Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) debates Rep. Patrick Murphy, his Democratic challenger, at the University of Central Florida in Orlando last night. (John Raoux/AP)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Marco Rubio did not want to sound robotic during last night’s Florida Senate debate in Orlando. His repetition of the same talking point, like a malfunctioning machine, doomed him on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. He could not make that mistake twice.

So the Republican carefully rehearsed several phrases to express disagreement and unease with Donald Trump — while simultaneously explaining why he continues to support him for president. This has been an awkward balancing act ever since Rubio decided to run for reelection despite promising not to, and the bottom falling out from underneath Trump’s candidacy has only added a fresh sense of urgency.

Rubio has led in every public poll since the summer, but his lead has been persistently narrow. Top Republicans fear he could get wiped out if an anti-Trump wave materializes during the next three weeks. But Rubio also knows, in a tight race, he cannot afford to alienate core supporters of Trump, who beat him by 19 points in his home state primary this March.

So the senator said almost exactly the same thing six different ways: He called it a “horrifying choice.” Then he said “it is not the most inspirational choice.” He described Clinton and Trump as “two deeply flawed candidates.” He described the candidates as “less than ideal options.” Finally, he acknowledged having “deep reservations about the nominee.”

Moderator Jon Karl spent the first 15 minutes of an hour-long debate at the University of Central Florida trying to draw Rubio as far out as he could. The ABC News correspondent reminded him that just a few months ago he said Trump does not have the temperament to be president and cannot be trusted with the nuclear codes.

Asked how far off the deep end Trump would have to go for him to rescind his endorsement, he replied that the worst offense of all would be embracing Hillary Clinton’s positions on the issues. The man whom Trump branded as “Little Marco” argued that the Democratic nominee is worse because, he alleged, she “repeatedly violated federal law” and “has a 30-year record of scandal and outrage.”

Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy ripped Rubio as an ambitious, self-serving politician who has “one foot out the door,” plans to run for president in 2020 and never shows up for work in the Senate. But, above all, he tried to link Rubio with Trump and tie himself to Clinton. Asked about immigration, for example, the congressman from Palm Beach said this to Rubio: “You’ve doubled down on your endorsement of Donald Trump, the man who wants to build a wall, who thinks that Mexicans are rapists and criminals and who wants to deport 11 to 12 million people.”

Pushing back on these attacks, Rubio noted that the construction business owned by Murphy’s father — who has been heavily financing outside groups supporting the campaign — worked on Trump’s properties. “There's only one family on stage tonight whose family has made millions of dollars from Donald Trump, and that's yours,” he said.

Later, in response to another question, Rubio said Trump should stop saying that the election is being rigged. “We have 67 counties in this state, each of which conduct their own elections. I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election," he said, adding that Republicans control many of the positions that oversee ballots and monitor results. “There is no evidence behind any of this.… He should stop saying that.”

-- Rubio, of course, is the only Republican in a competitive Senate race who can say that he ran against Trump. This gives him some cover for sticking with the politically poisonous nominee as others bolt. “If there are any kids in America who understand what a horrifying choice America has in this election cycle, it's mine, because they've lived through it over the last 14 months,” he said. “It’s pretty clear Donald Trump is not my first choice or even my 10th choice to be the nominee of the Republican Party. But 14 million voters in the Republican primaries chose differently.”

Donald Trump kisses a "Women for Trump" placard during a rally last week in Lakeland, Fla. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

-- During the summer, Florida was Trump’s best swing state. But it’s been drifting away from him. A Quinnipiac poll published yesterday put Clinton ahead by four points (48-44) in the state. Two weeks ago, independents favored Trump by three points in their survey. Now they back Clinton by eight points.

  • The Fix yesterday moved the battleground from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.”
  • USA Today fronts a story this morning from The Villages in central Florida with quotes from several retirees who have been lifelong Republicans but plan to vote for Clinton.
  • Politico reported last night that Florida Democrats have narrowly surpassed Republicans at getting mail-in ballots submitted. This is a very big deal because they have historically lagged far behind the GOP when it comes to absentee ballots. Democrats typically fare better with early in-person voting, which starts Monday, and Republicans do best on Election Day.
  • Reuters just moved a dispatch from Orlando suggesting that John Mica, seeking a 13th term, might go down because of his support for Trump.

-- Trump has no path to 270 electoral votes without Florida’s 29. That’s why he’s spent more time on the ground than any place else. For Rubio’s purposes, that means he’s constantly on the local television news — even though the two never appear together and will not before the election. Trump is coming back next Monday to tour the Kennedy Space Center.

In the RealClearPolitics average of all recent polls, Rubio leads by 4.7 percent and Clinton leads by 3.6 percent. But an internal GOP poll that was in the field last week had Trump down in the high single digits and Rubio only narrowly ahead, sources who have seen it told me. If accurate, that means the senator must get about one in 10 voters to support a non-Republican for president and him for Senate. He will be able to get a fair number of crossover votes, but if Trump really collapses, it may not be enough.

-- Just like he did throughout the GOP nominating contest, Trump has sucked up all the oxygen in Florida’s Senate race this fall. Here are word clouds showing every mention of Rubio and Murphy on social media over the past month. Notice how large Trump’s shadow looms over both of them:

-- Rubio debated last night like a guy who believes he really could lose. He projected more nervousness than confidence.

