On the roster: Sorry GOP, Trump gonna Trump - Hillary plays off cash shipment to Iran: ‘old news’ - Polls show roadblocks for Trump’s northern path - Audible: Just ask Dubya… - You’re doing it wrong

SORRY GOP, TRUMP GONNA TRUMP
Like the movies, politics requires some considerable suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed.

When partisans hear happy talk from their own side, they love it even if they know on some level that it’s not really true. You can’t like “Star Wars” if you get hung up on how the hyperdrive in the Millennium Falcon works and you can’t be a party loyalist if you truth squad every utterance your candidate is making.

Just as a moviegoer who buys a ticket makes an implicit agreement with the filmmaker to allow himself to be swept away by the story, an American who makes a firm partisan commitment is offering to start his side with the benefit of the doubt.

Did those who wept so many tears of joy for Barack Obama’s 2008 victory entirely believe that the seas would stop their rise or that they were the change they had been waiting for? How many of George W. Bush’s boosters heard his 2004 promise that “by promoting liberty abroad we will build a safer world” felt a twinge somewhere inside?

But just like fans happily inhabited George Lucas’ galaxy where 8-foot-tall skunk apes fly spaceships at the speed of light, supporters of Obama and Bush let their doubts melt away.

In June, Republican voters were willing and even eager, to suspend their collective disbelief about Donald Trump, the unexpected victor of a long and bruising primary contest. This was back when Trump was trying to get past  his comments about the “Mexican judge” on the fraud case against him by shaking up his campaign and making peace with Republican donors.

This was the second reboot. In April, as Republican elders were threatening to go all out to block his nomination, Trump told the WSJ, “The campaign is evolving and transitioning, and so am I. I’ll be more effective and more disciplined.”

So, to explain why the May and early June had still been lackluster, Trump said he wouldn’t really be getting started until after the Republican convention. Trump was promising a more explicit version of Mitt Romney’s “Braveheart” strategy, in which an outnumbered force saves its resources for the crucial moment and then unleashes hell.

It was all part of the plan, which would kick in down the road… right about the first week of August.

Despite their growing experience with Trump’s steadfast adherence to his own approach, many Republicans beyond his existing base believed him. Or rather they suspended their disbelief.

They almost – almost – forced Trump to tell them what they wanted to hear. By leveraging money, support and endorsements, GOP stalwarts extracted these promises from Trump. The culmination came with the head-scratching pick of Mike Pence to be Trump’s running mate, sent down to mind the store by Trump’s political creditors.

But the creditors’ advice, not surprisingly, was bad. They weren’t nearly as interested in Trump winning but rather preserving their party’s down ballot chances and holding on to their own positions within the party.

So now, it’s after the convention and things are, well… the same.

Don’t believe the hyperventilating political press that tells you Trump is imploding or exploding or collapsing or any such thing. This is the same basic situation in which Trump and his party have been since he clinched the nomination.

If we check the an average of polls worth looking at – tossing out partisan junk, robo calls and online quackery – Trump has never led in a head-to-head matchup with Clinton. Not for a nanosecond.

In fact, in an average of real polls, Trump is doing better than he ever has. His current 4.2 point deficit is his narrowest national margin ever.

But here again are the urgent calls for a reset and an intervention. Trump must behave himself. He must stop saying these things about the Kahn family. He must act presidential. He must, he must, he must!

Trump mustn’t do anything.

His chances of winning as a poorly disciplined version of a standard Republican are essentially zero. His chances for winning as a silo-breaking, trans-partisan candidate with the ideological consistency of a Waldorf salad are slim but real. But his party is again focused on bringing him to heel and making him something normal.

Give it up, fellas. Trump will be Trump, whether you like it or not. He may tell you what you want to hear to get you off his back, but he’s going back to himself the first second he can.

And please spare us your indignation at him being exactly who he has been every step of the way. You’re the ones who sold the flying-skunk-ape theory of the galaxy in the first place, not him.

So as you read about all the overheated hubbub as it relates to Trump and the Republican Party, just remember: The current GOP panic isn’t about anything Trump is doing. It is about the demise of their own suspensions of disbelief.

TIME OUT: DARKNESS AT NOON
The riveting story of how an unsolved murder changed the world for a mysterious tribe deep in Peru’s rainforest. The New Yorker: “In the following years, small groups of Mashco began to venture out of the forest, making fleeting appearances to travellers on the Madre de Dios River. A video of one such encounter, which circulated on the Internet, shows a naked Mashco man brandishing a bow and arrow at a boatload of tourists…Mostly, the Mashco approach outsiders with friendly, if skittish, curiosity, but at times they have raided local settlements to steal food. A few times, they have attacked.”

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SCOREBOARD
Average of national presidential polls:
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +4.2 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8

[Ed. note: Due to an agonizingly simple error of arithmetic, we have wrongly reported our national presidential average this week. The average above reflects Clinton’s lead in the five most recent methodologically sound polls. We regret the error.]

HILLARY PLAYS OFF CASH SHIPMENT TO IRAN: ‘OLD NEWS’
WashEx: “Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dismissed reports this week that the U.S. State Department gave Iran $400 million at the same time that it released American hostages as ‘old news.’ ‘The White House has addressed this,’ she said in an interview Wednesday with a Colorado-based NBC News affiliate. ‘This is kind of old news.’ ‘So far as I know, it had nothing to do with any kind of hostage swap or any other tit-for-tat. It was something that was intended to — as I am told — pay back Iran for contracts that were cancelled when the shah fell,’ she added.”

