Republican 2016 presidential candidates (L-R), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, pose together at the start of the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, Aug. 6, 2015.
Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

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

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 is 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 reportsthat 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 tostrike 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.

OFF THE RACES: Trump is still leading the GOP field

A new CNN/ORC poll shows that after the debate, Donald Trump is still a clear leader of the GOP field. “The survey finds Trump with the support of 24% of Republican registered voters. His nearest competitor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, stands 11 points behind at 13%. Just behind Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has 9%, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker 8%, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul 6%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former tech CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all land at 5%, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rounding out the top 10 at 4%.”

With birthright citizenship bubbling up in the news, NBC’s Pete Williams takes a look at whether it would violate the Constitution to deny citizenship for children born in the United States to parents here illegally.

The Washington Post offers a bigger view of how Trump’s newly articulated policy positions are animating the whole GOP field.

CLINTON: NBC’s Monica Alba reports on new video of Hillary Clinton’s confrontation last week with #BlackLivesMatter activists.

And NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that Clinton’s campaign is sending out a new message to backers: “No Bed Wetting.”

The AP gets at another concern for Clinton’s camp, beyond the emails. “A computer server isn’t a marvel of modern technology. Just like a home desktop, the computer’s data is stored on a hard drive. It’s unclear whether the drive that Clinton used was thoroughly erased before the device was turned over to federal agents. If it had been, it’s also uncertain whether the FBI could recover the data. Clinton’s lawyer has used a precise term, “wiped,” to describe the deleted emails, but it was not immediately clear whether the server had been wiped. Such a process overwrites deleted content to make it harder or impossible to recover.”

CRUZ: One of his mystery megadonors is PCS Wireless CEO Ben Nash, writes the New York Times.

FIORINA: Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in The New York Times that Carly Fiorina’s business record is “not so sterling.” MORE: “[I]t is curious to those of us who have reported on her business career that there has not been a greater focus in recent days on her “track records and accomplishments,” as she suggested she should be measured by.”

She and Rick Perry both appeared at a GOP fundraiser in Iowa to stress their conservative roots, the Des Moines Register reports.

WALKER: NBC’s Shaquille Brewster has a preview of Walker’s big health care policy speech today in Minneapolis.

The New York Times reports that the campaign may be considering some staff changes as he struggles in the key state of Iowa.

Roll Call notes that he’s staffing up with policy advisers from Capitol Hill.

OBAMA AGENDA: Commercial flights to Cuba!

The president is pushing for a deal to start commercial flights to Cuba by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NJ.com: “U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who has been critical of White House dealings with Iran, is to announce Tuesday how he will vote on an agreement that curtails its nuclear program for more than 10 years in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.”

Mark Murray contributed reporting.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker

A rough summer for onetime GOP frontrunners