Job seekers speak with recruiters at a veterans job fair in Cleveland last week. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

With Breanne Deppisch:

THE BIG IDEA: 

-- An annual report from the Census Bureau includes a raft of positive economic data:

  • In 2015, middle-class families got their biggest pay raises in 50 years. Median household income rose 5.2 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • There were 3.5 million fewer Americans living in poverty last year than the year before, a 1.2 percent decline, the steepest since 1968.
  • Another 4 million gained health insurance in 2015, decreasing the nation’s uninsured rate to 9.1 percent, the lowest level since before the Great Recession.
  • The gender pay gap is at a record low, though women still make an unacceptable 80 cents for every dollar men earn.

-- Other indicators also demonstrate meaningful progress:

  • The unemployment rate has declined to 4.9 percent. That’s half of what it was at this point seven years ago.
  • The markets have had a couple rough days, but all three major stock indexes hit record highs last month.
  • The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index is near its pre-recession high.
  • Net private business investment had recovered to pre-recession levels.
  • The Agriculture Department last week released a data set showing that the number of Americans who go to sleep hungry declined substantially last year for the first time since the recession.
  • Home foreclosures continue to drop off markedly.
  • A glut of oil on the global market means gasoline is cheap and will continue to be into 2017.

-- Despite all of this, every single poll shows that more than six in 10 Americans feel the country is on the wrong track. A George Washington University Battleground poll published last week, for example, found that just 27 percent think America is moving in the right direction and 66 percent think we’re moving the wrong direction.

-- So what the heck is going on? I canvassed pollsters and other experts to get their perspective on the apparent disconnect. Here are the dozen most interesting responses:

Kellyanne Conway confers with Trump in Ohio on Sept. 5. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, a pollster by training and background: “We noticed a number of years ago that the responses to the wrong track question are not purely economic,” she emailed at 12:45 a.m. after a long day on the trail. “In fact, for many Americans, they are not connected to politics or policy at all. We who work in the polling/media/politics axis mistakenly assume they are. While one's attitudes toward the state of the nation are related to one's economic condition, other cultural, attitudinal and situational factors are also in play. Frustration and pessimism seem to have reached a fever pitch for many folks, too.”

Scott Clement, director of The Post’s polling unit, noted that the average American is making less today than he or she was 15 years ago. Real median household income was $56,500 in 2015, the Census bureau reported, up from $53,700 in 2014. But that’s below the peak median income registered in 1999 — $57,909. “While these reports are ‘good,’ some represent a return to previous economic levels before the recession, not outright improvement,” he said. “A Quinnipiac poll in May asked voters to rate the economy – 2 percent called it ‘excellent,’ 30 percent ‘good,’ 40 percent ‘not so good’ and 27 percent ‘poor.’ That’s better than the single digits seen in the depths of the recession, but it’s still a net negative.”

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, noted that only one-third of likely voters in his most recent national poll said the U.S. is in economic recovery. The rest said we are in a period of stagnation, recession, or depression. “It’s like a person who goes to the doctor, and all the tests come back kosher. But the patient still feels sick,” Paleologos said by phone last night. “With the body politic, you have the same kind of thing right now. Science shows a healthy body, but it’s not showing up in the polls.”

Democratic pollster Margie Omero, who co-hosts the “The Pollsters” podcast: “Gallup continues to show voters naming ‘dissatisfaction with government’ about as big of a problem as ‘the economy in general.’ And barely half consider themselves ‘extremely proud’ to be American--a new low. There's this sense that our country is adrift, our politics are beyond repair, and even our personal relationships likely ruined by partisan divisions. For many Americans, this all makes the economic gains we've had over the last eight years feel fragile. Ironically, this worry about our new toxic partisan climate is one of the few things on which Democrats and Republicans can agree.”

A "now hiring" sign in San Francisco (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute: "This seems to be first recovery where we haven’t seen an increase in consumer confidence that matches the increase in other objective metrics. In other words, the larger economy may have improved, but people are worried about the rug being pulled out from under them. In past (business) cycles, people were more hopeful, expecting they would have to deal with fluctuations but that there would always be an upturn at the end. This time, people are not ‘enjoying’ the recovery. Rather they are worried about an even worse downturn just around the corner because the American economy is not as resilient as it once was.”

“On the political side, the gridlock in Washington and State Houses across the country means people don’t have faith in the system – including leaders from their own side of the political spectrum,” Murray added. “Opinion on the post-2008 recovery measures was that they benefitted the very rich and to some degree the poor, leaving the middle class to shoulder the burden. So they are worried about the government response leaving them further behind the next time a recession hits.

Marist University pollster Lee Miringoff, who partners with NBC, the Wall Street Journal and McClatchy: “I’m not surprised there’s a lag in public opinion. People are so conditioned to economic indicators being oaky at one level but on the other level they’re not seeing it in their disposable incomes. The improvement in the numbers will take some time before that sinks in.” But he also thinks it can be attributed to the broader loss of faith across institutions, from government to religion and the news media. “This is the disaffection we’re hearing so much about,” he said.

Rural America is being left behind. (iStock)

Wonkblog’s Jim Tankersley notes that certain, very specific groups were left behind by the gains of 2015: “All of the income gains effectively came in cities and suburbs, while none of them flowed to rural areas,” he writes on the front page of today’s Post. “In states that expanded Medicaid, allowing more low-income people to be eligible, the uninsured rate in 2015 was 7.2 percent. In states that did not expand, the rate was 12.3 percent.”

The Morning Consult is in the field with a daily tracking poll that includes this question, and it has stayed remarkably consistent all year. Close to 75 percent of their respondents believe the country has “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” Pollster Kyle Dropp, aggregating the responses of more than 308,000 survey participants, shows how various groups divide on the right track/wrong track question:

Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer: Right/wrong track has been politicized. It does not track with economic well-being as much as liking who’s in charge. You need look no further than the crosstab showing party against right/wrong track,” emailed Selzer, who became famous for her remarkably accurate Des Moines Register polls and has been conducting Bloomberg’s surveys this cycle. “If there is a Democratic president, Democrats most commonly say things are on the right track while Republicans most commonly say things are on the wrong track. And vice-versa.”

Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart of Hart Research: “For the moment, I believe the right direction/wrong track question has lost its usefulness. Over a 45 year life of this question, it has tracked within 20 percent of the president’s positive job rating. That is, if the president is at 50 percent positive, then right direction is at 30 percent or more. Today, and for much of the year, America has been out of sorts. Simply put, the country is no longer really judging where we are in current terms (between the campaign, the fear of terrorism, racial conflict, the struggle to get out from a terrible recession), but how we feel about where we have been. If it were a good barometer, (Barack) Obama’s numbers would be lower. I think much of this is aimed at the quality of the 2016 campaign, and the uncertainty about what is ahead with these candidates. So for the last six months, I have dropped this from my speeches. Also, I believe the high negative numbers are not about the present, but the sense of uncertainty about where we are headed. This presidential campaign has been chaotic and full of doubt. I believe some of the wrong direction is the campaign of the horribles.”

Barack Obama speaks at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia yesterday. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Tom Jensen, who runs the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling: Republicans pretty much universally say they think the country is on the wrong track because they don’t like the president and don’t want to give him any credit. One set of findings we had that really drove that home is that nationally 64 percent of Republicans say the unemployment rate has increased under President Obama, to only 27 percent who say it’s decreased. And 57 percent say the stock market has gone down under Obama, to only 27 percent who say it’s gone up. Obviously, when you see voters saying something that’s just very objectively wrong they don’t care about the actual statistics. Their assessments on that question are just driven by emotion and their negative feelings toward President Obama.”

“The second piece of it is that obviously a decent share of Democrats feel like the country is going in the wrong direction too,” Jensen added. “A lot of people of color and those who care about people of color are very disheartened by things like the high profile police shootings there have been, and the lack of action in response to them. A lot of Democratic voters live in states where actions taken by state government—North Carolina and Wisconsin, for instance—have disheartened them so much that it puts a cloud over their feelings about how things are going overall, even if their unhappiness is coming largely at the state level. And a lot of the people who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary certainly still feel that the system is set up too much to benefit the rich and not regular people. … There’s no new release of statistical indicators that’s going to change those deeply ingrained feelings!”

Ben Bernanke hangs out at a reception sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in Jackson Hole last month. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke believes the campaign messages of Trump and Hillary Clinton help to reinforce these tendencies. “In a highly polarized environment, with echo-chamber media, political debates often become shrill, and commentators and advocates have strong incentives to argue that the country’s future is bleak unless their party gains control,” he wrote for Brookings earlier this summer. “In this environment, it seems plausible that people will respond more intensely and negatively to open-ended questions about the general state of the country, while questions in a survey focused narrowly on economic conditions elicit more moderate responses.”

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

A little girl runs among tents as she plays with other children at a refugee camp in Athens yesterday. (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

-- The Obama administration seeks to accept at least 110,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal 2017, Juliet Eilperin reports. "Secretary of State John F. Kerry briefed lawmakers Tuesday on the new goal, which is an increase from 85,000 in fiscal 2016 and 70,000 in the previous three years. It represents a 57 percent increase in refugee arrivals since 2015, as ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere have spurred an exodus of migrants seeking asylum in Europe, Canada and other regions."

