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2016 Republicans may start heading for the exits. That's good for Donald Trump.

 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is surrounded by reporters in "Spin Alley" after a presidential pre-debate forum hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is surrounded by reporters in "Spin Alley" after a presidential pre-debate forum hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sometimes in presidential politics, a candidate runs out of money and enthusiasm before the first votes are cast. A Politico survey of Iowa and New Hampshire insiders found that a plurality of the political cognoscenti are betting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be the first to exit the 2016 campaign.

Forty percent of early-state Republicans and nearly half of early-state Democrats believe Rick Perry will be the first candidate to drop out of the presidential race. ...

"No money and cannot gain traction, even though he has the best record and a superb message," lamented an Iowa Republican. "Best retail politician I have ever seen, yet not able to pick up interest against a strong field. Where was this guy last time around?"

The thinning of the herd could be a very bad thing for Republicans seeking to stop Donald Trump, because it seems increasingly likely that he will pick up support from candidates who depart early.

Until recently, I was certain that a winnowing of the field would be a good thing for the Republican frontrunners not named Donald Trump — Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio. That's because it seemed like Trump was bound to be locked into a certain percentage of the GOP electorate, somewhere between 20 percent and 25 percent, and the removal of any candidate would reapportion his or her support to a non-Trump candidate. But after some careful thought — and conversations with Republicans — I'm not so sure that's true. Because Perry already has bled support after taking on Trump, he may be the exception to a new rule: Early exits are almost certainly a good thing for Trump.

There are three scenarios in which Trump benefits from the departure of a lesser candidate.

  1. Trump actually collects the majority or plurality of a losing candidate's supporters and increases his lead in the primary.
  2. That candidate's backers reshuffle into the camps of other lower-tier candidates, revealing that Bush, Walker, and Rubio aren't popular alternatives to Trump.
  3. The candidate's supporters divide among Bush, Walker, and Rubio, bolstering their campaigns but keeping Trump in the driver's seat. Think about it this way: What if a bunch of candidates quit and Bush, Walker, and Rubio can't break out of low double digits in national polling?

The only way early exits deal a real blow to Trump is if they almost exclusively benefit one of the non-Trump candidates, forcing the others to reassess whether they can win the race. What seems most likely at this point is that at least five candidates will be in this for the long haul: Trump, Bush, Walker, Rubio, and Ted Cruz, who has raised a combined $51 million between his campaign and Super PACs.

But unless Trump gets bored or self-destructs — which it appears he's incapable of doing — he'll be a factor not just before the Iowa caucuses but well into the primary season. Even if he doesn't win the Republican nomination, he's positioned to be influential in the outcome and, again with the boredom or self-destruction caveat, he's likely to have a prominent role at the Republican National Convention next year.

VIDEO: Donald Trump on his past comments on women

Here are 9 more things to know today.

1) Clinton didn't write emails with classified material, Feinstein says

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that Hillary Clinton didn't write classified material into the emails found on her personal server that were later deemed to contain classified information, as Damian Paletta reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has access to the specifics of the review, as she is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and received copies of the emails in question several days ago:

"None of the emails alleged to contain classified information were written by Secretary Clinton," Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement. "The questions are whether she received emails with classified information in them, and if so, whether information in those emails should have been classified in the first place. Those questions have yet to be answered."

There's little question at this point that the emails are a political problem for Clinton, who chose to keep her work and personal correspondence on a private server while she was at the State Department. But from a legal standpoint, it's hard to see how she could be held culpable for receiving emails with sensitive information that weren't marked classified. It's not yet clear whether a set of emails she says she wiped from her server can be retrieved by federal authorities or whether they contain anything other than truly personal correspondence.

2) Ben Carson did fetal tissue research as a neurosurgeon

It's going to be very hard for one Republican candidate to make the claim that Planned Parenthood shouldn't have been selling fetal tissue. Ben Carson did research on fetal tissue as a neurosurgeon. The Washington Post's David Weigel asked him about it, and, as my colleague Sarah Kliff points out, his answer didn't really add up:

You have to look at the intent," Carson told Weigel. "To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it."

The full exchange between Weigel and Carson is worth reading here, although it doesn't really clarify much about how what Carson did is different from the work Planned Parenthood does procuring fetal tissue for research.

3) Carson: The private sector will solve the nation's social ills

Ben Carson
(Scott Olson/Getty)

Ben Carson writes in the Hill that his personal experience with rising from poverty to becoming an elite neurosurgeon has led him to believe that the US needs a new model for addressing social ills:

My view is that, rather than attempting to fight against poverty, we should be encouraging growth. The mental shift may be subtle, but it has profound implications for how we approach public policy. The assumption that people are "poor" grounds them in a mentality that reduces agency and creates more dependency. And more tragically, it obscures the reality that there is an abundance of opportunity that is ready for people who want to avail themselves of it. ...

This calls for a new model in public policy that departs from the traditional progressive model. What I am advocating is that civil society — including the corporate sector, education community, the religious establishment and philanthropic institutions —invest in people, to empower them with tools in the form of education and character development, role models, and concrete pathways into productive and rewarding work.

