The Democratic nominee is unpopular, the Republican nominee is unpopular, and polls show voters taking a look at the Libertarian. Flash back or flash forward: Two marquee 2014 campaigns are looking a lot like the 2013 Virginia governor’s race right now, and that campaign provided some useful guidance for how to watch them. — Quinnipiac’s latest Florida poll confirmed its previous ones: More people view Gov. Rick Scott (R) and ex-Gov. Charlie Crist (D) unfavorably than favorably. The numbers have been even worse for Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) in North Carolina, where national Democrats and state Republicans also plumb the depths of popularity. And recent surveys in both states show Libertarian candidates pulling 9% or higher. — Polls usually overstate third-party support, and they’re likely to do so again in North Carolina and Florida this year. That’s the same story we saw in Virginia in 2013, when the two unloved major party contenders pushed Robert Sarvis (L) higher than usual in the polls — and his actual vote share underperformed 19 of the 20 final public polls of his race. — But in races where voters aren’t in love with either nominee, Libertarians can still catch on more than usual at the ballot box. (Sarvis still pulled in 6.5% of Virginians’ votes in 2013.) There’s plenty of campaign left, and Tillis especially may have an opportunity to change voters’ minds about him once the Legislature’s damaging special session is over. But on the other hand, most of the money flowing into these races is negative. It would be very unlikely for Libertarians to do as well in November as they’re doing at the polls now. But the same surveys also show why they could keep the eventual winners from getting a majority vote all the same.— Scott Bland
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"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 34% of registered voters think the three presidential debates would be extremely or quite important in helping them decide whom to support for president. About 11% of voters are considered 'debate persuadables'—that is, they think the debates are important and are either third-party voters or only loosely committed to either major-party candidate."
Will he or won't he? That's the question surrounding Donald Trump and his on-again, off-again threats to bring onetime Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest. An assistant to flowers initially said she'd be there, but Trump campaign chief Kellyanne Conway "said on ABC’s 'This Week' that the Trump campaign had not invited Flowers to the debate, but she didn’t rule out the possibility of Flowers being in the audience."
NBC's Lester Holt hasn't hosted the "Nightly News" since Tuesday, as he's prepped for moderating the first presidential debate tonight—and the first of his career. He's called on a host of NBC talent to help him, namely NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andy Lack; NBC News president Deborah Turness; the news division's senior vice president of editorial, Janelle Rodriguez; "Nightly News" producer Sam Singal, "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, senior political editor Mark Murray and political editor Carrie Dann. But during the debate itself, the only person in Holt's earpiece will be longtime debate producer Marty Slutsky.
"The House passed legislation late Thursday that would prohibit the federal government from making any cash payments to Iran, in protest of President Obama's recently discovered decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash in January. And while the White House has said Obama would veto the bill, 16 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the measure, 254-163."
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”