Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 12

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

Joe Henderson: Donald Trump was right about Marco Rubio

I can’t believe I am saying this, but Donald Trump was right – at least about Marco Rubio. He is “Little Marco.” He is terrified in the face of potential retaliation from Trump’s legion of loon if he publicly abandons the Republican nominee for president.

In a statement released Tuesday, Rubio continued trying to have it both ways.

“I have consistently rejected his offensive rhetoric and behavior. I disagree with him on many things, but I disagree with his opponent on virtually everything,” he said. “I wish we had better choices for president. But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next president. And, therefore, my position has not changed.”

That’s not exactly a chapter from “Profiles in Courage.”

And what if Trump somehow wins the presidency and starts making good on his threats to run his administration like a third-world dictator? Will Rubio stand up and call the insanity for what it is?

Or will he obediently abandon principles of common decency I believe he has and go along with attempted mass deportations, military threats, suspension of civil rights, and all the other stuff Trump has promised on the campaign trail?

I keep hearing from Rubio supporters that he is the new face of Republican conservatism, that he is a dynamic visionary, possessing a once-in-a-generation mind that can lead America out of the morass.

I hear it. But I also see how he melted in the primary campaign heat. I see statements like the one Rubio just made.

It doesn’t jibe.

Rubio doesn’t even appear to want the job he is now campaigning for, at least not much. While running to keep a vital swing-state Senate seat from Democratic hands makes political sense, it does nothing to affect the lives of average Floridians.

But, OK, this isn’t the only state where that is happening. That’s partisan party politics and both sides play that game. Rubio’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, is deeply flawed too.

Is there an actual leader on the Senate ballot?


If Rubio’s aim is to run again for president in four years, playing along with this game of charades with Donald Trump is not the way to go. If Trump, as expected, gets thumped at the polls, he might take Rubio and other Republicans down with him anyway.

As a face of opposition, Rubio would at least have a solid base of “I told you so” to rebuild his career. That’s better than the fate that awaits those who stood with Trump. They will wear that scarlet “T” for the rest of their political lives.

Rubio could have followed the lead of Arizona Sen. John McCain and said he just can’t vote for Trump. He could have followed the course of action when confronted by a bully like this: Take two hands and shove the bully, hard, in his chest.

Given his oratorical skill, Rubio could have become the face of commonsense Republican opposition to the inmate running their asylum. The kind of insanity we’re seeing now won’t last.

But supporting Trump? Little does Marco seem to know, but that lasts forever.

Joe Henderson: 5 post-debate points to ponder

The unmoving needle: It generally is conceded Donald Trump’s fervent base will be ecstatic with his performance., for instance, declared in a giant headline on its home page — Clinton Crash: Trump dominates. It highlighted a quote from Rudy Giuliani declaring, “Biggest knockout I’ve seen in a presidential debate.”

Breitbart ran one of those quick-click polls asking “Which debate moderator was more shameful?” When I checked Monday morning, there were 50,744 votes. Martha Raddatz, if you’re curious, was the runaway “winner.”

But Brietbart and, I’ll wager, the people who favor that site aren’t the ones who needed to be convinced about Trump. By repeating the same stuff he has been saying for weeks on the campaign trail, what did we really learn about Trump — or Hillary Clinton, for that matter? Well, Trump did say he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s alleged misdeeds. The base loved that, I am sure.

Clinton, though, seemed prepared for this flurry of punches from an opponent trailing badly on points in the late rounds. If there is a bombshell out there about Clinton that could mitigate some of the nuclear fallout from his widely reported vulgar comments over the weekend, Trump probably should consider rolling it out very, very soon.

The real takeaway from Sunday night is that Clinton got one day closer to being elected president.

Numbers don’t lie: NBC ran a collage Monday morning of high-level Republican lawmakers and party leaders who rebuked or abandoned the party’s nominee after those remarks. It was a striking image that was overwhelmingly white and male. Of the 76 headshots on the screen, I counted two people of color and 12 women. The rest were white males.

That has been the GOP’s problem all along, especially with a flame-throwing, race-baiting candidate like Trump. Sure, those Republicans — especially those on the November ballot — are condemning Trump. That’s because they understand the electorate is large, diversified, and can translate the code words coming from Trump’s base about immigration and crime.

If Republicans don’t understand that after the beating it looks like they’re about to take in November, they never will. They love to talk about the “base” of each party. The GOP’s core ideal is lower taxes, less regulation, and smaller government. That message has been obliterated in a waterfall of hate, misogyny, and lies.

We’re not electing a debater-in-chief: Debates are important and it can be rationally argued that Sunday was a draw. Trump played the only card he could, essentially turning the evening into a misdirection play to obscure his own real problems related to the now-infamous audio tape he dismisses as “locker room talk.”

For what it’s worth, I have been in a lot of locker rooms and they can be places where the faint of heart should not tread. But I also remember a high school coach from my small Ohio town who would have had his players running until their tongues dropped if he heard the kind of chatter that has landed Trump in trouble.

Back on point though, as a nation (and media), we are obsessed with “winners” and “losers” in settings like this. It generally was conceded that Clinton “won” the first debate. The bounce seemed to help her in the polls.

It still should be more about policy, though, and less about debate skills. One of these two persons is going to be president of the United States. When that day comes, we won’t care about how they did in the debates.

Oh dear! They don’t like each other: Much was made about that the candidates didn’t shake hands after being introduced. It set Twitter afire. The honor of the best tweet in my highly unofficial survey (based solely on my reaction) goes to POLITICO Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen: “No handshake! … Overheard: “Even Ali and Frazier touched gloves” #FightNight.

They did shake hands briefly afterward, but put it this way: The moment was about as warm as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick after losing to Rex Ryan.

One final question to ponder: After all this, do we really need the third and (yes!) final debate on Oct. 19? I suppose if there is a big news story between now and then that one candidate or the other has to address (WikiLeaks maybe?), it could be intriguing to see what happens on the stage.

The format will be the same as the first debate. At this point though, Trump looks to be trailing by two touchdowns, out of timeouts, and Clinton has the ball. Absentee and mail ballots have already been distributed in many states, so millions of Americans may already have voted by the time the two candidates meet again.

Oh well. The pundits need something to do, I guess.

Joe Henderson: GOP is distancing from Donald Trump. Except David Jolly; he was already there.

Many Republicans have distanced themselves from Donald Trump after crude sexual remarks about women he made surfaced on tape Friday, but stopped short of saying they won’t vote for him in November.

David Jolly is not one of those. His anti-Trump chops can no longer be debated. He is all-in on being all-out on Trump.

Jolly, trailing Democrat Charlie Crist in the race to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District, flatly stated Trump’s banter in a decade-old tape is the last straw.

“A man who brags about sexual assault isn’t qualified to be president of the United States,” the Tampa Bay Times reported through a spokeswoman Saturday.

Jolly also told the Times/Herald, “I’m not voting for him.”

Jolly’s support for Trump always has been tepid at best. During the primary, his opponent, retired U.S. Marines Gen. Mark Bircher, stated the Republican Party should support him if Jolly refused to endorse Trump.

Jolly easily won the primary.

Last month, though, his support of Trump was still an issue. In an interview with Sunshine State News, Jolly said, “If the election were today, I would not support Donald Trump. I don’t know where I’ll be in November, but I don’t see a pathway to support Donald Trump.”

If there was a pathway then, it no longer exists.

Of course, it should be noted that politically this likely is Jolly’s best and only option. According to a recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll, he is trailing Crist 50-39 percent. Other polls have the race much closer.

Jolly is banking on his image as someone willing to buck the Republican establishment to win him votes in a new district that seems to favor a Democratic candidate. Most notably, he filed a bill aimed at party bosses who require their members of Congress to spend up to four hours daily on fundraising.

That didn’t make him popular in top GOP circles, and the party responded with crickets when Jolly abandoned a planned run for the U.S. Senate and announced he would try to keep his seat in the U.S. House.

It didn’t help that Beverly Young, widow of Republican icon C.W. Bill Young — the man Jolly succeeded — said she would vote for Crist. On her Facebook page, she said, Bill would be totally disgusted and ashamed of how (Jolly) has handled his district of 50 years.”

There is a lot of disgust going around in politics these days, and it was coming in waves since the Trump revelations. Whether that makes any difference in Jolly’s bid to stay in office remains to be seen. But after tap-dancing up to the edge with Donald Trump, there is no ambiguity now where Jolly stands.


