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.
Who lost the debate? The candidate who's lashing out
Forget the polls and the pundit proclamations. Want to know who won Monday night's presidential debate? Look no further than the reaction from Team Trump, which is now lashing out at the Clintons, rekindling the controversy with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and reeling internally. There's Donald Trump hitting Hillary Clinton for nearly collapsing during her bout with pneumonia. "Day off, day off, day off," Trump said in Iowa yesterday, per NBC's Ali Vitali. "All those days off and she can't even make it to her car. Isn't she tough?" There are the Trump campaign officials and surrogates "quietly shouting" about the Clinton sex scandals, as NBC's Benjy Sarlin and Alex Seitz-Wald put it. There's Trump once again unable to resist talking about Machado. "I saved her job because they wanted to fire her for putting on so much weight," Trump told Fox's Bill O'Reilly last night. "And it is a beauty contest. You know, I mean, say what you want, Bill, I mean, they know what they're getting into. It's a beauty contest." And there's dissent in Trump World, with one source close the campaign telling NBC's Katy Tur that the debate was a "disaster," and with internal dissatisfaction at campaign leadership.
A campaign spinning out of control, but there's still time to pull out of it
Trump issued his own reaction to Tur's reporting. "Your sources, if they even exist, are probably sources that have been fired long ago and have no knowledge of what is happening in the campaign. Hard to be unhappy when we are doing so well." Bottom line: This is a campaign that's spinning out of control. Of course, there's still time for the campaign to pull out of it (the next debate is in 10 days). And the campaign knows it needs to prepare more for that Oct. 9 showdown. "Trump aides said that a strategy of winging it will not be the path forward in the Oct. 9 showdown in St. Louis. Instead, they will prepare more traditionally, an aide said, including holding mock debates, honing in on specific policy points and developing strategies to exploit Clinton's weaknesses," Tur and NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell write. But things don't look pretty right now.
NBC|SurveyMonkey poll: Voters say Clinton won the debate by 52%-21% margin
As for the polls, an NBC|SurveyMonkey poll finds that a majority of likely voters -- 52% -- who watched the debate or followed coverage of it said Clinton won the debate, versus just 21% who said Trump did. More from the poll: "[A] slight majority of likely voters said that they agree that Clinton has the temperament to serve effectively (53 percent), while a sizable majority said that Trump does not have the temperament to serve effectively as president (63 percent)."
Clinton heads to Iowa to encourage early voting
Iowa today becomes the first presidential battleground state to begin in-person early voting, and Hillary Clinton marks the occasion with an event in Des Moines at 1:30 pm ET to get her voters to the polls there. And the Clinton campaign says it's holding other events throughout the state to encourage early voting. By the way, here's a calendar of early in-person or no-excuse absentee voting:
- Sept. 23: Idaho (thru 11/4), Minnesota (thru 11/7), South Dakota (thru 11/7), Vermont (thru 11/7), and Wyoming (thru 11/7)
- Sept. 24: New Jersey (thru 11/7)
- Sept. 29: Illinois (thru 11/7), Iowa (thru 11/8)
- Oct. 9: Maine (thru 11/3)
- Oct. 10: California (thru 11/8), Nebraska (thru 11/7)
- Oct. 11: Montana (thru 11/7), New Mexico (thru 11/5)
- Oct. 12: Arizona (thru 11/4), Indiana (thru 11/7), Ohio (thru 11/7)
- Oct. 17: Georgia (thru 11/4)
- Oct. 19: Kansas (thru 11/7), Tennessee (thru 11/3)
- Oct. 22: Nevada (thru 11/4), DC (thru 11/5)
- Oct. 24: Alaska (thru 11/8), Arkansas (thru 11/7), Colorado (thru 11/8 mail), Massachusetts (thru 11/4), Texas (thru 11/4), Wisconsin (thru 11/4)
- Oct. 25: Hawaii (thru 11/5), Louisiana (thru 11/1)
- Oct. 26: Utah (thru 11/4), West Virginia (thru 11/5)
- Oct. 27: Maryland (thru 11/3), North Carolina (thru 11/5)
- Oct. 29: Florida (thru 11/7)
- Nov. 3: Oklahoma (thru 11/5)
Up in smoke?
Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson once again seemed to disqualify himself from serving as commander-in-chief after having yet another brain freeze moment when it comes to foreign policy and world affairs. NBC News: "Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night. 'Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,' host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in. 'I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment,' Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' when he asked 'What is Aleppo?' after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city. With an assist from Weld, Johnson finally landed on Vicente Fox, who served as Mexico's president from 2000 to 2006: 'He was terrific.'" Folks, the video is absolutely cringe-worthy.
African-American backlash at police unions endorsing Trump
Finally, don't miss this story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: There's backlash at a Cleveland police union's expected endorsement of Trump. "'You're dealing with a community that is predominantly African-American and Democratic,' Lynn Hampton, president of the Black Shield, the union that represents black police officers, said. 'You can't keep drawing lines in the sand and taking certain stances when the community is as frustrated as it is.'" This is a canary-in-a-coal-mine story…
On the trail
Hillary Clinton holds an early-vote event in Des Moines, IA at 1:30 pm ET… Donald Trump has a rally in Bedford, NH at 3:00 pm ET… And Mike Pence stumps in York, PA.
Countdown to VP debate: 5 days
Countdown to second presidential debate: 10 days
Countdown to third presidential debate: 20 days
Countdown to Election Day: 40 days