When 40 percent looks like a pizza party

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On the roster: When 40 percent looks like a pizza party - Insurance companies dig in against Graham-Cassidy - A Moore Strange debate - Obama U.N. ambassador unmasked hundreds - A one in 67 million kind of guy

WHEN 40 PERCENT LOOKS LIKE A PIZZA PARTY 
The first day of autumn finds President Trump looking to voters like the cafeteria pizza of chief executives: It’s better than you thought it would be and it’s the only one on offer anyway. 

Late summer was very hard on Trump, who stumbled his way to his lowest-ever mark on public approval on Aug. 14. Trump clocked in with an average approval rating of 34.6 percent and a whopping 59 percent disapproving. That’s not even gas-station pizza territory. We’re talking soy cheese at that point. 

And it’s not hard to see why. Following a series of legislative stumbles and damaging revelations about the ongoing Russia scandal, Trump topped it off by hedging in his condemnations of the murder of a woman by a man who police say was tied to white supremacists. 

Halfway through August, Trump had a net-favorability score that was 24 points underwater. Today, for the first time since spring, Trump’s average approval in the five most recent reputable polls clears the 40-percent mark, if only by a hair’s breadth and he is only about 11 points underwater. That’s quite a rebound by any standard.

So what happened? And, what happens next? 

The latest survey from WSJ/NBC News gives us great insight, as do recent polls from Monmouth University, the inimitable Fox News polling team, Gallup and Marist College

A couple of things become clear. First, that the main wellspring of Trump’s renewed support is among independents and even some Democrats happy about deals Trump has cut with Democrats on debt, spending and, prospectively, amnesty for young adults who came to the United States illegally as children. And second, that Trump’s steadfast supporters remain just that. 

A robust 71 percent of respondents in the Journal poll said they approved of Trump’s deals with Dems, helping Trump to a 10 point jump from last month among independents for his overall performance. The Monmouth poll shows that just 15 percent of 2016 Trump voters expressed any concern at all about his reversals on core principals. 

We would also submit that Trump has likely been helped by some other factors beyond just bipartisanship. An active hurricane season has helped Trump by keeping him off the front page for a time and by giving him and his administration the opportunity to show competency and responsiveness in an apolitical situation. 

We would further assume that Republicans are cheered by talk about tax cuts and the revival of a proposal to repeal ObamaCare by kicking the program to states to administer, even as they wonder about his dalliances with Democrats.

Perhaps most important of all, a professional, empowered senior staff in his White House has helped clamp down on chaos among staffers and the president himself. 

Can all of this last? Of course not.

Trump’s short-term deal on spending and debt took some of the pressure off, but the bipartisan bonhomie that came out of Trump’s bargaining is already evaporating under the heat of the health insurance debate. 

Moreover, things look to get quite intense quite soon on the Russia investigation. The weeks ahead promise to be the time of greatest testing for this still-young presidency. 

But now Trump has been shown the political value of discipline and bipartisanship. One assumes that his advisers will have an easier case to make to him on both counts as times turn tough again in the future. There is certainly no guarantee that Trump, often a prisoner of his own emotions, will heed them. But, there is at least now a blueprint: Act presidential and do deals with Democrats.

Americans are quite willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to their presidents, even when they have concerns and mistrust. After all, cafeteria pizza is better than no pizza at all. 

[Ed. note: Great news, politics junkies! All-around superb human and broadcaster Shannon Bream is getting a show of her own, live from Washington, weeknights at 11 p.m. ET. “Fox News @ Night” debuts on Oct. 30. We’re going to have a blast!]

THE RULEBOOK: TELL US ABOUT IT…
“But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 42

TIME OUT: RIBBIT 
UPI: “Researchers say Beelzebufo, an extinct frog from Madagascar, was capable of eating small dinosaurs during its heyday some 68 million years ago. The revelation -- shared this week in the journal Scientific Reports -- comes from a study analyzing the biting prowess of South American horned frogs, a group of amphibians boasting a large, round, Pac-Man-like mouth. South American horned frogs belong to the
Ceratophrys genus, and are the closest living relatives of Beelzebufo ampinga. ‘Unlike the vast majority of frogs which have weak jaws and typically consume small prey, horned frogs ambush animals as large as themselves -- including other frogs, snakes, and rodents,’ Marc Jones, researcher at the University of Adelaide, said in a news release. ‘And their powerful jaws play a critical role in grabbing and subduing the prey.’ … Researchers used a scaling model to estimate the bite force of larger horned frogs … could generate a bite force of nearly 500 Newtons.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 8.2 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: TURTLE BAYWATCH  
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt talk about President Trump’s introduction on the world stage at the United Nations, the future of Facebook and Senate Republican’s efforts for another health care push. Plus, can’t forget the I’ll Tell You What mailbag and trivia! LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

INSURANCE COMPANIES DIG IN AGAINST GRAHAM-CASSIDY 
NYT: “…Senate Republican leaders nevertheless said they would push for a showdown vote next week on the legislation, drafted by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. … Generally, it would shift federal funds away from states that have been successful in expanding coverage to states where Republican leaders refused to expand Medicaid or encourage enrollment. Republican senators from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and West Virginia will all have to decide whether to heed the pleas of consumers who like the current health law… The two major trade groups for insurers, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced their opposition on Wednesday to the Graham-Cassidy bill.”

Dems face 2018 litmus test on Sanders’ single-payer plan - 
Fox News: “One of the latest hints of support for Bernie Sanders’ single-payer health care plan came not from a liberal enclave like San Francisco or Brooklyn – but from West Virginia’s senior senator, Joe Manchin. The proposal ‘should be explored,’ Manchin told Bloomberg News earlier this month, while clarifying that the Senate should consider all options and that he’s ‘skeptical’ single payer is the ‘right solution.’ While the statement from Manchin – whose state overwhelmingly backed President Trump last fall – was cautious, the senator’s willingness to even consider Sanders’ costly health bill shows how the legislation has caused major political complications for Democratic congressional candidates.”

A MOORE STRANGE DEBATE 
al.com: “When former judge Roy Moore and U.S. Sen. Luther Strange clash Thursday in a ‘Lincoln-Douglas style’ debate, the two Republicans will be wading into rare political waters. Debate experts and longtime political observers cannot recall such a high-profile campaign agreeing to this kind of debate format, unique in modern politics. Instructors and political analysts are also bound to study the Moore-Strange debate, rendering what was once thought as an overlooked contest into showdown ripe with national intrigue. ‘I would buy tickets to this one,’ said Phillip Rawls, a journalism professor at Auburn University and a former longtime reporter with the Associated Press who has moderated debates before. ‘Most debates are pretty boring. This has a potential to be great TV.’ … The 60-minute debate is scheduled to kick off at 5:30 p.m. and will be held at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery. Raycom Media will stream it live online.”

Palin, Gorka buck Trump with Moore rally - AP: “Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin will campaign for Roy Moore in Alabama this week in the heated U.S Senate race with Sen. Luther Strange. The Great America Alliance on Tuesday announced that Palin will attend a Thursday rally in Montgomery after Moore and Strange face off in their first, and only, debate before the Sept. 26 runoff. Palin says Moore “has shown he has what it takes to stand up to the out-of-touch political establishment.” Former Trump strategist Sebastian Gorka will also appear.”

Trump goes all in for Strange - WaPo: “The winding process of securing Trump’s trip to Huntsville, Ala., reveals the fragility of the bonds between the president and other leaders of his party, who are searching for ways to steer him into becoming their reliable standard-bearer in next year’s elections. ‘It’s important to have both [Trump and Pence] send a strong message,’ said Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. ‘It’s an environment question. If you’re trying to read the tea leaves going forward, every race adds a leaf.’ White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who has tried to control what information Trump receives about the Alabama race, was initially wary of the president appearing with a senator who might lose.”

Now a Republican, W. Va. governor still backs Dem. Manchin for Senate - W. Va. Metro News: “Gov. Jim Justice, who switched parties to become a Republican in early August, told a crowd of Republican lawmakers this week that he supports Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s re-election to the U.S. Senate. Manchin, a former governor who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2010, is in what most political observers consider to be a hotly-contested election in 2018. Congressman Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are running in the Republican primary.”

Kid Rock rolled in poll - Detroit Free Press: “If Kid Rock is serious about running for the U.S. Senate in Michigan, he may have his work cut out for him. … The latest poll — by Marketing Resource Group (MRG)  — shows [Sen. Debbie Stabenow], the three-term Democratic incumbent, with an even larger 18-percentage-point lead, holding a sizable edge on her would-be challenger in most parts of the state, including the Upper Peninsula and the rest of northern Michigan as well as metro Detroit.”

OBAMA U.N. AMBASSADOR UNMASKED HUNDREDS
Fox News: “Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 – and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News. Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House. The details emerged ahead of an expected appearance by Power next month on Capitol Hill. She is one of several Obama administration officials facing congressional scrutiny for their role in seeking the identities of Trump associates in intelligence reports – but the interest in her actions is particularly high.”

Emails show Manafort reaching out to Putin-allied oligarch during campaign - WaPo: “Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions. Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said. … The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team… There is no evidence in the documents showing that Deripaska received Manafort’s offer or that any briefings took place.” 

And he used his campaign email account -
 Politico: “Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said. Manafort had been a longtime consultant for Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president until 2014, and his Party of Regions. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Ukrainian investigators said they had discovered evidence that Manafort received millions of dollars in off-the-books payments for his work there.”

Still working on Kurdish referendum opposed by the U.S. - NYT: “Paul J. Manafort… is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq. The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy.”

No surprise: Trump legal team distances from Manafort -
 WaPo: “And if the initial response to the latest Manafort news is any indication, the White House is preparing to fight Manafort head-on. … In comments to Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev late Wednesday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said that ‘it would be truly shocking’ if Manafort ’tried to monetize his relationship with the president.’ It all sounds a lot like a White House that is preparing to disown Manafort and to say that he was out for himself from Day One. That could, of course, help it argue that he’s not credible; it could say that he’s basically about to do whatever it takes to save his own hide and will say anything — the usual strategy for witnesses who cut deals with prosecutors.”

Spicer to tip sheet maven Mike Allen: Text me again and I will report you - Axios: “When we texted Spicer for comment on his note-taking practices, he replied: ‘Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore.’ When I replied with a ‘?’ (I have known Spicer and his wife for more than a dozen years), he answered: ‘Not sure what that means. From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities.’ The WashPost reported Sept. 8 that Mueller ‘has alerted the White House that his team will probably seek to interview’ Spicer and five other top current and former Trump advisers. One White House official told me: ‘People are going to wish they'd been nicer to Sean. … He was in a lot of meetings.’”

Ryan Lizza: ‘Why is Congress conducting its Russia investigation in secret?’ - New Yorker: “The closed-door interview has become the unfortunate new norm, in which the public is denied insight into an important investigation. … The private conversations seem to be the product of a bipartisan agreement: Democrats get the witnesses they want, and Republicans are able to reduce the anti-Trump spectacle of the hearings. But what is lost is the transparency Americans have come to expect from congressional investigations going back decades—Watergate, Iran-Contra, the various Clinton scandals, the 9/11 Commission. The investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, will remain behind closed doors and confidential until its conclusion, as is common of probes into potential criminal conduct.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Bean counters - 
Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses the legal ramifications of the Russia probe: “An indictment of Manafort, which Mueller says is coming soon, will be used as an instrument to flip him into spilling whatever beans he has on his former boss. And we can expect indictments of others presently or formerly near the president as part of the prosecutorial process.” More here.

TRUMP ANNOUNCES NEW NOKO SANCTIONS 
WaPo: “President Trump on Thursday announced an executive order to grant additional authority to the Treasury Department to enforce economic sanctions on North Korea and countries that do business with the rogue nation in Northeast Asia. The president also said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered Chinese banks to cease conducting business with North Korean entities. Trump called the move ‘very bold’ and ‘someone unexpected,’ and he praised Xi. ‘I must tell you this is a complete denuclearization of North Korea that we seek,’ Trump said in brief public remarks during a meeting with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to discuss strategy to confront Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Trump said the United States had been working on the North Korea problem for 25 years, but he asserted that previous administrations had ‘done nothing, which is why we are in the problem we are in today.’”