4) Mike Huckabee's smoking the Republican economic growth pipe

My colleague Matt Yglesias has written extensively on the dubiousness of assertions by Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Chris Christie that they could attain and maintain 4 percent growth in GDP if either wins the presidency. If they're untethered from reality, Mike Huckabee can't see it with a high-powered telescope. Trip Gabriel writes up his appearance at the Iowa State Fair for the New York Times:

Mr. Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, who is running as an economic populist, said 6 percent growth or more — notably upping the ante over Jeb Bush’s promise of 4 percent growth — would be possible through what he calls the Fair Tax, a type of national sales tax. Economists have expressed skepticism at Mr. Bush’s promise of 4 percent growth, so Mr. Huckabee’s 6 percent plan may cause even more raised eyebrows.

Mr. Huckabee said his Fair Tax would encourage businesses to repatriate $11 trillion that they had parked overseas and ignite a national manufacturing boom. "Folks, it’s not enough for us to have an idea and design and create something," he said. "We have to make the things that we create."

5) Fiorina is on fire (not literally)

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina talks to reporters in the "spin room" after the Republican "happy hour" debate August 6 in Cleveland.

Jonathan Allen/Vox

CNN's MJ Lee dives inside the rise of Carly Fiorina into the top tier of Republican candidates after her Gulliver-in-Lilliput performance at the GOP's junior varsity debate in Cleveland last week:

After languishing for months at the bottom of the polls, Fiorina has made a remarkable leap into the top tier of candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she'll campaign next week. The debate stage highlighted some of Fiorina's strongest assets: She is a gifted public speaker who thrives in front of the camera, and has no qualms about sharply attacking her opponents. And with her swift and explicit condemnation of Donald Trump's controversial comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, Fiorina also reminded voters of one quality that is unique to her alone: that she is the sole woman in the crowded GOP field.

"It's like a collision of planets," said Lauren Carney, Fiorina's New Hampshire state director. "The stars are aligning correctly for Carly right now and the spotlight is on her, and the microphones are in front of her.

6) Scott Walker's Harley problem

Scott Walker loves to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It's as much a part of his political persona as a beat-up pickup truck was to former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown's all-American image. But John McCormick of Bloomberg reports that Harleys are built on the sweat and money of two entities that Walker sees as enemies of American success:

While it may seem natural for a Wisconsin governor to tout the product of a company headquartered in his state, there are ironies in Walker’s embrace. Harley’s success has been helped by two entities that the budget hawk has built his reputation battling: government and labor unions.

Since 2000, the motorcycle manufacturer has benefited from $54.5 million in local and state subsidies and more than $2 billion in federal liquidity support, according to Good Jobs First, a group in Washington that monitors business incentives.

"Harley is often held up as an American success story," says Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "There are people who buy those bikes over other brands because they’re American made. There were unions involved and there was government assistance at various times. It hasn’t just been market forces that have made that happen."

7) American flag to fly in Cuba again

Havana, Cuba. (ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty)

The US will raise the flag over its Havana embassy Friday, as Alan Gomez reports for USA Today:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will oversee the event, which follows a similar flag-raising ceremony outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., last month. The events represent the latest steps in the changing relationship between the two nations since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced an end to the diplomatic freeze in December.

To help the raise the flag, American officials are bringing back three of the U.S. Marines who lowered it 54 years ago when the U.S. cut off ties with Cuba at the peak of the Cold War. A wave of Americans is expected to attend, including members of Congress, businessmen and women and academics who have lobbied for the changes.

VIDEO: Why the Cuba embargo needs to end

8) Rubio hammers Obama on Cuba and Iran

Marco Rubio is scheduled to deliver a blistering rebuttal to President Barack Obama's decisions to open up relations with Cuba and agree to a nuclear nonproliferation pact with Iran, as Hadas Gold reports for Politico:

"These deals demonstrate with jarring clarity how this administration has failed to anticipate impending crises, ignored the realities of the globalized economy, and sought to make America liked rather than respected; the way it has placed politics before policy, adversaries before allies, and legacy before leadership; the way it has confused weakness for restraint, concession for compromise, and – most simply of all – wrong for right," the Florida Republican will say, according to advance excerpts provided to POLITICO.

9) Rahm for Iran deal

Huffington Post's Sam Stein snagged an interview with former White House Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this week in which Emanuel, one of the nation's most prominent Jewish political leaders, endorsed the Iran deal:

Emanuel, who served as Obama’s chief of staff during the first two years of his presidency, during which time the administration began exploring diplomatic entreaties with Iran, said that the resulting agreement met the thresholds initially envisioned. With no other credible path available for curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, he urged lawmakers to recognize the deal's merits.

"I would say to you this agreement is a good agreement and it is far superior to either sustained bombing that would never actually get you what you have today or sanctions that would exist on paper but with no international support," Emanuel said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post.

Support from well-known political leaders who are Jewish is extremely helpful to the administration's cause at a time when pro-Israel hard-liners, including some Democrats, are dead set against it. Emanuel and his allies on the issue act as a credible counterweight against those who argue the deal imperils Israel rather than securing it.

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