Good Friday morning. 18 days until ELECTION DAY. It’s going to be a LONG 18 days. This whole thing almost makes you miss the trainwreck that is Capitol Hill (H/T Playbook!)
I would say that a moment of clarity has arrived. To the polls!
Is there any other news of the week? A bit.
Hillary Clinton Won … the final presidential debate, topping Donald Trump by a 13-point margin according to a CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers, giving Clinton a clean sweep across all three of this year’s presidential debates.”
TRUMPS ‘NASTY’ COMMENT The Fix ” It was as if Donald Trump could not help himself. Less than an hour after telling American voters that no one has more respect for women than he does, Trump let loose a dig that seemed to suggest otherwise. The Republican presidential nominee found his opponent’s sharing of her ideas about Social Security funding — ideas that contradict his own and came with a biting tax-related aside — simply “nasty.” To quote him fully: “Such a nasty woman.’ And so it was that a single Trump interjection became a meme, the inspiration for Clinton-fan merch and a living, evolving memorial of one way that he has interacted with women who question or challenge him in public.”
“#Nasty Woman’ becomes the feminist rallying cry Hillary Clinton was waiting for. (Vox)
WAIT, WHAT? Trump refused to say he’d accept the result of this presidential election if he loses. Instead, he said, “I’ll keep you in suspense.”
THE BIG DEBATE MOMENT:
CHRIS WALLACE : “I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?”
DONALD TRUMP: “I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time.”
BRET STEPHENS, columnist at the WSJ (@WSJ): “Trump’s answer on accepting the outcome of the vote is the most disgraceful statement by a presidential candidate in 160 years.”
Oh, and Hillary called it ‘horrfying.’
RUDY GIULIANI OFF THE RAILS @PhilipRucker: “Giuliani just predicted Dems will ‘ the election in PA by busing in people from out of state to pose as dead people to cast ballots.” …
@FrankLuntz: “Trump’s worst line of the evening: ‘ has more respect for women than me.’ Everyone dialed it down… Even his own supporters. #debate”
WHO IS TRUMP TALKING TO? Politico “Nearly 70% of voters think the loser of the 2016 presidential election should accept the results of the race, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted after the final presidential debate. Just 14% of voters said they thought the loser should challenge the results.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT Reuters: “If Donald Trump were to challenge the outcome of next ‘ presidential election, as he has hinted he might, he would face a difficult and expensive fight, according to election attorneys and a review of voting laws in key battleground states. … North Carolina, for example, doesn’t allow a presidential candidate to request a recount at all if one candidate has a lead of more than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast. In Wisconsin, the challenging candidate must pay the full expense of a recount if the vote in dispute is more than 0.25 percent, and in Colorado if it is more than 0.5 percent.”
A HISTORY LESSON OF AL GORE’S FIGHT IN 2000 — VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE WAY TRUMP IS UNDERMINING THE PROCESS NOW The Fix “Everything was fairly normal in the 2000 presidential election until about 10 p.m. Eastern on Election Day. Television networks had called the state of Florida for Vice President Al Gore …[then] those electoral votes were wrenched back out. The initial calls for Florida had been premature, based on exit polling in a stunningly close contest that was undercut as the votes were counted. The final official margin of victory in the state was 537 votes, 0.009 percent of the nearly 6 million cast. It was a close enough race that guessing the winner from exit polling amounted to a coin toss as it turned out, and the networks had guessed wrong. The toss-up state was once again a toss-up.
The situation 16 years ago was entirely different from the situation now, a situation in which Republican nominee Donald Trump said during the third presidential debate that he would not necessarily concede the race if he lost, and that he would keep the country in “suspense.” As is often the case when Trump says controversial things, his supporters have seized on a nonequivalent scenario in his defense. In this case, it’s Gore’s response to the tumult of 2000 that’s being used as an example of another time that a presidential candidate has refused to accept the results of an election.
It’s not an apt analogy.
On Election Night in 2000, returns kept coming in in Florida. The new tallies came heavily from the western panhandle of the state, a more conservative region that was still voting as the initial call was made. The results heavily favored George W. Bush, and by about 2 a.m., the networks were ready to make another call: Bush won the state. By then, it was pretty clear that winning Florida meant winning the presidency. (Results in Oregon and New Mexico were also up in the air, but they had only 12 electoral votes between them.) FLORIDA WAS THE GAME, and it looked as though Bush had won. Gore called Bush to concede and prepared to address his supporters.The tallies were so close, though, that as more results came in, it became obvious that it would be difficult to determine the winner of the state without a recount. Gore retracted his concession and bailed on his speech to his supporters. According to U.S. Election Atlas’s thorough timeline of the 2000 race, the margin in Florida the morning after Election Day was (fittingly) about 2,000 votes. Florida was too close to call, and without calling it, there was no winner. The outcome was unclear.
Kelly Conway (Trump campaign manager) said that “absent widespread evidence of abuse and irregularities,” Trump would concede. The problem with that, in part, is that Trump himself has been whipping up the idea that abuse and irregularities are occurring, something that Gore never did. Had Gore been presented before the 2000 election with a scenario in which the results in a key state were too close to call, he’d no doubt have said that he’d need to see the results in the state before conceding. This year, Trump is creating the impression of a nightmare scenario for which there is no evidence and using that scenario as a threatened out should he be defeated in November. Full Article on the 2000 Election.
FROM MEXICAN RAPISTS TO BAD HOMBRES, THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN IN TWO MOMENTS The Fix “The campaign began with a speech staged at Trump Tower — a building constructed with the aid of workers who were in the country illegally, according to the New York Times and PolitiFact. That speech was most notable for Trump’s promises to deal with the undocumented in a decisive way, a manner required, Trump said, because Mexico has dispatched the dregs of its society — “rapists” and “criminals” — to the United States. Trump began his campaign as a candidate whose politics and vision for how to improve American life centered around which groups should be removed, watched, policed heavily and have their constitutional rights be subject to an overdue edit. And on Wednesday, Trump marked the final four weeks of his bid for the White House with more of the same. Only now, in a nod to his understanding of the general-election audience’s sensibilities, Trump avoided the term “rapist” and instead made reference to “bad hombres.”
TAKE-AWAY WORTH NOTING That Trump’s political philosophy of group blame, suspicion and presumed guilt did not end his campaign but instead helped him defeat a field of more than a dozen Republican competitors with more traditional conservative ideals and political résumés is no[t] meaningless. It signals that Trump’s is a philosophy with real appeal to a substantial and, as his surrogates often point out, record-setting number of Republicans who participated in the primary process. That Trump’s only real adjustment in his political plans, promises and policy ideas is a matter of language, not substance, that has helped him keep the support of 35 to 40 percent of Americans is certainly worth noting. Clinton may be leading with voters of color, young Americans of all races and ethnicities, and groups that have traditionally been critical to most Republican presidential victories — married white women and white, college-educated men and women, according to polls. But Trump’s America is not small or somehow insignificant. For these Americans, the candidate who will call undocumented Mexicans immigrants rapists, suggest that stop-and-frisk is what America’s crime-ravaged, war-zone-like black communities really need, and argue that a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, along with some type of ongoing surveillance of Muslims in the United States, is needed, truly sounds like the man with a plan that would make America great again.
That is the essence of what has carried Trump this far. That is the heart of his campaign. That is the stuff that Trump has learned, which remains within bounds for a substantial share of American voters.
TRUMPS INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAP Politico “Clinton leads Donald Trump by 5 points or greater in Politico’s Battleground States polling average in Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. If the Democratic nominee won those six states, plus all the other reliably Democratic states President Barack Obama captured in both 2008 and 2012, she would eclipse the 270-electoral-vote threshold and win the presidency. Even if Trump ran the table in the remaining battleground states — Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio — he would fall short of the White House if he cannot flip another state where Clinton currently leads in the polls.”
THE MIST IS LIFTING Sabato’s Crystal Ball (UVA)… from the map of the United States … a moment of clarity for the 2016 general election campaign has arrived. Yes, there is still uncertainty about some states in the Electoral College. But nearly all of it comes in states that Mitt Romney won in 2012 or a couple of Barack Obama states that Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to win. With less than three weeks to go, and all of the debates blessedly in the rearview mirror, Clinton is in a commanding position in the contest to become the 45th president.
STRIKING DEVELOPMENT … In recent days has been the smattering of polling showing Trump with weak leads in some reliably Republican states. He’s barely ahead in some polls of Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas — states that shouldn’t be close in any competitive election. We still guess Trump will win all of them, but by significantly reduced margins from Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance. All of these states move from Safe Republican to Likely Republican. The Clinton campaign is set to spend money on Indiana and Missouri, probably as more of an effort to help Democrats Evan Bayh and Jason Kander, respectively, in their Toss-up Senate races.
EVAN McWHO? But perhaps most fascinating of all is Utah, where independent conservative Evan McMullin is dedicating much time and energy. After the release of the Trump/Billy Bush video and the mass rejection of Trump by Republican leaders in the Beehive State, we moved Utah all the way from Safe Republican to Leans Republican. Since then, polls have shown a close three-way race among McMullin, Trump, and Clinton. In a state where neither major-party candidate is spending much time or money, McMullin’s cultivation of Utah (he’s a Mormon who went to Brigham Young University) could bear fruit, and he may have the most room to grow in a state where Clinton and Trump are very unpopular. SERIOUSLY, did you ever even for a second think Utah would be a Toss-up in late October? If McMullin won Utah and secured its six electoral votes, he would be the first non-Democrat or non-Republican to win any state since the segregationist George Wallace won a handful of states and received 46 electoral votes in 1968.
AND WHAT ABOUT ARIZONA The big red-state prize for Clinton is Arizona. Polls there have been close for the entire general election cycle yet Trump has generally held onto a small, persistent lead. Now, though, a few new surveys show Clinton with a small lead, and Trump may be stuck because he doesn’t have the resources to match the firepower Clinton is directing to the state. Later on Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama is holding an Arizona event. This is deployment of arguably the campaign’s top surrogate, and Team Clinton is targeting the state in other ways. WHAT? This is something of a leap of faith, but we’re moving Arizona all the way from Leans Republican to Leans Democratic. If we were basing this just on polls, Toss-up would be the designation, but we’re trying to project a little bit here. We just don’t see Trump making a dramatic recovery nationally, and he may not be able to fight off the Clinton ambush in a Latino-rich state where he should be solidly ahead. Of all the states that voted for both McCain and Romney, Arizona appears to be the most vulnerable for Trump.”
SENATE UPDATE: THE LAST WEEK HAS BEEN VERY KIND TO DEMOCRATS map from FiveThirtyEight Thanks to big shifts in several key races, Democrats now have a 73% chance of winning the Senate, according to the FiveThirtyEight polls-plus** forecast, and a 72% chance according to polls-only** Both those numbers are up by more than 15 percentage points from last week, when the polls-plus model gave them a 56% chance and the polls-only model 54%. What’s so interesting about the upswing in Democrats’ fortunes is that many Senate races haven’t shifted much. … Control of the Senate is coming down to six key states, with Democrats needing to gain four seats to win a majority if Clinton wins the White House. And in the crucial contests, there has been more movement.
Democratic wins in Illinois and Wisconsin1 look likely, so they need to win three of these six races: Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. These six states top our tipping-point rankings, which measure the chances of each race deciding control of the Senate.
** 538 definition: Polls-plus forecast (what polls, the economy and historical data tell us about Nov.8); Polls-only forecase (what polls alone tell us about Nov. 8)
AYOTTE TRAILING BY 8 POINTS in race that could shift Senate to the Democrats. WashPo “Her sharp decline in support is the latest sign that the unpopularity of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump could put Republican control in Congress in serious jeopardy. BREAKING LATE “A key GOP interest group is set to run a new television ad calling on New Hampshire voters to re-elect their Republican senator as a check and balance for the White House. The ad from the US Chamber of Commerce does not explicitly say the group believes Hillary Clinton will be president, but the intent is to make clear to voters that possibility is very real.
“‘America’s future is far from certain,’ the narrator says over a picture of an empty presidential debate stage, followed by one of the White House. ‘But no matter who the president is, New Hampshire needs a strong voice in the US Senate,’ the ad continues, declaring that incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte works across the aisle to get things done.”
DID WE JUST BREAK UP? skimm “Yesterday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he’s consciously uncoupling from the US and shacking up with China. For decades, the US and the Philippines have been friends with benefits. Think: military and economic allies. But then Duterte came to power earlier this year, and decided the Philippines wasn’t getting anything out of its US relationship. Last month, Duterte called Obama a “son of a b*tch.” And then yesterday, while on a trip to Beijing, Duterte said “America does not control our lives.” Well OK then. Duterte’s newfound love for China is a little surprising because the Philippines (along with the US and friends) has for years been trying to stop China from taking over the South China Sea That’s because the South China Sea is great for things like trade and oil. But yesterday, Duterte said he’d temporarily forget about previous disagreements between the Philippines and China. Love can be blind like that. AP: China and the Philippines will sign $13.5 billion in deals this week and the two sides agreed to resume a dialogue on their dispute over the South China Sea, officials also said Thursday. The move for bilateral talks was a diplomatic victory for Beijing several months after an arbitration tribunal invalidated China’s expansive territorial claims over the resource-rich waters in a case put forward by the Philippines.”
POST-DEBATE FALLOUT – TRUMP SIDES WITH PUTIN OVER U.S. INTELLIGENCE Politico “Donald Trump angrily insisted on Wednesday night that he is not Vladimir Putin’s ‘puppet.’ But at a minimum, in recent months he has often sounded like the Russian president’s lawyer-defending Putin against a variety of specific charges, from political killings to the 2014 downing of a passenger jet over Ukraine, despite the weight of intelligence, legal findings and expert opinion. Wednesday, for instance, Trump dismissed Hillary Clinton’s assertion that Russia was behind the recent hacking of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails. ‘She has no idea whether it’s Russia or China or anybody else,’ Trump retorted. ‘Our country has no idea.'” As Clinton tried to explain that the Russian role is the finding of 17 military and civilian intelligence agencies, Trump cut her off: “I doubt it.”
TRUMP TREATS FOREIGN POLICY LIKE A GAME OF ‘SURVIVOR’ David Ignatius “Reality TV is about winning. It doesn’t matter how you manage to be a “survivor,” so long as you stay on the island. That’s the sensibility that Donald Trump, the ultimate reality-television star, brings to foreign policy. In Trump’s world, winners don’t have to worry about alliances, nuclear proliferation or human rights — if they come out on top.
Trump’s comments during Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas conveyed a values-free approach to foreign policy that would make Machiavelli blush. A generous characterization would be that he voiced an extreme “realism” that focused entirely on U.S. interests. A harsher assessment is that Trump’s amoral approach would alienate long-standing allies and potentially endanger U.S. security.
Trump’s disdain for traditional foreign-policy positions was clear in his positive comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of hacking American political parties to destabilize the election, Trump still had good things to say about the Kremlin leader.
Trump seems convinced that he and Putin could achieve a kind of personal detente. “He said nice things about me,” Trump enthused Wednesday night. “If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.” It’s hard to argue against greater Russian-American cooperation, but Trump seems oblivious to the possibility that he might be used by a belligerent, autocratic Kremlin leader.”
MY VOTE DOESN’T COUNT. FALSE. Politico “Especially in a year where third party candidates are making a dent in the polls. A third party candidate has never won. But they have influenced election results by taking away votes from the major party candidates. Hi, Memory Lane…
Ross Perot: In 1992, the businessman took 19% of the vote. Bill Clinton was elected over incumbent George HW Bush – but many wondered if the outcome would have been different without Perot in the game.
Ralph Nader: In 2000, the activist won a small portion of the popular vote. But he picked up more than 90,000 votes in Florida. Guess which state decided the this-close race between Al Gore and George W Bush?
Bottom line, voting third party can mean voting for someone you may actually like. It also could mean helping one of the major party candidates by taking a vote away from their opponent. Another reason why every vote matters.”
ESPIONAGE CHARGES WaPo “Federal prosecutors in Baltimore on Thursday said they will charge a former [NSA] contractor with violating the Espionage Act, alleging that he made off with ‘an astonishing quantity’ of classified digital and other data over 20 years in what is thought to be the largest theft of classified government material ever … They say he took at least 50 terabytes of data and ‘six full banker’s boxes worth of documents,’ with many lying open in his home office or kept on his car’s back seat and in the trunk. Other material was stored in a shed on his property. One terabyte is the equivalent of 500 hours’ worth of movies.”