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Rand Paul: ‘If you are gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you.’

Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Wednesday, Oct. 14, and this is what we're watching:

  • Next question for Democrats is whether they still pine for Biden
  • Gun control measures winner during debate 
  • Audience for first Democratic debate better than expected
  • The first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential campaign season is over — here's the takeaway
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton will host a campaign rally in Las Vegas

This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), agreeing with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's comments on the House Benghazi inquiry

Hillary Clinton hopes to make diverse Nevada her campaign bulwark

Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. (John Locher / Associated Press)

For Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the most important audiences for the debate Tuesday night was the one here, in the city where the event took place.

With Clinton's main opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, threatening to beat her in New Hampshire and posing a significant challenge in Iowa -- the first two contests of the primary season -- Nevada has become a crucial bulwark. She is scrambling to shore up her already strong support in the state, even as Sanders seeks a way to quickly build the kind of network here that Clinton has cultivated for years.

Clinton capitalized on her strong performance, following it up Wednesday with a visit to a training facility for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, where the union president announced it was endorsing her.

"I am feeling really lucky in Las Vegas," Clinton said. "Last night was a good night, today is just as good. Getting the endorsement from this union and the members you represent and what it means to really focus on the trades, it doesn't get any better than that."

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Clinton responds to Paul's comments on gay rights in the workplace

Wolf Blitzer to Lincoln Chafee: 'At what point will you drop out?'

CNN's Wolf Blitzer wants to know when Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee will end his bid for the White House.

In an interview Wednesday, Blitzer read two scathing headlines about Chafee's performance in the first Democratic debate: "How to disappear completely, by Lincoln Chafee" from The Washington Post and "Lincoln Chafee's no-good very bad night" from The Boston Globe.

Chafee has just 0.3% support nationally, according to the Real ClearPolitics polling average.

"Here's what worries me, governor. Because of your distinguished career, you're going to wind up looking silly if you keep going on like this," Blitzer said.

He continued: "At what point will you decide, you know what, there are other things for me to do instead of a futile effort to try to get the Democratic presidential nomination?"

The former Rhode Island governor said the "establishment just doesn't want to hear" from an anti-war candidate and stressed that he was allowed only nine minutes of speaking time during the debate.

"So, at what point will you drop out?" Blitzer asked.

"I'm in it as long as I can continue to raise these issues. They're important," Chafee said.

Rand Paul: 'If you are gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you.'

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, when asked by a college student whether employers ought to be allowed to fire workers because they are gay, said the government should not get involved in such decisions.

"I don't know that we need to keep adding to different classifications that say the government needs to be involved in hiring and firing," Paul told hundreds at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. "I think society's rapidly changing, and that if you are gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you."

Paul added that he believes the "vast majority" of private companies have policies against discrimination.

Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Efforts to add protections for workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity have been unsuccessful.

Paul said he believed that adding protections for gay workers "sets up a whole industry for people who want to sue" and that it would be "almost impossible sometimes" to know whether a person was fired for his or her sexuality or another reason.

Sanders' 'fundraising bonanza': More than $1.3 million raised in four hours

Bernie Sanders' campaign says it brought in more than $1.3 million in the first four hours after Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate.

The numbers can't be independently verified -- campaigns won't report fundraising totals for this month until December, and even then they don't have to itemize small contributions. But spokesman Michael Briggs says the campaign received more than 37,600 individual contributions with an average donation during that four-hour period of $34.58.

"There was about $100,000 in the five minutes after the debate ended," Sanders' campaign said in an email sent Tuesday night. "At the peak, there were about 10.25 contributions per second."

Sanders' campaign quickly capitalized on the senator's line during the debate that Americans are tired of hearing about Hillary Rodham Clinton's "damn emails" and urged supporters to donate to the campaign before Sanders stepped off the debate stage.

Sanders has vowed not to raise money through super PACs, which he says are corrupting democracy.

Donald Trump isn't sure if he'll keep being nice to Ben Carson

Donald Trump doesn't know whether he'll continue playing nice with fellow Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson.

"He's been very nice to me. I've been very nice to him," Trump said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday. "I don't know that that's going to continue. In a certain way, I hope not, because everybody that's attacked me is down. I mean, they've gone down."

Trump told MSNBC's Katy Tur that he doesn't know why Carson has surged in recent polls, but admitted that the retired neurosurgeon "certainly seems to be resonating." An October Fox News poll showed Carson and Trump nearly tied, with Trump at 24% and Carson at 23%.

"I don't really know why he's doing well," Trump said. "I know everybody that I'm running against ... nobody is going to be able to do the kind of things I can do."

The GOP front-runner said it was too early to say whether he would consider making Carson his running mate.

Trump also said he didn't know if he would take out ads against Carson, adding that the presidential race is "a cleansing process" that will reveal a lot about them both.

"No other candidate brings what I bring," he said. "I will make the greatest deals ever made by this country ... and nobody else is equipped to do what I can do."

Was Hillary Clinton good enough to scare off Joe Biden?

Hillary Rodham Clinton's solid debate performance and sense of command reassured nervous Democrats and even drew grudging praise from Donald Trump. Now the big question: Was she strong enough to keep Joe Biden on the sidelines?

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An emerging Democratic consensus on guns

There were some contrasts over gun control during Tuesday night's debate, as Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to ding Bernie Sanders over his past Senate votes against some high-profile measures like the Brady bill. But the exchange also revealed that candidates are now wary of bucking what they think is a desire for tighter gun control among the Democratic faithful.

In past elections, Democrats with national ambitions tiptoed gingerly around the gun issue. In 2008, for example, Clinton spoke out for some gun restrictions, but also felt compelled to reminisce fondly about her girlhood days learning how to shoot at a lake near Scranton, Pa.

Last night, even Sanders opened his answer by pointing out his D-minus rating from the National Rifle Assn. -- not usually a winning tactic for wooing gun owners. Martin O'Malley emphasized that Maryland passed gun laws while he was governor, talking about how guns have devastated his city of Baltimore, and mentioned by name a couple whose daughter was killed in the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting.

"You want to talk about a rigged game, Senator?" O'Malley said to Sanders, riffing on Sanders' positions on crony capitalism. "A man had sold 4,000 rounds of military ammunition to this -- this person that killed their daughter, riddled her body with five bullets, and he didn't even ask where it was going."

Jim Webb was an exception, taking pains to nod to the "tradition in this country of people who want to defend themselves and their family from violence."

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the leading candidates are just as orthodox in their antipathy to new gun laws. The matter didn't even come up during two Republican debates. Ben Carson has suggested that the Holocaust might have gone differently if Jews had been armed.

The same divide shows up in public opinion polls , though there has been consistently strong support for measures like expanding background checks for gun buyers.

To capture the White House, the eventual Democratic nominee will almost certainly have to win states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, with lots of rural territory and deep hunting traditions. But as columnist Doyle McManus has pointed out , the new talking points on guns may be a sign that Democrats no longer think they need to worry too much about those voters.

Debate ratings set record -- for Democrats

Who says a white-haired democratic socialist and a Clinton can't draw a crowd? The ratings from the first Democratic debate showed a better-than-expected audience, with more than 11% of households tuning in, according to the first overnight numbers from CNN.

The debate outperformed Clinton's 2008 matchup with President Obama, and #DemDebate traffic dominated Twitter throughout the evening. But the inaugural debate, without the star power of reality television star Donald Trump, pulled in far fewer voters than the two Republican debates¿ which qualify as the top-rated shows of the new fall season.

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Trump praises Clinton's debate performance

 (John Locher / Associated Press)

(John Locher / Associated Press)

Hillary Rodham Clinton is drawing strong reviews for her performance in Tuesday night's debate, including one from a man more often known for issuing pans, Donald Trump.

"I think she did what she had to do, frankly," Trump said in an interview on NBC's "Morning Joe."

"It wasn't a very exciting debate," Trump said, adding that he would have turned it off if he hadn't committed himself to tweeting about it.

But, as for the Democratic front-runner, "She did her job. In all fairness, like her or not, she did her job."

6 takeaways from the debate

 (AP)

(Associated Press)

Far from the reality show slug-fest of the crowded Republican debates, the Democrats' first presidential matchup offered a textbook example of what a candidates forum can do: provide a clear-eyed discussion of thorny issues and produce winners and losers.

Among our takeaways: Hillary Rodham Clinton seemed to soften her rough edges while firming up the shifting positions that have left her sounding more like a poll-tested candidate than a seasoned pro with strong convictions.

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