Rick Perry Bumped from GOP Debate

“Setting the stage for the first formal debate of the 2016 presidential primary season, Fox News announced the final lineup for its GOP debate Thursday in Cleveland–denying former Texas Gov. Rick Perry a slot on the main prime-time stage,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Fox gave a boost to the late-starting campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the flagging candidacy of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by giving them both a place in the debate, which the network limited to 10 of the 17 announced candidates based on national poll rankings.”

Trump Calls for Government Shutdown Over Abortion

Donald Trump said he believes Republicans should shut down the government rather than fund a “disgraceful” Planned Parenthood, CNN reports.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there will be no more government shutdowns: “Through negotiation, we have divided government. Different parties control the Congress and the White House. And at some point, we’ll negotiate the way forward.”

Trump Changes Voicemail Into an Ad

Donald Trump has turned the tables on Gawker. After the online site published of Donald Trump’s cellphone numbers, the GOP presidential candidate changed his voicemail, ABC News reports.

The new recording: “Hi, this is Donald Trump and I’m running for the presidency of the United States of America. With your help and support, together we can make America truly great again! Visit me at twitter @realDonaldTrump and check out my campaign website at www.donaldtrump.com Hope to see you on the campaign trail, we’re going to do it!”

Marco Rubio Has a Lot of Upside

First Read: “Here’s a final point on the 2016 race when it comes to our NBC/WSJ poll: Marco Rubio still has tons of potential. Despite being in 8th place in our GOP horse race at 5% among GOP primary voters, 62% of these Republicans say they can see themselves supporting Rubio, versus 29% who can’t (+33).”

“That’s a higher margin than any of the other 2016 Republicans on this scale: Walker (+30), Carson (+22), Bush (+17), Cruz (+14), Huckabee (+9), and Fiorina (+2). Where is Donald Trump? He’s at minus-2 on this scale, though that’s better than Christie (-18) and Lindsey Graham (-53).”

Santorum Already Reshuffles Staff

“Several top staffers have left Rick Santorum’s campaign to create a new super PAC, a move spurred by the cash-strapped candidate’s anemic fundraising,” Politico reports.

“Campaign manager Terry Allen, Iowa state coordinator Jon Jones and digital strategist Steve Hilliard — Allen’s son-in-law — departed several weeks ago, leaving the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses without a campaign manager and raising questions about whether Santorum can last until Iowa votes on Feb. 1 next year.”

Donald Trump Is Totally Dominating the GOP Race

Rick Klein: “Donald Trump is so much of the story right now that when he doesn’t show up at a candidate forum, there’s almost no story at all. Monday night’s pre-debate show in New Hampshire struggled to find a rhythm, as if the fact that a certain candidate’s name never got mentioned robbed the participants of their focal point.”

“As the top 10 candidates get their debate invites from Fox on Tuesday, with 3 percent support looking like the bar to clear, it’s worth calculating that the frontrunner has enough support to earn seven or eight podium spots. Yes, that’s Mr. Trump, who now doesn’t need to exaggerate to claim that he’s leading essentially every poll, national and state.”

“It may be time to change assumptions about Trump, whose numbers aren’t peaking as many GOP leaders had assumed or hoped. Expecting Trump to implode seems like less of a sure bet – which means his rivals may actually need him on some stages for a while.”

Here’s Who Should Make the GOP Debate Cut

A slew of polls have been released in the last 24 hours and First Read crunches the latest numbers to see which candidates make the top 10 for the first GOP debate on Thursday night:

  1. Trump: 23.2%
  2. Bush: 12.8%
  3. Walker: 10.6%
  4. Carson: 6.6%
  5. Huckabee: 6.6%
  6. Cruz: 6.2%
  7. Rubio: 5.2%
  8. Paul: 4.8%
  9. Christie: 3.4%
  10. Kasich: 2.8%

Not making the cut:

  1. Perry: 2.0%
  2. Santorum: 1.4%
  3. Jindal: 1.2%
  4. Fiorina: 1.0%
  5. Graham: 0.4%
  6. Pataki: 0.2%
  7. Gilmore: 0.2%

Why Not Making Debate Cut Could Be Opportunity

Byron York suggests not making the cut for the first GOP debate might by an opportunity for the low-ranking hopefuls who take part in the earlier “kids’ debate.”

One reason: “Donald Trump won’t be involved. The top ten debate is in grave danger of becoming the Trump show. Even top GOP candidates’ performances will be evaluated relative to Trump, making it harder for them to make a good impression on their own.”

Another: “The second-tier debate will be less personality-driven, meaning it will more likely focus on substance, and on the single goal most important to GOP audiences: defeating Hillary Clinton. Republican voters like candidates who concentrate more on beating Democrats than bickering with each other.”

Trump Surges to Lead in New Hampshire

The latest WMUR Granite State Poll finds Donald Trump is the top choice of 24% of likely GOP primary voters, doubling the support of Jeb Bush at 12% and Scott Walker at 11%, the only other candidate in double digits.

Key findings: “Not only has Trump surged to the head of the pack in New Hampshire, but also for the first time, he is now viewed favorably by more likely GOP primary voters than unfavorably. And, he is named as the candidate best able to handle key issues facing the nation, from the economy to terrorism, and from immigration to health care policy.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members.”

– Former President Jimmy Carter, quoted by the Huffington Post.

Walker Punked In New Hampshire

Washington Post: “Maybe it should have been a tip-off that the two 20-somethings were so overly excited to meet Scott Walker. Like dramatically excited. The young woman was literally bouncing with excitement. And the young man had a homemade sign declaring that the Republican governor should become president.”

“As Scott Walker smiled and put his arms around Tyler McFarland, 23, and Giselle Hart, 20, the sign flipped. Suddenly Walker was posing with a fake, game-show-style check made out to him from the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles Koch and David Koch, who plan to spend $889 million on the upcoming election.”