Clinton 350
image description
Ties 18
Trump 170
image description
Click for Senate
Dem 50
image description
Ties 2
GOP 48
image description
  • Strongly Dem (205)
  • Likely Dem (68)
  • Barely Dem (77)
  • Exactly tied (18)
  • Barely GOP (64)
  • Likely GOP (19)
  • Strongly GOP (87)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ GA NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Third Debate is Dangerously...Presidential
      •  Clinton Aiming at Breaking 50%
      •  Clinton Leading with White Catholics
      •  Write-in Votes Do Not Count in Most States
      •  McMullin Leads in Utah
      •  New Landmark: 200 Million People Are Registered to Vote
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Third Debate is Dangerously...Presidential

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met for the third and final time in Las Vegas—aka "Sin City," which seems strangely apropos. And those viewers who tuned in, though presumably smaller in number than the audience for the first two meetings, got quite a surprise: a debate focused substantially on policy and on the issues.

At the start, there was certainly a touch of drama—Malik Obama was there to root for Trump and to shake up Clinton, while Clinton invited Trump nemesis Mark Cuban to fulfill the same role for her. As with the second debate, the two candidates chose not to shake hands, sharing a frosty stare instead. But once they took their positions, and Fox News' Chris Wallace got started, the two candidates discussed the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, Roe v. Wade, and immigration reform. If one simply read the transcript, and had no visual or auditory information, it might almost have passed for a Romney-Obama debate.

Unfortunately for Trump, substance is something that Clinton does better than he does, so the advantage was hers throughout most of the evening. In fact, this was overall her strongest performance among her three meetings with Trump. She explained a number of her policy positions in detail. She also got off some good bon mots, such as when she was discussing the value of her lengthy experience in politics, and she said, "And on the day when I was in the Situation Room, monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting the 'Celebrity Apprentice.'" Or when she brought up the six-foot self-portrait of himself that The Donald purchased with Trump Foundation money, and said, "Who does that?" Clinton also had a novel response ready for addressing Trump's claims that the election will be rigged:

You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him.

The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case; he said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus. He lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering; he claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.

This was already a pretty good line of attack, making clear that Trump cannot handle defeat in large matters or in trivial ones. But The Donald, who apparently just can't help himself, actually helped her sell the point by interrupting the Emmy line and declaring "Should have gotten it."

Clinton's performance was not flawless, of course. She fumbled a handful of questions, particularly on the Wikileaks emails. And now that all the debates are over, we can say for certain that she's never going to come up with a decent answer to questions about her shifting positions on the TPP. Still, she had to be very pleased with how the night went.

As for Donald Trump, interestingly enough, he also had his best debate among the three. He gave substantive answers to several questions, managed to establish some clear policy differences between himself and Clinton, and got off a good line or two. With that said, "best night" doesn't necessarily mean "great night" or even "good night," since the bar is set pretty low. And while the odds are good that Trump will be pleased with his performance, because he's always pleased with his performance, he shouldn't be.

We know—after more than a dozen debates for Trump—that we can expect certain things. For example, turning to the camera, looking it straight in the lens, and telling baldfaced lies. He's really committed to the assertions that he did not support the war in Iraq, that he began with a "mere" $1 million from his father, and that he never mocked a disabled reporter. All of these things are demonstrably untrue, and all of them were repeated by Trump for the third straight debate. The whopper of the night, though, was when he was asked about The Tape and the claims made against him by numerous female accusers, and he said:

Well, first of all, those stories have been largely debunked. Those people—I don't know those people. I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it.

Needless to say, none of these women's claims has been "debunked," assuming that's even possible.

Beyond falsehoods, Trump's other signature debate move is losing his cool. Clinton knows this, and she benefits from this, so she worked throughout the night to get under his skin. Her first several attempts, including this one, didn't work:

When it comes to the wall that Donald talks about building, he went to Mexico, he had a meeting with the Mexican president. Didn't even raise it. He choked and then got into a Twitter war because the Mexican president said: "We're not paying for that wall."

Thereafter, Clinton doggedly kept at it, and eventually she goaded Trump into a few less-than-presidential moments. For example, when she declared that Vladimir Putin likes Trump because "he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States," Trump practically jumped out of his skin and said, "You're the puppet!" He might as well have used the line so popular with second graders: "I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you."

With all of this said, Trump's real problem is that there are only three moments that anyone's really going to remember from the debate, and all three of them work against him. In third place is the moment during Clinton's closing statement, when he saw fit to cut in and hiss, "Such a nasty woman." For someone trying to convince voters that he's not a bully and an abuser of the other sex, this probably doesn't help.

In second place is this exchange:

Clinton: Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there is a woman anywhere who doesn't know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That's who Donald is. Trump: Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.

This one was a double whammy for The Donald. First, because most commentators agreed that it was Clinton's best line of the entire evening. And second, because after Trump issued forth with his response, the audience—which had been warned over and over to remain silent—could not help themselves, and broke out into laughter. Ouch.

Finally, the most significant moment of the evening, and the one that is going to get the lion's share of the coverage, is this one:

Wallace: Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you -- his words—"will absolutely accept the result of this election." Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

Trump: I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I'll look at it at the time.

Take it to the bank, the headlines are all going to be: "Trump refuses to commit to accepting election results." It also did not help that Kellyanne Conway, appearing in the spin room after the debate, insisted that fraud would not be a problem because Trump is going to win. If the Trump campaign had actual proof of fraud—say, that electronic voting machines had been compromised—it should theoretically throw any result, even a Trump victory, into question. What Conway's declaration reveals is that the only "proof" they will have is a Clinton victory.

Given these three missteps, Trump's staffers (if not The Donald himself) are probably wishing that what happened in Vegas would stay in Vegas. That's not going to happen, of course. And even if these things somehow do not hurt Trump, he certainly didn't help himself in any appreciable way on Wednesday. CNN's insta-poll confirms this; 52% gave the win to Clinton and 39% gave it to Trump. So, it's a clean sweep for Hillary. And, more importantly, Trump has now allowed his last big chance to move the needle to slip through his fingers. (Z)

Clinton Aiming at Breaking 50%

Two recent national polls have put Hillary Clinton at 47% and 48% respectively, in a 4-way race, and she is still rising. She is trying hard to break the 50% mark. The value of having an absolute majority of the voters choosing her would make it much easier for her to claim that she has a mandate to govern. For example, Sen. John McCain said earlier this week that the Senate should block anyone she nominates to the Supreme Court. If she polls above 50%, it would be hard for McCain or anyone else to make a moral case for blocking all nominees. Their argument would simply be: "We don't care about democracy. We have the power to block all nominees until there is a Republican president and we intend to use it." That might not play well with the voters down the road. (V)

Clinton Leading with White Catholics

Ever since Ronald Reagan ran for president, white Roman Catholics have voted Republican, generally due to social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Catholics are the country's second largest religious group, after evangelical Protestants. However, this year may break the mold. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump with this important group by a margin of 46% to 42%. And the poll was taken before Trump bragged about how he can grope women and get away with it. Clinton's margin is probably even larger now, and this could hurt him badly in the Upper Midwest, where many Catholics live.

Part of Trump's problem is Trump himself and the way he behaves, but part of it is due to Pope Francis, who remarked that Trump is not a Christian if he wants to build walls instead of bridges. In addition, the Pope has moved the church to emphasize inclusion and the welfare of the poor, rather than constantly harping on abortion and same-sex marriage, as U.S. cardinals and bishops generally do. In effect, upper management has overruled middle management. To make things worse for Trump, the pope recently passed over the very conservative Archbishop Charles Chaput for a promotion to cardinal and instead promoted Blase Cupich, who has focused on climate change, gun control, and immigration reform. All these factors make it harder for Trump to win white Catholics and the Upper Midwest states where they form a substantial fraction of the electorate. (V)

Write-in Votes Do Not Count in Most States

Many Republicans are being pressed on whether they will vote for Donald Trump. It is an awkward question, especially for the politicians who don't support him (any more). The follow-up question from reporters is usually: "If you won't vote for Trump, who will you vote for?" Some of them, like Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), who is running for the Senate in Nevada, have promised to write-in Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN). For Heck and many others, this is exactly equivalent to writing "LA LA LA" over the presidential race with a black marking pen. Either way, it invalidates the vote for president. Only eight states allow unrestricted write-ins, and Nevada is not one of them. Seven states, including Nevada, don't allow any write-ins at all. The remaining states do allow write-ins, but only if the write-in candidate has filed with the secretary of state as an official write-in candidate. Here is a map showing which states do and do not allow write-ins. write-in map

In other words, very few Republican politicians will be able to vote for Pence for president and have their vote count. (V)

McMullin Leads in Utah

Evan McMullin's longshot campaign may be starting to bear some fruit. A new Emerson College poll shows him leading in Utah with 31%, compared to Donald Trump's 27% and Hillary Clinton's 24%. If McMullin wins Utah, he will be the first third-party candidate to win a state since George Wallace won five of them in 1968.

McMullin has zero chance of winning any of the other 10 states where he is on the ballot, but he has a tiny chance of nevertheless being elected president. If he gets Utah's 6 electoral votes, and neither Trump nor Clinton gets to 270 (e.g., they tie at 266 apiece), then the new House elects the president from the top three electoral vote getters, with each state having one vote. The Republicans would almost certainly control the results of that vote, since they will likely control more state delegations than the Democrats will. If the House Republicans decide that they prefer McMullin to Trump, McMullin could become president. In that scenario, the Senate would choose the vice president from the top two contenders, so depending which party controls the Senate after the election, either Mike Pence or Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) would become vice president. If the new Senate is split evenly on Jan. 6, 2017, when the electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress, Vice President Joe Biden will cast the deciding vote, which could hypothetically lead to a McMullin-Kaine administration. This would be the first truly split administration since Jefferson and Adams in 1796 (though Jackson/Calhoun, Harrison/Tyler, Taylor/Fillmore, and Lincoln/Johnson were all only nominally in the same party). (V)

New Landmark: 200 Million People Are Registered to Vote

For the first time ever, the number of registered voters across the country has passed 200 million. The mark was hit due to strong registration drives in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, and other states. In 2008, only 146 million people were registered, so the increase in 8 years is over 50 million. This year, the new voters skew Democratic, with 43% registering as Democrats and 29% registering as Republicans. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

Today, we have yet another poll showing Clinton leading in Arizona. There have been enough of them now that it is probably true that Arizona is really in play for the first time in decades. Also noteworthy are two polls in Wisconsin, which Trump has tried hard to win. He is losing badly there, which means his Rust Belt strategy is not working. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Arizona 43% 38% 7% Oct 10 Oct 15 Arizona State U.
Kansas 36% 47% 7% Oct 11 Oct 15 SurveyUSA
Missouri 39% 47% 5% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
New Hampshire 44% 36% 10% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
New Hampshire 49% 34% 8% Oct 11 Oct 17 U. of New Hampshire
New York 54% 30% 5% Oct 13 Oct 17 Siena Coll.
Oregon 46% 36% 5% Oct 04 Oct 14 Riley Research
Pennsylvania 45% 41% 4% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
Utah 24% 27% 5% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
Vermont 45% 17% 4% Sep 29 Oct 14 Castleton State Coll.
Wisconsin 47% 40% 6% Oct 15 Oct 18 Monmouth U.
Wisconsin 50% 38%   Oct 18 Oct 19 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

Despite Arizona's possibly turning blue, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) seems poised to win his sixth term in the Senate, so at least in Arizona, ticket splitting seems to be alive and well. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania remain very close. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Ann Kirkpatrick 40% John McCain* 52% Oct 10 Oct 15 Arizona State U.
Kansas Patrick Wiesner 31% Jerry Moran* 56% Oct 11 Oct 15 SurveyUSA
Missouri Jason Kander 44% Roy Blunt* 44% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan 45% Kelly Ayotte* 45% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
New York Chuck Schumer* 66% Wendy Long 27% Oct 13 Oct 17 Siena Coll.
Pennsylvania Katie McGinty 43% Pat Toomey* 46% Oct 17 Oct 19 Emerson Coll.
Vermont Patrick Leahy* 59% Scott Milne 22% Sep 29 Oct 14 Castleton State Coll.
Wisconsin Russ Feingold 47% Ron Johnson* 41% Oct 18 Oct 19 PPP
Wisconsin Russ Feingold 52% Ron Johnson* 44% Oct 15 Oct 18 Monmouth U.

* Denotes incumbent

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct19 The Final Debate Is Tonight
Oct19 Six Witnesses Corroborate Natasha Stoynoff's Story of Being Assaulted by Trump
Oct19 Millennials Are Starting to Come Around to Clinton
Oct19 Trump Will Host Obama at Debate
Oct19 Trump Wants Term Limits for Congress
Oct19 Clinton Gets Another Endorsement
Oct19 Who Are the People Who Will Choose the President?
Oct19 Partisanship Rules
Oct19 Obama to Trump: Stop Whining
Oct19 NRSC Has Another $30 Million for Senate Races
Oct19 Ecuador Cuts Off Julian Assange's Internet Connection
Oct19 Obama Reveals Post-Presidency Project
Oct18 Why Is Trump Running?
Oct18 Melania Trump Speaks Out About The Tape
Oct18 Could This Be a Realigning Election?
Oct18 Clinton Is Faced with a Tough Choice
Oct18 What Is Russia's Next Move?
Oct18 ISIS Is in Big Trouble
Oct18 No Large Newspaper Has Endorsed Trump
Oct18 Election Officials Scoff at Trump's Claim of a Rigged Vote
Oct18 4-in-10 Think Election Might Be Fraudulent
Oct18 McCain Promises Ongoing SCOTUS Obstruction
Oct18 GOP SuperPACs Getting Nervous About the House
Oct18 Evangelicals Are Breaking Apart
Oct18 Why Is Trump Running?
Oct18 Melania Trump Speaks Out About The Tape
Oct18 Could This Be a Realigning Election?
Oct18 Clinton Is Faced with a Tough Choice
Oct18 What Is Russia's Next Move?
Oct18 ISIS Is in Big Trouble
Oct18 No Large Newspaper Has Endorsed Trump
Oct18 Election Officials Scoff at Trump's Claim of a Rigged Vote.
Oct18 4-in-10 Think Election Might Be Fraudulent
Oct18 McCain Promises Ongoing SCOTUS Obstruction
Oct18 GOP SuperPACs Getting Nervous About the House
Oct18 Evangelicals Are Breaking Apart
Oct17 Clinton Has Lead in Multiple National Polls
Oct17 Trump Continues to Claim the Election is Rigged
Oct17 Trump's Newest Target: Saturday Night Live
Oct17 Are the States Realigning?
Oct17 Latino Registration Is Not Surging
Oct17 Pence Contradicts Trump on Several Issues
Oct17 Five Republican Megadonors Ponied Up $24 Million in the Past 3 Months
Oct17 Psychological Warfare Is Causing Big Problems for Clinton
Oct17 An Interview with Steve Schmidt
Oct17 Rudy Giuliani is Becoming Unhinged
Oct17 Friend Backs Zervos' Account
Oct16 Trump's Strategy is to Depress the Millennial Vote
Oct16 Trump Raises $100 Million in September
Oct16 Trump Breaks Ties with Ohio Republican Party