Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev.
Photo by John Locher/AP

Who makes the Republican presidential debate stage — and who doesn’t?

Updated

How Trump helps — and also maybe hurts — Jeb Bush … Don’t forget: The immigration outrage doesn’t match the data … Who makes the debate stage — and who doesn’t? … A reality check on the Hillary-vs.-Sanders horserace … Iran talks to extend — again … The fundraising rules in the Super PAC Era? There really are no rules … Carly’s unimpressive fundraising numbers … And Rubio: “The race for the future will never be won by going backward.”

FIRST THOUGHTS

Which moments are shaping the presidential race? Click the image above to see an interactive timeline of the 2016 race.
*** How Trump helps — and also maybe hurts — Jeb Bush: If you’re Jeb Bush, the Republican presidential race becoming ALL ABOUT DONALD TRUMP has its positives. One, it freezes the rest of the field, sucking up oxygen from other candidates who might pop. Two, it provides him a foil to campaign against. Jeb can say, “I’m Mr. Responsible Republican, and we can’t allow the irresponsible ones take over our party.” And we saw Bush start to make this argument against Trump over the July 4 holiday weekend. But the rise of Trump has one big drawback for Jeb: It further exposes the party’s wounds on immigration. Look no further than how Trump fired back at Bush’s criticism. “[H]e doesn’t understand anything about the border or border security. In fact, Jeb believes illegal immigrants who break our laws when they cross our border come out ‘out of love.’” Indeed, Jeb’s 2014 “act of love” comment is potentially radioactive in a GOP primary. It’s one thing for a Republican to believe in immigration reform and a path to legal status; it’s another to say that illegal immigration is an act of love. And as we’ve learned, Donald Trump isn’t going to be shy at resurrecting those old quotes.

*** The immigration outrage doesn’t match the data: Here’s an additional point we want to make about Trump and the immigration debate: The outrage doesn’t match the data. After all, illegal immigration from Mexico has declined. Deportations have gone up. And given the focus on the murder in San Francisco committed by an undocumented immigrant, the crime rate for first-generation immigrants is lower than the overall crime rate.

RELATED: Get ready for the GOP’s ‘Hunger Games’

*** Who makes the debate stage — and who doesn’t? With the first GOP presidential debate less than a month from now, one of your authors crunched the numbers from the last five national polls (two from Fox, one CNN, one NBC/WSJ, and one from Monmouth), and below are the polling averages. Remember, the first debate is restricted to the Top 10:

  1. BUSH 15.4
  2. WALKER 10.8
  3. CARSON 10
  4. RUBIO 8.8
  5. PAUL 7.6
  6. HUCKABEE 7.4
  7. TRUMP 6
  8. CRUZ 4.8
  9. PERRY 3.8
  10. CHRISTIE 3.6
  11. SANTORUM 2.2
  12. FIORINA 2
  13. KASICH 1.6
  14. GRAHAM 1.4
  15. JINDAL 1.2

*** A reality check on the Hillary-vs.-Sanders horserace: Hillary Clinton today campaigns in Iowa, making stops in Iowa City and Ottumwa. She also sits down for the first national TV interview since becoming a presidential candidate, although she’s conducted interviews with local political reporters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. And we have a hunch that one question she gets is about Bernie Sanders’ rise in the polls. Here’s how The New York Times framed the Clinton-Sanders horserace: “Hillary Clinton’s Team Is Wary as Bernie Sanders Finds Footing in Iowa.” But as our sister publication The Lid noted yesterday, there are four things to keep in mind about Sanders’ rise:

  • She’s still ahead in Iowa by at least 19 points, a much wider margin than exists in the GOP race;
  • This kind of NYT story only helps the Clinton camp lower expectations;
  • Sanders’ surge is being fueled by progressive whites – the same folks who supported Bill Bradley in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004. In fact, what Sanders has done is consolidate the 30% who were there for Elizabeth Warren. (What should concern Clinton Land is if he starts creeping up into the 40s;
  • And as the political scientists put it, the party (though its elected officials) ultimately decide the nomination. And so far, two-thirds of sitting Democratic senators have endorsed Hillary. That, to political scientists, matters more than the polls or crowd sizes.

In short, Sanders has consolidated the progressive wing of the party, and that is impressive. The question is: Can he grow it? And remember, a recent Gallup poll showed that a presidential candidate being labeled a socialist was the worst attribute – lower than being a Muslim or an atheist. And for Sanders to TRULY take off, he needs to prove to Democratic elites that a socialist like him could win a general election.

*** Iran talks to extend — again: Here’s Andrea Mitchell on the latest in the Iran talks: “The State Department in Vienna announced it is taking steps to extend the agreement currently in place with Iran until July 10. Spokeswoman Marie Harf says they are more concerned about the quality of the deal than they are about the clock. Secretary of State Kerry plans to remain in Vienna to continue discussions.”

*** The fundraising rules? There really are no rules: Welcome to our brave new world in fundraising for the presidential contest. Exhibit A: The Super PAC backing Carly Fiorina reported raising twice as much ($3.4 million) as the Fiorina campaign raised for 2nd quarter ($1.4 million). Exhibit B: The 501c4 helping Marco Rubio – which doesn’t have to disclose its donors – says it’s raked in nearly $16 million, which could very well exceed the haul by Rubio’s campaign. Exhibit C: As we reported yesterday, the Ted Cruz campaign issued a press release highlighting BOTH its campaign’s 2nd-quarter numbers and the expected Super PAC cash. And we thought that campaigns weren’t supposed to coordinate with the Super PACs!!! But as the Washington Post writes, the fundraising rules in the Super PAC Era are that there really are no rules. “Operatives on both sides can talk to one another directly, as long as they do not discuss candidate strategy. According to an FEC rule, an independent group also can confer with a campaign until this fall about ‘issue ads’ featuring a candidate. Some election-law lawyers think that a super PAC could share its entire paid media plan, as long as the candidate’s team does not respond.”

