2012.

Here’s the first batch of Hillary’s emails

The State Department is set to release the first batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email account. And the New York Times has some of them. From the Times’ story: “They capture the correspondence and concerns expressed among Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, and her advisers following the attacks, which claimed the lives of the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans... They appear to back up Mrs. Clinton’s previous assertions that she did not receive classified information at her private email address. But some of the emails contain what the government calls “sensitive” information or “SBU’’ — sensitive but unclassified. This includes details of the whereabouts of State Department officials in Libya when security there was deteriorating during the 2011 revolution.”

RIP, Iowa straw poll?

Jeb Bush already said he won’t participate in August’s Iowa straw poll. And now he’s joined by Mike Huckabee, winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Huckabee’s explanation: The straw poll costs too much money -- for little reward -- and it only ends up dividing conservative presidential candidates. “It's clear that pitting conservative candidates with limited resources against each other in a non-binding and expensive summer straw poll battle, while allowing billionaire-backed establishment candidates to sit out, will only wound and weaken the conservative candidates who best represent conservative and hard-working Iowans,” he writes in a Des Moines Register op-ed explaining his decision. If the back-to-back Bush and Huckabee decisions to skip the straw poll -- especially when there’s a competing Red State gathering in Atlanta at the same time -- don’t kill the event, it seriously weakens it. And remember: The 2011 winner of the Iowa straw poll was Michele Bachmann, who ultimately finished SIXTH in the caucuses.

Rand’s Stand -- but don’t call it a filibuster

After speaking for 10 hours, 30 minutes, and 18 seconds, Sen. Rand Paul finished his long Senate speech in opposition to NSA data surveillance at 11:48 pm ET last night, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. Paul was joined by 10 senators from both sides of the aisle during his speech -- seven Democrats and three Republicans, some of whom spoke more than once. At one point while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was speaking, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was presiding, meaning all three Senate GOP presidential hopefuls were on the Senate floor at the same time, Thorp adds. Technically, Paul’s speech wasn’t a filibuster. Because he finished his speech before midnight, he didn’t delay any consideration of any bill. Indeed, Paul ending his speech before midnight allows for a key procedural vote at 10:00 am ET on the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, which needs 60 votes to proceed. The fact that Paul chose to end his remarks before midnight suggests that he didn’t want to antagonize Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on this trade deal. And when you’re showing deference, it’s not a filibuster.

The New Hampshire Republicans who backed W. and H.W. aren’t fully on board with Jeb

Don’t miss this Boston Globe story on Jeb Bush: He hasn’t won over New Hampshire Republicans -- not yet anyway. “Some influential Granite State Republicans who in the past enthusiastically backed Bush family candidates — such as Jeb Bush’s father in 1988 and brother in 2000 — so far are not offering that same support to the newest Bush on the political scene. One is former US representative Charlie Bass. Two generations of the Bass family backed Bush campaigns for president, governor, and the Senate. When George W. Bush launched his campaign for president in 1999, then-US Representative Bass stood at his side in front of a crowd of thousands on the New Castle Common. Former senator Judd Gregg, who also hails from two generations of Bush supporters, isn’t yet on board with Jeb Bush, either. Nor is John H. Sununu, who served as George H.W. Bush’s White House chief of staff. And his son, former US senator John E. Sununu, is backing John Kasich, the governor of Ohio.” One thing worth noting: Some of Jeb World 2016 is the old McCain World 2000, and that might explain why the folks who backed W. aren’t on board right now.

Obama’s (stated) ISIS strategy isn’t working

The United States faces three options to achieve the stated goal of dismantling and destroying ISIS: 1) You introduce a surge of U.S. ground troops, 2) you leave it to the Iranians, or 3) you do what the Obama administration is currently doing. But as we found out with ISIS taking Ramadi is that the current strategy isn’t working -- at least backing up the rhetoric to dismantle and destroy ISIS. Now you could argue that the real U.S. strategy is designed to CONTAIN ISIS, WEAR THEM DOWN, and prevent them from being a threat INSIDE the U.S. And that strategy could be working a bit better. But the Obama administration has never said that’s the strategy. And that’s the problem.

On the trail today

Jeb Bush remains in New Hampshire… Mike Huckabee is in South Carolina… And Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference gathering in Oklahoma City.

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