Hillary's bet on making 2016 about Trump looks riskier

On the roster:  Hillary’s bet on making 2016 about Trump looks riskier - Time Out: Ye olde Tinder  - Trump’s significant shift on illegals - Corporal Wrigglesworth, indeed

What a difference a week makes.

Last Thursday, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump by an average of nearly 10 points in the Halftime Report average of national head-to-head polls. Today, her lead is down to about 7 points. Polls of a four-way-race with minor-party candidates show a similar 3-point contraction in Clinton’s lead.

While it’s true that that 7 points is a big, big deficit – the same size as the final result in 2008’s beatdown – any politician would rather be going up than going down. With more than two months to go, trends still matter more than the actual topline numbers themselves.

If you want the best snapshot of the state of the race today, look no further than the brand-spanking-new Fox News poll. Treat yourself to some delightful cross-tab action and be amazed.

But the shorthand is this: Clinton is still ahead, but people still don’t like her and her post-convention post-Trump stumbles bounce has disappeared. The race has returned to the range where it has been mostly since Trump clinched his party’s nomination in May.

A week ago, Clinton’s strategy to keep the focus on Trump and stay out of the spotlight herself was being roundly praised as wise. Now, the alarm bells are ringing: Trump is closing the gap!

But it’s not the polling that ought to worry Clinton it’s the possibility that she has made a bad bet in her strategy to make the election about Trump. She did not consider, apparently, the possibility that he could improve as a candidate.

Trump’s acolytes are still swooning over his Wednesday double feature: A sophisticated foreign romance in Mexico City followed by a shoot-‘em-up action flick set in Phoenix. The “game change” hyperventilation is over the top, but what Trump did ought to scare the bejeebers out of Clinton.

Many expected Trump was walking into a trap in Mexico but he emerged looking like a person who could comport himself on the world stage. Trump took advantage of the massively low expectations for his decorum and won the day. His speech at night was all red meat for his base and may have undercut the outreach to skeptical suburbanites, but he definitely came out ahead on the day.

Clinton was out giving a speech to the American Legion but mostly ceded the day to Trump, allowing all eyes to turn to his high-wire act. Her bet did not pay off.

When the news is about Clinton, it’s always bad news. A leak, a court order, a report, etc. followed by denial and equivocations. That’s survivable if Trump remains broadly unacceptable to suburban white voters. But what if that changes?

What’s the biggest story about Clinton now? Her refusal to give press conferences. Sheesh… Talk about looking inaccessible and unaccountable. That’s bad if you’re an incumbent but just horrible if you are a contender, especially one dragging around so much baggage.

We’ll see what Clinton has in store for after Labor Day, but right now there have to be some in Clinton land wondering if they’ve made a mistake in ceding so much of the calendar to Trump on the assumption that he was simply unable to get his act together.

Barely a decade after its founding in 1607, Virginia’s Jamestown colony was in big trouble: there weren’t enough ladies. The Atlantic: “An immediate influx of women was needed to save the floundering colony; its leaders suggested putting out an advertisement targeting wives. The women who responded to this marital request and agreed to marry unknown men in an unfamiliar land were in a sense America’s first mail-order brides. The Virginia Company offered substantial incentives to the women who signed up…a dowry of clothing, linens, and other furnishings, free transportation to the colony, and even a plot of land. They were also promised their pick of wealthy husbands and provided with food and shelter while they made their decision…After a husband was chosen, he would reimburse the Virginia Company for the travel expenses, furnishings, and land with 120 pounds (later raised to 150) of ‘good leaf’ tobacco…”

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Average of national head-to-head presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump
: Clinton +7.2
Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton 5.4
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +4.2

Byron York
was listening and caught the actual policy shift in Donald Trump’s immigration policy speech: the fate of the illegal immigrants in the United States would be decided after the border security and domestic enforcement measures he proposes are put in place. You might think of it as sort of a steroidal “self-deportation.” While Trump’s enforcement plan is tougher than past GOP nominees, the overall construct of “enforcement first” is back.  WashEx: “The overwhelming message of the Phoenix speech was that Trump will be strong on immigration, stronger than any president in a very long time. Given all the other proposals in the speech, the details of how Trump will handle the 12 million after a host of groundbreaking new security measures are in place is probably not a deal-breaker for Trump’s supporters. But that still leaves the question: Why did Trump and his top lieutenants make things so confusing in recent days?”

Latino surrogates consider dumping Trump - Politico: “Several major Latino surrogates for Donald Trump are reconsidering their support for him following the Republican nominee’s hardline speech on immigration Wednesday night. Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, quickly resigned after the speech. Another member, Ramiro Pena, a Texas pastor, said Trump's speech likely cost him the election and said he'd have to reconsider being part of a ‘scam.’ And Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.”

Franklin & Marshall poll says Trump gains but still behind in Pennsylvania - CBS Philly

Report: Bubba used tax dollars to subsidize foundation, private server - Politico

Hillary waves blue flag in red state Arizona with six figure ad buy - Arizona Republic

Sabato forecast gives Dems edge in regaining control of Senate - UVA Center for Politics

As the race tightens, Nate Silver says, don’t assume the Electoral College will save Hillary - FiveThiryEight

Amy Walter considers a Tale of Two Elections - The Cook Report

“This is going to be in the backdrop of this election from now until November.” – David Axelrod, former top political adviser to Barack Obama, talking to CNN about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“Chris, I am sitting here watching you on late nite Fox News…and you are saying that the ‘White American College Graduates’ do not support Trump. Well, I’m one of those and most of my friends are white college graduates as well.  I’m talking about quite a few people up and down the East Coast…from Maine to Florida.  We are all Trump Supporters.  So, I have to take exception to your blanket statement! 
While I am a big Stirewalt fan, I get it that you are not a Trump fan, and that’s OK.  But, don’t lump us in a group to fit your narrative!  The thought of Clinton getting in the White House just sickens me and most all of my acquaintances.  I believe there will be an awful lot of folks voting for Trump for that reason. Keep up the good (usually) work!” – Sue Welper, Vero Beach, Fla.

[Ed. note: I’m so grateful for the kind words, even with the helpful reproof! First, I should point out that I had danged well better not be a “fan” of any candidate for any office. It’s important for me to be as dispassionate as possible when I’m analyzing elections. We’re all people with our own opinions, but I have learned well over the years that my fandom had better belong to my readers and my country and to leave the politicians and the voters to their own devices. Now, about those white college graduates and Trump: There will be millions and millions of white, college-educated voters pulling the lever for Trump. You and your friends are far from alone. The issue is whether there will be enough of you for him to win. There will be white evangelical Christians without college degrees in deep red states who vote for Clinton. There will be black urban Democrats who vote for Trump. In our crazy, colorful quilt of a country, there’s a little of everything. I’m a Cardinals baseball fan, a Mountaineer football fan and living in metro Washington. But if we were voting locally about which games ought to be on TV here, I’d seldom get my way. I’m sorry that I said it in a way that made you think your vote wasn’t being recognized. But always remember the most important word in elections: “enough.”]

“It was interesting to read your comment that professional athletes are, in the end, entertainers. You’re right, and it makes me wonder if Kaepernick may have had his very own “Dixie Chicks Moment.” Okay, I really thought of it yesterday while watching video of a guy burning a highly flammable C.K. jersey. Time will tell, but it’s quite possible that he may find himself in fair company, relegated to the melted-petroleum-product-puddle of history.” – Chris Palmer, Willow Spring, NC

[Ed. note: Fantastic word picture, Mr. Palmer. Love it! I’m stealing “the melted-petroleum-product-puddle of history.”]

“I am sure this question has been raised, but I am surprised more has not been made of it. If as she claims, the deleted emails were all of a personal nature why is it necessary to have the State Department review the recovered ones?  The lack of coverage of this aspect speaks to the fact that it is generally accepted that she has lied. Well to everyone but [FBI Director James Comey] apparently.” – Paul Gross, Murray, Ky.

[Ed. note: One of the most effective ways to deal with scandals is to let the incremental details crowd out the larger picture. The press and your rivals will actually do the work for you. On the first day, imagine a clear picture in a frame. In this case it is that Clinton ran an unsafe secret server for her official correspondence, failed to turn over thousands of documents and destroyed the evidence that she said would have exonerated her from charges of withholding evidence. That’s a pretty stark picture. Think Albrecht Dürer. But as we go forward, new details emerge that are added to the picture in the frame. Imagine little stickers being added. Even the ones unflattering to Clinton themselves crowd out the stark original image. Arguing over each new sticker distracts and then the sticker itself occludes the image beneath. Even if the overwhelming evidence supports the original depiction, it just looks like a mess.]

“I’ve got two words for those complaining about (admittedly) RINO’s supporting Hillary: Zell Miller. As much as the Swift Boat Vets, his ‘spitball’ speech at the RNC in 2004 derailed John Kerry's Presidential bid by painting him as soft on Defense. Oh yeah, two more words: Rudy Giuliani. ‘America's Mayor’ (and whom I admire in spite of the following), staunch Trump minion, once endorsed Mario Cuomo over George Pataki, and endorsed Michael Bloomberg to succeed himself in 2001." – Jeff Smith, Statesboro, Ga.

[Ed. note: Smart points all, Mr. Smith. As much as we feel like this election is like no other, some things never change.]

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Ottawa Citizen:  “Mounties in Penticton [Canada], say they got quite an eyeful last week after a man peeled off his clothes and began washing himself with milk after inadvertently spraying bear spray down his pants. [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] spokesman Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth said officers were called to a local gas station shortly before 2 a.m. on Aug. 24 to find the victim completely naked. ‘He was in excruciating pain and vigorously using his shirt to scrub his genitals with homogenized milk in an attempt to relieve the pain,’ said Wrigglesworth. The man told police he had been attacked by three unknown men, but Wrigglesworth said an investigation revealed the spray pattern ‘was consistent with the alleged victim carrying his own can of bear spray and it went off unintentionally.’ He said the victim then became uncooperative. Later that night, police were called to a home and found five people outside rolling on the ground after they, too, were hit with bear spray. Wrigglesworth said the five were also uncooperative, but told police they were attacked over a debt.”

“He took a risk, and he pulled it off. Look, the big negative about Trump, the thing that the Clinton campaign plays on, is the fact that it's hard to imagine him as president...Now, here he is standing on the world stage with a world leader. This is a big step. He not only held his own, I think, in some ways, he sort of dominated.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.

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