Fox News Halftime Report

'No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy'

Bias Bash: Justin Duckham discusses the media's opinion of Donald Trump's new 'disciplined' version of himself and if it will make a difference at the polls

 

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On the roster: ‘No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy’ - FBI says Clinton Foundation investigation ‘very high priority’ - I’ll Tell You What: Drowning in data? - Audible: Tipping the scales - Voted most likely to become a meme

‘NO SIDETRACKS, DONALD. NICE AND EASY’
Could you keep your baser impulses in check for five days for the chance to become the most powerful man in the world?

Most would laugh off the question. Five days isn’t a very long time and the prize is enormous: the power to destroy human life on earth coupled with an exalted status unlike anything else in the world.

But could you really, especially if you credited those impulses with your success?

This philosophical question is getting its real world application in Donald Trump’s sprint to the finish of campaign 2016.

Two weeks ago, it seemed Trump was headed for ignominious defeat and he seemed intent on doing it from the center of an inferno. Burn, baby, burn.

But just as Hillary Clinton’s lumbering dreadnaught was contentedly firing off lazy cannonades at Trump’s burning hulk, her own deck went ablaze as James Comey lobbed Greek fire amidships.

While Trump’s improved position in the polls may have had more to do with the natural tightening we always see in elections as partisans revert to types, the Comey firebomb provided the inflection point for Trump to change his course.

What was starting to look like a suicide mission aimed at the Republican Party is back in something more like fighting trim. We have seen a return of September Trump, who says the words that are written for him, actually passes on some media interviews, doesn’t insult fellow Republicans and is not notably crass, crude or boorish.

And it seems to have worked, to some degree. The normally shell-backed Senate majority leader was practically effusive in his endorsement of Trump on Wednesday. And poor Ted Cruz, who has found himself on every side of Trump’s fitness for office, finds himself at the end out on the trail stumping for Trump.

Not that it had anything to do with the trail running through Iowa…

And look at the numbers from the latest Pew Research survey. Yes, Republicans overwhelmingly see their party as divided, but now favorable views inside the GOP of the party are up substantially from their nadir 6 months ago and an amazing 65 percent of Republicans now say Trump’s views represent core Republican values.

Being a good boy is seemingly working for the bad boy of politics. But it also seems to be taking its toll.

At a rally in Pensacola, Fla. on Wednesday, Trump’s internal monologue broke through the speech as written:

“We’ve got to be nice and cool, nice and calm,” Trump said. “All right, stay on point Donald, stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy.”

What Trump has been resisting the is urge to be what he calls a “counterpuncher,” but what is, in reality, being baited into damaging conflicts. No Tweet storms. No outbursts, just the good old TelePrompTer and the GOP hymnal.

But one imagines that as the furor over Comey’s burning blast on Clinton fades in the closing days it will be harder for Trump to keep it together. And the person who seems best suited for the job of embarrassing Trump into a response is none other than the troller-in-chief, Barack Obama.

Obama’s mockery of Trump’s birtherism at the 2011 White House Correspondents Association dinner may have actually spurred Trump’s run. And now Obama is on the trail trying to goad Trump to finishing out with another slew of taunts.

Whether Trump has a chance on Tuesday may depend on the Republican nominee’s ability to resist.

THE RULEBOOK: LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
“Responsibility [in the executive] is of two kinds to censure and to punishment.”– Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 70

TIME OUT: SWIMMINGLY
Wired: “University of Delaware scientists recently used a radio tracking technology called acoustic tagging to reveal how sharks interact. The technique has long been used to track where animals are, not how they interact with other animals. The way to do that is to simply tag more sharks, and see how all of those radio signals plot on a map. …Rather than outfitting their target fishes—sand tiger sharks—with receivers, the team used transceiver tags that combine receivers and transmitters. Over time, they collected information on which individual sharks were detected within range of one another. It’s sort of like a social network—Finbook for sharks, says Tristan Guttridge, director of the Bimini Sharklab in the Bahamas…And simple proximity doesn’t always indicate social behavior—ever ridden public transportation? ”

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 +3.4 points
[Polls included: CBS/NYTIBDABC/WaPoFox News and Pew.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +2.8 points
[Polls included: CBS/NYTIBDABC/WaPoFox News and Pew.]

CLINTON FOUNDATION INVESTIGATION ‘VERY HIGH PRIORITY’
Fox News: “The FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation that has been going on for more than a year has now taken a ‘very high priority,’ separate sources with intimate knowledge of the probe tell Fox News. FBI agents have interviewed and re-interviewed multiple people on the foundation case, which is looking into possible pay for play interaction between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. The FBI’s White Collar Crime Division is handling the investigation. Even before the WikiLeaks dumps of alleged emails linked to the Clinton campaign, FBI agents had collected a great deal of evidence, law enforcement sources tell Fox News. ‘There is an avalanche of new information coming in every day,’ one source told Fox News, who added some of the new information is coming from the WikiLeaks documents and new emails.”

Secret audio recordings sparked FBI investigation in Clinton Foundation - WSJ: “Secret recordings of a suspect talking about the Clinton Foundation fueled an internal battle between FBI agents who wanted to pursue the case and corruption prosecutors who viewed the statements as worthless hearsay, people familiar with the matter said. Agents, using informants and recordings from unrelated corruption investigations, thought they had found enough material to merit aggressively pursuing the investigation into the foundation that started in summer 2015 based on claims made in a book by a conservative author called ‘Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,’ these people said. The account of the case and resulting dispute comes from interviews with officials at multiple agencies.”

Newly released emails show campaign coordination between Clinton camp, State Dept. - Fox News: “Newly released emails appear to show a State Department official coordinating with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign before her use of a private email to conduct government business was revealed…In a March 1, 2015 email, State Department press aide Lauren Hickey told Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill and two other advisers that then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki had ‘just cleared’ a reply to the Times. Hickey provided the agency’s response to the Clinton aides and also appeared to agree to a change requested by the campaign, saying: ‘Yes on your point re records - done below.’ It is not clear what specific change was requested and made.”

The Judge’s Ruling:  Fair notice - Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says James Comey violated the guarantee of due process by sending a vague letter informing Congress that the FBI would resume investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails based upon the belief that more of them may be located in the laptop of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner. “If there is any moral lesson in all this, it is that the history of human freedom consists of paying careful attention to constitutional guarantees and legal protections, no matter the reputation of the accused.” READ HERE.

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: DROWNING IN DATA?
The last round of polling for the 2016 race is filtering in and everyone is asking: Are these numbers real? Will there be secret Clinton and Trump voters that come out in droves on Tuesday and completely change what we’ve been seeing? Chris Stirewalt tells Dana Perino: not so much. Check out the podcast series that stared it all, LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.

AUDIBLE: TIPPING THE SCALES
“In my heyday in college, I actually quantified it as two and a half times a week.” – Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson explaining to IJ Review how he ‘quantifies’ his consumption of marijuana.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Electoral map shifts continue to show tight race with less than a week to go - Cook Political Report

Black church in Miss. burned, vandalized with ‘Vote Trump’ - Reuters

Poll: Trump leads in N.H. by 1 point - Politico

Ca. poll shows Hillary way ahead, but not by as much as Obama - Sacramento Bee

But they’re tied in…Colorado? - The Denver Post

High court rules Parliament must vote before Brexit - BBC

Psst…heard about Umptray Eeveetay? Casting notice goes out for ‘up and coming’ conservative media outlet - Fox News

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, I believe Michigan is more in play for Trump than you realize.  Keep in mind that Bernie upset Hillary in the Michigan Democratic primary. In the upside down world that is this election, Bernie voters may actually morph into Trump voters. Many of those Bernie voters were motivated by the trade issue.  And, if the lack of African-American enthusiasm really is a thing, that is also going to hurt Hillary in Michigan. Love the daily e-mails. Thanks for doing it.” – Jack Ingold, Midland, Mich.

[Ed. note: Certainly, Mr. Ingold, you have described what many Republicans hoped would happen with Michigan this cycle. The massive depopulation of Detroit over the previous decade has seen the Great Lakes State revert to something closer to its long-ago status as a swing state. Some, no doubt, even envision a time when Michigan is the Republican stronghold it once was back when communities like your own, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek provided a political counterweight to a still bustling Motor City. If you want evidence of the shift you need only ponder the fact that the Reuther Brothers once-held sway in what became a right-to-work state. Buuuut…it has been rough running for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the aftermath of Detroit’s implosion, especially in Flint. And as for the Bernie voters, Trump’s decision to run as a more conventional Republican after his campaign faltered in the spring seems to have closed off that avenue for moving blue states to the red column. I believe Michigan will be closer than the 9-point spread between Obama and, the pride of the Cranbrook School, Mitt Romney. But as for an outright win, you would have to drink a lot of Stroh’s before that looked likely.]

“I really enjoy reading your Halftime Report each day, particularly the quotes from the Federalist Papers. One of my goals in life is to read the entire collection, but I admit it’s tough going. Wednesday’s quote about a feeble executive equating to a bad government brought to mind the ongoing debate about executive overreach (and Congress’s allowance/acceptance/encouragement of it). What view do you think Publius would take on the current relationship between the executive and legislative branches? Thank you, and take care.” – John Carter, Atlanta

[Ed. note: A lofty goal, indeed, Mr. Carter! I think of all of the things that would most amaze and appall the Framers about the state of the republic, the intentional devolution of power by one of the branches would top their list. I think Publius & Co. could have foreseen extreme partisanship, the supremacy of ideological division and the frailty of individual politicians. But I do not think they could’ve imagined the degree to which Congress has surrendered its own power in the past 100 years. Technocrats have long claimed that an administrative state is necessary for a nation as large and complex as ours. This makes a handy excuse for lawmakers who wish to not make laws. What terrible weakness would compel a legislative branch to cede control over the power to make war and, increasingly, the power to make law and cede its authority not just to the chief magistrate, but to an alphabet soup of executive branch agencies? But, maybe, knowing as much as they did about the weakness of human nature, maybe the framers could have envisioned how vain politicians, eager to keep their padded perches would trade the power to steer the ship of state for more comfortable re-election bids.]

“[Responding to Wednesday’s piece on “Clippy” the Microsoft helper of the 1990s] Problem with computers…they only do what you tell them to do and not what you want them to do.” – Frank Siegler, Farmington, Minn.

[Ed. note: But, Mr. Siegler, once they start doing that who will be in charge here?]

“Chris – amused by item about cop ruefully accepting red-light turn ticket [in Monday’s note]. Reminded me of when my dad was police chief in small Nebraska town and he ticketed my mom’s car for over-parking. She was ticked by the ticket; he said “the law’s the law.” Eventually was all right by supper time. Enjoy your column every day.” – Victor Wortman, Santa Monica, Calif.

[Ed. note: Was this the first and only occasion of an officer sweet talking his way out of a ticket he wrote? Thanks for the tale of small town life and small town virtues.]

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

VOTED MOST LIKELY TO BECOME A MEME
CBS News: “It’s a quote that has stuck with Los Angeles Dodgers fan Marcos Meza for decades: ‘Chicago Cubs. 2016. World Champions. You heard it here first.’ His classmate Mike Lee, a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan living in California, made the prediction in Mission Viejo High School’s 1993 class yearbook. ‘I thought it was so funny that I never forgot it,’ Meza, who has known Lee since seventh grade, told CBS News. Twenty-three years later, as the Cubs win the World Series in Game 7 with a 8-7 nail-biting victory over the Cleveland Indians, the internet is going wild…Meza even helped spread Lee’s wild prediction, sending it around to several sites, including Chicago Sports blog The Heckler. From there, it didn’t take long for the photo to go viral. Cubs fans were also hoping Lee, who now lives in Chicago, would be right. It turns out he was. And now Meza is making a prediction of his own: ‘He’ll never buy a beer again in Chicago.’”

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.