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On the roster: What will Cruz make of his moment? - Time Out: Stump the Stirewalt - Speechwriter takes blame for Melania speech plagiarism - Power Play: Bounce or double dribble? - Crime stinks

WHAT WILL CRUZ MAKE OF HIS MOMENT?
Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign never stopped. It only got longer.

And today is a crucial moment in his bid to be the Republican Party’s 2020 standard bearer. Donald Trump’s humiliation of Cruz was no more intense than his abuses of other rivals, but as the last man standing there was a special poignancy to Cruz’s shaming.

Since dropping out after his Indiana thumping in May, the Texas senator has seemed about as comfortable as a mudpuppy in a sandpit. And yet…he’s getting ready to take the stage at Trump’s convention.

Cruz stands at a threshold: He can join the small but growing number of national Republican figures to enthusiastically embrace Trump or Cruz can try to find a way to show his submission without losing his brand as the conservative purist.

He doesn’t really have the option of defying the GOP’s nominee. That was proven in the abortive effort by Cruz supporters to disrupt the proceedings or secure rule changes seen as beneficial to this year’s runner up four years hence.

Republicans show little interest in doing anything other than sucking it up and making the best of a situation few would have foreseen a year ago as Cruz & Co. were preparing to come to Cleveland for the first debate of the 2016 cycle.

The historical precedent of major parties nominating runners up is strong, and Cruz makes no secret of his desire to perpetuate the trend. But how best to do it?

Reagan-o-phile Cruz has, no doubt, been poring over his idol’s famous 1976 speech in which the former California governor spoke of the need for “a banner of bold, unmistakable colors, with no pastel shades.”

Ronald Reagan was not talking about polo shirts, but rather his argument, oft repeated by Cruz, that if Republicans make an ardent case for true conservative values that they can win over Democrats and independents can be wooed.

Reagan had some advantages Cruz does not, particularly that he had managed to hold President Gerald Ford under the threshold for securing the nomination outright. Ford needed Reagan’s delegates and the surprising success of the insurgents stretch run had garnered massive attention. It looked like a movement.

Cruz underperformed at the end and Trump didn’t need any of the Texans help to make it official.

Cruz’s advantages are mostly rooted in the fact that this year’s nominee is unnerving to so many in the party.

As was evident in the attempted floor fight, the greatest potential energy other than Trumpism in the GOP is a union between those opposed to Trump and those primarily interested in electing Cruz. Apart, they can’t do anything. Together, they could cause plenty of trouble for the GOP establishment and Trump.

But how to unify them? And how to do so without appearing to be disloyal to your party.

For that, Cruz might want to take a look at the other party and Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1980 concession speech in which he quotes those stirring lines from “Ulysses” that read, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” and closed by saying, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Unlike Reagan, Cruz is not the personification of a movement himself. Like Kennedy, he seeks to bare the torch of a movement that began before him.

One complication for Cruz is that there will be another spokesman for that movement on stage tonight in Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Pence has some tight limitations in that he cannot show daylight between himself and Trump.

Also auditioning for 2020 tonight will be Gov. Scott Walker. Walker’s message to his party is likely to be much more focused on pragmatic reforms than ideology, but he may make an even more forceful case against Trumpism than Cruz, identifying himself as leader of the opposition. Cruz can rest somewhat easily though since Walker would be unlikely to besmirch a convention led by his fellow Wisconsinite RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

And one thing that Cruz must absolutely, positively not do: Talk. Too. Long.

[Today’s speakers include: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Govs. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Scott Walker, R-Wisc., Eric Trump, and Newt Gingrich.]

TIME OUT: STUMP THE STIREWALT

Love the trivia of the yet-to-be-named but still top-rated podcast of Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt? Well, the pair took to the streets of Cleveland to see whether folks here could “Stump the Stirewalt” with some other familiar faces along the way. WATCH HERE.

[And be sure to check out the latest nameless but famous podcast as well! LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.]

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions

SCOREBOARD
Average of national presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +3.8 points
Generic congressional vote: 
Democrats +2.8

SPEECHWRITER TAKES BLAME FOR MELANIA SPEECH PLAGIARISM
Time: “A staffer working for the Trump Organization has apologized and offered to resign over Melania Trump’s plagiarized Monday night speech at the Republican National Convention. Meredith McIver, a writer for Trump, said in a letter Wednesday that Melania had read passages from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention Speech, telling McIver over the phone that “as a person,” she had always admired the First Lady. McIver said she wrote the passages down, and failed to check them against Obama’s prior speeches for potential plagiarism. She offered her resignation Tuesday, though it was rejected by the Trump family. McIver said the GOP presidential nominee told her ‘people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences.’”

POWER PLAY: BOUNCE OR DOUBLE DRIBBLE?
With the third official day of the Republican National Convention underway, Donald Trump looks to see if or how far his support bounce will take him after Cleveland. Expert pollster Ed Goeas explains. And he and Chris Stirewalt answer this: What is the biggest lie of polling when it comes to voters? WATCH HERE.

RNC CROWD CHANTS FOR HILLARY IN PRISON
WaPo: ‘On Monday night, it earned an occasional mention at the Republican National Convention. ‘Hillary in prison,’ one speaker said in response to an exclamation from the crowd, adding that she should be ‘put in stripes.’ Another offered that Clinton should exchange her ‘pantsuits’ for an ‘orange jumpsuit.’ By Tuesday, it became a bona fide rallying cry. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – a former prosecutor, it bears noting – offered his own rhetorical indictment of Clinton, punctuating each line by asking the crowd whether Clinton was ‘guilty or not guilty.’ The crowd was one step ahead though, chanting repeatedly, ‘Lock her up!’’

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Clinton’s lead as about as safe as John Kerry’s was in 2004 -
FiveThirtyEight

How Trump picked his running mate, wanted Kasich - NYT

Questions over convention speaker’s business record - The Guardian

Donald Trump Jr. fires at Lewandowski over Melania speech comments - Politico

Ben Carson seeks to tie Clinton to Lucifer in convention speech - USA Today

AUDIBLE: ALL TOGETHER NOW
“If he were just about Donald Trump, you wouldn’t have had 14 million people voting for him.” – Herman Cain on “The Kelly File” Tuesday night in Cleveland.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“…to call Pence and a handful of other conservatives ‘playing supplicant’ to the soon-to-be-nominee, is nothing if not disparaging! How do you know that they don’t really like what Trump says he stand for? You assume too much negatively. Please go back to your ‘fair and balanced’ coverage of the daily political news.” – Suzi Thiems, Gainesville, Fla.

[Ed note: There is no suggestion of insincerity on the part of Pence! A supplicant is “a person who asks for something in a respectful way from a powerful person.” We try to keep it fair and balanced every day. So thank you for turning the warning light on for us.]

“Chris, the fact the mainstream media is focusing on the roll call issue by the anti-Trump folks is laughable. Go back to the 2012 DNC Convention here in Charlotte. Then [Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa from Los Angeles] was calling for a yes or no vote regarding something about the platform. The NO vote was clearly louder, but he overrode them. The footage shows him reading the teleprompter already recorded with a Yes affirmation. What a crock!” – Floyd Prophet, Kannapolis, N.C.

CRIME STINKS
WPVI: “Police in Plainfield, New Jersey say a 27-year-old man defecated in his pants so that officers would not place him under arrest over the weekend. Officers responded to a report of a disorderly man at 4:21 a.m. Sunday on the 800 block of North Wood Avenue. Arriving officers observed 27-year-old Kyle Chambliss, of Plainfield, talking loudly on his cell phone while sitting in a vehicle. They reportedly smelled alcohol coming from Chambliss and asked him to step out of his car…When he was told he was being placed under arrest, they say Chambliss told them he had to defecate himself and proceeded to do so to keep the officers at bay.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…

“I think the Republicans have the political advantage [on the issue of law and order] The Democrats are playing with fire here given what the national reaction has been to the killing of police.” – 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.