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Buzz Cut:
• Jeb shifts attacks to Rubio
• Power Play: Freaky Florida
• Sanders and Carson cash in, Hillary and Jeb lower expectations
• Classified emails pile up, weigh down Hillary
• The fastest gondola

JEB SHIFTS ATTACKS TO RUBIO
Under pressure, Jeb Bush is hitting harder than ever against Sen. Marco Rubio, as Bush’s onetime protégé surpasses him in the polls.

On the trail in New Hampshire Wednesday, Bush compared Rubio’s campaign message to that of President Obama and warned of a similar result if Rubio was elected. Pressed on his comments today in an interview with MSNBC, Bush went further.

Bush said Rubio lacked the “leadership skills” and said that Rubio would not be able to “fix things” in Washington.

It comes at a difficult moment for Bush as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has, ahem, “reset” the 2016 presidential race.

Russia’s offensive in Syria is a threshold moment that history will long record. Rather than just the ongoing efforts to reestablish “Great Russia” through the subduction of weak neighbor states and veiled (if thinly) military maneuvers, this is open aggression in a contested territory in the worst neighborhood in the world.

And Putin’s military began the operations by targeting American-backed forces. When Moscow targets American proxies in a Third World hellhole, you know we’re all the way back to the bad old days.

But as history collides with the venality of the 2016 presidential contests, it means particular problems for certain candidates, Bush among them. While he has recently embraced the idea that he is best situated to lead U.S. foreign affairs because he is “a Bush,” sorting out his brother’s Middle East legacy has proved, so far, intractable.

As Bush comes to closer embrace his brother’s foreign policy, discussing how best to escalate a ground war in the region is a huge problem.

Painting Rubio as unready and unsteady won’t be an easy task for Bush, though. He’s on the record from 2012 explicitly saying Rubio was more experienced than Obama and pushed Rubio as Mitt Romney’s running mate.

But Bush’s shift from trying to engage with frontrunner Donald Trump to fourth-place Rubio is likely necessary given the worries that Bush’s early backers may abandon him for the ascendant Rubio.

Rubio responds to Trump claims that Russian action is ‘wonderful’ - Sen. Marco Rubio responded to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s claims that Russian leader Vladimir Putin fighting ISIS in Syria is “wonderful.” On Wednesday’s “The Kelly File” Rubio said, “Well, he’s wrong about that.  And it’s just a misunderstanding about the reality of this.  The purpose of what the Russians are doing is not to defeat ISIS.  I mean, they ultimately -- they needed to defeat ISIS in Syria in order to protect Assad.  But the purpose of this is to prop-up Assad.” Watch here.

“I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration. If I win, they’re going back. They’re going back. I’m telling you. They’re going back.” – Donald Trump campaigning in New Hampshire

[Trump customer data hacked - Time: “Hackers have infiltrated the Trump Hotel Collection in locations across the United States and Canada and perhaps stolen a year’s worth of credit card data.]

Rand may get dumped from main stage for next debate - WSJ: “CNBC on Wednesday released its criteria for deciding which candidates will be allowed to participate in the Oct. 28 primetime debate, and which will be relegated to the earlier event. Candidates who average 3% in national polls conducted by NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg between Sept. 17 and Oct. 21 can join the top tier event…Candidates who rank at 2.5% or above in the polls have their numbers rounded up to 3%. Rand Paul’s average in the polls RCP tracks is 2.3%.”

RNC tests new strategy this month - David Drucker has all the details as the Republican National Committee’s ground game rollout today. Drucker writes, “The RNC says it now has over 150 paid staff and 10,000 campaign volunteers scattered in key electoral battlegrounds and other states. Now, the national party wants to find out if its investment in manpower, technology and strategy development pays off in the form of a well-oiled political machine. The test, details of which were shared with the Washington Examiner, lasts throughout October… A few battleground states have been selected for extra attention and more detailed testing of the RNC plan, including Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia.”

POWER PLAY: FREAKY FLORIDA
GOP guru turned Georgetown Professor Brad Blakeman gives his take of the five seats most vulnerable to flip from red to blue. Blakeman says all eyes will be on Florida as the Sunshine State race looks to have the most action in the primary and general election. Who else does he have on the docket? WATCH HERE.

[What’s your vote? Send you top five Senate battleground picks to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM]     

STUMBLE WILL COST MCCARTHY IN CAUCUS NEGOTIATION
Fox News: “Democrats on Wednesday accused House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of having admitted the Benghazi investigation committee was created to politically damage Hillary Clinton, after he seemed to link her dropping poll numbers to the committee’s work. McCarthy, considered the front-runner to replace retiring Speaker John Boehner, made the remarks in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday night…[he said:] ‘And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not…’”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Do you like Ina Garten? No? Perhaps you don’t know about her, or maybe you’re just a horrible monster. Whatever the case, she is the irrepressible cookbook author and television host who is the Julia Child of her generation. You will not find her hawking cheap dishes at a discount store or hosting some game show that puts cupcake bakers in a culinary version of “The Running Man.” You will find her enjoying the tar out of life and offering, for the price of a cookbook, you permission to do the same. The food site Eater has a loving and surprising profile of “The Barefoot Contessa” as she prepares to take her 10th book to press. (She’s sold 10.6 million of the first nine installments.) And it’s really a love story. “It’s like when she saw [husband Jeffery], and ran towards a life they could make completely for themselves. With him at her side, she saw food for the very first time, and has spent her life ever since taking it apart to see what makes us tick.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval:
Approve – 45.3 percent//Disapprove – 49.4 percent
Directions of Country: Right Direction – 26.8 percent//Wrong Track – 62.5 percent

SANDERS AND CARSON CASH IN, HILLARY AND JEB LOWER EXPECTATIONS
The end of the fundraising quarter hit Wednesday, and the totals aren’t looking good for either party’s establishment frontrunner.

