Clinton 274
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Ties 6
Trump 258
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Dem 50
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GOP 50
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  • Strongly Dem (162)
  • Likely Dem (63)
  • Barely Dem (49)
  • Exactly tied (6)
  • Barely GOP (67)
  • Likely GOP (34)
  • Strongly GOP (157)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: CO FL IA NM OH

Trump Concedes that Obama Was Born in the United States

After five years of falsely asserting that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., yesterday Donald Trump called a news conference to announce some late-breaking major news: Obama was born in the U.S. after all. Who knew? Literally, he said: "President Obama was born in the United States. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again."

Then he went on to say that Hillary Clinton started the birther controversy and she should apologize. The fact checkers are going to have fun with this one, but his supporters won't care. At this point he could say that George Washington was an illegal immigrant, a Democrat, and a Communist, and they would cheer him. We've never seen a campaign where the media allow a politician to tell bald-faced lies and get away with it over and over.

Nevertheless, there are some signs things may be slowly changing. Reuters' headline on the birther story was: "Trump backs off Obama birth rumor, falsely accuses Clinton of starting it." See below for more. (V)

Response to Trump Birther Announcement is Swift

Whatever else one might say about Donald Trump, he certainly knows how to get people talking. Trump's newly discovered insights into the circumstances of Barack Obama's birth dominated the news cycle on Friday. The bad news for the Trump campaign is that the coverage was overwhelmingly critical.

To start with, as predicted above, the fact checkers tore into Trump. They were unimpressed by his attempt to blame Hillary Clinton, observing that the only basis for this conclusion is a leaked 2007 Clinton campaign memo, posted to Trump's website last year, in which a Clinton campaign adviser suggested playing up her midwest, down-home American roots as a contrast to Barack Obama's diverse, cosmopolitan roots. However, this was entirely about Clinton's image, not about how Obama would be portrayed by the campaign. The memo specifically rejects "negativity" and says, "we are never going to say anything about his background." That's a far cry from questioning the circumstances of his birth. Meanwhile, Trump's taking credit for "resolving" the birther issue resulted in even more severe disparagement. Politifact observes that Trump continued to embrace birther rhetoric long after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, and that the movement still exists. Ergo, the Republican nominee can hardly claim to have "resolved" the question.

These were not the only uncomfortable observations made on Friday. One could not help noticing that Trump was unwilling to disavow birtherism on Thursday afternoon, but more than happy to do so on Friday morning. Why the delay? Well, the press conference on Friday conveniently happened to take place at the newly-opened Trump-branded hotel in Washington. And while he managed to give an hour-long tour of the facility, there simply wasn't time for any questions from the media. This certainly does not help dispel the notion that Trump's campaign is a money-making venture. And speaking of money, Trump seems to have forgotten something that the Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold remembers very well, indeed: Trump proposed, at various times, to donate either $5 million or $50 million to a charity of the President's choice if he was given hard proof of Obama's birthplace. Today's announcement would seem to be an acknowledgment that such proof has been received, so presumably a check is forthcoming.

Beyond picking these specific nits, the punditry is persuaded that Trump ultimately did a great deal of damage to his campaign on Friday. The Los Angeles Times' Cathleen Decker described Trump's handling of this issue as a "self-inflicted wound." She argues that the birther story is now back at the forefront of voters' minds, and that The Donald's egregious attempt to pin the blame on Hillary will not sit well with moderate and suburban voters. The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty concurs with Decker, declaring that the real message of Trump's press conference was, "Never wrong, never sorry, never responsible." Tumulty's conservative colleague Jennifer Rubin goes further, listing 10 ways in which Trump hurt himself on Friday. Among them:

  • Trump has proved Clinton's "deplorables" comment correct. We are reminded of his central role in the birtherism conspiracy and the enthusiasm of his fans for it.

  • He let Clinton get back on offense. It helps her re-energize the Democratic base, as we saw yesterday when she spoke to a Latino audience and again today to an African American audience.

  • He guarantees birtherism will come up in the debates.

  • This gives members of the media a chance to course-correct their bizarre coverage over the past couple of weeks. They collectively can step back from their mock horror over Clinton's "deplorables" comment and her pneumonia. The media may now feel obligated to drop its phony equivalence in light of the confirmation that Trump is a pathological liar and demagogue.

  • It reminds voters that Trump is a classic bully and coward—he'll run from a personal confession of error, and then send staff to draft loopy excuses. He'll blame the victim, but never accept responsibility for heinous accusations.

Now, in politics, sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omelet. Reportedly, Kellyanne Conway persuaded Trump that he could not win without some black votes, and the potentially damaging choice to disavow birtherism was partly intended to address that problem. If so, it would appear that it did not work. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) rejected Trump's announcement, saying that he had not taken ownership for his past bad behavior. In particular, Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) blasted Trump as a "cheap racist" and a "disgusting fraud," respectively. CBC leader and Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) declared that, at very least, Trump must offer a heartfelt apology and ask for forgiveness. Black voters interviewed by the Associated Press were equally unimpressed. "He's a backtracker," said one. "He says whatever he thinks he should say, what he's directed by his team to say, to make him seem like a better human that we should all vote for."

And in the end, most observers were unpersuaded that Trump has truly put birtherism behind him. Vox's Jeff Stein notes that if you truly want to turn over a new leaf in this way, you probably should not be introduced at your press conference by one of the leaders of the birther movement, namely Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney (ret.). Slate's Jamelle Bouie agrees, insisting that Trump can never renounce birtherism, since it's central to his political identity. He writes:

Birtherism isn't a lark for Trump. It isn't an eccentricity or something to look past. It's the core of his political identity—the thing that gives coherence to his attacks on Mexican and Muslim immigrants and figures such as Judge Gonzalo Curiel. It is the original expression of his belief that citizenship is ultimately tied to blood and ethnicity and that some Americans are inherently more suspect than others. Birtherism is as intrinsic to Trump as racial egalitarianism is to Obama.

Not surprisingly, the nation's leading birther advocates are in complete agreement with Bouie that the movement is not dead, and that Trump's words don't change anything. Orly Taitz, who has advanced the "cause" with both her money and her skill at attracting publicity, said on Friday that she is ready to proceed with a federal court case against Obama. Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio declared that his office's investigation of Obama's birth certificate, which Arpaio calls "a forgery," is ongoing. They better hurry; there are only 125 days left in Obama's term. (Z)

Johnson and Stein Don't Make the Cut

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced yesterday that neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein made the 15% threshold that would have gotten them on stage at the first presidential debate on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island. As a consequence of their missing the cut, their running mates won't be in the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4, either.

The CPD announced long ago which polls would be used to determine in the third-party candidates would be on stage. In those polls, Johnson averaged 8.4% and Stein averaged 3.2%, so neither one was even close. Johnson, ever the optimist, took this near-fatal news by saying: "Our polling is ticking up. It's ratcheting up. And so if we're not in the first debate, there's a good chance we'll be in the next debate." Except it ain't gonna happen, despite the fact that about half the voters have expressed an interest in seeing one or more of the third-party candidates on stage with the major-party candidates. (V)

Bob Schieffer Gives Advice to Debate Moderators

CBS' veteran journalist Bob Schieffer moderated presidential debates in 2004, 2008, and 2012. He's not doing any this year, but he has some advice for this year's moderators. In his view, the moderator is an umpire, and people don't watch debates in order to see the umpire. It is an interesting viewpoint. Umpires make calls: it's a ball, it's a strike, it's fair, or it's foul. They most definitely do not say: It's not my job to determine who is right and who is wrong," as Fox News' Chris Wallace, moderator of the third debate, recently said.

The moderator's biggest challenge this year may not be fact checking, but keeping one candidate from hogging the entire 15 minutes devoted to each topic. In the last two debates that Schieffer moderated, he had the candidates sit at the same table with him. He felt that would make it easier to rein them in if needed. But this time, he feels that Trump and Clinton hate each other so much that getting them to sit at the same table would be impossible. (V)

The Biggest Issue of the Campaign Is Entirely Missing

Donald Trump keeps talking about building a wall that Mexico will pay for. Even he probably knows that is never going to happen. Hillary Clinton claims that half of Trump's supporters are bigots. That may or may not be true, but it is not really a campaign issue. Taxes are a perennial issue, but ephemeral: What one Congress and president can do, the next ones can undo. Probably the most important power a president has is nominating justices to the Supreme Court. And despite a key vacancy due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the potential retirements of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, the future of the Court is hardly being discussed.

The key thing about the Supreme Court is that virtually every contentious issue ends up there, and nine unelected justices get to make public policy, often by a single vote. This situation is not changing any time soon, so if the new president can find potential justices who support his or her world view, those people could be throwing out laws they don't like for 30, 40, maybe even 50 years. Only the power to declare war (which is a power belonging to Congress) rivals this in importance.

One might have expected a long public discussion of the issues likely to face the Court in the years ahead, and the candidates' views on what kinds of people they would like on the court. But there has been nary a word on the subject for months. At most, the candidates use the threat of the other side's doing the nominating to terrify supporters into coughing up money for their campaigns. (V)

Hillary Clinton Wasn't Always Like She Is Now

Hillary Clinton used to be a Goldwater Girl, but that's not what Todd Purdum meant in his article about her life, published yesterday in Politico. In 1992, when asked why she bothered to have a career, she speculated that she "could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas" and was roundly criticized for even thinking women could have careers. How dare she? In 1993, when her father lay dying, she shared her most personal feelings about life and death. In return she was roundly mocked, especially in the New York Times, in a piece entitled "Saint Hillary." For years, anything and everything she said was wildly criticized. Over time, she began avoiding the media because anything she said would be viciously attacked by the "vast right-wing conspiracy." After a few decades, she began stonewalling all questions from the media, legitimate or not.

As a consequence of all these years of hostility between her and the media, she is extremely cautious in public now. Everything she says has been carefully thought out in advance, with the idea of how to defend it when the inevitable criticism arrives. One can easily imagine why she didn't announce her pneumonia when it was diagnosed: She was afraid of headlines saying that she was dying. But her war with the media is now extremely counterproductive. No matter what she does or says, much of the country thinks she is lying, and there is no way to fix it now. And it won't stop if she makes it to the oval office. (V)

Democrats Rallying Around Clinton

Hillary Clinton's September swoon could prove to be a blessing in disguise, because it has prominent Democrats rallying around her cause. Al Gore had previously signaled an intention to sit this one out, but now he's preparing to hit the campaign trail. His message will be, "voting for a third party candidate is risky." This is a subject he knows something about.

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are planning to deliver much the same message as they speak to millennials across the nation. On Friday, Sanders spoke in New York and told the audience, "This is not the time for a protest vote, in terms of a presidential campaign." That is quite the change of gears for someone whose entire presidential campaign was based on protest votes. (Z)

Fraternal Order of Police Endorses Trump

Amongst a fair bit of bad news, Donald Trump got one bit of good news on Friday. The 330,000-member Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) gave him its endorsement, announcing that Trump, "understands and supports our priorities, and our members believe he will make America safe again."

This is not too much of a surprise, given that most police officers are literally blue-collar workers, and that many lack a college education. In other words, they are in Trump's wheelhouse. Further, FOP rarely endorses Democrats; the last time they did so was when Hillary Clinton's husband was running for president. And finally, given Hillary's embrace of "Black Lives Matter," it was all but foregone that the police would gravitate to her opponent. If FOP members are willing to go door-to-door on behalf of Trump, that could give him some much-needed help with ground game. However, some of their support might be offset, if their endorsement triggers increased Clinton enthusiasm among minority voters. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep16 Can Clinton Win the Kids?
Sep16 How to Watch the Debates: Turn the Sound Off
Sep16 New Hampshire Union Leader Endorses Johnson
Sep16 Trump Explains His Economic Plans
Sep16 Trump, Jr. Has New Excuse for Why Dad Won't Release Taxes
Sep16 Trump Reverses Course on Birther Claims...Sort Of
Sep16 Ford Fires Back at Trump
Sep16 Trump Is Rising, but What Goes Up Can Also Come Down
Sep16 Virginia Supreme Court Sides with McAuliffe on Reenfranchising Felons
Sep16 Dr. Oz Show Edited Out Trump's Remarks about Kissing Ivanka
Sep16 Kochs Shift Gears
Sep15 President Trump Would Have Massive Conflicts of Interest
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Sep15 Melania Trump's Immigration History Still Shrouded in Mystery, Too
Sep15 New York Times Wants to Unseal Trump's Divorce File
Sep15 Springfield Ohio, A Town with No Hope
Sep15 Clinton to Return to the Campaign Trail Today
Sep15 RNC Was Hacked...or Not
Sep14 The Deplorable Duel
Sep14 About Clinton's Unforced Error
Sep14 Candidates and Aides Get Sick All the Time on the Campaign Trail
Sep14 Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate Ohio's Golden Week
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Sep14 Details of Trump's Dr. Oz Appearance Revealed
Sep14 Today in Dissembling: Kellyanne Conway
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Sep14 More DNC Documents Leaked
Sep14 Colin Powell Gets Hacked, Too
Sep14 Senate Democrats Already Worried about 2018
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Sep13 No Chicken Little, The Sky is Not Falling
Sep13 Clinton Will Release More Information on Her Health
Sep13 David Axelrod Hits Clinton for Her Obsession with Secrecy
Sep13 The Looming Debate Disaster
Sep13 Trump Faces New Type of Pressure on Tax Returns
Sep13 Why Does Donald Trump Get a Pass from the Media?
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Sep12 Clinton Stumbles at 9/11 Memorial
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Sep12 Trump, Jr. Shares Questionable Deplorables Parody
Sep12 Group May Give Real-Time Reports on Election Day
Sep12 More Wikileaks Could Come This Week
Sep12 Trump Got Award, Painting for Donating Other People's Money to Charity