Students representing Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt stand in position during a rehearsal at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, yesterday. (Andrew Gombert/EPA)
With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: Many reporters have set the bar unfairly low for Donald Trump ahead of tonight’s presidential debate, raising the specter that pundits will declare him “the winner” even if he makes a series of factually inaccurate statements and struggles to show depth on the issues.
WHAT THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS SAYING:
— Reviewing the coverage ahead of Trump’s 9 p.m. showdown with Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University makes it sound like all the GOP nominee really needs to do is not talk about how well-endowed he is…
“I think that Trump is buoyed by the very low expectations. This is a guy who’s never debated one-on-one … So if he does passably, we’ll all say he won,” a Politico reporter said last week. The headline of a lead story on Politico this morning, citing anonymous “insiders,” declares that “The heat is on Hillary.”
“A lot of people are going to look at Donald Trump and think, ‘Hey, if he can even get out a good sentence and show off his experience, then he’s doing well,’” New York Times correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said on “Morning Joe” last week, addressing the Clinton campaign’s complaints that she’s being subjected to a double standard.
“Clinton has the much tougher task tonight,” NPR declares in its curtain-raiser this morning. “She has the burden of high expectations. The former senator and secretary of state, who’s now been through two presidential campaigns, is an experienced debater who knows policy inside and out. But her job is very hard — Clinton has to convince voters who don’t want to vote for Trump but haven’t warmed up to her that she is likeable, honest and trustworthy. And she has to press her case that Trump is unqualified to be president without being overly aggressive or ‘harsh.’”
“I do think that the stakes are much higher in this debate and all the debates for Hillary Clinton,” CNN’s Dana Bash said on the air recently. “Because she is a seasoned politician. She is a seasoned debater. Yes, we saw Donald Trump in the primaries debate for the first time, but he is a first-time politician. So for lots of reasons—maybe it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is—the onus is on her.”
The liberal group Media Matters has rounded up several other examples in this vein. The editor in chief of The Hill, Bob Cusack, also said on Fox News earlier this month that the bar for Clinton is “higher” than for Trump. “So there is an opportunity for Trump—if he can do the prep work and land some zingers—he could really make up some ground in the battleground states,” Cusack said.
As the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel notes, tongue in cheek, “Debate Bar So Low For Donald Trump That If He Doesn’t Vomit, He’s Exceeded Expectations.”
— This tenor of coverage has influenced public perceptions about the debate. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the race is within the margin of error nationally. Likely voters split 46 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Trump. Among registered voters, Clinton and Trump are tied at 41 percent. The poll finds that eight in 10 voters plan to watch tonight’s debate, prompting some to estimate that upwards of 100 million could tune in. Overall, no matter who they’re supporting, 44 percent expect Clinton to win versus 34 percent who expect Trump to come out ahead. Many who say they’ll watch have already made up their minds. While about one in five registered voters say the debate could change their minds, only 6 percent said there is a good chance of that occurring.
A cameraman sets up during yesterday’s technical rehearsal at Hofstra University. (Julio Cortez/AP)
WHY CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IS WRONG:
— Trump is better positioned for this debate than the coverage suggests.
Being unpredictable is an asset in a setting like this and makes people listen to you more closely.
Sure, he has not had a one-on-one debate before. But he debated more times during the primaries than Clinton.
He’s the master of the television medium. He’s a reality television star and a showman with a good sense of timing.
He’s getting advice from Roger Ailes, who turned Fox News into the number one cable news channel.
He’s shown flashes of self-discipline when the moment called for it. It’s not hard to imagine him being able to do it for an hour-and-a-half if he understands the stakes.
It’s also very unlikely he’ll be left hanging in the wind. If each candidate talks half the time, that means he will speak for no more than 45 minutes. That’s not even including the moderator’s time. He’s been adept at not getting nailed down on specifics during interviews longer than that.
And, importantly, he had some good moments during the primary debates. Remember when Ted Cruz accused him of embodying “New York values,” and he riffed on how proud he was to be a New Yorker after the Sept. 11 attacks?
Sarah Parnass on our video team has created a cool video for today’s 202 with six key moments from the primary debates, including both candidates talking about 9/11. Watch it here:
SO WHAT EXPLAINS THE FALSE NARRATIVE?
— The Clinton campaign has failed to effectively manage expectations. “When the lights are bright like they are now, she brings the A-plus game. She’ll be very, very good tomorrow,” Tim Kaine declared confidently at a rally in Florida last night.
Susie Tompkins Buell, a longtime friend of Clinton’s, told the AP that Hillary debating Trump will “be like Serena Williams playing tennis with Chris Christie.”
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, trying to keep the narrative from getting out of control, said he’s “very concerned that Donald Trump will be graded on a curve.” “Just because he doesn’t fly off the handle in the middle of this debate does not mean that he is prepared to be president of the United States,” Mook said on CNN yesterday.
But there have been a bunch of stories over the past week, which the campaign clearly cooperated with, in which officials appear to spike the football before getting to the end zone. Several outlets have written in depth about how the campaign put together a psychological profile of Trump and how a bunch of experts were consulted.
