**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Georgia too much on Democrats’ minds -
Surprise! Tories call snap election ahead of Brexit - White House tries to hold the line on Trump tax return - Trump heads to Wisconsin to sign ‘Buy American’ order - Gnawing desire for career change
GEORGIA TOO MUCH ON DEMOCRATS MINDS
When it comes to managing expectations for today’s special House election in suburban Atlanta, Democrats haven’t.
A 30 year-old documentary film maker and former congressional staffer running as a Democrat in a district that hasn’t gone blue since Jimmy Carter’s election ought to be credited for even being competitive. But as the world has descended on Fulton County and environs, Jon Ossoff has been preemptively cast in the roll of giant killer.
The giant looming in the minds of Democrats is, of course, President Trump, who they believe can be stopped by a loss in this reliably red district.
Money has gushed into the district as Democrats try to snag the seat previously held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Republicans countered. A report from The Center for Public Integrity found that of more than $9 million spent on the race by outside groups as of Sunday just $1,070 came from inside Georgia.
As spending and national attention have reached a crescendo, what started as a potential embarrassment for the GOP could now be trouble for Democrats.
Expectations for previous longshot Ossoff, who doesn’t even live in the district, border on the ridiculous. When the New Yorker dispatches a top writer to do a scene piece on a race that amounts to an 18 month term for one of 435 members of the House, you know things have gotten weird.
Making it all the more ridiculous is that when polls close at 7 p.m. ET tonight we are unlikely to even have an outright winner.
Congressional-level polling is notoriously terrible, but the indication is that Ossoff is polling about 40 percent of the vote in this much-watched special election. If these polls prove predictive, that would leave him to face the top Republican vote getter in a runoff election in June. When there is just one Republican instead of 11 dividing up the vote on the right, it’s hard to see how Ossoff wins in the second round.
So, basically, Democrats are hyping an election in which their guy has to hit the political equivalent of a grand-slam homerun tonight or they will look like, as Trump might say, losers.
That’s not to say you can blame them for trying. Districts like Georgia’s 6th are the unending worry for the GOP. Elections are mostly won and lost in America’s suburbs, and the 2016 election offered lots of evidence that the GOP is slipping in its onetime suburban strongholds.
Republican viability depends on the ability to merge the party’s new populist sensibility with the more-moderate, good-government types who know the right way to pack their Yeti cooler in the back of their Toyota 4Runners for the drive to Athens for a UGA game.
And, Republicans nationally reflect the 11-way spilt the party is seeing in the district as party leaders struggle to dance along with Trump’s changing tune on a host of issues.
But first, a word about how it’s really going. A new poll from The Pew Research Center helpfully drills down on voter’s attitudes about the parties as the Trump administration approaches the three-month mark.
Republicans are now about as unpopular as their president, which is saying something since Trump remains stuck with a 39 percent job approval rating. According to the poll, Republicans are viewed favorably by just 40 percent of adults.
Part of the party’s problem might surprise you, given Trump’s recent widely-praised moves on the world stage: Democrats have taken the lead on their ability to handle foreign policy and on immigration. Corruption also remains an issue as of now only 36 percent of respondents are confident Trump will be able to avoid major scandals.
But if there is one takeaway from the poll and the slouchy standing of the president and his party, it is the dismayed surprise voters are expressing about Trump’s ability to get things done. After his election, the poll found 60 percent of respondents confident that he could work well with Congress. That number is now just 46 percent.
Today’s election could say a lot about that.
If Ossoff can pull off a stunner and win outright today, it will pucker up every one of the more than two dozen Republicans who represent districts like this one. Recruiting new candidates will become an even greater chore and donors will start to close their checkbooks, wary of a 2018 wipeout.
An outright Democratic win today will be a painful blow to Trump’s efforts to revive his agenda. A loss so shocking for the party would cause current members of the House to take big steps back from Trump and his initiatives. And that knowledge is what surely has Trump so deeply involved in the race.
But here’s where Democrats may have erred. By hyping the race, they have given Trump an opportunity to claim what otherwise would have been a completely unremarkable win. It shouldn’t be news that Republicans are likely to hold Price’s seat, but now that it is, it gives the president the chance to claim victory, bigly.
Pity the Democrats who will have to slog along with Ossoff if he, as expected, falls short of an outright majority today and has to take a drubbing in June.
Trump and his party would use every step of that unhappy journey to make the point that even in Republican districts where Trump is unpopular and even among well-educated suburbanites, the GOP can hold the line.
That would go a long way when it comes time for selling TrumpCare, tax cuts or infrastructure spending.
That’s not to say that Democrats should have stayed out of the race, but it is to say that the party’s gamble could come at a significant cost.
THE RULEBOOK: DIRECT DEPOSIT
“As theory and practice conspire to prove that the power of procuring revenue is unavailing when exercised over the States in their collective capacities, the federal government must of necessity be invested with an unqualified power of taxation in the ordinary modes.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31
TIME OUT: WEST VIRGINIA, MAN
Famed economist Tyler Cowen looks at the other side of what has become the media obsession with dislocation, economic disruption and addiction in Appalachia. Bloomberg: “…These days, when I hear talk of the economic problems in, say, West Virginia, I think instead of the West Virginia productivity miracle, and I wonder how such an impressive achievement could be possible. … The per capita income of West Virginia is about $37,000 a year, which makes it one of the poorest states in the union. Still, at about three-quarters of the national average, that’s higher than many people expect. And because it is cheaper to live in West Virginia than where most Americans live, the per capita income is higher when adjusted for purchasing power parity. In contrast, per capita income in France or Japan, by purchasing power parity measures, is in the range of $40,000 to $41,000. In other words, if we consider that living in West Virginia is especially cheap, its people may have real incomes roughly equal to the French or Japanese.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
SURPRISE! TORIES CALL SNAP ELECTION AHEAD OF BREXIT
AP: “… Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an early general election to be held June 8 to seek a strong mandate as she negotiates Britain's exit from the European Union. … May said she would ask the House of Commons on Wednesday to back her call for an election, just two years after the last vote and three years before the next scheduled date in May 2020. She said that since Britons voted to leave the EU in June, the country had come together, but politicians had not. She said the political divisions ‘risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.’ At present, May's governing Conservatives have a small majority, with 330 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons. May said that ‘our opponents believe that because the government's majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course’ on leaving the EU.”
Sliding in polls, French nationalist Le Pen zeroes in on immigration - Reuters: “Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen sought on Tuesday to turn the debate in the final week of France's presidential election to immigration as she looked to reverse a dip in polls. Surveys of voting intentions have for months shown Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron qualifying on Sunday for the May 7 run-off, but the National Front leader has been under pressure since the start of April as conservative Francois Fillon and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon close the gap on the favorites. Speaking to a rally in Paris on Monday she vowed to suspend all immigration with an immediate moratorium, shield voters from globalization and strengthen security, subjects that have won her core backing and that she hopes can give her boost with about 30 percent of voters still undecided.”
Trump congratulates Turkish president on rolling back constitution - NYT: “President Trump called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Monday to congratulate him on winning a much-disputed referendum that will cement his autocratic rule over the country and, in the view of many experts, erode Turkey’s democratic institutions. … The statement did not say whether Mr. Trump had raised independent reports of voting irregularities during the Turkish referendum… The White House was also silent about the long-term implications of the referendum, which some experts have likened to a deathblow to democracy in Turkey. … The change to Turkey’s Constitution will allow the winner of the 2019 presidential election to assume full control of the government, ending the current parliamentary political system.”
WHITE HOUSE TRIES TO HOLD THE LINE ON TRUMP TAX RETURN
NYT: “President Trump’s promise to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code is in serious jeopardy nearly 100 days into his tenure, and his refusal to release his own tax returns is emerging as a central hurdle to another faltering campaign promise. … White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, emphasized again on Monday that Mr. Trump had no intention of making his public. Democrats have seized on that decision, uniting around a pledge not to cooperate on any rewriting of the tax code unless they know specifically how that revision would benefit the billionaire president and his family. And a growing roster of more than a dozen Republican lawmakers now say Mr. Trump should release them.”
Even in bright-red Arkansas, Sen. Tom Cotton faces backlash over Trump’s return refusal - Politico: “Sen. Tom Cotton came under fire at a raucous town hall Monday, as constituents pelted the Arkansas Republican on topics ranging from Donald Trump’s tax returns and possible ties to Russia to the GOP push to repeal Obamacare. It was the latest in a string of confrontations between GOP lawmakers and voters during Congress’ two-week spring recess, coming on the heels of the party’s failed bid to overturn the Democratic health care law. Cotton, a rising star in the Republican Party seen as a potential White House aspirant in time, withstood 90 minutes of boos and occasional cheers from an oft-agitated crowd in Little Rock, Arkansas.”
Administration retreats on tax reform - The Hill: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a Financial Times interview published Monday that enacting tax reform legislation by August is ‘highly aggressive to not realistic at this point.’ The comments contrast with remarks Mnuchin made in March, when he said his goal would be to have a tax bill ‘signed’ by August. The remarks also follow President Trump saying last week that he still intends to tackle repealing and replacing ObamaCare before tax reform. ‘It started as [an] aggressive timeline,’ Mnuchin told the Financial Times. ‘It is fair to say it is probably delayed a bit because of the healthcare.’”
[The Associated Press offers five things to know on Tax Day]
TRUMP HEADS TO WISCONSIN TO SIGN ‘BUY AMERICAN’ ORDER
USA Today: “President Trump will sign a double-barreled executive order Tuesday that will clamp down on guest worker visas and require agencies to buy more goods and services from U.S. companies and workers. Trump will sign the so-called ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order during a visit to Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wis., Tuesday, said two senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the order Monday. … By combining aspects of immigration policy with federal procurement regulations, Trump is using executive action to advance his philosophy of economic nationalism without waiting for action from Congress. But like many of his previous executive orders, the order will largely call on cabinet secretaries to fill in the details with reports and recommendations about what the administration can legally do.”
Mixed messages for president’s base - NYT: “As he nears 100 days in the White House, Mr. Trump has demonstrated that while he won office on a populist message, he has not consistently governed that way. He rails against elites, including politicians, judges, environmentalists, Hollywood stars and the news media. But he has stocked his administration with billionaires and lobbyists while turning over his economic program to a Wall Street banker. He may be at war with the Washington establishment, but he has drifted away from some of the anti-establishment ideas that animated his campaign.
But Scott Jennings says passengers aren’t hopping off the Trump Train - The [Louisville, Ky.] Courier Journal: “They aren’t particularly concerned with which Trump advisors are up or down in the morning political tip sheets. But they do follow politics closely enough to know that the press still hates Trump, as do the liberal political elites. As far as the average Trump supporter in Middle America is concerned, Trump must be doing just fine.”
Kevin Williamson, on the other hand, takes a slightly different view - National Review: “During the campaign, Donald Trump published a ‘Contract with the American Voter,’ and he may even have read it. He described the document as ‘my pledge to you.’ If anybody had been listening, they might have learned from his former business partners what a Trump contract is worth and from his ex-wives what value he puts on a solemn pledge. I have some bad news, Sunshine: Ya got took.”
Pro-Trump group takes to airwaves for backers of TrumpCare - WaPo
Large number of State Dept. positions still unfilled - Politico
"You know, one of the dynamics we’ve got is the Democratic radical left is demanding of Senate Democrats that they oppose everything, that they engage in across-the-board obstruction. And so I do have some concern that to appease the radical left, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats may do everything they can to try to provoke a shutdown." – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talking to reporters while campaigning in his home state.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“… To your idea, I say, hear, hear! Repeal the 17th Amendment! That would be the first step toward returning America to the great political/governmental structure devised by its Founding Fathers. The great strength of their system is that change occurred too fast for many, yet too slow for others. The nation always struggled for years to reach compromises on large social and economic policies, but when they were finally adopted, the people were ready and willing to live with them. Now we pinball from one side to another, without any true satisfaction. The repeal would also be a good step toward dismantling the professional political class…” – Allen Brooks, Houston
[Ed. note: I hate to repeat it at the risk of sounding like a broken record, but of all of the political movements of the past century in America, there is perhaps none that has failed as thoroughly as the Progressive Era push for more direct democracy. Not only has it helped to turn the Senate into a glorified version of the House, but also decrease the value of state legislative seats. America would work better if people paid more attention to the governments closest to them. We often talk about our states as “laboratories of democracy,” but in truth, we do more each year to turn their governments into federal vassals.]
“Using Arizona as an example, term limits make legislators temporary while making permanent the staffs, the bureaucrats and lobbyists. It does not apparently make for a better government.” – Carl Robie , Charlotte, N.C.
[Ed. note: Arizona’s system has been further warped by public financing. When Americans marvel at unusual legislation issuing from the Grand Canyon State, it may have something to do with the fact that without fundraising a threshold for a candidate to surmount ideological purity or even extremism becomes necessary for winning primary elections.]
“Is it just me, or does anybody else notice the seeming disconnect between a tycoon who made himself dealing in resorts, casinos and adult playgrounds for the rich and famous, hiring an AG from the Deep South with the reputation of an attack dog, who puritanically suspects little old ladies, in the ever increasing majority, of smoking a little cannabis because it helps their arthritis and maybe enjoying it?” – Bill Ash, Largo, Fla.
[Ed. note: Vice laws are curious things. It’s apropos that you would mention gambling since it provides one of the best insights on how governments come around on such subjects. Forty years ago gambling, even state lotteries, was relatively rare and casino gambling was illegal everywhere except Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J. But as states began to introduce lotteries in larger numbers, governments in neighboring states became jealous of the new source of revenue that came without any pesky tax increases. Now only six states do not have lotteries, and many of those that do have expanded their definition of lottery games to include what are essentially slot machines. Twenty-two states have commercial casinos with others still offering casino gambling on tribal reservations. Legal gambling in the United States now constitutes a nearly $100 billion-a-year industry. I suspect the same will happen with legal, recreational cannabis as cash-strapped legislators eye revenues in states like Colorado.]
“Per [Monday’s Kicker]: Since when is janitorial work equivalent to ‘hatred, contempt, ridicule’? I’m sure all of the janitors at Assistant Professor Kalonde’s Montana State University might take umbrage at that suit…and if he’s lucky, he won’t find himself stuck to a toilet seat (super glue?) that the fine men and women who perform the real work of keeping restrooms clean, and offices…including his (hint, hint) free of debris, accidental food and garbage spills, and strange odors! Just saying…a more pompous a** could not be found in the fine state of Montana!” – Greg Bruce, Castle Rock, Colo.
[Ed. note: Because I am still a 12 year old at heart I immediately thought of the line from “Austin Powers”: “It’s Dr. Evil. I didn’t spend six years in evil medical school to be called ‘mister,’ thank you very much.”]
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
GNAWING DESIRE FOR CAREER CHANGE
CBC News: “On Friday, [Adrienne Ivey] and her husband were surprised to see 150 of their heifers crowded together in one of their pastures. Curious about the strange behaviour, they investigated further, to find the herd of cattle following a beaver that had wandered along. ‘He was out and about, I think looking for a new place to build a beaver lodge, and they were following him,’ Ivey said. ‘There was about a three-foot space around him. They didn't want to get closer than that.’ According to Ivey, heifers, young cows that haven't had a calf before, are more inquisitive than the average bovine, which may have led to the cows following the beaver. ‘They're a curious bunch,’ she said. ‘They're kind of like teenagers. And I think they were following this thing around because they couldn't figure out what the heck it was.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The difference between the Cuban missile crisis and this is that the Soviets in 1962 had active, deployable, utterly devastating nuclear arsenal. That was at stake as if Armageddon was at stake.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland 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.