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Clinton Takes on Her Challenge with Millennial Voters

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.
Image: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at a campaign event in Orlando
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at a campaign event in Orlando, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos BarriaCARLOS BARRIA / Reuters

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.

Hillary’s challenge with millennial voters…

There’s a reason why Hillary Clinton today is campaigning -- again -- with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire: She has some work to do with young voters. In last week’s NBC/WSJ poll, she was running 16 points ahead of Donald Trump among registered voters ages 18-34, 50%-34%. But that margin decreases to 12 points when you add Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein to the mix: Clinton 38%, Trump 26%, Johnson 17%, and Stein 5%. (Indeed, those percentages for Johnson and Stein were almost double their support among all voters.) Maybe more importantly, young voters aren’t as interested in the election as older voters are. In the poll, 50% of those 18-34 registered as either 9s or 10s on a 10-point interest scale, compared with 67% for those 35-49, 79% for those 50-64, and 80% for those 65 and older. As we learned in 2012, this lower interest doesn’t mean these younger voters won’t vote; in fact, we saw plenty of 5s and 6s and 7s turn out for Barack Obama. But Clinton clearly has some work to do. She appears with Sanders at the University of New Hampshire in Durham at 2:15 pm ET.

… And her opportunity, too

Yet as we wrote earlier this week, Monday’s debate is probably going to recast the Johnson/Stein vote. Why? Because for the more than 80 million viewers who tuned into to watch, they saw only two candidates on the stage -- Clinton and Trump. And so Clinton has room to grow with these young voters. By the way, Johnson has an op-ed in the New York Times today touting his ticket as the one “that can break the partisan gridlock which for too long has kept real solutions out of reach.”

Trump’s long 11 days until the next debate

The New York Times reports that Trump’s campaign wants to prepare better for the next debate with Hillary Clinton. “Campaign advisers to Donald J. Trump, concerned that his focus and objectives had dissolved during the first presidential debate on Monday, plan to more rigorously prepare him for his next face-off with Hillary Clinton by drilling the Republican nominee on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks, and by coaching him on ways to whack Mrs. Clinton on issues even if he is not asked about them.” But as Obama found out in 2012, if you don’t perform well in the first debate, it’s a LONG time to wait until your next chance. Indeed, Trump’s next opportunity to face off against Clinton is on Sunday, Oct. 9 -- 11 days from now. (The VP debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence is six days from now.)

Trump’s own supporters acknowledge their candidate didn’t have a great debate

Per NBC’s Alex Jaffe, Trump’s own supporters at his rally in Florida last night admitted the debate wasn’t his best night. “He had a lot of missed opportunities, where he really could've gotten on Hillary Clinton for the email scandal and for Benghazi," said Karin Sells, a sales assistant at a financial firm. "I don't think he totally blew it, but he really does have to go after her stronger." Asked what Trump should do differently at the next debate, Jean Detwiler, an Air Force veteran, said the candidate should be more aware of "the way he carries himself when he's supposedly off-camera, which he really isn't." More from Detwiler: "He shows too many feelings in his face.”

Former Miss Universe strikes back

One of Trump’s challenges Monday night was to expand his electoral universe by appealing to skeptical suburban women and minorities. So publicly deriding a former “Miss Universe” for her weight gain was probably one of the least productive things he could have done. After Clinton brought up Alicia Machado’s story at Monday night’s debate, Trump slammed the Venezuelan-born pageant winner for her “attitude,” saying “she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.” And Machado is fighting back, saying on TODAY this morning that Trump’s insults about her weight hurt her confidence and contributed to an eating disorder. “That same person I knew, I see in each of his speeches and I see it getting worse and I see it even more harmful and even more damaging,” she said. The personal nature of Trump’s attack, the relatability of a woman’s struggles with body image and the additional allegation that Trump referred to the Latina Miss Universe as “Miss Housekeeping” makes us think that this story isn’t going away soon.

How the Machado fight is a part of a pattern

Trump’s ill-advised feud with Machado fits into a pattern we’ve noticed throughout the campaign: When Trump is in a bad period like this, he makes it worse for himself by refusing to back down. Particularly in the face of poor reviews (remember the Khan fight after his convention message was panned by pundits?), Trump has a tendency to spiral downward for a few days until he’s convinced to stop lashing out or punching down. Our question is: how long does bad stretch for Trump last?

Dean’s low blow

On MSNBC yesterday, Clinton supporter/surrogate Howard Dean stood by his tweet from the debate that questioned if Trump’s sniffles from the debate were because he used cocaine. “I don't think he has a cocaine habit, but again I don't make any diagnoses over the television. I don't, I think that's wrong,” he told our colleague Kate Snow. “I think doctors shouldn't do it, doctors have done it in the past and they shouldn't do it. But I just was struck by the sniffing and then by his behavior, which all sort of came together.” Dean should apologize here, and the Clinton campaign should make clear that there’s no place for these kind of allegations. If Democrats want to make the case that Republican dabbling in innuendo is unacceptable, they can’t turn a blind eye when someone in their own party engages in it, either.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton campaigns with Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH at 2:15 pm ET… Donald Trump holds rallies in Council Bluffs, IA at 4:00 pm ET and Waukesha, WI at 7:00 pm ET… Mike Pence stumps in Ohio… Tim Kaine campaigns in Northern Virginia, where former GOP Sen. John Warner will endorse Clinton… And Michelle Obama stumps for Clinton in Philadelphia at noon ET and then Pittsburgh at 3:30 pm ET.

Countdown to VP debate: 6 days

Countdown to second presidential debate: 11 days

Countdown to third presidential debate: 21 days

Countdown to Election Day: 41 days