Clinton enters a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at The W Hotel in Manhattan (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
— Trump advisers and allies have been much more willing to talk down their candidate’s debating abilities than Clinton’s advisers. Hillary’s people do not want to make her look weak or unprepared. Donald’s advisers have gone out of their way to convince reporters, implausibly, that he’s spent virtually no time practicing. A Friday story in the Times even quoted unnamed Trump advisers expressing concern about their candidate’s ability to stand for 90 minutes, something he routinely does during rallies and managed to do fine during the primaries! From the Times story: “He prefers not to do a full-length mock debate, and has no set person playing Mrs. Clinton. He is not using a lectern for mock debate drills, despite suggestions from some on his coaching team that simulating a one-on-one debate is good practice after the primary debates that featured several rivals. Some Trump advisers are concerned that he underestimates the difficulty of standing still, talking pointedly and listening sharply for 90 minutes.”
— Republicans generally tend to be better about playing the expectations game and working the refs. A lot of the preview stories about the debate echo their talking points. “The expectations on Hillary are very, very high,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said yesterday on Fox News. “She’s been doing this for 30 years. I think people expect her to know every little detail. She has to perform in a way that is of the highest of expectations. I think in the case of Donald Trump, look, he’s the outsider, he’s a person who’s never run before, let alone be in a presidential debate.”
NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt (Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee via AP, File)
— Moderator Lester Holt is actually a registered Republican, despite Trump insisting in public that he’s a Democrat, according to Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller.
He is also the first black moderator of a general election presidential debate since 1992. His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Jamaica, and he dropped out of college to pursue journalism. Gwen Ifill moderated vice-presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, and Bernard Shaw moderated the VP debate in 2000. (Callum Borchers)
— Voters tend of think of Clinton like she’s an incumbent seeking reelection, and the incumbent tends to do poorly in the first debate. “Examples of first-debate stumbles are many. And they have almost always hurt the candidate for whom the expectations were higher,” Karen Tumulty explains.
Trump in Pennsylvania (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
— Tragically, presidential debates are also rarely judged on whether or not a candidate tells the truth. It’s almost always about optics and style. All the horse race coverage I outlined at the top, for example, comes as the mainstream media has become much more assertive about calling out Trump’s inaccuracies. In a coincidence, four news outlets posted stories on Saturday chronicling untrue things that the GOP nominee said just last week:
- New York Times: “A week of whoppers”
- Politico: “Trump’s Week of Misrepresentations, Exaggerations and Half-Truths”
- Los Angeles Times: “Scope of Trump’s falsehoods unprecedented for a modern presidential candidate”
- The Post: “Trump’s week reveals bleak view, dubious statements in ‘alternative universe’”
NBC also prepared a list of 117 distinct policy shifts by Trump on 20 major issues – just since June 2015.
— The 202 Live with Tom Vilsack: If you’re in D.C. tomorrow morning, I’d love to see you at The Post’s cool event space. I will interview the former Iowa governor, who Clinton considered as a potential running mate, about the debate. We’ll also talk about how he thinks Democrats can make gains in rural Republican strongholds and discuss the pressing issues facing the next administration. From 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. at 1301 K St NW. Register here.
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost’s morning newsletter.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Arnold Palmer, who left an indelible mark on the world of golf, died in Pittsburgh. He was being hospitalized in preparation for heart surgery. From T. Rees Shapiro: “Mr. Palmer rose from a blue-collar background to become part of the sport’s royalty … and a frequent playing partner of U.S. presidents. Emerging as a superstar athlete in the 1950s, Mr. Palmer did not play golf courses; he attacked them. Armed with a brutish swing that more resembled a hockey slap shot than a daisy cutter, Mr. Palmer brought energy and zest to the staid game that men before him … played wearing tweed coats and knickers.”
He also resisted several attempts to run for political office: “He was handsome, squeaky clean, famous and widely admired, all the things Richard Nixon was not, a trifecta for a Republican Party seeking to burnish a badly tarnished image,” Fred Barbash writes. And he flirted with the idea. “But while he had strong hands, he did not have the stomach for what he would ultimately conclude was the poison of an increasingly partisan game of politics. Plus, he once said, he wasn’t ‘clever enough’ to be president; he feared he would blurt out whatever he thought.”
The country’s most famous golfer reacts:
A boy inspects the damage after another bombing raid on Aleppo. (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)
GET SMART FAST:
- The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting after Russian air strikes hit Aleppo this weekend. Washington accused Moscow of “barbarism” and war crimes for the ferocious aerial attacks, which have upended ceasefire agreements and deepened a dire humanitarian crisis. (Louisa Loveluck and Liz Sly)
- Trump and Clinton met with Benjamin Netanyahu for separate closed-door meetings on Sunday. The Iran nuclear deal was among the topics discussed. Trump said afterward that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel if elected. (Jose A. DelReal and Anne Gearan)
- Authorities say they still do not know why a 20-year-old man in Washington State fatally shot five people with a rifle at a Macy’s makeup counter over the weekend. Arcan Cetin, a legal permanent resident of the U.S., immigrated to this county as a young child from Turkey and graduated from high school last year. He has gotten in trouble with the law several times, with three assault charges since 2015, and several of his former classmates say he was given to inappropriately touching female students. He posted on Facebook last year that he was molested by a relative in Turkey as a young boy. (Amy B Wang, Lisa Rein and Abigail Hauslohner)
- Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Florida. The 24-year-old and two other men were found dead after their boat capsized on a rock jetty. It is not believed drugs or alcohol were factors. (Cindy Boren and Barry Svrluga)
- Members of the House Freedom Caucus will introduce a measure today that would extend stopgap funding legislation into 2017. Conservatives hope that their amendment will remove any chance that party leaders can use the threat of a shutdown to force a last-minute deal in December. (Kelsey Snell)
- Colombia’s government and FARC rebels will sign a peace accord today, ending a 52-year war that has killed around a quarter of a million people and driven 8 million from their homes. (AP)
- Taiwan asked Google to blur satellite images of a disputed island in the South China Sea, to try obscuring a newly-built military installation. (New York Times)
- The U.S. and South Korean navies are carrying out a joint exercise in the Sea of Japan, a show of military might in the face of Pyongyang’s recent nuclear tests. (CNN)
- LED streetlights can disturb sleep rhythms and possibly increase risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, the American Medical Association warns. The new findings will likely prompt reevaluation of the energy-efficient lights, which are installed in major cities including New York, L.A. and Houston. (Michael Ollove)
- Obama will meet with Leonardo DiCaprio for a public discussion on climate change next month. It will coincide with the premiere of DiCaprio’s documentary, “Before the Flood.” (Entertainment Weekly)
- Three gunmen shot and injured eight people, including a three-year-old girl, in east Baltimore. Police said the “retaliatory” attack is connected with another incident on Labor Day weekend. (AP)
- A 38-year-old Chicago man confessed to a murder that his twin brother has been in custody for since 2003. The admission brought both men to tears and could overturn a 99-year prison sentence. (Peter Holley)
- Dollar General was ordered to pay a diabetic cashier more than $ 270,000 after she was fired for drinking an orange juice before paying for it. The ousted employee – who was prohibited from keeping a drink nearby during her shift – said she guzzled the juice as a last resort to stave off a hypoglycemic attack. (Gene Marks)
- The founder of Rolling Stone is selling 49 percent of the magazine to a Singapore-based company, BandLab Technologies. (CNN Money)
A crowd of about 100 protesters chanted “Black lives matter” during a march outside Sunday’s Vikings-Panthers football game in Charlotte.
THE LATEST FROM CHARLOTTE:
— Protests continued for a sixth night in a row, but there was no violence. “Flanked by police on bicycles, the marchers went through the center of Charlotte and out into residential neighborhoods on Sunday. The city lifted a midnight curfew that had been in effect, though irregularly enforced, for three days,” Reuters reports.
— The police released two videos showing the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Saturday night. From Renae Merle, Wesley Lowery and Peter Holley: The videos show Scott, 43, exiting his vehicle and falling to the ground. But they do not answer a crucial question about whether Scott was holding a gun as police have said and Scott’s family has denied. “Mr. Scott does not appear to be acting aggressive,” said an attorney for Scott’s family. “He doesn’t lunge at the officers. It appears he has his hands by his side. The moment he is shot, he is passively stepping back.” Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said that he has no plans to charge any of the officers involved in the fatal shooting with a crime but left open the possibility that charges could come from the state investigation.
— A new law taking effect in North Carolina this week will make it more difficult for the public to see video shot by police. The measure declares that police bodycam videos are not public records and basically lets the heads of individual law enforcement agencies decide whether to disclose footage, USA Today reports. If access to the police video is denied, the new law dictates that a lawsuit would be required, which is costly and can take a long time.
— Bigger picture: “Two years after Ferguson, where is the police reform?,” by Kimberly Kindy: “Things would change, city officials in Charlotte vowed three years ago, after a white police officer shot and killed a black man seeking help after he was injured in a car accident.” But change has been slow to come to Charlotte and across the nation. Now, protesters who thronged the streets of downtown Charlotte for five nights say the lack of progress is palpable. “Intense nationwide scrutiny on whether police wield fatal force too quickly and too often, particularly against black Americans, has prompted many departments to step up training, but the pace of deadly shootings has not changed. So far this year, 708 people have been killed by police; nearly 1,000 civilians were killed in 2015 … In North Carolina’s largest city, five have been fatally shot this year, compared with two last year. The grim toll illustrates the challenges of reforming a police force and animates the fatigue and anger of communities demanding change over the two years.”
Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend Marla Maples in Atlantic City in 1991. (AP Photo)
THE DAILY DONALD:
— Trump’s campaign said Gennifer Flowers will not attend tonight’s debate after all: “We have not invited her formally, and we do not expect her to be there as a guest of the Trump campaign,” campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on CNN. Flowers told the New York Times she would attend. The appearance was first suggested by Trump on Twitter as a response to Mark Cuban being invited by Clinton.
— The kerfuffle focuses fresh attention on Trump’s long history of infidelity – and could further weaken support among female voters. From Mary Jordan: “Even [after his campaign denied Flowers’ attendance], some analysts questioned whether it was wise for Trump to bring up the issue in an attempt to smear Clinton for the failings of her husband, especially given his own playboy past. ‘Why is he doing this to Hillary Clinton?’ said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist. ‘This is not about her behavior, it’s something that happened to her. Women will not see this as fair.’ Trump — who has been married three times — separated from his first wife, Ivana, after his affair with Marla Maples became widely known. … ‘I don’t see it as a very big situation,’ he said [of cheating on his wife] … Trump insists that his affair with Maples … is not like Bill Clinton’s infidelities. Those, Trump said in the interview, are ‘from another planet.’”
— A civil rights museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, denied Trump’s request to visit, after the campaign reportedly began acting “aggressive” and “rude” in their requests to museum staff. “The approach, the type of disrespect, pretty much a demand and bullying us to use the museum in their manner and their way in their time, it was inappropriate and I think it’s probably reflective of the type of insensitivity of civil rights and human rights that’s reflective from Trump over the years,” said museum founder Earl Jones. (WFMY)
— “Trump vows to ‘utterly destroy ISIS’ — but he won’t say how,” by Jenna Johnson and Jose DelReal: “To fight the Islamic State terrorist group, Trump would ‘bomb the s— out of’ their oil fields or ‘bomb the hell out of ISIS.’ Or maybe neither of those things. The GOP presidential nominee has called for ‘very few troops on the ground,’ but also 20,000 to 30,000 troops. Or he might just let Russia handle the fighting. … For more than a year, Trump has declined to lay out a coherent strategy … Whenever pressed for specifics, Trump insists that he has a plan but says it must remain secret to avoid tipping off the enemy. The scattered ideas that Trump has offered publicly have often been contradictory, impossible or even illegal.”
— “‘The whole chessboard’: A new document reveals Trump’s economic strategy in detail,” by Jim Tankersley: [Trump] would pull the United States out of the World Trade Organization if necessary to help American companies sell more abroad. He thinks that he can close the United States’ $ 500 billion trade deficit within two years by renegotiating trade deals. And he sees this new approach to trade as the key complement to a bevy of traditional Republican policies — tax cuts, energy drilling and deregulation adding — that will supercharge the economy, according to a new campaign analysis … It is an unusually ideologically scattered plan for a major-party presidential nominee. It is a tapestry of supply-side conservatism and liberal populism. It demonstrates, in quantifiable terms, that trade policy is as important to Trump’s economic promises as tax cuts — and that if he fails to change the terms of globalization, he will face a huge budget shortfall. [And] it is sure to draw fire from business groups and liberals alike — for often different reasons.”
— Boston Globe, “Former Trump executive had a penchant for theft,” by Jerry Useem: “In March 2000, shortly after announcing he would not run for president that year, [Trump] dispatched one of his top real estate executives to South Korea on an important business errand. Just days before that flight, though, Wallach went off on an errand of his own, walking out of a Nordstrom store in White Plains, N.Y., with two crystal vases purchased with a credit card bearing the name ‘Anthony Greto.’ And two months after the scheduled trip to Seoul, Wallach returned to the same Nordstrom with a different stolen credit card. It was … one in a series of similar criminal convictions that would land him, years later, in Rikers Island [prison] …” Wallach was one of Trump’s top executives for perhaps the most critical decade of his career. But before, during, and after working for Trump, Wallach was a habitual criminal. Over a 30-year period, he collected at least 15 arrests in five states, four separate felony convictions, and three jail sentences.”
Clinton climbs the campaign plane stairs in Charlotte. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
THE DAILY HILLARY:
— Bernie Sanders will join Clinton for a rally in New Hampshire this week, helping her pitch a college affordability plan as she seeks to win over skeptical millennials. During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sanders said he wasn’t sure why Clinton was not doing better with that demographic but that the antidote is to talk more about policy. (John Wagner)
— “Obama plans to devote at least one to two days each week in October to campaign for Clinton through rallies, targeted radio and television interviews, social media outreach and fundraising,” Bloomberg’s Mike Dorning reports. The president will focus on six states — Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire. “Vice President Joe Biden will also be on stumping on Clinton’s behalf, with plans to concentrate on Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Obama has also indicated he would be willing to appear in television ads for her. Michelle, meanwhile, has already cut radio, online and TV ads for Clinton.”
— The Clinton campaign is touting an endorsement from a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal. Donald P. Gregg, who was national security adviser to George H.W. Bush, said the former secretary of state would make an “extremely good president.” “We now have a person at the top of the Republican ticket who I believe is dangerous, doesn’t understand the complex world we live in, doesn’t care to, and is without any moral or international philosophy,” Gregg said in a statement distributed by Clinton’s team.
MORE ON THE DEBATES:
— What to watch, by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker:
1. Trump’s attacks. “For the past month, Trump has had the longtime anti-Clinton investigator David Bossie at his side, providing him with reams of information about past controversies. … Can Trump pack together points on Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street firms and her bygone advocacy for trade deals into a populist rebuke? Or does he throw around terms such as ‘Benghazi’ and ‘her emails’ with flair but little elucidation?”
2. Temperament. “Will he lose his cool if Clinton baits him into an exchange about his net worth, his charitable foundation, his bankruptcies or Trump University? A flurry of red-faced outbursts that veer into the awkward or the strange could doom him.”
3. Clinton’s vulnerabilities. “Will she sound overly defensive? Or will she own up to some mistakes and find a way to diffuse the issue?”
4. Ideology. “Trump’s challenge will be articulating his jumbled ideology and describing his positions as an overture to voters in the center and on the left who are frustrated with both political parties. If he is unable to do so, he risks being defined solely on Clinton’s terms and as a hard-liner on immigration who speaks in incendiary ways about race and ethnicity. … Clinton’s ideological dance will be similarly complicated, although her challenge will be less about defining herself to the electorate at large than in rousing liberal voters who remain skeptical … without lurching so far to the left that she loses her appeal to moderates.”
Philippe Reines with Hillary Clinton in 2011. (File)
— Philippe Reines, a former Clinton aide in the Senate and at the State Department, has been playing the role of Trump in debate prep. “Philippe is a good Trump for Hillary because he is clever but obnoxious,” Paul Begala, who played George W. Bush for Al Gore, told Politico’s Glenn Thrush.
— Daily Beast, “What 21 Primary Debates Tell You About History’s Most Disliked Candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,” by Olivia Nuzzi and Jackie Kucinich: “When he’s asked tough questions about his rhetoric, he blames political correctness and then deflects, talking about the sad state of the country. When he’s challenged to explain his more outlandish views, he says he should just get credit for the fact that anyone cares about the topic. He is rude and defiant, talking over anyone who dares needle him, even telling them to ‘be quiet.’ She is a more diplomatic but no less towering presence. She’s a master at answering the question she wants to answer, rather than what’s originally asked. Moderators sometimes have to push, twice, even three times, to get an answer that pertains to their query. … [Now] of the many open questions that will be answered in less than 24 hours is which version of these candidates will show up. Will it be Stern Hillary versus Crazy Donald? Or perhaps Defensive Hillary versus Reasonable Donald?”
— New York Times, “Debacle: What Al Gore’s First Debate Against George W. Bush Can Teach Hillary Clinton,” by Patrick Healy: “Note to Hillary Clinton: You can be whip-smart in a presidential debate, yet still blow it spectacularly. Just ask Al Gore. The vice president had the advantage going into his first debate against Gov. George W. Bush [in 2000]. Like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gore was perceived as knowing far more about domestic issues, foreign affairs and the art of debating than the Republican nominee. Many Democrats believed Mr. Bush would look like a policy lightweight compared with Mr. Gore, an assumption that many have made about [Trump]. But Mr. Bush had surprises in store. And Mr. Gore was undone by impulses he could not control. … No other presidential debate has more resonance — or red flags — for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, who will face off on Monday for the first time. This is the story of that first debate between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore … [told by] some who believe it cost Mr. Gore the presidency.”
— The winner likely will be determined in the first half-hour, Politico’s Shane Goldmacher explains. “That’s when Al Gore first sighed, Mitt Romney knocked President Obama on his heels, and Marco Rubio, earlier this year, glitched in repeating the same talking point — over and over and over. It’s when Gore tried, unsuccessfully, to invade George W. Bush’s space, Richard Nixon was first caught wiping away sweat with a handkerchief … and Gerald Ford in 1976 made the ill-advised declaration that, ‘There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.’ Veteran presidential debate coaches and campaign strategists say the tone and trajectory of general election debates have long been set in their opening minutes, and that the explosion of real-time spin and Twitter groupthink has only accelerated the trend.”
— Time, “Why It’s So Hard for Men to Debate Women,” by Charlotte Alter: “Of all the playground rules that still apply to presidential politics, ‘don’t hit girls’ is probably the trickiest. Especially in debates, where ‘hitting’ your rival (not literally, of course) is the whole point. That’s why so many male candidates have floundered when they found themselves going man-to-man with a female opponent. Most voters don’t like to see women candidates get attacked or patronized by men. And since debates are often the only moments where candidates share the same physical space, the gender dynamics can be more obvious—and more precarious. ‘Nobody likes to see a man beating up a girl, and nobody likes to see a man invading a woman’s personal space,’” says Jennifer Lawless, professor at American University. “You have to demonstrate that you’re respectful and not belittle or demean your candidate’s accomplishments or qualifications,” she said.
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
— The executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates said fact-checking duties should be left to the candidates, not the moderators: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica,” Janet Brown said on CNN.
- Trump’s campaign echoed her statement: “I really don’t appreciate the campaigns thinking it is the job of the media to go and be these virtual fact-checkers,” Kellyanne Conway said on ABC.
- Clinton’s campaign says failing to fact check would extend an “unfair bias” to Trump. “It will be the equivalent of giving him more time to speak,” Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon said on CNN. “Special measures are required this year,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri tweeted after the interview.
— Paul Ryan broke with Trump over how he talks about the black community, but he declined to repudiate him. The Speaker said he does not agree that African Americans who live in urban areas have it as bad as those who live in Afghanistan. “I don’t see it that way. That’s not how I would describe it,” Ryan said on CBS.
— Mike Pence incorrectly insisted that Trump has answered “all questions” that have been raised about possibly illegal activities by his charity. When Chris Wallace noted that Trump has not, in fact, answered any of the Post’s questions, Pence tried to change the subject. “I just wish there was as much interest in the activities of the Clinton Foundation,” he said. “The Washington Post reporting on this has been very, very sketchy. They’ve been found to be factually incorrect on a number of bases.” He refused to elaborate. “The Trump campaign has not publicly identified any flaws in the reporting, which has identified more than $ 250,000 in payments from the Trump Foundation to settle legal claims and discovered that Trump hadn’t contributed to his own foundation since 2008,” Politico’s Kyle Cheney notes.
— Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson said the future of the human race will depend on space colonization: “We do have to inhabit other planets.” This came during a discussion of climate change. (HuffPost)
Evan Smith interviews Ted Cruz at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday. (Ralph Barrera/AP)
— Ted Cruz refused to say whether he believes Trump is “fit to be president,” even after formally endorsing him. He cast the election as a “binary choice” while refusing to utter supportive words about the Republican nominee. “I think we have one of two choices,” Cruz told the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, when asked about Trump’s fitness for the presidency. “I have no intention of defending everything Donald Trump says and does. I have been very clear that I have significant disagreements with him.”
“Smith read back the harshest things Cruz had said about Trump and recalled the morning of the Indiana primary, when Cruz unloaded on Trump over months of personal attacks culminating in a false accusation that Cruz’s father was linked to John F. Kennedy’s assassin,” David Weigel writes. “Cruz admitted that he had taken the family attacks personally, and ‘struggled’ to get over them, but that Trump’s targets were not as angry as he had been. ‘Both Heidi and my dad — they are strong, independent people,’ he said. ‘When those attacks came, they both laughed out loud.””
— Follow the money: Even as he refused to publicly support him, it turns out that Cruz was taking Trump’s money and renting him his email list. From Politico’s Shane Goldmacher: “Just six weeks after he dropped out … the senator quietly began renting his vast donor email file to his former rival, pocketing at least tens of thousands of dollars, and more likely hundreds of thousands, that can be used to bankroll the Texan’s own political future.” The exact details of Trump’s financial arrangement with Cruz are unclear, but an email rate sheet asks campaigns to pay more than $ 22,000 for the right to send a single email his list. “Since he exited the presidential race in May, Cruz’s campaign committee has reported a total of roughly $ 290,000 in list rental income. [And] records show that Trump and his joint fundraising committee has solicited the Cruz list more than any other candidate or committee — a total of 31 times.” The buying and selling of email addresses is “standard fare” in modern politics — but less typical among bitter rivals. And insiders agree that because Trump has rented Cruz’s list so often, he is almost surely receiving a negotiated discount from the list price.
— “Democratic hopes of winning Senate fade as Trump proves less toxic for Republicans,” by Mike DeBonis: “Trump’s resilience and faltering Democratic campaigns in battleground states mean the fight for the Senate has settled into a knuckle-to-knuckle brawl likely to result in a chamber that will be closely divided or potentially even tied. … Democrats can still manage to win the four or five seats they need to claim the Senate majority, but the battle has shifted from purple states that Barack Obama twice carried — Ohio and Florida — to Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina, where Obama lost in 2012. While Democrats are continuing their efforts in select states to tie incumbent Republican senators to Trump, Republicans are looking to flip that script in those redder states, yoking Democratic candidates to their own unpopular nominee.”
- “As recently as June, Democrats saw Ohio and Florida as key battlegrounds, booking a combined eight figures worth of television time there. Those states are no longer seen as prime pickup opportunities.”
- “Democrats’ hopes of expanding the Senate map into solidly Republican states such as Arizona, Georgia and Arkansas have not panned out. But they appear to be on track to pick up GOP-held seats in Illinois and Wisconsin, and they are in very competitive races in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, as well as Nevada, where they are hoping to keep control of the seat of retiring Sen. Harry Reid.”
- “In North Carolina, former state lawmaker Deborah Ross has taken advantage of a lackluster campaign from incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) as big-time ad money is starting to flow in the Tar Heel State.”
- Over the past 60 years, the majority has only changed hands once in 15 presidential elections — in 1980, when Ronald Reagan’s landslide swept Republicans into the Senate majority.
— Clinton won the endorsement of the conservative Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board: “The Enquirer has supported Republicans for president for almost a century – a tradition this editorial board doesn’t take lightly,” they wrote. “But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times. Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership … We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst.”
— “In Northern Virginia, GOP congresswoman fights the Trump factor,” by Jenna Portnoy: “At a drug-awareness rally in the rural swath of her Northern Virginia district, Rep. Barbara Comstock clasped hands with a recovering heroin addict as if they were old friends. She suggested treatment options to teary moms and cooed over pictures of a caseworker’s kids. If Comstock can overcome the anchor of the [Trump] candidacy in her swing district, this is how she’ll do it. With a focus bordering on obsession, the freshman congresswoman puts a premium on constituent services and has ingratiated herself with every rotary club, fire company and charity that will have her. Comstock has not endorsed Trump and still sports a Rubio bumper sticker on her car. Cautious to the point of inspiring opponents to dub her ‘No Comment Comstock,’ she has steered clear of anything Trump, hoping voters stick by her even if they can’t vote for the top of her ticket. Will she endorse him before the election? ‘If I change my mind, I’ll let you know,’” she said.
— “In competitive N.Y. House race, the presidential election is hard to avoid,” by David Weigel: “Zephyr Teachout walked off the stage of her first congressional debate — and into the buzzsaw. The Democrat had tried to steer the conversation deep into wonk territory … [But] the reporters gathered around her wanted to know about something else. ‘Do you think Hillary Clinton has been transparent about her health?’ one asked … The race for New York’s 19th district, which covers a large and politically split swath of the Hudson Valley, is a glimpse at what the 2016 presidential campaign might have been. Faso, a Republican legislator who … touts his ties to the district and pushes for lower taxes, is the kind of candidate his party had hoped to be running for president. Teachout, a law professor and author, is trying to run an issues-first campaign. But like every candidate for Congress, Faso and Teachout find themselves trying to escape the drama of the presidential race and its two wildly unpopular candidates.”
— Miami Herald, “How Trump bought a chunk of the Sunshine State and became a Florida man,” by Michael LaForgia: Trump has a story he liked to tell early in his campaign to win Florida, about how he bought his Doral golf resort in 2012. “The story goes that he and his daughter Ivanka walked into closing with a contract to buy Doral for $ 170 million. [But] what did Trump do? He started ranting like a lunatic about the terrible shape the property was in. Within about two minutes, Trump told the crowd, [the dealmakers] … took $ 20 million off the price tag. And then he tore it down and built it up again.
“This is what he wants to do with America, he said. Acquire it, gut it to the steel and remake it in his own image. It didn’t matter that the story Trump told was exaggerated. That Ivanka was said to have worked out most of the deal by herself. That people on the other side of the deal believed Trump had overpaid for the property by as much as $ 60 million — even at the lowered sale price — and were giddy at landing such an unexpected windfall. None of that mattered to the crowd [in Florida] … What mattered was the image being put in front of them.”
— “Parties Boost Asian-American Outreach,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Hackman and Dante Chinni: “While much attention is paid on Hispanic and black voters, Asian-Americans are the single fastest-growing demographic group … In Nevada and Virginia, two states where polls show the presidential race is down to single digits, the Asian-American population sits at 8.5% and 6.5% respectively … and is climbing. That works out to hundreds of thousands of voters in states where the contest will be decided by thin margins and may help determine the next president. For political operatives, the question is how to reach this broad group. …Census figures show about a third of Asian-Americans don’t speak fluent English. Another challenge: The Asian-American voter pool is remarkably diverse, ranging from Pakistanis and Indians to Chinese and Koreans.”
— 10 nuggets from the new Washington Post/ABC national poll, via Dan Balz and Scott Clement:
- Both candidates are equally underwater, viewed negatively by 57 percent.
- Obama’s job approval is 55 percent.
- Men and women are mirror opposites: 54 percent of men back Trump and 55 percent of women support Clinton.
- Trump leads Clinton by more than 4 to 1 among white men without college degrees. Clinton leads Trump by 57 percent to 32 percent among college-educated white women.
- 33 percent of voters say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, while 62 percent say she is not. For Trump, it’s 42/53.
- 53 percent of registered voters say Trump is not qualified, 58 percent say he lacks the temperament to serve effectively, and 55 percent say he does not know enough about the world to serve effectively. On those measures, Clinton scores positively, with 57 percent of registered voters saying she is qualified; 55 percent saying she has the right temperament; and 68 percent saying she knows enough about the world to serve effectively.
- Only 52 percent of registered voters say Clinton is in good enough health to serve in the Oval Office, compared to 73 percent offering positive assessments of Trump. More than 6 in 10 Americans said she Clinton was justified in keeping her pneumonia private until she became ill in public.
- More than 6 in 10 say Trump is not justified in refusing to release his tax returns.
- Trump’s clearest edge is on the economy, where 50 percent of registered voters trust him to do a better job compared with 43 percent for Clinton. Earlier this month, Clinton had a 50-to-44 edge on the issue.
- While more than 6 in 10 say it is unfair to describe a large portion of Trump supporters as prejudiced against women and minorities, almost 6 in 10 say Trump is trying to win support by “appealing to people’s prejudices against groups that are different from their own.”
— A Bloomberg Politics poll shows Clinton and Trump tied nationally at 46 percent. Clinton previously held a 6-point lead. Trump’s recent gain is due to her erosion among women and young voters: Among voters under 35, Clinton gets 50 percent to Trump’s 40 percent, down from her 29-point margin in August.
— A Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll finds Clinton up just 3 points in Pennsylvania (44-41). Sen. Pat Toomey edges out Democratic challenger Katie McGinty (41-40).
— A CBS News battleground poll shows Clinton up 1 in Colorado (40-39) and 8 in Virginia (45-37). In Colorado, 74 percent said Trump is “risky” and 59 percent said thew same of Clinton.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Here’s the Trump tweet that dominated the weekend news cycle:
Gennifer Flowers tweeted she’ll “definitely” be at the debate:
Andy Cohen posted some debate advice for Clinton:
Beautiful photos from the opening of the African-American History Museum in Washington:
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania…
Clinton and the Selfie Generation — note how few people are actually looking at the candidate:
Bibi was in NYC:
The response to Cruz capitulating on Trump was universally negative:
And after this story published:
Actually, Kardashian is voting for Clinton:
There was lots of discussion on social media about fact-checking, prompted by Kellyanne Conway saying it is biased to fact check the candidates as they talk:
What will Jill Stein do during the debate? Here was her campaign’s oddball answer:
Funny throwback to the morning of the 1960 debate:
More historical perspective:
Lisa Murkowski did yoga on the Mall:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Times, “For Cuomo and Christie, Parallel Paths to the Top, and Trouble When They Got There,” by Vivian Yee: “It might be hard to remember now, with one governor embroiled in a corruption scandal for the last three years and his counterpart across the Hudson River plunging headlong into another, but Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York were once lionized for relentlessly prosecuting bad behavior in government. The wars they waged against corrupt politicians, as the attorney general of New York (Mr. Cuomo) and the United States attorney for New Jersey (Mr. Christie), won them bipartisan kudos and, eventually, smooth ascents to their states’ highest offices. After the ethical morasses that swamped [earlier incumbents] … Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Christie — each a tough prosecutor with not-so-secret White House aspirations — looked more immaculate than ever. Those were the days. But as the fallout from each scandal has made clear, the professionalism and integrity of their offices were compromised almost from the start by aides and advisers who seemed far more interested in their own endgames.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Fifa disbands its anti-racism taskforce, declaring that the job is done,” by The Guardian: “Fifa has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behaviour in Russia, the hosts of the 2018 World Cup. Fifa has written to members of the task force to say that it has ‘completely fulfilled its temporary mission’ and ‘is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.’ [But] the most recent research …. Reported a surge in the number of racist incidents involving Russian fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory incidents by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“University Encourages Librarians to Intervene if They See Microaggressions,” from National Review: “The University of Minnesota has a training program for librarians that teaches them about microaggressions and how to intervene if they see one. The intention of the guide, of course, is to make the library a more comfortable place for everyone to study — but a lot of its advice could actually have the opposite effect. For example … this training … claims that ‘[a]sking an Asian person for help with math and science’ is a microaggression because what you’re really saying is that ‘[a]ll Asians are intelligent and good in math/sciences.’” Another item that could create problems: “Telling a person of color that they are too loud” is “pathologizing cultural values.”
On the campaign trail: Clinton and Trump debate in Hempstead, N.Y. Kaine campaigns in Lakeland and Orlando, Fla. Pence campaigns in Milford, N.H.
At the White House: Obama participates in a conference call with rabbis for Rosh Hashanah and speaks at the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference. The Bidens attend an event for the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children in Wilmington, Del.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to resume work on the legislative vehicle for the short-term CR. The House meets at 2 p.m. for legislative business, with 16 suspension votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think even an 8-year-old will tell you that whole slavery thing wasn’t very good for black people.” — Barack Obama, responding to Trump’s proclamation that the African American community is in the worst shape “ever, ever, ever.” (Janell Ross)
Safety Su’a Cravens (36) celebrates after intercepting a pass with a minute left in the fourth quarter. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— The Redskins beat the Giants 29-27.
— The Nationals beat the Pirates 10-7 and have clinched a spot in the playoffs by winning their division.
— A cloudy, cool day that may finally feel like fall! Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Skies are variably cloudy today and tend cloudier as the day wears on. How much sun sneaks through plays the deciding role in how warm it gets – near 75 with more sun, but closer to 70 with less. We can’t rule out a shower during the afternoon, especially in our western areas – but most rain holds off until night.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Check out this fact-check of the debate over debate fact-checks:
John Oliver went off on the CEO of Wells Fargo:
Obama’s speech at the opening ceremony of the new Smithsonian African-American history museum:
After the museum’s dedication, the crowd sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:
And George W. Bush asked Obama to take a picture after struggling to take a selfie:
Watch Rakeyia Scott’s cellphone video of her husband Keith Lamont Scott’s fatal encounter with Charlotte police officers:
Here are the police videos:
Oprah commented to TMZ about the rash of police shootings:
Jimmy Fallon featured a conversation between Obama of 2016 and Obama of 2009:
Seth Meyers walked through his favorite jokes of the week:
Ouch! One woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time (click to watch):
No video — but still funny: