First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Clinton returns to the trail -- and not a moment too soon for Democrats
After missing three days of campaigning and fundraising to recover from pneumonia, Hillary Clinton is back on the trail. And her return is not a moment too soon for Democrats, with Donald Trump continuing to gain ground in the polls -- if not overtaking her in some key battleground states. The latest national polls still show Clinton leading Trump: Quinnipiac has her up five points among likely voters, while the New York Times/CBS poll has her ahead by just two in a head-to-head matchup. But two polls yesterday (via CNN and Bloomberg) found Trump leading in Ohio, and another survey (via CNN) showed Trump up in Florida. Bottom line: The political winds are currently at Trump's back, and Team Clinton should be worried. The state of the race now puts so much more pressure on the first debate (and less margin for error). A campaign can always overreact to news like this, but you also don't want to underreact.
Trump takes a swipe at Clinton's health
Campaigning in Ohio last night, Trump took some thinly veiled shots at Clinton's health. For starters, he claimed that it was hot in the arena and Clinton wouldn't be able to withstand the heat. (In fact, per NBC's Ali Vitali who was covering the event, the venue was chilly.) "It is hot and it's always hot when I perform because the crowds are so big. These rooms were not designed for this kind of a crowd. I don't know, folks. You think Hillary would be able to stand up here for an hour and do this? I don't. I don't think so." And then wishing her to feel better, Trump told the audience that she was lying in bed. "Now we have one [opponent] left, and in all fairness, she's lying in bed getting better, and we want her better. We want her back on the trail. Right? We want her back on the trail."
Trump's health-records release was a joke
NBC's headline puts it well, "Clinton Releases Health Stats to Public, Trump to Dr. Oz." From the story: "Hillary Clinton released medical records on Wednesday providing new details about both her pneumonia diagnosis and general health — just hours after Donald Trump offered some new information about his own well being in a taped appearance on the 'Dr. Oz Show.' The dueling releases shed some new light on Clinton's condition and added little to an already-thin amount of known details about Trump's health." We'll say it again: Trump continues to be the least transparent presidential nominee in modern times. And if you're going to release your health records, make them available to all; don't hand a summary from your doctor for Dr. Oz to read on television. That's not transparency.
Washington Post: Trump demands Obama to release birth certificate but won't release his own records
The Washington Post adds that Trump is the first major presidential nominee since 1976 "to refuse to release his tax returns. He has declined to provide documentation of the 'tens of millions' of dollars he claims to have donated to charity. He has yet to release a comprehensive accounting of his health… At the same time, Trump and his aides are criticizing rival Hillary Clinton as secretive and demanding more information from her about her emails and health. Many Democrats also see Trump's refusal to release basic information as hypocritical since for years, he was one of the loudest voices demanding that President Obama release his birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii and qualified to be president."
When political rhetoric spirals out of control
This stood out to us. "Nearly half of Americans say that voter fraud occurs at least somewhat often according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a viewpoint at odds with studies showing it rarely occurs in U.S. elections." Folks, there is SCANT evidence that widespread voter fraud takes place in our system. This is what happens when political rhetoric spirals out of control -- and it undermines our democracy.
Trump fires back at Powell
Responding to a leaked email from Colin Powell referring to Trump as a "national disgrace" and an "international pariah," Trump tweeted around midnight last night: "I was never a fan of Colin Powell after his weak understanding of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq = disaster. We can do much better!" As RealClearPolitics' Rebecca Berg flags, Trump said this about Powell in Oct. 2012 during the last presidential campaign: "Obama is about to destroy the mililtary through the sequester. The Middle East is a mess. Yet Colin Powell still endorses him. Wonder why?"
On the trail
Hillary Clinton campaigns in Greensboro, NC at 3:45 pm ET and then attends (along with President Obama) a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute dinner in DC at 7:00 pm ET… Donald Trump delivers an economic speech in New York at 11:00 am ET and then holds a rally in Laconia, NH at 7:30 pm ET… Tim Kaine campaigns in New Hampshire, while Chelsea Clinton stumps through Ohio.
Countdown to first presidential debate: 11 days
Countdown to VP debate: 19 days
Countdown to second presidential debate: 24 days
Countdown to third presidential debate: 34 days
Countdown to Election Day: 54 days