John McCain celebrates his victory Tuesday night in the Arizona Republican primary. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

THE BIG IDEA: Senate Republicans have privately polled for months to figure out the best way to survive if Donald Trump continued to be a drag on their down-ballot candidates. They’ve closely studied the lessons of 1996, when the GOP gained Senate seats even as Bob Dole lost the presidency. They’ve weighed the risks of turning off portions of their base against the rewards of winning over voters who are repulsed by their nominee.

Ahead of Labor Day, which marks the start of the fall campaign, Republicans across the country are beginning to put the plan into effect.

“My opponent, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, is a good person,” John McCain says in a glossy new campaign video. “But, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp, to the White House.”

"No matter which side of the presidential election you’re on, whether you’re satisfied or dissatisfied with your choices for president, this election is an important one,” Arizona’s senior senator adds. "Ann Kirkpatrick won’t oppose higher taxes. She won’t oppose more federal spending. And she won’t oppose increased debts that slow economic growth. … I will.”

The video, which makes no mention of Trump, is the clearest signal yet that some Senate Republicans in tough races will more visibly break with the nominee in the coming weeks. It posted online just one day after McCain won a competitive primary and within hours of the presidential nominee delivering his hardline immigration speech in Phoenix. McCain skipped that event, opting to stay at his ranch 115 miles to the north in Sedona.

A CNN poll released last week put McCain up 13 points (52-39) and Trump up 5 points (49-44). But McCain’s own team cautions that the race is closer, and a subsequent survey conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, albeit for a liberal interest group, found McCain tied with Kirkpatrick (43-43) and Trump up 3 points (46-43).

-- Republicans need a historically unusual amount of split-ticket voting to maintain their majority. A brand new poll from Suffolk University and USA Today gives them hope: One-third of Clinton’s supporters say they are "very likely" to split their votes—that is vote for her and then a GOP congressional candidate. Another 20 percent say they are "somewhat" likely. “In contrast, a majority of Trump supporters say they probably or definitely will vote only for Republicans,” Susan Page notes. “The voters most likely to say they are very likely to split their votes include self-described moderates (41%), those with annual household incomes above $100,000 (41%) … and Hispanics (37%).”

-- Republicans have launched two other ads this week that use Clinton as a foil.

In a state Trump is likely to win, Indiana, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is linking Evan Bayh with the former secretary of state. “His D.C. charitable foundation helped finance the Clinton Foundation but cut off contributions to local charities he once backed,” a narrator says. “Stiffing Hoosiers who suffer to pad Clinton's slush fund.”

In Ohio, Rob Portman is significantly outperforming Trump in the polls. But his challenger, Ted Strickland, used to represent coal country in the House. So Portman is running ads in the Appalachian region, where Strickland is more popular than Clinton, tying the two together. “Like a turncoat, he sided with Barack and Hillary when he went to Washington,” a coal miner says to camera. "Ted Strickland siding with Hillary Clinton is a slap to the face,” says another. “They want to put us good-working, hard-working coal miners out of jobs.”

-- In both Arizona and nationally, most voters believe Hillary will ultimately win. This makes the check-and-balance argument more palatable. McCain’s strategy is to talk about Trump as little as possible. His new video notably is not a paid advertisement. In some ways, it feels like a trial balloon. In other ways, it feels like a way to telegraph to outside groups how the campaign wants them to approach the next nine weeks.

-- Ann Kirkpatrick, his centrist Democratic challenger, has hammered McCain relentlessly for supporting Trump. A recent web video contrasted the senator endorsing the GOP nominee against Trump accusing McCain of not being a real war hero, failing veterans and being a “dummy” because he finished near the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. “The biggest vulnerability I hear about John McCain is that he didn’t stand up to Trump when Trump insulted him. People are just saying: ‘If he doesn’t stand up for himself, he won’t stand up for us',” Kirkpatrick told Politico this week.

-- Sensing opportunity, the Clinton campaign has decided to spend six figures, beginning this morning, to run its own TV commercial in Arizona. It’s one of just nine states in which the Democratic nominee is advertising. They’re also investing in a field operation, and her strategists say they are closely monitoring polling to see whether a bigger play is warranted.

A coalition is also aggressively trying to get 75,000 new Latinos on the rolls by November, and all the major Spanish-language channels have agreed to run at saturation levels a public service announcement urging Hispanics to vote.