-- There were no big surprises in the four states that held primaries last night. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte easily won. ( The Union Leader has more.) The most notable result might be in New York, where Assemblyman Bill Nojay defeated a Republican primary challenger four days after committing suicide. This means local GOP officials will now choose the party’s nominee for November, per Politico.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), on the left, confers with Bob Menendez, on the right, before a hearing. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has lost another round in federal court in seeking to have the bribery and corruption charges against him dismissed. The New Jersey Democrat will now ask the Supreme Court to get involved in his case after the Third Circuit in Philadelphia ruled that it will not hold an "en banc" hearing on his case. In July, a three-judge panel of that court let stand the charges against him, rejecting the senator's claims that his constitutional protections as a senator were violated. (Politico's John Bresnahan)
  2. The Supreme Court denied Ohio additional early voting days, leaving intact a lower court decision that said the state already provided adequate voting opportunities for minorities. The decision eliminates a one-week period known as the “Golden Week,” in which residents could register and vote at the same time. (Robert Barnes)
  3. Bayer AG is slated to announce a $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto, clinching the biggest deal of the year after months of negotiations. (Reuters)
  4. The House is taking up a series of bills designed to give VA leaders more power to discipline employees for poor performance or misconduct, Eric Yoder reports. The Obama administration has made clear its opposition to the measure, although not to the point of threatening a veto.
  5. The Zika virus could be spread through contact with bodily fluids, according to a scary new CDC report, which suggests that tears, saliva, vomit and urine could be partially responsible for spread of the mosquito-borne virus. (Lena H. Sun)
  6. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he will NOT allow his military to participate in joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with the United States. It goes against an agreement negotiated by his predecessor. (AP)
  7. A cease-fire in Syria brokered by the United States and Russia has now brought a rare period of calm. “People are going about their business, and children are even playing in the street,” said Mohamed Omar, a civil defense volunteer in the rebel-held area of Aleppo. There are reports of sporadic violations. (Erin Cunningham)
  8. The Germans arrested three Syrian men believed to have been sent by the Islamic State as “sleeper cell” agents. Authorities said the men have been under observation for months. (AP)
  9. A Marine drill instructor stands accused of running a clothes dryer with a Muslim recruit inside, calling the future U.S. serviceman a “terrorist” before ordering him into an industrial-sized machine. This has emerged as part of an ongoing investigation into hazing at Parris Island. (Dan Lamothe)
  10. The U.S. and Israel have reached agreement on a 10-year military aid package, which will provide Israel with as much as $3.8 billion dollars annually. The U.S. currently gives $3.1 billion. Lindsey Graham wants even more. (Carol Morello and Ruth Eglash)
  11. Former Israeli President Shimon Peres is in “critical but stable” condition after suffering a major stroke. Doctors said the 93-year-old Nobel laureate experienced heavy brain bleeding. He is in the ICU. (AP)
  12. Canada approved prescription heroin this week, allowing doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical-grade levels of the highly addictive drug to help treat severe addicts. (Alan Freeman
  13. Separatist leaders in eastern Ukrainian announced a unilateral ceasefire, potentially a step toward solving the two-year-old conflict with government forces. (AP)
  14. A Social Security worker is risking his 14-year tenure at the federal agency after he refused to watch a short video on LBGT diversity, saying he does not believe God would want him to watch such mandated content. (Ben Guarino)
Former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton (Jonathan Ernst)

MAKE NO MISTAKE -- THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS UNDER CYBER ATTACK:

-- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell slammed Trump as “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah” in personal emails to a former staffer -- and it's possible that the Russians hacked/leaked these messages. From Buzzfeed: The remarks came in a June email to Emily Miller, who is now a journalist. In that same email, Powell said Trump “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for Dems to attack him" and that "Paul Ryan is calibrating his position again.” This emails were obtained by a website called DCLeaks.com, which has reported but unconfirmed ties to Russian intelligence services, per BuzzFeed. This could be just the latest example of the Russians interfering with our election.

-- The World Anti-Doping Agency says a Russian government hacking group gained access to a database containing drug-test results and confidential medical data from last month’s Olympics in Rio. "The group has been posting confidential information about noteworthy U.S. Olympic athletes — tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, four-time gymnastics gold medalist Simone Biles and women’s basketball standout Elena Delle Donne — and promised more leaks would be forthcoming," Matt Bonesteel and Ellen Nakashima report.

In a series of tweets, Biles courageously said she's "not ashamed" to acknowledge that she has ADHD:

-- Leaders from the Defense Department and the intelligence community plan to urge Obama to break up the “dual hat leadership” structure of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command to form two distinct forces. Officials argue that their missions are “fundamentally different,” and that the nation’s cyberspies and military hackers should not be competing to use the same network. (Ellen Nakashima)

-- Meanwhile, as the Russians continue to exploit our vulnerabilities, a transgender soldier imprisoned in Kansas for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks will end a hunger strike after the Army agreed to allow her to receive medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, the American Civil Liberties Union announced. "Chelsea Manning, who was arrested in 2010 as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 in military court of leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks. ... She is serving a 35-year sentence," the AP reports from Leavenworth, Kansas.

John Koskinen testifies on Capitol Hill. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

-- Conservative lawmakers went to the House floor to force a vote on the impeachment of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, setting up a showdown that has pitted hard-right members against not only Democrats but also Republicans wary of a partisan battle weeks before the election. "The impeachment effort is rooted in the controversy over the IRS’s treatment of conservative nonprofit groups and the handling of subsequent congressional investigations," Mike DeBonis reports. "Reps. John Fleming (R-La.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), members of the House Freedom Caucus, called up their impeachment measure Tuesday afternoon. Under House rules, as a 'privileged' motion, the measure must come up for a vote no later than Thursday. If the measure passes by a majority vote, it would set up a Senate trial of Koskinen — the first impeachment trial since U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous was impeached in 2010."

TRUMP ON THE TRAIL:

-- In Pennsylvania, Trump unveiled a child-care policy proposal that would guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave. From Robert Costa: "We need working mothers to be fairly compensated for their work, and to have access to affordable, quality child care for their kids," Trump said last night. The Republican nominee appeared determined to show off a more sensitive side at the event, using a subdued delivery style and, at one point, holding a baby up in the crowd. Trump also laid out specific plans for enabling parents to deduct the cost of child-care expenses from their income taxes. (The tax code already offers certain subsidies for child expenses.)

Trump said Ivanka, standing by his side on the stage, pushed him to propose the measure: “Daddy, daddy, we have to do this,” he said, impersonating his 34-year-old daughter’s voice. “She is the one that has been pushing so hard for it." (Wall Street Journal)

Once again, Trump won't say how he'd pay for his proposal: “It’s the latest in a string of Trump's high-cost promises to voters that have been vague, or misleading, on how he plans to fund them,” Politico’s Eli Stokols notes. “By comparison, Clinton’s proposal to have the federal government cover 12 weeks of paid leave, with workers earning two-thirds of their salary while away, carries a price tag of $300 billion over 10 years — but she’s proposed a specific means of absorbing that cost: raising taxes on the rich.”

-- Earlier in the day, in Iowa, Trump said Clinton's use of a private email server is “more scandalous than Watergate" and asserted that the Justice Department of the Watergate era did a better job than current federal investigators. From Sean Sullivan: "This is far bigger and a far bigger scandal than Watergate ever was, but with Watergate we had Justice, we had a Justice Department that went after the people," he said. "Here’s something that just, nobody’s ever seen anything like this."

As anyone who knows anything about Watergate knows, Trump's claim is untrue. Nixon dismissed a special prosecutor probing the Watergate scandal after two DOJ officials refused to do so (and resigned over the matter). He also abolished the office of the special prosecutor and turned over to the Justice Department the entire responsibility for further investigation and prosecution of suspects and defendants – an infamous incident known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Trump leaves after speaking in Aston, Pa., last night. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

-- Trump is shifting his campaign strategy away from a preoccupation with rallies toward an effort to create race-defining “MOMENTS.” On the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal, Monica Langley looks at how Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway are changing the campaign:

The restructured team, now in its fourth week, consists of three interconnected circles of advisers: “One circle consists of newly-installed political pros led by Ms. Conway … Another circle, headed by Mr. Bannon … helps produce policy and TV campaign ‘moments’ and provides camaraderie. (That group includes press secretary Hope Hicks and Rudy Giuliani.) A third circle includes Mr. Trump’s older children in a less prominent day-to-day role: Eric Trump negotiated leases for field offices and is a frequent TV surrogate. Donald Trump Jr. travels to campaign fundraising events. Ivanka Trump assisted with the rollout of Trump’s child-care policy Tuesday, and husband, Jared Kushner, plays a close role in strategy.”

Tension between Bannon and Conway? “Another policy debate played out during a recent night at Trump Tower headquarters. The question looming that night [was] how much Mr. Trump should participate in the sort of ‘retail-style’ campaigning he largely shunned during the Republican primaries. Mr. Bannon argued in favor of staging large rallies, which Mr. Trump enjoys. ‘He feeds off their energy,’ Mr. Bannon said, standing to make his point. Ms. Conway argued the GOP candidate was a ‘natural in a diner or at a round table.’ The decision: Most of Mr. Trump’s campaign swings will include a prepared speech, maybe a rally and, always, an appearance at a small local venue.”

Trump in Aston (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

DONALD'S CHARITY FACES MORE SCRUTINY:

-- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened an investigation into Trump’s foundation "to make sure it's complying with the laws governing charities in New York.” In a CNN interview, the Democrat said his office was “concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety.” "We've had correspondence with them,” he told Jake Tapper. “I didn't make a big deal out of it or hold a press conference. But we have been looking into the Trump Foundation." 

-- Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee urged the Justice Department to investigate the circumstances surrounding a $25,000 donation made by Trump's charity to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, during a time when her office was considering whether to investigate Trump University for fraud. The letter, signed by every Democrat on the committee, alleges that the donation in 2013 “may have influenced Mrs. Bondi’s official decision not to participate in litigation against Mr. Trump" and asks Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to explore whether federal bribery or other laws might have been violated.

"A Justice Department investigation would be separate from that run by the New York attorney general, though the state might have some parallels in its tax and other laws,” Matt Zapotosky and David A. Fahrenthold explain. “A person familiar with the New York attorney general’s investigation said it would be broader than the donation to Bondi.”

The Trump campaign slammed Schneiderman as "a partisan hack" who has for years refused to investigate the Clinton Foundation. "This is nothing more than another left-wing hit job designed to distract," said spokesman Jason Miller.

-- Former Mexican president Vicente Fox, visiting The Post's newsroom, likened Trump to 20th-century Latin American dictators who played on fears and false promises. "I want to warn people here in the United States to watch out for this false prophet that promised gold, that promised paradise, that promised everything,” he told Philip Rucker and Robert Costa in an interview. "We've had many like him throughout Latin America — the Hugo Chávezes, the Fidel Castros, the Kirchners in Argentina, the Peróns in Argentina. Very messianic, very demagogic. … So please, wake up, America! That's not the way to go.”

Mike Pence and Paul Ryan address a news conference yesterday after a meeting of House Republicans at the RNC. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

-- “The Trumpification of Mike Pence,” by Dana Milbank: “Why does Mike Pence keep getting himself into such deplorable situations? ... Sen. Mike Lee issued a statement Tuesday urging Republicans to call Duke the D-word ... But Pence, appearing Tuesday with House GOP leaders, said he had no wish to amend his description of Duke. ... [Paul Ryan] and the other leaders nodded as Pence said these words. Perhaps they understand why a white supremacist is deserving of ‘civility’ at a time when Trump has dispensed with such niceties for everybody else — and why it’s name-calling to identify Duke as ‘deplorable’ but not to call him a ‘bad man.’ Such awkward positions have become routine for Pence since joining Trump … I’ve always thought (the Indiana governor is) an honorable and amiable man, and I accept his friends’ assessment that he took the job in hopes of changing Trump. Instead, it seems that Trump has changed him."

-- North Carolina police issued an arrest warrant after a 69-year-old protester wearing an oxygen tank was punched outside a Trump rally. The woman, Shirley Teter, described herself as a life-long protester, who ultimately got involved in the anti-Trump protest because the situation is “sickening my heart.” But her protest got ugly as Trump supporters began to leave, Teter said, when she began telling Trump supporters: “You better learn to speak Russian.” Then a man “cold-cocked” her in the face. Authorities said she fell over her oxygen tank and was later treated at a hospital. (Fred Barbash)

Hillary in Manhattan last Friday (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- HRC will return to the campaign trail on Thursday, with a rally in Greensboro, N.C. (CNN's Jeff Zeleny)

-- The Clinton’s campaign is distributing “pneumonia talking points” to surrogates. From Politico’s Annie Karni: The phrases "projecting strength," "prudence," and "vigor" are among the six bullet-pointed points about Clinton’s health the campaign distributed to its army of outside surrogates yesterday. "The marching orders, part of the ‘Daily Message Guidance’ from Brooklyn headquarters, instructed Clinton allies on how to answer questions about the Democratic nominee’s pneumonia ... ‘To anyone who knows Hillary, it does not come as much of a surprise that even when she’s under the weather, she would want to power through her normal schedule,’ read the first bullet point." 

-- Clinton’s illness struck at a most inopportune time, the New York Times’ Matt Flegenheimer argues: “For much of the summer, she deliberately kept a low public profile, fund-raising in private and pursuing a hands-off campaign strategy: If [Trump] wanted to seize center stage by picking unpopular fights … she would not stand in his way. Now, sidelined with pneumonia just as she hoped to reintroduce herself with a series of more personal policy speeches, Mrs. Clinton has left herself uniquely vulnerable to an unplanned absence. Her dismal public standing on questions of candor, combined with decades of conspiracy theories about her health, had already produced an uncommon challenge ...  More substantively, among Democrats worried that Mrs. Clinton has failed to make a more forceful case for her candidacy since the party’s convention, her illness has reinforced the danger of a Trump-centric strategy — leaving the Clinton side without a memorable affirmative message to hammer home, especially when its chief messenger is on the mend."

-- Harry Reid slammed the media for giving outsized attention to Clinton’s pneumonia, urging reporters to show the same scrutiny of Trump (who he noted eats a lot of fast food): “She has pneumonia, and … it’s curable, no one denies that,” the Senate minority leader told reporters. “She’s off the campaign trail for a few days. She probably needed the rest anyway. So you folks have magnified the problems she has.” He then moved on to Trump: “He complains about her health? What does he do? He’s 70 years old. He’s not slim and trim. He brags about eating fast food every day. Look at his health a little bit.”  Meanwhile, former Obama adviser David Plouffe said Trump is the “heaviest candidate since William Howard Taft” on MSNBC last night. (Mike DeBonis)

-- A Trump-backed super PAC re-launched a “Clinton fatigue” TV ad, which is set in the hallways of a hospital, after Hillary was diagnosed with pneumonia. “The spot first debuted last year in the primaries, when the super PAC — then called Keep the Promise 1 — was supporting Ted Cruz. At the time, it was run by Kellyanne Conway, who is now Trump's campaign manager,” Matea Gold reports.

-- With Clinton sick, some in the Republican establishment are beginning to panic that Trump could actually win. “Though many of them are reluctant to say so in public, they argue that a Trump presidency would fracture their party, decimate the conservative movement, and wreak [economic] havoc," BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reports. Two quotes from his story: 

  • “I’ve heard a lot of conservatives voicing frustration, like, ‘How [expletive] hard is this, Hillary?’” said Ben Howe, a conservative ad-maker. “That’s the only reason I’m panicked these days … I’m losing faith in Hillary’s ability to win this easy-ass election.”
  • Another wistful strategist found himself Googling, “How late can you replace a major-party nominee?” “’I think Joe Biden would be a slam dunk, right?” he mused, in a tone that sounded almost affectionate. ‘Wouldn’t that be an amazing track for Biden’s career?’”

-- Tim Kaine speaks Spanish in a new Clinton radio advertisement. He talks in the 60-second spot about working with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras, as well as the values he learned there. Kaine’s pitch will air in Florida, Ohio and Nevada. (John Wagner)

THE BATTLEGROUNDS:

-- “In COLORADO, Trump battles demographics, Clinton fears complacency,” by Dan Balz: “When [Clinton’s] campaign and its allies pulled down television ads in Colorado some weeks ago, it was described as a game-set-match moment in the presidential campaign, a seeming acknowledgment that the state had moved from purple to blue in near-record time. Make no mistake. [Trump] is a distinct underdog in Colorado. He’s hobbled by demographic realities here and by a record of statements that have alienated the very groups of voters who will be pivotal in November. But Democrats here say it’s premature to declare that there has been a permanent shift in the politics of the state. What could turn Colorado into a truly competitive state for Trump over the next eight weeks is the same danger that Clinton faces elsewhere — a lack of enthusiasm among the voters she most needs to win the election.” As one strategist told Dan, “The Democratic vote is consolidated. But enthusiasm is not like it was in 2012 and certainly not like 2008.”

-- Clinton holds a wide lead among Hispanics in FLORIDA, ARIZONA, NEVADA and COLORADO, according to a fresh WaPo/Univision poll, besting the Republican nominee in four battleground states where the Latino vote may prove to be decisive:

  • Clinton leads Trump among Hispanic voters by a three-to-one margin in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, and a nearly two-to-one margin in Florida. 
  • She holds a 24 point lead in Florida, a 50 point lead in Arizona, a 45 point lead in Colorado, and a 46 point lead in Nevada.
  • But, but, but: Her numbers fall short of Obama’s 2012 showing among Latinos – suggesting she may struggle to replicate his steps on her own path to 270.
  • She also continues to face problems in the honesty department: Nearly half of Latinos in Florida (46 percent) and Nevada (49 percent) say Clinton is a liar. 

-- Trump has opened a 5-point lead over Clinton in a new Bloomberg poll of OHIO, leading 48 percent to 43 percent.

  • Rob Portman leads former Ted Strickland by 17 (53-36).
  • 57 percent of likely voters believe trade deals such as NAFTA do more to hurt Ohio companies and jobs than help.

  • 38 percent of poll participants said someone in their household has been laid off or unable to find work during the last decade. 

-- A fresh poll suggests MAINE could come into play -- or at least that Trump could win one of its electoral votes: Clinton leads Trump by just 3 points statewide, according to a Colby College/Boston Globe survey. Trump’s ascendency in Maine is fueled largely by the state’s increasingly polarized geography, with northern, rural reaches of the state that tend to lean conservative.

-- Clinton is up 6 points in a VIRGINIA poll (45-39) from Public Policy Polling, the Democratic firm.

-- Clinton’s lead has dwindled nationally and among INDEPENDENT VOTERS. She's now up 4 (48-44) overall in the NBC/SurveyMonkey tracking poll, a two-point decline from last week driven by indies defecting.

-- “In FLORIDA, Trump faces a Clinton campaign behemoth,” by the AP’s Bill Barrow: There are about 30 Trump employees in Florida and about 80 Republican Party field workers deployed around the state. Then there's Clinton: 51 offices, with more on the way, and 500 employees combing Florida. … The organizational disparity leaves more than a few Republicans scratching their heads. All agree Trump has no path to the required 270 electoral votes without claiming Florida's 29. ‘Everyone keeps saying you're not doing this in a traditional way, why?’ says Trump adviser Karen Giorno. ‘Well, we don't have a traditional candidate.’”

-- “Republicans have gained ground on Democrats in registering voters in three battleground states ... encouraging news for [Trump],” the AP’s Hope Yen adds. “Republicans added hundreds of thousands of voters to the rolls since 2012 in states including Florida and Arizona, and narrowed the gap in North Carolina … In Iowa, Republicans prevented Democrats from surpassing them, aided by a court ruling upholding a ban on voting by ex-felons ... The latest registration numbers aren't an assurance of new voters for Trump. But the figures, when available, offer important clues as to how each party stands.”

  • IOWA is a bright spot for Trump … with Republicans now holding an edge of 19,000 total registered voters over Democrats, 691,000 to 672,000.
  • In FLORIDA, Democrats have seen their advantage shrink to 258,000 active voters — down from 535,000 in 2012. Overall, Democrats declined to 4.69 million compared to a 4 percent rise for Republicans to 4.4 million.
  • In NORTH CAROLINA, Democrats hold a clear registration advantage but the gap has narrowed to about 645,000 voters -- down from a 2012 advantage of 818,000.
Evan Bayh, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed listen to testimony during a 2010 hearing. (File)

-- With insurance companies like Aetna pulling out of the exchanges and headlines announcing increasing premiums, Republicans are eyeing three states — Indiana, Arizona, and Florida — where they believe targeting Democrats on Obamacare could make a difference," Tarini Parti writes on BuzzFeed. A new Senate Leadership Fund ad hits Evan Bayh for voting in favor of the health law in 2010 (part of their $4 million Indiana buy.) Obamacare will likely come up in other races as well, but the Democratic candidates running in Indiana, Arizona, and Florida voted for hte ACA. So it's a more credible hit.

-- “My opponent is attacking me as a lobbyist. Well, that’s just a lie,” Bayh says straight to camera in a new ad that features him standing in front of a basketball hoop, throwing a ball over his head. The chryon says he’s a “fiscal conservative” with “Hoosier values.” Interestingly, only “conservative” and “Hoosier” are bolded:

-- Ted Cruz forked over $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The transfer comes as a number of establishment Republicans grumble that he's not helping them in their reelection races, Politico's Burgess Everett reports.

-- Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson took out a full-page ad in today's New York Times so he could plead to be included in the first, debate despite falling short of the required 15 percent polling threshold. "We've done the work required to appear on the ballot in all 50 states,” Johnson writes in the ad, which is written like an open letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Spoiler: he won't be included. (Here's a PDF of their ad.)

Miley Cyrus performs at Echostage. (Josh Sisk/For The Post)

-- Pop singer Miley Cyrus says Bernie Sanders’s campaign inspired her. This season she will be a coach on NBC’s reality show “The Voice.” She explained how she'll approach the job during an interview with Elle Magazine: "I don't want this to come off the wrong way, but I'm going to tell my contestants: Be Bernie Sanders. Be the person people want and love. Don't worry about the masses. That's how you make a memorable moment. Let people talk about it." (John Wagner)

Gas tanks lie in several warehouses at a military camp abandoned by fleeing pro-Gaddafi troops. Documents at the site suggest chemical warfare protection suits and gas masks were sent to Gaddafi strongholds before the regime fell. (Photo by Simon Denyer/The Washington Post)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “As ISIS closed in, a race to remove chemical-weapon precursors in Libya,” by Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe: “Late last year, as [ISIS] fighters battled to expand their stronghold on Libya’s coast, militants came within 45 miles of the country’s sole remaining chemical-weapons site, unnerving Libyan and American officials who feared that potentially deadly chemicals could fall into extremist hands.” In May, when fighters struck a mile from the lightly guarded desert facility, they decided it was time to act. “The Islamic State’s encroachment on an installation outside the remote oasis town … where 500 metric tons of chemical-weapon precursor materials were stored, set off a hurried chain of events culminating in a disarmament operation involving the U.S., European countries and the U.N. The international effort, which concluded last week … is one of the rare successes that Western nations can claim in Libya since dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011 … The mission was also a sign of the risks posed by vulnerable chemicals, even if they have not been weaponized, in former dictatorships and failed states throughout the Middle East.”

Rebekah Mercer at the Media Research Center's 2015 annual gala, held at the National Building Museum. (File)

A profile you’ve been waiting for --> “The rise of GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer,” by Matea Gold: “Mercer exemplifies a new breed of activist donors that has risen since the Supreme Court kicked off a flood of big money into elections in 2010. As one of the most influential figures in Trump’s orbit, she threatens to undercut the candidate’s insistence that he is free from the influence of elite contributors. [But] the 42-year-old former Wall Street trader is not your typical mega-donor, and not just because of the vast wealth of her father…”

“Mercer home-schools her four children and runs an online gourmet cookie company with her sisters. And unlike many veteran GOP financiers, Mercer feels more aligned with the anti-establishment movement that has buffeted the Republican Party. Although she and her family live in a sprawling triplex in a Trump-branded residential building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she maintains a keen sense of what will resonate with the conservative base, [friends say]. ‘Rebekah is not a Marie Antoinette,’ said Amity Shlaes, an author who chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. ‘Her father was a research scientist at IBM. Her family did well late. She understands what it means to make economic decisions.’ Now, Mercer is applying those instincts and her family’s vast fortune to the biggest insurgent play yet: propelling Trump into the White House.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

One of the Smithsonian Zoo's orangutans gave birth:

The disgusting race to the bottom continues:

This quote from Trump is getting a lot of attention:

Here are a couple of reactions to Clinton's health scare:

Here's today's funniest tweet exchange:

Here's Tim Kaine chatting with Walter Mondale:

A moment from Tuesday's Trump rally:

You just can't make it up. One prominent Trump supporter attacked Democrats for pushing paid maternity leave and then praised Trump for proposing it...

Jill Stein is facing criticism for this tone-deaf tweet on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks:

Michelle Obama appeared on The Ellen Show:

Spotted on Capitol Hill:

Here's an image for you -- Senate Fight Club:

Al Franken introduced a new granddaughter:

Hamilton's producer visited the Senate:

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“The George W. Bush White House ‘lost’ 22 million emails,” from Newsweek: “Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House ‘lost’ 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq … and later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons. Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server … And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Ivy League Student Brought To Tears By Trump Chalking,” from the Daily Caller: “Conservative activist James O’Keefe visited Columbia University’s campus in late August and brought a student to tears by showing his support for Donald Trump in chalk and cardboard bricks. ‘I’m scared that you guys even think this,’ a female Columbia student told O’Keefe … O’Keefe replied, ‘What do you mean?’ The student got distraught and said, ‘I don’t want my future to be this!” She later said, ‘You don’t have to make a wall. You don’t need a man like this!’ Trump chalking at other schools has not been received this well. At Emory University, the student government allocated ‘emergency funds’ because they students were ‘triggered’ by chalkings showing support for Trump.”

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, meets for lunch with Vice President Biden and speaks with Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew. Biden is having Burma's leader over for breakfast at the Naval Observatory before she goes to the White House. Then at 1:45 the VP meets with a delegation of people from Rhode Island as a favor for Jack Reed. At 2:15, he speaks at Mark Takai's memorial service in the Capitol and then at 8:40 p.m. he speaks at the National Museum of American History. 

On the campaign trail: Trump campaigns in Canton, Ohio. Pence is in Scranton, Pa. Bill Clinton holds a campaign event in Las Vegas. (Tomorrow WJC will go on "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah.)

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to work on S.2848, the Water Resources Development Act. The House meets at 10 a.m. for morning hour and noon for legislative business. A first round of votes is expected around 1:30 p.m. and the final votes of the day are expected from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy issued what has to be one of the most amazing statements of any election in response to stories that he was behind salacious rumors about Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr. as the two Republicans battle for the U.S. Senate nomination. “Earlier today, the Boustany campaign sent out an email alleging that my campaign and other candidates' campaigns for the U.S. Senate played a role in the shocking story alleging illegal behavior from Congressman Boustany and his staff,” he said. “I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging Congressman Boustany's sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered…” (Amber Phillips has the backstory here.)

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

-- “We welcome back the 90s today, though not necessarily with open arms,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A warmer start this morning, with temperatures quickly rising through the 70s, translates to a toasty afternoon. Highs top out in the low-to-mid-90s with mostly sunny skies. The humidity is noticeable, with dew points in the low-to-mid-60s, but not nearly as bad as during most of our heat waves this summer.

-- The Nationals lost to the Mets, 4-3.

-- The Alexandria City Council is preparing for a public hearing over what to do about its multiple public commemorations of the Confederacy. Expecting what will likely be a heated discussion, Mayor Allison Silberberg warned she plans to strictly enforce a “three-minute rule” to limit each speaker. (Patricia Sullivan)

-- More than a dozen children were evacuated from a school bus that caught fire in College Park. Officials said it is unclear what caused the fire, but the children escaped unharmed. (Lynh Bui)

-- Maryland health officials eliminated the backlog of mentally-ill criminal offenders forced to stay in jail while awaiting court-ordered hospital treatment, reducing the list of waiting patients by dozens. The reductions come after mental health advocates and correction officers raised concerns that a shortage of beds at mental hospitals in the state had "reached a crisis point," Josh Hicks reports.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Here's Batang the orangutan and her new baby!

Seth Meyers talked about the "basket of deplorables":

And why it's important to vote no matter your party:

The DNC spoofed a trial lawyers' TV ad to go after Trump:

Jake Tapper is over it with Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson (click to watch):

New York police are searching for this man -- suspected of setting a Muslim woman on fire:

In case you missed it, here's a clip of protesters storming the stage after Ryan Lochte's 'Dancing with the Stars’ performance: