TODAY'S BIG IDEA is by Breanne Deppisch:

UPPER DUBLIN, Pa.--Donald Trump’s narrowing path to the presidency depends on winning Pennsylvania. One of his advisers was quoted just yesterday saying that he will be “ cooked” if he cannot prevail in the Keystone State.

The GOP nominee is counting on Rust Belt voters in western Pennsylvania, who have traditionally voted Democratic but been battered by deindustrialization, to come out in droves for him. He needs enough to offset Hillary Clinton’s huge advantages in the urban areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

But that’s not enough. He also needs to turn in a respectable showing in the vote-rich suburban areas outside Philly.

Two days of interviews in the so-called “collar counties” around the City of Brotherly Love reveal profound problems for Trump in this area, even as he visited for a rally. I canvassed two dozen voters at three different sports bars – before, during and after the Eagles game last Sunday – in places where there should be pockets of Trump support. Most of the people watching football were white men, a good demographic for Trump. But they were also college educated and had white-collar jobs, not so good demographics for him.

The experience buttressed the findings of a recent Bloomberg poll that found Clinton carrying these suburban counties with a 28-point advantage over Trump. That’s an 18-point improvement on Obama’s winning margin against Mitt Romney in 2012, when the Republican did not meaningfully contest the state until the final days. The Democratic nominee is carrying almost every single group in this area.

It’s hard to overstate the strategic importance of these four suburban counties (Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware), which together account for more than one-fifth of the electorate in the Keystone State. It has been 40 years since a presidential candidate carried Pennsylvania without winning the so-called critical “suburban collar.”

At the bars, in fact, it proved surprisingly difficult to find just one fan of The Donald during a day-long odyssey. It was, however, easy to find split-ticket voters, people supporting Clinton and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for reelection.

In a reflection of just how demographically polarized this election has become, I asked these folks where to find Trump supporters. For the first time, a group of boisterous Eagles fans at Ye Olde Ale House sunk into contemplative silence. “Uhhhh, I don’t know,” said a 20-something chemist. Another stopped guzzling his beer. “Want me to Google like, an even sketchier bar than this one?” he asked. Brian, an IT specialist, said Trump’s rhetoric “goes back to [Joseph] Goebbels, to Hitler.” He said he could not think of a single friend or even colleague at work who backs the GOP nominee.

A chorus of independent-minded voters who said they have supported Republicans in the past wondered why Trump keeps coming back. He campaigned last Friday night in nearby Newtown. A personal trainer wondered “why he wastes the gas” to fly here. An Uber driver said Trump’s time would be better spent in Ohio: “It’s almost like, what is he even doing here? Why is he not spending more time there?”

Some of this is bigger than Trump. The area’s changing demographics have shifted the counties measurably to the left over the past 15 years. But statewide Republicans have continued to do well, and a couple voters volunteered that they would have happily voted for John Kasich had he won the GOP nod.

Pennsylvania tends to be a siren song for Republicans. Bush played very hard in 2004 but came up 2.5 points short to John Kerry.

One theme which kept coming up is that Trump could have done much better. Four of five months ago, if he had actually “pivoted” – as the campaign kept promising – he might have made inroads. There is still little love for Clinton. But his lack of seriousness and the disclosure of the 2005 video that showed Trump speaking lewdly about women might have baked the cake. “I will never get over Trump’s comments in that video,” said one gruff-voiced woman, who teaches at an elementary school and thinks of her two teenage nieces every time she hears the Republican nominee talking. “It makes me shudder,” said the self-described moderate. She went on to express concerns about Clinton’s “lack of transparency” and said she may end up casting her ballot for Gary Johnson.

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

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-- A new Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll finds Clinton’s lead shrinking to just four points over Trump, 48 to 44 percent. Still, nearly twice as many voters (59 to 30 percent) expect Clinton to win over Trump. The number of people who said she will win “easily” also spikes from 19 to 27 percent.  

Meanwhile, worries have waned about voter fraud in the U.S. since Trump first began warning against a “rigged” election earlier this month. Fewer than four in 10 voters now say voter fraud occurs very or somewhat often (37 percent), down from 47 percent in early September. (Read full results)

-- In a stunning moment during a debate, an embattled U.S. senator cast doubt on his opponent’s military and ethnic heritage. From Mike DeBonis: "Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), seeking to unseat GOP Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois, invoked her family’s military service while answering a debate question. 'My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution,' Duckworth said. 'I am a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve bled for this nation. But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound. Because people are quick to sound the drums of war, and I want to be there to say this is what it costs, this is what you’re asking us to do. . . . Families like mine are the ones that bleed first.' Kirk was offered a chance to rebut. 'I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,' he said. 

