"I also have a much better temperament than she does." — Donald Trump

In 1973, a trash-talking, over-age self-described "chauvinist pig" named Bobby Riggs took on Billie Jean King in a tennis match in the Houston Astrodome that was billed as The Battle of the Sexes. King won in straight sets.

History repeated itself Monday in the first one-on-one debate of Donald Trump's career.

After controlling himself for the first two questions, Trump discarded all the advice that he must have received from debate handlers like Roger Ailes. Drinking water nervously and grimacing when he wasn't speaking, Trump began interrupting Hillary Clinton after almost every sentence.

While Trump's shouted comments initially landed glancing blows (attacking Bill Clinton over NAFTA), the former reality-show host soon degenerated into pure gibberish. In the history of presidential debates, it is hard to top Trump's non sequitur, "No wonder you've been fighting ISIS all your life."

[Another Way Trump Could Flunk the Electoral College]

In a 2000 Senate debate, Rick Lazio angrily walked over to Hillary Clinton's lectern and demanded that she sign a pledge. The Lazio gambit was criticized afterwards as re-enacting the kind of menacing moments that women fear. But compared to Trump, Lazio took etiquette lessons from Emily Post.

During it all, moderator Lester Holt played Caspar Milquetoast, a 1920s cartoon figure who personified soft-spoken timidity. In fact, it is safe to say that Holt gave potted plants a bad name.

In the debate, Trump boasted again that he wanted to keep his plans for taking on ISIS a secret to maintain strategic advantage. But what was fascinating was that Trump's debate strategy offered no surprises. It was a greatest hits tour of Trump's rudest moments, devoid of even flashes of humor.

By playing to type, Trump played right into Clinton's well-executed game plan. If there was a moment when Hillary sensed that it was going to be her night, it probably came when she baited Trump for the first time. In a riff on trickle-down economics, Clinton said that her opponent "started his business with $14 million borrowed from his father."

It was a mild dig — and a more disciplined candidate might have ignored it. Instead, Trump began his answer on jobs by saying defensively, "Before we start on that — my father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars."

[Trump-Clinton Debate: Much Ado but Little Impact?]

By the way, the bilious billionaire's answer on bringing back manufacturing jobs was a Trumpian tautology: "The first thing you do is don't let the jobs leave."

Even when Clinton handed him opportunities, Trump failed to seize the moment. In the midst of answer about enforcing the terms of trade deals, Hillary suddenly said, "I'm going to have a special prosecutor." Now if there are two words that no Clinton should ever utter in a debate, they are "special prosecutor." But, for the only time Monday night, Trump stayed silent.

Trump came across as the least prepared prime-time debater since the 1976 vice presidential face-off when Bob Dole slouched against the lectern and railed against "Democrat wars in this century."

Violating every protocol of everyman politics, Trump actually bragged about not paying any taxes: "That makes me smart." And unlike any prior candidate running for the commander in chief, Trump freely admitted that until recently, "I haven't given lots of thought to NATO."

History suggests that voters generally score debates more on presentation than on policy. But on both fronts, Clinton was at the top of her game, smiling frequently and naturally. If authenticity can be a learned skill, then the former secretary of state learned it for this debate.

As Tim Crouse recounted in "The Boys on the Bus," his classic account of the press covering the 1972 campaign, reporters used to hover over the typewriter of Walter Mears, the AP correspondent, wanting to know what the news lead would be. That form of pack journalism now seems quaint, but even in an era of social media it takes a few days for the after-effects of a debate to percolate through the system.

[Poll: Clinton, Trump Tied as First Debate Arrives]

That is why it is a risky game to predict where the polls will be at the end of the week. But it is hard to imagine that there was a single moment in the debate that would have convinced a wavering college-educated woman in the Philadelphia or Cincinnati suburbs to vote for Trump. In fact, Trump seemed to be debating with the single-minded goal of turning his gender gap into a canyon.

Forty-three years after the first Battle of the Sexes, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in straight sets.

Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is a veteran of Politics Daily, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. His book on his con-man great-uncle was just published: "Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer." Follow him on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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For an hour and a half Monday night, Donald Trump sniffled and bickered his way through a highly contentious debate. With all the talk of health problems, perhaps it’s ironic that Trump was the one who seemed a bit under the weather. And heaven knows we obsess too much over the superficial.

But if Al Gore’s audible sighing was an issue, and Dr. Ben Carson’s coughing fit was a distraction, then Trump’s performance may go down as the sniff heard ‘round the world.

Maybe he lacks stamina. He got off to a good enough start. But Clinton was consistently cheery and spunky, and frequently on the attack. There were no coughing fits or fainting spells; just sharp elbows. And, more importantly, when Trump said that Clinton lacked stamina, it was juxtaposed by a split screen of her smiling and looking sharp as a tack.

If her goal was to get under Trump’s skin — you know, sniff out his weakness, and bait him into losing his temper — it worked. She got under that thin skin by talking about his inherited wealth and questionable status as a billionaire. What is more, Trump is not a conventional politician, and he did not heed the conventional warnings about the dangers of a male candidate attacking a female one.

We won’t know until some polling comes out whether Trump’s unchivalrous interruptions and attacks will backfire the way that Rick Lazio’s now infamous invasion of Clinton’s personal space did, but Trump will test the theory that male candidates need to attack with caution.

Trump passed the competence test, but he did nothing to resolve concerns about his temperament. What is more, while his combative performance is likely to please his current base, if one assumes a Trump victory requires increasing his support among Republican women (Trump is getting only about 72% of them, but Mitt Romney garnered 93% of the Republican women vote), it’s hard to see where tonight’s performance strategically accomplished that objective.

As the night wore on, Clinton got stronger, and Trump seemed to get more thin-skinned and braggadocios. The turning point where Trump stumbled seemed to be the “birther” question.

I guess you never know what will be remembered in a debate. Did anyone expect that “There you go again” would be cited four decades later?

So much of the handwringing heading into this debate had to do with the possibility that a moderator might “fact-check” the candidates. But except for pointing out Trump’s erroneous claim that he always opposed the Iraq war, moderator Lester Holt was barely noticeable.

Early on, there were times when it seemed that he had ceded control, not that this was a bad thing. Both candidates held their own, and a good referee doesn’t make himself part of the story. The crowd also broke the rules a few times by applauding, but it seemed more uncontrollable than planned.

In the end, I don’t think it mattered much at all.

What is more, anyone worried that Trump could not fill the requisite time allowed to respond to questions, or that his lack of expertise in policy areas would be obvious, was wrong. Always loquacious, Trump had no trouble filling the time. And although his lack of policy fluency is no secret, his folksy answers — especially early on — were a refreshing change from the normal way politicians usually speak.

Still, by my score, Hillary Clinton easily won this debate. This is especially impressive, since coming into the debate, she had the harder task.

For one thing, it was hard to predict which Donald Trump was going to show up. She had to prepare several contingency plans. Additionally, expectations regarding Trump’s performance were low, meaning that it should have been easier for him to exceed them. I guess those intense debate prep sessions paid off for her. On strategy and style, she was superior. This is not to say that we should expect Trump’s polling to suddenly collapse. More likely, this will stall the momentum he has been gaining for the last several weeks.

At the end of the night, both these candidates have serious flaws. Whether it was Trump’s excuses about not releasing his taxes, or Clinton’s excuses about her personal e-mail account, neither one of the candidates passed America’s sniff test.

But we’re past the stage of bargaining, and onto acceptance. Somebody has to win, and tonight, it was Clinton.

Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter @MattKLewis.

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To hear Donald Trump tell it for the last year, Senate Republicans were weak, dumb losers, and not just the ones he ran against for president. He infamously called Sen. John McCain “not a war hero” and tweeted that Sen. Jeff Flake was “a very weak and ineffective senator … Sad!” He lambasted Sen. Mark Kirk as “dishonest” and a “loser,” and told an Atlanta rally that he wished Republican leaders in Washington would “just please be quiet” so he could win the race by himself.

He tagged Sen. Lindsey Graham “a disgrace” and “one of the dumbest human beings I have ever seen.” Sen. “Little Marco” Rubio was “just another Washington, D.C., politician” with “the biggest ears I’ve ever seen.” Sen. Rand Paul was “truly weird” and Sen. “Lyin'” Ted Cruz was not only dishonest, but by Trump’s suggestion, his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

So imagine the irony if those useless slobs in the upper chamber, 22 of whom will share the ballot with Trump in November, actually help him win the White House on Election Day. That emerging possibility is a reversal from the assumption leading up to this point in the cycle, which said that Trump’s coattails would determine the fates of Senate Republicans, and not the other way around. If Trump did well, the thinking went, they would do well. If he tanked, he would take them down with him like passengers on the Titanic.

But as Trump’s poll numbers tumbled through the summer, the Republicans running for re-election worked to build their own brands, with their own paths to victory, independent of their erratic nominee. The result is now a class of Republican Senate candidates who are nearly all more popular than Trump, with many who have built robust campaign operations of their own, above and beyond Trump’s scattershot approach to Election Day.

[The Down-Ballot Shuffle, a Ticket-Splitting Revival]

An analysis last week by The Washington Post showed Senate Republican candidates overperforming Trump by an average of 4 points in competitive states. Only Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and Rep. Todd Young in Indiana are polling worse than Trump.

