Clinton 302
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Trump 236
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Click for Senate
Dem 50
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Ties 1
GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (144)
  • Likely Dem (62)
  • Barely Dem (96)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (62)
  • Likely GOP (78)
  • Strongly GOP (96)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: CO IA LA MA NC NY PA VA
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA NV OH
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Clinton Doesn't Score a Knockout, But Wins Convincingly on Points
      •  Trump's Website Crashes During Debate
      •  Trump Can't Find a Mosque to Visit
      •  Beck Apologizes for Supporting Ted Cruz
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Clinton Doesn't Score a Knockout, But Wins Convincingly on Points

The first presidential debate is in the books. And, more than anything else, it brought to mind a boxing match. Trump successfully bobbed and weaved for the first 20 minutes and had Hillary Clinton on her heels. This meant that the first round or two went to him. But then Clinton found her rhythm, and landed a series of body blows, leaving Trump punch drunk and almost completely off his game. All of the subsequent rounds went to her, giving her a clear-cut win by decision.

Going into the debate, the pundits agreed that Trump's main task was to appear plausibly presidential. For those first 20 minutes, he did it, and did it very well. He also cornered Hillary into far and away her worst moment of the night, during a give-and-take over trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was all-but-guaranteed to come up on Monday, and yet Clinton is apparently still unready for those questions. She hemmed and hawed, and split too many hairs as she explained why she was for the TPP before she was against it. If the power had gone out at that moment, Trump would have walked away a big winner.

But, of course, the power did not go out. Even during the exchange on trade agreements, Clinton managed to get under Trump's skin with remarks about how much his father helped his business career. He began to lose his cool at that point, and not long thereafter she hit him with a pretty good one-liner: "I have a feeling that by the end of this evening I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened." The crowd was supposed to remain silent, but they couldn't help laughing at that one. Then Clinton hit Trump on his tax return, and it was off to the races. From that point forward, every time she tried to bait him into saying something silly or offensive, he bit on it—hook, line, and sinker. Indeed, the Donald made just about every mistake in the book. To wit:

  • Body Language: There is much to be learned from turning off the sound, and just watching the candidates' posture. Clinton clearly spent time working on her stoic face—an expression that said, "I'm patiently waiting, with the rest of you, while Donald blathers." Trump, meanwhile, snorted, and grimaced, and shifted around, and rolled his eyes—high school debate coaches across the land were tearing their hair out. And in a little bit of added irony, Trump had a cold, so most of the time he spoke, it was prefaced by a sniffle. Meanwhile, Clinton never coughed, and (as Anderson Cooper noted) never even took a drink of water during the 90 minutes.

  • Interruptions: In the primaries, Trump could engage pretty fiercely with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and it did little harm. With a female opponent, over-aggression could come across very badly. Trump apparently did not get the memo, or else could not control himself, because the bullying behavior was on full display. In particular, he interrupted Clinton 51 times (i.e., once every 90 seconds). By contrast, Clinton interrupted Trump 17 times (i.e., once every 5.5 minutes).

  • Outright Lies: You've got 100 million people watching, most of them with Facebook or Twitter, while the punditry (and your opponents) would love to catch you in a "pants on fire" moment. That would seem to argue for caution, right? Not to Trump, it would seem. He told whopper after whopper, even when challenged by Clinton and moderator Lester Holt. For example, he insisted that he'd never claimed that global warming was a Chinese hoax. The tweet where he did just that was promptly retweeted over 600,000 times. Numerous times, in a classic example of gaming the refs, Clinton pleaded with the fact checkers to do their jobs.

  • Odd Tangents: As part of taking Clinton's bait, Trump would often go off on strange tangents. Sometimes, obsessively so. For example, Trump claimed that he never supported the war in Iraq, and Clinton and Holt both promptly called him out on that, reminding him of a notorious appearance with Howard Stern where Trump voiced his support for the war. This led to a long harangue from Trump, where he kept demanding that Sean Hannity be called, since Hannity could (theoretically) confirm that Trump took an anti-Iraq position in their private conversations. Similarly, Trump repeatedly complained about being portrayed negatively in Clinton's commercials. And he could not let "stop-and-frisk" go, even after it was pointed out that New York had abandoned the policy because it leads to racial profiling.

