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On the roster:  Can Bubba’s bad behavior shield Trump? - First lady proves potent surrogate for Hillary - Early ballots show turnout surge - I’ll Tell You What: That dog will hunt - The dank life

CAN BUBBA’S BAD BEHAVIOR SHIELD TRUMP?
Like a tyrannosaurus trapped in a tar pit, Republican nominee Donald Trump is still struggling to get out of Monday’s debate.

Some in his campaign seem more than eager to move on to happier topics, but Trump and some of his closest advisors are still stuck in the muck of Trump’s feud with a former beauty pageant winner.

Team Trump seems to be publicly debating the merits of how to respond to not just the current controversy but also the expected future attacks on Trump’s treatment of women. And they will surely come, on the debate stage and off.

Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway argued on “The Kelly File” that her boss should shift the focus to policy and attacks on Clinton’s status as a defender of the status quo. But former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Trump himself seem to believe that the correct answer is to pull Democrat Hillary Clinton into the ooze with him, by counterattacking with allegations that she abetted her husband’s sexual predations for decades.

Most Republicans seem to think that re-litigating the Clinton sex scandals is dangerous for Trump. History suggests they have a point given the way in which the former president survived and then thrived in the face of his GOP-led impeachment for lying about his sexual relationship with a White House intern.

It’s not 1998 anymore, though. What may have once been deemed Bubba’s bad-boy behavior is now cast as sexual misconduct and abuse of power in a world far less accepting of sexual harassment. Also, unlike House Republicans of the 1990s, Trump can hardly be called a prude or a moralizer. He is certainly “sex positive,” in the parlance of our time.

But, Trump can be called a hypocrite.

Choosing to engage the Clintons on the range of allegations – which runs from infidelity to rape – lays Trump to open his own sexual inventory. Trump wasn’t the president and has never held the public trust, so he might rightly argue that where, how, when, and with whom he dallied is immaterial.

He won’t, however, be able to deflect all of the accusations, especially as it related to him treating women as status objects and vehicles for male gratification.

While it might do for Trump’s surrogates to point out that Clinton ferociously attacked her husband’s accusers, Trump himself has a different set of considerations.

Could he really stand on a debate stage with the former first lady and accuse her of abetting rape? Would he dare to shame her for having an unfaithful husband in front of a town hall full of voters and tens of millions more watching at home?

Certainly, Clinton would be prepared to shame him right back. One can see her pulling back her shoulders and stoically telling the cameras that she will not dignify the specific allegations but that she is no stranger to the sneering attacks of Republican men.

Blaming a woman for her husband’s transgressions is not exactly the way to connect with suburban moms.

Trump’s best attacks on Clinton relate to her self-dealing, shady foundation arrangements and her decades as part of the Washington elite who are “all talk, no action.”

His decision to continue down the path of Bill Clinton’s misbehavior takes Trump farther away from those fruitful topics.

He may not feel he has much choice, though. The longer the campaign narrative stays focused on Trump’s problems with women the more necessary it might be to pull the Clintons down with him. Even at the price of appearing to bully his rival.

An election litigated around the question of whether Trump or the former president was worse to women sounds pretty dreadful, but it would at least exact a price from the Democratic nominee for hitting Trump on sex stuff.

Trump would pay a price himself, but at least the waters would be so muddied that Republicans could suggest that there are no good guys in the race and seek a stipulation that the issue hurts both sides.

That’s a big risk though and one Trump probably shouldn’t be taking in a fit of pique following a dissatisfying debate performance. As he has learned with his effort to end the controversy over his long-standing bid to prove the current president a Kenyan, such gambits don’t work in tidy fashion.

THE RULEBOOK: DEPENDENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY
“The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers. The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Federalist No. 70

TIME OUT: NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Atlantic: “Which mammal is most likely to be murdered by its own kind? It’s certainly not humans—not even close. Nor is it a top predator like the grey wolf or lion, although those at least are #11 and #9 in the league table of murdery mammals. No, according to a study led by José María Gómez from the University of Granada, the top spot goes to… the meerkat. These endearing black-masked creatures might be famous for their cooperative ways, but they kill each other at a rate that makes man’s inhumanity to man look meek. Almost one in five meerkats, mostly youngsters, lose their lives at the paws and jaws of their peers.”

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 University, Bloomberg, WaPo/ABC and ARG.]

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

FIRST LADY PROVES POTENT SURROGATE FOR HILLARY
WSJ: “First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a biting critique of Republican Donald Trump on Wednesday and said she doesn’t buy his change-of-heart after years of false accusations that her husband wasn’t born in the U.S. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump said, ‘President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,’ and then falsely blamed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for igniting the suggestions. Speaking at a Clinton campaign rally, Mrs. Obama never mentioned Mr. Trump by name but her implication was clear. ‘There are those who questioned –- and continued to question for the past eight years –- whether my husband was even born in this country,’ she said. ‘And let me say, hurtful, deceitful questions deliberately designed to undermine his presidency. Questions that cannot be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered at a press conference.’”

EARLY BALLOTS SHOW TURNOUT SURGE
AP: “More people are seeking or casting early ballots in the critical states of North Carolina and Florida than at this point in 2012, with Hillary Clinton the likely benefactor, as early voting shows signs of surging nationwide. Clinton may also benefit from an increase in ballot requests in Georgia, a traditionally Republican state where Democrats have made inroads. But Donald Trump is showing signs of strength in Iowa and parts of Maine, states won by Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections. The latest snapshot of ballot data offers a glimpse into a key question: How much of a vote advantage can Clinton run up before Nov. 8, when more Republicans tend to vote?”

[Clinton delivers speech in Des Moines as early voting starts in the Hawkeye State - AP]

CONGRESS PASSES SPENDING BILL, SETS UP LAME DUCK SESSION
AP: “Averting an election-year crisis, Congress late Wednesday sent President Barack Obama a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus. The House cleared the measure by a 342-85 vote just hours after a bipartisan Senate tally. The votes came after top congressional leaders broke through a stalemate over aid to help Flint, Michigan, address its water crisis…The hybrid spending measure was Capitol Hill's last major to-do item before the election and its completion allows lawmakers to jet home to campaign to save their jobs. Congress won't return to Washington until the week after Election Day for what promises to be a difficult lame-duck session.”

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: THAT DOG WILL HUNT
Good politicians are like good hunters: they know what they’re hunting and where their quarry can be found. So which presidential candidate is following their hounds to the right tree? Perspicacious pro-American Dana Perino and erstwhile raccoon hunter Chris Stirewalt head into the woods. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.

[Awwwww, yeah - One of the most popular political podcasts is now on television. “Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What,” airs Sundays at 5 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel.]

THE JUDGE’S RULING: FREEDOM MISSING IN FIRST DEBATE
In assessing Monday’s presidential debate, Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano notes a glaring omission: “Did you hear the word ‘freedom’ or any of its variants or the Constitution mentioned by either debater? I did not…Neither mentioned the primacy of the individual over the state, and neither spoke about the guarantees of liberty in the Bill of Rights. Both believe in a government that can right any wrong, regulate any behavior and tax any event. Who really wants a choice between two proponents of monster government, bigger than it is now?” Read more here.

AUDIBLE: THE SOFT BIGOTRY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS
“You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels.” – FBI Director James Comey during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Duuuuude… Johnson blanks when asked to name a favorite foreign leader - Fox News

Big money donors drive Trump, RNC $18 million post-debate blitz - Fox News

Clinton promises retaliation for foreign cyber hacking - AP

Forbes calculates Trump’s wealth at $3.7 billion, an $800 million decrease from last year - Forbes

State Dept. will process over 1,800 Clinton emails by Election Day - WashEx

Dems warn Senators not to work with vulnerable Republican colleagues - The Hill

Obama says Kaepernick needs to think of military families during national anthem protest - Time

Detroit News endorses Johnson, marking first time they have not endorsed a Republican - Detroit News

Washington State mall shooter, a non-citizen, voted in three elections - Weekly Standard

Economist and superb restaurant critic Tyler Cowen says calm down - Bloomberg

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“As I said on my Facebook page and to the Twitterverse: Chris Stirewalt’s prose should be registered, just like the hands of a karate champion. Your writing is colorful and sharp, with an edge suggestive of a 21st-Century Mencken.” – Jack Lavelle, Phoenix

[Ed. note: You go too far, Mr. Lavelle! Of course that doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you to stop going… Thanks much and I’ll try to live up to that impossibly high standard.]

“Excellent pieces on the debates.  The only comment I might apply to the evening is ‘Excreta Tauri Vincit Omnia.’” – Peter Higgins, Oxnard, Calif.

[Ed. note: I think I know what you’re getting at – something about how what a bull leaves behind beats smarts. But remember, as my teacher used to say: “Caesar non supra grammaticos.”]

“Just an anecdotal view from central Virginia, Chris. We enjoy your posts…and ‘FROM THE BLEACHERS.’ Lake Monticello is home and Charlottesville, 15 miles to the north, is our main shopping and dining area.  We have yet to see one HRC sign in Fluvanna County yet the countryside is peppered with Trump/Pence signs, many of them of the extra large variety.  Recently we saw our first and only HRC sign in Zions Crossroads, just over the line in Louisa County.  Charlottesville and Albemarle County (at least the parts we drive through) have yet to show any enthusiasm for Clinton. Cheers to You & Dana…keep up the good work!” – Dennis A. Paine, Lake Monticello, Va.

[Ed .note: A lovely place in the world, Mr. Paine. I spent several happy weekends as a college student on Lake Monticello and especially envy you getting to see autumn roll through the Blue Ridge. Thanks for reading and I will be sure to pass on your good wishes to Ms. P!]

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

THE DANK LIFE
WFTV: “A Washington man is fuming after he was kicked off and banned from riding his town’s transit service for six months because of his smell. The issue was not his body odor, but the overwhelming smell of marijuana. Matthew Little is even banned from standing at bus stops. According to Kitsap Transit, passengers can be banned for reeking of cat urine, human feces and bad body odor, among other bad smells. They are warned at least three times. So far this year, Little is the only passenger to be banned because of hygiene for marijuana. Little isn't shy about his affinity for marijuana…‘Too bad you don't have smell-a-vision,’ he said, opening a jar containing marijuana.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“This is first and only [veto] overridden in the entire term. I wish they had had the courage to do something like this on the Iran deal.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” talking about Congress overriding President Obama’s veto of the 9/11 bill on Wednesday.

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.