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
A tale of two very different early-vote efforts
According to our latest figures, 13.7 million Americans have already voted in the 2016 general election (by absentee ballot or by in-person voting), including 7.5 million in 12 battleground states. But there is no comparison when it comes to which campaign and party is truly emphasizing early voting. As NBC's Alex Jaffe observed while covering Trump's event in Springfield, OH yesterday, "I didn't see a single RNC or OHGOP volunteer signing folks up to volunteer or offering early vote info on my way in or out of Trump's … rally." Contrast that with the observations from NBC's reporters covering the Clinton campaign and its surrogates.
- NBC's Monica Alba: "Dozens of volunteers at HRC events. And this week, most of her events were strategically positioned within walking distance of early voting sites. [On Thursday], Michelle Obama urged everyone to go vote the moment they left the NC rally."
- NBC's Danny Freeman: "It's almost unimaginable having a Bill [Clinton] event, especially on these bus tours, without early voting efforts. [Wednesday night] in Fayetteville the biggest signage was a huge 'Vote early' sign behind Clinton with student volunteers pestering crowd watchers… Now that doesn't mean they're always successful, but the efforts are 100% there."
- Now NBC's Ali Vitali, who has been covering the Trump campaign from the beginning, has noticed people in neon shirts registering attendees at Trump's North Carolina and Florida rallies. She adds, "But most states are lacking/not visible." Given that kind of disparity, if the race is close on Nov. 8, one side will have an advantage over the other.
Who's ahead so far in the early vote totals?
By the way, below is the party affiliation breakdown of the early voters in 12 key battleground states. Democrats are ahead in eight states, Republicans are ahead in three, and they're essentially tied in Florida. Note: These percentages only tell us the party affiliation of these voters -- they don't tell us who they voted for.
Arizona: Democrat 36%, Republican 38%, Other 25%
Colorado: Democrat 39%, Republican 34%, Other 26%
Florida: Democrat 41%, Republican 41%, Other 18%
Georgia: Democrat 43%, Republican 53%, Other 5%
Iowa: Democrat 46%, Republican 34%, Other 21%
Michigan: Democrat 39%, Republican 35%, Other 25%
North Carolina: Democrat 47%, Republican 29%, Other 24%
Nevada: Democrat 46%, Republican 35%, Other 19%
Ohio: Democrat 49%, Republican 40%, Other 11%
Pennsylvania: Democrat 43%, Republican 48%, Other 9% (these are excuse absentee ballots)
Virginia: Democrat 51%, Republican 38%, Virginia 11%
Wisconsin: Democrat 54%, Republican 34%, Other 12%
SOURCE: NBC News Data Analytics Lab—using voter file data provided by TargetSmart
Trump is facing a cash deficit in final days
Not only is the GOP lagging when it comes to early-voting operations, but Donald Trump now has a serious cash problem, NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell reports. The Republican presidential candidate has just $16 million on hand and is $2 million in debt, according to filings to the Federal Election Commission through October 19. The outlook, which will be the last FEC filings before Election Day, looks a bit better for Trump when the totality of his two other fundraising committees are included, giving him $67 million for the final days. His challenger, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is in a much better position, however. Her campaign and two fundraising committees have more than twice what Trump has with $153.5 million in the bank. Clinton has just $111,000 in debt." And get this: "After pledging as recently as this week to donate $100 million to his effort, he gave his campaign just $30,000 this month. Trump has given about $56 million, a significant amount, to his campaign — most of it during the primary when he was mostly self-funding, but he has only a few days left to give about $44 million more if he follows through."
Joe Biden for secretary of state?
NBC's Kristen Welker has confirmed Politico's report from last night that Hillary Clinton is considering Vice President Joe Biden for secretary of state if she wins the White House. While this kind of story is definitely premature before the votes are counted on Nov. 8, it will energize many Democrats, and it also overshadows -- for a while -- the WikiLeaks email dumps on Clinton. If you're a Clinton supporter and wanted to change the subject for a news cycle, dangling Joe Bide as secretary of state probably does the trick.
Polling reality check: Clinton is ahead
In the last 24 hours, one national poll showed Hillary Clinton with a 14-point lead. Another had her ahead by just three points. And another found it right in the middle -- Clinton up nine points. In the battleground states, meanwhile, one survey had Clinton leading in New Hampshire by nine points while another one had her up four in the Granite State. Then there was that recent Florida poll that found Donald Trump ahead by two. How to make sense of the plethora of polls? Well, here's an answer: Clinton is clearly ahead, though the margin is larger in some polls than others. And when looking at the battleground states, she still has the easiest path to the 270 electoral votes.
Mark Kirk blows it in Senate debate
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was always the most vulnerable GOP senator up for re-election this cycle. And last night's debate performance won't help him at all - after he used a racially charged comment against Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth. After Duckworth discussed how her family "has served this nation in uniform going back to the revolution," Kirk later replied, "I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington." Duckworth tweeted after the debate, "My mom is an immigrant and my dad and his family have served this nation in uniform since the Revolution."
First Read's downballot race of the day
Indiana Senate: A former senator and governor, Evan Bayh is a well-known figure in Indiana and on Capitol Hill. The son of longtime Sen. Birch Bayh, the younger pol thrilled Democrats when he decided in July to try to regain the Senate seat he gave up in 2010. But he has had a bumpier time than anticipated. Republican candidate Rep. Todd Young and his allies have worked to paint Bayh as an opportunist who cashed in after retirement, working at a high-priced D.C. lobbying firm and living on the East Coast. (Bayh has done himself no favors, screwing up his own Indiana address in a local interview over the summer.) A brutal early October story also outlined how Bayh spent significant time during his last year in the Senate hunting for a private sector job.
On the trail
Hillary Clinton spends her day in Iowa, hitting Cedar Rapids at 2:15 pm ET and Des Moines at 5:45 pm ET… Donald Trump campaigns in Manchester, NH at noon ET, Lisbon, ME at 4:00 pm ET, and Cedar Rapids, IA at 8:00 pm ET… Tim Kaine stumps in Florida… Mike Pence is in Pennsylvania and North Carolina… President Obama campaigns for Clinton in Orlando, FL at 5:00 pm ET… And Bill Clinton hits Pennsylvania.
On Saturday, Clinton attends a GOTV concert with Jennifer Lopez in Miami, while Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada… On Sunday, Tim Kaine stumps in Michigan.
Countdown to Election Day: 11 days