Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Legions of Donald Trump supporters will wake up this morning and find to their relief that their standard-bearer made it through the night without firing up his Twitter account. That may be the best news they could hope for after the Republican nominee’s rough week, one entirely of his own making. Trump entered it riding high on a spate of national and swing state polls that showed him pulling even with or slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton after a comparatively disciplined stretch on the trail. And he pressed his advantage Monday night in their first face-to-face encounter. In the debate’s opening round, Trump set Clinton on her heels by attacking her as a guardian of the status quo and going after her revolving positions on free trade. But he couldn’t sustain his focus. Clinton unleashed a withering counterassault she capped by invoking Trump’s treatment of a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, whom he humiliated publicly for gaining weight after her 1996 win. In the debate’s aftermath, rather than regroup by returning to a proven message, Trump spent the week flailing in the trap Clinton laid for him, continuing to lash out at Machado. His tantrum culminated early Friday morning with a Twitter rant in which he called the newly-minted U.S. citizen “disgusting” and accused her without evidence of having a sex tape.
Republican pols and strategists can do little but watch this self-immolation unfold. Compounding their frustration, a Fox News poll released Friday highlighted what would be an altogether different contest if Trump could marshal some discipline. Those surveyed overwhelmingly identified the economy as the most important issue facing the country today. And they gave Trump a narrow edge on handling it. But voters also named “good judgment in a crisis” as the top quality they’re seeking in the next president — twice the number who said they most valued a leader who “tells it like it is” — and nearly six in ten said they don’t believe Trump has the temperament to serve effectively. Three-quarters said they watched the debate live, and by a 60-22 margin, those who did believe Clinton won. The poll mirrors other surveys since the debate that show Clinton reopening her lead.
Trump is demonstrating little interest in a course correction. He may have kept his Twitter account idle overnight — but not before telling the New York Times in a Friday afternoon interview he plans to attack Clinton for her husband’s infidelities and as an “enabler” of the “the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics.” Trump said he doesn’t need to work harder to prepare for their next debate encounter, on Oct. 9, since any weakness in his first performance owed to issues he was having with his microphone. And he remains bullish on his chances overall: “I have the issues on my side, and I have Trump, which I’ll take.” So will those sharing the ballot with him, whether they’d like to or not.
• Clinton turns focus to turning out her base
As the presidential election enters its final stretch, the Clinton campaign is switching gears, launching an effort to close the race by focusing on turning out the Democratic faithful. The push — including an investment in turning out early voters and registering still others — marks a new phase for the campaign, which spent the summer heralding its attempts to lure crossover Republicans and independents into its fold. In that sense, despite all its apparent oddities, the race is settling into a familiar pattern, with the Clinton camp aiming to reassemble Obama’s electoral coalition in a handful of swing states.
• Trump’s business owes hundreds of millions to German bank facing fines
U.S. regulators want Deutsche Bank to pay a $14 billion fine to settle claims the institution issued toxic mortgages during the housing crisis. Talks could conclude before the next president is sworn in. But if they aren’t, and Trump wins, the scenario points to a problematic conflict of interest for the businessman-turned-pol: The bank is Trump’s top lender, raising the possibility his personal financial interests with the outfit could collide with his responsibilities as the nation’s chief executive. Ethics advisers have called for Trump, if elected, to sell his business interests or place them in a separate holding company, but he’s so far resisted the notion.
• Congress escapes until Election Day, barely
Lawmakers finished their must-do work Thursday, beating a hasty retreat out of Washington to head home and focus on their own reelections. But it was messy. After months of negotiations with the White House, Congress finally passed a funding bill that will keep the government running into December and provides aid to address the Zika virus, flooding victims in Louisiana and the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Mich. Yet a long list of unfinished items awaits the lame-duck session that will follow the election — and much of that workload will likely fall to the next Congress.
Around the Water Cooler
• GOP donors aren’t uniting behind Trump
Trump may have earned endorsements from most of his vanquished Republican primary rivals — with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush remaining notable exceptions. But recruiting their former donors into his fold has proven tougher. An analysis by the Los Angeles Times finds that 95 percent of those who gave $200 or more to Trump’s GOP rivals haven’t transferred their allegiance to the nominee, and many are giving to Clinton instead. The phenomenon is contributing to Trump’s overall fundraising deficit. Through August, he’d raised $82 million to Clinton’s $292 million.
Los Angeles Times
• How Trump’s finance chief got mixed up in a Hollywood mess
Steven Mnuchin, a billionaire who made his fortune on Wall Street, could end up as Treasury Secretary if Trump wins the presidency. In the last few years, his path took an odd detour through Hollywood that got him tangled up with buzzed-about movie studio Relativity Media. Its biggest prospect — Masterminds, a screwball comedy about a bank heist gone awry, co-starring Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig — hits theaters this weekend. The story of Mnuchin’s involvement, alongside Clinton friend Ron Burkle, with a studio that went bust and is now struggling to reemerge from bankruptcy, might prove more interesting than the movie.
• SNL returns to parody the debate
The weekly satire show postponed the start of its 42nd season by a week so the debut could tackle the first presidential debate. That fact alone stoked anticipation for tonight’s broadcast. The show fanned it this week with a online promotional spot revealing it’s recruited Alec Baldwin to play Trump. In election years past, the show’s takes on candidates have imprinted indelibly on the popular consciousness. But the acting and writing talent behind the operation for the most part insist they want to avoid swaying real-world outcomes, even as the broader comedy world has been grappling with whether Trump’s candidacy requires a different approach.