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What did Trump mean by that? Surrogates struggle to explain

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence says Donald

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence says Donald Trump has been "absolutely consistent" on his immigration policy. Pence is seen speaking Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016 at Worth and Company in Pipersville, Pa. Photo Credit: TNS / Steven M. Falk

Stumped by Trumpsplaining

Flip-flops, by comparison, are easier to follow. Donald Trump’s recent and rapid oscillations on immigration have left parts of his policy plans a blur, confounding foes and fans alike. His surrogates are still struggling to explain.

On the Sunday talk shows, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and running mate Mike Pence couldn’t say whether Trump was sticking by a central vow — to boot all of the roughly 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, and how.

Trump last week spoke of a “softening” — but said it also could be a “hardening.” Conway said Trump hasn’t mentioned “a deportation force ... since last November” and he is concerned about “being fair and humane.”

Pence wouldn’t answer whether Trump still wants all to leave, but said he has been “absolutely consistent.” The questions, and the confusion, go on and on. Trump is now promising a “major speech” on the issue Wednesday in Arizona.

Another tweet cleanup

Trump stood accused again of insensitivity after a tragedy when he tweeted the following over the shooting death in Chicago of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin: “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

Conway focused on a tweet he sent hours later expressing condolences to the family. Pence said Trump “has a plain-spoken way about him.”

Meanwhile, Trump is due before an African-American church audience on Saturday.

Swing voters have got issues

The battle between Trump and Hillary Clinton is not a popularity contest — both candidates are highly unpopular.

And that, writes Newsday’s Michael Gormley, means wedge issues such as race, abortion, gun control and climate change will take on an elevated importance in swaying swing voters’ decisions.

“In this election, policy appeal may ultimately be more persuasive than personal appeal,” said Meena Bose of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University.

The take-away: Old friends

Newsday’s Dan Janison notes that Trump and the Clintons used to be more popular with each other.

There was a cordial relationship for years, overlapping the time span that Trump and Hillary Clinton are now mining for charges against each other of racism, lunacy, deceit and incompetence.

Trump-proofing the moderators

The Commission on Presidential Debates should have chosen the moderators by now. But the panel is waiting until after Labor Day.

CNN has reported the delay is caused in part out of caution to avoid giving an opening for attacks to Trump, who frequently criticized moderators and formats during the GOP primaries.

“Everything that Trump’s been doing has been about blowing up the process,” said Paul Levinson, a Fordham University communications professor. Read Yancey Roy’s story for Newsday.

Debate prep: Two approaches

The Washington Post talked to insiders on how the two candidates have begun preparing for the debates. The answer is pretty much what you’d expect by now.

Clinton is taking a lawyerly approach, poring over briefing books on policy details and opposition research, and rehearsing over and over again to fine-tune her presentation. Longtime policy adviser Jake Sullivan helps run the sessions.

Trump’s advisers include Rudy Giuliani, talk-radio host Laura Ingraham and ousted Fox News boss Roger Ailes. He isn’t spending much time with briefing books and is doubtful that a performer with his talents needs to hold mock debates.

What else is happening:

  • A Clinton fundraiser in Bridgehampton Sunday raised more than $3.3 million, according to a Politico reporter.
  • Trump tweeted that he will release detailed medical records if Clinton does. His supporters have been pushing unsubstantiated rumors about her health. Trump has released nothing but a short letter from a doctor.
  • GOP national chairman Reince Priebus praised Conway but ducked questions about Trump’s choice of Stephan Bannon as campaign CEO. “I go with the flow based on what the campaign wants to do,” Priebus told NBC’s Meet the Press.
  • Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, a philanthropist who donated to the Clinton Foundation, was denied a U.S. visa last year over suspicions of ties to terrorism, which his lawyer denies, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • The House looks more precarious for Republicans as Democrats see suburban opporunities in the Trump candidacy, the Times reports.
  • Trump trails badly among Catholic voters, by more than 20 points, in recent polls, The Washington Post reported.
  • Democratic National Committee Interim Chair Donna Brazile brushed off revelations about foundation contributors who sought meetings with Clinton as secretary of state, saying that it is “normal” for supporters or donors to request access to government officials.
  • Gary Johnson says it's "game over" for winning the White House via the Libertarian line if he doesn't make the debates.
  • College Republican groups across the country have faced angry divisions in their ranks over whether to support Trump or withhold their backing, Politico finds.
  • Three months after Harambe, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, was shot to save a child who fell into his enclosure, Green Party nominee Jill Stein is calling for expanded legal protections for animals. The killing “reminds us to be a voice for the voiceless,” she wrote.
  • Hugh Rodham, Clinton's late father, was the kind of small businessman Trump would have stiffed, the Democratic candidate has suggested.
  • A Maryland man raised $1 million in a "Dinner with Trump" offer. Problem is, he has no affiliation with Trump or the campaign, according to a Politico story.

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