"Duckworth’s mother, Lamai, is Thai, but her late father, Franklin, was a Marine veteran whose family roots in this country trace to before the American Revolution," DeBonis notes. "Duckworth was severely wounded in the Iraq War, losing her legs while serving as a helicopter pilot. The moderator moved on to the next question, but a panelist gave Duckworth time to respond by detailing her family history — including the fact that the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a statue of her in Mount Vernon, Ill."

A statement issued by Kirk campaign spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis did not include an apology from the senator or any claim that Duckworth has misrepresented her family heritage.

-- A plane carrying Mike Pence skidded off a runway as it landed at LaGuardia Airport in rainy conditions last night. There were no reported injuries. Reporters onboard said they could feel the plane fishtailing as it touched down, slid off the runway and skidded to a very sharp halt in the grass. Once the plane came to a full stop, the Indiana governor walked to the back of the plane to check on the press. (CNN)

-- A jury acquitted seven leaders of the Oregon militia that seized control of a federal wildlife refuge earlier this year. The verdict is an extraordinary blow to the government in a long-running battle over the use of public lands. (AP)

-- Trial balloon of the day? Politico sent a breaking news alert last night to say that Clinton’s transition team is eyeing Joe Biden to be secretary of state. A single, unnamed source said the vice president is at the top of their internal short list, though no one has talked to him about it.

-- It is hard for us to envision Hillary ultimately going with the 73-year-old:

They often do not see eye to eye on foreign policy. When she was secretary of state, she was far more hawkish and he was more dovish. They made different recommendations to President Obama during the first term on how to handle Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

And then there was the Osama bin Laden raid. When it looked like Biden might run, Clinton noted in a not-so-subtle dig that he had been against the OBL raid. The day before he took himself out of the running, the V.P. said at a public event that he had privately urged the president to go forward with it. Biden’s story has continued to evolve. In 2012, he told a congressional retreat that he said: “Mr. President, my suggestion is, don't go.” (Last year, Greg Jaffe tracked his varying public comments.)

The Clintons value loyalty above all else. Biden has been campaigning hard for her the past few months, but he came very close to running against her just one year ago. And he has mused publicly after he passed on 2016 that he occasionally has regrets that decision. Clinton knows Foggy Bottom as well as anyone because she spent four years there. Why wouldn't she put a loyalist there? Someone who she and Bill know won't freelance or get them into trouble with gaffes?

To be sure, Biden sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a long time and the White House has put a bunch of foreign hotspots in his portfolio. He'd bring gravitas, stature and continuity that might reassure some of the world leaders who have been alarmed about the rise of Trump, from NATO allies in Eastern Europe who are worried about Russia to Asian countries worried that we won't have their backs against China. But it's always seemed pretty clear that Clinton and Biden have meaningfully different world views.

-- Our Elise Viebeck reported on Tuesday that, over in Foggy Bottom, the diplomatic establishment is rooting for one of its own: “There’s Bill Burns, a distinguished ex-diplomat and Clinton’s former deputy at State who now leads the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. There’s also Nick Burns (no relation), a former undersecretary for political affairs at State who now teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Both have been touted as potential State Department heads, particularly if Clinton wants to bring a nonpartisan sensibility to the job. … Jim Steinberg, another former Clinton deputy at State, and Wendy Sherman, a top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, are also in the mix, though seen as less likely picks for Clinton.”

The person getting the most buzz around town is Tom Donilon, President Obama’s former national security adviser and co-chairman of Clinton’s transition. “Attend any foreign policy event in town and you will hear the talk about Donilon in the slot,” Viebeck notes. “Some see him as just another candidate among equals; others insist he’s a shoo-in for the job.”


  1. An Alaska lawyer told the National Law Journal that Clarence Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999, when she was a young Truman Foundation scholar in Washington. “This claim is preposterous and it never happened," the justice said in a statement. The woman, Moira Smith, said she decided to publicly make the allegations not because of Thomas but because of Trump. (Robert Barnes and Sari Horwitz have more.)
  2. The Justice Department charged more than 60 people and entities for impersonating IRS and immigration officials as part of an Indian call center scam. Callers allegedly presented those who answered the phone with an ultimatum: pay us, or we’ll fine you, deport you or arrest you. (Matt Zapotosky)
  3. President Obama commuted the sentences of 98 federal prisoners, continuing efforts to release inmates serving harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. The announcement pushes the total number of commutations he has granted to 872. (Juliet Eilperin and Mark Berman)
  4. Police in riot gear cleared a camp of protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site, firing pepper spray and arresting dozens of demonstrators. It is the latest salvo in a months-long dispute over Native American rights and the environmental impact of fracking. (USA Today)
  5. Apple unveiled a redesigned MacBook Pro, incorporating portions of a smart-phone-like touch screen that works in conjunction with the keyboard. (Hayley Tsukayama)

-- BARBARIANS: Islamic State forces continue to round up thousands of villagers at gunpoint to use as human shields as they retreat towards Mosul. From Loveday Morris: "Military officials and witnesses said the 'vast majority' of people in more than half a dozen villages were forced to walk north toward the city as the army advanced from the south, and that those who refused were shot. Some ran and hid in the desert to avoid being captured, sleeping out in the open for days. Villagers also described mass executions of former policemen and army officers as the militants become increasingly paranoid about spies and collaborators. The kidnappings and killings compound fears about the plight of civilians as Iraqi forces advance toward the northern city of Mosul, a prize the militants don’t appear ready to give up without a hard fight.”


-- Trump raised half as much as Clinton during the first 19 days of October, putting his presidential bid at a severe financial disadvantage in the final days. Donald raised just $28.9 million for his campaign committee over that period, according to FEC filings. His campaign and two joint GOP fundraising committees raised a total of $61 million -- a fall-off from September, when the three committees together pulled in $100 million. Trump had just $16 million in his campaign coffers on Oct. 19, compared to Hillary Clinton’s $62 million. (Sean Sullivan, Abby Phillip and Ed O'Keefe)

-- The GOP nominee is not telling the truth when he says he has put $100 million into his campaign. He gave about $31,000 in in-kind contributions in the first 19 days of the month — down from the $2 million a month in cash he had been donating. His personal contributions to his campaign now total a little more than $56 million. But he continues to insist that he's putting in $100 million during interviews.


-- The American Federation of Teachers is making its closing argument for Clinton to voters in Ohio, Arizona and Florida, launching an ad campaign to embrace diversity. From Vanessa Williams: “The AFT Solidarity Fund is spending $500,000 for the 30-second ad called ‘Coming Together,’ which looks to close out the contentious presidential race on a hopeful note as a way to persuade undecided and unenthusiastic voters to vote for Clinton. The ad will begin running on television and digital platforms on Friday. In it a group of men and women representing various racial and ethnic groups and ages gather on lawn and begin to build a human pyramid, much like a college cheerleading squad. There is both an English and Spanish version of the spot. It makes no mention of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

-- A Quinnipiac University Poll finds Clinton with a 12 point lead in Virginia, maintaining her comfortable her comfortable advantage over Trump. (Laura Vozzella)


-- As his campaign barrels towards a probable loss, Trump continues to widen the scope of the alleged conspiracy against him. “When the people who control the political power in our society can rig investigations like [Clinton’s] investigation was rigged, can rig polls, you see the phony polls, and rig the media, they can wield absolute power over your life … and benefit big-time by it,” the reality TV star said at a St. Augustine rally. “They control what you hear and what you don’t hear, what is covered, how it’s covered, even if it’s covered at all.”

“The ‘power structure’ he describes, according to a review of his speeches this week, includes banking institutions, the judiciary, media conglomerates, voting security experts, Democratic tricksters, scientific polling and also perhaps military leaders," Jose DelReal and Sean Sullivan note. "He has also accused Clinton of meeting ‘with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors.’ By emphasizing such rhetoric, Trump, who has a history of circulating unsubstantiated accusations, has sown distrust in basic democratic institutions among his supporters. But many critics are concerned by the extent to which Trump is relying on grand conspiracies to explain away his electoral troubles, including some who hear unnerving echoes of historically anti-Semitic rhetoric in Trump’s references to global elites and nefarious bankers.”

-- Trump's reckless rhetoric is demonstrably bad for our democracy: A new USA Today/Suffolk poll finds that more than two-thirds of Trump supporters think the election results could be manipulated, and 43 percent say corruption will be to blame if he loses.

-- A national militia group called on its members to perform “incognito intelligence gathering and crime spotting” at polling locations across the country on Nov. 8 in order to watch for signs of a “rigged election.” The Oath Keepers are officially nonpartisan, but their concerns clearly echo Trump’s calls for his supporters to monitor polling places for evidence of fraud by Clinton supporters. A D.C.-based civil rights group said it will ask Department of Justice officials to investigate the group’s actions. (Kevin Sullivan)

-- Trump has taken to referring to urban areas populated by African Americans as “GHETTOS": “So many horrible, horrible problems. The violence. The death. The lack of education. No jobs," he said. (Sean Sullivan)

-- Micro-targeting: The Trump campaign is running an ad on Indian-American TV. It includes footage of Trump speaking at the Republican Hindu Coalition earlier this month; a shot of a Mumbai terror attack from 2008; and a couple of seconds of Trump showing off his Hindi. "Ab ki baar Trump sarkar,” he says. The line translates to “This time, a Trump government,” and it’s a direct nod to the slogan Indian prime minister Narendra Modi used in his campaign. (Watch.)

-- The National Republican Congressional Committee is running an ad praising Rep. Bob Dold (R-Illinois) for having bucked Trump. From National Review: “Individual Republican House candidates have cut ads distancing themselves from Trump, but this is the first time the NRCC, the committee charged with electing Republicans to the House, has explicitly used the message that not supporting the Republican presidential nominee is a good thing. ‘Dold is an independent voice who stood up to Donald Trump months ago,’ the narrator in the ad says. The ad then shows a clip of Dold declaring, on CNN, ‘I think Donald Trump has disqualified himself.’ The ad has been on air since earlier this week. It does not appear on the NRCC’s website, and the NRCC declined to comment on it.”


-- The New Yorker’s John Cassidy gives four reasons why Trump’s candidacy will NOT mimic the Brexit results:

  • The polls were much closer in the run-up to Brexit: “Poll averages show that while the Remain side was ahead for most of the two months leading up to the vote, its lead was never very big …”
  • State polls confirm Trump is struggling: “No election anywhere else in the world is subjected to the amount of scrutiny from pollsters that an American Presidential election receives. FiveThirtyEight’s database lists almost a thousand national polls, and that doesn’t count all the surveys at the state level … [which are] just as worrying for Trump.”
  • Independent and third-party voters don’t trust Trump: “Trump’s problem here is one he has had all along. While he boasts a large number of enthusiastic supporters, people who aren’t committed to him tend to view him with a lot of mistrust.”
  • A referendum isn’t a Presidential election: “While both situations represented an opportunity for voters to endorse a change in the status quo, voters in the UK were asked to decide on an idea whereas in the U.S. they are being asked to decide on a person,” said Goldman Sachs economist Alec Phillips.

-- Republican S.E. Cupp writes in a New York Times op-ed about the GOP's damaged brand: “[Trump] has sent the party back to the Dark Ages … with his provincial notions of masculinity and misogynist notions of femininity, his cartoonish bombast, his vulgar jocularity and his open hostility to women who question him. In short, he’s reaffirmed the worst stereotypes about Republicans that Democrats have pushed for decades. It would be nice to be able to argue that Mr. Trump is an aberration, but clearly he has found a great deal of support. Who will believe us when we say that he does not speak for us? In 2012, an unknown, inconsequential congressman from Missouri’s Second District, Todd Akin, sent the Republican presidential race into a tailspin when he argued that rape victims should not be allowed to get abortions … The stench of Mr. Akin hung around the party for months, if not years. Mr. Trump is neither unknown nor inconsequential. His will be the stink of a hydrogen sulfide explosion. Containment will be impossible.”


-- Kristin Henderson traveled alongside elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, documenting their final performances and transition to a life of retirement: “In this country, animal rights activists and circus people have been demonizing each other in a long-running war of protests and legal battles over the fate of America’s performing elephants,” she said. “Meanwhile, the ones who’ve set the best example of forgiveness might just be the elephants.”

