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.
Why transparency is the best policy -- for both Clinton and Trump
The frenzy and uncertainty Sunday over Hillary Clinton's health could have easily been avoided had Clinton and her campaign disclosed that she had pneumonia -- either after she was diagnosed on Friday or right after reports surfaced that something had happened at the 9/11 remembrance. First came a statement from the campaign that Clinton felt "overheated." Then a video surfaced of Clinton nearly collapsing. And then, at about 5:00 pm ET, the campaign finally released a statement from Clinton's doctor saying that she was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday.
It's the Clinton Way -- release things slowly, or only when forced to do so. Per NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Clinton aides say the former secretary of state didn't disclose her health condition because she thought she could power through and wasn't coughing on Saturday, but they now realize that was a mistake. So what does the rest of the week look like, especially now that Clinton has canceled her California fundraisers today and tomorrow? It's more likely than not that the intensity of this story fades. Remember the Trump-Putin story from Thursday and Friday? Or "Deplorables" from Saturday? It's a good chance we'll be talking about something else on Tuesday and Wednesday. Still, the Clinton campaign HAS to know it must be more transparent about her health and whereabouts.
Reminder: Trump is the least transparent presidential nominee in modern times
While we are deservedly critical of Clinton and her campaign here, it's worth remembering that Donald Trump hasn't been so transparent, either. In fact, he's the least transparent presidential nominee in modern times. Unlike every other modern-era nominee, he hasn't disclosed his tax returns. His own letter from his doctor -- remember him? -- was more than lacking. And Trump's campaign has gone of its way to skirt any kind of protective pool of the press. So as we demand important transparency from the Clinton campaign, we should demand just as much transparency from Team Trump. Don't forget: If he wins, Trump would the oldest first-term president in U.S. history. (Clinton would be second oldest, after Reagan.)
Trump: "I hope she gets well soon. I don't know what's going on"
Calling into Fox News this morning, Trump reacted to Clinton's health news. "I hope she gets well soon. I don't know what's going on. Like you, I see what I see. The coughing fit was a week ago, I assume that was pneumonia also." And then on CNBC, he said, "It was interesting because they say pneumonia on Friday, but she was coughing very, very badly a week ago and even before that this wasn't the first time. It's very interesting to see what's going on."
New Trump ad seizes on "Deplorables" controversy
As the political world is focused on Clinton's health and the issue of transparency, the Trump campaign is going up with a new TV ad, and it's on the other controversy over the weekend -- Clinton referring to half of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables."
NARRATOR: Speaking to wealthy donors, Hillary Clinton called tens of millions of Americans "Deplorable."
HILLARY CLINTON: "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'Basket of Deplorables.' The racists, sexists, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it."
NARRATOR: People like you . . . you . . . and you.
NARRATOR: You know what's deplorable?
NARRATOR: Hillary Clinton viciously demonizing hard-working people like you.
The ad is set to air in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania at a cost of at least $2 million, per the campaign. (What happened to the advertising in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia?) And the campaign clearly wants to take advantage of this "Deplorables" story; a candidate never should attack or question individual voters. That said, does Trump and his campaign really want to re-litigate this, especially after Clinton released a statement saying she regretted saying half -- but still underscored the racial component behind Trump's campaign? "[L]et's be clear, what's really 'deplorable' is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called 'alt-right' movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. It's deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices," Clinton said in her statement over the weekend.
The full context of Clinton's "Deplorables" comment
By the way, here is what Clinton said at that fundraiser, per NBC's Monica Alba: "To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the "basket of deplorables." Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that and he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable, but they are not America but the other basket, the other basket, and I know because I look at this crowd, I see friends from all over America here. I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas, as well as you know New York and California. But that other basket of people are people who feel that government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures. They are just desperate for change. Doesn't really even matter where it comes from."
Clinton, Trump deadlocked in four battleground states
Turning to this weekend's poll numbers, Clinton and Trump are essentially deadlocked in four presidential battleground states, ranging from red Arizona and Georgia to blue-ish Nevada and New Hampshire, according to the four NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls we released on Sunday.
- In Arizona, which Republicans have carried in every presidential election since 2000, Trump leads Clinton among likely voters by one point, 42%-41%. (Among the larger group of all registered voters, it's Clinton 41%, Trump 40%.)
- In Georgia, which the GOP has won since 1996, Trump is ahead by three points among likely voters, 46%-43%. (Among registered voters, the candidates are tied at 44% each.)
- In Nevada, which Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012, Clinton is up by one point, 45%-44% (but she's ahead by five points among registered voters, 46%-41%).
- And in New Hampshire, which Obama also won in the last two presidential elections, Clinton leads Trump by one point, 42%-41% (and they're tied at 40% each among registered voters).
The good news for Democrats here: Arizona and Georgia are DEFINITELY battleground states. The good news for Republicans: Nevada and (surprisingly) New Hampshire are well within striking distance. Meanwhile, a national Washington Post/ABC poll showed Clinton with a five-point lead over Trump among likely voters, 46%-41%.
Good news for Senate Republicans in new NBC/WSJ/Marist polls
But looking at the Senate races from our NBC/WSJ/Marist polls, there is only good news for Republicans. The numbers:
- In Arizona, incumbent Republican Sen. John McCain leads Democratic challenger Ann Kirkpatrick by 19 points among likely voters, 57%-38%. (The result is the same among all registered voters.)
- In Georgia, incumbent GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson leads Democrat Jim Barksdale by 15 points, 53%-38%.
- In Nevada, which is one of the key Senate races this cycle, Republican Joe Heck gets 47% among likely voters, while Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto gets 45%. (Among registered voters, it's Cortez Masto 46%, Heck 45%.)
- And in New Hampshire, which could end up deciding control of the Senate, incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte leads Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan by eight points among likely voters, 52%-44%. (And among registered voters, Ayotte's lead is seven points, 51%-44%.)
The Washington Post: The Trump Foundation "is not like other charities"
The frenzy over Clinton's health on Sunday overshadowed a big investigative piece by the Washington Post, but it deserves mentioning this morning. "The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.
For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people's money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation. Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump's own money. In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself. Money from the Trump Foundation has also been used for political purposes, which is against the law."
On the trail
Donald Trump speaks to National Guard Association in Baltimore, MD at 1:00 pm ET, and then he holds a rally in Asheville, NC at 6:00 pm ET… And Tim Kaine campaigns in Dayton, OH.
Countdown to first presidential debate: 14 days
Countdown to VP debate: 22 days
Countdown to second presidential debate: 27 days
Countdown to third presidential debate: 37 days
Countdown to Election Day: 57 days