In critical swing states like Arizona and Florida, “Not a War Hero” McCain and “the Biggest Ears I’ve Ever Seen” Rubio are not only pulling ahead of their Democratic rivals, they’re also outpolling Trump by double digits. So is Rob Portman in Ohio, where Portman has built a massive turnout operation to get his own voters to the polls, no matter what the Trump campaign does or does not do on Election Day. Ohio is now tied for Trump and Clinton, but a major Portman victory could deliver just enough persuadable voters to the polls to give Trump a margin of victory.

In Georgia and Utah, two states that should be easy wins for Trump but are dangerously close contests instead, Sens. Johnny Isakson and Mike Lee are way out ahead of their rivals. If Trump wins those states, he may have them to thank for bringing Republicans to the polls who might not have bothered otherwise.

So how would a Trump White House work with a Republican Senate if the party defied expectations and won them both? It’s hard to imagine President Trump being able to bury the hatchet with senators he maligned along the way, who could then chair committees, allocate funds, and hold the votes for whatever agenda Trump has in mind. They might not forgive him for the things he said, and he might not forgive them for some insults they hurled in the heat of the campaign.

[Senate Republicans Leave Trump Meeting With Little to Say]

After months of being called “Little Marco,” Rubio snapped and called Trump a small handed, orange-hued “con artist.” Sen. Ben Sasse described Trump as one half of “the dumpster fire” that the election has become. Mike Lee said Trump “scares me to death,” while Ted Cruz, after the Your-Father-Helped-Kill-Kennedy bit, called Trump a “sniveling coward” and “a narcissist the likes of which I don’t think this country has ever seen.”

But it’s possible that all of those insults and nasty words about Trump during the primary were just politics masquerading as conviction.

On Friday, Ted Cruz endorsed Trump after declaring at the Republican convention that he was “not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and father.” But Cruz apparently is in the habit of supporting people who could be in power in the near future.

Even if Republican senators hold their own, the question remains whether voters who come out for their senators will also vote for Trump, split their ticket or skip the top line altogether. Ticket-splitting reached a 92-year low in the 2012 elections, but as Walter Shapiro pointed out here this summer, ticket splitting may not be dead, it might just be sleeping. The 2016 election will answer that question once and for all.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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By Toula Vlahou

Next week the Senate will vote on legislation — the so-called continuing resolution or CR — that will address Zika, veterans programs, severe flooding, the heroin and prescription opioid crisis, and fund the operations of the government through December. After many weeks of bipartisan negotiations, there is some understandable confusion over just what is and is not in that bill. I’m happy to clear it up.

First, this is what’s known as a “clean” CR.

It’s a clean bill because of what it doesn’t have: controversial policy riders from either party. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

It’s a good bill because of what it does have. It contains funding for all current government operations at agreed-upon, bipartisan spending levels and under the terms and conditions President Obama signed into law last December and that more than 30 Senate Democrats supported.

It contains funding for the new laws President Obama just signed, like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that will allow us to fight the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.

It contains a significant down payment on flood relief for the many states like Maryland, Texas, West Virginia, and Louisiana that have recently been impacted by severe flooding. It also contains record levels of funding for our veterans.

Both parties and, more importantly, our constituents have called for all of these provisions and we've included them, as well as the funding we need to fight Zika. This bill contains the resources necessary to get the mosquito population under control, bring advanced diagnostics and treatments online, and develop vaccines to finally ensure expectant mothers and their babies are safe.

It was unfortunate to see Democrats block this essential anti-Zika funding several times over the summer, but the concerns they raised then have been addressed in this bill in a bipartisan way. Now, with thousands infected by Zika already, there is no time to lose and zero reason to stall this essential relief again. Democrats like Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida understand that urgency and support this common sense package.

“This bill provides a clean $1.1 billion to help stop the spread of Zika virus with no political riders,” Sen. Nelson said, “and I will support it.”

Sen. Nelson, a Democrat, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, have both seen first-hand the devastating toll Zika has already taken in their home state and across our country.

We’ve all seen the devastating toll that severe flooding and the heroin and prescription opioid crisis have taken from coast to coast to coast.

Think how unfair it would be for senators to block this bill’s critical funding for the victims of Zika, the prescription opioid and heroin crisis, and severe flooding after senators voted 95-3 just last week to help the people of Flint, Michigan.

This bill is the result of weeks of bipartisan negotiations, it addresses priorities of both parties, it contains zero controversial policy riders, it adheres to already agreed-upon, bipartisan spending levels, and — with government funding set to run out on Sept. 30 unless we pass it — the time for action is now.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the majority leader of the United States Senate.

