Donald Trump sits beneath a steel emblem in the shape of the state of Ohio at a manufacturing plant in Dayton on Sept. 21. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA:

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio—Many Washington elites, including Republicans, do not know a single person who supports Donald Trump. In this depressed industrial town in southwestern Ohio, it is hard to find anyone who says they are for Hillary Clinton.

“I cannot tell you one person I know of who has said to me that they support Hillary. Not one,” said Chris Polleys, who cleans benzene pots at the AK Steel plant here. “I don’t understand how she’s doing anything in the polls. I see Hillary for prison, but there’s no Hillary for president signs anywhere. It’s just impossible for me to believe that they’re neck and neck.”

A poll published yesterday by Quinnipiac University shows that Trump is ahead of Clinton in Ohio by 5 points (47 percent to 42 percent) and that this is the only battleground state where his lead expanded in the wake of the first debate.

The GOP nominee’s strength can be explained, in part, by his extraordinary popularity with white men who did not go to college in places like this, where Democrats were once strong but which have moved sharply toward Republicans during the presidency of Barack Obama.

Polleys, 40, was smoking Marlboros and drinking $1 Bud Lights with his brother, Dale Baxter, at a bar along the railroad tracks on the edge of town. Baxter, a machinist, said he met a handful of people in Dayton who support Clinton. But he agrees: Trump will win the election in a landslide. They do not foresee any other outcome.

As a train rumbled by, drowning him out and shaking his beer, Baxter paused. After it passed, he explained how Middletown was an All-American City when they were growing up. But the economy declined. Jobs moved overseas. The mall is about dead now. The once grand home that belonged to the owner of a defunct paper mill has become low-income housing. Almost all the storefronts downtown are boarded up, including the movie theater. The pawn shops are the only thriving businesses.

Baxter, 50, joined the Army after high school. After 20 years, he came back a decade ago. “Everything went in reverse,” he said. “Something is keeping us locked in a time warp here.”

Supporters wait for Trump to speak during his last trip to the state. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

-- The backdrop of our conversation at the trackside bar is described by J.D. Vance in “Hillbilly Elegy.Vance grew up here as the son of an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother and an absent father. The 31-year-old was mostly raised by his grandparents. He joined the Marines after high school and wound up matriculating at Yale Law School. Now he lives in San Francisco and works at an investment fund controlled by Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal founder.

Vance writes poignantly and personally about the many problems afflicting the white working class, including the decaying social structure: divorce, domestic violence, declining church attendance and so on. He writes in one passage about mothers – including his own – putting Mountain Dew in their infants’ bottles because they don’t know any better, which leads to decaying teeth. In another, his mom makes him give her a urine sample so she can pass it off as her own. He’s certainly not alone: more people died in this county of drug overdoses last year than natural causes.

This book is all the rage in D.C. right now, and it has been at or near the top of the bestseller lists for two months. Though The Donald is never mentioned, elites in both parties are studying “Hillbilly Elegy” as a sort of Rosetta Stone to understand the conditions that allowed for the rise of Trumpism.

As he’s promoted it, Vance often draws parallels between Trump’s appeal and the drug epidemic pummeling Middletown. Calling the GOP nominee an "opioid for the masses," he explains: “What Trump offers is an easy escape from the pain. … (His) promises are the needle in America’s collective vein. … Trump is cultural heroin. He makes some feel better for a bit. But he cannot fix what ails them, and one day they’ll realize it.”

Though Ohio was in the union during the civil war, this region is culturally Southern. Most here migrated from Kentucky or Tennessee in search of good-paying factory jobs—or their parents did. Vance's grandparents are among them. Driving around town, I spotted a Confederate flag with a middle finger superimposed in the middle flying in one yard. Both of that man’s neighbors had Trump signs out front.

The most provocative argument in the book is that working-class whites do not take enough personal responsibility for the horrible situations they find themselves in. Vance, who has been a regular contributor to National Review, warns that the culture now “breeds a sense of learned helplessness.” He relays vignette after vignette about lazy Middletownians abusing the social safety net and taking advantage of a system that’s designed to give them a hand up. One character in the book quits his job because he hates waking up early but then takes to Facebook to blame “the Obama economy.”

Clinton speaks to voters in Akron, Ohio, yesterday. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- While folks who live in the Acela Corridor hear a lot about how much people loathe Trump, it would be challenging to overstate the level of antipathy for Clinton here. “Everybody is worried about what their future is going to hold. I have no idea, but I do know Obama’s made it worse. And Hillary will make it worser,” said Cecil Graham, 50, a machine operator at a box factory. “I really don’t get how it’s as close as it is.”

As the self-described independent talked about how he never liked George W. Bush either, a Clinton commercial appeared on the television he was staring at. It showed young women looking at themselves in the mirror as Trump uttered nasty comments about females. Graham pointed it out. “The little stupid sh*t that they’re running ads on, no one cares about it,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

These are some of the people Hillary was apparently speaking of when she said that half of Trump’s supporters are irredeemable and in a “basket of deplorables.” (She has since expressed regret for the gaffe.)

Supporters watch Trump at the Budweiser Center in Loveland, Colorado, yesterday. (Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images)

-- The most recent Washington Post/ABC News national poll found that white men without a degree prefer Trump over Clinton by about 60 points nationally. This constituency has moved in Trump’s direction far more than any other demographic compared to 2012:

“Ohio’s electorate is going to be somewhere around 80 percent white in 2016. That’s significantly higher than the national average, which will be somewhere around 70 percent,” writes Kyle Kondik, the author of a new book called “The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.” “Nationally, about 29 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree, while just about 26 percent of Ohioans do. … The Ohio electorate should be about half non-college white in 2016 (again, larger than the national average). So a growing educational difference in white voter preference … works more to Trump’s advantage in Ohio than it might in some other states.”

I interviewed a dozen guys at the hole-in-the-wall bar here. None had attended college. They all work with their hands and believe that statistics suggesting an economic recovery, however lethargic it might be, are fabricated.

Bill Clinton starts a bus tour today through the Mahoning Valley, a region of the state that similarly suffers from the effects of deindustrialization. Hillary Clinton, visiting the state yesterday for the first time since Labor Day, campaigned in Toledo and Akron.

The Democratic path to victory rests on doing well enough in what operatives call the three C’s—Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati—to offset the margins Trump will run up in places like Middletown and Youngstown.

John Boehner holds a news conference shortly before his resignation. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

-- Middletown happens to be in Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District, which John Boehner represented for 25 years.

A couple of the guys at the bar I hung out at last Friday during happy hour expressed unprovoked disdain for the former Speaker of the House, who resigned last year. “Years ago I really liked him but then he lost his balls,” said Ron Susong, 73, a masonry contractor. “I couldn’t believe he was working with Obama. Where is the man in the Republican Party today? There’s a difference between being a man and a boy. Just because you’re 21 doesn’t mean you’re a man. As Arnold (Schwarzenegger) said, they’re all girlie-men in Washington. When John resigned, I thought, ‘We need somebody with balls to lead the party.’ Then Trump came along. He definitely has the balls to do what’s right for the country.” 

Susong, who voted for Ross Perot in 1992 and Bill Clinton in 1996, said he is clear eyed that no one leader can solve the problems ailing Middletown. “Ain’t nobody gonna make us great again in four years, unless the good Lord comes back,” he said. “But hopefully Donald will get us trending in the right direction again.”

Trump greets supporters at the Memorial Civic Center in Canton, Ohio, last month. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

-- Warren Davidson won the March special election to replace Boehner. Then he promptly joined the Freedom Caucus – the very group of conservative hardliners who drove the Speaker to quit.

The freshman congressman, who lives in a more affluent area of the district, said Trump was not his first choice in the primaries but that it’s exciting to see him bringing ancestral Democrats into the GOP—and that constituents keep asking him where they can find Trump signs. “Trump offers a very clear contrast to the status quo that Hillary is an iconic representative of,” he told me over breakfast at Bob Evans. “Trump is a very clear disruptor.”

Davidson said there are more movement conservatives in the House than he realized when he was running, and not as many suffer from Stockholm syndrome as he believed. He stressed that he plans to never personally criticize Boehner despite his membership in the Freedom Caucus, and he added that the two had a pleasant lunch in the district recently.

The congressman really liked “Hillbilly Elegy” and has been recommending the book to colleagues, including Hal Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “I’d like to meet J.D. Vance,” Davidson said. “One of the points he makes … is that there’s no government program that’s going to fix some of the stuff that our country is wrestling with. It’s a moral issue. … People are very defensive about their own culture and values. Identity is so central to all of us. I think his book does a good job of defining that tension.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti, threatening a largely rural corner of the impoverished country with devastating storm conditions as it headed north toward Cuba and the eastern coast of Florida. ( AP)

-- Kelly Ayotte back-peddling on Trump: In a debate last night with her challenger, the moderator the asked Republican senator if she thinks Trump is a role model for New Hampshire children. Ayotte seemed caught off guard by the question but eventually came up with this answer: "There are many role models we have, and I believe he can serve as president and so absolutely."

Recognizing she handed her opponent a cudgel, Ayotte released a statement after the debate saying she "misspoke":

Democrats are moving quickly to seize on this unexpected gift they've been handed. “Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan is holding a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning to talk about it, and the political arm of the abortion-advocate group NARAL Pro-Chioce America released a digital ad,” Amber Phillips reports.

Pushing back on Democratic attacks that she opposed funding for Planned Parenthood, Ayotte is looking for creative ways to publicize her support for selling birth control over the counter:

-- “Trump backers realize they’ve been played as WikiLeaks fails to deliver October surprise,” by Griff Witte in London: “The expectations were breathless. For weeks, backers of Trump have hyped the tantalizing possibility that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks was on the verge of publishing a set of documents that would doom Clinton’s chances … ‘@HillaryClinton is done,’ longtime Trump associate Roger Stone tweeted on Saturday. ‘#Wikileaks.’ The group’s founder, Julian Assange, did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm…But if an October surprise about the Democratic nominee really is coming, it will have to wait a little longer. Over the course of two hours on Tuesday — with the world’s media and bleary-eyed Trump diehards across the United States tuning in — Assange and other WikiLeaks officials railed against ‘neo-McCarthyist hysteria,’ blasted the mainstream press, appealed for donations and plugged their books (‘40 percent off!’). But what they didn’t do was provide any new information about Clinton – or about anything else, really. The much-vaunted press conference, as it turned out, was little more than an extended infomercial for WikiLeaks on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its founding."

Smoke billows from a hospital following another round of airstrikes on Aleppo. (George Ourfalian/Getty)

-- U.S.-Russia relations fell to a new post-Cold War low, as the White House abandoned efforts to work with Russia on ending the Syrian civil war and forming a common counterterrorism operation there, and Moscow suspended a landmark nuclear agreement. Karen DeYoung and David Filipov report: “The latter move, scuttling a deal the two countries signed in 2000 to dispose of their stocks of weapons-grade plutonium, was largely symbolic. But it provided the Kremlin with an opportunity to cite a series of what it called ‘unfriendly actions’ toward Russia … Of far more immediate concern, the end of the Syria deal left the administration with no apparent diplomatic options remaining to stop the carnage in Aleppo and beyond after the collapse of a short-lived cease-fire deal negotiated last month.”

-- A new report this morning raises the humanitarian stakes: The Russians have deployed an advanced anti-missile system to Syria for the first time, three U.S. officials tell Fox News. It is the latest indication that Moscow plans to continue ramping up its military operations in Syria in support of the Assad regime, with no regard for human life.

