GOP Candidates Shrink in New Hampshire Forum

New York Times: “After weeks of preparing for a smash-mouth debate with Donald J. Trump, 14 Republican candidates found themselves instead Trump-less but sandwiched into a constricting format on Monday night, delivering strikingly uneven performances just days before the first big test of the presidential primary contest.”

“Rather than making the other contenders look more presidential, however, the event, at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., seemed to shrink the candidates. Assembled in the front row, the Republicans gawked as each rival took his or her turn on stage, looking at times as if they were being forced to sit through a tedious school assembly.”

Planned Parenthood Fight Splits GOP

“Republicans are divided over whether they should use this fall’s government funding bill to attack Planned Parenthood — and risk a high-stakes shutdown fight — after Senate Democrats blocked a standalone bill to defund the organization on Monday evening,” Politico reports.

“On one side is presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who’s pushing Republicans to do everything within their power to strip the organization of federal support after Monday’s bill failed to clear a filibuster, 53-46. But a group of veteran Republican legislators is urging a more cautious approach, and reminding GOP colleagues that just two years ago their fight to defund Obamacare via a government funding bill produced a disastrous shutdown without making a dent on the Affordable Care Act.”

Two More Polls Shows Trump in Front

A new Fox News poll finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 26%, followed by Jeb Bush at 15%, Scott Walker at 9%, Ben Carson at 7%, Mike Huckabee at 6%, Ted Cruz at 6%, Marco Rubio at 5%, Rand Paul at 5%, Chris Christie at 3% and John Kasich at 3%.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds Trump leading with 19%, followed by Walker at 15%, Bush at 14%, Carson at 10%, Cruz at 9%, Huckabee at 6%, Paul at 6%, Rubio at 5%, Kasich at 3%, Perry at 3% and Christie at 3%.

Scott Walker Is a Fiscal Conservative?

New financial disclosures show that Gov. Scott Walker has two credit-card debts of more than $10,000 apiece on separate cards and is paying an eye-popping 27.24 percent interest rate on one of them, National Journal reports.

“The Republican presidential candidate has cast himself as both a fiscal conservative leader and a penny-pinching everyman on the campaign trail, often touting his love of Kohl’s, the discount department store. His newly published financial disclosure shows that, like many Americans, Walker has few assets, some major debts (including more than $100,000 for student loans for his children), and a punishing interest rate on his credit-card obligations.”

The Polls That Will Decide the GOP Debaters

Gabriel Sherman: “According to the source, candidates will be chosen from the following polls: Monmouth University (released today), NBC News/Wall Street Journal (August 2), Quinnipiac University (July 30), Bloomberg, CBS/New York Times, and Fox News (all releasing tomorrow). If a poll from ABC News or another organization fitting Fox’s criteria is released overnight, then it will be swapped in.”

“Based on the five most recent polls that meet Fox’s standards, Trump will be center stage flanked by Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. On the bubble, it’s looking like Ohio governor John Kasich will edge out Rick Perry for the final spot. If current numbers hold, the remaining prime-time participants will be: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, and Rand Paul.”

The Upshot: Who gets in the debate?

What a Biden Bid Would Mean for Clinton

John Heilemann: “The Clintons and their adjutants.… comprehend, if dimly, that in the short term a Biden entry would make their lives sheer hell, and in the medium term could be quite dangerous, for three reasons beyond the obvious. First, it would radically exacerbate an already punishing set of media dynamics for Clinton…. Second, a Biden candidacy would escalate the Bernie Sanders threat…. Third, with Biden in the race, the Democratic establishment would have a viable alternative.”

“The absence of a plausible fallback option has been no small part of the reason the party’s panjandrums have been laboring to suppress their misgivings about the swirl of controversies around Clinton’s e-mail practices and her family’s foundation.”

Texas Attorney General Surrenders on Fraud Indictment

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), the state’s top law enforcement officer, turned himself into jail to be booked on felony securities fraud charges, the Texas Tribune reports.

“Wearing a pin-striped suit and a red tie, he smiled slightly for his mugshot. Then, he was promptly released from the Collin County Jail on $35,000 bond… Afterward, he apparently slipped out of the courthouse undetected, avoiding the throng of waiting media and Democratic protesters.”

Trump Is a Cash Cow for State Parties

Politico: “Donald Trump sends shudders through the GOP establishment each day he remains atop a volatile presidential pack, but in reality, local Republican parties have courted him and his polarizing brand for years, eagerly slotting him atop prominent party functions and fundraisers — and happily lapping up the dollars he draws.”

“Now, a small, growing handful of Republican state party leaders are calling for a Donald detox, worried that all the easy cash is exponentially outweighed by damage he’s doing to the GOP image.”

GOP Hopefuls Get Ready to Rumble

The Hill: “Thursday marks the true opening salvo in the GOP presidential race, as the top 10 candidates are slated to face off in the long-awaited Fox News debate. With just more than half the declared candidates on stage, the event will give voters a chance to see whether the debate gets into policy differences or ends up being a slug-fest.”