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A star-studded event in Washington today will award $1 million in college scholarships to outstanding young people, as decided by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Ballerina Misty Copeland, singer Ashanti, model Damaris Lewis, retired football player Andre Reed and ABC’s Paula Faris will celebrate the six young finalists at the 69th annual Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year gala. One of them will be honored as the Youth of the Year.

At the National Building Museum at 6 p.m., a blue carpet will roll out for the finalists, celebrities and members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisc., Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Len Morris, the filmmaker of “The Same Heart,” will participate in a panel discussion about how a small financial transaction tax on Wall Street trades could serve as an investment in the future. (1 p.m., Capitol Visitor Center)

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and "Saturday Night Live" comedian Maya Rudolph will take part in a discussion on the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act. (10 a.m., 1 Constitution Ave. NE)

The National Gallery of Art hosts a press preview for the reopening of the East Building, which now includes 12,250 square feet of new space, a reinstallation of the permanent collection of modern art, and three exhibitions. (8:30 a.m., 6th Street & Constitution Avenue NW)

The Federalist Society hosts the annual "Supreme Court Preview," a panel discussion on the court's docket, its current composition and its future. (Noon, National Press Club)

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and former Rep Steve Stockman, R-Texas, took to Twitter on Monday to share their pre-debate views on Hillary Clinton. Their expectations: lying and potential insanity. Drinking game tonight:every time Hillary lies take a shot 🍸will b drunk 😵 in 15mins #Debates2016 @JaredWyand @realDonaldTrump @PrisonPlanet — Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) September 26, 2016

Tonight's biggest post #debate question: Inquiring American minds will want to know, was Hillary on her meds or off her meds? — Steve King (@SteveKingIA) September 26, 2016

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., 50.

Have any tips, announcements or Hill happenings? Send them to AlexGangitano@cqrollcall.com.

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Democrats Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania and incumbent Michael Bennet of Colorado lead in new polls in Senate races in their respective states.

McGinty has a 3 point lead over incumbent Pat Toomey, 49 percent to 46 percent among likely voters in a CNN/ORC Poll. Bennet maintains a much larger advantage in the Colorado race, with a 53 percent to 43 percent lead over Republican challenger Darryl Glenn.

One point separates presidential nominees Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump in those states, 42 percent to 41 percent. Colorado and Pennsylvania are shaping up to be key states in the presidential election as the findings are well within the margin of error of the poll.

Clinton holds a strong lead in both states over white college gradates, 11 points in Pennsylvania and 16 points in Colorado. White non-college graduates favor Trump by 19 points in Pennsylvania and 22 points in Colorado.

Both states are split over who is better prepared to handle terrorism, but Clinton holds an 8 point lead in Colorado on handling immigration.

The CNN/ORC Polls in Colorado and Pennsylvania were conducted by telephone Sept. 20-25. The Colorado poll included interviews with 1,010 adult residents of the state, including 784 who are likely to vote in November. In Pennsylvania, interviews were conducted with 1,032 adult residents of the state, including 771 likely voters. The margin of error in each state is 3.5 percentage points.

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It might be time to dust off the government shutdown clocks.

A senior Democratic aide said Senate Democrats are expected to block the stopgap spending plan that's currently on the table.

Even if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can rally enough votes for his continuing resolution (he'll need more than a handful of Democrats given opposition from some members of his own conference), the legislation likely would not arrive in the House until Wednesday or Thursday, meaning that the House vote would be all-but-certain to take place on the verge of government funding expiring.

House Republican leaders have shown patience, and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky has expressed support for the Senate-led proposal.

President Barack Obama believes Congress "has some more work to do" in crafting a CR that he is likely to sign, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

"It is too early for people to panic about a government shutdown," he said.

But he urged lawmakers to come up with a stopgap that can pass both chambers and garner Obama's signature without using all remaining days before the government would run out of money.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, got the gears turning Sept. 22 for a key procedural vote Tuesday afternoon to stop a potential filibuster of the Republican spending package that's generally clean, but leaves by the wayside emergency funding for the lead-plagued water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The inclusion of what Republicans described as a "down payment" on supplemental aid to flood-ravaged communities in Louisiana but not the Flint money drew the ire of Michigan Democrats, and it appears to be a key to Democratic opposition in the Senate.

“There is no reason why we cannot include assistance for Flint in the year-end government funding bill, along with aid to help victims of flooding in Louisiana. Families in Flint have waited far too long for help, and they still do not have safe water," Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters said.

A Senate-passed water resources bill is the vehicle for aid to Flint, but there won't be a conference report produced before the end of this September session.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas accused Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada of stalling and refusing to complete negotiations on what is a generally agreed-upon spending package.

