White House Countdown – The art of war

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Hillary Clinton may be abiding by the (potentially apocryphal) wisdom of Napoleon: “Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.”

The Donald Trump campaign is reeling from allegations that the Republican candidate sexually assaulted women – including today’s news that six witnesses are corroborating a People magazine writer’s story, one of many that Trump has denied. A slew of recent polls has shown Clinton extending her lead over the former reality TV star, who has attacked his accusers, including suggesting that some were too unattractive for him to grope. Yesterday he said he could see himself meeting Vladimir Putin before the start of his administration. He also suggested his party’s highest-elected official, Paul Ryan, might not want Trump to win “because maybe he wants to run in four years“.

As a result, Clinton may just have a chance of winning Texas (Texas?!).

But instead of stepping up her attacks on Trump, Clinton has largely let her popular surrogates stump for her and take him on – including President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders – while she prepares for tomorrow night’s final presidential debate.

One more reason Clinton may be a tad less visible lately: the steady drip of hacked emails being released by WikiLeaks. Courtney Weaver has a great rundown of what they reveal, including her aides’ concerns about how the Clintons’ ties to foreign lobbyists and Wall Street banks might hurt her. The 17,000 emails released so far reveal a heavily stage-managed, cautious candidate that most Americans already understand Clinton to be – but they also contribute to the impression that she is a different person behind closed doors.

Among the gems contained therein, Team Clinton: was concerned that Jeb! Bush’s economic message would resonate with minorities, said a carbon tax polled poorly and, in one email that by rights should doom her chances this election, are fans of New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz.

On a more serious note, the FBI official at the centre of an alleged “quid pro quo” mentioned in one of the emails spoke to the Washington Post and told them that there was no quid pro quo.

But among the most interesting of the emails may be the longlist of potential vice presidentsthat Clinton’s aides floated, which included 39 people – from traditional politicians to Bill and/or Melinda Gates. In it, John Podesta, her campaign chairman, said he had “organised the names in rough food groups”.

Indeed, the names were divided up into neat subgroups: African-Americans, Latinos, white men, women, military brass, executives and philanthropists. Down at the bottom, in a category all his own: Bernie Sanders.

Clearly there are no hard feelings any more. Sanders is hitting the trail hard for Clinton this week.

Still, perhaps no one is throwing him or herself into this campaign with as much gusto as the president, who clearly sees Trump as not only a threat to his legacy but – given the businessman’s advocacy of the racist birther conspiracy theory – a personal affront. (Still, his wife might be the campaign’s MVP.)

Today, during a press conference with Italian premier Matteo Renzi, he took a question about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election is “rigged”:

“There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even – you could even rig America’s elections…You start whining before the game’s even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.”

He continued: “I’d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”

It was, many observers argued, the president making a point while at the same time setting a trap for Trump, who has shown an inability to keep himself from responding to criticism.

Perhaps Obama was taking a page from another famous war philosopher, Sun Tzu:

“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.”

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. –Neil Munshi

Follow us all on Twitter: @neiLmunshi @Dimi @Courtney_FT and @BarneyJopson​

Have any questions about the race, the candidates or the electoral process? Drop us a line at whitehouse@ft.com and we’ll do our best to answer them in an upcoming dispatch.

Click here for full FT coverage of the 2016 race

On the trail

Fighting for votes in coal country In an election dominated by character attacks, coal country stands out as a region where a single policy question — what to do about unemployed miners — still eclipses all else. (FT)

RNC members agree with Trump: it’s rigged The candidate has the firm backing of his party’s committee members, who also believe in the unsubstantiated idea that the fix is in. (Politico)

Extremist militias recruiting off Clinton win Armed right-wing groups are experiencing a surge in recruitment at the prospect of a Clinton presidency. (Guardian)

Who is Bill Mitchell? The Trump’s movement’s post-truth, post-math, anti-Nate Silver has a Twitter account for the ages. Meet the man who wrote: “Trump’s groundgame isn’t in a computer, it’s in our hearts”. (BuzzFeed)

Trump calls for term limits The Republican laid out a number of ethics reforms that he says will clean up corruption in Washington. (WaPo)

Wall Street shuns Trump, scatters money Ultra-wealthy conservative investors are nearly united in their disdain for Trump – but they remain divided in how they approach the election. (Reuters)

Silicon Valley confronts its Peter Thiel problem Tech leaders have condemned Trump as Hitler or Stalin, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop doing business with one of his biggest backers. (BuzzFeed)

Charts of the day

A new poll of 15 battleground states shows Clinton leading by at least 4 points in enough states to give her 304 electoral votes (far more than the 270 required for victory) – including a 4-point lead in reliably Republican Georgia. In even more troubling news for Trump, Texas -Texas! – is apparently a tossup state now.(WaPo)

Clinton and Trump supporters are split about how media should cover offensive statements – but they agree that the media should emphasise inaccurate statements. (Pew)

Numbers of the day

52%-35% Clinton’s lead over Trump in a nationwide mock election of around 153,000 schoolchildren. The annual Scholastic poll has predicted the winner of nearly every race since 1940, including all 13 since 1964. (USAToday)

1/3 The proportion of pro-Trump Twitter posts driven by bots and highly-automated accounts, according to a new Oxford University study, compared to 22 per cent for Clinton. (CNN)

2003 The version of Windows that Trump’s businesses are running their email servers on, according to a security analyst. (Motherboard)

Soundbites

“It could be the dumbest decision to come out of the U.S. government in the last 50 to 60 years…It’s about like the Dred Scott decision.” -Trump adviser and Skybridge Capital managing partner Anthony Scaramucci, comparing a regulation which requires financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests to the 1857 Supreme Court decision which held that African-Americans were not US citizens. (InvestmentNews)

“I have never been in the room when someone has said, ‘Grab them by the p***y’…No one’s ever advocated going that step where you get a little bit, ‘Hey I’m going to invade someone’s space’.” -Howard Stern, the radio host who built his career on making controversial jokes, on the comments of Trump, who has been a frequent guest on his show. (TPM)

“I think I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration. I think it would be wonderful.” -Trump. (CNN)

Campaign commentary

Trump the arsonist (Greg Sargent, WaPo)

Vogue endorses Clinton (Vogue)

Trump’s economic plan doesn’t add up (Greg Ip, WSJ)

Political sideshow

Stephen Colbert offers Obama career advice The president sat down with the comedian as he embarks on his post-White House job hunt. (AVClub)

Today’s poll average

View the FT’s poll tracker

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