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On the roster : Are Democrats kidding themselves? - NRA political arm launches brutal first ad - Trump: Trade deal is ‘rape of our country’ - Audible: bad, bad, bad - It’s probably the pickles

ARE DEMOCRATS KIDDING THEMSELVES?

In a chin-stroking Politico piece, David Plouffe and other Obama-Clinton senior strategists act as if there isn’t even a presidential race and this year isn’t even a contest.

“You want people to feel as passionate about Hillary Clinton being president as they do about stopping Donald Trump,” President Obama’s 2008 campaign manager told the website, “If this isn’t a close race it’s going to matter a great deal for her presidency.”

Geez Louise.

The whole point of the piece is about how Obama sees his role in the election and how to win the race for Clinton in such a way that hers is a ratifying presidency, putting the seal of permanency on Obama’s ambitious if inchoate agenda.

And it’s peak Obamaism.

Check out this one: “Obama is preparing to campaign for her by reminding voters he didn’t like her so much, but he came around and they should too.” Ooh, fancy.

Just to be clear, Obama’s plan to help Clinton is to remind everyone how unlikeable he and everyone else found her. The self-regard is stunning. Maybe the slogan could be Hillary: Likeable Enough.

The piece goes on in this vein as Obama’s inner circle reflects on its own greatness and not how to win the general election, which is treated as a foregone conclusion, but how to make sure Clinton is a big, bold liberal president.

Now, when you see numbers like those in the report that says Clinton and affiliated outside groups spent $26 million in the top eight swing states in June compared to zero dollars by or for Trump, it’s easy to see why Democrats are optimistic about their chances.

With a Republican nominee whose operation in May and most of June bordered on political malpractice and deep divides in the GOP, Clinton has structural advantages never before experienced by any nominee of either party.

She’s got Obama’s fundraising list, her own massive donor network, and a political operation that has been in place continually since at least 1999. This could tend to make her, as Trump campaign capo Paul Manafort said, “musclebound.” And as David Drucker points out today, the effort to scale out and catch up with Clinton in some areas is probably a wasted effort at this late date.

Remember, though, that the Obamanauts have always put too much stock in organization and data. Granted, an imbalance of the kind Trump has created could be enough to lose a campaign all on its own. But there’s more to the story.

Trump may have disadvantages of a historic scale –more than any Republican nominee since at least 1996 – but he has one huge advantage: the weakest Democratic nominee since Michael Dukakis.

Today’s poll from Quinnipiac University tells us how weak.

This latest Q poll shows a near tie with voters overall with Clinton in a statistically insignificant lead of 2 points, a 4-point drop from her performance in the university’s June 1 poll. The candidates are also separated by a mere 2 points among voters who say they’d “never” support each candidate.

And on the issues, the former secretary of state outperforms Trump overall, but Trump beats her handily in categories of combating ISIS and job creation, the two deemed most important by respondents.

With less than two weeks until the conventions begin, the race is ready to accelerate. Ads hitting the airwaves, people tuning back in from summer vacations, all play in Clinton’s favor.

But the hauteur from Team Obama suggest that they are taking too much for granted. Clinton may be favored to win, but Democrats may yet find themselves in the kind of grueling fall campaign that neither Obama nor his party expects.

Power Play: What's in a poll?- The avalanche of polls in a presidential contest can leave your head spinning and evoke the ire or praise of candidates. In the year of Trump versus Clinton how do you tell if a poll is valid? Chris Stirewalt has the answer, in just 60 seconds. WATCH HERE.

TIME OUT
The Telegraph: “The Globe Theatre in London, showcase for Shakespeare’s plays, burned to the ground on this day in 1613. Thankfully, the only reported injury was a man whose flaming breeches were eventually put out using a handy bottle of ale. Built in 1599, the theatre stood near today’s Southwark Bridge. It was a three-storey, open-air amphitheatre about [about 10 feet] in diameter and able to house up to 3,000 spectators who were often rowdy, since theatre back then was rather less genteel a pursuit than today. The fire began during a performance of Henry VIII – a collaborative play Shakespeare wrote with John Fletcher – and is believed to have been caused when a theatrical cannon misfired and ignited the theatre’s wood beams and thatching…The modern Globe is based on the original design as closely as possible.”

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SCOREBOARD
Average of national presidential polls: 
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +6.4 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.4

NRA POLITICAL ARM LAUNCHES BRUTAL FIRST AD
USA Today: “The National Rifle Association’s political arm is launching its first ad campaign of the 2016 presidential race, with a survivor of the terror attack in Benghazi urging viewers to vote for Donald Trump. The ad, which the NRA Political Victory Fund is backing with more than $2 million, is the group’s first campaign in the presidential race and one of the larger expenditures by an outside group on behalf of the presumptive Republican nominee. The 30-second spot, entitled ‘Stop Clinton, Vote Trump,’ features Mark Geist, a Marine Corps veteran and security contractor who fought the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that claimed four American lives, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.”

TRUMP: TRADE DEAL IS ‘RAPE OF OUR COUNTRY’
WaPo: “Donald Trump on Tuesday channeled more than a year’s worth of fiery and freewheeling protectionist rhetoric into an uncharacteristically disciplined address, putting him out of step with decades of conservative economic orthodoxy and even some of his own prior positions. Speaking in a warehouse filled with piles of compressed aluminum cans and scraps of metal, Trump ticked through a seven-step plan to boost domestic job growth that included renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, labeling China a currency manipulator, and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and preventing its implementation. At a rally in Ohio hours later, Trump said the trade pact was being ‘pushed by special interests who want to rape our country,’ repeating ‘rape’ several times.”

OUTSIDER IN FOR COLORADO GOP SENATE NOD
Denver Post: “Darryl Glenn did it again. With little money and an all-volunteer staff, the county commissioner from El Paso shocked the Republican establishment again Tuesday by clinching the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate and earning a chance to unseat Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet in November. The resounding victory — called 30 minutes after polls closed — catapulted Glenn back into the spotlight after he won a surprising victory at the state GOP convention in April. This time, he defeated two self-funded millionaires and a party rising star to emerge with a double-digit victory over his closest competitor in a five-way race.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Pro-Clinton PAC accepted banned contributions - The Hill

State Dept. working to see if there are any Americans in Istanbul attack - Fox News

In new interview, sister of Chris Stevens doesn’t blame Clinton for his death - New Yorker

Anxiety over GOP convention security heightens - Politico

McCain: Delegates are ‘free to make up their own minds’ at the convention - Weekly Standard

British politicians demand to exit…Trump’s fundraising list - WSJ

PERINO & STIREWALT: SNAP INTO IT!
In what has become the number one podcast from Fox News, political dynamo Dana Perino and Appalachian analyst Chris Stirewalt cover it all: polling, messaging, the West Virginia floods, historic campaign jingles and even processed meat. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.

AUDIBLE: BAD, BAD, BAD
“Is there gonna be bad stuff? I’m Exhibit A.” -- Hillary Clinton at a campaign event talking to a supporter who was the victim of online abuse.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“‘Since before John L. Lewis had black eyebrows’ -- Do your demographics really skew that old?” – Bob Foys, Chicago, Ill.

“Hey Mr. Stirewalt… TOTALLY worth the google to see John L. Lewis’s eyebrows.  Thanks for the opportunity!” – Troy Sageser, Tulsa, Okla.

“No comments, other than thanks for this informative and readable (erudite, at times!) daily update. I know you must mourn over the tragic flooding in West Virginia.  Maybe better days are ahead.” – Ron Farrar, Columbia, S.C.

[Ed. note: Thank you for the kind words and good wishes. Check out Union Mission for ways to help.]

“I’m shocked and appalled that no one has started making Brewster's Million’s jokes and/or started a campaign for None of the Above. I bet the next Q-Poll would have None of the Above with a double digit lead over both candidates.” – George McGregor, New Orleans, La.

“I disagree that DJT should parrot the Republican line on Benghazi.  After all the time and money spent and the protracted process, most voters don’t care. Let the Republican establishment carry that water, and just tell voters where their next good job is coming from, or how much of their own money they get to keep.” – R.L.Baisch, Idaho Falls, Idaho

IT’S PROBABLY THE PICKLES
US 105: “At 17, Alton [Ward] weighed in at about 355lbs. Ward said, ‘I tried all the diets, Jenny Craig, Atkins, no carbs … juice diets, the lose 10 pounds in 5 days, all the different things, and none of it worked for me.’ The turning point was when Alton went off to college at Texas A&M University. With a Chick-fil-A on campus he knew he’d have some healthy options to choose from. Ward explains he would go there for several meals each week. On hot days he’d go with the grilled chicken wrap, and on colder days he would order soup. He also opted for several salads with a small side of ranch dressing. These healthy choices alongside a dedicated workout schedule all contributed to Alton losing 140lbs in about 11 months.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“And it’s unfortunate that Hillary is the candidate for the presidency, because if she weren’t, the focus of the story and the [Benghazi] report and everything would be on the commander and chief. This is about him and Panetta and the chain of command and why nothing happened.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.