Only 16 days to go! So what did Hillary Clinton spend the weekend doing?

Hillary Clinton moved to press her advantage in the presidential race on Sunday, urging black voters in North Carolina to vote early as Republicans increasingly conceded that Donald J. Trump is unlikely to recover in the polls....By running up a lead well in advance of the Nov. 8 election in states like North Carolina and Florida, she could make it extraordinarily difficult for Mr. Trump to mount a late comeback.

....Both Mrs. Clinton and key Republican groups have effectively pushed aside Mr. Trump since the final presidential debate on Wednesday, treating him as a defeated candidate and turning their attention to voter turnout and battling for control of Congress. An ABC News tracking poll published on Sunday showed Mr. Trump trailing Mrs. Clinton by 12 percentage points nationally and drawing just 38 percent of the vote.

OK, that sounds like good, sound campaign strategy. How about Donald Trump? Well, he went to Gettysburg, the site of Abraham Lincoln's famous speech about living up to our highest ideals as a nation. Trump was there, supposedly, to provide a vision of his first hundred days in office:

Instead, the Republican nominee used the first third of what had been promoted as a “closing argument” speech to nurse personal grievances, grumbling about “the rigging of this election” and “the dishonest mainstream media,” and threatening to sue the women who have come forward — an 11th woman did on Saturday — to accuse him of aggressive sexual advances.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign — total fabrication,” Mr. Trump said. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.

As always with Trump, his timing and his venue are perfect. Next up: Trump goes to Checkpoint Charlie to complain about NATO allies not paying us enough money.

Jay Nordlinger and I don't agree on much, but I've never held that against him. However, with 17 days left until we go to the polls, I do hold against him the five minutes of my life that I lost from reading Pat Buchanan's latest column. But you know what? If I have to suffer, so do you. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Buchanan's latest defense of Donald Trump:

What explains the hysteria of the establishment? In a word, fear.

....By suggesting he might not accept the results of a “rigged election” Trump is committing an unpardonable sin. But this new cult, this devotion to a new holy trinity of diversity, democracy and equality, is of recent vintage and has shallow roots. For none of the three — diversity, equality, democracy — is to be found in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers or the Pledge of Allegiance.

....Some of us recall another time, when Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in “Points of Rebellion”: “We must realize that today’s Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.” Baby-boomer radicals loved it, raising their fists in defiance of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. But now that it is the populist-nationalist right that is moving beyond the niceties of liberal democracy to save the America they love, elitist enthusiasm for “revolution” seems more constrained.

Nordlinger comments:

Around the world, there are many, many places that lack the “niceties of liberal democracy.” You don’t want to live there. You would quickly discover that the niceties are more like necessities — a rule of law necessary to live a good, decent, and free life.

Is this just garden-variety Buchanan? It's been years since I've read or listened to him. He's always been a bit of a lunatic, but it seems like he's gotten even crazier in his old age.

Here is Hopper doing her best impression of a three-toed sloth. It lasted for about three seconds. Sometimes I wish she had the energy of a sloth. She is one high-maintenance cat.

What's going to happen to the Republican Party after November 8? I've raised the possibility that if Trump loses massively, the party establishment might get serious about marginalizing the tea party caucus in Congress instead of being held endlessly hostage to them. Most of the responses to that suggestion have been skeptical. The more likely possibility is that tea partiers will increase their influence and the GOP will become even crazier and more obstructionist than ever.

That's pretty much what apostate Republican Max Boot thinks:

Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan may hope that after Trump’s inevitable defeat the party will return to their brand of conservatism — in favor of free trade and American leadership abroad, cutting government spending and taxes, a balanced approach to immigration, and making deals where possible with centrist Democrats. But that’s not a safe assumption anymore.

....Perhaps Trump will fade away after the election and the Republican Party will return to its Reaganite roots. But...survey findings suggest a strong possibility that instead the GOP, or at least a substantial portion of it, could continue veering toward the fringe, muttering darkly about how Trump was robbed of his rightful victory. If that is the case, then the Republican Party may not survive the Trump takeover.

I want to make this easy. There's basically only one thing that matters for the GOP: whether they double down on being the white men's party, or whether they take the painful but necessary steps necessary to broaden their appeal. That's it. Everything else pales in comparison.

If they continue on their current course, the presidency is going to get further and further out of reach. Eventually they won't be able to hold on to the Senate or the House either. They've simply run out of ways to increase the white vote and suppress the non-white vote, and the demographics of America just flatly don't support a party that's increasingly loathed by women and minorities.

Lindsey Graham's critique of four years ago is famous: "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." Republicans need to print this on a hat and start wearing it at all times. The Southern Strategy worked great for half a century, but nothing lasts forever. It's time to abandon it.

I have no idea what this is about, but....

A few days ago I mentioned that there were a few people who had attacked Trump and avoided return fire: Michelle Obama, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffett. I guess now we're down to just the last two.

Sam Wang's meta-margin hasn't changed much in the past week. He now has Hillary Clinton leading Trump by 4.4 percentage points:

Wang's current prediction is that Clinton has a 99 percent chance of winning and will rack up 339 electoral votes. He still has the Senate tied, 50-50, but the Democratic meta-margin is up to 1.7 percent and the probability of Democratic control is 79 percent. On the House side, he has Democrats up by about 5 percent, which is not enough for them to win back control. Here's Pollster:

Clinton has dropped a point and is now 7.3 percentage points ahead of Trump. For what it's worth, if you look only at high-quality live phone polls, they have Clinton up by a whopping 9.5 percentage points. In the generic House polling, Pollster has Democrats ahead by 5.2 points, down a bit from last week.

