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.
Clinton expands her battleground-map lead
After one of the craziest weeks we can remember in the 2016 race -- the Access Hollywood audio of Trump, WikiLeaks, the nasty debate in St. Louis, the accusers against Bill Clinton, the accusers against Donald Trump, and plenty of new polls -- here’s where the NBC battleground map stands. Hillary Clinton has expanded her lead and now has 287 electoral votes in her column, which is more than the 270 needed to win the White House. Trump has 157 electoral votes in his column, which is down more than 30 for him from last week. And we have 94 electoral votes in Tossup. Last week, our map was Clinton 268, Trump 190, and 80 in Tossup.
Likely Dem: CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA (182 electoral votes)
Lean Dem: CO, ME (3 EVs), MI, MN, NH, NM, NC, PA, VA, WI (105)
Tossup: AZ, GA, FL, IA, ME (1EV), NE (1 EV), NV, OH, UT (94)
We moved North Carolina and New Hampshire from Tossup to Lean Dem (Clinton has led in every poll in those two states since the first debate). We moved Arizona, Georgia, and Utah (!!!) from Lean GOP to Tossup. And we shifted Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota from Likely GOP to Lean GOP. As our colleague Steve Kornacki described it on “Today” this morning, Clinton “was ahead last week; now she’s significantly ahead.”
Clinton ahead in North Carolina and there’s a virtual tie in Ohio, per new NBC/WSJ/Marist polls
The results from the new polls we released yesterday afternoon: In North Carolina, Clinton gets support from 45% of likely voters, Trump gets 41%, and Libertarian Gary Johnson gets 9%. (The Green Party's Jill Stein didn't qualify to make the ballot in the state.) In a two-way race, Clinton's lead expands to five points, 48%-43%. In Ohio, Trump holds a one-point advantage over Clinton among likely voters, 42%-41%, with Johnson at 9% and Stein at 4%, although that margin is inside the poll's margin of error. Clinton and Trump are tied in a two-way race in the Buckeye State -- 45% to 45%. By the way, a national Fox poll released yesterday has Clinton with a seven-point lead.
Minding the gender, racial, educational, and age gaps
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Looking inside our new North Carolina and Ohio polls, they show the familiar gaps when it comes to gender, race, education, and age.
NC: Trump 48%, Clinton 40%
OH: Trump 52%, Clinton 38%
NC: Clinton 55%, Trump 39%
OH: Clinton 51%, Trump 39%
NC: Trump 55%, Clinton 36%
OH: Trump 52%, Clinton 38%
Among African Americans
NC: Clinton 89%, Trump 4%
OH: Clinton 91%, Trump 4%
Among whites with college degrees
NC: Clinton 47%, Trump 43%
OH: Clinton 48%, Trump 42%
Among whites without college degrees
NC: Trump 65%, Clinton 27%
OH: Trump 58%, Clinton 31%
Among 18-29 year olds
NC: Clinton 51%, Trump 31%
OH: Clinton 48%, Trump 38%
Two different speeches in the span of two hours
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz sums yesterday’s campaign speeches by Michelle Obama and Donald Trump. “Two speeches. Two Americas. A pair of apocalyptic arguments and one call to burn down the house. That’s the summation from just two remarkable hours Thursday that crystallized the final month of Campaign 2016. In back-to-back appearances, in what might be the two most compelling hours of the entire election, Michelle Obama in New Hampshire and Donald Trump in Florida delivered the fiercest, most provocative and hardest-hitting speeches of an election cycle that has been without precedent in hot rhetoric… Obama’s was a scorching takedown of the Trump who was revealed in the ‘Access Hollywood’ hot-mic video, a sexual predator who bragged about using his celebrity status to go after women... Trump’s was an angry and all-out defense against overnight charges of sexual assault by multiple women coupled with a blistering attack on an establishment that he charged is led by Hillary and Bill Clinton, protected by a complicit news media and so totally corrupt that it threatens the very future of country.”
President Obama: GOP only has itself to blame for Trump
Michelle Obama’s husband also was speaking on the campaign trail yesterday. “So the point is, if your only agenda is either negative -- negative is a euphemism – crazy, based on lies, based on hoaxes, this is the nominee you get. You make him possible,” President Obama said in Columbus last night. “Now they’re shocked. It's like remember that movie, Casablanca -- the guy walks in, shocked that there’s gambling in this establishment. Young people may not understand that reference. Go back, watch Casablanca. Great movie. Humphrey Bogart. So Donald Trump may make most Republican politicians look a little bit better by comparison -- I mean, it's like the bar has gotten so low. But these are the same Republicans who tried to block us from rescuing the economy; did not offer a single vote when it came to the recovery package that made sure that we started growing again, long before any other advanced economy did. Same folks who didn’t vote for the auto industry assistance that resulted now in record-breaking auto sales.”
Biden: "This guy has acknowledged he's been a sexual predator”
Speaking in an interview that will air on “Meet the Press” this Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said of Trump: "This guy has acknowledged he's been a sexual predator, has acknowledged he's used his power and I've said constitutes the textbook definition that constitutes sexual assault." Also in the interview, Biden said Bill Clinton had paid a price for his past misconduct. “I can't make any excuse for Bill Clinton's conduct, and I wouldn't attempt to make any excuses for the conduct,” he said. “But he paid a price for it. He paid a price. He was impeached.”
Pence says evidence will come out later today that will knock down allegations against Trump
And on CBS this morning, Mike Pence said, “Donald Trump has asserted that all of these recent unsubstantiated allegations are categorically false and I do believe him.” And he added, “Before the day is out there will be more evidence publicly that shows and calls into question these latest allegations.” On the TODAY show, Pence also said the evidence would be "coming in frankly, probably in a matter of hours." NBC’s Ali Vitali notes that this matches what Trump himself said yesterday. Will be interesting to see what comes out.
On the trail
Donald Trump campaigns in North Carolina, hitting Greensboro at 2:00 pm ET and Charlotte at 7:00 pm ET… Mike Pence stumps in Florida… Tim Kaine is in Kansas City, MO… President Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, OH at 11:15 am ET… Bill Clinton hits Delaware, OH and Cincinnati.
Countdown to third presidential debate: 5 days
Countdown to Election Day: 25 days
Chuck Todd is moderator of "Meet The Press" and NBC News' political director.
Mark Murray is a senior political editor at NBC News.