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First Read: Republicans condemn Trump, but will it matter?

The Republican field slammed Donald Trump's plan to bar Muslims from the U.S. But party leaders have criticized Trump before, and voters largely haven't cared.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall event in Rochester, N.H., Sept. 17, 2015. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall event in Rochester, N.H., Sept. 17, 2015.

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.

Republicans condemn Trump for anti-Muslim proposal.

But will it matter? On Monday -- first in a paper statement and then later on the campaign trail in South Carolina -- Donald Trump proposed barring all Muslims from entering the country after last week's San Bernardino shootings. And not since he criticized John McCain's war record have we seen almost the entire Republican field condemn Trump. The examples, per NBC's Brittany Morris:

  • Jeb Bush: "Donald Trump is unhinged. His 'policy' proposals are not serious," he tweeted.
  • Marco Rubio: "I disagree with Donald Trump's latest proposal. His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together," he said on Twitter.
  • Chris Christie: "Again, this is the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don't know what they're talking about. We do not need to endorse that type of activity, nor should we," he said on Michael Medved's radio program.
  • Ben Carson: "Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. We do not and would not advocate being selective on one's religion."
  • John Kasich: "This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States," he tweeted.
  • Ted Cruz: "Well, that is not my policy. I've introduced legislation in the Senate that would put in place a three-year moratorium on refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al Qaeda control a substantial amount of territory," he said yesterday.

But the McCain episode is instructive

After fellow Republicans -- even the RNC -- shook their fingers at Trump for criticizing McCain, it didn't hurt Trump's poll numbers. We discovered that Trump's supporters weren't outraged by his statement. And we all moved on to the next Trump outrage. The question we have: Does Trump's anti-Muslim proposal play out the same way? Does it hurt his poll numbers? Are Trump's supporters as outraged as establishment Republicans are? And do we all turn to another Trump outrage 24 hours later?

The Republicans/conservatives who aren't as outraged

It's worth pointing out that SOME conservatives and Republicans aren't as outraged as the ones above. Here are some examples (h/t Washington Post):

  • Ann Coulter: "GO TRUMP, GO!" she tweeted.
  • Laura Ingraham: "Anyone who thinks @realDonaldTrump comments will hurt him don't know the temperature of the American ppl," she said.
  • Erick Erickson: "And while I agree with my friend Russell Moore on the merits of Donald Trump's proposal to bar muslims from entering the United States, including muslim America citizens currently outside the country, I feel compelled to defend Donald Trump from the reaction to his proposal by many of my other friends," he wrote.

The bind for the RNC/GOP: Does criticism drive Trump and his supporters away from the party?

Here's an additional question we have: If Republicans -- including the RNC -- condemn Trump too hard, does that drive him and his supporters away from the GOP? The latest twist, per Time: "Republican GOP frontrunner Donald Trump will not be attending a scheduled fundraiser Wednesday for the Republican National Committee, the party confirmed, in the wake of his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Trump had been scheduled to attend the RNC Presidential Trust Dinner in New York City on Dec. 9, and a Trump spokesperson confirmed his attendance at the event when it was first reported in late October. But those plans have now changed. 'There will be no presidential candidates attending the dinner,' an RNC spokesperson told TIME late Monday."

MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll: 58% say Trump has hurt the GOP's image

No matter the fundraiser, however, we do know that a majority of Americans believe Trump is hurting the GOP's image, according to anMSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll released yesterday. "58 percent of adults say that Trump has marred the GOP's reputation, compared to just 24 percent who say he is helping its image. Among Hispanics, that margin is 65 percent compared to just 16 percent who say he has helped the party. Republicans are divided on the question, with 43 percent saying Trump is helping the GOP's image and 40 percent saying that he has hurt it."

Wrapping Trump's appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

Earlier this morning, Trump called into MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to respond to the criticism of his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. "You should be more scared by what's going on [in San Bernardino]," he answered. "I'm using common sense." On the GOP's field negative reaction: "They have been condemning almost everything I say, and then they come to my side." And Trump added that his anti-Muslim proposal is "a temporary move" -- not permanent. And, per NBC's Ali Vitali, Trump emphasized that American citizens can come back into the United States, which was a reversal from what his campaign had said yesterday.

Jeb Bush's Super PAC hits Trump, Cruz, Rubio in new TV ad

Meanwhile, after spending nearly $32 million in TV ads, the pro-Jeb Bush Right to Rise Super PAC is up with its first negative/contrast ad -- and it hits Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. "When the attacks come here, the person behind this [Oval Office] desk will have to protect your family. Will he be impulsive and reckless, like Donald Trump?" the ad asks. "Will he have voted to dramatically weaken counter-terrorism surveillance, like Ted Cruz? Will he have skipped crucial national security hearings and votes just to campaign, like Marco Rubio?" It concludes, "Twenty-seven generals and admirals support Jeb Bush, because Jeb has the experience and knowledge to protect your family."

Bernie Sanders sticks to his script

Finally, don't miss this piece by MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald: "As Washington and the campaign trail are consumed by questions of terrorism and gun control after last week's shooting in San Bernardino, California, Bernie Sanders chafed this weekend at the idea that news events should dictate what his campaign says or does. On a swing through this key presidential primary state, Sanders largely stuck to his bread and butter domestic issues, before tacking on some more topical material towards the end of two speeches Saturday about guns and the so-called Islamic State. And as if sensing the criticism before it came, Sanders preemptively defended himself by saying he would not be, as he sees it, cowed by the media into jettisoning his core message."

On the trail

Hillary Clinton holds a town hall in Salem, NH at 6:45 pm ET… Jeb Bush also campaigns in the Granite State… Ben Carson holds a rally in Atlanta, GA… John Kasich is in South Carolina… Rick Santorum makes several stops through Iowa… And Bernie Sanders takes a walking tour of Freddie Gray's neighborhood in Baltimore -- before appearing on Jimmy Fallon later tonight.

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