"Hi, Vlad. Thanks for taking my call."
"No problem, my friend," Putin replied. "What can I do for you?"
"It's the polls, Vlad," said Trump. "The polls are bad."
"Yes, I'm sorry about that," Putin sympathized.
"Manafort showed me a chart of the trend lines, and I was so excited, but it turned out I was holding it upside down."
"I don't get it," Trump continued, in a rare moment of self-reflection. "At the convention, I painted a picture of America as a failing third-world country where everyone lives in constant fear of violent death; I encouraged your country to commit espionage against my opponent; I forgot that you guys invaded Ukraine and then said I was okay with it; I got into a days-long feud with the family of a fallen soldier. I hinted that maybe someone should assassinate Hillary Clinton. Help me here, Vlad. Where did I go wrong?"
"Have you thought of simply seizing power?" Putin inquired.
"Of course," Trump replied. "But Pence tells me there are laws."
"Well, do not lose heart, the Donald," Putin said. "You have more than enough time to turn things around. Who knows what sort of damaging information about Clinton may leak at the most inopportune time."
"You know what? You're right," Trump said, brightening. "The election isn't for another three months. Anything can happen. Thanks, Vlad. You always pick me up."
"That's what comrades are for."
"This is a little embarrassing to admit," Trump said, shyly, "but at my lowest moments, I think back to when you called me a 'genius,' and I always feel better."
"I said you were 'talented,'" Putin corrected, but Trump didn't seem to hear.
"You know, I blame ninety percent of this on the press," Trump complained. "They are so despicable and dishonest."
"Have you considered jailing all the unfriendly journalists?" Putin asked.
"Of course," Trump replied. "Ivanka said there are laws against that, too."
"That Ivanka is very attractive," Putin said.
"I think the word you're looking for is 'hotski," Trump replied, drawing a rare non-sadistic laugh from the oligarch.
"Well, I've got a lot of work to do if I'm going to win this thing," Trump continued, back to his old upbeat self. "I'm very competitive in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina. But the key is Pennsylvania, and that won't be easy."
"Have you considered invading Philadelphia and Allegheny County and taking control of the voting process?"
"Of course," Trump said. "Donald Jr. said it violates several statutes." Trump lamented, "If only there were a few hundred thousand more poorly educated white men in Pennsylvania."
"Let me look into that," Putin offered.
"Thanks, Vlad, you're the best!" Trump replied. Then, after a moment, he asked, "But what if a few weeks from now the polls still look bad? What then?"
"Did you give thought to what I suggested in our last call?" Putin inquired.
"You mean putting plutonium in Hillary's soup? Of course."
"Let me guess," said Putin, disgusted. "It's illegal."
"I know, right?"