Mitt Romney carried Arizona, and its 11 electoral votes, by 9 points four years ago. Only one Democrat has won there since 1952: Bill Clinton in 1996…

Bob and Elizabeth Dole at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

-- Not coincidentally, 1996 is the last time Republicans employed this strategy of running as a check-and-balance on the likely Democratic victor. Back then, they waited until mid-October to start. But that was before early voting was common, so GOP strategists do not feel like they have time to waste.

The National Republican Congressional Committee could literally use the same script from 18 years ago. Watch their ad:

-- If the election was today, Republicans would probably lose the Senate. Assuming Tim Kaine becomes vice president, Democrats need four pick-ups. Yesterday Larry Sabato and his handicappers at the University of Virginia moved five races towards Democrats. Indiana, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania went from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.” Illinois and Wisconsin moved from “leans Democratic” to “likely Democratic.” Ohio and Florida, where Rob Portman and Marco Rubio are running good races, moved from “toss-ups” to “leans Republican.” Nevada, the only competitive race where Democrats are playing defense, is tied and could go either way. And the map continues to expand in surprising ways, with states like Missouri and North Carolina looking more competitive than expected. Sabato also moved Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson yesterday from “safe” to a “likely” hold.

Chuck Grassley (Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)

-- Another very telling sign of how scared Senate Republicans are running right now: Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, seeking a seventh term, has never been reelected with less than 64 percent of the vote. But the latest CBS/YouGov poll puts him in dangerous territory: up just 7 points (45 percent to 38 percent). So this week he launched his first negative ad since 1998.

It’s thin gruel. The commercial hits former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge for not voluntarily taking a pay cut when the Great Recession led to a state budget deficit. Grassley, of course, has accepted many pay increases when the federal deficit was much larger…

The senator’s campaign manager says more attack spots are on the way…

-- What a year: More has been spent in 2016 on general-election broadcast television ads targeting Senate contests than on those for the White House race. Bloomberg’s John McCormick, using data from ad-tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, tabulates that $129.3 million has been spent on the general-election phase of 18 Senate races, compared to $128.4 million that's been plowed into TV ads for the presidential campaign. At this point in 2012, $350 million had been spent on general-election ads for the presidential race, while just $70 million had been spent on 22 Senate races. In 2008, it was $127 million for the presidential compared to $20 million for 15 Senate races. Overall, this year, 165,123 broadcast television spots have run in Senate races and 147,299 have run in the presidential.

No one would have predicted that discrepancy a year ago. But Trump has spent little on TV ads, and deep-pocketed conservative donors, including the Koch network, are steering clear of the presidential altogether and investing their resources in trying to save the Senate for Republicans.

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Martha Raddatz, seen here at the 2012 vice presidential debate, will moderate one of this year's presidential debates. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The Commission on Presidential Debates this morning announced the moderators for the debates:

First debate: NBC’s Lester Holt (September 26)

Second debate (town-hall-style meeting): ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper (October 9)

Third debate: Fox News’s Chris Wallace (October 19)

Vice presidential debate: CBS’s Elaine Quijano (October 4)

C-SPAN’s Steve Scully will serve as backup moderator for all the debates.

-- The momentum in the American labor market slowed in August, but the economy still added a solid 151,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent, the Labor Department announced. “Those results were slightly more disappointing than analysts had anticipated, though they were not weak enough to indicate that the recovery has been derailed,” Ylan Q. Mui reports. “Other recent measures of the job market have shown strength: A private estimate of job growth by ADP was largely in line with expectations, while new filings for unemployment benefits remained low. August’s results follow a surge of hiring this summer that helped ease investor anxiety over turbulence in the global economy that weighed on the U.S. recovery during the first half of the year.”

Eastpoint, Florida (Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

-- Hermine stormed onto Florida’s Gulf coast as a Category 1 hurricane early this morning — the strongest storm to hit Florida in more than a decade — bringing pounding rain, 80 mph winds and sea surges that forced some evacuations as the system began its crawl up the Atlantic coast. “Hermine was downgraded to a tropical storm shortly before 5 a.m., but still packed sustained winds of near 70 mph moving into southern Georgia,” Kevin Begos and Brian Murphy report. “The storm then weakened as it drifted inland.”

  • Just before dawn, the storm was centered about 20 miles west of Valdosta, Ga., and moving north-northeast near 14 mph on a path that was expected to follow the Atlantic seaboard to North Carolina before moving back into the open ocean.
  • Officials in Florida’s Pasco County said coastal flooding forced at least 18 people from their homes.
  • Torrential rain lashed parts of Florida with more than 22 inches drenching Oldsmar, about 10 miles northwest of Tampa, and more than 15 inches of rain hitting nearby Largo.
  • In Georgia, power was cut to more than 30,000 homes and businesses.
  • Hermine is the first hurricane to hit Florida since Wilma in October 2005.

Good news: “It now appears likely that the Hermine will track far enough off the East Coast to spare the Interstate 95 corridor the storm’s worst,” per our in-house meteorologist Jason Samenow. “A graze is most likely – meaning showery weather is more likely than a driving, wind-swept rain. The storm could even totally miss the area. But coastal areas from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Jersey Shore may well get slammed. … A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Outer Banks and a tropical storm watch for the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey beaches. It’s important to recognize that the track of Hermine is still in flux and changes could still have meaningful implications for the entire region. Everyone should continue to monitor forecasts and have a Plan B.”

-- Samsung has recalled all of its Galaxy 7 smartphones after battery explosions. "Samsung’s Note 7s are being pulled from shelves in 10 countries, including South Korea and the United States, just two weeks after the product’s launch. Customers who already bought Note 7s will be able to swap them for new smartphones in about two weeks." (Associated Press)

A Jesuit statue is seen in front of Freedom Hall, formerly named Mulledy Hall, on the Georgetown campus. Two buildings named for slaveholders were renamed to Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

-- Georgetown University, aiming to atone for profiting off the sale of 272 slaves two centuries ago, will give preferential admissions treatment to the descendants of those slaves. President John J. DeGioa announced that he will formally apologize, create a new institute for the study of slavery and build a memorial to the slaves, who were sold in 1838 to help stave off the Jesuit school's financial troubles. (Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. John W. Hinckley Jr., President Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin, will be permanently released to his mother’s Williamsburg, Va., home on Sept. 10. (Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu)
  2. Be careful of frozen strawberries: 70 cases of hepatitis A in seven states have been linked to a tainted supply shipped to the United States from Egypt and served by a popular smoothie restaurant chain. Most of the cases of the liver infection caused by the virus are in the Mid-Atlantic area. Virginia has 55 cases, and Maryland has six, the CDC says. As of now, 32 people have been hospitalized. (Travis Andrews)
  3. Thousands of Venezuelans marched in what is being called "the taking of Caracas" to demand the recall of Nicolas Maduro. People are angry about deteriorating economic conditions. The protest was organized by the president's political opponents. (Mariana Zuniga) 
  4. There were 90 homicides in Chicago in August, a number that most major U.S. cities did not match during the entire first six months of 2016. The country’s third-biggest city has had more homicides this year than the only two bigger American cities — New York and Los Angeles — combined. ( Mark Berman)
  5. Tests confirmed that mosquitos in Miami Beach contain the Zika virus, disappointing officials who believed the virus had been contained. All three samples came from the same small area in which cases have previously been confirmed. (New York Times)
  6. Allegiant Air, which markets ultra-low fares, is drawing FAA attention over safety concerns. (Steven Mufson and Ashley Halsey III)
  7. Mother Teresa will be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday. WSJ)

  8. China is tightening its regulation of online maps because the government wants them to reflect that it controls islands in the East and South China Sea. (AP)

  9. Paul Finebaum, the ESPN radio and SEC commentator, has apologized for saying, in a discussion of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, that “this country does not oppress black people.” (Cindy Boren)

Hillary Clinton in Cincinnati on Wednesday (Ty Wright/Bloomberg)

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- Hillary Clinton raised $143 million for her campaign and the party in August, a record-breaking month. Donors gave $62 million to her campaign committee and another $81 million for the party (up from a total of $90 million she raised for both entities in July). The Democratic nominee enters July with $68 million in the bank. (Matea Gold)

-- The Romanian hacker "Guccifer" who first revealed that Clinton used a private email address as secretary of state was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Marcel Lehel Lazar, 52, was extradited to the U.S. in 2014 and pleaded guilty in May to one count each of aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to a private computer. Guccifer admitted to hacking over 100 Americans, including Sidney Blumenthal and confidants of George W. Bush and and Colin Powell. (Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu)

-- In an interview with Bloomberg, Vladimir Putin called the hacking of the DNC a service to the public but denied the claims of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia’s government had anything to do with it. “Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?’’ Putin said in an interview at the Pacific port city of Vladivostok on Thursday. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.’’ The emails dropped on the eve of the Democratic convention. “There’s no need to distract the public’s attention from the essence of the problem by raising some minor issues connected with the search for who did it,” Putin said of the DNC breach. “But I want to tell you again, I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this.” He talked for two hours and, trying to troll Clinton, expressed faux outrage that the party tipped the scales in her favor over Bernie Sanders.

-- Emails released yesterday by the conservative group Judicial Watch that seek to prove that the State Department offered favors to Clinton Foundation donors while Hillary was secretary are not what they seem, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman write: "In fact, many of the emails touted by Judicial Watch concern a once-secret mission to North Korea by former president Bill Clinton that led to the release of two American journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for spying. The highlighted emails centered around a moment widely considered a Clinton success, providing the campaign an opening to chide a longtime antagonist whose ongoing litigation against the State Department has produced a series of embarrassing revelations."

-- The State Department promised to give the Associated Press all of Clinton's "detailed planning schedules" as secretary by mid-October. "The minute-by-minute schedules offer a detailed look at Clinton's daily routine during her four-year tenure," the AP explains. "The department has so far released about half of her more complete daily schedule." The agreement was struck after the AP objected to the offer of releasing the schedules by Dec. 30.

-- Bill Clinton used taxpayer money to subsidize equipment at the Clinton Foundation and to support his wife's private email server as secretary of state, Politico's Ken Vogel reports: "Taxpayer cash was used to buy IT equipment — including servers — housed at the Clinton Foundation, and also to supplement the pay and benefits of several aides now at the center of the email and cash-for-access scandals dogging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign." Vogel notes that nothing done was illegal but the incident points out the blurry lines between the State Dept. under Hillary, the Clinton foundation and the couple's business interests. The money came from a longstanding federal program intended to maintain the dignity of former presidents when they leave office: "The Act authorizes the GSA to fund the pensions, correspondence, support staff and travel of ex-presidents ... But even as the Clintons got rich and grew their foundation into a $2 billion organization credited with major victories in the fights against childhood obesity and AIDS — while paying six-figure salaries to top aides — Bill Clinton continued drawing more cash from the Former President's Act than any other ex-president."

-- Vice President Joe Biden would not directly answer when asked whether the Clinton Foundation has been "100 percent ethical" in its practices. Asked on a trip to Scranton, Pa.,  by NBC, Biden responded to the question this way:  "Look, I think the Clinton Foundation like all foundations have found themselves in a position where things are changing, and I think she's gonna change and adjust to the realities of, of how complicated it's all become."

Donald walks in the rain last week with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as they arrive for a rally in Tampa. After he donated to her campaign, she decided not to pursue a fraud case against Trump University and has since become one of his most active surrogates in the Sunshine State. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- Trump paid a $2,500 IRS penalty after his charitable foundation violated tax laws by contributing to a political campaign group linked to the Florida attorney general. From David Fahrenthold: "The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case. ... [A senior vice president at the Trump Organization] said that Trump had also personally reimbursed the Trump Foundation for $25,000, covering the full value of the improper gift."

David Bossie led Citizens United when it won the 2010 Supreme Court case that opened the floodgates of outside money. (File)

-- Trump hired conservative firebrand David Bossie as his deputy campaign manager, Robert Costa reports. Bossie has spent decades investigating the Clintons and, as the head of Citizens United, spearheaded the watershed 2010 Supreme Court case that opened the doors for a tidal wave of big money being poured into elections. He's a confidant of campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and chair Stephen Bannon, as well as the Mercer family, which is heavily funding Trump's campaign. Bossie is expected to use his years of experience investigating the Clintons -- he left the "Defeat Crooked Hillary" super PAC for his new gig -- to mount attacks on the Democrat and deepen the GOP nominee's ties to the conservative community. 

Bossie was introduced to his new colleagues as he participated in strategy sessions on Thursday at Trump Tower. Conway said he will help with both day-to-day operations and overall strategy.

If you've forgotten Bossie's history, check out this 1997 piece from The Post's archives by Lloyd Grove, who described him as a "32-year-old college dropout and firefighter, the man who has become the nation's leading impresario of Clinton White House scandals": "Bossie lives at Firehouse 15 in Burtonsville, sleeping fitfully between alarms in a Spartan bunk bed. He ran 423 emergency calls last year, everything from delivering babies to dousing house blazes to cutting trapped victims out of car wrecks. But he's far better known as the most visible investigator on Republican Rep. Dan Burton's Government Reform and Oversight Committee. ... Since the 1992 presidential campaign, when he was a top official of the right-wing lobby Citizens United, publisher of the Clinton-bashing paperback, 'Slick Willie' -- in which Citizens United president Floyd Brown called Bossie 'the bloodhound who sniffed out many of the interesting stories enclosed' -- friends of Clinton have had Bossie in their sights." 

Clinton campaign chair John Podesta did not mince words in attacking the new hire: "David Bossie is so craven and maniacal that in the heyday of the overreaching, Gingrich-era Congress, the top Whitewater conspiracy theorist in the House had to fire him for doctoring evidence. He has devoted his career ever since to trying to tear down Hillary Clinton. For months now, Citizens United has been acting as an arm of the Trump campaign, and this hiring of Bossie now makes it official. This is just the latest sign that Donald Trump has put the most extreme elements of the right-wing fringe in the driver's seat of his campaign."

Trump campaigns yesterday in Wilmington, Ohio. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

-- Tick tock: “How Trump got from Point A to Point A on immigration,” by Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker: “The morning after Trump once again embraced his hard-line immigration posture in a shouted speech, at least four members of his two-week-old Hispanic advisory council said they might not vote for the Republican nominee and warned that his harsh rhetoric would cost him the election. At meetings Thursday on the 14th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan, the candidate’s top aides held the opposite view. They thought his tough talk on immigration — combined with a whirlwind trip to Mexico on Wednesday — had, in the words of one adviser, ‘won him the election.’ ‘How do you like our poll numbers?’ Trump excitedly asked in a brief telephone interview with The Washington Post on Thursday. … In the end, the debate within the Trump campaign turned out to be about messaging rather than policy.”

Why the hardliners won: “Some Trump advisers told him that many voters like his stubborn dedication to issues that other politicians won’t touch, and warned that flip-flopping on immigration would make him no different from the career politicians … These advisers urged Trump to use tough, nativist language in his immigration speech in Phoenix on Wednesday to create as sharp a contrast as possible with Clinton. They argued that by showing strength and force of leadership, Trump will attract undecided voters. ‘The people that won this debate said, ‘Look, this is what got us here, and we can’t abandon it,’’ one Trump adviser said Thursday … ‘There were many of us who made input, and it was clear that the hold-the-line people, we had more sway with him. I think the political calculation is, you can’t abandon the base.’”

-- Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he revised his Phoenix speech at the last minute because of a tweet by Mexico’s president. His draft omitted the usual line that Mexico would have to pay for his wall. But then Enrique Peña Nieto had tweeted that he had told Trump that his country would refuse to pay for the wall. From Monica Langley: “Mr. Trump was peeved that Mr. Peña Nieto had gone public with the fact that the Mexican president had broken what Mr. Trump considered a deal to keep the question of paying for the wall off the table at their initial meeting. So Mr. Trump hurriedly inserted a new sentence in his immigration speech, and he soon boomed out from the podium his traditional declaration that the wall would be paid for by Mexico—adding, ‘They don’t know it yet but they’re going to pay for the wall.’ ‘I had no choice,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview on Thursday.”

-- Matea Gold takes us inside how how Trump charms wealthy donors -- by seeking their advice: "John Rakolta Jr. was skeptical as he headed to a private meeting with Donald Trump in July at Chicago’s Trump International Hotel ... But the Trump whom Rakolta encountered in a suite on the 27th floor was nothing like the provocateur he expected. 'He is extremely soft-spoken,' Rakolta said. 'None of the stuff that I imagined.' ... Private meetings with top contributors turn into strategy brainstorming sessions. High-priced dinner fundraisers are transformed into impromptu focus groups. During a July lunch at a Southampton, N.Y., estate, he spent at least an hour asking the 60 heavyweight contributors in attendance to each share their pick of whom he should tap as his running mate. At a photo line with donors in Minneapolis in August, he polled whether he should continue using a teleprompter at public events."

-- A leaked script shows how Trump plans to approach his visit to an African-American church in Detroit on Saturday, per The New York Times's Yamiche Alcindor. Trump is consulting black Republicans in prepping for a closed-press interview with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International as part of his ongoing effort to reach out to the black community. "An eight-page draft script obtained by The New York Times shows 12 questions ...  intends to ask Mr. Trump during the taped question-and-answer session, as well as the responses Mr. Trump is being advised to give ... When asked about his vision for black Americans, the script suggests that Mr. Trump stay positive, advising that he use lines such as 'If we are to make America great again, we must reduce, rather than highlight, issues of race in this country' and 'I want to make race disappear as a factor in government and governance.'"

"To a question submitted by Bishop Jackson about whether his campaign is racist, the script suggests that Mr. Trump avoid repeating the word, and instead speak about improving education and getting people off welfare and back to work. 'The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding,' Mr. Trump is advised to say. 'Coming into a community is meaningless unless we offer an alternative to the horrible progressive agenda that has perpetuated a permanent underclass in America.'"

-- Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is remaining unusually silent about the U.S. presidential race, refusing to weigh in, per New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Peter Baker. "The unusual reluctance comes after years of toxic relations between him and Mr. Obama, culminating in an acrid public feud over the American-brokered nuclear agreement with Iran. With Mr. Netanyahu seemingly aligning himself during that fight with Mr. Obama’s Republican critics, some Israel backers feared the country was squandering its traditional bipartisan support. The prime minister now seems intent on extricating himself from the partisan tussle. 'Everybody understands here in Israel that the most important thing for us is to go back to where we were for the last 68 years, which is bipartisan,' said Yair Lapid, a centrist party leader who hopes to succeed Mr. Netanyahu. 'This is why nobody will take sides in a presidential campaign.'"

Melania Trump at the RNC (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

-- Melania Trump is suing a British web site and Maryland blogger for alleging that she was previously an escort. The suit seeks a minimum of $75,000 from the The Daily Mail Online and Montgomery County blogger Webster Tarpley. Trump has hired attorney Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in his suit against Gawker. (Associated Press)

-- NBA star Dwyane Wade said he was "conflicted" by Trump's tweet about his cousin's death:

-- The Trump campaign is requiring volunteers to sign an onerous and restrictive non-disclosure agreements before they phone bank! The Cincinnati Enquirer writes up the 2,271-word document, in which people who want to help out must sign away their right to “compete against or say anything bad about Trump, his company, his family members or products – now and forever.”

-- Amateur hour: Donald's team promised at the beginning of last month to soon open 24 field offices in Florida. As of today, they’ve opened zero. (Bloomberg)

-- Trump's pollster has a theory of the case for how to get to 270, but no one on the campaign appears to be implementing it, according to a damning account by Politico’s Alex Isenstadt: “In mid-August, Trump’s campaign team gathered with RNC officials at the candidate’s Washington, D.C.-area office to discuss the swing-state map and a deployment plan that would make their difficult Electoral College math work. … Trump’s chief pollster, Tony Fabrizio, laid out a path that required the team to divide states into four tiers — with Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania sitting in Tier One. In the next were Arizona and North Carolina, which Romney carried but where Democrats are hoping to compete this time around. There were also Nevada and Iowa, which Democrats won in 2012 but where Trump is running competitively. The third tier included traditionally conservative states — Georgia, Missouri and Indiana — that Trump would need to keep an eye on. In the final tier were a half-dozen states, including Michigan, Virginia and New Hampshire, that Obama won four years ago. Whether to invest resources into those states would depend on costs, the strength of Trump’s campaign in each of those states and an autumn assessment of the potential for a win. To those present, the plan was persuasive — and seemed to offer a coherent blueprint for the campaign to allocate resources. Yet, two weeks later and 20 days from the start of early voting, it’s not clear the plan is being implemented.”

-- “Following a multitude of on-air slip-ups from Trump television surrogates that resulted in a series of embarrassing headlines, some advisers — which, according to one source included Newt Gingrich — urged the campaign to alter the process for determining who is allowed to represent the campaign on TV news programs,” Isenstadt adds. “Greater control of surrogates, they concluded, was a must — and freelancing simply couldn’t happen anymore. On Wednesday evening, Bryan Lanza, a Trump press aide who oversees the surrogate operation, sent an email to staff informing them that changes were coming. ‘We are having too many issues of surrogates booking their media hits independently,’ Lanza wrote, adding that surrogates now needed to contact him before going on air. ‘I will take care of all your booking needs. PLEASE DO NOT BOOK ON YOUR OWN ANYMORE.’”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Hawaiian photographers took over the White House Instagram account:

Lots of buzz about Bossie:

From our reporter, who broke the Bossie news:

Conway isn't letting up on Clinton health attacks:

A Mexican-born Trump surrogate went on MSNBC to defend his candidate's hardline position on immigration. “My culture is a very dominant culture," he said. "And it’s imposing and its causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner!" Click the tweet to see the video:

Media elites on Twitter endlessly mocked the dire warning of "taco stands on every corner":

A New York Times reporter:

A New Yorker writer:

The spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign:

A senior editor at Business Insider:

Maybe this was the actual goal all along?

Vanity Fair contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald went on an anti-Trump tweetstorm:

There was more buzz about Trump's inflammatory immigration speech. This from the former U.S. ambassador to Russia:

This photoshopped image is making the rounds on the left:

Chris Murphy is walking across Connecticut over August recess. He's just embarked on day five. Here's his path yesterday:

He ran into rain:

Michigan's junior senator continues his motorcyle tour across the state:

DAYBOOK:

The president will fly from Honolulu to Hangzhou, China.

The vice president is in Wilmington, Delaware.

Trump receives his second classified security briefing in New York City.

Chuck Todd will interview Mike Pence in person at tomorrow’s Ohio State game for "Meet the Press."

Tim Kaine is going to give “a major national security speech” in Delaware next Tuesday.

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- It’s going to be a spectacular day, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Best calm before (potential) storm, ever. More sun than clouds, and finally some average high temperatures for this time of year — low 80s is a good general target, plus or minus — which we can really enjoy thanks to low humidity. Dew points in the 50s! North-northeasterly breezes refresh as they blow about 10 mph. High clouds may technically make the Nice Day stamp a false rating, but it will be close. It’s the nicest day in a while.”

-- Weathered bolts caused a chunk of the ceiling to fall to the ground at Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, and the station remains closed. “Metro said the defective component was a metal bracket used to fill a 6-inch gap between a platform beam and the escalator support frame,” per Faiz Siddiqui.

-- An 18-year-old Montgomery County man was ordered held on $5 million bond after he allegedly used a kitchen knife to repeatedly stab a pregnant woman because he didn’t want to be a father. The suspect, Dakota Brothers, tried to kill the 19-year-old and end the pregnancy during an attack Wednesday afternoon in a wooded area, police said. (Dan Morse)

-- A botched $40 marijuana deal in a McDonald’s bathroom led to that shooting outside the Verizon Center. (Peter Hermann)

-- A Republican state senator who sued Gov. Terry McAuliffe over the governor’s efforts to restore voting rights to felons filed legislation to automatically grant political rights to certain nonviolent criminals. Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) filed the proposed constitutional amendment one day after he and other Republicans announced that they were taking McAuliffe (D) back to court over his latest attempt at rights restoration. ( Laura Vozzella)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

An explosion at a SpaceX launch site in Florida occurred during a static test fire. The explosion destroyed a satellite that Facebook helped to fund, which was designed to provide Internet access to areas in Africa. Read the story. Watch the video:

A new Clinton campaign web video says Trump embarrassed himself in Mexico:

Obama, visiting Midway, reflected on the courage of American G.I.'s in WWII:

Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama and Seth Meyers spoke to freshmen at Howard University. “College was the most important thing I’ve done in my life, other than being first lady, having kids and marrying Barack Obama,” she said to laughter. “It taught me I could leave home and be successful away from home. ... Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?”

Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) crosses the border between the U.S. and Mexico:

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox responds to Trump's visit to his country:

Jeff Ross talks about Ann Coulter being roasted by comedians earlier this week: