Newsletter: Essential Politics: The Trump strikes back


If we tried to fit everything that happened over the weekend into this newsletter, we’d be here all day.

I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to the post-debate edition of Essential Politics.

Let’s start with the things we know:

Donald Trump performed better Sunday night than he did during his first debate with Hillary Clinton. He got laughs and applause from an audience that had been instructed to stay silent, and he forcefully challenged Clinton on her own vulnerabilities in a way he hadn’t on Sept. 26.


He heads into the final four weeks of the campaign dramatically weakened thanks to the bombshell release of a videotape revealing explicit sexual comments. (Did you somehow miss that news? We’ve got you covered here and here.)

Clinton, for her part, remains confident both about her debate and about how she is faring right now among voters. Our judges gave her a win Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already voted.


Trump still seemed to have the sniffles.

The debate made history with statements like “You’d be in jail” and “You bragged that you sexually assaulted women.” (Here’s our annotated transcript.)

Things we don’t know:

What will the GOP do next? Establishment figures and congressional Republicans are huddling Monday to determine what to do, after Trump suffered a mass exodus of support over the weekend thanks to the tape. There are genuine concerns the party could lose the Senate and suffer major losses in the House.

What else is out there? Numerous outlets are speculating about more Trump tapes to be released. Could anything be as damaging as the video he repeatedly dismissed from the debate stage as “locker room talk”?


— Meet the women Trump trotted out as Clinton accusers, and read what the women said in St. Louis.

— Trump complained Clinton got more debate time. That’s not accurate.


— Trump’s claim about people seeing bombs in the homes of the San Bernardino shooters? Not true.

— We fact-checked the debate live.

— Seema Mehta reported from the spin room. Among the highlights, Rudy Giuliani saying the debate would shift momentum toward Trump “like that.”

— The photos from the evening tell their own story, and here’s possibly the best image of the night.

Watch the full debate.

— Here’s what Clinton and Trump say they respect about each other.

— Eight audience members got their 15 seconds of fame Sunday night as they took turns asking questions of the presidential nominees. Some of the fame lasted longer than 15 seconds, though, particularly for social media star Ken Bone, whose appearance spawned a fake Twitter account and a folk ditty on the acoustic guitar. Christine Mai-Duc and Kurtis Lee report on what we know about the town hall participants and what they asked.

— They didn’t shake hands before the debate.


— The uncovered “Access Hollywood” video of Trump making lewd comments was the latest in a growing list of controversies he and his campaign have had with women. Here’s a brief history from Colleen Shalby.


In some of the tightest races in the state, Republicans were quick to denounce Trump this weekend.

Sarah Wire has more here and here.


Despite Trump’s shaky ground with the GOP establishment, it’s clear that Clinton is having trouble convincing many of their voters to cross the aisle and support her. She has been making a concerted effort to win over Republicans disillusioned with Trump, but there has been no sign of a mass defection so far, despite a laundry list of endorsements. Clinton’s campaign points to some signs that Trump has less support from within his party than Clinton does among Democrats, and they’re winning to settle for even marginal shifts to help put her over the top.


When WikiLeaks released another batch of hacked emails, included in a message sent among Clinton campaign staffers were excerpts from paid speeches she delivered to major banks. Clinton had refused to release the transcripts during the primary, and her rival Bernie Sanders had used the issue to paint Clinton as too sympathetic to Wall Street.

As Chris Megerian reports, Trump’s campaign is trying to transform the excerpts into a political headache for Clinton, pointing to her comment that she favors “open trade and open borders.”

In the final stretch, you can get the latest from the campaign trail on Trail Guide. Make sure also to follow @latimespolitics. Check our daily USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times tracking poll at the top of the politics page.


As election day fast approaches, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate campaign continues to pick up steam. Phil Willon reports on new momentum from the endorsements of both of California’s senators after her measured performance during the Senate debate Wednesday against her rival, Rep. Loretta Sanchez. For the first time, Harris showed aggression toward Sanchez, shedding the cautious approach that has been the mark of her Senate bid.

Harris on Monday rolls out her first ad of the general election. In the “bitmoji inspired” animated ad, which will run on digital platforms and social media, Harris stars as a political hero who took on for-profit colleges. She’s wearing her customary dark grey suit, but not a cape.