The flag of the Islamic State (JM Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

-- The FBI stopped another lone wolf before it was too late: A 24-year-old resident of Maryland was charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State by planning to kill a member of the U.S. military. Federal agents picked up on the alleged plans of Nelash Mohamed Das — a citizen of Bangladesh living in Hyattsville — and placed him under surveillance. A confidential source provided Das with a gun, and he arrived at the Maryland address where he had been led to believe his target lived. At the time, “Das believed that the firearms could fire ammunition; in reality, they had been rendered inert by the FBI,” federal officials said. He was taken into custody there after a short chase. (Dan Morse)

-- A counselor whose work was helping homeless people overcome drug addiction has been charged with breaking into two homes a block apart on Capitol Hill, binding male occupants and sexually assaulting them at gunpoint. The suspect, Brian Craig Webster, 33, was arrested after police said a victim was able to break free of duct-tape restraints, grab his attacker’s gun and fight back. The victim and his roommate then held the man until police arrived. (Peter Hermann)

-- David J. Thouless of University of Washington, F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University were awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics for discoveries of "topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter." All three laureates were born in Britain, but now conduct their research at universities in the United States. (Rachel Feltman)

Senator Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's former president, huddles yesterday with members of his party at the Colombian congress in Bogota. (John Vizcaino/Reuters)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos held an emergency meeting with political leaders, attempting to rework the tenets of a peace accord after voters rejected the deal. Both government officials and FARC rebels agreed not to return to fighting in the interim, keeping in place a ceasefire agreement that temporarily halted its half-decade war. (Nick Miroff)
  2. Bees have been placed on the federal endangered species list(Amy B Wang)
  3. Google is launching a new smartphone and spate of other devices today, as part of an aggressive foray into the tech hardware landscape. The move is expected to pit the longtime software giant against leading tech firms such as Samsung (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg)
  4. It will take months for newly-approved Zika funding to be distributed to states and localities, the feds said, slowing down the response to the mosquito-borne virus yet again after a months-long negotiations in Congress. (Lena H. Sun)
  5. The Supreme Court ushered in a new term by issuing a thick stack of rejections from its docket, declining to reconsider Obama’s immigration plan as well as a long-awaited Redskins trademark case. Members also won’t be weighing in on a high-profile NCAA case involving the amateur status of college football and basketball players. (Robert Barnes)
  6. Maryland’s ACA health co-op wants to become a for-profit company in a desperate bid to avoid a shutdown. If the switch is approved, it will leave just five of the 23 original co-op plans standing. (Amy Goldstein)
  7. The Surgeon General said his agency’s personnel site may have been breached in a cyber-hack, warning more than 6,500 federal employees that their personal information, including names, dates, and Social Security numbers, may have been stolen by “unauthenticated users.” It’s the latest in a long line of cyber-hacks of federal employee information, Eric Yoder writes.
  8. Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his family filed a lawsuit against the Iranian government IN federal court, arguing that he was taken hostage and unjustly imprisoned as a “bargaining chip” for Tehran to use as the government sought to influence negotiations for a nuclear agreement. (Carol Morello)
  9. A new report suggests North Korea could be gearing up for a major nuclear test, timing their next provocation to create an October Surprise. (CNN)
  10. Turkey suspended 12,800 police officers over suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, continuing a far-reaching crackdown in the aftermath of July’s failed military coup. (AP)
  11. The pound fell to a three-decade low against the U.S. dollar, dropping 15 percent below levels that were seen after the Brexit referendum in June. Currency analysts said they expect further volatility as London and Brussels begin formal European Union exit talks in March. (Wall Street Journal)
  12. A new study found that women who consumed higher levels of caffeine over a 10-year period had a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia. While the study stops short of establishing a direct cause and effect relationship, it is the latest in a string of research that points to the positive health benefits of caffeine. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  13. A 13-year-old is in police custody in Hampton, Va., for allegedly soliciting a clown on social media to kill one of her teachers. The incident is just the latest in a series of clown-related threats reported in the past month. (WAVY-TV)

  14. A federal judge threw out a lawsuit accusing police of using excessive force against Ferguson protesters in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s 2014 death, saying protesters had “completely failed to present any credible evidence that any of the actions taken by these individuals were taken with malice or were committed in bad faith.” (AP)
  15. The family of a slain mentally-ill black man filed a lawsuit against Sacramento police after newly-released dashcam video showed officers attempting to hit the man with their car before shooting him 14 times. The suit faults police for failing to contact any properly trained mental health counselors, or make an attempt to use non-lethal force, before opening fire. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  16. A California Highway Patrol officer was attacked by a violent mob in Fresno after responding to a call about illegal street racingwith 40 people hitting, kicking and screaming into his patrol car as the officer sat inside. Authorities are searching for individuals who were involved. (Kristine Guerra's story; watch the video)
  17. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan received his final chemo treatment, nearly a year-and-a-half after being diagnosed with Stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In a Facebook post, the Republican said he is “deeply grateful to be 100 percent ­cancer-free.” (Ovetta Wiggins)
  18. Sasha and Malia Obama will be members of the bridal party for Michelle's longtime assistant. Kristen Jarvis is marrying a Secret Service agent. (Helena Andrews-Dyer)

NEW POLLS SHOW POST-DEBATE CLINTON BUMP:

-- A CNN/ORC poll gives HRC a five-point national lead (47-42). Fully 50 percent of Clinton supporters now say they are “enthusiastic” about her candidacy, up from 46 percent earlier this month. Though the survey was taken before the New York Times published a portion of Trump's tax documents this weekend, more than 80 percent of voters said they consider paying taxes a civic duty.

-- A Franklin & Marshall College poll of PENNSYLVANIA shows Clinton up 9 points (47-38) among likely voters. Among registered voters, her lead bumps to 12 points.

-- A Monmouth University survey in COLORADO puts Clinton up 11 points. Before the debate, the two were statistically tied. This helps explain why Clinton is not campaigning in the state or spending money on TV ads there.

-- Quinnipiac University's polls have Clinton ahead in three states:

  • In FLORIDA, she bests Trump by 5 (46-41).
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, she's up 4 (45-41).
  • In NORTH CAROLINA, she’s up 3 (46-43).

-- Bloomberg Politics's poll of the Tar Heel State has Clinton up 1 point (46-45), which like the Q poll is within the margin of error. Republican Sen. Richard Burr trails his Democratic challenger by 2 points (46-44) and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is down 6 points (50-44) to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.

-- Christopher Newport University's VIRGINIA poll gives Clinton a 7-point edge (42-35).

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, who will face off in tonight's veep debate. (Mandel Ngan and Saul Loeb/Getty)

THE V.P. DEBATE IS TONIGHT AT 9 P.M. EASTERN:

-- Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will face off --- and meet for the very first time – in Farmville, Virginia, for the only vice presidential debate of 2016. It could make for some interesting television.

--Paul Kane recounts the only direct interaction the two veep nominees have ever had: "One phone call really stood out to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) after Hillary Clinton selected him as her running mate. 'Hey, welcome aboard,' Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told Kaine in late July. The Republican vice-presidential nominee’s greeting to the Democratic vice-presidential nominee is the only conversation the two men have ever had, according to Kaine.

Here’s what you need to know about tonight's face-off:

-- “Tuesday night’s debate is between the No. 2’s — but it will be all about the No. 1’s,” Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report. “Pence and Kaine are poised to duel over the temperament, qualifications, honesty and records of [Trump] and [Clinton], as the two affable and smooth-talking men explain and proselytize their historically unpopular running mates. Pence has a particular challenge: Trump’s incendiary statements and erratic behavior, especially over the past week, have formed a hurricane at the center of the Republican campaign; Pence could be forced again and again to account for Trump’s actions.”

  • Both need to shore up support for their presidential nominee among key constituencies: Kaine is expected to make a case for Clinton’s progressive credentials to young people, while Pence is likely to use his record as a faith-based conservative to make overtures to evangelical voters and social conservatives.
  • Historically, voters tune into vice-presidential debates to see whether the candidates appear well-prepared for the presidency themselves. But Pence and Kaine seem to have met that threshold already – both have seasoned tenures holding federal and state office. (By traditional standards, Pence is more qualified for the presidency than Trump.)

Prep: Both candidates have been studying binders of issue briefings and have spent the last few days holding mock debates with advisers. Gov. Scott Walker has been Pence’s stand-in for Kaine, while D.C.-based “super-lawyer” Robert Barnett is playig the stand-in for Pence.

Outsized ambition: Both No. 2’s have their own future careers to consider as they battle it out in front of a national television audience. Pence, 57, has an eye on a possible 2020 presidential run, should Trump lose, while Kaine, 58, also has national ambitions in 2020 or 2024.

-- How will Pence defend Trump’s incendiary comments? If it comes down to playing defense, Pence has the tougher task – and as Marco Rubio learned in the primaries this spring, using the same dodge repeatedly can have “catastrophic consequences,” Alex Burns writes in his curtain-raiser for the Times.

George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984; Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle in 1988; and Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004. (Gene J. Puskar; Ron Edmonds; Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

-- “Being vice president is dreadful. Running for it is so much worse,” by Ben Terris and Krissah Thompson: “Everyone knows that being vice president is a bummer — a job famously described by the 32nd person to hold it, John ‘Cactus Jack’ Nance Garner, as ‘not worth a bucket of warm piss.’ It’s an office that comes with little official authority; like the Sea Witch Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid,’ it can strip you of your own voice. But there’s one thing worse, and it is running for the godforsaken job. Screwing it up is basically all you have time for in the intense three-month stretch that anyone gets to occupy the role of running for vice president. And the gig is an unavoidably miserable fit for the two kinds of pols typically deemed suitable for it — the seasoned veterans tapped to lend stability and gravitas to the ticket (but who never imagined themselves in the back seat) or the fresh-faced newcomers expected to bring excitement (but maybe not quite ready for prime time). It’s a recipe to either feel disappointed or to disappoint."

-- “With Kaine and Pence, Faith Is Back in the Mix,” by Jonathan Martin in the New York Times: “The descent of the 2016 presidential campaign last week into the realm of sex tapes and marital infidelity was remarkable enough in its own right, but it also offered a reminder of what has been largely absent from the race: a debate about issues of public morality that for decades have been at the heart of the country’s political divide. The country may get a reminder of that during the vice-presidential debate.” Both Kaine and Pence share a deep religious faith that is central to their politics, but has been obscured by a top-ticket race that is more profane than holy. “While both men are devout, they represent different strands of Christianity in American life, a contrast that is likely to be on display as they discuss their positions on social issues and how religious beliefs would guide their approach to governing.”

-- The face-off will be moderated by CBS News correspondent and digital anchor Elaine Quijano, who will make history as the first Asian-American journalist to moderate a national debate. She’s also the youngest debate moderator in three decades, preceded only by Judy Woodruff in 1988. (USA Today)

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks during a press conference announcing a major drug bust. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ordered the Trump Foundation to immediately cease fundraising because it does not have proper authorization to be a charitable organization. From David Fahrenthold: The message was conveyed in a “notice of violation” sent to the Trump Foundation on Friday, coming just one day after The Post reported that the organization had failed to register as a charity soliciting money, thus allowing the foundation to skirt rigorous annual audits required of charity organizations in the state. Among other things, the audits would have asked whether the foundation’s money had been used to benefit Trump or any of his businesses. … In addition, the organization was ordered to supply New York with all legal paperwork necessary to register as a charity that solicits money within 15 days, as well as provide financial audit reports for any instances where it violated law by soliciting money. Should Trump’s foundation does not comply, the AG’s office wrote, it will be considered ‘a continuing fraud upon the people of New York.’”

