Trump removes all doubt: it's his party now

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On the roster: Trump removes all doubt: it’s his party now - Swing state polls: Hillary tops in Fla., Pa., Trump takes Iowa -Data Dive: What if millennials stay home? - Audible: Is there a good way? - Cat benefits from low expectations

TRUMP REMOVES ALL DOUBT: IT’S HIS PARTY NOW
ST. LOUIS – It had been a year of magical thinking for Republicans, and the dreams die hard.

Of all of the preposterous responses to the revelation of Donald Trump’s decade old brag that he could assault women with impunity because of his celebrity the most heartbreakingly foolish ones were from Republicans who imagined that this might result in them having a new nominee.

It was a reminder of all the other hare-brained schemes that conservatives and establishmentarians have talked about since this time last year. The candidates would unite to defeat Trump. No wait, candidates would drop out of the race to stop Trump. Hold on, “strategic voting” will deny Trump the delegates he needs. Scratch that, rules of the convention can be changed to steal the nomination from Trump. How about third-party bid?

And now this, presumably last and most pitiful hope from the traditional GOP that in contravention of the laws governing elections and human nature that Trump would have been ousted in favor of his running mate in the wake of these latest revelations.

That’s not to say that many Republicans didn’t deal with what promises to be a searingly painful chapter of the cycle with more reality-based answers. Some simply condemned the nominee’s remarks, buttoned up their mackintoshes and faced the storm. Others, took the full leap and said that they were withdrawing their support or foreclosing the chance that they might one day come around.

In Sunday’s showdown here, Trump showed exactly how he took control of the GOP and isn’t going anywhere.

The pot-boiling of the press around the Republican nominee’s hot mic comments had actually created an opportunity for the trailing Trump to reintroduce himself to voters. We saw flashes of this when he spoke in a video statement about how the campaign had changed him.

One could imagine Trump on the debate stage, looking slightly sheepish, explaining how the act of traveling the nation and hearing the real concerns of Americans had changed him.

This would have fit nicely with his populist message and shown the contrition that many voters wanted.

Instead, Trump went another way with the most ferocious attacks he could muster – often effectively delivered – against Hillary Clinton. It was the stuff of fantasy for a Republican base that believes their party’s electoral misfortunes of 2008 and 2012 were due to a lack of brutality.

Only a conservative screenwriter could have imagined such a moment, including Trump’s plan to seat Bill Clinton’s accusers in his family box, forcing an awkward confrontation with the 42nd president.

The deadpan lines and ferocious attacks no doubt brought cheers from Trump’s core supporters. Once, Trump told his backers not to chant “lock her up” about his opponent, but instead to lock her out of the White House with their votes. On Sunday, he said he’d put her in jail himself.

Even some skeptical Republicans were probably quite pleased to finally see such a flame-thrower turned on Clinton, a woman who holds a place higher in conservative demonology than even the current president.

The preferred metaphor for debate coverage today has been today that Trump “stopped the bleeding.” And it’s true, in a way. By delivering the performance that his base, which has traveled with him down an often lonesome highway wanted, Trump reasserted his strength inside his party.

In a conference call with House members today, Speaker Paul Ryan told his members to do with Trump whatever they think best in their districts. Ryan himself said that he was going to ignore Trump and focus on saving the House.

What Ryan was really saying was that the battle with Trump was done.

The populist revolt inside the Republican Party reached its high-water mark not in New Hampshire with Trump’s first victory, not in May when he secured the nomination and not in Cleveland at the party's convention, but rather at Washington University on Sunday night.

What many Republicans failed to grasp all along about Trump was that the power of a core group of highly animated, deeply committed followers, would always route the lukewarm blandishments of the party proper.

THE REVIEWS ARE IN
Balz: Modern civility left behind -
WaPo: “What occurred here on Sunday is likely to be remembered as the Spectacle in St. Louis: a presidential debate wrapped inside a sordid and unfolding series of events that have left Trump isolated, defiant and politically wounded, his Republican Party at war with itself and the country caught up in a campaign that has left issues and even moderately civil debate far behind, almost an afterthought.”

Walter: Debate was ugly, but changed nothing - Cook Political Report: “Lincoln-Douglas this was not. In fact, the debate Sunday night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was ugly, angry and soul-crushing. It was less a forum for undecided voters than a grudge match between two people who really, really don’t like each other. At the end of the day, however, this debate did little to change the trajectory of the campaign. This is still Clinton’s race to lose. And Trump refuses to do what he needs to win it.”

Concha: Hillary finally faces tough questions - The Hill: “First, it should be said that the good outweighed the bad: both [Anderson] Cooper and [Martha] Raddatz finally did what NBC’s Lester Holt and CBS’s Elaine Quijano wouldn’t do in the first presidential and only vice presidential debates: Actually broach some, but not all, of the Top-3 biggest vulnerabilities of the Democrat in the room.”

Hurt: Trump victory of biblical proportions - WashTimes: “Not since Daniel entered the lion’s den has any mortal walked into a room with a fierce political machine and a monolithic media more resolutely against him…The release of this decade-old tape, of course, was perfectly calculated between the Clinton campaign and the shameless media to extinguish any hopes of a Trump resurgence in Sunday night’s debate. Well, they better hope that tape kills him. Because the Donald Trump that showed up for Sunday night’s debate utterly destroyed Hillary Clinton.”

HOW IT’S PLAYING IN THE SWING STATES
Open combat: 6 takeaways from the presidential debate” - Raleigh News Observer

Debate doesn’t do much to change Iowans’ minds - Des Moines Register

Trump, Clinton swipe at each other in second debate” - Columbus Dispatch

Trump, Clinton debate stays angry until the very end” - Reno Gazette-Journal

With Trump fighting for political survival, second debate turns nasty” - Miami Herald

Trump ends nightmare weekend with over-the-top debate” - Richmond Times Dispatch

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton battle over controversies, policies at debate” - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

THE RULEBOOK: DON’T GO BANANAS
“To reverse and undo what has been done by a predecessor, is very often considered by a successor as the best proof he can give of his own capacity and desert ...and these causes together could not fail to occasion a disgraceful and ruinous mutability in the administration of the government.”– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 72

TIME OUT: MEET ME AT ZABARS
NYT: “Frank Cabrera was tending his garden and enjoying retirement at home in the Dominican Republic when his phone rang. It was Zabar’s — he was needed at the lox counter. ‘Every year I know Zabar’s will call me,’ Mr. Cabrera, 64, said. ‘They fly me up, pay for my plane ticket.’ Mr. Cabrera is not Jewish, but he has always observed the High Holy Days by putting in long hours during the mad holiday rush at Zabar’s, that temple of smoked fish on the Upper West Side of Manhattan…Founded in 1934, Zabar’s is a New York institution, beloved by local residents and tourists alike. And its lox men are its stars. They attract a cultlike following, and for longtime regulars who lose revered cutters to retirement, the holidays are a chance to reunite with their favorites. The loyalty inspired by lox men runs so deep that many customers bypass the store’s numbered ordering system and wait two hours for a preferred cutter.”

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SCOREBOARD
Average of national head-to-head presidential polls: 
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +8 points
[Polls included: NBC News/WSJ, Fox News, Quinnipiac University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and CBS/NYT.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +6.6 points
[Polls included: NBC News/WSJ, Fox News, Quinnipiac University, The Atlantic and Fairleigh Dickinson University.]

SWING STATE POLLS: HILLARY TOPS IN FLA, PA, TRUMP TAKES IOWA
A new wave of swing state polls taken just before the controversy over Donald Trump’s leaked comments about his treatment of women showed Hillary Clinton already moving ahead.

A new NBC News/Marist poll out of Pennsylvania shows Clinton leading Trump by a whopping 12 points among likely voters. The Keystone State, once thought to be a state Trump could flip is showing nowhere near close.

Just in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a key region in the state, Trump is down 36 points. Even in areas where he was supposed to do well, such as the northwest part of the state, Trump leads by a mere 3 points.

A NBC News/Marist poll in Florida, however, show Trump remains within striking distance of Clinton, trailing the Democratic nominee by only 3 points. Trump can attribute his better poll numbers to a wider margin of support in more populated regions, such as the Tampa area where he leads Clinton by 10 points.

And a DMR poll out of Iowa continues to show the Hawkeye State as a strong spot for Trump. He leads his Democratic rival by 4 points.

DATA DIVE: WHAT IF MILLENNIALS STAY HOME?
On this week’s “Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What,” Chris Stirewalt breaks down what could happen if millennials stay home on Nov. 8th as many of them have said they intend to do. How will America’s largest portion of the population change the outcome of this election? WATCH HERE.

AUDIBLE: IS THERE A GOOD WAY?
“I don’t know. It’s not clear that he – how that would occur.” – Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., explaining to The Weekly Standard that the action Donald Trump described in his 2005 boast that he grabbed women by the genitals unbidden would constitute sexual assault.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Larry Sabato
moves Ohio from leans Trump to leans Hillary - UVA Center for Politics

Pence: moderator mischaracterized his Syria stance rejected by Trump - Politico

Nate Cohn looks at the voters Trump needed to reach in the second debate - NYT

Billy Bush suspended from “Today” show - Politico

David Drucker explains how Bubba’s presence loomed over debate - WashEx

Trump, companies accused of mistreating women in at least 20 lawsuits - USA Today

Molly Ball looks at the record on Trump and women - The Atlantic

Kellyanne Conway tells Megyn Kelly Trump’s critics are ‘on their high horses’ - Fox News

Clinton spokesman apologizes for expletive in debate tweet - WashEx

Kaine to campaign in Charlotte Wednesday - Charlotte Observer

Bayh’s net worth has soared since leaving office - Politico

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“The first candidate to fly down to Florida after the storm passes, tour damaged areas, and donate to the recovery effort will win the state in November, as long as he or she doesn’t make it look too political (even though it is).” – Bob McMillan, Lilburn Ga.

[Ed. note: Post-disaster campaigning was very helpful for Donald Trump in the wake of flooding in Louisiana, and certainly with Florida being the most important swing state, one assumes the same might be true for candidates there. But it’s that second part that you talk about that is so tricky: doing so in a way that doesn’t look exploitative.]

“Did I miss a storm or two?” – John Sherrod, Jackson, Miss.

[Ed. note: We were the ones who had our heads spun around on Friday. We wrongly identified Hurricane Matthew. Our thoughts and prayers are with our readers in the Southeast who are dealing with the effects of the storm. We are grateful that the storm’s original menace was not fully realized.]

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

CAT BENEFITS FROM LOW EXPECTATIONS
KPTV: “A cat [from Olympia, Wash.] is being hailed a hero after alerting his owner to a break in. Strider, the cat, has earned the reputation of being fat and lazy according to its owner, Barb Gansberg. Barb and her husband Kerry laid down ground rules in the home which included no wandering into the bedroom. Barb was alone Tuesday morning getting ready for work when Strider strolled into the forbidden zone. ‘And he sneaks into my bedroom like this. He’s looking at me. I thought what the heck is wrong with you. And he sat right here,’ Barb Gansberg said. The timid seat was a signal, so Barb ran out and found two burglars in the house, her purse in hand. ‘So I just yelled hey, and off they went,’ Barb Gansberg said. They made it one block before police caught them. Strider had earned some street cred in his living room.”

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.