-- He went further than ever before in committing to serve a full six-year term, although he still dodged on whether he would run for president in 2020. Asked about whether he would commit to serve out his term, he said: “I’m going to serve six years in the Senate, God willing. And I’m looking forward to it.” Karl asked if that means he won’t seek the GOP nod in 2020. Rubio repeated that he’ll serve six years — again throwing in the “God willing” qualifier to give himself an out. Perhaps the surprise announcement was designed to make news so that the headline out of the debate would not be about Trump. The pronouncement is getting good play in today’s papers.

-- He threw the kitchen sink at Murphy. Rubio went hard after the 33-year-old as someone who has gotten nothing accomplished during two terms in the House but who routinely exaggerates his academic background and record in business. When Murphy hit Rubio late in the debate for trying to take away a woman’s right to choose, Rubio fired back: “You're the one that posted a picture on Facebook of you groping a woman. That's inappropriate behavior!” It was a reference to a picture in which the congressman appears to have his hand on a woman’s chest. The image has circulated on Twitter for weeks among conservatives, but Murphy seemed caught off guard and clearly had not prepped to discuss it. “Let’s just talk about Donald Trump again, right,” he said, changing the subject. Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen told the Miami Herald afterward that the photo was of “a former girlfriend at dinner” and called the attack “an act of desperation.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) is not a great candidate. (John Raoux/AP)

-- A more impressive Democratic challenger would have a much easier time defeating Rubio. Much like Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV against Bill Nelson during the 2012 Florida Senate debates, Murphy was unimpressive and not ready for prime-time.

National Democrats rallied behind Murphy early on largely because he was not Alan Grayson, the acerbic firebrand congressman who was also running, and they believed he brought money to the table. They also took Rubio at his word that he hated the Senate and would not run again.

Thomas Murphy Jr. has now given at least $1.75 million to super PACs supporting his son’s campaign. But in a mega-state like Florida, it is expensive to introduce one’s self. So Murphy remains largely unknown. Rubio’s national connections and allies at outside groups have given him a financial advantage that allows him to define his challenger.

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Tanks advance as the sun begins to set last night east of Mosul. (Reuters)


-- Thousands of Kurdish and Iraqi troops wrested territory from the Islamic State outside the northern city of Mosul, continuing the long-awaited offensive to oust ISIS from its main stronghold. From Kareem Fahim and Loveday Morris: “Kurdish forces moved to take a string of villages east of the captive city while Iraqi army and police units made a push from the south, a rare display of coordination and harmony between rival forces that officials hailed as a significant victory in itself.... The battle is the most ambitious offensive launched by Iraq’s security forces since they were created after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The disparate forces pushing to play a role in Mosul’s liberation … [have] underscored the collective sense of trauma and anger in Iraq as the city has suffered under the brutal reign of the Islamic State since it stormed Mosul early in the summer of 2014.”

U.S. troops will continue to advise and assist from behind the front lines, offering air support, artillery, intelligence and special operations advisers. Thomas Gibbons-Neff has a guide to what that will look like in Mosul — a battle that dwarfs other major operations this year in both its size and complexity. (Still fuzzy on the details? Here are four maps that help explain the chaos in the Middle East.)

Rebel fighters yesterday move the body of a dead officer from the back of a pickup truck after bringing him from the front line in the northern Aleppo countryside. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

-- Meanwhile, Russia completed its installation of an integrated air defense system in Syria — making a White House decision to strike Syrian government installations from the air even "less likely than it has been for years," Karen DeYoung reports. The move has created a substantial obstacle to the Syrian safe zones both Clinton and Trump have advocated. "Deployment of mobile and interchangeable S-400 and S-300 missile batteries, along with other short-range systems, now gives Russia the ability to shoot down planes and cruise missiles over at least 250 miles in all directions from western Syria, covering virtually all of that country as well as significant portions of Turkey, Israel, Jordan and the eastern Mediterranean. By placing the missiles as a threat ‘against military action’ by other countries in Syria, Russia has raised ‘the stakes of confrontation,’ said Secretary of State John Kerry."

Trump speaks last night in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

-- Trump told reporters in Wisconsin that Paul Ryan does not want him to win the presidency because of his own political ambitions in 2020: When asked by ABC’s Tom Llamas in Green Bay whether he believed the speaker of the House wants him to win on Nov. 8, Trump responded, "Well, maybe not, because maybe he wants to run in four years or maybe he doesn’t know how to win. I mean, who can really know. But I know I’m in his territory and they are all screaming for Trump. The head of the [state] Republican Party just left me. He shook my hand. He says, 'You are gonna win Wisconsin.' And I know one thing, we are gonna do very well here."

Melania Trump sits down with Anderson Cooper. (CNN)

-- Melania Trump forcefully defended her husband against allegations of groping and sexual assault, dismissing his lewd comments made in a 2005 video as “boy talk” that was egged on by Billy Bush. “I was surprised, because that is not the man that I know,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview Monday night. “And as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on. It was only a mic. And I wonder if they even knew that the mic was on.” But she stressed that she believed her husband was simply being boastful: "Sometimes I say I have two boys at home: I have my young son, and I have my husband,” she said with a slight laugh. “But I know how some men talk, and that’s how I saw it, yes.” 

In a separate Fox News interview, Melania questioned the timing and honesty of her husband’s accusers: “All these women are coming out and they are allegations but they are not true,” she told Ainsley Earhardt. “Why now? Why three weeks before the election?” she asked. Echoing Trump, Melania said the claims were “organized by the opposition”’ and should be “handled in a court of law.” The Fox interview will air in full today. (Jose A. DelReal)

Billy Bush tapes a segment with actress Brooke Burns during the "North Shore" launch party in 2004. (Paul Hawthorne/Getty)

-- The “Today” show officially parted ways with Bush, 10 days after the former “Access Hollywood” anchor was heard on a 2005 tape laughing and joking as Trump made lewd comments about women. “Billy Bush will be leaving the ‘Today’ show’s 9 a.m. hour, effective today,” NBC said in a staff memo. “While he was a new member of the ‘Today’ team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.” Bush released a separate statement: “I am deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead." (Emily Yahr)

Chicago cops listen as the police department superintendent announces that the city will hire 970 more police officers to help combat a murder epidemic that has claimed over 500 lives so far this year, the highest homicide rate by far of any major U.S. city. (Nova Safo/AFP/Getty Images)


  1. One thousand more people have been shot in Chicago this year compared with the same time last year, according to police data compiled by the Chicago Tribune. The announcement comes after a particularly violent week in the city that saw eight people killed and at least 40 wounded.
  2. The president of America’s largest police organization issued a formal apology for the historic mistreatment of minorities by police. The remarks, delivered by Terrence Cunningham at a San Diego policing convention, come as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere. (Tom Jackman)
  3. Retired four-star general James E. Cartwright pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators as they examined leaks about a secret government hacking program directed at Iran’s nuclear program. Cartwright reportedly denied leaking information to journalists from the New York Times and Yahoo. He faces potential prison time at his sentencing next year. (Wall Street Journal)
  4. Federal prosecutors charged Joe Arpaio with criminal contempt of the court, saying the infamous Maricopa County sheriff violated a 2011 injunction ordering him to stop enforcing federal civil immigration law. (Arizona Republic)
  5. The House Ethics Committee is reviewing an “unspecified allegation” about Rep. Marlin Stutzman, evaluating whether to launch a formal investigation of the Indiana Republican. Officials cautioned that a referral “does not itself indicate a violation” and said they plan to make a decision on whether to proceed by the end of November. (Indianapolis Star)
  6. The number of women and children illegally entering the United States has surged in 2016, according to new data from the U.S. Border Patrol. The surge — largely from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — comes after a significant drop last year, and has reignited questions about the efficacy of the administration's immigration policies. (David Nakamura)
  7. The batteries in Samsung’s now-discontinued Galaxy Note 7 phone were tested at an in-house facility owned by the electronics giant. The practice has cast a spotlight on cellphone battery testing, setting Samsung apart from rival companies such as Apple, which employs certified third-party labs. (Wall Street Journal)
  8. The Pentagon sent home Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, whose 14 years at the military prison inspired a best-selling memoir. His transfer comes as Obama continues to whittle down Guantanamo’s population before the end of his term. There are now 60 prisoners remaining at the facility — down from a peak of over 700 — with 20 more detainees cleared for resettlement. (Missy Ryan)
  9. A Connecticut judge threw out a lawsuit by families of 2012 Sandy Hook victims, delivering a victory to gun manufacturers in a negligence case over the purchase of the assault rifle used to kill the elementary students. (Bloomberg)
  10. The national high school graduation rate rose to a new record high in the 2014-2015 school year, with more than 83 percent of students collecting their diplomas on time. Newly released figures show gains among every group of students — including white, black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American, as well as disabled students and those in ESL. (Emma Brown and Alejandra Matos)
  11. A 38-year-old Florida man who shot at George Zimmerman during a confrontation last year was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case is hardly the first controversial scuffle for Zimmerman, who has repeatedly drawn scorn since he fatally shot Trayvon Martin four years ago. Earlier this year, he attempted to auction off the gun he used to kill the unarmed black teen. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  12. Concerned by the vitriolic tone of the 2016 campaign  and the depressing toll it has taken on their neighbors to the south  Canadians have taken to social media to give Americans a collective pep talk. The campaign, called “Let’s tell America it’s great,” features Canadians warmly praising the United States for things like its diversity, space program, and musical contributions. “Sometimes friends just need to look out for each other,” said the man who started the effort. (Colby Itkowitz)
  13. Uber, but for tractors: A vehicle manufacturer in India has launched the world’s first tractor-hailing app, designed to appeal to some of the 140 million farmers living in that country. (New York Times)
Robots with portraits of Trump and Clinton are seen before the presidential debate in St. Louis. (Reuters/Jim Young)


-- A big truth bomb from Stuart Rothenberg, our in-house handicapper: "It would be a mistake to call Trump’s current path to an electoral college victory narrow. It is nonexistent. ... There is no surge among white voters for Trump — at least not enough to offset the Republican and swing voters he will lose. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, once part of the Trump scenario, have never been ‘in play,’ and he is not competitive in 2012 states Obama won only narrowly, such as Virginia and Colorado. Trump is more likely to lose North Carolina than win it, which would put him under 200 electoral votes. … Frankly, the writing has been on the wall for months about this race. You simply needed to look at the candidates, their campaign teams, the map and the voters.”

-- A Monmouth University national poll puts Clinton up 12 points (50 to 38). The most striking number: 57 percent say it's "very" or "somewhat" important that Trump not become president. 

