Midterms will mold Dems' 2020 field

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On the roster: Midterms will mold Dems’ 2020 field - Trump had evidence of Russian misdeeds from the start - Trump picks sides in Georgia runoff - Trump still steering toward auto tariffs - Gonna need more guac

MIDTERMS WILL MOLD DEMS’ 2020 FIELD

USA Today is forecasting that the Atlanta Falcons will win the Super Bowl in February, defeating the Los Angeles (for the time being) Chargers. 

This is ridiculous since 1) the Pittsburgh Steelers are obviously going to win it all and 2) who in the heck knows?

Forecasting in sports or politics is the fun part of an analyst’s work, especially this far in advance. And since we are less than 18 months from the first votes of the 2020 presidential election, the namers of names and listers of lists are busy naming and listing. 

Some see an Obama restoration movement with Joe BidenEric Holder or some other loyalist rising to reclaim the party’s mantle. Others imagine the revenge of the Bernie bros. Others still think that Kamala Harris or some other fresh, young candidate will make the Blue Team swoon. 

Guess what? Any of these or a dozen other hunches might be right. But we have no way of knowing now since we have little insight on two key variables: Which of them will actually be good at running for president and what the political environment will feel like.

The first part is obvious to anyone who observed the onside kick of a primary process for Republicans in 2016. There are no scouting combines for presidential candidates. They just start running and we get to see who gets better and who falls flat. By the way, great expectations are usually a great hindrance for this very reason. 

“Please clap.”

The other one is, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, the realm of “unknown unknowns.” We can guess the ways that national security, economic performance and a host of other factors will play out between now and when Democrats convene for their convention in two years. But most of that would be a useless exercise. 

One variable that is getting easier to forecast, though, is how the midterm vote may shape Democratic perceptions. 

So ask yourselves this: What will Democratic voters be feeling if the party fails to retake the House this fall despite great expectations? Further, how will Democratic voters feel if they take the House and are engaged in trench warfare with President Trump and a Republican Senate? 

First, it’s our supposition that Trump’s 2020 re-election bid would probably be helped by Democrats narrowly recapturing the House as his predecessors Barack Obama and Bill Clinton demonstrated, divided government lowers expectations and gives an incumbent president something to campaign against, even before the other side picks a nominee. 

If Democrats do take the House, their leaders will be under tremendous pressure to assail and obstruct Trump at every turn. If Republicans hold on to a slim majority, on the other hand, not only will the party continue to have to try to govern under straightened circumstances, but Democrats would be free to offer pie in the sky from their perch in the minority. 

If the election was held today, Democrats would probably win the House. And their first act would be a vicious fight between the establishment and the increasingly invigorated far left. This might either scare voters straight into picking a more conventional candidate or empower the liberal activist base. Again, how the fight actually goes will matter.

Whichever side ends up winning the fight in 2020, though, it’s a pretty reasonable bet that the eventual winner will have been pretty badly beaten up along the way. Mitt Romney’s 2012 run comes to mind.  

We know it’s hard to resist, but we would suggest at least letting the preseason play out before you start picking your champs.

Unless it’s the Steelers…

THE RULEBOOK: SMARTYPANTS 
“The first question that offers itself is, whether the general form and aspect of the government be strictly republican. It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America…” – James MadisonFederalist No. 39

TIME OUT: BACK FROM THE DEAD
History: “On this day in 1799, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovers a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria. The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honoring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C. More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artifact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been ‘dead’ for nearly 2,000 years. When Napoleon, an emperor known for his enlightened view of education, art and culture, invaded Egypt in 1798, he took along a group of scholars and told them to seize all important cultural artifacts for France. … When the British defeated Napoleon in 1801, they took possession of the Rosetta Stone.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
42.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 
51.8 percent 
Net Score:
 -9.6 points
Change from one week ago: 
up 1.8 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve - 47% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.4 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 7.8 points
Change from one week ago: 
Democratic advantage up 0.6 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems - 39% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 42% GOP.]

TRUMP HAD EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN MISDEEDS FROM THE START
 
NYT: “Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation. Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed. … His fear, according to one of his closest aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.”

