Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, left, walks past Sen. David Vitter as they take their places before a debate in New Orleans earlier this month. The election is Saturday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

THE BIG IDEA:

— Republican Sen. David Vitter, running for Louisiana governor, has a serious image problem going into this Saturday’s election. The latest Louisiana State University poll finds he’s viewed favorably by 30 percent of voters and unfavorably by 41 percent. At the start of this year, he was viewed more positively than negatively. Now, even one-in-three Republicans have negative feelings about their senior senator. Vitter has a massive fundraising advantage, but he’s dogged by persistent character questions and other baggage from his 23 continuous years in public office.

The overwhelming favorite to succeed Bobby Jindal a few months ago, the outcome is now very much in doubt. In Louisiana’s jungle primary system, assuming no candidate in the crowded field clears 50 percent this weekend, the top two finishers will square off in a Nov. 21 runoff. The likeliest outcome right now is that Vitter will face Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in a head-to-head matchup.

Against that backdrop, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing Vitter a big favor by bringing his bill to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities up for a vote today. The issue entered the national consciousness in July after an undocumented immigrant who should not have been in the United States shot and killed a young woman, Kate Steinle, at a San Francisco pier. To protect undocumented immigrants from being deported, many cities do not notify the federal government when they detain them for minor offenses.

Republican members of the Judiciary Committee haven’t been able to agree on legislation to crack down on sanctuary cities. Vitter wants a mandatory minimum prison sentence for anyone who reenters the U.S. after being deported. Some conservatives express concerns about requiring longer jail terms when they’re pushing for broad-based criminal justice reform. But McConnell has bypassed the committee process and is bringing up a consolidated version of three separate bills, including Vitter’s, for a Senate floor vote. The bill is doomed, but this approach lets Republican leaders blame Democrats for filibustering it.

Harry Reid promised yesterday that the bill won’t get 60 votes: “This vile legislation might as well be called the Donald Trump Act, like the disgusting outrageous language championed by Donald Trump,” the minority leader said. “This Donald Trump Act was designed to demonize immigrants and spread the myth that they are criminals and threats to the public.”

Vitter touted his push in a floor speech last night, and his office churned out three press releases during a six-hour period yesterday afternoon. “Vitter is nothing if not skilled at making these races about something other than him,” said LSU Professor Robert Mann, who was state director for ex-Sen. John Breaux (D-La.). A Vitter spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about the politics of the vote.

Louisiana insiders say sanctuary cities is probably a 90-10 issue in Louisiana, meaning 90 percent of voters agree with Vitter. “What he’s been doing is trying to present himself as the true conservative,” said Mike Henderson, who conducted the LSU poll. “This vote fits exactly within that line.”

[Sign up to receive The Daily 202 delivered directly to your e-mail inbox]

Mary Landrieu exits the voting booth with her daughter on the day of her runoff last December. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Today’s vote is eerily reminiscent of when Reid tried to help then-Sen. Mary Landrieu in her 2014 runoff with a show vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline, a so-called “Fail Mary.” Like Keystone for Landrieu, defunding sanctuary cities is not a new issue for Vitter. He has introduced bills to do so every year since 2008. What is new is that he’s finally getting floor time.

The vote also gives Marco Rubio a much-needed talking point. The Florida senator remains vulnerable for co-authoring the 2013 bill that included a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor of Vitter’s bill, as did – not surprisingly – Ted Cruz.

GOP leadership, naturally, denies that the upcoming election affected the vote timing. Beth Levine, spokeswoman for Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said they skipped the committee process only “because there was an opening in the floor schedule.” She added, “Chairman Grassley was a part of the discussions to bring the bill to the floor, and there was never a mention of a governor’s race.” McConnell’s spokesman said the same thing.

If you actually believe it is a complete coincidence that the Senate is voting on this measure four days before the Louisiana election, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona that I’d like to sell you.

— The Democrat down there is running a pretty good campaign and has the right profile to beat Vitter. Edwards remains the decided underdog, to be sure. But he is pro-life and running a powerful ad that features his wife, Donna, talking about a doctor encouraging her to get an abortion when she was 20 weeks pregnant and they found out the baby had Spina Bifida. “But John Bel never flinched; he just said, ‘No…we’re going to love this baby no matter what,’” she says to camera. (Watch the ad here.) 

The commercial is a not-that-subtle shot at Vitter, who found himself enmeshed in a 2007 prostitution scandal. He won reelection in 2010 and has refused to answer questions about it since. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, one of two Republicans challenging him, has injected the prostitution scandal into the race. He ran an ad last month calling himself “scandal-free.”

Joe Biden and Paul Ryan debate each other at the vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in Oct. 2012. (EPA/Rick Wilking)

— There are two modern-day Hamlet acts in American politics right now — Joe Biden is the Prince of Delaware; Paul Ryan is the Prince of Janesville. Washington is being held hostage by the seemingly interminable deliberations of two Irish Catholics who squared off against each other as vice presidential nominees three falls ago. There is something very Shakespearean about the split-screen dramas.

Biden is like Hamlet because he sees himself as is the rightful king/heir to President Obama’s legacy, with Hillary Clinton (or Claudius) trying to take that away. The vice president is in the twilight of his career, mulling whether the third time might be the charm for achieving his life-long presidential dream.

Ryan clearly feels like, at 45, he’s still in the dawn of his career. He fears squandering his chance to rewrite the tax code or maybe become president down the road if he’s chosen House speaker and inherits the same ungovernable mix that felled John Boehner.

Two lines from “Hamlet”come to mind when thinking about this moment:

  • “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer, The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles?”
  • “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

For now, they’re mostly keeping their own counsel. Or, as Polonius puts it, “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.”

— For Biden, there has been a real cost to waiting: A brand new Washington Post/ABC poll, off embargo at 7 a.m., finds that support for his potential candidacy has slipped since last month. Clinton has expanded her overall national lead among Democrats, even when the VP is included in the mix, and she was viewed as last week’s debate winner by a greater than two-to-one margin.

In September, Hillary was pulling 42 percent of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Now she’s getting 54 percent. Sanders runs second at 23 percent, basically flat from last month. Biden got 16 percent, down from 21 percent in September. If you take Biden out of the mix, Clinton’s support jumps 10 points to 64 percent among Democratic-leaning voters. Sanders holds steady, with 25 percent.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the most prominent African-American elected official in South Carolina, joineda growing chorus in saying that Biden cannot win the Democratic nomination and should not run. “If I were advising him, I would not advise him to get in,” Clyburn told the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman in his district office. “In my opinion, he would not do himself any favors by getting in.” He added, “I don’t see a path for him that he can create. There is only a path that could be created for him. All the impediments — all the obstacles — would have to be removed by somebody else.”

— All that said, Biden and Ryan each appear increasingly intent on getting into their respective races. The House GOP Conference is meeting tonight as members return from the Columbus Day recess. Ryan could telegraph his plans then. My colleagues Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis report, after speaking with those close to Ryan, that he is “more open than ever to becoming the next House speaker … [but] he will seek assurance from Republican hard-liners that he will have their full support should he win the gavel.”

Ryan wants the party to come to him. Typically, in a leadership race, speed kills. But in this case, Ryan doesn’t even seem to be dispatching emissaries to whip their support. Instead, Ryan is the one with the asks: “At the top of Ryan’s list, his associates said, is a desire to lead the House GOP as its spokesman and agenda-setter without the threat of revolt from the right,” per Bob and Mike. “Another aim would be to delegate some of the job’s travel and fundraising demands.”

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waves while accompanied by his wife Sophie Gregoire as he gives his victory speech after Canada’s federal election in Montreal last night. (Jim Young/Reuters)

— The liberals won big in Canada, toppling the prime minister. “In a stunning political comeback propelled by a national desire for change, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals won a decisive majority Monday night, bringing an end to the Stephen Harper era and a decade of Conservative rule,” blares the Toronto Globe and Mail. “The result signals a vast reversal of fortunes for a party that was all but written off after winning just 34 seats in the past election. Their seat haul on Monday – with huge gains across the country – amounts to the largest increase in seats for a party between elections in Canadian history.”

— Jim Webb is seriously mulling a run as an independent. The former Virginia senator, after his whiny performance last week in the debate, says he’s considering running as an independent. He’ll have a press conference at 1 p.m. at the National Press Club. He barely registers in our new Post poll, but the Des Moines Register reports that he will not attend this weekend’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa as he makes up his mind.

— Martin O’Malley went after Hillary on her ties to Wall Street during an appearance on “The Daily Show.” “I believe I have the independence to actually get that done, and I do not believe that Hillary Clinton does,” Maryland’s former governor said.

— The Toronto Blue Jays came alive to defeat the Kansas City Royals 11-8 in Game 3 of the ALCS. 

