Devil of a race down in Georgia

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On the roster: Devil of a race down in Georgia - Time Out: The Lifted Lorax - Pressure grows on red state Dems over Kavanaugh - Audible: Touché - Too soon?

DEVIL OF A RACE DOWN IN GEORGIA
Ted Turner
 still had a black moustache the last time we could have said that Georgia was at the vanguard of America’s future. But hey, the Braves are in contention after the All-Star break, so anything is possible.

Georgians, however, may not like their moment in the spotlight as much as they did more than a generation ago when Atlanta was the capital of the “New South.” This time, the Peach State is leading the way into the kind of hyper-polarized politics that may be the fate for the country as a whole.

Georgia Republicans go to the polls Tuesday in their runoff for governor. The first-place finisher from round one, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, was the presumptive winner in the runoff. Cagle performed well in the first round back in May and as lieutenant governor for more than a decade and with the support of popular Republican Gov. Nathan Deal he was well positioned to dispatch the runner up, Secretary of State Brian Kemp.   

But a couple of things intervened. 

First, one of the candidates who didn’t make the cut, Clay Tippins, secretly recorded the meeting in which Cagle sought his support in the runoff and then released the audio. Two parts – one in which Cagle explained (not incorrectly) that the primary seemed to be a race to see who could be “the craziest” and another in which admitted supporting an education bill he disliked for the sake of gaining advantage over another candidate – blew the race to smithereens.
  
Second, the White House jumped in the race. Cagle may have the backing of the current governor, Deal, but Kemp is part of former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s organization. Perdue, who is now the U.S. secretary of agriculture, has a lot of pull in the administration these days as Republicans look to cool the fury from farmers over President Trump’s tariffs. With Cagle already reeling from the Tippins tape, Trump gave Kemp a Twitter endorsement and then Vice President Mike Pence followed up Saturday with a campaign visit.

If the rap on establishmentarian Cagle is that he was insincere in trying to act “the craziest,” Kemp’s campaign has tried to suggest pure authenticity.

He made his first big splash in the campaign with an ad in which it looked like a he was pointing a shotgun at a suitor to one of his daughters. In another spot, Kemp brags that he is politically incorrect: “I got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself,” he says. “Yep, I just said that.” Kemp was back in the news today repudiating the endorsement of a state lawmaker who a prankster convinced to scream the n-word repeatedly on camera.   

While Republicans have been busy spending an eye-popping $33 million on a race to the right, Democrats quickly settled on Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader in the Georgia House. She not only would be the first African American woman elected governor anywhere in America, but she is doing so as an outspoken progressive.

She easily defeated her primary opponent, Stacey Evans, a fellow former state lawmaker who was urging Democrats to reach out to white suburban moms like her. Abrams argument for energizing black voters and the far left was much more persuasive when it came to the Democratic base.

If polls are predictive and Kemp does beat Cagle, he should be in good position to win a general election fight with Evans. But a fight it will surely be. Evans has drawn a huge following outside of Georgia and left-wing Democrats will invest heavily to help her. 

Georgia looks likely to face a choice between two extremes, which both explains and is the cause of declining numbers for partisan affiliations. As more Americans flee the major parties, the primary voters they leave behind tend to be more radical. Those voters produce extreme nominees, who, in turn, drive away more moderates. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If Georgians do have to endure what promises to be a racially charged, highly divisive campaign fought over wedge cultural issues and not much about actual government policies, pay attention. The same forces at play there are the same ones that will shape America’s 2020 vote and beyond.        