-- A CBS News national poll shows Clinton up nine points (47 to 38), more than doubling her advantage from two weeks ago. And while women continued to support Clinton by a 19-point margin, Trump’s advantage has waned significantly among men — dropping from 11 percent to 2 percent since the beginning of the month.

-- Quinnipiac University polls show Clinton widening her lead over Trump in several swing states. She's up eight points in Colorado (45 to 37), six points in Pennsylvania (47 to 41) and four points in Florida (48 to 44). The two remain deadlocked in Ohio with 45 percent each.

-- CNN-ORC battleground polls depict a tighter race. Clinton edges out Trump 48-47 in North Carolina and 46-44 percent in Nevada. CNN finds Trump up four points in Ohio (48 to 44).

-- Trump said last night that the polls are inaccurate because many of his supporters do not want to admit they are voting for him. Jenna Johnson sets the scene from his nighttime rally in Green Bay: "There’s an undercurrent that they can’t poll,” Trump told attendees. “There’s a big, big undercurrent out there." Ahead of his remarks, speakers were drowned out by chants of: “Paul Ryan sucks! Paul Ryan sucks!” And Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who called Black Lives Matter a “hate group,” took the stage to criticize “Mrs. Bill Clinton” and slam the “liberal mainstream media” for reporting on a controversial tweet that he recently sent instead of focusing on hacked WikiLeaks emails. Clarke said that he hopes Trump’s supporters are “almost enraged” by Election Day, and he twice repeated the message of his tweet: “It is pitchfork and torches time in America!” Both times, the crowd chanted: “USA! USA! USA!”

-- The Trump campaign is pushing back on reports that it has abandoned Virginia, announcing that the candidate will return to the state and claiming that they are preparing to spend $2 million on ads there. (We'll believe it when we see it.) From Laura Vozzella: “Instead of a pullout, it’s actually a doubling down,” Trump campaign official Mike Rubino told the Post. “We are going to compete here like we’re competing in every other battleground state.” The news comes just one day after a poll showed Clinton with a 15-point advantage in the state, more than doubling her lead since late September.

-- But a surge in absentee ballots bodes well for Clinton in the commonwealth. “Voters in Northern Virginia are casting early absentee ballots at far higher rates than they did in the 2012 presidential election," Antonio Olivo reports. "In Fairfax County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, officials anticipate that 150,000 people will have cast absentee ballots by Nov. 8, a nearly 75 percent increase over [ballots] cast four years ago. In nearby Arlington County, officials are expecting about 43,000 absentee votes, or about 50 percent more than in 2012.” Since the process started, absentee ballots have been up by about 22 percent statewide compared with 2012, and in largely Democratic Northern Virginia, the increase has been about 56 percent. The increase in early voting indicates more energy by Clinton voters in the state’s more densely populated communities, said Quentin Kidd, director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy in Newport News.

--With polls showing her margin over Trump widening, Clinton is pushing into traditionally red states and pondering how much to try and run up her own margins while weighing the money and effort she should invest in lifting down-ballot Democrats who could help implement her agenda in Washington, report the New York Times’ Matt Flegenheimer and Jonathan Martin. So far:

  • Clinton's camp announced it will spend $2 million in Arizona and dispatch Michelle Obama. From John Wagner and Abby Phillip: “Robby Mook told reporters Monday that Clinton does not have a trip to Arizona planned, but he added, ‘We certainly hope to get her there.’" Mook said the additional $2 million will go television and digital advertising as well as mail pieces. 
  • The campaign will make a one-week ad buy in Texas, highlighting the Dallas Morning News's endorsement. The state was last won by a Democratic presidential candidate in 1976.
  •  Clinton campaign will spend $1 million to drive up voter turnout, despite what Mook acknowledged was an “uphill battle” for Clinton in two states that could determine Senate control.

-- Why people hate politicians, continued: Trying to save his seat in an increasingly tough reelection fight, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is linking himself to Barack Obama. Yes, you read that right: One of Obama's biggest antagonists during his first term is sending mailers that make it seem like he has a good working relationship with the White House.


Russian President Vladimir Putin at the BRIC Summit in Goa, India, on Sunday. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

-- Trump said he would be willing to meet with Vladimir Putin before Inauguration Day if he wins the presidency, breaking sharply with precedent and showing “little compunction” about stepping on the heels of Obama’s final months in office. “Putin has no respect at all for Obama. And I think that you have potentially a really catastrophic situation here, I'll be honest with you,” Trump told conservative radio host Michael Savage. “I will say this, if I win ... I think I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration. I think it would be wonderful.” Trump went on to blame both Obama and Clinton for the frosty relationship with Putin, saying, 'They insult him constantly. I mean, no wonder he can’t stand Obama and Hillary Clinton.’ Trump told Savage that he believes he’s actually ahead in the polls, which show him trailing Clinton, and cited ‘tremendous enthusiasm’ and crowd sizes at his rallies as evidence.” This is all the more breathtaking when you consider what the Russians are doing to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Jose DelReal)

Trump is seen through a videocamera as he speaks at a rally. (Sarah Rice/Getty Images)

-- Trump proposed a five-year ban on members of Congress and executive branch officials who want to become lobbyists after leaving government, outlining a plan for tighter restrictions on Washington’s revolving door. From Catherine Ho: Trump’s proposals go well beyond current ethics rules governing former lawmakers and administration officials who become lobbyists. Known as the “cooling-off period,” former House members must wait one year before they can lobby Congress, and former senators must wait two years. Executive branch officials must wait either two years or one year before lobbying their former agency, depending on seniority. Trump also said he will expand the definition of lobbyist to include “consultants, advisers, all these different things.” Changing the definition would require congressional action.

-- Gary Busey allegedly sexually assaulted a female "Apprentice" staffer during his time on the show  an incident that five former employees said Trump knew about and laughed off. From the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Gideon Resnick: “Multiple Apprentice employees, including the alleged victim herself, [said] the Academy-Award-nominated actor ‘grabbed’ one of their colleagues ‘firmly between [the] legs’ during the 2011 season of Celebrity Apprentice. Busey also forcibly put the female staffer’s hand on the crotch of his pants.” Furious friends and staffers asked for Busey to be kicked off the show, and internal dissent grew loud enough that producers and management were all briefed. Multiple sources confirmed that the news made it to Trump’s ear, who ultimately gave Busey little more than a “chuckle and a soft slap on the wrist.” (Busey was allowed to remain on the show for the duration of the season).

-- Don’t forget: In 1990, Ivana Trump accused Donald of raping her. From the New Yorker's Jane Mayer: “When video recordings of Trump’s lewd 2005 comments were made public, Trump biographer Harry Hurt III thought ‘Finally, this behavior is coming out’ — but doubted that it would do any lasting damage to Trump’s candidacy. While researching the real estate developer in the 90s, Hurt discovered and documented more serious instances of Trump’s mistreatment of women, yet most news outlets had declined to report on them. ‘I’ve been a voice in the wilderness,’ he said. The part of Hurt’s book that caused the most controversy concerns Trump’s divorce from his first wife, Ivana — and a copy of sworn testimony from 1990 in which she stated that her husband had raped her the previous year. [And] according to a report by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which examined the divorce records, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination approximately a hundred times when Ivana's lawyers asked him about adulterous relations with other women.” (He denied raping his then-wife, and she later took back her allegation.)

-- Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, once considered a staple of Palm Beach’s high-end philanthropy circuit, is losing business because of Trump’s toxicity. From the AP: “Following video footage of Trump’s lewd 2005 comments, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is leaning toward finding a new location for its million-dollar breast cancer fundraiser. The charity has no position on Trump, a spokeswoman said, but wants to keep its event separate from ‘controversies unrelated to our mission.’ Event planners forecast trouble ahead for the high-end party space: ‘There’s a cloud over Mar-a-Lago,’ said event planner Lynne Goldberg, who has overseen numerous weddings and fundraisers at the venue. ‘The sad part is that the venue is so beautiful — it’s considered the ultimate to hold an event in. [But] the last thing you want is for someone to say, ‘Oh my God, how could she hold an event there?’’”

-- New York’s attorney general granted the Trump Foundation additional time to file paperwork to comply with state laws, after it was revealed that his charity organization lacked the required registration required to solicit donors. From David Fahrenthold: “By failing to register, the Trump Foundation avoided a requirement to submit to annual independent audits. Those might have detected some of the apparent violations of charity law that have come to light this year, including instances where Trump used the charity's money to buy paintings of himself and to help settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses.” “They’ve requested more time, and we’ve agreed to provide the Trump Foundation with more time,” said a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. It is unclear how much additional time Trump has been given.

-- A top Michigan Republican Party official was ousted from her leadership post after refusing to back Trump and declining to resign, casting her opposition as a “matter of conscience.” Her seat was vacated Monday under the order of Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. (The Detroit News)

-- A Twitter user who was joking around about “ripping up absentee ballots” at an Ohio post office sparked hysteria on Monday, rocketing through the conservative media and garnering attention from both Drudge and Rush Limbaugh. “POSTAL WORKER Brags Online About Destroying Trump Ballots,” GatewayPundit blogger Jim Hoft wrote. By the end of the day, the very-obviously-sarcastic tweet had racked up so much attention that both the USPS and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted were forced to address the matter. “We’ll get the #facts, & if true, hold anyone guilty accountable,” Husted promised in a tweet. Even a cursory look at the person’s bio showed they were from California. (Dave Weigel)

Clinton takes a photograph with supporters at a campaign office in Seattle. (AP/Andrew Harnik)


-- How government works --> A top State Department official allegedly pressed the FBI to downgrade classification of at least one of the secretary of State's emails, prompting discussion of a possible trade to resolve the issue. From Matt Zapotosky: “One FBI official conceded that he told the State Department employee he would 'look into' changing the classification of a Clinton email if the official would lend his authority to an FBI request to increase its personnel in Iraq … Another bureau official described the arrangement as a ‘quid pro quo’ and said he believed that the State Department official, Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, was interested in ‘minimizing the classified nature of the Clinton emails in order to protect State interests and those of Clinton,’ according to newly-released documents."

“Both the FBI and the State Department disputed that their employees had engaged in a quid pro quo. The agencies, though, acknowledged that Kennedy had inquired about the classification of an email, and the FBI said that in the same conversation, a bureau official ‘asked the State Department official if they would address a pending, unaddressed FBI request for space for additional FBI employees assigned abroad.’ The FBI said its official was not a part of the criminal Clinton email investigation. ‘The classification of the email was not changed, and it remains classified today,’ the bureau said in a statement. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement that the allegation of a quid pro quo was ‘inaccurate and does not align with the facts.’”

Clinton’s critics pounced: The chairmen of both the House Oversight Committee and the House Intelligence Committee called for Kennedy’s immediate removal, pending an investigation.

In a Twitter video statement, Trump declared it “one of the big breaking stories of our time.” “This shows corruption at the highest level, and we can’t let it happen as American citizens,” he said.

-- Clinton's email problems are not going away. “Now, simply because Kennedy asked for a quid pro quo regarding classification doesn't mean that Clinton asked him to do so,” Chris Cillizza writes. There's no evidence of that. Even so: "This latest revelation adds more evidence to the 'where there's smoke, there's fire' argument that Republicans have long made about Clinton's email setup. If the fire burning in Republicans over Clinton's email server was threatening to flicker out — or at least lose some of its heat — this new information is the equivalent of taking a can's worth of lighter fluid and dousing the conflagration. It's going to start burning a lot hotter very soon.”

A newspaper clipping shows Hillary Rodham participating in the mock election. (Photo provided by Maine Township School District)

-- CLINTON’S EARLY YEARS: “Always running, always prepared: Hillary Clinton as a high school politician,” by Dan Zak: “Hillary Rodham was 16 when she first ran for president. It was February 1964, her junior year of high school in this town of steeples and lawns on the rail line to Chicago. No girl had ever held the job before. ‘The boys would run for president, and the most popular girl would run for secretary,’ [said] classmate Tim Sheldon. … [And] after the election, Hillary won Maine South’s first ‘good citizen’ award, sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution. ‘The pretty blonde was selected for her citizenship qualities of dependability, service, leadership and patriotism, reported the Park Ridge Advocate ...The 1960s that formed Hillary Clinton were more ‘Happy Days’ than ‘Easy Rider.’ It still felt like the 1950s, in some ways. Park Ridge was a world that hadn’t quite recognized how much it was changing, nor how much more lay ahead. It was still a place where no girl had been elected student council president — but it was becoming one where a girl knew that she could run.”

Trump looks at Clinton during the second debate in St. Louis.(Reuters/Jim Young)


-- Trump continued his escalating effort to undermine the election as “rigged,” alarming government officials and party leaders, who are anxiously preparing for the possibility of unrest or even violence on Election Day and for an extended battle over the integrity of the outcome. From Sean Sullivan and Philip Rucker: “While documented cases of voter fraud are extremely rare, the Republican nominee redoubled his effort to raise doubts about the election Monday, challenging his own party to open its eyes to what he says is going on in plain sight.” “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” Trump tweeted on Monday.”

-- “Trump’s final appeal … is corrupting a portion of the public and crossing moral lines that won’t be easily uncrossed,” writes Post columnist Michael Gerson, a veteran of George W. Bush’s White House. “There are certain qualities of heart and mind that allow for self-government — civility, tolerance and mutual respect. In his rage and ruthlessness, Trump is inviting Americans to drink from a poisoned well. One problem is the risk of physical violence — the possible influence of unhinged rhetoric on an unbalanced mind. The broader result is radical polarization in which citizens question the legitimacy of elections and view some fellow citizens as enemies. … The political argument against repudiation is admittedly strong. It could ignite a self-destructive civil war within the GOP just before an election. But history generally does not remember good political arguments. It remembers acts of conscience in the face of them. It is time, and past time, for Republican leaders to do the right thing.”

-- Trump poses “an unprecedented threat to the peaceful transition of power,” says The Post’s Editorial Board: “What has allowed the United States to last for so long as a democracy, when so many other countries have failed? There are many factors, but none is more fundamental than this: When we hold elections, the losing party acknowledges the legitimacy of the winner, and the winner allows the loser to survive to fight another day. Now, for the first time in modern history, a major-party candidate rejects both sides of that equation. If he loses, [Trump] says, it will be due to cheating that makes the result illegitimate. If he wins, he will imprison his defeated opponent. … You may disagree with Ms. Clinton about Obamacare, Russia policy or Planned Parenthood. She may, as president, take actions that deeply upset you. But you can be certain that if Republicans take issue with her, she will not order them jailed. With Mr. Trump … there is no such certainty. A voter’s first obligation should be to preserve the republic which has been, for so long, the envy of the world.”

-- “Republican leaders tried to harness the power of parallel universes — the tea party, the birthers, the alt-right and others aggrieved by women, immigrants and racial and religious minorities — and their experimentation unleashed Demogorgon Trump, who is now eating defenseless party leaders alive,” Dana Milbank writes. “Take [Ryan], who didn’t step up to oppose Trump a year ago when he and other leaders, acting in concert, probably could have rallied the GOP to reject Trump. Now Ryan is doing many of the right things … But the monster continues marauding. GOP leaders long ago lost their leash on this monster.

-- Trump has splintered the evangelical vote, doing long-term damage to the GOP coalition: “The fault lines among evangelicals that the election of 2016 has exposed — among generations, ethnic groups and sexes — are likely to reshape national politics for years to come,” Laurie Goodstein writes in the New York Times. Big name evangelicals who sit atop organizations that function largely as lobbying groups and GOP mobilization squads have stuck with Trump. To these pragmatic players, the election boiled down to only two issues -- stopping abortion and ensuring legal protections for religious conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage. “But the evangelicals now challenging the old guard tend to have a broader agenda. They see it as a Christian imperative to care for immigrants and refugees, the poor, the environment and victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Many support criminal justice reform and the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement. “The idea of a monolithic evangelical voting constituency is no longer applicable in the American electorate,” said Samuel Rodriguez Jr., the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

David Ortiz poses for a "selfie" with Obama during a White House ceremony in 2013. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)


-- “Obama adopts a grand design to shape his legacy,” by David Nakamura: “President Obama’s advisers are sensitive about his lame-duck status and insist that the White House is not exclusively in legacy-defining mode. But the president himself can’t seem to stop reflecting on his tenure and touting his accomplishments, while also trying to settle scores and rebut critics in the process. In a series of lengthy interviews with magazine writers, newspaper columnists and historians — as well as in a couple of his own long-form essays — Obama has been presenting a favorable narrative of his presidency, framing it as a historic moment that managed to rise above unprecedented partisanship. So far, a central theme has been to cast himself as the rational actor in an arena full of irrational ones … [And] behind the scenes, the White House has worked hard to help package the productions for maximum media hagiography, carving out extra time on the president’s schedule for portrait photographs and glossy videos ‘He’s definitely in a period of reflection,’" said former White House aide Stephanie Cutter.

-- “Schumer is focusing on the big prize: Senate majority leader,” by Ed O'Keefe and Paul Kane: “[Sen. Charles E.] Schumer is poised to become a critical player in Washington next year, particularly if [Clinton] wins the White House. During the duo’s eight years together as New York’s senators, they started as rivals but evolved into complementary partners. Now, the two have a symbiotic bond — Schumer’s success depends on how well Clinton does leading the ticket, possibly bringing along enough Democrats to seal the majority. Clinton’s success would then depend on her old colleague’s stewardship of the Senate. He has been accused of putting his beliefs over broader Democratic goals, at times showing a willingness to challenge President Obama. [And] next year, Schumer will likely have to negotiate in a divided Washington with [Paul Ryan], with whom he has sometimes worked behind the scenes. It’s a tall order for anyone, but Schumer’s confidants say he is ready for the job. ‘I call him the Jewish LBJ,’ said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), whose narrow 2008 victory was overseen largely by Schumer from afar."


Trump's campaign released this animated video, calling it Clinton's "pay-to-play guide":

The New York Post fronted the story:

Here's how Wisconsin voters greeted reporters:

At Trump's rally in Wisconsin, the crowd chanted "Paul Ryan sucks":

Reporters rallied around a Jewish peer who Trump supporters threatened with a violent image online:

Twitter poked fun at this explanation from Melania Trump for her husband's lewd behavior:

Breathtaking --> A South Carolina Republican congressman cheered Russian state-sponsored hackers for meddling in an American election. Think about how Republicans would respond if a Democratic lawmaker did this, and the shoe was on the other foot:

Under fire, he tried to clarify:

Ted Lieu is getting in the Halloween spirit:

Finally, on Twitter, the hashtag #MovieTitleToDescribeElection is trending. Here are some good (and a few nerdy) ones:


-- “Being Muslim American in the year of Donald Trump,” by MJ Lee: “Muslim Americans describe the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a seminal moment that painfully altered their place in American society. But when CNN interviewed American Muslims about the presidential election, we heard a startling message: 2016 is worse. CNN traveled last month to three growing Muslim communities -- in Minneapolis, Northern Virginia and Staten Island -- which represent the diversity and increasing political engagement of Muslims in the U.S. The majority of people we spoke to said it is harder to be a Muslim American today than it was even after 9/11. ‘I have never thought I would hear my young daughter say, 'Dad, people were asking me about my scarf in the school,'’ said Hamse Warfa, a Somali refugee who immigrated to the US as a teenager … ‘After 9/11, there was no ring-leader, so to speak, who was championing, mainstreaming, hate.’" That ‘ring-leader’ Warfa was referring to is Trump.”

-- USA Today, "VA shuffles managers, hails ‘new leadership’" by Donovan Slack: "The VA has hired just eight medical center directors from outside the agency since Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald took over in 2014, despite his assertion that more than ‘90%’ of the VA’s medical centers have ‘new leadership’ or ‘leadership teams.’ … The rest of the ‘new leadership’ McDonald cites is the result of moving existing managers between jobs and medical centers. Some managers were transferred to new jobs despite problems at facilities they were previously managing. VA officials (said) salary constraints, a lengthy hiring process and other factors have limited the agency’s ability to attract non-VA applicants...USA Today scoured hundreds of documents, personnel announcements and web archives to build a database tracking personnel moves since the 2014 crisis... 92 of 140 directors are new since McDonald took over - 66 percent.”

-- HuffPost, “Is Shep Smith The Future Of Fox News?,” by Ryan Grim: “With nine producers and editors behind him … [Shep] launches Thursday’s show by reporting on the five new sexual assault accusations against [Trump]. He notes that Trump is denying the charges, but then gives critical context: Trump has bragged about committing sexual assault. ‘The GOP candidate for president,’” he repeats, as if underlining the point. Later, when asked about that moment, he conjured this analogy: “'This is something you should think about: It’s going to be 4 degrees tonight, and your cat lives outside. You should think about this.' He paused and added, 'Not my cat.' Shep wants you to bring your cat indoors, but he wants you to do it because you realize, with the help of his reporting, that it’s the right thing to do. Not simply because it’s his strident opinion you should bring that furball in before it freezes to death. Shep’s approach represents one potential path forward for Fox News ― undeniably conservative, but grounded in reality, observant of American traditions and democratic norms, and partisan only when a standpoint fully aligns with conservative and American values."