*** FEC hasn’t opened an investigation into alleged illegal Super PAC coordination: Why are there no rules? Answer: The Federal Election Commission doesn’t seem to care. “Since 2010, the FEC has yet to open an investigation into alleged illegal super PAC coordination, closing 29 such complaints. In 28 of those cases, the agency’s general counsel did not recommend pursuing the matters, according to Goodman of the FEC,” the Post adds. Wow.

*** Carly’s unimpressive fundraising numbers: One more point about Fiorina’s $1.4 million campaign haul and the $3.4 million for her Super PAC: For a candidate who got buzz over the last 60 days, those AREN’T impressive numbers. In fact, $1.4 million is a barely considered a decent quarterly haul for a Senate candidate these days. 

*** Rubio: “The race for the future will never be won by going backward”: In Chicago at 10:00 am ET, Marco Rubio will deliver a domestic-policy speech, in which his argument will be – again – that he represents the future. “For the first fifteen and a half years of this century, Washington has looked to the past. Our economy has changed, but our economic policies have not,” he is expected to say, according to advanced excerpts of his speech. “And we have learned, painfully, that the old ways no longer work – that Washington cannot pretend the world is the same as it was in the ‘80s, it cannot raise taxes like it did in the ‘90s, and it cannot grow government like it did in the 2000s. The race for the future will never be won by going backward.” He will add, “We need a new president for a new age – one with original ideas to unlock the two great doors to the future: the doors of innovation and education.” After his remarks in Chicago, Rubio heads to campaign in Iowa.

*** On the trail: Ben Carson is in New Hampshire… Hillary Clinton stumps in Iowa, as does Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal… And Mike Huckabee is in South Carolina.

OBAMA AGENDA: Counteroffensive

“Seven weeks after their frenetic retreat from Ramadi, Iraqi security forces are preparing to mount a counteroffensive in the coming weeks to try to reclaim the pivotal western Iraqi city from the Islamic State, American and Iraqi officials say,” according to the New York Times.

Obama called the fight against ISIS “a generational struggle” yesterday.

The White House will announce an initiative to help low- and middle- income Americans get access to solar energy, the New York Times reports.

The latest from the eurozone, via the Wall Street Journal: “The eurozone’s top decision makers were meeting Tuesday in an urgent effort to get back to the negotiating table on Greek bailout funding, pushing for new proposals from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after his voters overwhelmingly rejected creditors’ austerity measures.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Welcome back, Roger Clinton

The Washington Post notes that nearly three-quarters of Iowa Republican caucus-goers support ground troops against ISIS.

CARSON: He brought in about $2 million delivering speeches to Christian organizations, POLITICO reports.

CLINTON: The New York Times asked yesterday: What happens if Hillary loses Iowa?

The New York Times, on Bill Clinton’s half-brother, Roger: “Roger Clinton remains largely dependent on his more famous family members — a relationship that poses the risk of new, if familiar, headaches. (Headache, in fact, was the code name given Roger by the Secret Service during President Clinton’s two terms.)”

The LA Times looks at onetime Clinton enemy David Brock and the role he’s playing in Clinton’s campaign. “Although Hillary Rodham Clinton tries to run a highly disciplined campaign, the outsized role that David Brock plays is a reminder that this is, after all, still a Clinton operation, with all the psychodramas that implies.”

CRUZ: He’s a former Supreme Court clerk, but he’s become one of the court’s top critics now.

FIORINA: The super PAC supporting her has raised $3.4 million, more than twice the amount that her official campaign has brought in.

JINDAL: In a statement this morning, he called Obama “the most clueless president of my lifetime” for his comments on ISIS.

RUBIO: He’s giving his first major domestic policy speech as a presidential candidate.  “We need a new president for a new age – one with original ideas to unlock the two great doors to the future: the doors of innovation and education,” he’ll say, according to prepared remarks.

SANDERS: The Portland Press Herald writes that an estimated 7,500 attended Sanders’ rally.

TRUMP: The Washington Post writes that some workers on his D.C. hotel project may be undocumented.

Bloomberg writes that his 401(k) plan for employees is “unusually stingy.”

And around the country…

IOWA: “Three Confederate flags flew from a truck pulling a Marion County Republicans’ parade float in Independence Day parades in Pleasantville and Pella on Saturday, leading to harsh criticism from the party’s state chairman and resignation of two Marion County central committee members who owned the truck,” writes the Des Moines Register.

PENNSYLVANIA: POLITICO writes that Harry Reid is trying to help right Joe Sestak’s problematic Senate campaign as he works behind-the-scenes to help his party win back the majority in the Senate.

SOUTH CAROLINA: “As senators celebrated their decisive vote Monday to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, some state House members were forming plans to fly other historic, and potentially controversial, flags in its place,” reports The State.

—NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed reporting to this article

Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Debates, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio

Who makes the Republican presidential debate stage — and who doesn’t?

Updated