Given the end-of-the week deadline, Cornyn said, "I don't know what the alternative is," to McConnell scheduling a vote on a plan without Reid's support.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said that talks would continue between Democrats and Republicans in an effort to strike a deal before the scheduled Tuesday afternoon vote.

"Oh sure, very constructive," Mikulski said of the discussions. "We're a work in progress."

As the release of McConnell's plan was imminent, Reid seemed particularly critical of the continuation of language in current appropriations law that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission from compelling companies from disclosing so-called "dark money" campaign contributions.

"The president will accept no riders," Reid said. "If they want to get out of here, we've got Zika resolved. Do a clean CR and they can leave in 10 minutes."

The SEC provision being continued is not literally a new rider, but it has prompted outside campaign finance watchdog groups who are longtime adversaries of McConnell to accuse him of risking a government a shutdown.

"Our lawmakers can’t pass standalone legislation blocking democracy reforms, so instead they snuck a provision into today’s continuing resolution behind closed doors," said Dan Smith of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "That kind of politics is great if you’re raising money from special interest groups, but it shortchanges the American public."

How many of Reid's Democrats will join hands in opposition to the McConnell-led proposal over the campaign finance provision and the lack of dollars for Flint is sure to be the primary topic of discussion at Tuesday's caucus lunch which would take place just ahead of the vote.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said, "Yes, ma'am," when asked by a Roll Call reporter last Thursday if he thought Democrats would stand united, but hours later, he issued a statement saying that given the urgent need to get funds to fight the Zika virus in his home state, he would be on board.

"While I support the people of Flint, my priority is the people of Florida. This bill provides a clean $1.1 billion to help stop the spread of Zika virus with no political riders, and I will support it," Nelson said.

Just how many Democratic senators might join Nelson will not be known until they emerge from their weekly lunch minutes before the vote.

Bridget Bowman and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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Former WWE executive Linda McMahon may have been pinned for the three count twice in failed runs for Senate in Connecticut but she hasn't tapped out when it comes to fundraising for Republicans.

McMahon lost races for Senate in 2010 and 2012 to Connecticut's Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

But according to the Center for Responsive Politics, she and her husband, WWE CEO Vince McMahon, are 78th on its list of so-called "mega-donors." Linda McMahon says that she has made most of the couple's contributions and her husband wants "no part of it."

During the presidential primary, McMahon gave $10,000 to a super PAC affiliated with fellow former businesswoman Carly Fiorina and $550,000 to America Leads, a super PAC affiliated with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Recently, McMahon held a fundraiser and spoke on behalf of Sen. John McCain. She is also supporting Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Todd Young, who is running for Senate in Indiana.

WWE has occasionally tangled with politics: WWE hall of famer and 16-time world champion Ric Flair supported Mike Huckabee for president in 2008 and considered running for governor of North Carolina. Former world champion Kurt Angle also supported Sen. Marco Rubio for president this year.

WWE hall of famer Jesse Ventura famously ran for and won his race for governor of Minnesota as a Reform Party candidate

Of course, the McMahons also have a longstanding relationship with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who hosted two Wrestlemanias and engaged in a "Battle of the Billionaires" in which Trump shaved Vince McMahon's head. Linda said while Trump wasn't her first choice, she supports him now.

But when asked if she will run for office again, she said "Never say never" but she said she has no plans to run for office again. Or put another way, "no chance in hell."

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President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed a bill that would allow families of the victims of terrorist attacks in the United States to sue foreign governments believed to be linked to the strikes, setting up a difficult election-year decision for congressional Democrats.

Obama cited concerns that the legislation, which passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, could prompt other nations to pass look-alike laws, leading to more lawsuits and inconsistent standards for what constitutes state support for terrorist attacks. Proponents, however, call it "narrowly" crafted to guard against such things.

Aides say Obama fully understands why convincing Democrats to block an override of his veto will likely be tough in an election year. "The president's not blind to the politics of the situation," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

"The president understands that the talking points that are being prepared for the proponents of this bill have … political upside," Earnest said. "But if we're focused on the substantive long-term impact on our nation's national security … that's what's driving the president's decision to veto this bill. Not because it's politically convenient. It's not."

The Senate's No. 3 Democrat, Charles E. Schumer of New York, a co-sponsor of the measure, called the veto a "a disappointing decision," predicting that it will be "swiftly and soundly overturned in Congress."

“If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation," Schumer said in a statement. "If they were culpable in 9/11, they should be held accountable. The families of the victims of 9/11 deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn’t be thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns.”

Obama used up every day he had under law from the time the House unanimously passed the bill, formally dubbed the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” to reject it. The move now sets up a decision for House and Senate leaders on when they will hold override votes.

“Now that we have received the veto message from the president, the Senate will consider [an override vote] as soon as practicable in this work period," said David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement on Friday.

McConnell said earlier this week that he believes there are ample votes in his chamber to override the veto.

On the House side, Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin told reporters this week that there are enough votes in the House to pass a veto override.

[Democrats Qualify Support for 9/11 Bill]

But the speaker appeared more nuanced in his stance than McConnell, saying: "I worry about legal matters.”

“I worry about trial lawyers trying to get rich off of this and I worry about the precedence,” Ryan said. “At the same time, these victims need to have their day in court.” Asked if the bill would get to the House floor this month, Ryan said the timing of such a vote depends on when the bill is taken up in the Senate.

Schumer told reporters earlier this week, “I think it will pass.”

“Look, the sooner, the better in my point of view,” he added, referring to the timing of the override votes.

Some have called the bill an attempt to allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged ties to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Obama administration contends that many lawmakers share its concerns on the measure.

[GOP Mostly Powerless in Stopping Obama 'Midnight' Regulations]

Earnest said Tuesday that members will soon have to decide whether the “votes they cast in public reflect the views they’ve expressed in private.” He cited conversations White House officials have had for months with members about the legislation.

The coming override votes will pit national security and foreign relations against domestic politics. That’s because, should both chambers vote before leaving for an October break to campaign, those facing re-election will likely see no choice but to vote to erase Obama’s veto pen stroke.

“My message to the [Republican] caucus is going to be: Unless there are 34 people willing to fall on their swords over this, [it’s] probably not worth falling on your sword over,” Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker said.

It takes two-thirds of the Senate to support an override, and a source involved in the effort to persuade enough senators to vote to sustain Obama’s veto said the White House’s strategy is constantly changing.

A bit more about the White House’s lobbying strategy came into view Thursday, when the heads of two major U.S. companies, Dow Chemical and General Electric, wrote congressional leaders, warning that the bill could spawn negative consequences and damage relations with countries such as Saudi Arabia.

[On Terrorism Bill, Senators Report Silence from White House]

Earnest acknowledged this week that White House officials face an uphill battle and difficult optics in front of an electorate that surely would side with families of 9/11 victims, who support the legislation.

Notably, however, even House Democratic leaders, who typically stick with Obama, sound ready to reject his veto despite sharing some of his concerns.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that there was no political significance to the optics of members voting on the JASTA bill after the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and avoided questions on how she would vote to override the veto.

“This is difficult,” Pelosi said. “I think it’s going to happen.”

Pelosi joined other members in saying that she hasn’t heard from the White House on an expected veto by the president, but that the administration knows what lies ahead.

“The White House has not asked me to do anything on this,” Pelosi said.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, on Wednesday expressed support for the bill but echoed Obama’s concern that it could also open Americans up to litigation in foreign courts.

“I would rather be in our courts than the courts of a lot of other countries,” Becerra said. “Many of us are prepared to vote for it, understanding that the sovereign immunity principle, which could impact us in the future could have some results that we don’t like.”

Rema Rahman, Rachel Oswald and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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For anyone following gun control (or gun safety) as political issue, it would be easy to dismiss 2016 as just another year where a whole lot happened, but nothing changed.

There have been 224 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, including the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the July attack on Dallas police officers. After every major incident, Washington followed the now-familiar script of outrage, calls from Democrats for gun restrictions, denial from Republicans that guns are the problem, and then, as usual, gridlock.

But as Election Day gets closer, an incremental, but important shift has modified gun safety as a usually partisan campaign issue. A handful of Republicans in must-win Senate seats are now running on their willingness to embrace even modest gun reforms, while outside interest groups are crossing the aisle to reward those Republicans for doing it.

The highest profile Republican who may be changing the rules on guns is Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, who is locked in a dead-heat race in Pennsylvania against Katie McGinty. Toomey blazed into the Senate in 2008 as an unapologetic conservative and former president of the Club for Growth with an A rating from the National Rifle Association. So it was striking when he joined Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to sponsor legislation to expand background checks for firearms purchases.

Toomey joined Democrats this year on a similar bill after the San Bernadino shootings and voted over the summer to cross check gun purchases against the terror watch list.

The Washington politics on guns may be complicated for Toomey, but attitudes on the issue at home in Pennsylvania are unambiguous. A PPP poll of the state in August showed 85 percent of all voters in the state in favor of background checks on all gun purchases, including 80 percent of Republicans.

[Gun Control Meets Congressional Dysfunction]

The issue is usually a potent partisan issue for Democrats, who typically portray Republicans as puppets of the gun lobby, but Toomey's decision to sponsor and vote for gun restrictions has made that almost impossible for Katie McGinty, especially after PACs led by Gabby Giffords and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Toomey in recent weeks.

The Bloomberg PAC, Independence USA, is running nearly $750,000 of ads in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he has to perform well to win reelection. An especially powerful ad features the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary's principal, who was killed protecting children at her school.

“Pat Toomey crossed party lines to do the right thing," she says.

[Democrats 'Not Worried' About Punishment for House Sit-In, Hoyer Says]

In an op-ed for CNN, Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly praised both Toomey and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk as principled on the issue that nearly cost her her life when she was shot by a constituent at a town hall meeting.

The endorsement came at a pivotal time for Kirk, who has trailed behind Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth and must have support from cross-over Democrats in the state, which is even more in favor of tougher gun laws than the rest of the country. Kirk has long been on the outs with the NRA. More important for Kirk is Gifford's praise as an independent pragmatist, the brand Kirk has been working to push.

[Gun Compromise Faces Challenges From Right and Left]

In all-important Florida, guns have become a crucial issue in that state's Senate race. Sen. Marco Rubio said the Pulse night club shooting so moved him that he decided to run for another term.

Last week, Eric Garcia reported that Rubio introduced legislation to notify the FBI if the subject of a federal terrorism investigation in the last 10 year tries to buy a gun. Rubio's opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, dismissed the bill as Rubio's effort "paper over" a weak record, but it's astonishing, nonetheless, to see a conservative Republican introduce a gun bill less than two months before Election Day.

In 1994, the assault weapons ban was blamed as the reason dozens of Democrats lost their seats. In 2016, a similar decision by Republicans may be the reason some Republicans keep their jobs. If that's the result, 2016 will end up being the year the politics of guns changed, no matter what legislation ended up passing on Capitol Hill.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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12,000

By Toula Vlahou

How do you define success for colleges? For students, it’s fairly simple: to graduate on time with the skills and talents needed for a job of their choosing, and without unmanageable debt.

Yet for colleges, there seems to be as many definitions of success as there are colleges.

This has led to a crisis where a record number of students never finish college and are left with an unmanageable level of debt that they cannot pay off.

That’s what led us to look at this issue from a student’s perspective. What we found was a system of colleges and universities with no common goal of what defines success.

We have one group of schools consistently “ranked” as some of the best in the country. These schools are highly selective and graduate almost all of their students within four years. With abundant resources, they can tailor education programs to the aspirations of admitted students, most of whom come from wealthy or upper-middle-class backgrounds.

We also have a group of schools that rarely make it onto any college rankings list. With diminished resources, overwhelming percentages of students who attend these schools do not graduate in six years, let alone four. These colleges aren’t able to provide the same opportunities for their students and they serve disproportionate numbers of working-class and middle-income students.

In the months we spent looking into this issue, we found upwards of 100 elite colleges across the country with high graduation rates that serve strikingly small numbers of low-income and first-generation college students — far fewer than are qualified to attend. On the flip side, we also found a near equal number of four-year colleges — public and private schools — with dropout rates in the 80 percent range and higher.

One of the great tragedies in our higher education system is that a significant number of students are racking up student debt but aren’t graduating, leaving them without the degree needed to get a good job to pay off their loans.

We think this is unacceptable. That’s why we teamed up to tackle both ends of the college access and college completion problem so that colleges start meeting students’ definition of success.

We were surprised by how little has been done to address these dual problems. Yet the solutions we found are simple and well within affected schools’ capabilities.

Under our plan, selective, wealthy colleges that do a poor job of recruiting and admitting low-income students would have four years to boost low-income student enrollment or be required to pay a fee to participate in any federal student assistance program. High-access, low-performing colleges would have the option to get up to $2 million a year for four years to improve student outcomes. But if they fail to improve, they’d be cut off.

For schools already making strides to improve completion rates, including minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, additional competitive funding will be available

We know some colleges on both ends of the spectrum don’t believe change is possible. Some selective, wealthy colleges say there aren’t enough low-income students who meet the high academic standards these schools require for admission. But that simply isn’t true.

According to data from the College Board, every year up to 30,000 students who score in the top 10 percent of the SAT either enroll at less selective institutions than their scores would predict or don’t attend college at all.

On the other hand, some colleges with low graduation rates will point to a real lack of resources that keep them from better supporting their students, which we acknowledge is a large contributing factor.

But there also are low-cost, effective ways for schools to graduate more students without lowering academic standards. Just look at Georgia State, which has increased its graduation rate by over 20 percent over the past decade and entirely closed the achievement gap between Pell grant and non-Pell grant students.

Today, college access and completion rates reflect two different visions of success. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By expanding access at resource-rich schools and improving graduation rates at under-resourced colleges, our ASPIRE Act can help make sure all students have a range of high-quality college options. We believe in a higher education system that reflects the fundamental American ideal of equal opportunity for all.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced a major higher education reform bill they’ve been working on for more than a year.

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12,000

Until recently, Nate Silver was every Democrat's favorite polling analyst, a statistical oracle hailed for the preternatural accuracy of his Barack Obama victory projections in 2008 and 2012. But lately, the God-like aura that once surrounded Silver has been replaced by liberal dismay over his soothsaying.

The reason for the fall from grace is that Silver now gives Donald Trump a 40-percent chance of winning in November. The widespread skepticism that the bilious billionaire might be elected prompted an exasperated Silver to recently tweet, "Never seen otherwise-smart people in so much denial as they are about Trump's chances. Same mistake as primaries. Brexit."

Hillary Clinton, speaking to a union audience Wednesday, expressed her own form of incredulity when she asked rhetorically, "Why aren't I 50 points ahead?" Plausible answers range from "You're a badly flawed candidate yourself, Hillary" to "The news media, especially cable TV, can't get over its ratings-mad fixation with Trump."

But even the most euphoric Trump triumphalist would admit that the GOP nominee's realistic route to victory depends on a narrow passage along the electoral map. As an illustration, giving the GOP nominee almost all of the swing states (but not Pennsylvania) and one of Maine's four electoral votes would lead to an Electoral College verdict of Trump 270 and Clinton 268.

Such calculations serve as a reminder than the Electoral College consists of flesh-and-blood electors rather than disembodied numbers on a map. And even if the Republicans prevailed on Nov. 8, a handful of electors could cost Trump the White House.

[Disgruntled Activists May Target Electors]

Samuel Miles — a Quaker from Philadelphia and a brigadier general during the Revolutionary War — was the first faithless elector. In 1796, even though he was pledged to Federalist John Adams, Miles cast one of Pennsylvania's electoral votes for Thomas Jefferson, whom he judged less likely to plunge America into a war with France.

According to research by the advocacy group FairVote, 81 other electors in history have pulled a similar trick. In modern times, faithless electors have been motivated by ideology (votes for Barry Goldwater in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1980) and idiosyncrasy (an Alabama elector opted for home-town circuit court judge Walter Jones in 1956).

Normally, in a close election, party loyalty trumps any attempt by electors to jigger with the outcome. In fact, it is safe to say that there are few places in America where independent judgment is less prized than in the Electoral College.

But 2016 — in case anyone hasn't noticed — is not a normal election. Already, Baoky Vu, a Republican elector in Georgia, has taken himself off the ballot because he could not bring himself to vote for Trump.

And Politico reported in late August that a Texas GOP elector, Chris Suprun, a Dallas paramedic, also had deep reservations about backing Trump.

I spoke briefly by phone on Thursday with Suprun, who was about to participate in an all-day vigil for the first responders who died on 9/11. "The article is a mischaracterization of my statements," he said. "I got into this with all intentions of supporting the nominee of my party."

[Roll Call's 2016 Election Guide: President]

If there is already this much public ferment over the sentiments of Republican electors, it is easy to imagine the potential firestorm if, say, Trump ekes out a hairsbreadth victory on Nov. 8. Republican electors would be monitored hourly for any signs of maverick tendencies up until the moment they cast their paper ballots for president and vice president in their respective state capitals in mid-December.

Nothing that we have learned so far in this campaign suggests that President-elect Trump would be magnanimous and reassuring in the first weeks after the election. Maybe he would start talking idly about dropping a nuclear device on ISIS or suddenly announce that Donald Jr. would make a primo justice of the Supreme Court. It doesn't take much imagination to contemplate a wave of buyer's remorse sweeping through the reasonable wing of the Republic Party.

Also, remember that anti-Trump GOP electors would have choices other than making Clinton president. Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, if no candidate won a majority in the Electoral College, the House would choose the 45th president among the three highest finishers.

Three? Trump, Clinton and who else?

Going back to my original 270-to-268 electoral vote scenario, all it would take is for one Republican elector to write in a name like, well, Paul Ryan. (Yes, I know that you thought all saving President Ryan scenarios ended with no second ballot at the Cleveland convention).

In that case, the choice would rest with the Republican House voting by individual states. (Currently, the GOP controls 33 delegations, the Democrats 14 and 3 states are evenly split). Maybe Trump would still prevail, but I wouldn't rule out the election of a conservative Republican president who actually knows what the nuclear triad is.

For, in the end, Trump isn't just running against Clinton. He is also running against Samuel Miles and the powerful precedent he set in 1796.

Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is a veteran of Politics Daily, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. His book on his con-man great-uncle was just published: "Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer." Follow him on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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12,000

By Toula Vlahou