Joe Henderson: Republicans wonder how quickly they can get as far away from Donald Trump

If Republicans were honest, many would admit they have been looking for the right chance to bail on Donald Trump without looking disloyal to the party.

He just gave it to them after the Washington Post reported Friday about a crude, vulgar conversation he had a decade ago. This isn’t just a chance to run away, run away, run away though. It’s essentially a requirement for anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a politician or human being.

So quite properly, condemnation is coming at Trump from A-list Republicans. I certainly would hope so.

Someone who wants to be president of the United States should be held to the highest standard – or at least higher than that of the average middle-school locker room. The chit-chat Trump had about grabbing women’s privates and all the other unmentionables he mentioned may have happened years ago, but given his history can we say for sure the same thing hasn’t been going on regularly since then?

Women are offended and even horrified. Florida state senate candidate Dana Young, who is one bright, tough lady, said of Trump, “As a woman and the mother of two teenage daughters, I find Mr. Trump’s comments disgusting, as does every other woman in this country.”

Those are good words. They also are smart words. Any Republican in a potentially close race, which Young is, needs to keep as much distance as possible from the toxic waste at the top of the GOP ticket.

Marco Rubio, who is leading his U.S. Senate race against Democrat Patrick Murphy, moved quickly to create space between himself and Trump, saying on Twitter, “Donald’s comments were vulgar, egregious & impossible to justify. No one should ever talk about any woman in those terms, even in private.”

Gov. Rick Scott, who may have ambitions for the U.S. Senate after his term ends in 2018, told the Naples Daily News in a statement, “I’m not following politics closely right now, but this is terrible. I don’t agree with anyone talking like this about anyone, ever,”

Even Mike Pence, Trump’s vice presidential running mate, is looking for cover. He canceled a rally Saturday in Wisconsin and issued a statement that said in part, “I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”

Men everywhere should be just as offended as women. There are millions of men who reject things like sexual harassment and adultery.

Oh yes.

On the tape, Trump was talking about trying to have sex with a woman he knew was married. He carried on openly with Marla Maples while married to his first of three wives. The tape about hitting on a married woman was recorded just a few months after he married Melania, his current wife.

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a fine and moral man, said in a statement: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

If a man still stands with Trump after this, he risks guilt by association. Straw-graspers will bring up former President Bill Clinton’s reprehensible behavior while in the White House, but Bill Clinton isn’t on the ticket.

If a Republican still stands with Trump, he or she risks unrecoverable political damage. Forget the presidency. Hillary Clinton can start measuring the White House for new drapes. The bigger issue now is that polluted goo could swamp down-ballot GOP candidates across the land, tipping control of the Senate and perhaps even the House.

Even worse is what this says about this fraud whose campaign for the presidency has risen on the winds of insults and ignorance. Didn’t we always suspect something like this tape was out there, waiting to be unleashed for maximum political damage?

Now that it has been released, all we can wonder is how Donald Trump ever got this far to begin with. And his fellow Republicans wonder how quickly they can get as far away from him as possible.

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott again passes the ‘hurricane test’

It seemed like Gov. Rick Scott was everywhere in the days and hours leading up to the impact on our state by Hurricane Matthew. His face was on nearly every news show, local and national, warning the people of Florida “this storm will kill you.”

He pleaded, “If instructed to evacuate, don’t wait. You can always repair and rebuild— and we’ll be here to help you do that. The most important thing you can do is keep you and your family safe.”

I saw him Friday morning on the “Today” show, telling the hosts the goal is to avoid the loss of even one life from this storm. His Twitter account was active throughout the night, blasting out updates on the approaching storm.

He mobilized the National Guard. Tolls were suspended on roadways leading away from the storm. He worked with President Obama and FEMA to ensure a rapid response in the aftermath of the storm. He passed out praise to local officials and law enforcement for the roles they played. He even thanked the media for making sure people stayed informed.

There may be some problems later — it seems like there always are in the aftermath of major disasters — but even his critics would have to admit that Scott has been the strong leader a governor should be in this time of crisis.