-- “Liberals are preparing blacklists of appointees they want Clinton to avoid,” by John Wagner and Elise Viebeck: “Liberal advocacy groups are preparing blacklists of candidates for appointments to a [Clinton] administration, with one organization even producing opposition research to torpedo contenders they consider too soft on Wall Street or other corporate interests. Planning for a Democratic victory on Nov. 8, these interest groups and like-minded lawmakers are laying the groundwork to push Clinton, if she is elected, to prove her progressive bona fides through early legislation and personnel appointments. One liberal group has already forwarded 150 names of acceptable appointees for economic positions to Clinton’s transition team, while others on the left are engaged in opposition research against prospects … whom they see as unacceptable. Leading liberal lawmakers — including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — have also started conveying, privately and publicly, guidance on top Clinton appointees and legislative priorities. The activity reflects the fragile alliance between Clinton and the progressive wing of her party as she nears the end of a tumultuous race against Republican Donald Trump.


After Twitter said it would shut down Vine, Vine's founder threw this shade:

Great image of Pence tossing around a football at LaGuardia Airport:

A sign of the times -- Orange County turning blue?

After this photo from a Trump rally went viral, a former top Chris Christie aide bemoaned the state of politics:

Kirsten Gillibrand hit the campaign trail with Connie Britton:

Just a subtle hint in these Maggie Hassan materials:

Marsha Blackburn was with Marco Rubio in Florida:

Lisa Murkowski captured the sunrise from campaign headquarters:

Lawmakers are excited for Halloween:

But even Halloween can't get away from the campaign:

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Is this English? #trumpkin

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Make Halloween scary again #Trumpkin

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HOTL: “White Cop Calls Black Man Feeding the Homeless a ‘Bum,’” from the Daily Beast: “When a white uniformed cop hassled a black man at an Indiana homeless camp, he assumed he was one of them. In fact, Raymond Barbour was a skilled, taxpaying welder who was spending his Sunday afternoon under a bridge feeding the homeless. That didn’t matter to South Bend Police Officer Erik Schlegelmilch. The menu that day was chicken stew, rice, and biscuits, according to John Winston Jr., who heads the JDubbs Helping the Homeless group ... But the patrolman apparently told Barbour: ‘Get your bum selves out of here… Nobody wants you down here!’” Winston remains furious by the police officer’s “bullying, harassing, and shaming” of his volunteers like Barbour, and is concerned that the cop acted disrespectfully.



“To Protest Racism, UC-Berkeley Students Block White People From Using Campus Entrance,” from the Federalist: “During a protest to advocate for safe spaces for students of color and transgender individuals, University of California-Berkeley attendees blocked white students from using a highly trafficked campus pathway. Last Friday, protestors carried banners that read ‘Fight 4 Spaces of Color,’ and linked arms to form a human barricade in front of the campus’s Sather Gate. They only allowed non-white students to pass through. “Whose university? Our university!” they chanted repeatedly. Many white and Asian students were forced to take a dirt path through brush in order to skirt the protestors as they chanted: ‘Go around! Go around!’”


On the campaign trail: Clinton campaigns in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa; Kaine is in Tallahassee, Fla.; Bill Clinton speaks in Aliquippa and Duncansville, Pa. Trump stops in Manchester, N.H., Lisbon, Maine, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Pence is in Bensalem, Pa., and Smithfield, N.C.

At the White House: Obama speaks at a Clinton campaign event in Orlando, Fla. Biden speaks at a Rick Nolan for Congress event in Duluth, Minn., and a Jason Kander for Senate event in St. Louis, Mo.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.


-- The Wizards lost to the Hawks 114-99.

-- An ex-National Guardsman from Northern Virginia pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to Islamic State militants. Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, 27, said he drew inspiration from the Army major who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. He also transferred money to the organization, and purchased a handgun in January. (Jasper Scherer)

-- A gusty and cool day today, but a pleasantly warm weekend ahead! Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It’s somewhat windy, but at least skies are headed toward clear. Drier air is riding on the coattails of 15-to-20 mph northwesterly winds. With a bit of a wind chill, despite high temperatures in the upper 50s to low 60s, we may need only one extra layer. Heavy windbreaker, perhaps? (Okay, a light coat!)”


Earlier in the day, he and his team played football as the plane waited on the tarmac (click to watch):

Justin Timberlake spoke about his voting booth selfie with Jimmy Fallon: