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.
Team Clinton breathes sigh of relief, but isn't in the clear yet
For Democrats who've been biting their fingernails over the last few days, Wednesday was a good polling day. The Marquette Law poll, the gold standard in Wisconsin, showed Clinton ahead there by six points. A trio of Pennsylvania polls had her ahead by four to five points in the Keystone State. And she was narrowly ahead in Florida and North Carolina, though well within the margin of error. Add them up all, and it was a (slight) sigh of relief for the Clinton campaign, as our sister publication The Lid put it. But they aren't out of the woods. A Colorado poll last night showed a tied race, and Clinton needs both Colorado and Virginia in her column to win without Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. (A word of caution on that Colorado poll, though: It has the Latino electorate at just 9%, when it was 14% in 2012 -- and will likely be higher than that this year.) And a New Hampshire poll out this morning shows Trump up one point in the Granite State, which is the first survey to show Trump ahead in New Hampshire since the summer. So are things looking better for Clinton with the Comey news no longer dominating headlines? Yes. You'd much rather be Clinton than Trump, especially in the race to 270 electoral votes. But she isn't in the clear just yet.
Time for Democrats to start sweating winning back the Senate
But if Democrats can breathe a (slight) sigh of relief about the presidential race, the same isn't true in the battle for the Senate. The same Marquette Law poll that showed Clinton ahead by six points had Democrat Russ Feingold up a single point over vulnerable incumbent Ron Johnson (R-WI). A month ago, the Democratic formula for winning control of the Senate was to assume Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana were locked down -- and then hope to win only a couple more out of Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Missouri. But right now, instead of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana being 100% locked down, only one of them is: Illinois.
Trump stays on message; Clinton's message is more negative
Maybe the biggest news of Donald Trump's recent presidential rallies is that he ISN'T making news. "Campaigning in [Florida] just six days before Election Day, Donald Trump acknowledged that the key to victory might be his ability to stay on message, stick to the teleprompter and ignore the siren call of the tangents that have spurred headlines throughout the campaign and often sabotaged even his most potent lines of attack on his opponent," NBC's Ali Vitali writes. "'We are going to win the White House,' he assured his supporters at a rally that capped off a full day of events in the Sunshine State. 'Just — we've gotta be nice and cool, nice and cool. Right? Stay on point, Donald, stay on point.'" By contrast, Clinton's message has been much more negative, which maybe isn't surprising for a campaign that just wants to turn the page from the Comey news. But a week ago, this wasn't the message the Clinton camp wanted to be making down the final stretch…
Clinton on Arizona: "We have a real chance to turn this state blue"
NBC's Monica Alba: "Hillary Clinton told supporters in Arizona late Wednesday that the traditional Republican stronghold was 'in play for the first time in years' as she addressed her biggest crowd of the campaign to date. Speaking to a rally of 15,000 people in Tempe, she noted that Arizona has only backed a Democrat for president once since 1948 — and that was for Bill Clinton in 1996. 'We have a real chance to turn this state blue again,' she added.More: "Clinton continued to push down-ballot Democrats, but also took a swipe at local Sheriff Joe Arpaio — who has made a name for himself by targeting Latinos — and urged voters to support his opponent. 'I think it's time you had a new sheriff in town, don't you?' Clinton said, to loud cheers."
First Read's downballot race of the day: VA-10
Incumbent Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock represents two affluent DC suburban counties, Fairfax and Loudon, where Donald Trump is trailing badly. If she loses, it'll be because she was dragged down by the top of the ticket in her race against Democrat LuAnn Bennett.
On the trail
Hillary Clinton spends her day in North Carolina, making stops in Winterville at 3:15 pm ET and Raleigh at 7:45 pm ET… Donald Trump campaigns in Jacksonville, FL at noon ET, Concord, NC at 4:00 pm ET and Selma, NC at 7:00 pm ET… Melania Trump gives a speech outside of Philadelphia at 2:00 pm ET… Mike Pence hits Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania… Tim Kaine stumps in Arizona… President Obama holds a rally in Jacksonville at 1:30 pm ET… Bernie Sanders stumps in Ohio… And Chelsea Clinton is in Milwaukee.
Countdown to Election Day: 5 days