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump at his highest level of support among Republicans yet: 25 percent. But Ben Carson is right behind him, at 22 percent.

  • Ron Brownstein chalks Trump’s enduring lead up to his strength among the less-educated: “The blue collar wing of the Republican primary electorate has consolidated around one candidate. The party’s white collar wing remains fragmented.” Exit polls showed about half of total GOP primary votes in both 2008 and 2012 came from those without a four-year college degree and half came from those who finished undergrad, he explains in his National Journal column.
  • Mike Murphy, who is running Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC, laments: “One thing in hindsight is we got this paper crown of frontrunner early that we didn’t want, and I don’t think realistically we should have had.” On Trump entering the race, he tells Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg Politics: “It created a false zombie front-runner. He’s dead politically, he’ll never be president of the United States, ever. By definition I don’t think you can be a frontrunner if you’re totally un-electable. I think there’s there an a-priori logic problem in that.” Murphy predicts a “very slow drop” for The Donald, with Cruz inheriting most of his support. Murphy claims he’d “love a two-way race with Trump” and that while the businessman has sucked oxygen out of others’ campaigns, Jeb has an “oxygen tank.” He predicted March 15 would be the “big day” where the race will have “a very strong leading candidate,” and confirmed he meant that a Republican who hasn’t finished higher than 3rd or 4th in the early states could be on track to win.

GET SMART FAST:

  1. Federal regulators will require recreational drone users to register their aircraft with the government for the first time, part of an attempt to track rogue flying robots that are increasingly posing a threat to aviation safety. It is “a tacit admission by the FAA that it has been unable to safely integrate the popular remote-controlled planes into the national airspace,” writes Craig Whitlock.
  2. A worker involved in the clean-up of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima has been diagnosed with cancer related to the job, for the first time.
  3. The Army general who oversaw the failed effort to train Syrian rebels is likely to get promoted and assigned a senior counter-terrorism position. (NYT)
  4. It’s widely expected that the House will vote to raise the debt ceiling on Friday so that the Senate can meet a Nov. 3 deadline. (Kelsey Snell)
  5. A San Francisco middle school delayed announcing its student council election results because the winners were not diverse enough. (Michael E. Miller)
  6. Lamar Odom has shown enough steady improvement in recent days at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center that he has started physical therapy, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
  7. The United Airlines CEO has been replaced by the general counsel, acting on an interim basis, after having a heart attack. (USA Today)
  8. While South Carolina moved swiftly to remove the Confederate flag after the massacre in Charleston, Mississippi has dithered. Like Louisiana, the state has an off-year governor’s election. GOP incumbent Phil Bryant, favored to win a second term next month, has declined requests to call a special session to debate the symbol. (AP)
  9. Maryland, though, is likely to finally recall license plates with images of the Confederate flag this fall after a federal judge finally agreed last week to lift a 1997 injunction that prevented the state from putting people’s specialty plates out of circulation. (Ovetta Wiggins)

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. The FBI is investigating after an anonymous hacker posted online contact lists and other documents he claims were stolen from the AOL account of CIA Director John Brennan, as well as personal information from the Comcast billing account of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. (LA Times)
  2. Ted Cruz’s campaign made payments totaling $750,000 to a data analytics company that specializes in voter personality profiling. (Frances Stead Seller)
  3. Bobby Jindal threatened to boycott the CNBC undercard debate next week, calling for the RNC and the cable channel to count early-state polling instead of national polling as they decide who will be on the main stage. (Washington Examiner)
  4. Bernie now has 53 paid staffers on the ground in New Hampshire. Clinton had 50 at the start of the month.
  5. Carly Fiorina could not get any big names to join her Virginia leadership team. The list she rolled out is small-time grassroots activists. (Laura Vozzella)
  6. Jeb attacked Trump during an appearance on Sean Hannity for saying nice things about Putin and Russia’s presence in Syria. He also said there’s no moral equivalence between Palestinian terror and Israel defending itself. (Fox)
  7. Post Managing Editor Kevin Merida is leaving to to run ESPN’s Undefeated, “a long-anticipated but so far unlaunched digital venture.” (Paul Farhi)

BENGHAZI LATEST–The partisan sniping keep intensifying ahead of Hillary’s testimony on Thursday:

