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Donald Trump: a one-act play?

 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There's one glaring question that Donald Trump can't answer yet: How will he turn his platform into a springboard?

At this point, there can be no doubt that Trump has a broader and deeper base of backers within the Republican Party than any of his rivals. He's led in every national poll for almost a month and extended his advantage to the point where he's often doubling the support of his nearest competitor. And yet Trump has been unable to get higher than 26 percent. That why, if he wants to break through and try to win the Republican nomination, he'll have to find a springboard.

Real Clear Politics polling August 10

The last time Trump trailed in a major national poll was July 12.

Real Clear Politics

That was evident to Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser and hardball political consultant who abruptly left the campaign this weekend amid an I-quit/I-fired-him spat. Bob Costa and Phil Rucker of the Washington Post report that Trump "wanted to turn the summer fling that had catapulted him to the front of the Republican pack into a candidacy capable of winning the White House. Stone wrote Trump a memo last week suggesting that he turn from petty fights to broad themes contrasting his success in the business with the careers of the veteran politicians he's running against," Costa and Rucker write.

Trump didn't listen, and that led to a falling-out with Stone. Trump announced Sunday that he'd fired Stone. Stone's allies told Politico that Stone already had quit, citing a resignation note he sent to Trump.

Unfortunately, the current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message. With this current direction of the candidacy, I no longer can remain involved in your campaign.

Trump's barrage of attacks against Fox host Megyn Kelly over her demeanor at last Thursday's Republican presidential primary debate prompted RedState.com Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson to disinvite Trump from the conservative website's conference in Atlanta this weekend. If leading lights in the conservative movement turn their backs on Trump, it's hard to see how he'll crash through his current ceiling of support.

He needs another act. But Stone — famous for saying politics is "performance art, sometimes for its own sake" — left because it's nowhere in the offing.

Here are 9 more things to know today.

1) Suspect in Ferguson shootout was "real close" to Michael Brown

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on an exchange of gunfire on a day of mostly somber demonstration commemorating the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's shooting death at the hands of a police officer:

A peaceful day of protest and remembrance dissolved into chaos late Sunday when a man fired multiple shots at four St. Louis County plainclothes detectives in an SUV. The detectives fired back and the shooter was struck, said county Police Chief Jon Belmar. He was in critical condition.

Tyrone Harris identified the victim as his son, Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, of St. Louis. Harris said shortly after 3 a.m. that his son had just gotten out of surgery.

He said his son graduated from Normandy High School and that he and Michael Brown Jr. "were real close."

The Associated Press has more details:

None of the officers was seriously injured. All four have been put on standard administrative leave. They were not wearing body cameras, Belmar said.

The shooting happened shortly after what the chief called ‘‘an exchange of gunfire between two groups’’ rang out around 11:15 p.m. Sunday while protesters were gathered on West Florissant Avenue, a business zone that saw rioting and looting last year after Brown’s killing. The shots sent protesters and reporters running for cover.

2) Hillary Clinton unveils $350 billion college affordability plan

Mike Memoli of the Los Angeles Times has a good rundown of some of the key features of the plan, which the Clinton campaign says would cost an average of about $35 billion a year over a decade and be paid for by unspecified tax increase on wealthier Americans. Here's Mike:

Clinton's plan aims to guarantee that students can attend an in-state public university without needing to take out a loan. States that agree to increase spending on higher education would be eligible for federal grants to help reduce the gap between what families can afford to pay and the full tuition costs.

Families will also be required to meet what the campaign says would be a "realistic contribution" to the tuition cost, and students would also be required to work 10 hours a week in return for being freed from borrowing money. Students from low-income families would also be eligible to use Pell grants to pay for room and board. The option would also be available to other students who commit to a form of public service, which could include a newly expanded AmeriCorps.

Vox's Libby Nelson digs even deeper into the particulars of the policy, showing how Clinton is working to satisfy the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party:

A goal of Clinton's plan, according to a senior policy adviser in an interview Sunday, is to "bend the cost curve." That means lowering the cost of actually providing the education, not just shifting who pays for it.

Creating a state grant program aimed at lowering tuition at public universities is the centerpiece of Clinton's proposal. Clinton is calling for spending roughly $175 billion over 10 years on grants to states to lower tuition. ... Clinton's proposal has also borrowed an idea from Sen. Elizabeth Warren: that the federal government should make as little money as possible on student loans.

Clinton is calling for setting the interest rate on student loans "so that the government never profits" — which the campaign said would cut the interest rate on student loans nearly in half. (Whether the government actually profits on student loans, and how much, is the subject of a fierce and partisan accounting battle, but the Congressional Budget Office has projected the federal government will make $127 billion over the next 10 years, mostly on graduate students.)

3) John Kasich is the Jon Huntsman of the 2016 presidential race

John Kasich speaks to voters
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

If you watched last Thursday's debate and thought Ohio Gov. John Kasich won, odds are you're a Democrat. Kasich was the guy at the end of the stage who believes strongly enough in the anti-poverty side of his Catholic upbringing that he took the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. Now, as he told CNN, he's backtracking on his longtime advocacy for ending birthright citizenship and will push for the creation of a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants currently in the US. It's great fodder for the Morning Joe primary, but these positions probably won't help him win the Republican nomination.

4) "Luke Sykwalker beat Obi-Wan Kenobi"

That's the way Enrique "Rick" Yabor, a Miami media commentator, analyzed the debate performances of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush for Politico. It's not yet panic time for Team Bush — his money and organization mean he doesn't have to win every debate to remain viable. But the fight between the two Florida heavyweights is one of the best subplots of the 2016 election so far. Marc Caputo and Eli Stokols put it all in perspective:

After a summer in which he lost ground to Bush, Rubio suddenly created an opportunity to close the gap between them. In a rare convergence, many elite conservative and mainstream media analysts designated Rubio as the winner of the 10-candidate debate — or at least the clear victor over Bush. The contrast between the fresh and fast Rubio vs. the phlegmatic and lackluster Bush only added to the nagging questions about Bush’s ability to be the party’s torchbearer. Jeb’s supporters say this, too, shall pass.

5) GOP targets Ohio

My former Politico colleague Scott Wong writes about why the Republican National Committee is excited to have its first debate and the party's convention in Ohio. The answer: The GOP has to win back the state for the 2016 presidential election. Here's Scott, writing in the Hill:

Election Day is more than a year away, but the RNC has already sent 20 staffers to Ohio — the first deployment of what eventually will be a statewide army of between 150 and 175 field organizers.

The RNC is also investing more in technology and data, including so-called "walk" apps, to help identify and target undecided voters.

And there are new efforts to reach voters who previously have been ignored by the party, particularly those in urban neighborhoods. Late last month, the RNC launched "#CommittedToCommunity," a new radio and digital ad campaign targeting African-American voters in the traditionally Democratic strongholds of Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.

6) West Coast Bern: Plenty of Portlanders and a Seattle slew for Sanders

Bernie Sanders continues to be the strongest draw at presidential campaign rallies, having brought an estimated 28,000 to Portland for a Sunday speech and roughly 15,000 to the University of Washington on Saturday. Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian sets the scene in Portland:

The senator received waves of thunderous applause as he vowed to fight for universal health benefits, paid family leave, paid sick leave, free public college tuition, a $15 minimum wage, expanded Social Security benefits and a major public works program to rebuild crumbling infrastructure.

"Almost all of the wealth is held by a small handful of people and together we are going to change that," said Sanders, vowing to take on the "billionaire class," end corporate tax breaks and break up major Wall Street financial institutions. "If they're too big to fail, they're too big to exist," he added.

It wasn't all fawning crowds for Sanders this weekend, though, as a Black Lives Matter protest forced him to shut down an event in Seattle. Sanders has been moving, somewhat slowly, to combat the perception that his platform isn't aimed at voters of color. Here's what he said about the event that was canceled:

I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.

7) Tim Kaine wants to declare war — or at least vote to authorize it

One byproduct of congressional dysfunction is that the president — any president — can now go to war whenever and however he or she would like without even having to stop to check in with Congress. That was made very clear by the US intervention in Libya, for which the administration neither sought nor received congressional authorization or approval. So, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has a tall order in fulfilling his mission to get his congressional colleagues to write an authorization endorsing Obama's use of force against ISIS. But, like any man on a mission, he's committed, according to James Arkin of Real Clear Politics.

On Wednesday, he gave a floor speech harshly criticizing senators for leaving Washington for the annual August recess without debating the issue of war, delivered a speech at the libertarian Cato Institute about the lack of an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), and penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he lamented that lawmakers' inaction sends a message to the world that "Congress is indifferent to what's happening" -- despite a daily expenditure of $9.4 million and the loss, so far, of seven U.S. service members' lives.

8) The real fight over Obama's power plant rules is about to begin

When President Obama rolled out his ambitious plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants last week, it was expected that he'd face a court challenge from Industry players who believe the EPA overstepped is authority under the Clean Air Act. Now, as Brent Kendall and Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal write, that's about to happen. And it could be a wild ride:

The EPA issued the regulations last week under a seldom-used section of the Clean Air Act. The agency also is confronting a legislative oddity from 1990, when Congress updated the clean-air law but inadvertently enacted differently worded House and Senate amendments that are relevant to the EPA’s carbon rules. How courts interpret the amendments could determine whether the administration’s power-plant rules survive.

Additional legal challenges will focus on whether the agency exceeded its powers by pushing utilities to shift to cleaner forms of energy instead of just focusing on pollution controls at fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

"There are definitely novel issues in this case," said Tim Profeta, director of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The administration's own lawyers were divided over whether the new rules are consistent with the Clean Air Act.

9) Trump's fight with Megyn Kelly, explained

It seems like everything in politics right now starts and ends with Donald Trump. So, I'm following suit. If you missed out on some of the back and forth between Trump and Fox's Megyn Kelly — or want more context on why it blew up — top Voxxer Ezra Klein has a great explainer on the whole mess:

So how did we get to the point where the leading Republican candidate for president is accusing one of Fox News's signature hosts of going on a PMS-fueled rant against him? The answer is surprisingly complex.

It's not just about what happened at Thursday's debate. It's also about the way Fox News had, until Thursday, been inflating the Trump bubble, and the broader tension between Fox News's role as a ratings-obsessed cable network, an actual journalistic outlet, and one of the most important institutional actors in the Republican Party.