-- “To the First Lady, with love,” Gloria Steinem, Rashida Jones, and other prominent American figures penned thank you notes to the first lady in The New York Times Magazine: “…Her blue dress was simpler but not as eager to be appropriate; its sheen, and her edgy hoop earrings, made clear that she was no longer auditioning,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes. “It was the 2016 Democratic Convention. Michelle Obama was speaking. She was relaxed, emotional, sentimental. Her uncertainties laid to rest. Her rhythm was subtler, because she no longer needed it as her armor, because she had conquered. The insults, those barefaced and those adorned as jokes, the acidic scrutiny, the manufactured scandals, the base questioning of legitimacy, the tone of disrespect, so ubiquitous, so casual. She had faced them and sometimes she hurt and sometimes she blinked but throughout she remained herself. Michelle Obama was speaking. I realized then that she hadn’t been waiting to exhale these past eight years … She had been letting that breath out, in small movements, careful because she had to be, but exhaling still.”


“Its float vandalized, BSU black student group says ‘we will not shut up,’” from the Idaho Statesman: “Security at Boise State University is investigating vandalism of a Black Lives Matter float created by the university’s Afro-Black Student Alliance for Saturday’s homecoming parade … “ The group’s president Nnandii Alexander said the float was parked with other floats in a garage. When alliance members returned for a “best float vote,” they found it destroyed. “We had the names of a few who had been killed such as Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, etc. Those balloons were popped and taken down,” Alexander said. “We had balloons with words such as justice, unity, etc. on them and it looked as if someone tried to wipe the paint off. We had a beautiful sign that said ‘Black Lives Matter’ and it was nowhere to be found.”



“Feds Walk Into A Building, Demand Everyone's Fingerprints To Open Phones,” from Forbes: “In what’s believed to be an unprecedented attempt to bypass the security of Apple iPhones, or any smartphone that uses fingerprints to unlock, California’s top cops asked to enter a residence and force anyone inside to use their biometric information to open their mobile devices. Legal experts were shocked at the government’s request. ‘They want the ability to get a warrant on the assumption that they will learn more after they have a warrant,’ said Marina Medvin of Medvin Law. ‘They want to leverage this warrant to induce compliance by people they decide are suspects later on. This would be an unbelievably audacious abuse of power if it were permitted …’ Indeed, the memorandum has revealed the first known attempt by the government to acquire fingerprints of multiple individuals in a certain location to unlock smartphones.”


On the campaign trail: Trump speaks in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, Colo.; Pence is in Wilmington and Fayetteville, N.C. Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary in Blue Bell, Pa.; Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Flagstaff, Ariz.

At the White House: The Obamas welcome Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the White House for a bilateral meeting, a joint press conference and later, a state dinner.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.


Howard Stern isn’t going to replay his interviews with Trump on the air, he said on his radio show: “These conversations that I had with Trump weren’t done in private, like the Billy Bush tape. This was on the radio. This was all on the air. This was not something hidden away,” said Stern, a longtime Clinton supporter. “I feel Trump did the show in an effort to be entertaining and have fun with us, and I feel like it’d be a betrayal to any of our guests if I sat there and played them now, where people are attacking him.” (Elahe Izadi)


-- Another day of bizarre but beautiful summer warmth – the Capital Weather Gang gives today’s forecast an official “nice day” stamp: “It’s our second Nice Day qualifier of the week as temperatures find their way to the lower to middle 80s in the afternoon under mostly sunny skies … Humidity will be slightly higher than yesterday but still relatively low compared with summer standards.”


"Hamilton" stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Renée Elise Goldsberry rewrote one of the musical's hit songs for a Broadway-themed Clinton fundraiser last night. John Wagner has more about the event here. Watch the clip:

President Obama recorded a video for the Clinton campaign to encourage early voting -- and he pokes fun at himself for always being early:

POTUS also played along with Stephen Colbert:

Orbital ATK returned to flight last night by christening a refurbished Virginia launchpad with a smooth rocket liftoff two years after an explosion caused $15 million in damage:

A father videotaped himself telling an 8-year-old of his mother's heroin overdose. It most disturbing and heartbreaking thing you will see all day. He was trying to raise awareness about what addiction does to people. Here's the backstory. 

Late-night comedians are mocking Trump surrogates for their outlandish defenses of his lewd behavior:

Pence urged supporters to "ensure integrity" of voting on Election Day:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest mocked Trump for sniffing so much:

Listen to a crowd of Wisconsin Trump supporters chant "Paul Ryan sucks":

Here's a guide to Trump's long list of conspiracy theories:

Bill O'Reilly wants Donald to stop whining:

Supporters advised Trump on how to win in November:

The real circus wants the circus back:

Now for a few animal videos. In this clip (click to watch), a baby elephant jumped into a river to save a man who rescued her a year ago:

Sad news -- the world's oldest captive panda has died:

Finally: do you need to decompress from election news? Watch this koala getting a belly rub: