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GOP has spent $8 million on ads for debate

Find out the names of the biggest spenders, according to the latest ad-buying data.
(Photo by Carlos Barria/Pool/AP)
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, 2nd right, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, left, talk to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as the wait for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, not pictured, for a group picture at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, July 14, 2015.

The first GOP debate is the new Ames Straw Poll … Huckabee doesn’t back down from controversial comment … Who’s in (and who’s out) for that first GOP debate, according to the most recent polling … GOP ad spending before the debate: almost $8 million … Highlights from Jeb Bush’s Spanish-language interview with Jose Diaz-Balart … The Iran deal as the new Obamacare? ... And viewing the Iran deal OUTSIDE the U.S.


*** The first GOP debate is the new Ames Straw Poll: For political observers who are pleased that the Republican Party’s Ames Straw Poll no longer exists, here’s a question to chew on: Is the first GOP debate on Aug. 6 -- limited to the Top 10 in national polls -- a suitable replacement? After all, that is what the first debate has essentially become. Think about it: It will serve to winnow the Republican field just as the Ames poll did. (So instead of Tim Pawlenty dropping out of the 2012 race because he can’t beat fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann in the straw poll, you’re likely going to see GOP candidates drop out, or at least lose support from donors, from being left off the first debate stage.) In addition, just like candidates would spend big bucks on the Ames Straw Poll, we’ve seen the GOP candidates and outside groups backing them spend nearly $8 million in TV advertisements -- mostly to boost their poll numbers. Of course, the money spent on the Ames Straw Poll went to the Iowa Republican Party, to help build the party before the caucuses. But what is this new money spent on? Answer: Building name ID for the candidates.

*** Huckabee doesn’t back down from controversial comment: The other unintended consequence of the eligibility criteria for that first debate is that most of the GOP presidential candidates are DESEPERATE to get attention. See Mike Huckabee, who on “TODAY” this morning refused to back down from his controversial comments equating the Iran nuclear deal to the Nazis sending Holocaust victims to the “oven.” Huckabee told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “The response from Jewish people has been overwhelming positive.” Ask yourself: For Huckabee’s poll standing and fundraising, has his controversial remark been a success or failure? He’s picked a fight with the Democratic president; he’s fundraised off it; and he’s now appeared on national TV. Folks, get ready for more.

*** Who’s in (and who’s out) for that first GOP debate: As mentioned above, the first GOP presidential debate is restricted to the candidates who are in the Top 10 of averaged national polling as of Aug. 4 at 5:00 pm ET. And here is where that race to make the debate stands after we crunched the numbers from the last five national polls that meet NBC’s standards:

  1. Trump: 18%
  2. Bush 14%
  3. Walker 10.6%
  4. Rubio 6.2%
  5. Paul 6%
  6. Cruz 6%
  7. Huckabee 5.6%
  8. Carson 5.2%
  9. Christie 3%
  10. Perry 2.2%
  11. Kasich 2%
  12. Santorum 1.6%
  13. Jindal 1.4%
  14. Fiorina 0.8%
  15. Graham 0.2%

*** GOP ad spending before the debate: almost $8 million: Also as mentioned above, Republican presidential campaigns and outside groups supporting them have spent nearly $8 million in TV advertisements so far ahead of next week’s first GOP debate (as of July 24). The biggest spenders, according to the ad-buying data from SMG Delta: 1) A non-profit backing Marco Rubio called Conservative Solutions Project (which doesn’t have to disclose its donors); and 2) A group supporting John Kasich. By comparison, only about $1 million was spent at this point in the 2012 GOP presidential contest, per SMG Delta.  The only Democratic entity that has been spending money on a presidential candidate is the Super PAC supporting Martin O’Malley – and it’s just $25,000. Here are the numbers:

  • Conservative Solutions Project (Pro-Rubio): $2.6 million
  • New Day for America (Pro-Kasich): $2.1 million
  • Opportunity and Freedom PAC (Pro-Perry): $1.3 million
  • Believe Again PAC, American Future Project, America Next (Pro-Jindal): $1.1 million
  • Christie campaign, America Leads PAC (Pro-Christie): $500,000
  • We The People, Not Washington (Pro-Pataki): $272,000
  • Cruz campaign: $35,000
  • Paul campaign: $12,000
  • Fiorina campaign: $3,000
  • TOTAL: $7,922,000

*** Highlights from Jeb Bush’s Spanish-language interview with Jose Diaz-Balart: Jeb Bush sat down with MSNBC’s/Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart in his first Spanish-language interview of the campaign. Some of the highlights (translated into English):

  • On immigration reform: “I do make that commitment and I know we can do it [comprehensive immigration reform if elected president].”
  • On the influence of Hispanic culture in his life: “We eat Mexican food at home, our children are Hispanic, and yes the Hispanic influence is important.”
  • On Huckabee’s Israel comments: “In the case of Mike Huckabee, who is my friend, those words, that use of those type of words doesn’t help, doesn’t help. We must have a more civil policy in this country.”
  • On Donald Trump’s stance on immigration: “I was hurt hearing somebody speaking in such a vulgar fashion. This makes the solving of this problem much more difficult. When we have politicians talking like that, we cannot progress.”

*** The Iran deal as the new Obamacare? This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew all testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Iran nuclear deal. And here’s one way to think of the Iran deal: It’s the new Obamacare. Opponents using overheated rhetoric to criticize the deal? Check. The administration arguing that opponents have produced no alternative? Check. Polls showing that Democrats and Republicans are split over the deal (but with independents siding with Republicans for now)? Check. And just like with Obamacare, the smart money is that the deal won’t go down in Congress, given that it will take two-thirds votes in the Senate and House to override President Obama’s veto.

*** Viewing the Iran deal outside the U.S.: Views of the Iran deal OUTSIDE the U.S. and Israel are mostly positive. Why? Because the deal benefits other countries. “As Iran reenters the global economy, its consumer market of 78.5 million people—the second largest population in the Middle East after Egypt—will attract plenty of international interest. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman will reap the first obvious gains from trade with and investment in Iran. Also in line to benefit are international oil companies,” Ian Bremmer wrote earlier this month. “China, Russia, and France are also likely to benefit from Iran’s revival. All are well-placed to do more business in Iran. And all will gain as the increasingly anxious Saudis look to diversify away from deep dependence on the United States for defense supplies and markets for Saudi oil exports.”

*** On the trail: Ben Carson, on Capitol Hill, delivers remarks at a rally protesting Planned Parenthood … Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton are in New Hampshire … Rick Santorum stumps in South Carolina … And Scott Walker holds cheesesteak meet-and-greets in Philly.

OFF TO THE RACES: Making another pitch to the Koch Brothers

Via POLITICO: "Four leading GOP presidential candidates – Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – are traveling to a Southern California luxury hotel in coming days to make their cases directly to the Koch brothers and hundreds of other wealthy conservatives planning to spend close to $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 election."

BUSH: He told a group of businesspeople: "We need men and women of good will forging consensus, starting to solve problems, kind of building back the muscles of consensus, compromise and solution-finding to fix these things" ... “Apparently that is dangerous in a Republican primary, but it’s what I believe.”

The Washington Post delves into Bush's economic record in Florida, writing that "according to interviews with economists and a review of data, Florida owed a substantial portion of its growth under Bush not to any state policies but to a massive and unsustainable housing bubble — one that ultimately benefited rich investors at the expense of middle-class families."

CHRISTIE: Ouch, from the Associated Press: "An Associated Press review of his senior class yearbook, state payroll records, agency websites and state press releases found that nearly a half dozen of Christie's former high school classmates have ended up in state positions since he took office. That number increases at least to a dozen if Christie's classmates from Seton Hall law school are counted."

CLINTON: The New York Times delves into the policy and the politics of her climate change plan. "Mrs. Clinton’s strategists see climate change as a winning issue for 2016. They believe it is a cause she can advance to win over deep-pocketed donors and liberal activists in the nominating campaign, where she is facing Democratic challengers to her left on the issue. It is also one that can be a weapon against Republicans in a general election. Polls show that a majority of voters support candidates who pledge policy action on the warming climate."

From's Alex Seitz-Wald: "The super PAC Correct the Record, which coordinates directly with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has begun deploying a small handful of so-called “trackers” to discretely record the public events of her two main rival Democrats, a spokesperson confirmed to msnbc."

HUCKABEE: On "TODAY," he doubled down on his remarks about the Iran deal and the Holocaust, saying the response to his comments has been "overwhelmingly positive."

O'MALLEY: He took aim at Hillary Clinton in an interview with "“Her closeness to Wall Street is well known and genuinely held. But it’s a different of opinion that she and I have. I believe the federal government should protect our common good and main street from being worked over by recklessness on Wall Street. She does not"

He will meet with black leaders in South Carolina next week, CNN reports.

PAUL: A third super PAC is now backing him, with a focus on digital media.

TRUMP: Here's the full story on Ivana Trump's past allegation that her husband raped her, her subsequent clarification and Trump's lawyer's angry response to the Daily Beast reporter who asked about it.

Bloomberg tallies his personal wealth at $2.9 billion.'s Benjy Sarlin looks at what Trump has said about policy, writing that " some of his positions are conventionally conservative, some are surprisingly liberal, and a number fall outside the typical left-right spectrum entirely."

He leads a new Monmouth poll of New Hampshire primary voters with 24 percent support. Jeb Bush is second at 12 percent.

OBAMA AGENDA: Still in Africa

In Ethiopia, the president "urged the continent's leaders to prioritize creating jobs and opportunity for the next generation of young people or risk sacrificing future economic potential to further instability and disorder,” reports the AP.

MORE, from the Wall Street Journal: "The president on Monday also waded more deeply into the worsening conflict in South Sudan, a country his administration helped secede from Sudan four years ago following a two-decade civil war. Mr. Obama is trying to salvage the U.S. effort, which has unraveled as the new nation descended into a sectarian conflict before it could celebrate its third anniversary."

He joked during a speech to the African Union that he would win a third term if he could run, saying “I could win, but I can't.”

CONGRESS: The Ex-Im Wars

The latest on the Ex-Im bank, from The Hill: "Senators voted to revive the Export-Import Bank on Monday, setting themselves on a crash course with their House counterparts. Lawmakers voted 64-29 on attaching a reauthorization of the bank's charter, which expired last month, to a long-term highway bill."

More on the Senate drama last night, via POLITICO: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got his hands on something he believed to be damning: An email from Sen. Mike Lee’s aide to conservative activists plotting to use an Obamacare vote as a political weapon. So McConnell quickly summoned the GOP to a closed-door session in the Senate’s Mansfield Room Monday night. And he made sure his caucus read the email, placing a copy on every Republican senator’s chair before they arrived. A lawmaker in the room described the mood as “combative.” ... Lee was quick to apologize, saying he wasn’t aware of what his aide was doing. And one conservative firebrand stayed notably quiet: Ted Cruz of Texas."

The New York Times writes that now, "with a push from President Obama, and perhaps even more significantly a nod from Speaker John A. Boehner, Congress seems poised to revise four decades of federal policy that greatly expanded the number of Americans — to roughly 750 per 100,000 — now incarcerated, by far the highest of any Western nation."

—NBC News' Carrie Dann contributed to this report.