A disappearing act?

I’m not sure what to think any more. Grassley and Judge had a debate last night. The night of the Presidential Debate. The most watched political event so far this century. They debate in Sioux City? At Morningside College.

For some reason, I missed the Sioux City throwdown (something about a presidential candidate threatening the entire voting process distracted me…,) but believe me, I would have loved to seen or heard Judge and Grassley today online somewhere. So far, I find nothing. Video, Transcripts or even a good newspaper story.

I know Grassley pulled out of IPTV debate but I had no idea that he could manage a ‘stealth debate’ so far off the radar. I would appreciate a link if someone has one.

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Throwback Thursday: Five Russian jokes about rigged elections

Last night’s debate stirred up memories from my “past life.” In two of the most spirited exchanges, Hillary Clinton depicted Donald Trump as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential “puppet,” and Trump suggested the “corrupt media” and millions of people who don’t belong on the voter rolls could steal the election.

Large scale voter fraud has been more than a losing candidate’s fantasy in Russia. Observers have documented stuffed ballot boxes and other methods of undermining opposition candidates.

Dark political humor shone a light on some of those flaws in Russia’s early post-Soviet elections.

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Trump found yet another way to take American politics to a dark place

Donald Trump proved in his final debate against Hillary Clinton that he hasn’t run out of ways to demonstrate he is unfit to serve as president.

About an hour in, Chris Wallace asked the Republican nominee a simple question: will he accept the result of this election? Trump said, “I will look at it at the time,” then rattled off a bunch of bogus talking points. To his credit, Wallace pressed Trump on whether he would honor the tradition of a “peaceful transition of power,” with the loser conceding to the winner. “Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?”

Trump responded, “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense.”

Normal candidates may make gaffes. Unorthodox candidates may say things that are shunned in polite company. But before Trump, even the most offensive candidate didn’t refuse to accept the will of the voters. Associated Press reporters Julie Pace and Lisa Lerer conveyed the enormity of Trump’s break with tradition in the lede to their debate wrap-up: “Threatening to upend a fundamental pillar of American democracy […].”

Every GOP candidate and office-holder must repudiate Trump and affirm that they will respect the outcome on November 8. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate spoke out on Monday, describing Trump’s warnings about “large scale voter fraud” as “not helpful” and “misinformation.” Governor Terry Branstad tried to have it both ways, expressing “confidence” in the election system but claiming Trump has been a victim of media bias, and that Iowa county auditors won’t be able to prevent all attempts at voter fraud.

That’s not good enough. By suggesting the result might be illegitimate, Trump could provoke political violence that is unprecedented following a U.S. election in our lifetimes.

Any comments about the third debate are welcome in this thread. For those who missed it, the full video is here, a full transcript is here, and the Los Angeles Times published transcripts of some noteworthy exchanges. Links to a few good fact checks: NPR, New York Times, ABC, Factcheck.org, and Politifact. I enclose below the clip with Trump’s rigged election claims and Clinton’s response to his “horrifying” remarks.

A few other moments stuck out in my mind:

• Clinton’s strong defense of a reproductive rights: “I will defend Roe v. Wade and I will defend women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions.” Members of CNN’s focus group liked Clinton’s answer to that question better than any other from the Democrat.

• The exchange over immigration policy, in which Trump referred to some “bad hombres” while Clinton pointed out, “We have undocumented immigrants in America who are paying more federal income tax than a billionaire.”

• Clinton saying Russian President Vladimir Putin would “rather have a puppet as the president of the United States” and telling Trump, “You are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do.”

• Trump interrupting with “Such a nasty woman” while Clinton answered a question about Social Security and Medicare. Mental health experts say narcissists “project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t—or won’t—accept in themselves.”

Wallace was a much better moderator than I anticipated from a Fox News personality, despite a few missteps.

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Second presidential debate takeaways: Did Trump stop the bleeding?

The 48 hours before tonight’s town-hall debate were unlike anything seen before in a American politics: 42 Republican members of Congress or governors had announced since Friday that they could not support their party’s presidential nominee. Daniel Nichanian (known on Twitter as Taniel) listed the Donald Trump defectors in narrative form and on this spread sheet.

Hillary Clinton had already been gaining in nationwide and swing state polls since the first debate on September 26, improving her chances of winning the presidency to above 80 percent on FiveThirtyEight.com–before massive news coverage and social media chatter about Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” videotape. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver speculated that “The Bottom Could Fall Out for Trump,” while Nate Cohn of the Upshot wondered whether the new scandal could send the whole Republican ticket “crashing down.”

Shortly before the debate, Trump staged a bizarre media stunt with three women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct and one who was allegedly raped in 1975 by a man Hillary Rodham represented. Three of those women appeared on his behalf in the post-debate “spin room.”

Republicans are cheering Trump’s performance tonight, and on a superficial level, he clearly handled himself much better than in the first debate. After an excruciating early stretch defending his taped comments as merely “locker room talk” (in contrast to Bill Clinton’s alleged “actions”), Trump repeatedly hammered home his favorite talking points about Hillary Clinton: she’s been a “disaster,” her policies would be a “disaster,” she lies, she has bad judgment like Bernie Sanders said, she’s been there for 30 years but never done anything. He also gave wavering Republican voters plenty of reasons to hang in there with him: bashing Obamacare and the “terrible” Iran nuclear deal, proposing big tax cuts, promising to appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia. Trump also finished the debate on a stronger note, managing a surprisingly gracious answer to the “say something nice about your opponent” question.

So arguably, the Republican nominee did what he needed to do tonight. And yet…

• Trump’s body language was angry and sometimes menacing. Many viewers commented that Trump was looming or hovering behind Clinton in a creepy, threatening, and stalker-like way.

• He denied that his “locker room talk” was tantamount to bragging about sexual assault. I have no doubt more women or previously unknown recordings will come out this week to undercut his denials.

• He vowed to put his political opponent in jail if he becomes president. Bob Schieffer of CBS News lamented, “this is what they do in banana republics.”

• He admitted that he had used a $916 million reported loss on his 1995 tax return to avoid paying personal federal income taxes in subsequent years.

• He made more than a dozen false or misleading statements (see also here).

• He acknowledged that he knows “nothing” about Russia and said he disagrees with his running mate on policy toward Syria. Incidentally, the Indianapolis Star reported on October 9 that unnamed sources close to Indiana Governor Mike Pence say he is “keeping his options open”–whatever that means. Pence is stuck with Trump through November 8, for better or worse.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. In CNN’s instant poll, 57 percent of respondents said Clinton won the debate, 34 percent said Trump did. YouGov’s respondents thought Clinton won the debate by a 47 percent to 42 percent but thought she looked “more Presidential” by a 57 percent to 31 percent.

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Takeaways from the Tim Kaine/Mike Pence VP debate

The latest revelations about Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s use of university aircraft took up more of my brain space on Tuesday than the only debate between vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Most voters make up their minds on the presidential candidates, not the running mates, and the debate wasn’t exactly gripping television. My mind wandered so much that I didn’t even notice when Pence made up a Russian proverb. (Later, I dragged out my Russian-English dictionary of idioms and can now confirm there is no traditional saying along the lines of “the Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates.”)

This thread is for any thoughts about the Kaine/Pence skirmish. Like many commentators, I felt that Pence performed better as a debater. He appeared calm, while Kaine was over-excited and too eager to interrupt with scripted talking points. However, Kaine struck me as more effective, because:

• He stopped Pence from getting into a groove that could be used for Trump campaign clips.

• He kept bringing up statements or actions by Donald Trump that Pence denied or was reluctant to defend. Meanwhile, the Republican absurdly claimed Hillary Clinton is running the “insult-driven campaign.”

• He cited Trump’s offensive comments about Mexicans and an Indiana-born federal judge so many times that Pence eventually complained in a memorable exchange, “Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again.”

• He repeatedly brought up Trump’s ties to Russia, while Pence took the surreal position of blaming President Barack Obama and Clinton for supposedly encouraging Russian aggression. (Earth to Pence: which presidential candidate has floated the idea of recognizing the annexation of Crimea and not defending our NATO allies?)

• He delivered a strong statement of personal Catholic faith while articulating the pro-choice position exceptionally well. I only wish moderator Elaine Quijano had asked Pence about the Indiana woman jailed for having a miscarriage, or the state law he signed requiring burial or cremation for all aborted, miscarried, or stillborn fetuses.

CNN’s instant poll showed that by a 48 percent to 42 percent margin, viewers thought Pence won the debate. But it’s not a plus for the Republican ticket when the takeaways are all about Pence running away from Trump, throwing him under the bus, or hanging him out to dry. CNBC’s John Harwood cited an unnamed Trump adviser as saying, “Pence won overall, but lost with Trump,” who “can’t stand to be upstaged.”

Adrian Carrasquillo posted a good summary of the vice presidential candidates’ back-and-forth on immigration during the debate.

Critics on the right and the left didn’t find much to admire in Quijano’s moderating skills.

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IA-Sen: Grassley running second negative tv ad, backs out of Iowa Public TV debate

For the first time in his six re-election campaigns, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is on the air with a second commercial criticizing his Democratic challenger.

And in a move without precedent for a major-party candidate in Iowa, Grassley backed out of participating in a scheduled debate on Iowa Public Television, which would have been broadcast statewide.

Rescinding his acceptance of Iowa Public TV’s invitation looks like a risk-averse strategy. After several polls during the summer found Grassley 9 or 10 points ahead of former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, the last four public surveys showed double-digit leads for Grassley: 55 percent to 43 percent according to Quinnipiac, 56-39 according to Monmouth, 54-37 according to Loras College, and 50-37 according to RABA Research.

On the other hand, confident incumbents typically stay positive in their own tv ads, as Grassley has done in every previous re-election campaign.

Follow me after the the jump for the video and transcript of Grassley’s latest negative tv ad, along with statements from both campaigns and Iowa Public Television regarding the senator’s change of heart about the debate.

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