  • The GOP is overplaying its hand, continued: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said on talk radio that Clinton could be subject to IMPEACHMENT on her first day as president because of “how many lives she put at risk” by using a private e-mail server…
  • Chairman Trey Gowdy returned three donations from conservative PACs associated with Dan Backer, the treasurer of Stop Hillary PAC, which ran a controversial Benghazi ad during last week’s debate. Backer “previously served as treasurer of a now-defunct fundraising committee affiliated with Gowdy. He is the treasurer of three other PACs — the Conservative Action Fund, the Special Operations Speaks PAC and the Tea Party Leadership Fund — that each donated $2,000 to Gowdy’s campaign on the same day in May,” per The Post’s Mike DeBonis.
  • Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings explicitly called for an end to the special panel while releasing a 124-page report defending Clinton’s handling of Benghazi while Secretary of State.
  • Priorities USA, the main Clinton super PAC, will air its first ads of the 2016 race, defending Clinton, in four early states over two days. We have not seen the creative yet.

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

Donald Trump, left, announces a 1985 merger of the Houston Gamblers and the New Jersey Generals in the United States Football League. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

And then there was the time that Donald Trump bought a football team,” by Ben Terris: “For a reported $9 million, Trump became the owner of the New Jersey Generals, a flailing team in the fledgling United States Football League. Within one year, he turned the team into one of the best in the USFL. Two years later, the league was dead, and Trump was the prime suspect … victories in a spring league were small potatoes for Trump. He urged his fellow owners to go head-to-head with the NFL in the fall. ‘If God wanted football in the spring, he wouldn’t have created baseball,’ Trump told ABC News in July 1984 … He even tried to woo legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, reportedly offering him $1 million a year. Shula told reporters he lost interest after Trump touted it as a done deal on national television. Trump blamed Shula, saying the coach demanded a home in Trump Tower.”

Iran backs Assad in battle for Aleppo with proxies, ground troops,” by Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim: “In a striking sign of Iran’s growing regional influence, a major assault on Syria’s most populous city is being coordinated by an Iranian military commander using Shiite forces from three countries to back President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered troops … Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has ordered thousands of Iraqi Shiite militia allies into Syria for the operation to recapture Aleppo … The militiamen are to join Iranian troops and forces from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia.”

— Behind Sweden’s warm welcome for refugees, a backlash is brewing,” by Griff Witte: “But behind the warm embrace, a very different reaction to refugees is brewing in Sweden. In this Scandinavian country famous for its progressive politics and unfailingly polite citizenry, a party with roots in the neo-fascist fringe has surged toward the top of recent opinion polls with a defiantly hostile message to refugees: Those on their way to Sweden should stay out. Many of those already here should go home. The growing popularity of the far-right Sweden Democrats mirrors a backlash being felt across Europe as the continent reckons with a refugee crisis that has broken all modern records and shows no sign of abating.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Curb your Bern. While we all wait for social media to explode when Donald Trump hosts “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, Larry David’s Bernie Sanders’ impersonation on the show has definitely created a stir. The “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star received more than 11,000 mentions across all media that also mentioned Sanders –appearing in more than 12 percent of all news stories and Tweets about the Vermont senator on Monday, according to our analytics partners at Zignal Labs. Those mentions included more than 11 percent of all Sanders-related Tweets and more than 26 percent of all Sanders TV mentions throughout the day. Larry David was mentioned more than twice as often as climate change, three times more often than prescription drugs, and nine times more frequently than income inequality in all social and traditional media mentions of Sanders:

BernieLarryDavid

Meanwhile, Bernie clarified on the trail yesterday that he owns multiple pairs of underwear after Larry David spoofed him and said he only has one:

–Pictures of the day:

In honor of an Astronomy Night event, the White House posted a nighttime view of D.C. that was taken from the International Space Station this past Saturday:

On the way to Astronomy Night, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and his son met Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas 14-year-old who was arrested because the homemade clock he brought to school looked like a bomb:

Rick Santorum proclaimed that he “survived” his interview with New York Times editorial board:

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and his family celebrated the debut of the “Star Wars” trailer:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) visited Afghanistan on a CODEL. That’s Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) behind him:

–Tweets of the day:

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) made waves on Twitter with this message:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wished ex-Sen. Norm Coleman well after he was diagnosed with throat cancer (Norm says his doctors tell him that the cancer is serious but treatable, and that his prognosis for recovery is good. Minnesotans are lucky to have the Mayo Clinic.):

Donald Trump wished for a “big fat dose” of global warming:

— Instagrams of the day:

Trump also posted a photo of Bruce Willis wearing his hat on The Tonight Show:

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) snapped a photo of Red Square in Moscow. “The people were wonderful. Their leaders, sadly, are enabling international chaos,” he wrote:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

Wall Street Journal, “White House punts on Fannie-Freddie fate,” by Joe Light: “Obama administration officials on Monday rejected calls to release Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac from government control, signaling that it could be up to the next president or Congress to resolve the mortgage giants’ fate … In a series of appearances on Monday, top White House and Treasury officials pushed back against proposals to recapitalize and release Fannie and Freddie, calling them misguided … The remarks cast doubt on a fierce lobbying effort by shareholders and housing advocates to persuade the administration to cement Fannie’s and Freddie’s position in the mortgage-finance system before leaving office.”

— Bloomberg Politics, “Drug politics go Republican as Rubio criticizes the industry,” by Drew Armstrong and Sahil Kapur: “Rubio joined the debate over U.S. drug prices, saying in a speech last week that some practices by the industry amounted to ‘pure profiteering.’ Criticism of the drug industry has largely been the domain of Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who have repeatedly called for new regulations to control the high cost of medicine. Rubio’s comments turn criticism of the industry bipartisan. ‘These companies decide, ‘We can get away with charging it, and so we do,’ Rubio said at a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire … ‘It’s a new issue that’s emerged over the last few years but it’s a significant one, because it threatens to bankrupt our system,’ Rubio said after being asked about drug prices by an audience member. ‘It’s a complex issue but it’s one we have to confront.'” This does not sound very conservative. The key is whether Rubio actually backs policies to crack down on “profiteering,” or if he just uses it as another talking point.  

Los Angeles Times, “Israel absorbs horror in aftermath of bus station attack,” by Batsheva Sobelman: “Omri Levy, 19, was a soldier. He fought to join the famed Golani Brigade, despite a bad back that could have exempted him from combat duty. Mila Habtom Zerhom, 29, was an African asylum seeker. He fled his native Eritrea seeking a new life away from the heavy-handed regime and made his way to Israel like many tens of thousands of his countrymen. And Mohannad Oqbi, 21, was an Israeli Arab, a metalworker who was a member of the Bedouin community in the southern part of the country and had, by one account, been drawn to the radical messages being disseminated by Islamic State militants. The paths of these very different young people crossed tragically in the city of Beersheba on Sunday, leaving all three dead and prompting a fresh round of soul-searching in the communities they left behind.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Gowdy appears to accidentally release CIA source’s name. From Politico: “House Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy appears to have accidentally released the name of a CIA source in the midst of a back-and-forth with Democrats about how sensitive the information was and whether its presence in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account constituted a security breach. Gowdy’s aides blamed the State Department for the disclosure, and the agency acknowledged Monday a ‘human error’ led to a failure to delete a name from the email in question.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Conservatives claim momentum to oust House GOP incumbents. From the Associated Press: “White and hard-core conservatives around the country say voter anger could help them oust Republican House members considered too unwilling to challenge Obama and congressional Democrats. They cite a movement energized by the resignation of Boehner, who quit partly to prevent GOP lawmakers from having to vote to keep him in his post — a vote that itself could have prompted primary challenges from irate conservatives.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Jeb Bush stops in Los Angeles and San Francisco for private events. Ben Carson campaigns in Fort Worth, Plano, and Wichita Falls, Texas.

–On the Hill: The Senate reconvenes at 10 a.m. to consider the sanctuary cities bill. The House meets at 2 p.m. for legislative business and 6:30 p.m. for six suspension votes.

–At the White House: President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Vice President Biden delivers remarks at the “Walter Mondale: Living Legacy” forum at George Washington University. Later, Biden hosts a reception for Mondale and delivers remarks at a gala in his honor. See the full schedule of Mondale events and watch the livestream of Biden at 9:15 a.m. here

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I just don’t like the guy.” — George W. Bush on Ted Cruz during a fundraiser for Jeb in Denver, according to Politico

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

“Cool high pressure begins its departure process and after a crisp, cool morning, temperatures should shoot up faster than yesterday. Afternoon highs surge into the upper 60s to low 70s under mostly sunny conditions,” per the Capital Weather Gang.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The New York Times got regular people in Burlington, Vt., to do their best Bernie Sanders’ impressions.

Ben Stein said Richard Nixon was a good tipper and Hillary Clinton once had the reputation of being “a little bit stingy”:


(TMZ)

Jeb Bush walked through his fantasy football picks:

And in case you missed it, Eddie Murphy made a joke about Bill Cosby while accepting the Mark Twain Prize in Washington, D.C.: