Clinton 323
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Trump 215
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Dem 50
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Ties 2
GOP 48
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  • Strongly Dem (152)
  • Likely Dem (113)
  • Barely Dem (58)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (50)
  • Likely GOP (78)
  • Strongly GOP (87)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: NM OH
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA OH

Vice-Presidential Debate Postmortem

The commentariat has had time to process the Veep debate, and to decide if they want to go on the attack, or just change the subject. Here's what they are saying about the night that Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) had on Tuesday:

Left-leaning commentators
Nancy LeTourneau, Washington Monthly Winner: Pence. Loser: Donald Trump. "In attacking Trump, Kaine repeatedly brought up things the Republican nominee has said during this campaign and asked his opponent whether or not he can defend them. Pence's response was a bit startling. He simply denied they'd ever been said."

Chris Cillizza, Washington Post Winners: Pence, Joe Biden. Losers: Kaine, Elaine Quijano. "Uncle Joe, he of the last two VP debates, had to be watching this whole sordid affair and thinking: 'Man, I could run circles around these guys.' And, if he wasn't thinking it, I was."

Will Rahn, CBS News Winner: Pence. Loser: Kaine. "By seeming polite, knowledgeable and, most importantly in this ongoing freak show of an election, normal, Pence may have reassured some voters that a Trump White House would at least have one sane, functioning adult walking around."

Dylan Matthews, Vox Winner: Pence. Losers: Kaine, Trump, Quijano. "Kaine appeared to flail and panic. He repeatedly interrupted both Pence and the moderator, insisting on getting a word in in a way that may have been intended as confident but came across as desperate."

Catherine Decker, Los Angeles Times Winner: Pence. Loser: Kaine. "In the end, a narrow Pence victory, but one that will not matter in the grand scheme of a race in which they have been overshadowed. After tonight, they're about to be overshadowed again, beginning with Sunday's second presidential debate."

Right-leaning commentators
Charles Krauthammer, syndicated Winner: Pence. Loser: Quijano. "Unfortunately, the big loser was the moderator. I don't envy her position, but she lost control of the debate very early."

Caleb Howe, Winners: Pence, Quijano. Losers: Kaine, Trump. "First, Pence winning only shows how truly terrible Trump was during his debate. Second, Pence stole Trump's spotlight, and he hates that. He's going to try to win it back. This is a guy who was upstaging his own hand-picked speakers at his own convention by going on the O'Reilly Factor during their air time and talking smack. He's going to try to grab the spotlight, and almost certainly in the dumbest way possible."

William Whalen, Fox News Winner: Pence. Losers: Kaine, Trump, Quijano. "I give Pence the edge on the night—but that's due in large part to Kaine's acting anything but a Virginia gentleman. Had Pence been more forceful in a few moments and pushed harder on voter dissatisfaction with the economy and the political class, it would have been a bigger night."

S.E. Cupp, CNN Winner: Pence. Loser: Kaine. "Whatever substantive points Kaine made about Trump's unpreparedness—and there were many, and they were important—were totally overshadowed by Kaine's tone deaf, overly caffeinated, unhinged performance, especially when contrasted with Pence's calm and composed one."

Buck Sexton, CNN Winner: Pence. Loser: Kaine. "As for the head-to-head aspect of it, Pence won the debate against Kaine. In tone and style, he came across as more measured, poised and statesmanlike. Pence also made a much more coherent case against Hillary Clinton—both on her record and her judgment—than anything Trump pulled together in the first debate. Pence had much more difficulty defending Trump's record, however, as he often was left shaking his head without a response when asked about a specific Trump quote."

Foreign commentators
Bill Schneider, Al-Jazeera Winner: None. Loser: None. "Who won? Close call. Kaine had the stronger points, particularly in his relentless attacks on Trump. But Pence may have elicited more sympathy from voters. Pence was a gentleman. Give the victory to Kaine on points. But public sympathy probably favoured Pence."

Tim Stanley, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Pence. Loser: Kaine. "Kaine gave a spirited performance that was, to his detriment, wholly negative. If he couldn't say "But your candidate said XYZ!" then he wouldn't have had much to say at all. Pence defused the antagonism with the wry smile of a genial old man humoring a simpleton—and won most rounds."

Anthony Zurcher, BBC News Winner: Pence. Loser: Kaine. "It almost seemed like Mr. Pence was more interested in making the case for conservatism the way Americans have known it over the last 30 years than mounting a spirited defence of Mr. Trump's actual positions and statements."

Across these 13 commentators, the tally ends up like this:

Pence: 12 wins, 0 losses
Biden: 1 win, 0 losses
Trump: 0 wins, 4 losses
Quijano: 0 wins, 5 losses
Kaine: 0 wins, 10 losses

It's a clear win for Pence, though most commentators took care to note that his victory was "by a nose" or "on style points." There also a near-universal consensus that, beyond righting the S.S. Trump in the short term, the debate will have no meaningful impact on the 2016 race.

Of course, as we and others observed, Pence's main focus did not appear to be 2016, but instead 2020. And if we think in terms of the 2020 campaign—which, after all, begins in only 34 days, on Nov. 9—Pence may have done himself some harm. There was extensive coverage on Wednesday of his willingness to treat the truth like a pretzel. Slate put together a montage of debate clips entitled "Watch Mike Pence Lie to You." HuffPo, WaPo, TPM, and Politico all put together lists of the things that Donald Trump has said that Pence insisted Trump never said. The fact checkers, including CNN, ABC News, NPR, the New York Times, Politifact, FactCheck, and USA Today were all very critical. They hit him particularly hard for his misrepresentations about the Clinton Foundation, Obamacare, and America's military readiness. Kaine did much better on this front, though he did go off the rails several times when talking about Trump/Bush tax policy.

There is one person whose opinion on Pence's performance is unclear, however: Donald Trump. Immediately after the debate, Trump said he was "very, very proud of Gov. Mike Pence." Then, he promptly claimed much of the credit: "Last night, America also got to look firsthand at my judgment—and that was judgment." By Wednesday, The Donald was reportedly singing a very different tune because (1) Pence got better reviews than he did, and (2) Pence neglected to deal forcefully with some of Kaine's criticisms of Trump.

Speaking of criticism—and as the tote board above makes clear—Quijano's performance did not look any better with the benefit of a night's sleep. She was panned widely, by both left- and right- leaning sources. The two main critiques were that she lost control of the debate, and that she insisted on prioritizing her questions over the flow of the debate, sometimes cutting Kaine or Pence off just as they were staring to say something interesting.

The happy news for Quijano (and for Tim Kaine) is that not that many people were watching, relatively speaking. While the presidential debate drew close to 90 million viewers, the Veep debate pulled in a mere 34 million. There's little doubt that presidential debate #2, on Sunday, will erase all memory of the Veep debate. Except, of course, for the tens of millions of viewers who never had a memory of the Veep debate in the first place. (Z)

Kaine May Have "Lost" the Debate, but "Winning" Was Never His Goal

Many pundits (see above) may have concluded that Tim Kaine "lost" the debate, but he wasn't trying to "win." His plan from the start was to generate material that could be used in attack ads later. In particular, the many times he accused Trump of something he was merely trying to goad Pence into denying it to provide precisely the fodder he and Clinton wanted, and they got it. Kaine's performance was carefully planned in advance and he did exactly what he was supposed to do. In fact, the first ad using the Veep debate material is already out. (V)

"You Don't Win the Second Debate by Relitigating the First One"

Barack Obama was in the same position after his first 2012 debate as Donald Trump is now: He lost badly. Then Bill Clinton gave Obama some sage advice: "You don't win the second debate by relitigating the first one." Obama took that to heart and did much better the second time. The question this year is whether Donald Trump will take it to heart as well (assuming he is given that advice by his campaign manager).

The second presidential debate is Sunday in St. Louis. It is a town hall format, with half the questions from an audience of undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization. Trump loves to settle scores, so he may try to use the second debate to get even with Hillary Clinton for things she said in the first debate. That would be the wrong approach.

The town-hall format has another danger for Trump. When a specific voter asks a question, the average voter can identify with that person, and if the candidate blows the voter off or evades the question, people at home take it much more personally than when a candidate refuses to answer a question posed by a moderator.

Town halls test two things. First, the candidates' breadth of knowledge. Actual voters tend to throw out a wider variety of questions than professional journalists. Second, it tests the candidates' empathy. When an actual voter makes it clear that he or she is having problems and expects the candidates to help out, telling the voter that the problem can't be solved or is unimportant is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Clinton understands this far better than Trump. St. Louis has a large black population, so we can expect a number of black questioners. If one of them brings up the numerous killings of unarmed black men by the police, Clinton is not going to make a statement backing up the police. Trump might. (V)

Clinton Up 10 Points in National Poll

For the first time in many weeks, Hillary Clinton's lead in a national poll is in double digits again. In a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, Clinton is at 50% and Donald Trump is at 40%. In the four-way version. Clinton takes 45%, Donald Trump is at 36%, Gary Johnson is at 11%, and Jill Stein is at 3%. For several weeks leading up to the first presidential debate, Trump had largely closed the gap with Clinton, but now multiple polls have shown her pulling ahead again. For example, a Reuters/Ipsos poll also out yesterday puts Clinton 6 points ahead. Of course, the second debate could change everything again, but leading into it, Clinton is in a strong position. (V)

Could the October Surprise Be Trump's 2015 Tax Return?

With a tax return as complicated as Donald Trump's, his accountant no doubt asked for and received one or more extensions. Most likely, it hasn't been filed yet. He could conceivably tell his accountant to skip all the deductions he is entitled to and usually takes, which would leave him with a hefty tax bill. Then he could release the 2015 return to confound his critics with: "See, I pay millions in taxes every year."

Trump is a notorious tightwad and would no doubt be hesitant to pay millions in taxes more than he has to, but he could have a secret plan. Release a 2015 tax return with a huge tax due and pay the tax. Then, after the election, file an amended tax return claiming every last deduction. This would be perfectly legal and only the final one would count. In the baking world, this is known as having your cake and eating it, too. (V)

Trump Often Donated to Attorneys General Investigating Him

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Donald Trump's donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a time that she was investigating him is not unusual. He has a history of donating to state attorneys general or candidates for the office, especially those looking into his business practices. Between 2001 and 2003, the donations added up to $140,000. But even before that, he made similar donations. In 1985, he gave $15,000 to New York Attorney General Robert Abrams at a time Abrams was considering proposals to convert co-op apartments into condominiums. After the donation was received, Trump's proposal was approved.

A few attorneys general didn't want Trump's money. These included current New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, current California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. (V)

Dope Is on the Ballot All over the Country

No, we weren't referring to any of the candidates for president, although some voters could be forgiven for thinking that. Actually, marijuana legalization is on the ballot on states from Maine to California, and according to the polls it is leading in all the states that have been polled. These referendums could have political impact in addition to the specific issue of whether marijuana is legalized or not. This question tends to draw younger voters to the polls, potentially increasing the turnout for Hillary Clinton. In Maine, a poll found legalization leading 53% to 38%. In California it was ahead 52% to 41%. The other states where it is on the ballot and there have been polls are Arizona (50% for legalization, 40% against), Nevada (57% for, 33% against), and Massachusetts (53% for, 40% against). Nevada is the only swing state in the mix, although Maine's very rural ME-02 might be close. Since the Pine Tree State awards two of its electoral votes by congressional district, the referendum could affect one of its electoral votes.

A widely ignored fact about marijuana is that it contributes to global warming. Growing the crop in volumes large enough to supply a state with it requires massive amounts of energy for illuminating, dehumidifying, and air conditioning the growing areas, which are commonly indoors. The energy for running the greenhouses is produced by burning fossil fuels, which is a main cause of climate change. If the referendums pass everywhere, marijuana cultivation will shoot up, and so will the carbon dioxide produced in the process of growing the stuff. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

The poll for New Mexico seems reasonable for a state that is 48% Latino. The earlier Ipsos Internet polls had Trump ahead there, which is part of the reason why we decided to drop all the Ipsos state polls. While Ohio is always close, previous polls have put Trump ahead. Now we have a reliable poll with Clinton ahead. This one could easily be an outlier though. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
New Mexico 46% 33% 14% Sep 28 Oct 02 SurveyUSA
Ohio 44% 42% 5% Oct 01 Oct 04 Monmouth U.

Today's Senate Polls

The Pennsylvania poll is very suspicious. Most polls show McGinty ahead. In fact, All of Quinnipiac's polls this year appear to have a house effect in favor of the Republicans. We won't really know until after the election, of course. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 44% Marco Rubio* 48% Sep 27 Oct 02 Quinnipiac U.
North Carolina Deborah Ross 46% Richard Burr* 46% Sep 27 Oct 02 Quinnipiac U.
Ohio Ted Strickland 38% Rob Portman* 55% Sep 27 Oct 02 Quinnipiac U.
Ohio Ted Strickland 39% Rob Portman* 54% Oct 01 Oct 04 Monmouth U.
Pennsylvania Katie McGinty 42% Pat Toomey* 50% Sep 27 Oct 02 Quinnipiac U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct05 Vice-Presidential Debate a Tense Affair
Oct05 GOP Website Gives Pence the Win--a Bit Early
Oct05 Politico Insiders: My Team Won
Oct05 Changes in the Swing States of the Past 2 Weeks
Oct05 Trump's Accountant Says He, Not Trump, Was the Genius
Oct05 Poll: Not Paying Taxes is Selfish
Oct05 Candidates' Strategies Differ on Early Voting
Oct05 Trump May Have Illegally Used His Foundation to Bootstrap His Campaign
Oct05 Bill Clinton Attacks ObamaCare, Pitches Medicare for All
Oct04 Vice Presidential Debates Rarely Matter Much
Oct04 Trump Offends Veterans Again
Oct04 Trump Ordered to Stop Raising Money for his Foundation
Oct04 Clinton Hammers Trump More on the Billion-Dollar Loss than on the Tax Avoidance
Oct04 Today's Trump Skeleton #1: He Rented to an Iranian Bank with Terrorist Ties
Oct04 Today's Trump Skeleton #2: He Harassed Women on His TV Show
Oct04 Trump Offices Open in Israel
Oct04 Republicans Anxious About Trump's Impact
Oct04 Politicians Supporting Trump Will Be Targeted for Years to Come
Oct04 Trump Grabs
Oct04 The Spin Room Is Dying
Oct03 Surrogates Defend Trump's Not Paying any Taxes
Oct03 What Has Happened to Rudy Giuliani?
Oct03 Could Donald Trump Do Worse in Second Debate?
Oct03 Attacking Bill Clinton May Not Work with Women and Millennials
Oct03 Could Poll Watchers Give Pennsylvania to Trump?
Oct03 Arizona Republic Gets Death Threats for Endorsing Clinton
Oct03 Is Ohio Still a Bellwether?
Oct03 Clinton Pulls in $154 Million in September
Oct03 Brown Signs Law to Radically Change Voting in California
Oct03 Vice Presidential Candidates Face Off Tomorrow
Oct03 Stone: Wednesday, Hillary Clinton is done
Oct02 NYT Bombshell: Trump May Not Have Paid Taxes for Decades
Oct02 Trump's Staff Can't Save the Candidate from Himself
Oct02 College-Educated White Women Are This Year's Swing Voters
Oct02 Asian Americans Could Be a Problem for the Republicans
Oct02 Trump Chases Sanders' Supporters
Oct02 SNL Hits Trump Hard
Oct02 Marginalized Haters Are Now Emerging from the Shadows
Oct02 Untrustworthy Voting Machines Are Still Widely Used
Oct01 Trump Can't Sleep, Starts Tweeting Attacks on Alicia Machado
Oct01 Evangelicals Are Scared, but Still Support Trump
Oct01 More Skeletons Found in Trump's Closet
Oct01 Clinton Is Now Focusing on Turning Out Her Base
Oct01 Ivanka Trump Stars in Trump Ad Aimed at Women
Oct01 Trump Has an Automated Army of Tweeters Working for Him
Oct01 Clinton Enjoying Post-Debate Polling Bump
Oct01 Weld: Clinton Most Qualified to be President
Oct01 San Diego Union-Tribune Breaks 148-Year Streak and Endorses the Democrat
Oct01 Trump May Not Accept Election Results After All
Oct01 There Actually Were Issues with Trump's Microphone During the Debate