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Joe Biden has new details of his role in the decision to raid Osama Bin Laden’s compound

Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Tuesday, Oct. 20, and this is what's on our radar:

  • Vice President  Joe Biden  gave a new account of his role in the Bin Laden raid.  Here's why  he's talking now
  • Former Sen. Jim Webb  ends his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, says he will look at third-party run
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton tightens her grip on her lead in the Democratic race
  • Carly Fiorina's moment in the sun has come and gone, new polls show ; Donald Trump and Ben Carson still lead
  • The showdown in Congress over the debt ceiling continues and could have a trickle effect on the 2016 election

Trump creates video montage featuring Bill Clinton

No candidate in the crowded field of GOP presidential hopefuls uses social media quite like Donald Trump.

In a recent Instagram video, Trump attempts to make it appear as if Bill Clinton is endorsing his candidacy (he is not) through clips of the former president speaking about him.

At California fundraiser, Jeb Bush offers optimistic pitch

 (Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

(Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush told donors in Newport Beach that the Republican Party is at a “crossroads”: either embracing an optimistic vision for the nation’s future that is personified by his campaign, or trundling down a pessimistic path offered by Republican rival Donald Trump.

“There are two voices we’re hearing -- one of hopes and aspiration, and one that is negative, that believes the days of the future aren’t as great as what we have today,” Bush told well over 50 donors gathered Monday evening at the bayfront Lido Isle home of Andrew Littlefair, a former Reagan staffer who is the president of a natural gas company, and his wife, Karen.

Bush, the once-presumed GOP front-runner who has stagnated in the polls, has grown increasingly more aggressive in recent weeks, directly confronting front-runner Trump. On Monday evening, as sailboats bobbed in the background and donors who contributed up to $2,700 each sipped cocktails and nibbled on artisanal cheeses, the former Florida governor focused on their differing approaches to Syria.

This month, Bush noted, Trump said if he were elected president, he would send Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland because he was concerned that they could be Islamic State militants trying to infiltrate the United States.

Bush said that Trump’s approach amounted to sending the refugees “to their slaughter,” in direct contrast with American values. He said he would support a no-fly zone over Syria, neutralizing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force if he continued to bomb innocents in his country, and joining with the Arab world and Europeans to eliminate Islamic State.

“The next president of the United States needs to restore American leadership, where our word is our bond, where we stop grandiose language, where we’re humble with our words but strong with our actions,” Bush said, according to a video recording of the speech provided by an attendee, who requested anonymity.

His remarks, which lasted less than 20 minutes, were similar to those he offers on the campaign trail – highlighting his record as governor of Florida, notably to reform the state’s schools, and arguing that the nation’s best days are ahead if the proper policies are pursued.

“Now which party do you want to be part of? Do you want an aspirational conservative message that gives people hope that their lives can be better, that their children and grandchildren can have more prosperity than what we could ever imagine, that we can live in a peaceful world based on American leadership? Or do you believe that the end is near, that the world has changed, that American leadership is no longer necessary? That people should be sent back to their slaughter, that no longer is an American value to protect human life and to protect liberty and freedom? I for one reject that out of hand, and I hope you do as well,” Bush said.

Earlier in the evening, select donors took pictures and had an intimate discussion with the candidate at the nearby home of Morgan Stanley advisor Pamela Pickens. Pickens is the daughter of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, a major GOP donor who spent millions supporting Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush.

Why Joe Biden is adding to his story on the Bin Laden raid now

 (Molly Riley / Associated Press)

(Molly Riley / Associated Press)

When President Obama ran for reelection in 2012, his campaign worked aggressively to portray his record as a series of tough calls and decisiveness in crisis, including an economic rescue package, the Affordable Care Act and, perhaps more than any other, the decision to launch a special forces raid to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

Among those making that case at the time was Vice President Joe Biden.

In one of his first major reelection campaign speeches that year, the vice president recalled the scene in the Situation Room in 2011 as Obama polled members of his team about whether to go after Bin Laden. Despite the reservations of "almost every one" of the president's security team, Biden said, Obama went ahead with the raid, in which Bin Laden was eventually found and killed in his hide-out in Pakistan.

"At the end of the day, there was no better ... than a 50/50 chance Bin Laden was present in the compound," Biden said at the time. "The only full-throated support for moving when we did was from Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, myself included."

It served the president's reelection effort for Biden to play up the ways in which Obama may have acted against the advice of those closest to him.

But in a signal of the changing political imperatives for Biden as he considers launching his own campaign for the White House, Biden's account of that meeting in the Situation Room changed Tuesday.

Biden said, as he has before, that he argued in the Situation Room that Obama should wait for additional intelligence that might conclusively determine whether Bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan.

But as he and Obama left the room together, Biden offered different advice, he recalled.

"I told him my opinion, that I thought he should go, but follow his own instincts," Biden said Tuesday. "Imagine if I had said in front of everyone, 'Don't go,' or 'Go,' and his decision was a different decision. It undercuts that relationship. So I never ... on a difficult issue, never say what I think finally until I go up in the Oval with him alone."

Former Obama Chief of Staff William Daley, who attended Tuesday's forum, later backed up Biden's new account as "absolutely accurate," at least as far as what happened in the Situation Room.

As for whether then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was among those who hedged her bets on the issue -- as Biden suggested but which runs counter to Clinton's own assessment -- Daley seemed reluctant to wade into a debate over it but leaned Clinton's way.

"She was 99%," he said. "I mean, c'mon."

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Martin O'Malley sings Taylor Swift

Noting that pop star Katy Perry is slated to perform Saturday at an Iowa rally for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martin O'Malley pushed back with some pop music himself.

The Democratic candidate brought a guitar to "The View" and sang a few bars of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."

O'Malley's musical stylings will continue: On Saturday, he's scheduled to hold a "meet and greet concert" in Osage, Iowa, then serenade people outside a state Democratic Party fundraiser in Des Moines.

It created a false zombie front-runner. He’s dead politically, he'll never be president of the United States, ever. By definition I don't think you can be a front-runner if you're totally unelectable. I think there's there an a priori logic problem in that.
Mike Murphy, leader of the pro-Jeb Bush "super PAC" Right to Rise, on the candidacy of Donald Trump in an interview with Bloomberg Politics

Webb says he could still win

Jim Webb exits Democratic primary, considers third-party run

 (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Jim Webb, a former senator from Virginia who served as secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, announced Tuesday he was ending his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

At a news conference in Washington, Webb said in the coming weeks he will meet with leaders from both parties and will weigh a possible third-party run.

"I want to listen and talk to people," Webb said about a decision on a third-party run.

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Hillary Clinton solidifies her lead in Democratic race

 (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Maybe it was the debate or maybe just the race snapping back to its natural pattern after an aberrant month or so, but whatever the reason, Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be firmly back in the lead of the Democratic presidential fight.

The evidence comes from three new national polls.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll has Clinton leading Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 54% to 23%, with Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn't said whether he'll run, at 16%. That's a big shift from last month, when a Post/ABC survey put Clinton at 42%.

Sanders' support has not changed, but Biden's waned, the poll found.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey also showed Clinton widening her lead in the race. Clinton led Sanders, 49%-29%, with Biden at 15% in that poll.

Without Biden in the race, Clinton led Sanders, 58%-33%, in the NBC/WSJ poll. Unlike the Post/ABC survey, this one showed support for Sanders dropping compared with a predebate survey.

A third poll, for Reuters by the Ipsos polling firm, showed a similarly large Clinton lead. And a poll this week by CNN showed Clinton, the former secretary of State, leading Sanders, 45%-29%, with Biden at 18%.

The polling figures are significant for a couple of reasons. They might contribute to deterring Biden from running. They also have calmed a jittery mood among prominent Clinton backers who, a month ago, were starting to panic over mediocre poll results. And they come as Clinton prepares for a showdown Thursday with Republicans on the House committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Lindsey Graham finally hits 1%, will get to be in next debate

 (Jim Cole / Associated Press)

(Jim Cole / Associated Press)

It doesn't really seem like that high a bar to get into a debate -- hit 1% support in any one of nine polls over a month -- but several of the men seeking the GOP presidential nomination have had trouble clearing it.

The 1% standard is the threshold for being in the early debate when the GOP candidates meet next week in Boulder, Colo. To get on the main stage, candidates must average 2.5% support -- a test that 10 appear to have met.

Four candidates -- Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- were destined for the undercard, although they each scored below 1% in several surveys.

Until today, Graham was at risk of not making even that contest. Seven polls in a row showed him with less than 1%.

But when he appears at next week's debate, Graham can say, "thanks, CNN." This morning, that network's survey showed him making the grade. A Washington Post/ABC poll, which will be the ninth of the surveys used to determine positions in the debate, will be released later this week.

Fiorina fades; Trump and Carson maintain lead in GOP race

 (Sean Rayford / Getty Images)

(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)

Carly Fiorina's moment in the sun in the race for the Republican presidential nomination appears to have faded quickly, new polls indicate. But Donald Trump and Ben Carson have solidified their positions atop the field.

The latest evidence comes from a CNN poll released this morning. Fiorina dropped to 4% support, down from 15% in a CNN poll last month.

Until she gained attention with strong performances in the first two GOP candidate debates, the former Hewlett-Packard executive was little known to most voters outside California, where she lost a Senate race in 2010. The debates sent her on a quick rise, but she fared poorly in the scrutiny of her record that followed and has ridden the down escalator almost as promptly. The CNN survey is among at least a half dozen recent public polls that have shown sharp drops in her support.

Not that the rest of the GOP is doing a whole lot better. After Trump at 27% and Carson at 22%, the next tier of GOP candidates consists of the two Floridians in the race, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, at 8%. Several other candidates are bunched behind those two with 4% or 5% backing.

A flurry of polls in the runup to next week's GOP debate in Colorado have each shown the same basic pattern, with a strong lead by Trump and Carson and the rest of the field grouped closely together with single-digit support.

The CNN poll was conducted Oct. 14-17 and has a margin of error for its Republican sample of +/- 4.5 percentage points.


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