-- Trump told a group of military veterans that some members of the military develop mental health issues because they "aren’t strong” and “can’t handle it,” creating what is sure to be a new batch of problems as he attempts to shift focus from a week of incendiary comments. "When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over. And you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it," Trump told a group of veterans at a town hall-style event in Northern Virginia. Suicides often occur among former military members because they cannot quickly make an appointment to obtain “a simple prescription” or procedure, added the Republican nominee, who served five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. (Sean Sullivan and Jenna Johnson)

-- Veterans supporting Trump don't seem to care: Many quickly said his comments were being “exaggerated” as offensive, accusing the media of taking them out of context. “I think it’s sickening that anyone would twist his comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda,” said former Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, who was diagnosed with PTSD. “I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have, and I believe he is committed to helping them.” Others defended him online, saying he was drawing attention to veterans issues that need to be discussed. (Dan Lamothe)

-- “How Trump ditched U.S. steel workers in favor of China,” by Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald: “Trump has been stiffing American steel workers on his own construction projects for years, choosing to deprive untold millions of dollars from four key electoral swing states and instead directing it to China … In at least two of Trump’s last three construction projects, Trump opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than U.S. corporations based in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. In other instances, he abandoned steel altogether, instead choosing the far-less-expensive option of buying concrete from various companies, including some linked to the Luchese and Genovese crime families."

Trump speaks in Pueblo, Colo. (AP/John Locher)

FALLOUT CONTINUES OVER TRUMP'S TAXES:

-- Trump launched an aggressive defense of a massive 1995 business loss that might have enabled him to skip paying federal income taxes for nearly two decades, claiming he “BRILLIANTLY” used tax laws to his advantage. From Sean Sullivan, Abby Phillip and Jenna Johnson: Speaking at a campaign event in Pueblo, Colo., the Republican nominee claimed he has a “fiduciary responsibility” to “pay as little taxes as possible” – although these are personal taxes! – and pitched himself as an “underdog” who has overcome obstacles in the business world and the campaign trail. “While I made my money as a very successful private businessperson, following the law all the way, [Clinton] made her money as a corrupt public official,” he said.

--Trump admitted he had been a "big beneficiary" of the tax code at a rally in Loveland, Colo. on Monday night, saying: “The unfairness of the tax laws is unbelievable. It is something that I have been talking about for a long time … despite being a very big beneficiary,” he said. "I must admit … I am a big beneficiary. But you are more important than my being a beneficiary so we are going to straighten it out and make it fair for everybody.”

-- “Trump’s tax mystery points toward the dealings around his first bankruptcies,” by Drew Harwell and Robert O'Harrow Jr.: “In 1995, [he] was in the midst of a spending spree. He had recently bought a 727 jet for personal use, added a skyscraper to his Manhattan real estate portfolio and snapped up properties in Telluride, Colo., and Palm Beach, Fla. …That same year, he said he had negative $916 million in ‘federal adjusted gross income,’ a claim that gave him the prospect of avoiding federal income taxes for years to come. So how could he be thriving and avoiding taxes at the same time? That’s the central mystery behind the state tax documents … The disclosure also raises new questions about the degree of Trump’s personal financial involvement in the Trump Organization’s first four bankruptcies. Though he has repeatedly drawn a distinction between the company’s bankruptcies and his personal finances, the tax documents indicate he may have used losses stemming from his bankruptcies to benefit his personal fortune."

-- Timothy L. O'Brien, the author who saw Trump’s tax returns in conjunction with an unsuccessful libel lawsuit filed by the Republican nominee, doubts Trump will ever make his returns public. “They would reveal that the career he boasts so much about is built on sand,” he wrote in a Bloomberg op-ed. And he said Trump is not very “financially sophisticated:” “In my interviews with him, he had trouble explaining such basic real estate concepts as ‘cash flow.’ His eyes tend to glaze over when complex numbers come into play. Trump’s own former accountant [said] … that it was always Trump’s ex-wife Ivana who asked probing questions about the couple’s taxes. Trump himself … was disengaged, and less detail-oriented than his father, Fred. Trump’s accountants probably used losses on the sale or write-down of assets that Trump purchased with the $900 million in loans to help generate the enormous business loss reported on his 1995 tax return. Whatever minimal financial dexterity and tax savvy is reflected in those moves is theirs, not Trump’s."

-- HRC's message in Ohio: “What kind of genius loses a billion dollars?” (They've turned a new ad off this theme.)

-- Paul Ryan says the tax bombshell will not harm Trump’s candidacy, saying it does not hurt his reputation as a “great businessman.” "I think people who don't like him are going to continue disliking him," the Speaker told the Detroit Free Press, adding that net operating losses for tax purposes are common. "The numbers are big because he's a multi-billionaire,” he said.

-- Even Newt Gingrich is openly pleading with Trump to alter his campaign style, telling the GOP nominee that he is at risk of “gravely wounding” his bid unless he makes an immediate shift. In an interview with Maggie Haberman, the former Speaker said that Trump faces the “single greatest test of his campaign” this week, after ending the last one in a tailspin following his first debate with Clinton. “He has gotten himself to the edge of the mountain, he can get himself to the top of the mountain, but to do that he has to be willing to make real change,” Newt told Maggie. “I really want him to understand that he can win this."

Trump has failed repeatedly. (Diane Hodges)

-- “Trump’s Business Decisions in ’80s Nearly Led Him to Ruin,” by the New York Times's Russ Buettner and Charles Bagli: “Abraham Wallach thought he had scored a major career break when [Trump] hired him in 1990 for a senior executive role. Instead, he found an array of failing enterprises [and glum employees]. ‘It was like getting on the Titanic just before the women and children were moved to the lifeboats,’ [he said]. That year … was the beginning of Mr. Trump’s reckoning with a decade of rapid, debt-fueled expansion. The eclectic empire Mr. Trump had built with leverage from his father’s brick-and-mortar fortune began to fail, generating enormous losses and bringing him to the brink of personal bankruptcy. ... For a single businessman to declare losses approaching $1 billion is so extraordinary that it caused several accountants and lawyers consulted by The Times to blanch. The precise breakdown of that figure … remains murky, hidden in a schedule attached to Mr. Trump’s returns that has not become public. But a review of public records and interviews with those who were present makes clear that it was decisions Mr. Trump made at the helm of his business empire during the 1980s that led to its nearly imploding."

Michael Chertoff (File)

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- Michael Chertoff, who was the lead Republican counsel on the Senate Whitewater Committee and George W. Bush's DHS Secretary, endorsed Clinton, throwing his weight behind the woman he was once tasked with prosecuting. He said Clinton has “good judgment and a strategic vision how to deal with the threats that face us,” saying his decision ultimately came down to national security. Chertoff added that Clinton’s use of a private email server should not be disqualifying, calling her State Department setup a mistake, but not one that intentionally endangered national security. (Bloomberg)

-- Vox’s Ezra Klein says the leaked audio from a February fundraiser says more about how Hillary sees herself than how she sees Bernie Sanders: “Clinton does not … mock Sanders’s supporters or Sanders himself,” he writes. “Instead, she offers a theory for why she struggles so much to inspire young voters. ‘It is difficult when you’re running to be president, and you understand how hard the job is,’ [she says]. ‘I don’t want to overpromise [or] … tell people things that I know we cannot do.’ Her effort to put herself in the shoes of younger millennials winds toward a similar conclusion. ‘If you’re feeling like you’re consigned to, you know, [a job that] doesn’t have some other ladder of opportunity attached to it, then the idea that maybe, just maybe, you could be part of a political revolution is pretty appealing,’ she says. ... There’s an observation that the Atlantic’s Molly Ball made about [Trump] that nailed a key part of his appeal: ‘All the other candidates say ‘Americans are angry, and I understand.’ Trump says, ‘I’M angry.'' This describes the Clinton-Sanders dynamic, as well. Sanders says ‘I want a political revolution!’ Hillary Clinton says, in effect, ‘I understand why young people might want a political revolution.’ Clinton is stuck on the outside of youthful idealism looking in.”

-- The National Education Association will kick off its final general election push for Clinton this week, launching a new campaign that links Trump to a rise in schoolyard bullying. From Abby Phillip: “Citing a growing number of reports by its membership of Trump-like bullying in classrooms across the country, the [country’s largest labor union] is planning to make the issue a centerpiece of its argument against Trump in ads and mailings in battleground states. Beginning on Monday, the union will hold conference calls and news conferences with teachers, principals and psychologists who link Trump’s comments on the national stage to a rise in bullying in the classroom. The union's outreach will also contrast Trump and Clinton's plans for education.” According to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, union members have reported children threatening classmates that they might be deported by Trump, or referring to their peers as “terrorists.” “Kids feel like they have been given permission, and they are invoking the name of [Trump],” she said.

THE BATTLEGROUNDS:

-- “Pennsylvania was once merely important in presidential elections. Now, it's Clinton's firewall,” by the Los Angeles Times's Cathleen Decker: “In Philadelphia, the Democratic political pulse is thrumming with both resolute optimism and panicky fear. After more than 20 years as reliably blue in presidential contests, Pennsylvania by dint of other states’ moves is suddenly the Clinton linchpin, the place that could deny [Trump] the presidency. That puts heavily populated Philadelphia in the hot seat ... The state hasn’t sided with a Republican since 1988, but Trump has made inroads this year, as elsewhere, by appealing to blue-collar voters on economic and cultural grounds. So Democrats are under more pressure than they have been in years to maximize turnout in southeastern Pennsylvania and in the city of Philadelphia, where huge margins for [Obama] and other Democrats served to offset losses elsewhere in the state.”

-- “In N.H., immigrants may tip the scales in presidential race,” by the Boston Globe's Maria Sacchetti: “On a patch of grass in their housing complex, Seattle Seahawks fans from Africa play American football. Nearby, an Iraqi refugee sweeps the sidewalk outside his apartment … And a woman who walked seven days from South Sudan to Ethiopia to flee a bloody war yawns in her kitchen after a long day at work as a cleaner. Meet the immigrants whose families are a potential wild card in the coming presidential election in a state where the contest is suddenly close. And some say New Hampshire’s small but growing immigrant population could tip the scales. This election season, New Hampshire has posted one of the highest increases in citizenship applications in the United States. From January to March, citizenship applications were up 65 percent over the previous quarter, and applications continued to pour in. Because New Hampshire allows residents to register to vote on Election Day, their effect will be anyone’s guess."

-- Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist on Bush 43’s 2004 reelection effort, identifies four key dynamics at play in the final weeks of the campaign. From his piece for the Wall Street Journal:

  • The general election has been remarkably stable -- and Clinton has held a small, consistent lead since mid-June. “On Mr. Trump’s best day (and Mrs. Clinton’s worst), this race gets only to tied. Mr. Trump has to figure out how to go from the red zone to the end zone and finally take some kind of lead. My expectation is that the only way he can do this is with a superb debate performance.”
  • Tactical moves will not decide this race. “Trump’s campaign had a major leadership shakeup a few weeks ago – but despite much speculation, the contest is exactly where it was before. For Clinton’s campaign, spending millions on television ads also hasn’t changed the dynamic either.”
  • Trump remains as undisciplined as he was on the day he announced his campaign: “Mr. Trump showed that he is more of a sprint campaigner than a marathoner. He excels at short spurts but doesn’t seem able to maintain consistency for a lengthy period. On a visceral gut level, he seems incapable of making the adjustments to acquire the discipline one needs as a politician. He still has time, but he is running out of days and moments.”
  • Clinton hasn’t been able to make an effective “change” argument or fix liabilities in trust and likability – allowing Trump to stay “within a field goal” in polling. “And in a disruptive and unstable environment in which 70% of voters think the country is on the wrong track, there is room for an unknown moment to possibly alter the race in Mr. Trump’s favor.”

-- Speaking of Bush alumni: Michael Gerson argues in his column for today’s Post that "America is seeing a movement of white grievance led by an avatar of the Playboy philosophy." “Every presidential candidate presents not just a vision of the future but a certain construction of the past — both Millennium and Eden. Ronald Reagan’s ideal, even though he was a product of Hollywood, was the small-town Midwest. For George W. Bush (who chewed tobacco in the back of the class at Harvard Business School), Eden was always West Texas. … Trump’s version of Eden is lounging at the grotto at the Playboy Mansion or smoking cigars in the back room at the Sands, with a little Studio 54 thrown in.”

The prospect of a renewed culture war is real: “If the United States is truly in the midst of a wave election, fed by the fears and discontent of white males, it will have enormous consequences in a country that has moved considerably in the direction of diversity, tolerance and inclusion. A very real culture war will be in full swing, not between social conservatives and social liberals, but between a movement of white economic and cultural grievances and a party of social elites and ascendant minorities. This struggle — rooted in race and class — would be far more bitter than the old culture war of ideas. … Conservatives oriented toward reform and outreach … are largely waiting in shelters for the storm to pass. But what of the Republican Party will be left?”

Gary Johnson leaves the Utah State Capitol after meeting with with legislators in Salt Lake City. (AP/Rick Bowmer)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “Years before ‘Aleppo moment,’ Gary Johnson showed little interest in details of governing,” by Robert Samuels in Santa Fe: “For state lawmakers here who used to work with Gary Johnson, something is familiar about the former governor’s baffled looks, which have turned into an embarrassment for his third-party presidential campaign. Longtime state Sen. Stuart Ingle recalled how Johnson, soon after taking office in 1995, mostly shrugged and stared during their first meeting together. Over the next eight years, New Mexico lawmakers would struggle to work with a governor who paid little attention to details. Those who worked closely with Johnson … recall a chief executive who would speed through meetings and often preferred to discuss his fitness routine than focus on the minutiae of policymaking.” Knowing that Johnson was a triathlete, state Sen. Mimi Stewart hoped to build a rapport with him through running. Twice, she participated in the same marathon as Johnson, hoping to slip in some job talk. It was fruitless. 'He would just nod his head and change the subject,' Stewart said. 'If I saw him in the halls, he’d ask, ‘How’s the running?’”

-- “How a wealthy non-politician and star of ‘The Apprentice’ won South America’s biggest city,” by Dom Phillips: João Doria has just been elected mayor of Sao Paulo. “Like Trump, Doria has written a series of self-help business books and enjoys luxury. He runs a management and communications group that publishes a magazine called Caviar Lifestyle. He starred in the Brazilian version of the show that made Trump a TV star. Doria's victory in Sunday's local elections was a sign of how Brazilians are recoiling from traditional politicians.”

Wendy Mueller, in her Leesburg home, displays the image her daughter texted to her while she was dealing with a kidnapping scam. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Alarming scam --> “‘We have your daughter’: A virtual kidnapping and a mother’s five hours of hell,” by Petula Dvorak: “Wendy Mueller was standing at the copper sink in her gorgeous, historic Leesburg, Va., home last Wednesday afternoon when … the phone rang. She heard screaming. It sounded like her 23-year-old daughter’s voice, begging for help. Then an unfamiliar voice announced, ‘We have your daughter.’ What followed next was five hours of hell. Police call it a virtual kidnapping — an old scam that is having a renaissance across the country and particularly in the Washington region. The callers target affluent areas and find enough information online to make their ruse plausible.” Mueller had no idea that she was being played. And for hours, the man instructed her to go to small stores, where she wired the maximum amount to a Mexico address. She knew one question, one wrong move, and her daughter could be dead. 'It was torture,’ she said. And none of it was true. Wendy Mueller’s daughter was in class, working on an artsy movie poster. The caller was a scam artist.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Not a great thing to promote -- the RNC's chief strategist posted on Twitter that a new RNC web video was in the style of the notorious (and heavily racialized) Willie Horton attack ad against Michael Dukakis. Under fire, he deleted it:

LeBron James tweeted his Clinton endorsement:

Bernie, traveling the Midwest this week, is becoming even more vocal as a Clinton surrogate online:

Someone built a wall to show support for Trump:

New York Times reporters waited around for more Trump documents:

The Supreme Court was all Catholic Monday as Justices Ginsberg, Kagan and Breyer celebrated Rosh Hashanah:

The NRA commented on the robbery of Kim Kardashian at gunpoint in Paris:

The tweets sparked an exchange with gun control advocates:

Claire McCaskill gave Trump some advice in honor of Oct. 3 (a holiday for Mean Girls fans):

Reason Magazine's Matt Welch issued a reality check on Ron Paul:

Larry Hogan got a warm welcome after his final chemotherapy treatment (click to watch):

The Obamas celebrated their anniversary:

Paul Ryan watches as Mike Pence delivers remarks at the RNC headquarters. (EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo) 

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Buzzfeed, “Paul Ryan, So Handsome, So Sad,” by McKay Coppins: “In the four months since he formally endorsed his party’s nominee for president, Ryan — the esteemed Speaker of the House, the sterling guardian of conservatism, the intellectual leader of the Republican Party — has been reduced to a miserable Trump flunky sheepishly counting down the hours until the election is over. Each day he spends tethered to the Donald seems to bring some fresh humiliation; each role he inhabits in the entourage proves more undignified than the last. Adviser, apologist, hype man, scold — none brings redemption, or even reprieve. And so he trudges on toward November, a stench of sadness clinging to him as he goes. For years, Ryan has cultivated a reputation on both sides of the aisle as a paragon of decency, earnestness, and principle … [and] to many in Washington — including no small number of reporters — Ryan’s support for Trump is not merely a political miscalculation, but a craven betrayal. As one senior GOP staffer put it, ‘Your heroes always let you down.’

