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Trump's on defense once again and he's running out of time to change that

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump announces his list of potential Supreme Court nominees in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House
President Donald Trump announces his list of potential Supreme Court nominees in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Sept. 9, 2020.Doug Mills / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The first week of campaigning after Labor Day is now halfway over, and President Trump is once again playing defense — on the Bob Woodward book, on another whistleblower’s allegations, and on a report that an administration official was trying to muzzle Dr. Anthony Fauci.

It comes after he was already on his heels over the Atlantic article that accused him of disparaging U.S. war dead.

And it comes after Trump tried to play offense on “law and order” after the James Blake police shooting in Kenosha — and he’s still trailing in all-important Wisconsin.

No, this presidential contest isn’t over. But Trump, with 54 days until Election Day, is running out of time to turn the race from a referendum on him to a choice election against Joe Biden.

And what has to concern Trump is that a lot of people in his orbit are talking to Congress (like with the new whistleblower), to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, and to Bob Woodward.

Including the president, who spoke to the famed Watergate journalist 18 different times.

Tweet of the day

A big reason why Trump is behind: He’s underperforming with white voters

For all the attention our recent NBC News/Marist poll of Florida got showing Joe Biden slightly trailing President Trump among state Latino voters was an equally important finding that didn’t get as much notice.

Trump is losing Florida seniors by 1 point among likely voters (when he won them by 17 points in 2016, per the exit poll).

What’s more, Biden is getting 41 percent among all white voters in Florida (when Hillary Clinton got 32 percent of them in the Sunshine State).

And it’s just not Florida.

In Pennsylvania, per our NBC/Marist poll, Biden was tied among all white likely voters in the state, 49 percent to 49 percent (when Trump won by them 16 points in 2016).

And in Wisconsin, according to yesterday’s Marquette Law poll, Biden and Trump were also tied among the state’s white voters, 46 percent to 46 percent (when Trump won them by 11 points four years ago).

So for all the attention on Biden’s demographic weaknesses in a race he’s winning, maybe the most important demographic weakness of all is Trump’s underperformance with white voters.

It’s why he’s behind — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and nationally.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,388,621: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 32,265 more than yesterday morning.)

191,937: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,038 more than yesterday morning.)

83.94 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 900,000: The number of people worldwide who have now died of the virus.

47 percent to 43 percent: Joe Biden’s vs. Donald Trump’s share of support in Wisconsin, according to a new Marquette Law School Poll. (That’s within the margin of error.)

62 percent: The share of Americans in a new Washington Post poll who say professional athletes “should use their platform to express their views on national issues.”

2020 Vision: Biden seizes on Woodward’s book

Joe Biden upped his rhetoric Wednesday against President Trump after the revelations from Bob Woodward’s interviews with Trump.

Before boarding a flight back to Delaware, Biden had been in Michigan today for a few campaign stops, Biden said he blamed the president for unnecessary lost lives from COVID-19 and that he should be kicked out of office for downplaying the virus’ danger.

NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor reports on Biden’s remarks: “The idea that he knew what was going on, he denied that he was briefed, remember he said he wasn't briefed by the intelligence community how bad it was. He didn't read it. It's just flat lies. That's wrong. It's totally irresponsible. Totally irresponsible.” He added, “Kick him out of office.”

On the campaign trail today

President Trump speaks in Freeland, Mich., at 7:00 pm ET.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch highlights a Democrat on Democrat attack in New York, where Rep. Max Rose is looking for a re-election win in a district President Trump won by 10 points.

“Bill de Blasio is the worst mayor in the history of New York City. That’s it guys. Seriously, that’s the whole ad,” Rose says in a new digital ad.

Rose has made a name for himself as one of the more unfiltered members of Congress, befitting of the congressman representing Staten Island. But this is still one of the more blunt ads we’ve seen in a while.

For their part, Team de Blasio questioned whether Rose’s analysis ranks de Blasio below Fernando Wood, who mused about secession in order to keep trading with the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Lid: Burb appeal

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania is built on his support in the suburbs.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Bill Barr is defending the DOJ’s involvement in a lawsuit against President Trump alleging sexual assault.

VP Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials are set to attend a fundraiser hosted by a couple who have circulated QAnon posts.

Here’s who’s on Trump’s new list of potential Supreme Court justices.

Without guidance from Washington, states are facing a hard choice: Keep bars and restaurants shuttered, or risk spreading the virus in them?

Trump is resuming something that looks like his favorite form of campaigning: Political rallies. But it’s not always going smoothly.

POLITICO reports that Medicaid chief Seema Verma billed more than $3.5 million in taxpayer dollars on Republican-aligned consultants to boost her profile.

Is Trump losing some ground with Christian voters?

Should Bob Woodward have released Trump’s comments about downplaying the coronavirus sooner? Here’s what he told the Washington Post about it.