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On the roster:  Trump snared again - FBI boss says Clinton aide had classified docs on laptop - Senate overrides Obama veto on Saudi suit bill 97-1 - Audible: whatever gets you through is alright - Spider man, indeed

TRUMP SNARED AGAIN 
In almost every case, judging the outcome of a political debate is a subjective business. But somehow, every four years iron-clad conclusions abound.

Did Hillary Clinton have a better debate than Donald Trump? Sure. But did she “destroy” her rival? Was it a “takedown”? Nope.

In the first of these three heavyweight bouts Clinton won on points during the actual contest, but it was not a knockout. In the post-bout spin, however, she was the undisputed champion.

We discussed on Tuesday how Clinton trapped Trump by luring him in with attacks on the size of his fortune and his tax troubles. She said he was a bankruptcy-prone failure and a tax cheat. He couldn’t stand it.

Little did we know that the deadliest trap would not be sprung until the next day. 

What seemed like a throwaway line from Clinton about Trump’s insults for a former winner of one of his beauty pageants was really bait for a two-day attack on Trump as a male chauvinist pig.

Trump seemed surprised when Clinton had such a detailed account of the former Miss Universe’s claims of Trump’s insults about her weight and appearance.

“Where did you find this?” Trump demanded, and offered that of the sometimes shocking things he says “some of its said in entertainment,” and then tried to pivot to his long-running insult battle with former comedian Rosie O’Donnell.

Not exactly the highlight moment of the debate.

But the next day, Trump obviously wanted to talk about it as he phoned in to “FOX & Friends.” He expounded on Alicia Machado’s weight struggles, attitude and appearance. It seemed an odd choice to say the least.

When one has come out on the short end of a debate, it is imperative to move on as quickly as possible. Campaigns often hold back big announcements for just such an occasion. If your team had a bad night, be ready with a distraction play the next day, or soon after. 

What Trump did not know when he was settling the score was that the Clinton campaign was way ahead of him. Much like they successfully trolled Trump with the father of a Muslim army officer killed in Iraq, Clinton and her team were ready to go if Trump took the bait. Machado rolled out a Cosmopolitan photo shoot and a series of interviews. The campaign was ready with a blistering ad on the subject. 

What had been a mostly meaningless moment in a 90 minute debate has instead become the defining exchange according to most of the media narrative.

We are now in day two of the Machado meltdown, and political reporters are just getting warmed up. It has it all: sex appeal, the battle of the sexes, obesity and eating disorders. That’s a whole episode of “The View” right there!

Some of this was going to take place regardless of what Trump did. Clinton obviously has a survival shelter full of canned lines accusing Trump of sexist behavior. And many in the media would’ve loved this story, no matter what.

But, Trump made it too easy for them. Had he previously apologized or even done so during the debate, it would’ve been helpful. Counter attacking the next day, though, was nothing short of reckless.

Trump told the crowd at a Florida rally on Tuesday, “I was holding back,” and in the debate itself he said, “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family. And I said to myself I can’t do it, I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.”

One suspects this is a reference to former President Bill Clinton’s past sexual misconduct, suggesting Trump believes the way out of this box is to counterattack. Based on his post-debate approach, one would suppose Trump means to not hold back on the subject when the two meet Oct. 9.

Is this another trap that Trump cannot resist? Looks like it.

THE RULEBOOK: ‘RASH AND BAREFACED EXPEDIENTS’
“It is impossible not to bestow the imputation of deliberate imposture and deception upon the gross pretense of a similitude between a king of Great Britain and a magistrate of the character marked out for that of the President of the United States. It is still more impossible to withhold that imputation from the rash and barefaced expedients which have been employed to give success to the attempted imposition.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Federalist No. 67

TIME OUT: FADE TO BEIGE 
Look at the color of your walls. Are they beige? Atlas Obscura: “Beigeification was part of a larger shift that happened during the early 2000s. After centuries of the home being primarily a place or a space, during the 2000s it was seen as primarily an object or, more specifically, an asset. At a time where mortgage speculation made our houses disposable and impermanent, beige slipped happily onto the walls of millions of Americans, who wanted easy ways to make their house ‘worth more’ at the behest of HGTV and other media, who treated the home as a thing to be changed, or disposed of on a whim. Beige was not a harbinger of the clinical, minimal design that is so popular now; it was the harbinger of a bubble. When houses stopped selling, our design aesthetics immediately changed, streamlined by a tight wallet.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions

SCOREBOARD
Average of national head-to-head presidential polls:
 Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +1.8 points
[Polls included: Monmouth UniversityQuinnipiac UniversityBloombergWaPo/ABCand ARG.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +2.2 points
[Polls included: Monmouth UniversityQuinnipiac UniversityBloombergWaPo/ABC, and McClatchy/Marist.]

FBI BOSS SAYS CLINTON AIDE HAD CLASSIFIED DOCS ON LAPTOP
Fox News: “FBI Director James Comey testified Wednesday that former Hillary Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills and another top aide had ‘some’ classified material on laptops they turned over to the bureau in its probe of Clinton’s private server use as secretary of state -- yet the aides still received immunity. Comey made the acknowledgment while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, where Republicans had tough questions about a newly revealed set of immunity deals in the Clinton case. The director claimed the findings did not constitute a crime but declined to directly answer a question on whether having classified material on a laptop or other private electronic device was against federal regulations. ‘You’d have to know the circumstances,” Comey told committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.’” 

Comey: More hack attacks on election system - ABC News: Over the past month, voter registration databases in states across the United States have continued to come under cyberassault by hackers, FBI Director James Comey warned lawmakers today. “There have been a variety of scanning activities, which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities, as well as some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases beyond those we knew about in July and August,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee. “There’s no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around.” Comey did not say whether those hacking attempts were on behalf of any foreign government, but his comments come amid increasing concern over suspected Russian attempts to break into U.S. political institutions and influence the upcoming presidential election.”

SENATE OVERRIDES OBAMA VETO ON SAUDI SUIT BILL 97-1 
Bloomberg: “The Senate defied a last-ditch lobbying effort by the White House and Saudi Arabia by voting Wednesday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow the kingdom to be sued for involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. The overwhelming 97-1 vote was more than enough to clear the two-thirds threshold needed to override the veto. Congress has yet to override a veto by Obama, but that is likely to change when the House holds its override vote, which is expected Wednesday afternoon. If two-thirds of the House votes to override, the bill will become law.”

House nears deal on spending plan - Roll Call: “House Republicans late Tuesday acquiesced to Democrats’ demands to  address the Flint, Michigan, water contamination crisis, when the Rules Committee voted to allow an amendment to a water resources measure that would authorize $170 million in assistance. The move comes just one day after the Rules panel blocked a similar attempt to get a vote on Flint aid as the chamber took up the Water Resources Development Act. The change of heart signals interest in resolving a stalemate over Flint that has held up a must-pass stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies running into December.”

AUDIBLE: WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH IS ALRIGHT 
“Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be president. So if you don’t want Hillary, and I am very much in the Never Hillary camp, the only choice that can beat Hillary is Donald Trump.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to radio host Hugh Hewitt

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Clinton holds 3-point lead in N.C. poll - Meredith College

Va. poll says voters rate Clinton higher on handling the major issues - Christopher Newport University

Michelle Obama rallies voters today in Pa. - [Allentown, Pa.] Morning Call

Trump has turned over tax returns for loans, gaming business - AP

Trump state director resigns over criminal record - 
Atlanta Journal Constitution

Trump camp: Dean went ‘straight to the gutter’ - The Hill

Why Ivanka is Trump’s top surrogate - Atlantic

Clinton camp to work hard for black voters in Florida - Politico

Arizona Republic endorses Democrat for the first time - Arizona Republic

Former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., endorses Clinton - Richmond Times-Dispatch

Trump, RNC raise $18 million less than 24 hours post-debate - 
USA Today

Ricketts, once a #NeverTrump fundraiser, pitches anonymity to donors willing to fund Trump - Politico

Democrats intending to vote falls well below their average - 
Gallup

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“On substance I think your right about debate. But The Hill, Time Magazine, Fox and of course Drudge did instant on line polls, and Trump won all three. Lol!” – Charles Dishman, Houston

[Ed. note: I’m glad you mentioned those, Mr. Dishman! Those are not polls at all. Those are contests. News outlets occasionally try post-debate snap polls in which pollsters call folks late at night to get their response to what they just saw. Not only do these polls not reflect the opinion of the electorate overall, because they are, of course, not polls of the electorate overall, but only of those who watched. We also assume there’s an intensity affect here in which partisans whose candidate fared worse may have tuned out sooner or be less likely to pick up the phone. It’s a data point, but more of a parlor trick than real opinion research. As for the “polls” you mentioned, they are not even as good as that. These are instead contests where the most ardent supporters are invited to go online and click till their hearts content to show their support for their preferred winner. It is instructive that the Trump campaign, which is managed by a professional pollster, would traffic in these shoddy wares.]

“Here’s my brief review of [Monday] night’s debate: Amat Victoria Curum [Victory likes careful preparation].  And it always will…” – Robert Wood, Bismarck, N.D.

[Ed. note: Libri sunt magistri qui nos instruunt sine virgis et ferula. [Books are teachers who instruct us without rods and the whip.]]

“I read your review of the debate from last night.  I would like to disagree with your assessment.  I found Ms. Clinton to be stiff and robotic.  He answers were ‘canned’ and they may have been an offensive approach but generally she was ‘mudslinging’ and repetitive.  Essentially, she looked embalmed.  I know I am a nurse and served three tours in Afghanistan. I watch FOX from Japan, now.P.S. I don’t know of a single individual here in Japan who thinks Ms. Clinton is qualified to be President.” – Jane Cook ,Okinawa 

[Ed. note: Konnichiwa, Ms. Cook, and thank you for your service! I don’t know where your support lay before the debate, but I get the sense that you may have already been backing Trump. And for the 70 percent or so of the electorate firmly behind one or the other major party candidates, that debate changed absolutely nothing. The question is what an undecided or persuadable voter would have taken away. While I certainly believe Trump passed the plausibility bar, she succeeded in controlling the tempo and he was on defense too much of the time. It’s good for him, then, that there are three debates. Like Obama in 2012, Trump may rebound nicely from a first-round loss if he takes away the right lessons.]

“Love your halftime report --except for comments from your fans and not fans. I’ve stopped reading them as they don’t add much value. Could you relegate them and your responses to your web page and substitute hard news and your analysis instead? That’s what many of us look forward to. Other than feeding the egos of those whose comments you publish, they really don’t serve much of a purpose.” – Armeane M. ChoksiWashington, D.C. 

[Ed. note: A note to a subscriber about subscriber notes! That’s totally meta, man… I certainly take your point, Mr. Choski. For those who are here for the bone, sinew and muscle of politics, this section may seem like fatty tissue. And I do confess some self-indulgence here, since I do so enjoy talking to our readers. But theirs is a purpose beyond my enjoyment. As you see above, this is very often the space in which I can illuminate subjects that I have dimly cast. I hope you will not judge us too harshly for shouting back to the folks in the bleachers.]

Share your color commentary: Email us atHALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

SPIDER MAN, INDEED 
BBC: “A 21-year-old Australian tradesman has been bitten by a venomous spider on the penis for a second time. The man was using a portable toilet on a Sydney building site on Tuesday, when he suffered a repeat of the incident five months ago. Jordan, who preferred not to reveal his surname, said he was bitten on ‘pretty much the same spot’ by the spider. ‘I’m the most unlucky guy in the country at the moment,’ he told the BBC…’I was like ‘I can’t believe it’s happened again.’ I looked down and I’ve seen a few little legs come from around the rim.’…The tradesman said he was not sure what type of spider bit him this time…Jordan was released from hospital and said he expected to return to work soon but was unlikely to be using the on-site toilet. ‘I think I’ll be holding on for dear life to be honest,’ he said.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Now in a board room with a bunch of other CEOs and you’re boasting about your success, you say that.  You don’t say it in a presidential campaign.” –Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” talking about Trump’s response in Monday’s debate that not paying income tax makes him smart. 

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

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.