**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: A different kind of August - Trump changes tune on NATO, Muslim vetting - Foundation pushed State Dept. for Bubba’s NoKo speech - Audible: Egg man - No shame in his game
A DIFFERENT KIND OF AUGUST
So how’s it going out there?
The latest poll from Florida shows no relief for Donald Trump. Monmouth University, in a survey out this afternoon, has Hillary Clinton 9 points ahead in a four-way race that includes minor party nominees.
Add that to the WaPo poll that shows Trump getting trounced by 14 points among registered voters in Virginia. Taken with last week’s double-digit deficit in Pennsylvania, and reversals in Ohio, one could say Republican presidential hopes seem to be melting like a Popsicle in the August heat.
But look at it another way: It doesn’t really matter.
Not because it’s too early. We are 12 weeks away from Election Day, which as recently as the 1990s might have been considered quite a long stretch. With the advent of early voting, however, and the intensive coverage of campaigns, it’s later than you think.
The reason these swing state polls don’t matter right now is that Trump is so far behind nationally that focusing on electoral votes would be like the coaches of the Atlanta Braves arguing about their playoff pitching rotation. You have to get there first.
We have certainly encouraged you to keep an eye on state polls and the performance of down-ballot candidates. And as we get closer to the election, it may be increasingly important, if only for the GOP’s effort to hold their Senate majority.
What we can take away from these state polls and national surveys is that in order for Trump to win, the race needs to be reset.
Republicans are trying manfully to force Trump into a Romney-shaped box in hopes that somehow if Trump can avoid gaffes, Clinton’s heinous scores on character questions will bring the contest into some closer alignment. But that’s not what this race looks like. In an average of reliable polls, Trump has never led and at his best was more than 4-points behind Clinton nationally.
It’s too late to make it based on incremental movements, but there’s lots of time for things to change on the grander scale.
So, what would a reset look like?
The most obvious means for the race to be remade is Clinton blowing herself up. That could come in the form of the sins of her past being dug out of an old email server somewhere, or in the possibility that she would say or do something so shockingly bad that Trump could take advantage of a week or two of solidly negative coverage. But given the bent of the press and the condition of the electorate it would have to be pretty bad.
Remember, this is a woman who leads nationally by 9 points after the FBI director said she was reckless with the handling of state secrets and essentially lied to voters. In a normal year, that would’ve been the kiss of death.
Other game changers could come in external events, but here context would matter.
An attack on U.S. soil might do for Clinton what the Gulf of Tonkin incident did for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, convincing an anxious nation that steady, experienced leadership was required. Plus, a tragedy of large enough proportion would probably create a “rally ‘round the flag” effect for President Obama. But, increased incidents of urban unrest of the kind we’re seeing in Milwaukee might help Trump.
That’s the thing about unknown unknowns, you never know…
Trump’s best hope for a race reset probably rests with his strongest suit among voters: the economy. We will never know how John McCain might’ve fared in 2008 had the financial sector not burned like a straw bale soaked in gasoline.
None of this is to say that the day-to-day of this race isn’t worth watching. Smart observers know that larger changes are often foretold in small movements.
But it is fair to say that we are in a different kind of election than the ones we have known for the past four cycles. Rather than an evenly split electorate and a battle for a handful of late deciders, this is something else.
So for now, relax. Find a pool in which to dangle your toes and wait to see what unfolds.
TIME OUT: GIVE A FIG
New Yorker: “All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination to reproduce, but, because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside.* That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s…When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
Average of national presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9.2 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8
TRUMP CHANGES TUNE ON NATO, MUSLIM VETTING
Fox News: “Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, in what was billed as a major foreign policy address, on Monday backed off past threats to withdraw from the NATO alliance -- saying that if he’s elected, the U.S. will work with the 28-member bloc to defeat the Islamic State…Trump acknowledged having previously described NATO as ‘obsolete’ for not dealing adequately with terrorism. ‘Since my comments, they have changed their policy,’ Trump said, calling this apparent development ‘very, very good’ … During his speech Trump proposed ‘extreme vetting’ of Muslim immigrants and visitors to the United States, vowing once more to block those who sympathize with extremist groups or don’t embrace American values. He said the policy would first require a temporary halt in immigration from dangerous regions of the world.”
