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On the roster: Trump plays the press… again - Time Out: Don’t stop - Voter intensity drives Trump advantage - Ryan says Trump should release his tax returns - The hottest new fiction

TRUMP PLAYS THE PRESS… AGAIN
That sound you hear are thousands of plaintive sighs from thousands of political reporters around the country as they realize they have yet again been snookered by Donald Trump.

After building anticipation for a day over a big revelation to be made about Trump’s former efforts to prove that President Obama was actually born in Kenya, the Republican nominee managed to not only get wall-to-wall coverage of an otherwise unremarkable endorsement from retired military leaders, but also even a lavish plug for his new hotel in Washington.

As Trump did with generating wild speculation about whether he would endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, or whether he would back down on his call for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump did the conventional thing, but used his reputation for unconventionality to blow up press coverage and dominate the news cycle.

And like he did in the times before, Trump eventually came out with the conventional position – in this case that the president was born where he said he was born – but did it in such a way to distract from his shift.  

The tricky part about this dismount was that Trump probably wouldn’t be the Republican nominee if it wasn’t for his birtherism, but birtherism continued to weigh down his White House ambitions.

He couldn’t very well take on the subject of his quest to prove Obama an African in America rather than an African American during the first debate 10 days from now. The birther business needed to be offloaded pronto.

In an interview with the WaPo Wednesday, Trump declined to tell the paper where he believed Obama was born. A confident Trump, asked about his campaign manager’s claim that he now accepts the official version of Obama’s nativity, told the Post, “It’s okay she’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”

Trump also used the same device he did when he became the de facto leader of the so-called “birther” movement in 2011, which was to say that he would “answer that question at the right time,” suggesting that he had additional knowledge or information about what he once said was a massive cover up.

Trump’s comments prompted a statement from his campaign assuring reporters that Trump has abandoned his claims of a conspiracy of Obama’s secret Kenyan birth, but Democratic rival Hillary Clinton wasted no time in pouncing on the comments as she tried to get her campaign righted after her Sunday collapse.

It was very evidently a trap play the campaign had in mind for whatever moment Trump was asked about his birther days.

As he did on the climb-downs on mass deportations and Ryan’s primary race, Trump found a way to get a twofer: wall-to-wall coverage of what amounted to an ordinary campaign announcement and the offloading of damaging baggage with minimal strain.

The Trump playbook on media manipulation will be studied for years to come.

THE RULEBOOK: THINK IT THROUGH   
“…the choice must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the GREATER, not the PERFECT, good; and that in every political institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused. They will see, therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible against a perversion of the power to the public detriment.”– James Madison, “Federalist No. 41

TIME OUT: DON’T STOP
NPR explains the origins of the automatic toll technology: “There was a time when the most frustrating thing about summer road trips were the lines at the toll booth. Remember digging through the seats for exact change or scrambling to find the shortest line? Toll collection has come a long way, from handing money to cashiers to simply driving through the booth with an E-ZPass. But the technology passed through many, often surprising, hands – musicians and spies and NASA scientists – to become the electronic toll booths many highways enjoy today.”

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

SCOREBOARD
Average of national head-to-head presidential polls:
 Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +2.4 points
[Polls included: Fox News, NYT/CBS NewsQuinnipiac UniversityWaPo/ABC Newsand CNN.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +1.2 points
[Polls included: Fox News, NYT/CBS NewsQuinnipiac UniversityWaPo/ABC News, and CNN]

VOTER INTENSITY DRIVES TRUMP BUMP
Fox News: “The presidential race is tight. Hillary Clinton tops Donald Trump by just one point among likely voters in the four-way ballot. In the head-to-head matchup, Trump’s up by one point.  Clinton receives 41 percent to Trump’s 40 percent, according to a new Fox News Poll, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 8 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 3 percent.  In a two-way matchup, likely voters give Trump the edge over Clinton: 46-45 percent. The poll, released Thursday, was conducted Sunday through Wednesday evenings, at a time when Clinton faced new questions about her health after falling ill at a 9/11 memorial event.”

[Sunday, funday! - One of the most popular political podcasts comes to television this weekend. The first episode of “Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What,” will air at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.]

RYAN SAYS TRUMP SHOULD RELEASE HIS TAX RETURNS
WSJ: “House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said Donald Trump should release his tax returns, but deferred to the GOP presidential candidate on when to do so. ‘I released mine. I think he should release his,’ Mr. Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee, told reporters Thursday, but didn’t press Mr. Trump on the timing. ‘I know he is under an audit and he has got an opinion about when to release those. I will defer to him on that,’ Mr. Ryan said.”

AUDIBLE: WELL...
“You know what you’re getting.” – Donald Trump on “The Tonight Show” talking about why he eats fast food because of a fear that his food would be tampered with.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Does Trump pay income tax? - New Yorker

Clinton’s struggles with young voters help close the gap for Trump - Toronto Star

New Michigan poll shows Clinton slumping - Detroit Free Pres

Kasich says it’s ‘very unlikely’ he’ll vote for Trump - The Hill

Trump scales back tax cuts in new economic plan -
Reuters

Clinton ducks question on why Kaine didn’t know about her illness prior to Sunday -
WashEx

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, it’s gem’s like this, ‘…[ahem, providing constituent services to] bimbos at home’...that are the reasons we the people, love your work.” – Jeff Skelton, Cornelia, Ga.

[Ed. note: Thank you, Mr. Skelton! A gift for euphemism is crucial to survival in politics. Otherwise I would have been out on my Smith Corona a long time ago…]

“If Johnson’s 3rd Party bid siphons enough otherwise-Clinton votes to elect Trump wouldn’t this be the obverse of [Ross Perot] drawing enough votes from Bush to elect Clinton? If so – I wonder…is irony, like revenge, a dish best tasted cold?” – Kurt Waltz, Scottsdale, Ariz.

[Ed. note: At the very least, there would be some fitting parallelism in it. But always be cautious attributing effects to minor-party candidates. We can’t really know for whom their supporters would have voted or, more importantly, if they would have voted at all.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Vice Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine and Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., join Mr. Sunday to break down the latest 2016 news, and actor George Clooney discusses corruption in South Sudan. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m.

THE HOTTEST NEW FICTION
The New Orleans Advocate: “A fire inside a blighted house in Broadmoor [New Orleans, La.] quickly spread to a nearby multiplex Thursday, sending residents rushing to safety and one — a novelist worried about losing his life’s work — back inside to save his laptop…Gideon Hodge, 35, describes himself as a playwright, novelist and actor. When his fiancée told him that their apartment was on fire, he left work in Mid-City and rushed to the scene. That's when he realized that his only copies of two completed novels were on a laptop inside…Clad in a T-shirt that said #photobomb next to an illustration of the Joker photobombing Batman and Robin, Hodge dashed into the building…‘Anybody that’s ever created art, there’s no replacing that,’ Hodge said. ‘It’s got pretty much my life’s work.’ …The computer was intact, Hodge said, sheltered from the deluge of water by a table. The charger was a loss.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“We have two policies. His is a unicorn economy, and hers is no proposals at all, other than these little items to relieve stresses in ordinary life.” – 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.