If you add to all this the fact that Clinton almost certainly has a far superior GOTV operation compared to Trump, she could win the election by anywhere from 6 to 10 points depending on what happens over the next couple of weeks. Republicans appear to have resigned themselves to this, and are now putting all their energy into downballot races. This means the Senate is likely to be very close, and the House will probably stay in Republican hands—though only by a dozen seats or so.

With 18 days left in the 2016 campaign, what does Politico have to say about the state of the race? Let's take a look. First, they tell us that Donald Trump is doomed:

In June, POLITICO identified 11 key battleground states — totaling 146 electoral votes — that would effectively decide the presidential election in November. A new examination of polling data and strategic campaign ad buys indicates that six of those 11 are now comfortably in Hillary Clinton’s column....Even if Trump ran the table in the remaining battleground states — Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio — he would fall short of the White House if he cannot flip another state where Clinton currently leads in the polls.

But the WikiLeaks release of John Podesta's emails is causing Hillary Clinton a few problems of her own:

Some of the left’s most influential voices and groups are taking offense at the way they and their causes were discussed behind their backs by Clinton and some of her closest advisers in the emails, which swipe liberal heroes and causes as “puritanical,” “pompous”, “naive”, “radical” and “dumb,” calling some “freaks,” who need to “get a life.”

....Liberal groups and activists are assembling opposition research-style dossiers of the most dismissive comments in the WikiLeaks emails about icons of their movement like Clinton’s Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, and their stances on trade, Wall Street reform, energy and climate change. And some liberal activists are vowing to use the email fodder to oppose Clinton policy proposals or appointments deemed insufficiently progressive.

The left has felt this way about Clinton since the start, so I'm not sure the email leaks really make a lot of difference. In any case, I assume they were always planning to fight for progressive appointments and causes, right? And now they're still planning to do that.

Finally, in other campaign news, you may have heard that the "jokes" at last night's Al Smith dinner were a wee bit rough. But Cardinal Timothy Dolan says it was all smiles in private:

Dolan said the three of them prayed together. “And after the little prayer, Mr. Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, ‘You know, you are one tough and talented woman,’” he recalled. “And he said, ‘This has been a good experience in this whole campaign, as tough as it’s been,’ and she said to him, ‘And Donald, whatever happens, we need to work together afterwards.’ Now I thought: This is the evening at its best.”

Well, he's a man of God, so I suppose he can't be lying about this. Maybe Clinton will appoint Trump Secretary of Homeland Security after it's all over.

Here's the depressingly familiar latest news on California's bullet train:

The California bullet train authority has told its design engineers that the future system would have shorter trains and smaller station platforms, reducing the capacity of individual trains by roughly 50% and potentially the capacity of the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco route.

....The switch to shorter trains was disclosed in a Sept. 7 memo that outlined reductions in the size of future passenger platforms, based on a decision that the high-speed rail system would operate trains of only 10 cars. The previous plan was to operate a “double” train set, which could have up to 20 cars.

I'm too lazy to look this up, but my recollection is that the original financial projections were based on trains running every 15 minutes at 90 percent capacity for 19 hours per day. This was always kind of laughable, but if they cut the size of the trains in half then there's really no controversy anymore. The financial projections have to be cut in half too. Or so you'd think. But the Rail Authority says there's no problem: from LA to San Jose, they'll just run trains every five minutes.

This is ridiculous. If they could really do this, they would have done it from the start since it's a lot cheaper than building gigantic train stations to handle trains 1,400 feet long. So either they're guilty of gross financial negligence in the original plan, or else they're blowing smoke now. Who knows? Maybe it's both.

One other note: I love how these massive changes in the plan get slipped into bland memos that the Rail Authority hopes no one will ever read. In this case, it took the LA Times six weeks to track down the decision, which was made on August 29. I wonder who tipped them off?

Over at Vox, Ezra Klein talks to Molly Ball about what's driving the weirdness of this election. Here's Ball:

You have a world that feels like it’s on fire with terrorism and conflict abroad. You still have a very high number of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track. And people are still really fearful. The level of fear in the electorate — fear of terrorism, fear of crime — is at a 15-year high. People have not been this afraid since just after 9/11. And it’s gone up 20 points in the last year and a half.

Here's a chart from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that backs this up:

On the other hand, if we go back to Vox, we also get this:

Fear of terrorism is a poor third to corrupt government, and can't even beat out fear of clowns. I cut off the chart at the top seven, but even if you look at the whole thing, crime doesn't make the list at all.

So...I'm not sure that fear really explains a lot about this election. There's always something out there that makes us afraid, and God knows, Donald Trump has done his best to gin up mountains of fear this year—why else would lots of people be afraid of corrupt government, economic collapse, and gun rights infringement? But is fear in general a lot higher than in previous elections? I'm doubtful. It's sort of like the "anger" we hear about so often, but which doesn't actually seem to be any different than previous election cycles.

Maybe some political science boffin can take a deep look at the evidence and let us know. Is fear really higher this year than in previous presidential elections?

Here are a couple of interesting data points from On the left, you can see where Hillary Clinton is picking up votes compared to Barack Obama in 2012. Not from blue states or swing states, which are polling about the same as they did in the last election, but in red states. She's picked up a whopping 8.4 points from folks in red states who would presumably vote Republican in normal times, but just can't stomach Donald Trump.

On the right, you can see the cumulative total winning margin in CNN's post-debate instant polls since 1992. Clinton posted the best record of any candidate ever. Alternatively, you could say that Donald Trump posted the worst record of any candidate ever. It's not clear which is the more appropriate description, but even if you think Trump's meltdowns were the decisive turning points, Clinton employed a brilliant strategy for baiting Trump into losing his shit in front of a hundred million viewers. Either way, Hillary Clinton is one of the greatest presidential debaters of recent history.