IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

First Read: Trump Grabs the Spotlight Again in all the Negative Ways

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: GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Rally In Miami
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the James L. Knight Center on September 16, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Mr. Trump is in a tight race against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as the November 8th election nears.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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.

Trump Grabs the Spotlight -- Not in a Positive Way

With the recent explosions in the New York/New Jersey area remaining a fluid situation and with a suspect now identified, we’re looking back at this weekend’s 2016 news. And a pattern has emerged in the presidential race: When one candidate becomes the story, and not in a good way, the momentum tends to favor the other candidates. So after Hillary Clinton's rough week last week (Deplorables, health scare, declining poll numbers), Donald Trump grabbed the attention back. Consider the headlines over the last 72 hours:

  • Trump revived the Birther story but didn’t end it (by not apologizing and by falsely saying Clinton started it): “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it, I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”
  • He said Clinton’s Secret Service protection should disarm. “Let’s see what happens to her”: “She wants to destroy your 2nd Amendment… I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm, right, right?... Let’s see what happens to her.”
  • He attacked former Defense Secretary Robert Gates after Gates published a critical op-ed on Trump and Clinton: “We had a clown today, an absolute clown, Robert Gates. He's supposed to be an expert, he's been there forever. By the way, he writes a book, he says bad about everybody that he's worked for, he's been there for a long time, everybody that he's worked for he's got. He's a nasty guy, probably has a problem that we don't know about.”
  • He went after the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, tweeting that she’s “wacky” and “neurotic”: “Wacky @NYTimesDowd, who hardly knows me, makes up things that I never said for her boring interviews and column. A neurotic dope!”
  • And he tweeted that his lawyers want to sue the New York Times: “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”

Trump Surrogates Have No Good Answers for the Birther story

That’s our conclusion after watching the Sunday shows. Here was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on CNN: “It's not true that he kept it up for five years [after President Obama released his birth certificate in 2011].” In fact, we’ve listed these post-2011 tweets and statements that Trump made questioning Obama’s citizenship. Here was Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway when asked on “Meet the Press” what led Trump to conclude that Obama was indeed born in the USA: "You'll have to ask him that. That's a personal decision." (The problem: Trump hasn’t held a news conference in weeks.)

And here was VP running mate Mike Pence on ABC on what proof he had that Hillary Clinton was responsible for promoting the Birther story: “I understand the desire of many in the national media to change the subject from Hillary Clinton's disastrous record and her dishonesty, we're just not going to play that game. Donald Trump and I are going to continue to focus right where the American people are focused, and that's not on the debates of the past, it's on their future.” So you see why this Birther story isn’t a good one for the Trump campaign: The campaign and surrogates have no good answers.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is Struggling With Young Voters

At noon ET in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at Temple University aimed at millennial voters. And there’s a reason why: She’s struggling with them. As our colleague Dante Chinni writes, “Both national polls and surveys in swing states show Clinton has seen a slide with voters younger than 35, particularly when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are factored in.

  • A national Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton capturing 31% of the vote among voters 18-to-34 years of age and a slim 5-point lead over Trump. In August Clinton had 48% of that vote and a 24-point lead over Trump.
  • A Fox News poll of the national electorate showed Clinton winning 37% of the youth vote and leading Donald Trump by 9 points. In August, the poll showed her support at 39% and leading Trump by 8 points.
  • In Ohio, a CBS/YouGov poll showed Clinton doing better with voters under 30, winning 51% of them and holding 32-point lead on Trump. But that number was down from August when Clinton won 57% of that vote and a held a 38-point lead.
  • A Detroit Free Press poll in Michigan showed a big dip among voters under 35. In the new poll she has 31% of that vote and a 7-point lead over Trump. In August she had 44% of that vote and a 24-point lead.”

So that’s why Clinton is hitting Temple University today; why she penned an op-ed to millennial voters; and why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hit the trail for her over the weekend.

New York Times Upshot/Siena poll -- Clinton and Trump Deadlocked in Florida

A new NYT Upshot/Siena poll finds Clinton up by one point over Donald Trump in Florida, 41%-40%, with Gary Johnson at 9% and Jill Stein at 2%. In a two-way race, it’s tied, 43%-43%. The poll shows Trump overperforming among white voters, while Clinton is overperforming with Latinos. “It indicates that Mr. Trump leads Mrs. Clinton by 51 percent to 30 percent among white voters – and that includes all white voters, not just those without a college education who have been so vital to his campaign,” Nate Cohn writes.

As has been expected, Mrs. Clinton appears on track for a record-setting state performance among Florida’s Hispanic voters. She leads Mr. Trump by a 40-point margin, 61 percent to 21 percent, more than doubling the 18-point margin President Obama recorded four years ago, according to Upshot estimates… She is also doing very well among black voters, though not quite matching the huge margin or the enthusiasm that Mr. Obama enjoyed in 2012, at least not yet.”

National Security Experts Ask Trump to Disclose his Foreign Investments

The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman also has this piece: “More than 50 former government officials and national security and military figures have signed an open letter to Donald J. Trump, urging him to disclose details of his overseas business investments before Election Day. The letter — signed by dozens of supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton — was drafted as Mr. Trump, the Republican pick who is reported to have extensive overseas entanglements, has refused to release his tax returns. Michael J. Morell, a former acting director of the C.I.A., and Michael G. Vickers, a former under secretary of defense for intelligence, put together the letter with input from Samantha Vinograd, a former senior adviser to Thomas E. Donilon, a former national security adviser.”

On the Trail

Hillary Clinton gives a speech to millennial voters in Philadelphia at noon ET… Donald Trump holds a rally in the Fort Myers, FL area at 3:00 pm ET… And both Tim Kaine and Mike Pence stump in Iowa.

Countdown to first presidential debate: 7 days

Countdown to VP debate: 15 days

Countdown to second presidential debate: 20 days

Countdown to third presidential debate: 30 days

Countdown to Election Day: 50 days