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First Read: Why the GOP Will Fight Trump Until the Bitter End

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.

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.

Why the GOP will likely fight Trump until the bitter end

After the latest Donald Trump controversy (his proposal to bar Muslims from the U.S.) and after the latest new poll (Trump leading New Hampshire by a whopping 18 points), Republicans face this choice 50-plus days until Iowa: Do they fight Trump? Or do they surrender? According to the Republicans who are in charge of retaining control of the House and Senate, they are looking to fight. (Cleveland, here we come?) The only question is -- how? Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico that Trump and his rhetoric could cost the GOP, big time. “It puts, certainly, competitive seats in jeopardy. We’ll have a much more difficult time.” Walden’s deputy, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), was more pointed, telling Politico: “There are people that couldn’t win if he was our nominee.” And that’s from House Republicans -- not Senate Republicans, who are much more in danger of losing their majority. Our prediction: The Republican Party will not surrender and let Trump be its nominee without a protracted fight. The reason: The GOP’s majorities hang in the balance. While none of these folks in charge of winning House/Senate elections want Trump at the top of the GOP ticket, many MIGHT welcome a Trump independent candidacy. Why? It might giftwrap the presidency for the Democrats, but it would potentially bring more right-leaning folks to the polls, and there aren’t many three-way races down the ballot. Could a Trump indie candidacy save the Senate for the GOP? Something to ponder.

But 2016 GOP candidates are unwilling to say they wouldn’t vote for Trump if he becomes nominee

Strikingly, however, none of the 2016 Republican candidates was willing to say that they would NOT vote for Trump if he became the GOP nominee. When one of us posed that question to Jeb Bush on MTP Daily yesterday, the former Florida governor replied, “It's not going to happen; he's not going to be the nominee.” When pressed if he vote Republican in 2016 no matter what, Bush answered, “Absolutely. It's not going to be Donald Trump, though.” But if the GOP decides to fight Trump until the bitter end, those kind of answers are hardly fighting words. What do some of the establishment candidates risk by hesitating on this Trump question? It’s not like coddling or accepting Trump has helped them much?

Ben Carson’s declining poll position

While the political world’s focus has been on Trump, don’t lose sight of the OTHER big development on the Republican side: Ben Carson’s decline. He’s just at 5% in that CNN/WMUR poll of New Hampshire, and he’s sitting at just 10% in the national USA Today/Suffolk poll. And this comes as Politico reports that Carson’s campaign has cancelled $700,000 worth of ads in Iowa.

Team Bush’s $33 million in ads versus Trump’s $216,000

Speaking of ads, Jeb Bush's campaign and allies have spent nearly a whopping $33 million in TV and radio advertisements so far this election cycle -- almost more than the rest of the current Republican field combined, according to ad-buying data from SMG Delta.

Total ad spending to date

  • Team Bush: $32.5 million ($31.7 million from Right to Rise Super PAC, $800K from campaign)
  • Team Rubio: $13.1 million ($8.6 million from Conservative Solutions Project, $3 million from campaign, $1.4 million from Conservative Solutions Project)
  • Team Clinton: $10.8 million ($10.6 million from campaign, $200K from Priorities USA)
  • Team Kasich: $8.4 million (all from two outside groups)
  • Team Christie: $7 million ($6.6 million from Super PAC, $400K from campaign)
  • Team Sanders: $6.2 million (all from campaign)
  • Team Graham: $2.7 million ($2.6 million from Security Is Strength Super PAC, $172K from campaign)
  • Team Carson: $2.4 million ($2.3 million from campaign, $111K from Super PAC)
  • Team Fiorina: $1 million (all from CARLY for America Super PAC)
  • Team Paul: $900,000 ($780K from America’s Liberty PAC, $125K from campaign)
  • Team Cruz: $850,000 ($640K from campaign, rest from Super PACs)
  • Team Trump: $216,000 (all from campaign)

Total ad spending this week (Dec. 6-12)

  • Team Bush: $3.4 million
  • Team Rubio: $2.3 million
  • Team Sanders: $1.1 million
  • Team Clinton: $784,000
  • Team Fiorina: $780,000
  • Team Christie: $590,000
  • Team Carson: $383,000
  • Team Kasich: $339,000
  • Team Graham: $311,000
  • Team Cruz: $183,000

Clinton campaign ties Trump to rest of GOP field

As NBC’s Kristen Welker flags, the Clinton campaign is out with a web video tying Trump to the rest of the GOP field – highlighting Ted Cruz’s and Jeb Bush’s preference to allow Christian Syrian refugees into the U.S., and Chris Christie saying he wouldn’t bring in Syrian orphans under the age of 5.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Iowa… Marco Rubio holds a rally in Michigan… Ben Carson also is in Michigan… Jeb Bush stumps in New Hampshire… John Kasich delivers a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in NYC… Carly Fiorina spends her day in the Granite State… And Martin O’Malley hits Berkeley, CA.

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