[ABC News reports that Trump will start getting classified national security briefings Wednesday.]
‘To the victor belong the spoils’ - AP: “‘I have long said that we should have kept the oil in Iraq,’ [Trump] said in Youngstown, Ohio. ‘I said, 'Keep the oil. Keep the oil. Keep the oil. Don’t let somebody else get it.’ ‘It would have required U.S. troops to protect the oil, he said, but the benefit would have been clear today. ‘If we had controlled the oil like I said we should, we could have prevented the rise of ISIS in Iraq, both by cutting off a major source of funding and through the presence of U.S. forces necessary to safeguard the oil and vital infrastructure products necessary for us to have the oil.’ Rather than nation-building, this would have been nation-grabbing, making Iraq a de-facto American colony.”
FOUNDATION PUSHED STATE DEPT. FOR BUBBA’S NOKO SPEECH
WashEx: “A Clinton Foundation official pushed Hillary Clinton’s State Department to approve a request for Bill Clinton to speak at a North Korean industrial complex accused of funding the country’s rogue nuclear program. The invitation was facilitated by Tony Rodham, the brother of the Democratic nominee, who had entered now-defunct business partnerships with the Clinton bundler named as a ‘go-between’ for the speech hosts and the secretary of state. New emails shed light on a paid speech opportunity in North Korea that was first uncovered last year through a batch of documents provided to Citizens United through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The latest records to emerge from that case, which were obtained by the Washington Examiner, offer additional insight into the effort to persuade Bill Clinton to deliver remarks in the communist country.”
Independent McMullin qualifies for Utah ballot - The Hill
Sanders team promises DNC chairwoman they will campaign for Clinton - The Hill
Ailes to advise Trump on debates - NYT
Commission on Presidential Debates sets polling parameters - WSJ
Pence, Rubio to campaign together in Florida - ABC News
Liz Cheney poised for House primary win in Wyoming today - National Journal
Dem Senate Candidate Maggie Hassan refuses to say Clinton is honest - Daily Caller
Priebus considering another bid as RNC chairman - Politico
Portman says RNC funds don’t really matter in his race - WashEx
Aetna looks to pull out of ObamaCare - WSJ
Democrats keep up push for taxpayer-funded abortions - Time
How will they vote? Try the turnout scenario widget - RCP
AUDIBLE: EGG MAN
“I think Donald Trump is in serious meltdown. I don’t know if he’s going to make it and I don’t know how long RNC support lasts. But he’s very fragile.” –Evan McMullin on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“What if Trump found some face saving medical condition that requires him to drop out? Would that make Pence the candidate for President and could name someone for the veep slot?” – Joseph Dean, Auburn, Calif.
[Ed note: It does sound a little far-fetched, but it is 2016… The simple answer is that if the Republican nominee is out of the running, it would fall to the members of the Republican National Committee to choose his replacement. One supposes that they might choose someone more famous than the Indiana governor or one less closely tied to their former nominee, but it would certainly depend on the circumstances of the vacancy.]
“This is where Trump should invoke the George Costanza principle and say, ‘My policies will be the exact opposite of what Hillary proposes because Hillary’s Progressive economic programs will turn this country into another Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Greece…need I go on?’” – Ken Ruszkowski, Williamsburg, Va.
[Ed. note: Opposite George! Love it. “My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents.”]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
NO SHAME IN HIS GAME
News.com.au: “Never before has a member of the male species wished for a smaller manhood. Until now, Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita will be ruing the size of his phallus after it caused him to foul during the qualifying rounds in the men’s event in Rio. Ogita was attempting to clear a height of 5.3 metres in group A of the first round of the pole vault, when his leg came in contact with the bar. As he began to drop back down towards the ground, his shin grazed the bar, causing it to wobble dangerously. But it was his penis that delivered the final blow. Already unsteady, the bar was dislodged from its holdings when Ogita’s old fellow decided to make an appearance and slap the metal. The vaulter’s arm then collected the bar as it began to fall. Video footage showed the crushing moment the 28-year-old was let down by his trouser friend.”
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 politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.