And the decision on the Iran deal? - 
Politico: “President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has made a decision on whether the U.S. will remain party to the Iran nuclear deal. But he wouldn’t reveal the outcome of his deliberations, despite strong signals that he will either quit the deal or ask Congress to decide its fate. ‘I have decided,’ Trump repeated three times in response to shouted questions from reporters on whether he has made up his mind on what to do about the internationally negotiated 2015 agreement. Asked what he had decided, the president, who is attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York, smiled and said only that ‘I’ll let you know what the decision is.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
 
Trump provides U.S. assistance to Mexico after earthquake - Politico

Team Trump drafting new deportation policy - McClatchy

Study shows college students’ dim views on First Amendment - Brookings

AUDIBLE: GIFT BASKET

“I am very happy that you used the word deplorable. … It’s been a very lucky word for me and many millions of people.” – President Trump said with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Several years ago I attended a Town Hall meeting that John McCain held in our area.  I asked him the question: ’When will Congress make each bill a single issue?’ Without allowing me to expand on my reason why I think it would be a good idea, his very curt answer to me was ‘Never going to happen,’ then he turned to someone else. But it makes sense to make each bill (or at least most bills) a single issue because it would take less time for the Congress person to decide if the bill was a good one – or not, less arguing to pass a clean bill, and more important it could save the money that is now being spent on all of the ‘riders’ that are hanging onto the coat tails of the various bills that are passed.  If I were a Congresswoman I know that there would be bills that I would be very ambivalent about how I would vote if they had a lot of ‘pork’ attached.” – Eleanor H. Korf, Glendale, Ariz.

[Ed. note: The way Washington used to work was that members of both parties would come together, hammer out a compromise on a difficult issue and then bury that compromise under a pile of sweeteners for various districts and interest groups. The bill would be so big and so complicated that members could go home to their districts and all claim it to be a powerful victory for them and a humiliating defeat for their opponent. Then they could all come back to Washington and toast each other’s re-elections. But a great deal has changed in the last 30 years. First came C-SPAN, then came 24-hour cable news, then came the internet and, most disruptively, social media. In the old days, complexity was a great place to hide controversial compromises. These days as lawmakers work with their constituents’ noses over their shoulders, complexity has become the enemy of legislative success. Witness the current debate about health insurance in Congress. The bill that has attracted the most popular support among members so far is the simplest one. The lack of trust between politicians and among voters toward their elected leaders means that the era of “comprehensive” legislation is gone.]

“Your piece from Roll Call noting that conservative doyen Phyllis Schlafly is being listed by the Roy Moore campaign as an endorser of his campaign for Senator from Alabama even though she died September, 2016 and he didn’t announce his candidacy until April, 2017 reminds me of a story that long-time, powerful Chicago City Council Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke is fond of telling: It seems that an older lady on her deathbed in Gary, Indiana told her grieving family that her last wish was to be buried in Chicago. It seemed she had been active in Democratic Party politics for most of her life and wanted to remain so.” – Bob Foys, Chicago

[Ed. note: Love it! There’s GOTV and then there’s GOTV in Chicago…] 

“I have read where you categorized Trump supporters in several ways, one way that seems to allude you is not that we want him to stomp someone in the ground, or scream from the top of the White House. Maybe it is simpler, we trust him. I challenge you to do something in the Halftime report that you rarely seem to do. Make one positive statement about our president in every report.” – Mike Owens, Resaca, Ga.

[Ed. note: I am sure that there are many kinds of Trump supporters, Mr. Owens. I am certain that many of them are just like you, trusting in Trump as a man and as a leader. But I know that there are also others who primarily want to see him as a disrupter of the political status quo. Whether they want him to scream or not, they want him to take the fight to the elites whom they blame for the problems facing the nation. As for trying to say positive things on a regular basis about politicians, I think I’m going to have to pass on that one. Praise and blame should be based on merit not obligation, and when it comes to those in power or seeking power, it is very American to retain a healthy sense of skepticism.]

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A ONE IN 67 MILLION KIND OF GUY
Allentown [Pa.] Morning Call: “When his second hole in one fell Monday afternoon, Ben Tetzlafffell to the ground, saying, ‘What the heck just happened?’ A day later, the Parkland High golfer remained stunned. … Tetzlaff, a 17-year-old senior, accomplished a rare feat Monday, making two holes in the same round of golf. In fact, he did so playing just nine holes in a practice round with his Parkland High golf team, acing the second and sixth holes at Iron Lakes Country Club in North Whitehall Township. According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of Tetzlaff’s achievement are 67 million to 1, about six times greater than winning a $1 million Powerball prize. Parkland golf coach Scott Levan witnessed the second hole-in-one but missed the first, though he did hear Tetzlaff shout, ‘Oh my gosh, did it go in?’ ‘I know a couple guys who waited 60 years between holes-in-one, but I’ve never seen someone wait 40 minutes,’ Levan said.”

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.