George Skelton looks at the fact California voters aren’t paying attention to the Senate race. Given the sleepy pace of last week’s debate, it’s easy to see why they might not be, he writes in his Monday column.


Sanchez’s whimsical “dab” at the end of Wednesday’s Senate debate was inspired by the 9-year-old daughter of the congressman’s make-up artist, her campaign says. The young girl, Jamieson Deacy of Anaheim Hills, is a dancer and aspiring actress and told Sanchez the dance move would make a great finale.


The National Rifle Assn. has poured $4 million into fighting a Nevada initiative that would require background checks for gun buyers but has put just $145,000 into battling a gun control measure in California. Patrick McGreevy reports that gun owners and supporters of Proposition 63 have noticed the difference.


Sacramento bureau chief John Myers examines the chances of Democrats winning a supermajority in California’s Legislature on Nov. 8. And if it happens, what would they do with the power?


Four years ago, Californians passed Proposition 30, which increased income taxes for the state’s wealthiest. Today, just 1.5% of taxpayers finance roughly a third of California’s day-to-day budget through their personal income taxes.

That will continue if voters approve Proposition 55, which would extend the higher income tax rates through 2030.

Liam Dillon talked to some of the 1.5% and found them upset at the state’s continued reliance on income taxes and bothered that the 2012 tax hikes, which were promised to be temporary, might turn out to be around for a while.


Supporters of Proposition 59 are hoping California voters will pass their measure instructing members of Congress to work toward overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed corporations to spend what they want on U.S. elections.

Well, it turns out two-thirds of California’s congressional delegation already support campaign finance reform or want to amend the Constitution to stop corporations from spending in political races. Sarah Wire spoke with members to see who supports it, who doesn’t and who doesn’t plan to follow voters’ instructions if Proposition 59 passes.

For all things California politics, keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed.


Skelton has a pop quiz: What’s one thing Trump and the late President Ronald Reagan have in common? Both dodged paying income taxes. Other than their mutual tax avoidance, Skelton writes, Trump and Reagan are as similar as night and day.


In case you missed it, we published two new installments in our series looking at California’s pension system. Myers explains how a political fight 25 years ago boosted the power of the public pension system and Jack Dolan has a primer on CalPERS and the people behind the rules on pensions.


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other elected leaders called on California voters to legalize recreational use of marijuana, saying the current laws are unfairly entangling minorities more than white users.

— Billionaire Tom Steyer is upping his profile by appearing in a new television advertisement promoting Proposition 56, which would raise the cigarette tax by $2 a pack. Steyer said the issue is personal for him, because his mother died of lung cancer. He’s now donated $5.5 million to the campaign after dumping in another $2 million on Thursday.

— Having a hard time getting through that massive voter guide? Fear not: The California Voter Foundation has you covered with “The Proposition Song,” a folksy tune that summarizes all 17 ballot initiatives for you. Kim Alexander, president of the foundation, said it took her about a week to write the lyrics. She recorded the song with Sacramento-area musicians and is featured on vocals and ukelele.

— Know what California’s new laws are about? Here’s a poem to help you figure it out.

— A new radio ad in support of Proposition 58 stresses the importance of learning more than one language.

Rep. Doris Matsui was injured in a car accident in Washington last week. She was released from the hospital Friday after surgery to stop internal bleeding and cannot travel for several weeks.

Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) got a boost from San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan when he endorsed her in her re-election fight against Democrat Eloise Reyes. Burguan, who was placed in the national spotlight after last year’s terrorist attacks, said Brown has a “deep understanding of the many issues facing our city.”

— On Thursday, the California Highway Patrol removed a suspicious package from the lawn on the north side of the Capitol building. The area was closed to pedestrians and cars while officers detonated a device that caused a loud popping noise and smoke by the Capitol steps. The procedure rendered the package safe so officers could remove it, according to the CHP.

— Who will win the November election? Give our Electoral College map a spin.

— For the record: Thursday’s newsletter misquoted Gov. Jerry Brown. At the 10th anniversary celebration for a landmark climate law, he said the issue of climate change is about “human existence,” not “human resistance.”


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