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How An Awkward Charity Dinner Summed Up the 2016 Campaign

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: Trump pats Clinton on the back at the Al Smith dinner
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pats Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the back as she speaks with Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, during the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at Waldorf Astoria on Oct. 20, 2016 in New York.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP - 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.

Al Smith Dinner sums up state of the 2016 campaign

Yes, it was just the charity Al Smith Dinner in New York, but it said so much about the current state of the 2016 campaign -- especially about Donald Trump. As our colleague Steve Kornacki described it on “Today” this morning, you had two unpopular presidential candidates speaking, yet one was much, much worse in his performance. “What began as the expected ribbing of candidates in the midst of a presidential campaign turned to boos as Donald Trump described Hillary Clinton as ‘corrupt’ and delved into some Wikileaks-based jokes that sounded more like something you’d hear at a Trump rally rather than an annual dinner hosted by the Archdiocese of New York,” NBC’s Ali Vitali and Monica Alba write about last night’s dinner. Folks, it takes a lot of work to get booed at a charity dinner. All of Trump’s flaws were on display -- the inability to laugh at himself, his inability to play to a crowd where not everyone is an adoring fan, and his inability to wear a poker face. When you combine Trump’s dinner performance with his call to accept the election results IF he wins, it’s going to be a long 18 days until Election Day. The Washington Post summed up the dinner this way: “At charity roast, Donald Trump delivered what might as well be a campaign eulogy.” Ouch.

But more touching moments weren’t caught on microphone

That said, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sat in between Clinton and Trump at last night’s dinner, appeared on “Today” and described some touching moments that weren’t caught on microphone. “After the little prayer, Mr. Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, ‘You are one tough and talented woman,’ Dolan said. Clinton then returned the compliment. ‘She said to him, “Donald, whatever happens we need to work together afterward,”’ Dolan said.”

All About That Base

Trump today holds three rallies in two key battleground states, but they’re not in major population areas. He stumps in Fletcher, NC (outside of Asheville), Johnstown, PA (60 miles east of Pittsburgh), and Newtown, PA (which has a population of 2,000 outside of Philly). Trump speaking directly to his base 18 days before Election Day probably doesn’t help himself, but it does help a Richard Burr or a Pat Toomey in these states.

Charlie Cook: GOP handed its car keys to Trump, who drove the car off a cliff

Don’t miss Charlie Cook’s column about the state of the GOP and whether it has the capability to rebuild starting in 2018. “Republicans will now have four years to think about what they did to themselves this year, plenty of time to contemplate the consequences of handing over their party’s car keys to the tea-party movement and watching as the quintessential tea partier, Donald Trump, drove the car over a cliff... When I talk to smart Republican leaders and strategists, they have a very good idea of what their party’s problems are, and they know what needs to be done. But my colleague Amy Walter recently reminded us of a great line by former House Speaker John Boehner: A leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk. Republican leaders are faced with a party in which about half of its members believe that compromise is a four-letter word and hold some pretty exotic views of what this country is and where it is headed—views that are very different from where the country actually is and where it is going.”

Politico: WikiLeaks emails hurting Clinton with liberals

Politico writes, “Some of the left’s most influential voices and groups are taking offense at the way they and their causes were discussed behind their backs by Clinton and some of her closest advisers in the emails, which swipe liberal heroes and causes as ‘puritanical,’ ‘pompous’, ‘naïve’, ‘radical’ and ‘dumb,’ calling some ‘freaks, who need to ‘get a life.’” Russia and WikiLeaks might not have been able to influence who wins the presidential election, but they’ve certainly sullied the perception of the U.S. government and its leaders via these hacked emails.

The official September fundraising numbers are in

Per NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell, here are the September fundraising numbers that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reported to the Federal Election Commission:

Amount raised in September

  • Clinton: $73.8 million
  • Trump: $54.7 million

Amount spent

  • Clinton: $82.6 million
  • Trump: $70.2 million

Cash on end (as of Sept. 30)

  • Clinton: $59.7 million
  • Trump: $34.8 million

On the trail

Hillary Clinton holds an early-vote event in Cleveland, OH at 4:30 pm ET… Donald Trump holds rallies in Fletcher, NC at noon ET and then in Johnston, PA at 4:00 pm ET and Newtown, PA at 7:30 pm ET… Mike Pence is in New Hampshire… Tim Kaine is in Pennsylvania… Joe Biden campaigns for Clinton in Wilkes Barre, PA… And Bill Clinton stumps for his wife in Florida.

Countdown to Election Day: 18 days