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On the roster: Wither ObamaCare? - Clinton camp wanted to ‘clean up’ Obama claim he didn’t know about secret server - Pro-Trump outlet worked with liberal activist to sabotage Rubio  -Newspaper claims Trump-backed PAC caught in Chinese donor sting -Thanks, Siri

WITHER OBAMACARE?
ObamaCare is the most significant domestic policy overhaul of the past twenty years. And it looks increasingly like it will never be a central issue in even a single presidential campaign.

You could hardly call the announcement from the White House that ObamaCare premiums would skyrocket next year an “October Surprise.” On the state level, Republicans and Democrats alike have watched for months as the program came unwound. Faced with huge losses, insurance companies have simply opted out of the president’s signature plan.

But even so, the size of the forecast increases is pretty stunning. Double-digit premium hikes and a shrinking pool of providers has all the tell-tale signs of the much-discussed “death spiral.” Insurers are buckling under the weight of being forced to cover sick customers without offsetting profits from healthy patients who were supposed to be forced into the program by ObamaCare mandates.

It was exactly this kind of shock Democrats planned to avoid in 2012 by shoving the implementation of the most noisome parts of the law past the president’s re-election bid.

But just imagined what would have happened four years ago had this news fallen into the lap of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Now, Romney was certainly in a compromised position as it related to ObamaCare. When the president settled on his blueprint for the federal health law, he very intentionally chose one that had been once proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and implemented by Romney in Massachusetts.

When Obama made his choice for a consumer mandate in 2009, it was already clear that Romney was one of the frontrunners, if not the top contender, for the Republican nomination in 2012. Hanging the controversial, unpopular federal mandate on Romney was good short-term politics, but also a nice investment in Obama’s re-election campaign.

But even a compromised Romney would’ve had no trouble wailing away on Obama for short-sighted planning, mismanagement and improvident expectations.

And it might’ve really made a difference. Two weeks before the 2012 election, Romney trailed in an average of credible national polls by just a single point, as opposed to the current Republican nominee’s deficit of more than 6 points. 

And in the RCP averages in the four dominant swing states, Romney led in Florida by 2 points and in North Carolina by 5 points. The former Massachusetts governor trailed in must-win Ohio by just over 2 points, and Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania was out of reach at a deficit of almost 6 points, but Romney’s path to 270 was still certainly open with two weeks to go.

Compare that to Romney’s successor as Republican nominee.

Donald Trump trails Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the RCP average for Florida by about 3 points and in North Carolina by 2 points. Trump’s Pennsylvania deficit is about the same as Romney’s and Trump is certainly doing better in Ohio, where he holds an advantage of about 1 point.

But if the election was held today, Clinton would already be above 300 electoral votes and potentially heading for the largest margin since 1996. 

Trump and his campaign are trying to dive on the ObamaCare fumble to rally for a late touchdown drive. But they are starting on their own five yard line. Romney was in the red zone at this point in 2012, but couldn’t figure out a way to punch through Obama’s defenses.

The 2010 and 2014 midterm elections were largely litigated around ObamaCare, much to the chagrin of Democrats. The law has remained broadly unpopular, with nothing like the kind of buy-in that other major social welfare programs obtained. 

The 2008 election did feature a major discussion on health care, at least in the Democratic primaries, but by the general election the septic financial system overshadowed any discussion about tax credits, or purchasing plans across state lines.

We can’t be sure how much Trump will try to make out of ObamaCare’s unraveling, or if voters will really pay attention. Trump’s dominant closing argument that he is not guilty of an alleged series of sexual assaults will certainly overshadow anything his policy shop might crank out on health care.

So in all likelihood, the most significant public policy change of the last generation will grind on into history without ever being the subject of a single presidential referendum.

THE RULEBOOK: PARDON TO ALL BUT YOU
“The President is to be the ‘commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. He is to have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, EXCEPT IN CASES OF IMPEACHMENT…’”– Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 69

TIME OUT: PEACE, OFFICERS
Is the message of Black Lives Matter actually backfiring? The American Interest: “If Colin Kaepernick’s protest strategy is working, it hasn’t showed up yet in public opinion polling. Respect for local law enforcement soared over the last year to its highest level since 1968, according to a new survey from Gallup: Interestingly, changing opinions among Democrats and independents drove most of the increase. Republican respect for police, already overwhelming, ticked up only slightly, from 82 to 86 percent. Meanwhile, Democratic support surged from 54 to 68 percent; among independents, from 60 to 75. The uptick was more pronounced among nonwhites than whites…if the movement had been successfully selling the public on the argument that law enforcement inflicts gratuitous violence against minorities on a large scale, we probably wouldn’t expect such a marked pro-police turn in the polls.”

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 +6.4 points
[Polls included: IBDABC NewsCNN,ARG and Quinnipiac University.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +6.2 points
[Polls included: IBDABC NewsCNNQuinnipiac University and Fox News.]

CLINTON CAMP WANTED TO ‘CLEAN UP’ OBAMA CLAIM  HE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT SECRET SERVER
WashEx: “Hillary Clinton’s campaign expressed concerns over President Obama’s statement to the press in March 2015 that he learned about Clinton’s private server from news reports, emails published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday show. Josh Schwerin, a campaign spokesman, sent an email to high-level staffers informing them of Obama’s comments just a few days after the New York Times exposed Clinton’s private email use for the first time. ‘POTUS just said he found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news,’ Schwerin wrote, using Clinton’s initials. Cheryl Mills, a board member at the Clinton Foundation, worried about the implications of Obama’s claim in a subsequent email to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair. [W]e need to clean this up - he has emails from her - they do not say state.gov,’ Mills said. FBI agents revealed in notes from their closed investigative file that Obama communicated with Clinton on her private server using a pseudonym.”

Pro-Trump outlet worked with liberal activist to sabotage Rubio - Politico: “A liberal activist and organizer coordinated with reporters from the conservative news site Breitbart during the primaries to cover his disruptions of events for candidates such as Sen. Marco Rubio. Aaron Black, an associate with Democracy Partners and a former Occupy Wall Street organizer, worked with the pro-Trump site Breitbart, tipping it off about his stunts, exchanging raw video and coordinating coverage, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. Black has resurfaced recently as one of the people featured in undercover video from the Project Veritas group. In the video, he claims to work for the Democratic National Committee.”

Newspaper claims Trump-backed PAC caught in Chinese donor sting -
 The Telegraph: “Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is facing a fundraising scandal after a Telegraph investigation exposed how key supporters were prepared to accept illicit donations from foreign backers. Senior figures involved with the Great America PAC, one of the leading ‘independent’groups organising television advertisements and grassroots support for the Republican nominee, sought to channel $2 million from a Chinese donor into the campaign to elect the billionaire despite laws prohibiting donations from foreigners. In return, undercover reporters purporting to represent the fictitious donor were assured that he would obtain ‘influence’ if Mr. Trump made it to the White House.”

Test for Trump TV? Campaign unveils nightly fake newscast - Fox News: “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump aired the first episode of a nightly news program on Facebook Live Monday amid speculation that the business mogul will start a media network after the Nov. 8 election."

AUDIBLE: NOT KIDDING
“If you look at her plans for Syria, these are the plans of a child.” – Donald Trump attacking Hillary Clinton at a rally in Tampa. 

“‘OK, honey. Then we’ll win.’” – Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to CNN, quoting her candidate’s response to her chiding him for going off script to attack his sexual assault accusers in what was intended to be the speech framing the campaign’s closing argument. 

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Pence to make late visit to Utah - 
Politico

Bernie prepared to be a liberal thorn in Hillary’s side - 
WaPo

Early voting suggests tight races in key states - 
Fox News

How Fla. spun out of Trump’s hands - Politico

More from WikiLeaks shows Clinton camp senior staff worried about diversity - 
Fox News

Reid promises to deploy nuclear option on Supreme Court if Dems take the Senate -
The Hill

Poll shows Hillary widening lead in N.C. - 
NYT

Buuuut another survey shows the race still close - Monmouth University

Toomey focused on centrist record in debate - 
The Hill

Michigan GOP cancels election night party to put money into local races - Detroit News

David Drucker
 explains how Trump could hurt Calif. Republicans in House races -
WashEx

Former top Pa. Dem sentenced to 23 months in prison - Philadelphia Inquirer

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“You are too young to remember but newspaper headlines [in the 1948 election] said ‘ Dewey Wins in a Landslide.’ When I look at history I can’t find a President Dewey.” – David Lee, Hollister, Mo.

[Ed. note: Right you are Mr. Lee! The 1948 presidential election was the last time that public polling blew the call. And it’s kind of a fascinating story. Public opinion research was still in it’s relative infancy as the Gallup organization explored ways to measure voter sentiment. As they polled throughout the summer and into fall, Republican Thomas Dewey was a prohibitive favorite over embattled incumbent Harry Truman. The race was so lopsided in fact that Gallup stopped polling weeks before the election.Truman’s late surge went substantially unnoticed and shocked the nation. And believe me, since then, pollsters have learned their lesson and kept surveys in the field until the very end.]

“Chris, You should be more careful in extolling the accuracy/ reliability of phone surveys versus online polling. Pew Research has done extensive research on the effect that interviewers have on sensitive or emotional questions. As an example, many phone respondents may be reluctant to admit they are likely to vote for Trump when being interviewed by a female or African American interviewer (which is most likely the vast majority of phone interviewers. The response is likely to be significantly more honest when answering an online poll, where there is no gasping at the respondent’s gross stupidity or racial hatred. I’ve been in the opinion polling business for over forty years.” – Pete Booth, Atlanta

[Ed. note: You make an excellent point, Mr. Booth! One of the great appeals of online polling, as well as automated polling by telephone, is that it allows respondents to feel less social pressure from an interviewer. Certainly for market research and other functions, online polls have already proven their worth. But when it comes to accurately tracking or forecasting a presidential election, the disadvantages of online polling  technological barriers to participation for older and poor voters and suspicion of online solicitation among others -- means that good, old fashioned live interviewer telephone calls are still the best way to go.]

“Trump’s next book should be titled ‘The Art of Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory.’ I’ve never seen anyone do a better job of that – not just once, but every time he managed to pull ahead!” – Peggie Hall, North Little Rock, Ark.

[Ed. note: Ms. Hall, you could have a future in marketing. But take it a little easier on Trump. He has never been ahead in an average of real polls, not since the day general election started in May. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been much closer than it’s been in the closing weeks. And that's certainly not to say that Trump didn’t squander some opportunities. But Republicans start every election at a disadvantage because of the electoral map and the demographics of the electorate. The GOP’s selection of such an unconventional candidate was hoped by some to ameliorate some of those deficiencies. But so far, that’s not been the case.]

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

THANKS, SIRI
The Denver Channel: “According to a blog post by Christoph Bartneck, an assistant professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, his recently published paper on Nuclear Physics was written entirely by iOS’s autocorrect function. Bartneck says he was contacted by the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics and asked to submit a paper for publishing. Despite having no knowledge on the subject, he went to work ‘writing.’ Bartneck opened the ‘Notes’ app on his iPhone, and began by typing the word ‘Atomic.’ Then, he completed the sentence only by using iOS autocorrect’s word suggestions…After lifting a diagram from the “nuclear physics” article on Wikipedia, Bartneck submitted his paper for publication. It was approved three hours later.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“‘Who ordered the duck’ is the big question which you would expect to hear at a dinner party, but not at the center of a national campaign…” – 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.