Continues cleanup efforts - CBS News: “President Trump again expressed confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies and their assessment of Russian interference Wednesday, but declined to say whether he believes Vladimir Putin was lying when he denied Russia was behind the meddling effort. Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview with ‘CBS Evening News’ anchor Jeff Glor at the White House. Mr. Trump said he believes it’s ‘true’ Russia meddled in the 2016 election and said he directly warned Putin against interfering in U.S. elections during their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday. Asked what he said to Putin, Mr. Trump responded, ‘Very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling, we can't have any of that ... I let him know that we can't have this, we're not going to have it, and that's the way it's going to be.’ Mr. Trump also expressed confidence in Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, whose dire warnings about U.S. hacking vulnerabilities he had questioned in a previous interview. ‘Well, I accept. I mean, he's an expert,’ Mr. Trump said Wednesday.”

Voters pan his performance - 
CBS News: “Only a third of Americans (32 percent) approve of the way Donald Trump handled his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a CBS News poll shows. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans approve. Most Americans (70 percent) believe U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the elections, though Republicans are more skeptical. Just half say they believe U.S. intelligence, while nine in ten Democrats do. More Americans see President Trump as too friendly toward Russia than they did last year. This is largely due to an increase in the number of Democrats and independents who say so. More than three-in-four Republicans think the President has the right balance. Thirty-nine percent of Americans report feeling less confident after the summit about Mr. Trump standing up for U.S. interests, though much of that comes from Democrats; Republicans say they are more confident or unchanged. Republicans hold relatively more positive views of Russia than Democrats do, as has been the case since Donald Trump was elected.”

Sanders walks back suggestion that U.S. might hand over Kremlin foes -
 Politico:“President Donald Trump disagrees with a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin that would allow the Kremlin to interrogate a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and others, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday. ‘It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,’ she said. ‘Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.’”

Parties seek accord on how to deal with new hacks - 
Daily Beast: “Top officials at the Democratic and Republican House campaign committees privately met to discuss what to do should hacked materials surface regarding the respective committees or their candidates. A source familiar with the talks say that they remain ‘ongoing.’ The initial meeting took place in early June between Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chair Ben Ray Luján and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chair Steve Stivers, along with DCCC Executive Director Dan Sena and NRCC Executive Director John Rogers, multiple sources confirmed The Daily Beast. The two chairs had publicly argued over what the proper protocol was when presented with hacked campaign materials, with Luján insisting that such materials should never be used and Stivers stressing that candidates couldn’t act as if hacked material that ended up in the ‘public domain’ — i.e. a newspaper article—simply didn’t exist. After that spat, the two agreed to get together to further discuss matters. A GOP lawmaker familiar with those talks said that the parties had agreed to not ‘play those out in the press.’”

The Judge’s Ruling: On handling Putin - This week, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses why he believes Trump knows how to handle “bad guys” like Putin more than anybody else: “At this writing, no nationally known Republican officeholder except Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has come publicly to the president’s defense. Some in the Democratic Party and some of my colleagues in the media have even accused Trump of treason. How misunderstanding they are. … Make no mistake; Putin is a monster. … I don’t know whether Putin can be reasoned with. But I believe that if anyone can do it, Donald Trump can. … Negotiations are often fluid. They take time and patience, as well as threats and flattery, and they cannot be successful under a microscope. Stated differently, Trump knows how to negotiate, and his skills cannot be assessed midstream -- because midstream is often muddy and muddled. Trump’s efforts this week were just a beginning.” More here.

TRUMP PICKS SIDES IN GEORGIA RUNOFF 
AJC: “President Donald Trump gave Secretary of State Brian Kemp his ‘full and total endorsement’ Wednesday in Georgia’s Republican race for governor, dealing Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle a devastating blow in a bitter runoff. In an afternoon tweet, Trump said Kemp was ‘tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration,’ and the president urged his supporters to cast ballots for Kemp in the July 24 race. ‘He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment,’ Trump wrote. ‘I give him my full and total endorsement.’ It was a stinging setback for Cagle, who had jockeyed to win over the deeply conservative runoff electorate by saying he was the bigger supporter of Trump. The president won Georgia by 5 percentage points in 2016 and remains wildly popular with the GOP base.”