  • Clunky Answers: Trump bragged about his lack of debate prep; well, it showed. Surely, part of Clinton's prep was crafting (and memorizing) tidy answers to the questions she knew were coming. For example, the occasion where she said, "I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president." Trump, meanwhile, often lumbered into incredibly clunky versions of his talking points. He wanted to make the point that Clinton has been ineffectual in coping with ISIS, but what he said was, "no wonder you've been fighting ISIS your entire adult life." Needless to say, Clinton has been an adult for 50 years, while ISIS has been around for 15 or so, so that doesn't quite add up. Similarly, Trump surely knew his temperament would come up. When it did, he declared, "I think my strongest asset by far is my temperament. I have a winning temperament." This left many commentators wondering if he knows exactly what "temperament" means.

  • Bad Judgment: One of the most potent lines of attack against Trump, which very much relates to the issue of his temperament, is that he lacks the judgment to command America's military and its nuclear arsenal. He did not help himself when he declared that if there was a repeat of a recent incident in which Iranian sailors taunted American sailors, he would blow the ship out of the water. He followed up by insisting that, "That would not start a war."

  • Missed Opportunities: Curiously, though he was willing to be aggressive in defending himself, and in showing his disdain for Clinton's points, Trump chose not to hit her areas of weakness. Virtually nothing on the e-mails. Nothing on the Clinton Foundation. Little about her health. Surely, if he's going to change anything for the second debate, it will be this.

For all the missteps listed here, however, we still haven't gotten to the two biggest blunders of the night for The Donald. These moments were quite similar, in that he answered Clinton's challenges in a manner that was full of braggadocio, and likely very truthful, but incredibly impolitic. The first came during a discussion of the Bush-era recession:

CLINTON: In fact, Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, "Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy some and make some money." Well, it did collapse.

TRUMP: That's called business, by the way.

Needless to say, while this may advance Trump's reputation as a real estate shark, it won't play well with some of the working-class voters Trump is going for. Particularly those who lost their houses. Meanwhile, the misstep of the evening—again, quite similar to the previous error—came when Clinton was slamming Trump on his unreleased tax returns. She managed to deliver a litany of possible reasons why Trump is keeping his taxes secret, which culminated in this:

CLINTON: Or maybe he doesn't want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody's ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

Trump did not seem to realize that he was implicitly confirming the dirty secret that he's been trying to keep hidden: That he pays very little (or nothing) in taxes. Remarkably, he was asked three more times (once during the debate, twice afterward) whether or not he pays federal taxes, and he dodged the question. If any moment from the debate finds its way into a Clinton commercial, it will be one of these two exchanges.

Now, this assessment has been highly critical of Trump. But, by all evidences, it's not just one man's opinion. In fact, there are all sorts of indications that he had a very poor night, starting with the behavior of the Trump camp. After the debate, Trump practically sprinted to the spin room to explain how he had won the debate. This is historically unprecedented; never has a candidate gotten involved with the post-debate analysis like this. Not long thereafter, The Donald began to complain that his debate microphone was defective, apparently excusing some (all?) of his weaker answers. He also skipped his post-debate victory party and headed straight home to New York. Meanwhile, Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani began to plant the seeds of a Trump debate boycott, declaring that Lester Holt's performance as moderator was shameful (it wasn't), and that, "If I were Donald Trump I wouldn't participate in another debate unless I was promised that the journalist would act like a journalist and not an incorrect, ignorant fact checker."

Insta-polling also gave a convincing win to Clinton. CNN's group of 20 undecided voters preferred Clinton's performance by a margin of 18 to 2. Politico's panel of insiders, divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, favored Clinton 80% to 20%. Perhaps most damning, CNN's poll of randomly-selected likely voters gave Clinton a 62% to 27% win. Since 25% of the respondents were Republican, it suggests that Trump pleased the GOP voters, and almost nobody else. That's not a path to electoral victory.

Even the markets gave Clinton the win. The U.S. futures market jumped 100 points immediately after the debate, and the Mexican peso's value increased by two percent. British bookmaker Betfair increased Clinton's odds of victory from 64% to 70%.

So, are there any silver linings for Donald Trump? Yes, perhaps two of them. The first is that he may not have gained any voters, but he clearly kept the voters he already has. So, an opportunity was lost, but otherwise he didn't damage himself too much. The second is that a good second debate performance can absolutely erase memories of a bad first debate, as happened most notably with Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Barack Obama in 2012. And the town hall format of the next debate plays to Trump's strengths. Tune in on October 9 to see if he can seize the day. (Z)

Trump's Website Crashes During Debate

During the presidential debate, Donald Trump encouraged viewers to visit his website to see his policy proposals. Apparently, the service provider wasn't quite ready for the spike in traffic, because the site crashed, and was offline for several critical minutes before service was finally restored.

Hillary Clinton's website, by contrast, kept humming along throughout the evening. That includes the real-time fact-checker that she encouraged viewers to watch during the debate. Perhaps Colin Powell warned her that you really need to have a heavy-duty web server during debate season. (Z)

Trump Can't Find a Mosque to Visit

Donald Trump would like to prove that he doesn't actually hate Muslims, and his team feels the best way for him to do so would be to visit a mosque for a photo op. Just one fly in the ointment: No mosque, so far, will have him.

The problem, of course, is that Muslims are not stupid. They are aware that Trump has, just maybe, dabbled in a touch of Islamophobia during the campaign. As Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, explained: "Trump has proven himself to be a bigot. He is not ignorant—he is using ignorance to create fear and bigotry towards Muslims." That seems fairly unequivocal, so Trump & Co. might want to stop barking up this particular tree. (Z)

Beck Apologizes for Supporting Ted Cruz

The fallout from Ted Cruz's decision to endorse Donald Trump continues to mount. On Monday, television and radio talker Glenn Beck blasted the Texas Senator:

That was so calculated that it was stunning to me. I think I have to apologize and say, maybe, perhaps, those of you who said Ted Cruz is calculating and a smarmy politician, I think I may have to slightly agree with you and apologize for saying, "No, he wasn't."

This is very bad news for Cruz. He couldn't find a path to the nomination even with the hearty support of the far right. If they are now divided—and, in particular, if he loses the right-wing media types like Beck and Steve Deace, who were key to rallying the troops—it's hard to see how Cruz could possibly claim the GOP nomination in 2020. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

These polls are fairly consistent with what we've been seeing for the past week or two. It will be interesting to see if anything changes post-debate (Z)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Colorado 41% 42% 13% Sep 20 Sep 25 Opinion Research
Iowa 38% 38% 9% Sep 20 Sep 22 Loras College
Louisiana 35% 45% 6% Sep 22 Sep 24 JMC Analytics
Massachusetts 47% 34% 9% Sep 15 Sep 20 U. of Mass.
North Carolina 38% 35% 6% Sep 18 Sep 22 Meredith College
North Carolina 43% 42% 10% Sep 17 Sep 22 High Point U.
New York 52% 31% 7% Sep 21 Sep 23 Marist Coll.
Pennsylvania 42% 41% 4% Sep 12 Sep 23 Mercyhurst U.
Pennsylvania 45% 44% 8% Sep 20 Sep 25 Opinion Research
Virginia 39% 33% 15% Sep 15 Sep 23 Christopher Newport U.

Today's Senate Polls

Those Pennsylvania and North Carolina polls are saying pretty different things. One of each is presumably way off, but which one is it? (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Colorado Michael Bennet* 53% Darryl Glenn 43% Sep 20 Sep 25 Opinion Research
Iowa Patty Judge 37% Chuck Grassley* 54% Sep 20 Sep 22 Loras College
North Carolina Deborah Ross 38% Richard Burr* 35% Sep 18 Sep 22 Meredith College
North Carolina Deborah Ross 43% Richard Burr* 45% Sep 17 Sep 22 High Point U.
New York Chuck Schumer* 70% Wendy Long 24% Sep 21 Sep 23 Marist Coll.
Pennsylvania Katie McGinty 42% Pat Toomey* 43% Sep 12 Sep 23 Mercyhurst U.
Pennsylvania Katie McGinty 49% Pat Toomey* 46% Sep 20 Sep 25 Opinion Research

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep26 Trump Keeps Debate Prep Secret
Sep26 The Candidates and Moderator Will Be on Stage, but the Audience Also Matters
Sep26 Lester Holt Has the Toughest Job of All
Sep26 Priebus Predicts Trump Will Be Consistent and Measured
Sep26 Will the Debate Matter?
Sep26 Could This Be the Only Debate?
Sep26 Mook: Republicans Are Coming Home to Trump
Sep26 Maybe Democrats Shouldn't Be Nervous
Sep26 Politico Fact Checked Both Candidates for a Week
Sep26 Trump Campaign Hopes To Buy $140 Million in Ads
Sep26 HB-2 Has Already Cost North Carolina Almost $400 Million
Sep26 Bush May Make Another Run in 2020
Sep25 Nevada Is Proving Difficult for the Democrats
Sep25 Trump Accepts Cruz's Endorsement
Sep25 Cruz Begins 45-day Walk Along a Fine Line
Sep25 No Fortune 100 CEO Is Backing Trump
Sep25 New York Times Endorses Clinton
Sep25 Clinton Is Actively Chasing the Biggest Minority Group
Sep25 Philippe Reines Is Playing Trump in Clinton's Mock Debates
Sep25 Trump Might Put Gennifer Flowers in the Front Row Monday
Sep25 Trump Could Be a Harbinger Rather than an Aberration
Sep25 Appeals Court Strikes Down Ohio Voter Purge
Sep24 Ted Cruz Caves and Endorses Trump
Sep24 Cincinnati Enquirer Endorses Clinton
Sep24 Clinton's E-mails Will Not Be Released Before the Election
Sep24 Each Candidate Has Different Things to Think about before the Debate
Sep24 Trump's Money Woes Are Causing Internal Squabbles
Sep24 Trump Campaign: No Hablamos Español
Sep24 Eric Trump Says His Father Began With Just About Nothing
Sep24 Trump Adviser's Ties to Russia Being Investigated
Sep23 Ad Spending Reveals the Campaigns' Priorities
Sep23 Why Isn't Clinton 50 Points Ahead of Trump?
Sep23 75 Ambassadors Endorse Clinton
Sep23 Trump's Primary Opponents Give Advice on How to Debate Him
Sep23 How Trump Can Win the Debate
Sep23 Trump Warns Lester Holt About Fact-Checking
Sep23 Running for President for Fun and Profit
Sep23 Judge Rejects Attempts to Unseal Trump's Divorce Records
Sep23 Heck's Son Embarrasses Campaign
Sep22 Trump Attacks Washington Post Story about His Foundation
Sep22 Clinton's Bad September Could Help Her in the End
Sep22 Trump Supporters Respond to Fake Story about Trump's Taxes
Sep22 Trump Would Boost National Debt by More Than $5 Trillion
Sep22 Trump Endorses Stop-and-frisk as Solution to Inner-City Crime
Sep22 Cruz Considering Trump Endorsement
Sep22 About a Third of All Voters Are Voting Against Rather Than for a Candidate
Sep22 Trump Attacks Yellen for Helping Clinton
Sep22 Trump Could Continue to Run His Business from the White House
Sep22 Democrats Advise Clinton to Let Trump Hang Himself in Debate
Sep22 Political Commentary Is Full of Myths