Five weeks to Election Day

On the road in Richmond, Virginia -

As we wait for tonight's debate between the Democratic and Republican Party candidates for Vice President, it's a good time to take another snapshot of the 2016 race for the White House, with just five weeks to go until Election Day.

1. Debates do matter. Eight days ago, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had their first debate face off at Hofstra University in New York. Trump repeatedly proclaimed victory, but the polling in recent days shows something different, as there was most definitely a bump for Clinton. The unknown is whether that bump will just wear off, or whether Trump can turn things around with a better debate performance next Sunday night in St. Louis, Missouri. The first debate drew 84 million viewers. Americans are paying attention, and tonight the VP candidates will get their turn in the spotlight. Here are the latest polls since the first debate:

2. Trump still has a chance. Just because Hillary Clinton got a bump in the polls from last week doesn't mean this race is over. Five weeks is an eternity. Just think of all the different stories that we went through in the last week, from the debate, to who won, to Trump's taxes and more. Clinton has rarely shown the ability to put away an opponent when she has had the opportunity, and one would think another Trump surge is a distinct possibility. There are 35 news cycles left, and each one of them is very important, including the VP debate.

3. More GOP attacks on press. It seemed like Monday marked a step up in the level of attacks by Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the news media, and I would look for more of that in the days ahead. Bashing the press has always been a good way to rally the troops for Republicans, a natural piece of raw meat to throw at supporters, as not many have any sort of soft spot for bleeding-heart-bedwetting-reporters. At Pence's rally in Ashland, Virginia on Monday night, reporters sat quietly while hundreds of Trump supporters hooted at Pence's media barbs.

4. Hurricane Matthew. While the 2016 campaign has dominated the news for months, there are some ways where it could get bounced off the front pages, and one of those chances is churning its way through the Caribbean at this moment. If Hurricane Matthew decides to make landfall in Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas, that could mean several days where the candidates don't have the natural news spotlight. If Matthew makes a U.S. landfall, where it happens is also a big deal. The story is even bigger if it is in Miami, Jacksonville, Savannah or Charleston. It could also make it tricky for campaign stops in Florida and North Carolina over the next week.

5.Beware of fake voter fraud stories. I wrote about this on my Facebook page the other day and it made a lot of people aggravated - but I find that I spend more and more time in recent years batting down stories about politics that just aren't true. If you read a story that says thousands of pre-filled ballots have been found, you should be skeptical. Often these "stories" have no hard facts, but the headlines provoke outrage. People tell me that in 2012 there were precincts with more than 100% turnout - but when I check out the real results, that's not the case. Yes, there were precincts where Mitt Romney got zero votes, and there were precincts where Barack Obama got zero votes. Remember - just because you don't like the outcome doesn't mean that voter fraud is responsible for it.

6. Covering elections is a real treat. I'm typing this while sitting on a bench just a stone's throw away from the Virginia State Capitol building. It is an awesome feeling to be able to go around the country and take the temperature of American voters. Just five weeks to Election Day.

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