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Trump numbers soar as he attacks public figures

When he goes after someone by name, it's a big name.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush participate in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush participate 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

Donald Trump comes off as a bully.

He's torn into political rivals with glee, called Rosie O'Donnell vile names, and denigrated reporters Megyn Kelly and Jorge Ramos. And, of course, he has used Mexican immigrants as a political punching bag.

But according to psychologists who spoke to USA Today's Heidi Przybyla, he doesn't fit the bully profile.

Americans may describe the billionaire businessman's behavior in many ways, but psychologists and experts told USA TODAY that textbook bullying shouldn't be one of them. The greater challenge, the bullying experts say, is explaining the reasons for Trump's popularity in a culture that is supposed to frown on naked aggression.

"Bullying is the repeated, intentional harm of another person who has less power than you do,'' said Dewey Cornell, a forensic psychologist and bullying expert at the University of Virginia.

And therein lies the rub: Trump's main individual targets have their own standing in society. He's not going after kittens in a pack of wolves. That may help explain why he hasn't alienated his fans with his feuds. The people he goes after by name are of relatively equal stature or, in some cases, bigger than Trump. He doesn't punch down in one-on-one fights, and that means he's unlikely to create sympathy for his victims.

One of his most reliable targets on the campaign trail is Jeb Bush, and, as Phil Rucker and Bob Costa report for the Washington Post, Trump's disdain for the blue-blooded Bush family dates back many years:

The 2016 campaign is merely the latest manifestation of decades of discord between Trump and the Bush family. Since the gilded 1980s, when Trump and George H.W. Bush rose as forces in their respective spheres, the relationship between Trump and the Bushes has been a melodrama — veering between displays of public affection and acerbic insults.

At the core, there are clashes of style, manner and class between the Bushes — a patrician clan of presidents, governors and financiers who have pulled the levers of power for generations — and Trump, a hustling New York City deal-maker who turned his father’s outer borough real-estate portfolio into a gold-plated empire.

But the Bushes may want to get used to Trump. Blue Nation Review contributor David Fishback (a friend of my family) uses delegate math to argue Trump is the most likely winner of the Republican nomination. Oh, and don't look now, but Trump's up to 28 percent in Quinnipiac polling released Thursday, with Bush down to 7 percent and Ben Carson surging to 12 percent. Now you know why Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is suddenly saying things like Trump's a "net positive" for the GOP — he might be the Republican horse in 2016.

Here are 9 more things to know to start the day.

1) Turns out the economy actually boomed in the second quarter

Per the Wall Street Journal, there was a big upward revision in the estimate for second-quarter economic growth:

The U.S. economy expanded at a faster pace than initially thought in the second quarter as businesses ramped up investment but also built up inventories, offering mixed signals for growth prospects the rest of the year.

Gross domestic product, the broadest sum of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at a 3.7% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the second quarter of 2015, the Commerce Department said Thursday, up from the initial estimate of 2.3% growth.

2) Biden matches up better than Clinton with potential GOP opponents

That same Quinnipiac Poll shows Vice President Joe Biden doing better against top Republicans than Clinton.

  • Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 40 percent; Clinton leads Trump 44 percent to 41 percent.
  • Biden leads Bush 45 percent to 39 percent; Clinton leads Bush 42 percent to 40 percent.
  • Biden leads Marco Rubio 44 percent to 41 percent; Clinton leads Rubio 44 percent to 43 percent.

It should be noted that in April 2008, Clinton had much better numbers against eventual GOP nominee John McCain than did Obama. But the Quinnipiac figures aren't good for her. Most troubling for her, though, is the response most often given when survey respondents were asked to associate a word with Clinton: "liar." That was the response of 178 people, trailed most closely by "dishonest" (123 people) and "untrustworthy" (93 people). "Experience" was the top positive response, with 82 people using that term.

3) Clinton wants Biden to have "space" to make a decision

At a press conference in Iowa Wednesday, Clinton said what her aides have been saying in recent days: If Biden wants to run, he'll be welcomed into the race. Clinton could hardly go negative on Biden, both because he's personally well-liked by fellow Democrats and because she tends to suffer backlash from Democratic voters when she tests out negative messages about another member of the party (see Obama, Barack, 2008). Here's what she said about Biden, as reported by Holly Bailey of Yahoo Politics:

The former secretary of state said she hasn’t personally talked to Biden or anyone on his team about the possibility he might join her in the Democratic nomination race. He hasn’t reached out to her, and she hasn’t called him, Clinton said, suggesting that Biden deserves the "space" to make what she described as "a very difficult decision."

"I just want the vice president to decide to do what’s right for him and his family," Clinton said. "I don’t think it’s useful to be behind the scenes asking this or saying that. … I just want him to reach whatever he thinks the right decision is. He has to do that. It has to be a really hard one."

For politicians, the two of them actually seem to have a genuine affinity for each other. Here's what Clinton said about Biden in her 2008 Democratic National Convention speech in Denver:

Americans are also fortunate that Joe Biden will be at Barack Obama's side. He is a strong leader and a good man. He understands both the economic stresses here at home and the strategic challenges abroad. He is pragmatic, tough, and wise.

And here, as first reported in the book I co-authored on Clinton, is how Biden reacted to that speech, which was largely an endorsement of Obama:

Biden praises Clinton

From HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton.

PenguinRandomHouse, 2014

4) Clinton changes tone, but not tune, on emails

In what's as close to a mea culpa moment as you'll see from Clinton, she told reporters yesterday that she understands now why people are upset about her email controversy. She maintained that everything she did was permissible but conceded, "It clearly wasn't the best choice. I should have used two emails — one personal, one for work — and I take responsibility for that decision."

Then again, as the Republican National Committee notes, she laughed when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was there to endorse her, made a joke about her email.

5) Victory by filibuster? That's the White House's Iran plan.

The White House is going for the gold — or at least some sort of non-precious medal — in pushing Senate supporters of the Iran nuclear deal to provide 41 votes to filibuster a resolution disapproving of it. That, Politico posits, would be a big victory compared with just getting the 34 senators or the 146 House members needed to sustain a veto:

Having to save the deal with a veto (just the fifth of his presidency) and relying on liberals in the House and Senate to sustain it would be much more trouble: a procedural pull across the finish line that sows more doubts in a public already skeptical of the deal, leaves international partners worried about America’s long-term commitment and adds weeks of added time and tangles.

The White House very much prefers option A. And even before he came out publicly for the deal on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been in frequent contact with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to try to make that happen.

Of course, the bigger win for the president there is that his hands would be cleaner. It wouldn't be him vetoing an overwhelming rejection of his deal by Congress and then pleading with Democrats to muster the one-third of either chamber needed to sustain the veto. I've long thought the best play for Republicans is to bring up a resolution of approval and show how little support the president has for that, an approach that also prevents Democrats from presenting their votes as procedural in nature. They seem eager to force a veto — and, frankly, the longer the process plays out, the more money every side gets. But if Democrats are going to have the votes to successfully filibuster a disapproval, then that argues even more strongly for Republicans to seek an approval that will surely fail.

6) Pro-Christie Super PAC sees advantage on Iran

The Wall Street Journal's Heather Haddon reports on Christie allies' use of the Iran deal to burnish his bona fides as an opponent of Obama's foreign policy. Christie needs some oxygen in the race as a general matter, but, after joining hands with Obama during Hurricane Sandy, he particularly needs to show distance on something that matters to Republican voters.

America Leads, the pro-Christie super PAC, is sponsoring $1 million in television spots that are slated to air for two weeks, according to people familiar with the buy. Entitled "Prevent War," the 30-second spot features footage of Mr. Christie hammering the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran.

"The president looks us right in the eye and lies to us. Iran that regularly says to its people ‘death to America,’ we’re going to give them the nuclear weapon," Mr. Christie says in the ad, made up of footage from one of the Republican’s town hall meetings in New Hampshire.

7) US raid on gay escort website angers some in the gay community

The New York Times reports that a federal raid on the offices of escort web site isn't sitting well with activists who see persecution wrapped up in potential prosecution:

After federal authorities charged its top executives with promoting prostitution, seized the website and went after the business’s assets on Tuesday, many gay activists were infuriated. The Transgender Law Center, a civil-rights group, criticized the arrests, as did some male sex workers. Several activists said they would use the episode to renew calls to decriminalize prostitution.

"To many in our community this feels like a throwback to when the police raided gay bars in the ’50s and ’60s," Justin Vivian Bond, a performer and an activist who is transgender, wrote in an email. "This invasion of a consensual hookup site which is run for and by members of the L.G.B.T. community feels like a real slap in the face after gentrification and the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations drove so many gay bars out of business and forced people to meet online instead of in person," the activist added, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

8) Former FEMA Chief Michael Brown: It ain't me you're looking for, babe

For a decade now, Michael Brown has been the face of the Bush administration's inept response to Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing breach of levees that flooded New Orleans. He's fighting back in a piece for Politico Magazine. In it, Brown bashes the "blame game" but redirects scapegoating to then–Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and then–New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for failing to evacuate the city and setting up the Superdome as a relocation site. It's worth the full read, but here's an excerpt to give you a little flavor of what he's saying:

Had the mayor and governor fulfilled their responsibilities as elected leaders of their city and state, most if not all of the people crying for help in front of national television cameras would not have been there. They would have been in other locales, safe and secure.

But the blame was not placed on those responsible. The blame was placed on me—the one person who had no authority to do anything at that point except get out the checkbook and start paying the Department of Defense to evacuate people from that hellhole to a place of safety. And that is exactly what I did.

Soon the blame started coming at me from another direction—higher up.

9) Nothing says populist like a boost from a Pawn Star

Marco Rubio opens his Iowa campaign headquarters in Ankeny Thursday with Pawn Stars star Rick Harrison. Rubio will pick up an endorsement from the pawn shop owner along the way.