Trump couldn't resist

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On the roster: Trump couldn’t resist - Time Out: Turns out, we knew the whole time - Brazile denies getting question ahead of time for March town hall - Audible: Missed it by that much - Not so tough now, uh?

LAS VEGAS – Henry Clay famously said that he would rather be right than be president. So for at least 160 years people have known that those two things are often mutually exclusive.

Somebody should have hipped Donald Trump to Clay’s insight before the Republican nominee took the stage here in his final debate with Hillary Clinton.

Should the polls hold, we will remember Trump’s response about perhaps not accepting the outcome of the election as one of the final inflection points of the 2016 campaign.

If the election were held today, Trump would probably lose by something more than 11 million votes nationally. There wouldn’t be enough vote sheets to steal an election that lopsided if all of America was as crooked as Logan County, W.Va.

But still, Trump is litigating the question of whether the election could be stolen from him. Why?

Trump’s debate performance was, overall, his best so far. He was helped enormously by the stayed and sobersided moderation (quite so!) of Chris Wallace. By keeping the audience under control and focusing on substantive issues from the start, Wallace offered both candidates a chance to elevate their games and be presidential.

Trump’s base may have been somewhat disappointed that their man was, at first at least, more measured than the previous two debates. But for a period of time it seemed as if there was a minor miracle in the making: Trump the unruffled.

But Clinton knew what to do. She began needling him about his business failures and Trump started to come out of his presidential persona. By the end of the debate, Clinton had him in a full froth, calling her a “nasty woman,” talking over her and, most damagingly, defying good sense.

Trump has been trying to keep his supporters onboard by telling them that what they see with their eyes is not real. He is not losing, but rather the polls are rigged. He is not being accused by multiple women of sexual assault, but rather is a victim of a conspiracy between the Clinton campaign and the press. And, in the most significant reimagining of reality, says that even if he does lose when the election is over it will be because of fraud.

Even if Trump believed in what he has said is “large scale” voter fraud, what would possess him to say in a debate that he might not abide by the results of the election?

It must be hubris.

You could almost feel the collective groan from Republicans as Trump dove headlong into the pool of a contested election. At the very best, the subject was a gift to headline writers looking for a way to sum up the debate and a gift to Democrats eager to portray Trump as a danger to the republic.

Today, rather than talking about Trump’s solid responses on abortion and immigration, he and his campaign are instead, trying to say why it is okay meddle with the concept of peaceful and orderly transfer of power.  

Hearing Trump surrogates explaining that election fraud is real and that Democrats, especially Al Gore, have messed with election results too, is a testament to how far afield Trump has taken his campaign with just a couple of sentences.

This is not the right space for a candidate in Trump’s position. It reinforces the perfectly prepared response Clinton had in the debate for Trump’s electoral conspiracy, pointing out that Trump has often seen rigged systems, including when he was denied an Emmy for his work as a reality television show host.

Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence has said repeatedly that he and Trump will abide by the verdict of the voters, making Trump’s claims even more confounding.

The simple answer seems to be that Trump did not want to have to admit that he might lose and that he was wrong about claims that the election would be stolen from him.

On Wednesday, we imagined what Trump’s fantasy debate would look like. Today, imagine what the news would look like if Trump had simply said “Of course I will abide by the will of the voters.”

That would not in any way deprive Trump of the right of a full and fair counting of the ballots after Election Day or to press any legal remedy in the event of a narrow defeat. And it would have reassured anxious voters.

Throughout this campaign Clinton and Trump have been agreed on one issue: that the election should be about Donald Trump. It seemed for a time on Wednesday that he was changing course on that subject, but in the end, could not hold out.

“Another and no less important desideratum was, that the Executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves.”– Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 70

The Independent: “A theory that explains why it gets dark at night – dismissed by scientists for 200 years – has been proved right by new researchusing images from the Hubble Space Telescope. German astronomer Heinrich Olbersfamously pondered the ‘dark sky paradox’: if there was an infinite number of stars in the universe, how could it get dark at night as every point in the sky would contain a star. He suggested clouds of hydrogen could be blocking the light…And Professor Christopher Conselice, a Nottingham university astrophysicist, who took part in the Hubble study, said: ‘The extra factor of 10 or more [times the number of galaxies] is able to fill in the sky with stars. But most of that light, or all of the light from the most distant galaxies, is being absorbed by hydrogen gas which is between us and them.’”

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Average of national head-to-head presidential polls: 
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9 points
[Polls included: Quinnipiac UniversityBloombergFox NewsMonmouth University andCBS News.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +8.6 points
[Polls included: Quinnipiac UniversityBloombergFox NewsMonmouth University andCBS News.]

Fox News: “Interim Democratic Party Chairwoman Donna Brazilevehemently denied receiving a question about the death penalty and tipping off the Hillary Clinton campaign prior to a March town hall hosted by CNN and TV One. The revelation came after WikiLeaks released a batch of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta last week. The day after apparently receiving the question it was provided by TV One’s Roland Martin verbatim to CNN. ‘I’m not going to try and validate falsified information,’ Brazile told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly after the third presidential debate. ‘I have my documents. I have my files. Thank god I haven’t had my emails ripped off from me and stolen and given to some criminal to come back altered.’ The leaked email showed that Brazile wrote in the subject line ‘From time to time I get the questions in advance’ and Kelly added that CNN said Martin, or someone at TV One, had given them to Brazile. ‘As far as I know, CNN has never provided me with questions…ever,’ Brazile responded.’”

Jonah Goldberg: Trump started strong, but couldn’t sustain - 
NRO:“Much like the first debate — and grading on the Trump Curve® — Trump had a good start. He started more disciplined, and sustained that discipline longer, than in any other debate. He won on many issues, particularly abortion (though most of the credit for that goes to Chris Wallace who actually asked a question about partial birth abortion). But, about 30 minutes in, Trump started interrupting and showboating. It wasn’t much at first, but it got worse and worse.”

Jonathan Chait: Trump has proved he’s not fit to serve - NY Magazine: “Hillary Clinton has used all three presidential debates to make the case that Donald Trump is unfit for office. Trump has proven himself unable to recognize this strategy, or to learn from his failures, or to change his behavior in any way. All three followed the same pattern. Trump began the debate by projecting something approximate to a normal Republican — which is to say, an angry reactionary within normal bounds. Then Clinton began to prod and bait him, and as the evening unspooled, he progressively lost his composure.”

Doug Schoen: Trump’s best debate ‘by far’ - Fox News: “The evening was by far and away his best performance. Trump hit on all the major themes that his campaign is built upon: economic growth, strong national security, fighting illegal immigration, changing the direction of the country by fighting special interests, corruption and bureaucracy as well as ensuring a Conservative Supreme Court. He had especially good moments in criticizing Clinton’s foreign policy record and her email practices as well as Obama’s failed policies at home and abroad.”

Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano cautions about a government that infringes too much on our personal freedoms and suggests that liberty may be tied to our humanity itself: “What if all rational people yearn for personal freedom? What if the government -- in order to stay in power -- has detached liberty from humanity and made it a gift of the state instead of a gift of God? What if government knows that by restricting and then expanding liberty, it can command loyalty?”

“Of course there’s going to be some fraud. I mean, you couldn’t have 130 to 140 million people do something perfectly.” – Former top Clinton aide James Carville to MSNBC on whether there’s likely to be fraud on Election Day.

Hillary’s lead is bigger than ever, says Larry Sabato - UVA Center for Politics

Conway doesn’t believe there will be widespread voter fraud - Politico

University of New Hampshire poll has Hillary up 15 politics - UNH

Donald Trump Jr. says presidency would be a ‘step down’ for his father - 
USA Today

Before Wednesday’s debate, protesters built wall of taco trucks around Trump’s Vegas hotel -Reuters

Rubio denies 2020 rumors - CNN

“Oh my gosh! I have been sitting here reading [Wednesday’s] Halftime Report and let myself get lulled into believing I was reading about the real thing! I think that is called delusional. What a wonderful thing it would be though! Have YOU thought about running for president?” – Lou McNeal, Pineville, La.

[Ed. note: Not only have I not thought about not running for president, I have thought often of the horrors that befall those seeking that office. A broad public misconception is that the presidency is a matter of great privileged. While it is an honor for these men to have served their republic, the vicissitudes of the office are punishing indeed, but even worse than the pain of the presidency is the punishment of running. Millions of Americans this year have wondered about their choices: “Can’t we do better than this?” But given what we subject office seekers to it’s amazing that anybody halfway sane runs at all.]

“I know you are paying close attention to all things political right now and likely know much more about these crazy political times we are facing. Your perspective is usually on target and aligned with my own. Your Scoreboard may be right, but lately it confounds me. These days your outlook seems to reflect your total disdain for Trump; to the point of seeming that you would rather Hillary make it to the White House. That most certainly would fracture what is left of our democracy! Your suggestion that Trump ‘be nice’ in tonight’s debate would actually be refreshing…but that wouldn’t get him anything.  Hillary is going to snipe and debase as only she knows how.  If he is nice, the world will see him as weak and hopeless.  This approach for him would be suicide.” – Pat Dwight, Lake Forest, Calif.

[Ed. note: Well, now we will never know! I continue to believe that Trump’s problem with voters stems from their anxieties about his demeanor and temperament. Elections are not won by winning arguments. In fact, if you are arguing at all, you are probably losing. The goal in a campaign is to make your point of view known clearly to voters and, more importantly, make yourself known to them as a person who understands their concerns and is worthy of their trust. Trump did not seem to think it was possible for him to elevate the public’s perception of him and instead has focused on trying to bring down public opinion of Clinton. It’s hard to see that working, given the degree to which the press is arrayed against Trump, and his own facility for serving up juicy meatballs of self-destructive behavior.]

“Last Sunday on your show you presented a slide that said basically single women tend to vote Democrat, why do you suppose that is the case?  I really enjoy your data dives and charts!  Regardless of which party wins, the country will continue to be a divided country with neither party capable of bringing us together.” – Don Keener, Mason, Texas

[Ed. note: Thanks for diving in with us, Mr. Keener! The whole story is that single people are less Republican than married people of both genders. About 60 percent of the electorate is married and Republicans do better with married voters overall. 2012 exit polls show Romney won among all men by 7 points, but among married men by 22 points. So really there is a marriage gap more than there is a gender gap. The challenge for Republicans is that with delayed ages of marriage, voters spend longer as singles and therefore have different sets of concerns. The core Republican issues on national security, economic growth and limited government sell much better to suburban families than they do with urban single professionals.]

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KMOV: “Dustin French has lived in the Benton Park neighborhood in south Saint Louis for five years. He's from St. Charles but says he loves living in the city. After what happened last week he's glad to be alive and share words of warning to others. ‘A car came up right behind sort of half parallel parked behind me. A passenger got out with a firearm, told me to get out of my car and empty my pockets,’ French said. Thursday night at about 11 p.m., French left a south side gas station and was heading to his home about a half mile away. As he pulled up to the curb he noticed a car right behind him. That’s when the criminal approached him with a weapon. ‘All I got out luckily were my keys and I said what do I do now. I was asking for orders,’ French said. ‘He said get up and walk away. Face away and keep walking.’ He believes the gunman, who police say was late teens or early 20's, didn't steal his car because it was a stick.”

“Had [Hillary Clinton] been running against one of the run of the mill, normal, Romney-like Republicans of which there are dozens, hundreds in the country who might have run, that she could not survive this.” – 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.