-- The Cipher Brief, “The Congress is the main cause of our broken government, not the Presidency,” by Walter Pincus: He focuses on the Saudi Arabia veto override and the subsequent call for a new bill with fixes, along with the continuing resolution. “It was the tenth time in eleven years that Congress had failed to pass separate appropriations bills for each government department and had to resort to temporary extensions. … This year’s primary voters and many in the current presidential election looking for change are aiming at the wrong target. They should be seeking to support potential profiles in courage for Capitol Hill and working against members whose first concern is with their own electoral futures and then that of their party.”

-- Wall Street Journal, “For China, ‘Clouds Are Fading Away’ in the Philippines,” by Andrew Browne: “With the exception of the Vietnam War, America’s alliance system in East Asia has helped keep the peace for more than half a century. Now it is in trouble. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s progression from abusive name-calling to a more broadly articulated anti-American hostility has been swift and stunning, [threatening] one of Washington’s crucial Asian alliances.” At first it looked like a fit of pique: One month ago, Duterte called Obama a “son of a whore” over U.S. criticism of his war on drugs. A few days later Duterte proposed removing American military advisers from the southern region of Mindanao. Then he declared he was shopping in China and Russia for military supplies readily available in the U.S. China is jubilant over the cooling relations: “The clouds are fading away,” said China’s ambassador to Manila. “The sun is rising over the horizon, and will shine beautifully on the new chapter of bilateral relations.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Pence Pushes Guns as Indiana Bleeds,” from the Daily Beast: “Trump made much of the violence in [Obama’s] hometown during the first 2016 presidential debate with [Clinton]. [But Pence] himself should be asked about it during Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate … A pre-debate fact check shows that the murder rate in Indianapolis reached 16.9 per 100,000 in 2015 with 144 murders, the most in that city’s history. Chicago’s rate came in slightly lower, 16.7 per 100,000, with 468 homicides but more than three times the population. [And one of] Pence’s most notable actions as governor …include arranging for the NRA to train the Indiana National Guard in carrying concealed weapons. Pence also signed laws that legalized sawed-off shotguns, permitted people to keep guns in vehicles in school parking lots, and retroactively barred a 1999 suit by the city of Gary against gun manufacturers.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Mother of Sylacauga HS student says assault could have been prevented,” by Fox News WBRC: “Brandi Allen was in tears Sunday afternoon outside of UAB Hospital, while her son, Brian Ogle, was inside recovering from an assault. ‘Instead of us planning for his 18th birthday, we're here. Why? Because he made a statement that he backs the blue? I'm still trying to understand how someone, no matter the color of their skin, can do this to another human being,’ said Allen. Sylacauga police said he was assaulted in the parking lot of an old hardware store Friday night following his high school’s homecoming game. Allen said her son’s skull is broken in three places. 

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Pence and Kaine debate in Farmville, Va. Trump campaigns in Prescott Valley, Ariz. Huge day for Team Clinton: Clinton is in Haverford and Harrisburg, Pa.; Bill Clinton starts his bus tour in Athens County and Steubenville, Ohio; Michelle Obama speaks in Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Bernie Sanders rallies supporters in Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn.; and Elizabeth Warren and Catherine Cortez Masto are in Las Vegas.

At the White House: Obama meets with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“This sh*t really is fun to watch. I’ll tell you what.” -- Mike Pence at a rally last night (NBC has the clip here.)

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

-- Another day of gorgeous temps – mixed with some potential PM showers. Here’s today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Mostly sunny morning conditions shift to partly to mostly cloudy during the afternoon along with a chance of a few light showers or sprinkles.  Highs push mainly into the lower or middle 70s with comfortably low humidity.”

-- The award-winning principal of the Cora Kelly School in Alexandria was reassigned after allegations that he selectively informed parents of low-performing students on how to pull their children from state tests. Officials said he has been transferred to the public school system’s central office, where he will perform administrative duties “for the time being.” (Moriah Balingit)

-- Hundreds of demonstrators blocked streets in Northwest Washington last night, demanding answers in the death of 31-year-old Terence Sterling, a Maryland motorcyclist who was fatally shot by a D.C. police officer on Sept. 11. From Clarence Williams and Justin Wm. Moyer: The march followed an hour-long rally and vigil at a park near Third and M street, where Sterling was fatally shot. “Among the speakers, Black Lives Matter activist April Goggans asked fellow demonstrators to begin a new campaign to call Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie as well to use social media with the #Terrence Sterling hashtag in an attempt to draw national exposure to the case. ‘We are here for a man who can’t speak,’ said Steven Douglass, a friend of Sterling. ‘This is not a hashtag, this is reality.’”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

During a White House event on the South Lawn, President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio spoke about the challenges of battling climate change domestically and abroad:

Check out this awesome view of Hurricane Matthew from the International Space Station (click to watch):

Here's the moment Trump referred to Clinton as "the devil":

Funny or Die is picking apart stereotypes with its new series, "Lady President":

Two Florida men are facing felony charges for taking a selfie with an alligator: