THE MORNING PLUM:
This morning, at a disconcertingly early hour, Donald Trump tweeted:
Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2016
As Brian Stelter points out, this guarantees more news cycles will be spent on Trump’s battle with Machado. If so, it won’t be the first time. After Clinton brought Machado to the nation’s attention by declaring at the debate that Trump had previously humiliated this ex-Miss Universe for gaining weight, Trump helpfully went on national television and justified this by saying her weight gain had been “massive” and that she had not exactly been “Mother Teresa.” Trump simply can’t stop himself from taking the bait, and that continues this morning.
The “sex tape” angle here is sucking up all the attention. (Apparently, sex sells.) That appears to be a reference to reports about a steamy love scene that Machado filmed in 2005, though without further clarification, it’s hard to know for sure. As for her “past,” the Daily Beast recently ran through some of the more lurid allegations from during her days as a Venezuelan celebrity right here.
But all that is less interesting and revealing — no, really — than is Trump’s suggestion that Clinton helped Machado become a U.S. citizen so she could become a prop for Clinton at the debate.
It turns out that Trump is right in one sense. But it isn’t quite how he thinks.
Machado did in fact become a U.S. citizen in order to increase her influence over this presidential contest. She did so apparently to vote against Donald Trump, because she sees this as an an enormously consequential election.
We know this because Inside Edition did a segment on Machado back in August that reported: “This former Miss Universe says she’s becoming a citizen just in time to cast her vote — against Trump.” The Inside Edition report continued:
She told Inside Edition: “Today is a very important day for me; I am now a U.S. citizen. I am so proud and so inspired to be a U.S. citizen.”
She is urging her fellow Latin Americans to get out and register to vote. “This is a very important election,” she said.
Machado said she became an American citizen “for my daughter, my country, and to [exercise] my right to vote. The United States is in a very important moment and we need to take the power to go and vote.”
What Trump’s tweet really says is that Machado’s effort to secure the vote for herself is suspect, because Clinton may have helped smooth that process, to Clinton’s own benefit. This is a version of the longtime charge that Democrats only want to create a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants in order to pad the voter rolls in their favor, and surely this will thrill Trumpist voters who are very upset about the ways the country is rigged in favor of various minority groups.
But the merits of that argument aside, it is politically awful for Trump — given his need to expand his appeal — to be questioning this effort at political integration by a former Latina beauty queen who is publicly urging more Latinos to participate in the election and is publicly declaring her pride at becoming a U.S. citizen who can now exercise her right to vote.
The Clinton campaign has not yet commented. But it’s unclear how Clinton might have done this, if she had wanted to. Immigration attorney David Leopold tells me it’s conceivable but highly unlikely that the Clinton campaign encouraged Machado to become a citizen, but even so, that there’s no way any telephone calls, even if they had been made, would succeed in speeding the process. And in any case, Leopold notes, this process could take anywhere from five months to a year, so Clinton would have had to get involved many months ago. “It’s clear Trump has no idea how the citizenship process works,” Leopold says.
The ultimate irony of the whole tale is that the person who may have done the most to drive Machado to become a U.S. citizen and secure the vote for herself is one Donald J. Trump. And if the preliminary evidence proves to be right, Trump is driving many other Latinos to vote in this election for the first time, too.
* CLINTON LEADS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: A new WBUR poll finds that Clinton leads Trump among likely voters in New Hampshire by 42-35 in the four-way, and by 47-38 in the head-to-head. Voters there by a wide margin think Clinton won the debate, and now 62 percent say Trump is unfit to be president, while they say by 49-46 that Clinton is fit for it.
If Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Virginia hold for Clinton, she can win by adding just New Hampshire, provided Trump doesn’t pull off any surprise wins in blue-leaning states.
* CLINTON LEADS IN MICHIGAN: A new Detroit News poll finds that Clinton leads among likely voters in Michigan by 42-35, and leads by seven points in the head-to-head. This is interesting:
Trump’s bright spot is Macomb County, where he holds a 20-point lead. He has built a base of blue-collar support as he rails against international trade deals that he blames for the decline in manufacturing jobs in Michigan since Clinton’s husband was president.
Macomb County is the home of the original Reagan Democrat. If Clinton continues to lead in Michigan despite this, it makes it less likely that he picks off a blue Rust Belt state.
* CLINTON LEADS IN FLORIDA: Politico reports on a new Mason-Dixon poll that finds Clinton leading in Florida by 46-42. That’s only a two point shift in direction, but keep in mind, Florida is an absolute must-win for Trump.
* EVEN A SMALL DEBATE BOUNCE WOULD BOOST CLINTON: Nate Silver calculates that the post-debate polling so far suggests Clinton now has a three-to-five point national lead, which would mean:
With a 3-to-5-point lead nationally for Clinton, we’d expect to see the following in the swing states: A 4-to-8-point lead in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan, which have been slightly bluer than the national average this cycle…Somewhere between a tie and a 4-point Clinton lead in Florida and North Carolina, which have been slightly redder than the national average….A roughly tied race in Ohio and Iowa, which have been significantly redder than the national average.
If so, that would be a pretty solid position in the electoral college. But such a bounce could fade, and as Silver notes, we need more polling before we can really know where things are.
* TRUMP FOUNDATION DRAWS STILL MORE SCRUTINY: David Fahrenthold keeps the scoops coming:
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation — which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family — has never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public, according to the state attorney general’s office….If New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) finds that Trump’s foundation raised money in violation of the law, he could order the charity to stop raising money immediately.
Some are suggesting that Trump’s crazy tweetstorm this morning is meant to distract from this. But let’s stop assuming that every crazy thing Trump does is a fiendishly clever distraction plot.
* USA TODAY URGES VOTE AGAINST TRUMP: USA Today’s editorial board has never taken sides in a presidential race. But today, it publishes a scathing editorial urging readers not to vote for Trump, for these reasons:
This year, one of the candidates…is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency….He is erratic….He is ill-equipped to be commander in chief….He traffics in prejudice….His business career is checkered…He speaks recklessly…He has coarsened the national dialogue….He’s a serial liar.
The USA Today edit board is divided over whether it should endorse Clinton. But this once again underscores the lopsided nature of their relative qualifications and fitness for the presidency.