Fox News Halftime Report

The fantasy debate

Strategy Room: Joe Lestingi and Charmaine Yoest break down how the presidential candidates should be preparing for tonight's debate, and what America should expect and watch for

 

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On the roster: The fantasy debate - I’ll Tell You What: Fight night on the strip - Former FBI official speaks out on ‘quid pro quo’ allegation - Fox News poll: Clinton ahead of Trump by 6 points - ‘Pretzel sausage’

THE FANTASY DEBATE
LAS VEGAS – The business of Las Vegas is fantasy so let’s consider what a fantasy debate performance for Donald Trump would be like tonight.

Trump seems to have already made up his mind that he is going for another headlong assault on Hillary Clinton.

Like his St. Louis performance that roused so many Republicans, Trump’s Las Vegas agenda seems to be to try to distract and disorient Clinton. Last time, it was trying to cause a scene with the women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct. This time it’s President Obama’s Trump-backing half-brother from Kenya, and Trump’s claim that Clinton is on drugs to improve her debate performance.

Part of this is a misplaced belief on the part of Trump and his campaign that the way to victory is to destroy Clinton. It is very satisfying, no doubt, for Republicans to hear a woman they have long seen as a villain excoriated.

But what did Trump’s attacks in St. Louis gain him? Not a thing.

The most important issue facing Trump at Washington University is still the most important thing is still waiting for him as he arrives at the University of Nevada Las Vegas tonight: is fit to serve as president?

Trump mostly ducked on the subject of his 2005 brag about being able to grope women with impunity because of his celebrity. He also flatly denied engaging in the behavior he was bragging about.

Predictably, his claim was met with a fresh round of allegations. It’s not that a better answer in St. Louis would have eliminated the subject, but handling it the way he did has intensified the hangover.

Debate moderator Chris Wallace is laying out a buffet of policy-focused questions that run the gamut from federal debt to immigration to the economy to the Supreme Court to foreign hot spots to “fitness to be president.” That last topic is a real doozy for both of them.

In another déjà vu moment for this campaign, Clinton is being dogged by fresh allegations of misconduct concerning her handling of state secrets as secretary of state. The allegation from a former FBI official that a former top Clinton aide tried to massage a security classification of one of the emails on her server in exchange for the State Dept. giving the FBI favorable treatment for foreign postings stinks to high heaven.

Her stock answers about regretting having chosen to have a secret server will not suffice if the topic is a cover up she will need to do more and better.

But she is the frontrunner, and by quite a lot. So the pressure is much less than it is for Trump who needs to reset the race.

Yes, we know that Trump is setting up another flamethrower attack on Clinton, and she knows it too. She has no doubt been preparing for Trump to unload everything he can in the final matchup.

But, let’s indulge for a moment, the Republican fantasy that Trump really might change the course of the election tonight.

Trump shocked and surprised his way to the Republican nomination. He broke the rules and kept his opponents off balance. If Trump wants to get back in this race he ought to pull the biggest stunner of them all tonight: be kind.

Picture the moment – Trump standing behind the podium in the hushed debate hall, using his first response to say the following: “Chris, thank you for your question. And thank you Hillary and to the members of the commission for putting this on tonight, it’s a privilege for me to be here. I want to get something out of the way before we get down to the things that really matter to Americans.

You’ve heard a lot about my past and standing here tonight I can tell you that I have done things in my life that I am not proud of. I think all of us who have lived on this earth long enough can count some regrets, and I certainly have had my share.

And I am sorry for all the things in my seven decades that I have done that have hurt and offended other people.

But there’s something more important than that, which is that I want to say thank you to the millions of people around this great country who have helped to become the man you see standing before you tonight.

As I have traveled this country for more than a year, I have seen the struggles that middle class Americans are enduring every day to keep their heads over water, their families together and their hopes for the future intact.

When I started this campaign I knew that Americans were struggling, but I had no idea how much – lost jobs, lost hope, addiction, health problems and fraying communities.

When I sat and held the hand of a woman who lost one child in Iraq and another to opioid addiction, my heart broke. And there have been dozens of people like her who have shared their stories and their struggles with me.

Why do they do it? Not because I’m rich or famous, it’s because together we can make America great again.

This election is not about me or my personal life. And it’s not about Hillary and her life, either. It’s about the people of this nation who have been left without real leadership and without hope for too long.

Tonight I pledge myself to the people of this country and their struggle. I will be your champion, I will be your voice and I will never ever stop fighting for you. I am an imperfect vessel. But I am absolutely committed to your cause. I hope you will let me prove myself worthy of your trust.”

Now this isn’t just a fantasy because our colleague, Mr. Wallace, wouldn’t let a candidate run on so long. It’s a fantasy because Trump refuses to show humility, even when it is the indispensable thing.

But just imagine what the race would look like if he did.

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: FIGHT NIGHT ON THE STRIP
Dana Perino
and Chris Stirewalt are in Vegas breaking down what you can expect to hear tonight in the final presidential debate moderated by Fox News colleague Chris Wallace. Plus, what’s the right name for a television remote control, the best bad cars you ever drove and Chris takes a bite of out of Vegas. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.

THE RULEBOOK: NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS?
“The united credit and influence of several individuals must be more formidable to liberty, than the credit and influence of either of them separately. When power, therefore, is placed in the hands of so small a number of men, as to admit of their interests and views being easily combined in a common enterprise, by an artful leader, it becomes more liable to abuse…”– Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 70

TIME OUT: MORE THAN A ‘G’ THING
FastCompany dives deep into the future of wireless devices: “Yes, the new standard will download apps and web pages way faster, and allow higher-resolution video streaming that doesn't stutter. But it could also create a whole new connected world. Realistic scenarios include fleets of delivery drones flying in formation, tens of billions of wireless sensors constantly measuring every aspect of our planet, and a doctor on one side of the planet controlling a robotic scalpel on a patient on the other side. It could also finally kill landline broadband, cutting one more cord into the house or office.”

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 +9 points
[Polls included: Quinnipiac University, Bloomberg, Fox News, Monmouth University and CBS News.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +8.6 points
[Polls included: Quinnipiac University, Bloomberg, Fox News, Monmouth University and CBS News.]

FORMER FBI OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT ON ‘QUID PRO QUO’ ALLEGATION
NYT: “A former F.B.I. official at the center of the latest controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private emails acknowledged on Tuesday that an offer to swap favors with a State Department counterpart on an email classification issue had originated with him — until he realized the deal involved Mrs. Clinton and the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. ‘When I found that out, all bets were off; it wasn’t even negotiable,’ the former F.B.I. official, Brian McCauley, said in a telephone interview…Mr. McCauley recounted in the interview that Patrick F. Kennedy, a senior State Department official, called him in spring 2015 looking for help in getting the F.B.I. to agree not to classify the disputed email. Mr. McCauley said he had agreed to try to help him if Mr. Kennedy would help him get the State Department to restore two spots that the F.B.I. had lost recently in the Baghdad embassy…In that initial conversation, Mr. McCauley said, ‘it was a quid pro quo; I don’t deny it.’”

Kennedy responds to allegations - Fox News: “[Senior State Dept. aide Patrick F. Kennedy] issued a statement Wednesday saying his motivations ‘were never political’ and disputing the claims of a quid pro quo. He explained that in 2015 he did reach out to a ‘senior FBI official’ to ‘better understand’ the bureau’s proposal to ‘upgrade’ one of Clinton’s emails. ‘The State Department, myself included, simply did not understand why the FBI wanted to upgrade this particular email and we thought a B7 law enforcement exemption would be more appropriate,’ he said, arguing the department has a responsibility to decide whether its documents are classified or not.”

Rubio warns GOP on hacked emails: Tomorrow it could be us - ABC News: “Sen. Marco Rubio tells ABC News Republicans are making a mistake by jumping on allegedly hacked emails released by WikiLeaks to criticize Hillary Clinton. In fact, he says he won’t talk about the hacked emails at all. ‘As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it,’ Rubio tells ABC news. ‘Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.’”

FOX NEWS POLL: CLINTON AHEAD OF TRUMP BY 6 POINTS
Fox News: “Hillary Clinton remains ahead of Donald Trump with just three weeks until Election Day. She has a six-point lead over Trump, 45-39 percent, in a new Fox News Poll of likely voters.  Clinton was up by seven points last week (45-38 percent) and by two in early October (44-42 percent).  Gary Johnson stands at 5 percent and Green Party’s Jill Stein at 3 percent. In the head-to-head matchup, Clinton’s up by 49-42 percent.  It was 49-41 percent at the end of last week (Oct. 10-12). Clinton’s advantage over Trump is at the edge of the poll’s margin of error in the four-way contest and outside the margin of error in the head-to-head ballot.

Yikes! Arizona poll has Hillary up by 4 points - Arizona Republic: “Hillary Clinton is hanging on to a small but widening lead over Donald Trump in what remains an up-for-grabs race for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes, according to a new Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll released Wednesday. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee and a former U.S. secretary of State, was supported by 39 percent of the likely Arizona voters surveyed, while Trump, the Republican nominee and real-estate developer, is backed by 33.9 percent. Another 20.7 percent hadn't decided yet who to vote for in the Nov. 8 general election.”

AUDIBLE: MAZEL, Y’ALL
“I call him the Jewish LBJ.” – Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to the WaPo, on Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate leadership potential.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump invites Obama’s Kenyan-born half-brother to the debate - Time

Debate hosts on guard for Trump stunts - NYT

At Italian state dinner, Obama compares the election to Dante’s Inferno - Time

Conway says Hillary should be doing even better - Politico

Ecuador confirms it ‘temporarily restricted’ Assange’s internet access -
Fox News

Vandals toss bricks through the window of Indiana GOP office -
Fox News

GOP Senators duck Trump’s ‘rigged’ election claims -
The Hill

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I am neither a Trump supporter nor a Clinton supporter. I just can’t help wondering if this election isn’t closer than the polls reveal.  We all know that the poll that matters is on Election Day. So far, in my suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood, there are more Trump signs than Clinton signs, and almost as many Johnson signs as Clinton signs.  We usually have a 75-80% turn-out for presidential elections in my district.” – John Woll, Bethel Park, Pa.

[Ed. note: I grew up not far from Bethel Park, Mr. Woll, and have family nearby. You are living in the perfect example of a battleground precinct. It is, of course, possibly that you are right and for the first time in the history of modern polling every reputable pollster is wrong. I don’t think that’s true but I’m also not so arrogant as to think that I know all the answers. But the polls being right is not the same thing as the election being over. There’s still a lot of football left to be played in this matchup so we wait, and watch and marvel at the craziest election I’ve ever seen.]

“Chris, it seems to me that you missed a very important point Melania made in her recent interview with Ainsley Earhardt. She said that Donald should go after Bill’s well-chronicled sexual indiscretions because the Dems opened up the discussion about spouses when they went after his spouse’s past employment as a very successful model to make her look like some tawdry bimbo instead of the successful businesswoman she became--where’s the love the Dems love to profess for successful (legal--in Melania’s case) immigrants in this country? Love your Fox News Halftime Report!” – Sharon Frohne, Roxborough, Colo.

[Ed. note: Deploying a candidate’s spouse is tricky business for a campaign. It’s made trickier by the fact that internally the spouse usually has veto power on campaign decisions. You are not just rolling out a top surrogate, you’re rolling out the boss’ husband or wife. In the aftermath of the plagiarized passage of Melania Trump’s convention speech, and the controversy over her immigration status, she substantially vanished from the scene. That has been unfortunate for her husband who needs his wife and daughters to make his case to female voters. As for leveling countercharges on sexual misconduct, there’s little evidence that it has worked for Trump. And Clinton’s record is a target-rich environment to say the least on foreign policy domestic policy corruption and more. Every day that the discussion has remained on sex and not on those issues has been a wasted day for Trump.]

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

‘PRETZEL SAUSAGE’
Time: “Food outlets with hot dogs to sell in Malaysia are facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions: they may soon need to call their hot dogs something else. The guidance comes from the vice president of the country’s consumer watchdog, the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations, as he responded to news that the country’s franchise of American pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s could not receive halal certification unless its ‘pretzel dog’ is renamed as ‘pretzel sausage.’ … The decision and recommendation has sparked considerable backlash among Malaysians, including activist Marina Mahathir, daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who snarked on Facebook, ‘Oh we poor easily confused Muslims who have never heard of hot dogs before … will have no choice but to buy one if one was on the menu.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Anything that distracts from the current scandals and from [Donald Trump’s] hyperbole, which is being roundly denounced even among Republicans about a fixed election, anything that distracts from that is good news.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”  

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 politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.