House Dems pick populist midterm message -
 Politico: “House Democrats have finalized their campaign slogan heading into the last months before the midterm election: ‘For the People.’ The new motto, which Democratic leaders unveiled in a private meeting with members Wednesday morning, is meant to put a finer point on the broad economic-based messaging Democrats have been pushing with mixed success since last summer. That initial message — a ‘Better Deal’ — has largely failed to break through with voters and has been openly mocked by some Democratic lawmakers. House Democrats plan to begin working ‘For the People’ into their statements and press conferences, with a focus on three key areas: addressing health care and prescription drug costs; increasing wages through infrastructure and public works projects; and highlighting Republican corruption in Washington.”

Michelle Obama joining voter registration push - Politico: “Michelle Obama is jumping into the 2018 campaigns with a voter registration initiative that will be strictly nonpartisan — exciting and frustrating top Democrats who’d like the popular former first lady to actively campaign for candidates. The initiative, scheduled to be launched Thursday, is the result of months of quiet conversations and planning full of false starts and uncertainty about whether to go forward. It will have the former first lady appear in public service announcements and at live events throughout the country into the fall, according to multiple people informed of the plans. She’ll be joined by several A-list celebrities, including actor Tom Hanks, country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Houston Rockets star Chris Paul, singer Janelle Monae and ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

TRUMP STILL STEERING TOWARD AUTO TARIFFS 
WSJ: “President Donald Trump stood by his threats to levy sweeping tariffs on automobile imports as a way to extract concessions from trading partners, despite opposition from the industry and discontent in Congress with the White House’s proposal. Resistance to the tariffs is strong and growing. A coalition of foreign and domestic auto companies, along with auto dealers and auto-parts makers, released a letter on Wednesday urging Mr. Trump to refrain from the tariffs. … Auto unions were among the few industry players offering qualified support for the tariffs. … The issue of auto tariffs is the subject of a Commerce Department hearing on Thursday and is expected to be high on the agenda of the July 25 White House visit by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.”

Bipartisan effort to block - Politico: “Sens. Doug Jones and Lamar Alexander are planning to introduce a bill next week to halt President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs on European automakers, hoping to shield the automotive industries in the South from more economic blowback from U.S. allies. The Alabama Democrat and Tennessee Republican said on Wednesday they are working on legislation with support from senators in both parties aimed at preventing the president from imposing unilateral tariffs on foreign automakers. Alabama and Tennessee have large automotive factories that build cars and trucks for European, Asian and domestic manufacturers, and senators from auto-producing states say Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs on Europe, Mexico and Canada are already harming those industries.”

Senate GOP cool to plan for another tax cut before election -
 WSJ: “House Republicans are busily preparing what they call ‘Tax Reform 2.0,’ an extension of tax cuts they passed last year that are scheduled to expire after 2025. So far, their Senate counterparts aren’t so interested. House Republicans expect to vote on their tax plan in September, and one leading option is a three-bill package: Extension of expiring tax cuts, expansion of incentives for savings and policies to promote innovation. The tax-cut extension, the largest of the three bills, is the one that is most likely to become a campaign-season talking point and also least likely to become law this year. … Republicans in the Senate have a 51-49 advantage, but the bill would need 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles. Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), a member of GOP leadership, said Republicans likely wouldn’t bring the tax bill to the floor unless they’re sure it could get 60 votes.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Ryan shares harsh words toward alt-right, says conservatives should ‘fight back’ Politico

Interior Department watchdog investigating real estate deal involving Zinke - Fox News

AUDIBLE: ABOUT THAT…
“Well, I’m not running for anything. I’m just making an observation.” – Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn, in one of the recently unearthed 2012 segments on his radio talk show. The now congressman, who is running for re-election in a swing district outside of Minneapolis, lamented that it was no longer permissible to refer to unchaste women as “sluts” and said female voters were driven by emotionality, not reason.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Dear Mr. Stirewalt, Somehow you've seemed to have missed the true feelings of the average American. Your statement about Trump at Helsinki, and Clinton being worse than Putin, is just incorrect. I did vote for Trump but it was a vote against Clinton, not a vote of confidence in Trump. The average American is exactly what I am, not a Trump loyalist or fanatic in any way. That being said, I DO think Clinton is worse than Putin!  This is not some half-baked idea or feeling, it is a well thought of reasoning of the facts. Russia and Putin are bad actors, ingrained to defeat the American/Western culture and promote Socialism, all the while they say they are not. Clinton is in fact promoting Socialism and using the American Constitution and the 3 branches of government here, to beat up on any and all that stand in the way. Now Clinton -vs- Putin: Both promote Socialism. Make money doing back channel and illegal acts. People are killed by both because of their decisions but Putin states it was necessary and unfortunate side effect, while Clinton states it wasn't her fault. Everyone knows Putin is bad, but everyone knows Clinton is worse because she is attempting to dismantle the very essence of what America is and was founded as, from the inside and the news media is backing up. Very few in the USA are backing Putin. Trump has his finger squarely on the pulse of the average American, not the Leftist/Rightist or Radicals, but the very heart and soul of the Average American.” – Daniel Loyd, Clarksville, Tenn.

[Ed. note: What will become of us, Mr. Loyd, if we come to trust our enemies abroad more than our political adversaries here at home? The old saying was, “politics stops at the water’s edge.” That meant that when it came to foreign policy, Americans should set aside their partisan differences to protect our national interests. That axiom has not been true for some time – at least since Vietnam. But we’ve taken a step farther now and among a small, determined and increasingly vocal subset have begun choosing our actual enemies over Americans with whom they disagree. I cannot emphasis enough how dangerous this trend is. If we declare those with whom we disagree as traitors then how will we ever govern ourselves? The degree to which Putin’s endeavors to destabilize America are to blame for this moment is debatable. I am afraid, though, that we are inflicting most of this damage on ourselves. As the two parties retreat into toxic cesspools they leave not only the work of government undone, but strongly reinforce the notion to the majority of Americans that we are falling apart. I would implore you to reconsider the possibility that liberal Americans are just as American as you. You may disagree with them, but rather than choosing the side of a brutal autocrat that means to harm and weaken our republic, you think about ways to make persuasive arguments for a conservative point of view. You are letting yourself off far too easily if you dismiss the arguments of your fellow Americans as treason. We all have to do better than that.]

“Hi, Just had to share my story with you re West Virginia hot dogs. I was in California and saw that the walk-up had hot dogs, chili sauce, and coleslaw (for their BBQ).  Being from West Virginia, I was thrilled and asked the clerk to put coleslaw on my hot dog and I would pay extra for it, if needed. He looked at me as if I were from outer space and said, ‘I’ll have to ask the manager.’ I have to make my own at home to get them with coleslaw but wouldn’t eat them any other way. Always enjoy Fox News Halftime report.” – Connie Miller Casipit (formerly from Diamond, W. Va,, near Charleston), Orlando, Fla.

[Ed. note: I love this story so much, Ms. Casipit! Thank you for sharing it. We will continue to spread the message until America knows that the slaw dog belongs in the frankfurter pantheon.]

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

GONNA NEED MORE GUAC

KEYE: Tortilla chips are often the instrument with which we Central Texans deliver hot foods to our mouths, like queso, salsa or even fajitas. But last week, the Austin Fire Department found some tortilla chips that were hot enough on their own. AFD shared photos on Facebook of a fire at a tortilla chip factory in East Austin last week that was caused by the spontaneous combustion of tortilla chips. … . AFD says the factory was trying out a new blend of chips that ‘didn't work out so well.’ That fire was contained to the exterior of the building, and ignited several other boxes of food waste. Then, three days later, additional boxes of the same tortilla chips spontaneously ignited again. Firefighters contained that fire and drowned all of the other boxes that had yet to catch fire. There was no damage to any structures in either fire.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“To be sure, a two-track, two-policy, two-reality foreign policy is risky, unsettling and has the potential to go totally off the rails. This is not how you would draw it up in advance. It’s unstable and confusing. But the experience of the first month suggests that, with prudence and luck, it can yield the occasional benefit — that the combination of radical rhetoric and conventional policy may induce better behavior both in friend and foe. Alas, there is also a worst-case scenario. It needs no elaboration.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2017. 

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.