We tend to reduce everything to politics when it comes to our highest officials, and maybe some will try to do that later. This isn’t about whether you agree or not with Scott’s policies. This is a time where the people of Florida stand as one and look to the governor to take charge.

Scott has passed that test.

Scott can look wooden and stiff on the campaign trail. He is not the most gifted public speaker (although he has gotten better). But people who know him best say that behind that exterior is a caring man, and that trait has shown through strongly in recent days.

Scott moved quickly once it became all but certain that Matthew was going to deliver a gut punch to the east coast. People can’t say they weren’t warned. He worked with emergency officials to coordinate the best response possible to the unprecedented event of a major hurricane raking up the coastline.

People apparently listened, too. News reports Friday morning told of empty roadways in the affected areas. While some people hunkered down (and that’s always going to happen), Scott said about 20,000 had moved to shelters and thousands more either fled to the west coast or filled up hotel rooms.

The next challenge will come after the storm moves out and people begin to assess the damage left behind. Although early reports say a slight shift to the east may have saved some places from catastrophic damage, it’s too early to say what the final toll will be.

Scott said the state is already working with federal and local agencies to assist those who need it most.

There will be plenty of time later for politics, and plenty of time to second-guess the governor’s policies and ambitions. But as this hurricane approached, the people of Florida weren’t looking for a politician. They were looking for a leader.

Scott stepped up.

Hillsborough schools cancel classes to be shelters for Matthew evacuees

Although Hurricane Matthew is not projected to strike Hillsborough County, public school classes are canceled for Friday so multiple buildings can be used to shelter evacuees from other areas.

Designated evacuation centers include Brandon, Strawberry Crest, and Riverview high schools; along with Summerfield Crossing Elementary in Riverview; Pizzo Elementary near the University of South Florida, Burnett Middle School in Seffner; and Tomlin Middle School in Plant City.

Their schools’ inland location combined with interstate proximity was a factor in that choice.

“Most of the schools are right along Interstate 75,” School Board Chairwoman April Griffin said. “They can be used by people leaving from Miami, or people from the southern part of the state along the Gulf Coast.”

Tomlin and Burnett are located just off Interstate 4.

The schools will open at 5 p.m. Thursday with a total capacity of 8,142. Burnett is the only pet-friendly school.

An additional 40 schools could be opened as shelters if needed.

Hillsborough is expected to receive tropical storm-force winds, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

Joe Henderson: Tim Kaine, Mike Pence clash in downcard, ‘diluted’ debate

About halfway through the vice presidential debate Tuesday, I wonder how many Republicans were secretly (or maybe not so secretly) wishing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was at the top of their presidential ticket.

On my scorecard, Pence was the clear winner over Democrat Tim Kaine — not on policy so much, as I doubt the debate changed many minds on the major issues that divide us all. But Pence was polished, poised, and focused most of the time and — dare I say it — looked presidential.

Kaine? Not so much. He was so loud, rude and frenetic that I almost wondered he hadn’t looked at Howard Dean’s epic meltdown after he was routed in the 2004 Iowa caucuses and thought, “Hey, that looks like a good plan.”

Yo Tim? One word: decaf.

But let’s be honest: I doubt any of this will really matter much for this election. I can’t imagine any undecided voter looked at Pence or Kaine and made up their mind based on that 90-minute exchange.

Let’s put it another way: Last week’s Clinton-Trump debate drew comparisons to the Super Bowl. By that reckoning, Pence-Kaine would be along the lines of a late-season Bucs and Cleveland Browns game.

I doubt it had any impact in Florida, especially since I wouldn’t be surprised if folks all along the east coast of the state were more focused on hurricane preparations than a face-off between the No. 2 people on the presidential ticket. It’s likely the audience was further diluted by the baseball playoff game between Baltimore and Toronto.

Full disclosure: During one of the many times Kaine was going full-Dean and interrupting Pence (who didn’t get flustered; respect for that), I switched over briefly to catch a score on the game. Being dutiful, though, I quickly switched back.

Kaine was still yelling.

The person I felt sorriest for, besides the viewers, of course, was moderator Elaine Quijano, a CBS News correspondent. She lost control of the debate shortly after the introductions and never got it back. The candidates ignored her most of the night and just kept on talking over each other.

One of the more humorous twists came when the Republican National Committee released a prepared statement declaring Pence the clear winner. What’s the big deal?

Someone took “rapid response” to warp speed by sending the statement out 90 minutes before the debate started, even declaring Pence’s top moments included comments about the economy and Hillary Clinton’s scandals.

Oh well.

The night needed a little levity anyway as we wait for Sunday and Round II of Clinton-Trump.

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough rideshare decision could rest with ‘problem solver’ Ken Hagan

Ken Hagan has been elected five times to the Hillsborough County Commission. That ought to say something about the way voters feel he takes care of both his and the public’s business.

Headlines tend to find him because he always seems to be involved in something important, but I wouldn’t say he seeks out publicity. Not at all. He tends to fly at treetop level, quietly working to get things done.

And as Peter Schorsch of this great website just noted, Hagan now potentially finds himself as the key vote to moving ahead, finally, with an agreement that could end the standoff between the Public Transportation Commission and ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

Here’s what I know about Hagan: He is a pragmatist who solves problems. He doesn’t get ruffled. He is sharp, well-informed, and not afraid to swim against the tide.

As a member of the PTC, Hagan now finds himself in the position for which he is well-suited — that of being a voice of reason. The PTC, as you probably know, has tried (and largely failed) to bring Uber and Lyft under the same umbrella as taxi and limo companies, mostly on the issue of background checks and the rates its drivers should charge.

That has ignored a fundamental truth — Uber and Lyft have as much in common with taxi companies as a plow horse has with a Kentucky Derby winner. Sure, you can ride both of them, but that’s where the comparison ends.

Since consumers just like the ride-sharing companies better, Uber and Lyft have leveraged that into a considerable lead in the battle for public opinion approval. People, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, are openly calling for the PTC to be disbanded. Critics call it archaic.

It’s a perfect situation for someone like Hagan to take the lead in reaching a settlement that makes at least most of the people happy.

I should admit I haven’t always agreed with Hagan. He took the lead on offering public subsidies to Bass Pro Shops in exchange for the company putting a store in Brandon. I thought then, and still think now, that it undercut mom-and-pop stores that specialized in outdoor and fishing gear.

After all, if it makes financial sense to open a business in a certain location — and judging by the traffic I regularly see at Bass Pro in Brandon, it certainly did — then why offer public incentives?

I will agree, though, that Hagan honestly saw it as the only way to attract a business he felt was beneficial for the area.

And I also will admit that I am glad to see Hagan involved in stadium talks with the Tampa Bay Rays in Hillsborough. I think his pragmatic approach will be in evidence there, too. If they ever reach a deal, it won’t look anything like the giveaway the county reached 20 years ago with the Bucs to build Raymond James Stadium.

First things first, though. Getting a deal done with Uber and Lyft is important for the county. Having it potentially in Hagan’s hands is not a bad thing.

Joe Henderson: Issue 1 in 2018 Gov’s race, fixing Florida’s environment

I think we have one of our first major campaign issues for the 2018 race to succeed Rick Scott as Florida’s governor. Any serious candidate who doesn’t come out strongly in favor of seriously beefing up the state Department of Environmental Protection will miss a great opportunity.

In just the last couple of months alone, an understaffed and likely overwhelmed DEP has had to deal with the algae bloom that threatened to trash summer tourism in Stuart and surrounding areas.

Recriminations are still flying back and forth in the sewage overflow in St. Petersburg and the surrounding area in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine. DEP was called in to investigate.

There is the ongoing disaster in Polk County, where hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water is falling through a massive sinkhole and mixing with the aquifer that provides drinking water for the state.

And let’s not forget that millions of honeybees died in South Florida after being sprayed with a pesticide that was supposed to attack Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

Environmental Cassandras have warned for a while now to expect a season like this. They point to Scott’s obsession at creating private-sector jobs as a big part of the problem. Strict environmental standards can be bad for business because they can increase costs. Since Scott took office in 2011, critics continually argue his business-friendly policies led to lax environmental oversight.

The irony, of course, is that the environmental problems this year are demonstrably bad for the state’s business. We can’t do anything to stop a hurricane, but the algae bloom is said to be a direct result of chemical runoff into Lake Okeechobee. referred to it as a “guacamole-like blue-green sludge” that had the added impact of smelling really bad. That message went out all over the country.

Scott declared a state of emergency, although a better course might have been to keep tougher regulations so the bloom wouldn’t occur to begin with.

And the building disaster in Polk County has the potential to haunt Floridians for years. Scott visited the sinkhole site this week and ordered some tough new policies to inform the public when these things happen. Nice. But it also has the effect of closing the barn door a bit late after the gypsum stack created by phosphate giant Mosaic started sinking into our water supply.

Environmentalists have long been at odds with Mosaic’s practices. The Tampa Bay Rays baseball team found that out in 2010 when it reached a tentative deal to sell naming rights to its spring training complex in Port Charlotte to the company.

The deal fell apart after vocal and widespread opposition because critics said a plan by Mosaic to mine along the Peace River could have had disastrous effects on Charlotte Harbor.

When the company tried to point to the money Charlotte County would make in the naming deal, the Sarasota Herald Tribune quoted Adam Cummings saying, “I will not take their 30 pieces of silver or step foot in any stadium under the name Mosaic.”

Floridians care deeply about their environment. They vote consistently in large numbers to protect it. Those good intentions have often been trampled in Tallahassee, though, in the name of commerce and expansion.

With two years left in Scott’s term, potential candidates are preparing bids to succeed him. A good way to start might be with a pledge to get serious about protecting the fragile environment of this state we love. And whoever wins should prove they mean it.

Joe Henderson: Donald Trump’s curious debate strategy — ‘he blew it’

During Monday’s presidential debate, I kept waiting for a moment that never came.

Donald Trump had 100 million sets of eyeballs focused on him. What better time to prove he is not, as Hillary Clinton paints him, a racist, sexist, selfish jerk from an alternate universe.

Trump was combative, but that’s who he is. Clinton was throwing haymakers too. We expected that.

But after all the provocative and divisive things Trump has said on the campaign trail, he had a chance to broaden his support across multiple groups.

So what did he do?

He went all in on the controversial (and unconstitutional) practice of allowing police to stop and frisk anyone they deem suspicious. The practice was unpopular with 67 percent of blacks in New York, where it gained notoriety because the vast majority of individuals stopped were African-American or Hispanic; nearly nine in 10 of them were found to be carrying nothing suspicious.

He also continued his self-congratulations on pushing the fairy tale that President Barack Obama was born outside the United States, noting, “I got him to give the birth certificate.”

Never mind that no other president ever faced such a ridiculous claim, and that it looked downright racist considering Obama is the first black chief executive.

Given all that, Trump may have pulled off the impossible. He may actually have lost ground with black voters. But he wasn’t done.

He not only repeated his oft-debunked claim that he opposed the Iraq invasion, he doubled-down on it in a mini-spat with moderator Lester Holt, who calmly replied, “The facts show otherwise.”

He gave Clinton a ready-made attack ad when she attacked him on rooting for the housing crash in 2008 because he could profit from homeowners who were evicted. I can only imagine how his handlers must have cringed when he quipped, “It’s business.”

And Trump wasted an opportunity after he unleashed a zinger on Clinton, who was blasting him over declining to release his tax returns. Trump shot back that he would do that when Clinton releases the approximately 33,000 emails deleted off her private server.

Well played, sir.

She deflected the punch though, and pushed on with an attack about Trump not paying federal income taxes in some years. It was an exaggerated claim, as PolitiFact reported, and dates back to 1978 and ’79. Trump could have easily let that go and focused back on the emails.

Nope. Didn’t do it.

“That makes me smart,” Trump interjected.

Clinton pounced.

“So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health,” she said. “And I think probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide.”

Trump then made it worse by saying, “You don’t learn much in a tax return.”

Yes, you do. That’s why presidential candidates release them.

Most of the post-debate scorekeepers gave the debate to Clinton, but that’s hard to measure. If you liked Trump’s cowboy candidacy all along, you probably saw nothing Monday that changed your mind. If you don’t like Clinton, you still don’t.

For me, though, the debate wasn’t about reinforcing each candidate’s base of support. Trump needed to cut into Clinton’s lead with women, blacks and Hispanics — three groups he desperately needs. If he could cut into Clinton’s overwhelming support there, he could win this race.

He had his chance Monday night.

He blew it.

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