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders shows a surge in money in this quarter. Sanders’ camp reports totals exceeding $26 million, with around $25 million in ‘cash on hand,’ according to the NYT. On the GOP side, Ben Carson not only continues a strong performance in the polls, but also announced a cool $20 million sum for his campaign this past quarter.

With the online activist corps churning up giant sums for insurgent candidates, the establishment better show its clout, right?

Uh-oh…

Hardest hit was Hillary Clinton. Her campaign raised $28 million this fundraising quarter, a major drop from the record $47.5 million of last quarter. Her campaign explained to USA Today that donors aren’t as active in August with everyone taking the last of summer vacations. Woof.

What’s bound to be even more worrisome for Clinton is the news that Sanders has passed the 1 million donor mark in online donations; that’s faster than then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 who didn’t reach 1 million donors until the middle of primary season.

This must feel like the replay of a nightmare for Clinton: starting the race as the obvious frontrunner only to find an insurgent from nowhere usurping what is rightfully yours. And this is without Vice President Joe Biden even in the picture…

But things look just as worrisome for Jeb Bush, whose campaign is already seeking to lower expectations. Although ‘people involved with the campaign’ tell WSJ that they expect Bush to ‘surpass’ last quarter, when he raked in $11.4 million, they fail to mention that Bush was only an official candidate for six-weeks of that quarter.

This fundraising deadline will be a far more important test for Bush, who continues to struggle in the polls, as he tries to persuade donors that he can gain some stable support.

If Bush’s final number isn’t big enough to scare donors away from the rising Marco Rubio, his chances to dispatch his single most dangerous rival will quickly winnow.

As other campaign totals roll in, a clearer narrative of the 2016 race will really start to take shape. Debate performances have been all over the map, and most of the top-tier have had their moments of shine and falter, but fundraising totals will tell if Carly Fiorina has the cash to make it through the primaries and how real Rubio’s threat is to Bush.

This excludes Donald Trump who said he’s funding his own campaign, at least for now.

Financials have a way of doing what the debates have been trying to do: weed out those with staying power from those who are merely a distraction.

Many who fall in the latter category have hung in there with the hopes of catching fire, but ultimately it takes cash to pay the bills and those who don’t have it may have no choice on whether they can continue in this race. Puny numbers for candidates under the 5 percent line can quickly end long-shot hopes.

Hillary disciplines donors - NYT: “After months of voicing doubt about a challenge from the vice president, Clinton campaign operatives are viewing Mr. Biden’s entry into the contest as a serious possibility and are trying to rally the party’s apparatus and its donors to her side. They have flooded uncommitted Democrats with emails, phone calls and a plea for them to sign a letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.”

CLASSIFIED EMAILS PILE UP, WEIGH DOWN HILLARY
Fox News: “Dozens of emails in the State Department's latest release of Hillary Clinton emails contain information now deemed classified by the department. The release includes nearly 3,900 new emails. Of them, more than 200 have a ‘B1’ marking, which means they contain classified information. More than 100 of the messages were marked as ‘B5’ classification, which refers to internal deliberations by the Executive Branch and are exempt from disclosure to Congress and the public. However, some of the messages marked as such may be duplicates.”

Jarrett swipes Hillary: She was warned on email - Top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett ever-so-gently backed the bus over Hillary Clinton when asked at a think-tank chin wag whether the administration provided Clinton with instructions on email hygiene. “Yes, there were. Yeah, absolutely. [T]here was guidance given that government business should be done on government emails, and that if you did use a private email, it should be turned over.” Pro-Republican group America Rising has the clip.

In 2011, Hillary opposed nod to same-sex families, feared Palin - NRO: “An email included in the latest tranche of Clinton documents released by the State Department on Wednesday shows the then-secretary of state exploding at her staff over plans to replace ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ with ‘Parent One’ and ‘Parent Two’ on passport application forms, complaining about the decision and refusing to defend it in the face of partisan opposition…[Clinton wrote:] ‘I could live w letting people in nontraditional families choose another descriptor so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father. We need to address this today or we will be facing a huge Fox-generated media storm led by [Sarah] Palin et al.’”

THE JUDGES RULING: TOWARD A MODERN PAPACY?
While many see Pope Francis’ new approach as a way to open the Church to non-believers Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano rules that this could actually damage the Church writing, “What if this papacy of novelty is as unsuccessful as Vatican II and churches soon empty because the Church changes with the wind, embraces the cult of personality and is disinterested in the Truth?”

THE FASTEST GONDOLA
UPI: “Police in Rome shared a snapshot of a man who was given a warning for cruising the Tiber River in an unusual boat -- a modified vintage Maserati car. The 40-year-old Italian man was stopped Sunday on the Tiber by Rome police and investigators confirmed his boat was a former sports car outfitted with an outboard motor and an open top to allow the man to stand while steering. Police said the man, who they determined had been warned by police numerous times in various locations for riding in his Maserati boat without proper authorization, told officers he started his journey in La Spezia and was trying to get to Venice.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The United States is told by Russia one hour earlier that they’re going to go and attack ISIS. The Soviet Ministry announces they hit ISIS targets. Everyone knows it is a lie. Like all the lies that were issued in the Ukraine.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up
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Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.