Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, greets attendees as he tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Ia., Aug. 16, 2015. 
Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

August 2016’s winners and losers

The 2016 winners of August: Trump, Carson, Sanders … The 2016 losers of August: Hillary, Jeb, Walker, and Rubio … But remember, he or she who wins August doesn’t necessarily win in the end … Why everyone needs to pay more attention to Ben Carson … Walker: It’s a “legitimate issue” to look at building a wall between the U.S. and Canada … After a month of Biden buzz about his ’16 intentions, he still hasn’t set up a fundraising committee … Fundraising woes for Jeb? … And Boehner vs. Obama over the renaming of Mt. McKinley.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann.


*** The 2016 winners and losers of August: This past weekend’s new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll of Iowa perfectly captures the presidential candidates who won August and the summer – and those who didn’t. The winners on the Republican side: Donald Trump (who’s in first place in that Iowa poll at 23%) and Ben Carson (second at 18%). The winner on the Democratic side: Bernie Sanders, who has surged 14 points since May and now trails Hillary Clinton by just seven points in Iowa. The loser of August on the Democratic side? It’s Clinton, of course, whose lead in the Hawkeye State has dropped from 41 points to just seven (!!!) in the span of three months. The losers of August on the GOP side: Try Scott Walker (who is now tied for third with Ted Cruz in Iowa – the state where he was seen as the clear frontrunner), Jeb Bush (who’s tied for fifth), and Marco Rubio (ditto). (Our friend Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report has a similar list of winners and losers; great minds think alike.) What do Trump, Carson, and Sanders all have in common? They’re political outsiders who are FAR from your business-as-usual politicians. Indeed, the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll finds 62% of GOP Iowa caucus-goers and 60% of Dem caucus-goers saying they’re dissatisfied with politicians in general.

*** He or she who wins August doesn’t necessarily win in the end: But keep this in mind: During the last three presidential cycles (2004, 2008, 2012), the winners of August didn’t go on to capture the presidential nomination. In 2004, the undisputed winner of the summer was Howard Dean, who ultimately finished third in Iowa and won only his home state of Vermont in the 2004 primaries. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was crushing Barack Obama in the August before the nominating contests, while John McCain was essentially given up for dead during that summer. And in 2012, the August winners were Michele Bachmann (who won the Iowa Straw Poll) and Rick Perry (who soared in the polls after his presidential launch). Now if Trump/Carson/Sanders end winning in February and capture their party’s nomination, we’ll look back on this August as the turning points for them. But if they don’t, they’ll join Dean, Hillary, Romney, Rudy, Bachmann, and Perry. One other point: While the Des Moines Register poll is the unquestioned gold standard in Iowa, it widely differs from the other August polling, which found Clinton up about 20-30 points in the Hawkeye State.

*** Why everyone needs to pay more attention to Ben Carson: For all of the attention Trump and Sanders have received this summer, it’s striking how little coverage the other August winner – Carson – has gotten by comparison. That, folks, needs to change ASAP. In the Des Moines Register poll, Carson is tied with Trump when you add up the first and second choices. He also enjoys the highest fav/unfav score among GOP caucus-goers:

  • Carson:  79%-8% (+71)
  • Walker: 71%-15% (+56)
  • Fiorina: 64%-15% (+49)
  • Rubio: 67%-20% (+47)
  • Jindal: 61%-18% (+43)
  • Cruz: 61%-24% (+37)
  • Huckabee: 61%-30% (+31)
  • Trump: 61%-35% (+26)
  • Bush: 45%-50% (-5)
  • Paul: 39%-49% (-10)
  • Christie: 29%-59% (-30)

*** Walker: It’s a “legitimate issue” to look at building a wall between the U.S. and Canada: Scott Walker has the second-best fav/unfav in the GOP race, according to that Iowa poll, and he still has lots of upside. But as we’ve written before, he’s had a BRUTAL last few weeks, and his talk about building wall on the U.S.-Canadian border isn’t going to change that perception. “Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire,” he said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.” Here’s the Washington Post on Walker’s struggles: “Walker’s backers see a campaign discombobulated by Trump’s booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They see in Walker a candidate who — in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races — continues to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab for part of the flamboyant businessman’s following.”

*** After a month of Biden buzz, he still hasn’t set up a fundraising committee: As for the speculation over Biden’s 2016 intentions (NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports that he made a surprise appearance in Delaware) it’s worth noting that the White House buzz began at the beginning of this month with that Maureen Dowd column, and Biden still hasn’t set up a fundraising committee – either exploratory committee, Super PAC, 527, or something else. To us, that’s telling, because if he is going to compete against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he’s got to raise between $50 million and $100 million before the first contests begin. Remember, a sitting vice president (with his security entourage) can’t fly coach on Southwest Airlines. It’s a very expensive endeavor to run for president as a sitting VP.

*** Fundraising woes for Jeb? Speaking of fundraising, we learned over the weekend that three of Jeb Bush’s fundraisers left the campaign. “There are different versions of what transpired. The Florida-based fundraising consultants — Kris Money, Trey McCarley and Debbie Aleksander — have said that they voluntarily quit the campaign and were still working with Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise Super PAC. Others said the three, who worked under the same contract, were let go because they were no longer needed for the current phase of the campaign,” Politico writes. And Politico’s Marc Caputo adds that Jeb is grinding out fundraisers throughout September, wondering if it’s a sign of fundraising troubles. “[W]as his [hard-dollar] fundraising too little? Is Jeb’s burn rate too high, prompting the recalculations, resizing of the campaign? The campaign says no, and that it’ll have plenty of money, etc. So we’ll have to see at the end of the quarter. Meantime, Bush and the family have a grueling fundraising schedule.”                  

*** Boehner vs. Obama over the name of the United States’ largest mountain: President Obama heads to Alaska today to discuss climate change, and we learned that the Obama administration changed the name of Alaska’s Mount McKinley – in honor of former President William McKinley of Ohio – to Mount Denali. That decision angered Ohio’s John Boehner: “There is a reason President McKinley’s name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy. McKinley served our country with distinction during the Civil War as a member of the Army,” the House speaker said in a statement, per Roll Call. “He made a difference for his constituents and his state as a member of the House of Representatives and as Governor of the great state of Ohio. And he led this nation to prosperity and victory in the Spanish-American War as the 25th President of the United States. I’m deeply disappointed in this decision.”

*** On the trail: John Kasich stumps in Michigan … Marco Rubio is in Reno, NV … Ted Cruz has multiple events in New Hampshire … Rand Paul is in Vermont … And Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum campaign in Iowa. 

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OFF THE RACES: Breaking down the Des Moines Register poll

NBC’s Alex Jaffe on the Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa poll: “In the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll, Sanders is now polling just seven points behind Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton, nearly doubling his share of the vote since the last survey was conducted in May. Sanders takes 30% support, while Clinton draws 37%, marking the first time she’s dropped below 50% in the poll. Trump, meanwhile, has seen a remarkable reversal in both his support and popularity in the state since May. Back then, he was polling at just 4 percent support and his favorability was at -36 points; now, he leads the pack with 23% support and his favorability is at +26 points.”

The New York Times notes that Iowans are worried about what a Perry aide’s defection to Donald Trump’s camp says about the state’s reputation: “ ‘I think it sends a perception that we’re pay-for-play, and if that’s the case, we lose credibility as the first-in-the nation caucuses,’ said a top Republican official in Iowa.”

“Candidates and outside groups are expected to spend $1.1 billion on digital advertising in 2016, up almost 700% from $162 million in the 2012 elections, according to Borrell Associates, an advisory firm that tracks media trends,” writes the Wall Street Journal.

BIDEN: “[I]f Mr. Biden decides to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, his Senate reputation as a friend to financial institutions could be a significant obstacle, especially if he wants to make inroads with the party’s liberal base, which has become increasingly skeptical and often passionately hostile to anything connected to Wall Street,” writes the New York Times.

He made a surprise appearance at an event in Delaware, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

BUSH: POLITICO, from over the weekend: “Three top Jeb Bush fundraisers abruptly parted ways with his presidential campaign on Friday, amid internal personality conflicts and questions about the strength of his candidacy, POLITICO has learned.There are different versions of what transpired. The Florida-based fundraising consultants — Kris Money, Trey McCarley and Debbie Aleksander — have said that they voluntarily quit the campaign and were still working with Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise Super PAC. Others said the three, who worked under the same contract, were let go because they were no longer needed for the current phase of the campaign.”

CHRISTIE: “Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Saturday that if he were elected president he would combat illegal immigration by creating a system to track foreign visitors the way FedEx tracks packages.”

CLINTON: A new, large tranche of Hillary Clinton’s emails will be released this afternoon.

The U.S. attorney who prosecuted David Petraeus says that the comparison between his offense and Clinton’s email server issue “has no merit.”

She’ll accept Jeanne Shaheen’s endorsement in New Hampshire next weekend.

HUCKABEE: He’s changed positions on birthright citizenship, now saying that he’s open to ending it.

TRUMP: Over the weekend in Nashville, Trump promised to “get rid of” gangs.

And he slammed Clinton aide Huma Abedin, calling her husband Anthony Weiner a “perv,” NBC’s Kailani Koenig reports.

WALKER: His supporters are hoping for a reboot, writes the Washington Post: “These supporters say what is needed now is a return to basics, a more disciplined focus on the issues Walker long has championed in Wisconsin. They say there also needs to be a clear acknowledgment inside the campaign that the governor has yet to put to rest questions about his readiness to handle the problems and unexpected challenges that confront every president.”

And in the AP: “While he’s no different from any of the other Republicans struggling for attention amid the spotlight focused on billionaire businessman Donald Trump, Walker has also endured a series of setbacks of his own making since launching his campaign in mid-July.”

On Meet the Press, he called the birthright citizenship debate a distraction.

And he defended his plan to fund Milwaukee’s basketball arena as “fiscally responsible.”

OBAMA AGENDA: Renaming Mt. McKinley

From “For more than a century, the tallest mountain on the continent was named after the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley. Now, in honor of Alaska’s indigenous Athabascan people, who had always called it “Denali,” President Barack Obama is changing it back, the White House said in a release Sunday.”

MORE: “Over the next few days, President Barack Obama will tread gingerly on a receding glacier in the Alaskan Arctic, talk to coastal villagers whose homes are threatened by eroding shorelines and salmon fishermen whose livelihoods are endangered — all in an aggressive and high profile effort to highlight the impact of global climate change.”

From the Washington Post: “The Obama administration is developing a package of unprecedented economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from their government’s cybertheft of valuable U.S. trade secrets. The U.S. government has not yet decided whether to issue these sanctions, but a final call is expected soon — perhaps even within the next two weeks, according to several administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

“With little fanfare, the Obama administration has been pursuing an aggressive campaign to restore protections for workers that have been eroded by business activism, conservative governance and the evolution of the economy in recent decades,” writes the New York Times.

NBC’s Frank Thorp is keeping track of the Iran deal whip count here.

NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed.

Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

August 2016's winners and losers