Millennial voters a ‘dark cloud’ for Hillary - Atlantic: “The Millennial Generation is poised to exert more influence in the 2016 election than ever before. And yet paradoxically, the generation today stands as one of the knottiest challenges facing Hillary Clinton in her race against Donald Trump, a candidate who, polls show, most of them disdain. Though the Democratic convention has lifted Clinton’s overall poll standing, her hold on Millennials has consistently looked less secure than her position with college-educated whites (especially women) and minorities, the two other pillars in President Obama’s winning coalition. Even amid all the disarray now enveloping Trump, Clinton’s long-standing struggles with young voters remain a dark cloud in her brightening prospects.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Who’s really behind the Hillary hacking? - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says the hack of Democratic National Committee emails, which DNC officials and Hillary Clinton blamed on Russia might be the work of another culprit: “[S]ome of those in whose hands we repose our freedom for safekeeping do not wish to see her in the White House because of her demonstrated lawlessness and indifference to their work.” More here.

POLLS SHOW ROADBLOCKS FOR TRUMP’S NORTHERN PATH
New surveys show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in three states that could be key to Trump’s strategy to offset expected losses in traditional swing states like Virginia and Colorado.

The hope expressed by Trump and his supporters is that traditionally Democratic northern states with large populations of white, working-class voters could swing a challenging electoral map in his favor.

But in Pennsylvania, emerging as the, ahem, keystone to Republican hopes in 2016, a Franklin & Marshall College poll shows Trump down by 11 points overall and by 13 points among white, middle-income voters.

In New Hampshire, where independent voters surged for Trump in the state’s open GOP primary, a new poll from WBUR finds the Republican standard bearer trailing by 15 points overall and by 26 points among independents.

In Michigan, oft-touted by team Trump, a Detroit News/WDIV poll shows his deficit at 9 points.

To keep marginal supporters and donors aboard over the next three months, Trump needs to be able to demonstrate a viable path to victory. Preventing dispiritedness is the key for any trailing campaign, especially with so many weeks to go. To that end, Trump’s campaign needs to keep his northern passage open by showing some snap in at least Pennsylvania.

MANAFORT SAYS THERE’S ‘CONFLICT’ OVER RYAN IN CAMPAIGN
USA Today: “Donald Trump’s [Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort] said ‘there’s conflict within the Trump campaign’ over the Republican nominee not endorsing the House speaker, but that Trump will eventually support Paul Ryan in the election because his opponent won’t win the primary. ‘Of course he's gonna work with Paul Ryan, of course he’s trying to bridge the party with Paul Ryan,’ Manafort said on ABC’s Good Morning America Thursday. ‘But Paul Ryan is running against someone who's not going to win but nonetheless he is a strong supporter of Mr. Trump.’ On Tuesday, Trump told The Washington Post he was ‘just not quite there yet’ on endorsing Ryan. He also said he has ’never been there’ with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and criticized Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has enthusiastically endorsed Ryan.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
House Republican launches ad with anti-Trump message - Politico

RNC spox Spicer: Trump’s not going anywhere - The Hill

Trump denies asking about using first-strike nuclear attacks - Time

Koch says there’s no reason to meet with Trump - The Hill

Clinton pulls ads from Colorado in a sign of confidence - NYT

Clinton cites billionaire’s support to undermine Trump - NPR

AUDIBLE: JUST ASK DUBYA…
“I hear we’re leading Florida by a bit. I don’t know why we’re not leading by a lot. Maybe crowds don’t make the difference.” – Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Florida.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“When Obama says Trump is ‘unfit’ to be president, you know Trump has succeeded getting in Obama’s head and under his skin. Just remember the old saying, ‘when you point a finger, there a 3 more pointing back at you.’” – Floyd Prophet, Kannapolis, N.C.

“The American people are the real losers in this election. It is very obvious that Donald Trump does not want to win this election and cares more about himself than the American people. We feel betrayed because if he really cared about ‘America’ and what we stand for he should be winning. He is no better than the rest of the politicians in Washington. His ego and his ‘mouth’ has destroyed him and I do not think he will be able to defeat her. How dare Mr. Trump throw it away after his supporters chose him as the nominee!” – Debbie Funderburk, Harrisburg, N.C.

Tim Huelskamp’s loss should (but probably won’t) serve as a cautionary tale for Donald Trump.” – Margery Peterson, Salinas, Calif.

[Ed. note: Kansas voters tend to be quite conservative in their politics, but also in their manners. The old political dictum holds true: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s not everywhere that politesse is still part politics, but in places like Salina, Kan. – and maybe even sometimes in Salinas, Calif., it surely is.]

YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG
KPHO: “A man was arrested for excessive speed after he chased an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper who was in his fully marked patrol vehicle. It happened on Tuesday at approximately 9:40 a.m. The trooper noticed a car closely following him at 80 miles per hour as he patrolled the U.S. 60 in the east Valley…Eventually, the trooper was able to maneuver behind the vehicle and finally pulled the driver over still not knowing the motives behind his erratic driving behavior…When confronted by the trooper[the driver] said he was pursuing and videotaping the trooper to document the trooper’s driving above the speed limit while seemingly not responding to anything.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“If a private company had [shipped cash to Iran]…The CEO would be in jail right now.” – 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.