THE RULEBOOK: KEEP IT IN CHECK
“The different views taken of the subject [of the power of Congress to regulate the election of members] must be sufficient to satisfy all dispassionate and discerning men, that if the public liberty should ever be the victim of the ambition of the national rulers, the power under examination, at least, will be guiltless of the sacrifice.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 61

TIME OUT: THE LIFTED LORAX    
Smithsonian: “Millions of Americans grew up with Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, the gruff orange ball of fluff who doggedly guarded his forest of Truffula trees against the greedy Once-ler. Today, in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists unveil a surprising possible inspiration for the stern Seuss stalwart: a mustachioed monkey native to the plains of Central Africa, where the author once vacationed. … It was at the Safari Club [in Kenya] where, on a late summer afternoon, Seuss composed most of the manuscript that would become The Lorax. … With its dark mouth, hooded eyes, and wispy Confucian whiskers, the patas monkey sports an almost comically crotchety countenance not unlike that of the Lorax. … Whether or not the patas monkey and its acacia tree were what truly cajoled Seuss out of his writer’s block, the mere possibility suggests a more altruistic interpretation of the story. The Lorax’s protectiveness of his Truffula trees … make the difference between life and death.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
43 percent 
Average disapproval: 
52.8 percent 
Net Score:
 -9.8 points
Change from one week ago: 
up 1 point
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 54% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.6 percent
Democratic average: 48 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 7.4 points
Change from one week ago: 
Democratic advantage down 0.4 points  
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; 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.]

[Watch Fox - Tune in to the Fox News Channel for Bret Baier’s exclusive interview with Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega tonight at 6 pm ET.]

PRESSURE GROWS ON RED STATE DEMS OVER KAVANAUGH
WashEx: “A conservative judicial group on Monday rolled out the third wave of a campaign aimed at pressuring red state Democrats to support Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. The $1.5 million ad buy from Judicial Crisis Network focuses on West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, and Alabama. Alongside the ads, Judicial Crisis Network also released polling from North Star Opinion Research that measured support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation among voters in the four states. ‘Red state Democrats have a choice: stand with their constituents and support President Trump’s extraordinarily qualified Supreme Court nominee, or stand with Chuck Schumer and be a rubber stamp for the extreme liberal special interests,’ Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network’s chief counsel and policy director, said in a statement. The ads name Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who are all up for re-election in November, as well as Doug Jones of Alabama. Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp also supported Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the high court last year.”

Growing focus on special House election in Columbus suburbs -
Bloomberg: “An August special election for a U.S. House seat in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, is pitting the intensity of Democratic resistance to President Donald Trump against a Republican advantage in a district the party has held for three dozen years. In the weeks before the Aug. 7 vote, Republicans are highlighting immigration and culture wars as Democrats focus on taxes and fortifying Social Security and Medicare. Democratic candidate Danny O’Connor is 31 and relatively new to politics. He’s trying to navigate the region’s conservative tilt by vowing to oppose keeping House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the party’s top spot. He emphasizes economic issues over cultural ones that would likely benefit the GOP in a district Trump carried by 9 points in 2016. It’s a playbook that Democrat Conor Lamb used to narrowly win a Republican-leaning district in western Pennsylvania in March. Whether O’Connor can replicate that in Ohio against 56-year-old Republican State Senator Troy Balderson is the latest test of a possible ‘blue wave’ ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to claim the House.”

Sinema offering extreme moderation in Arizona - AP: “Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema says Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that some in her party are clamoring to abolish, is performing an ‘important function.’ She recently joined House Republicans to ease restrictions on banks. And she offered a decidedly nonpartisan comment on conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The third-term congresswoman has come a long way from her days as a Green Party activist as she tries to become the first Democrat to represent Arizona in the Senate in 30 years. It’s a notable strategy in an election year in which many Democrats see a path to victory by tapping into the outrage of the party’s base in the Trump era. In neighboring Nevada, for instance, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is aiming to flip another GOP-held Senate seat and she seized on the high court vacancy to highlight the threat to abortion rights.”

Teenage rape allegation dogs House candidate -
 Fox News: “An Arizona Democratic congressional candidate has lost the support of local party officials after a decade-old rape allegation resurfaced. Yahya Yuksel, an attorney, allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl while drinking at a friend’s house in 2007. He was 17 years old at the time. Yuksel is one of seven Democrats vying for the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Martha McSally. The seat could be a critical pickup for Democrats in their national quest to take control of the House of Representatives. Yuksel, who was never arrested for the alleged crime, has maintained his innocence and is brushing off calls to drop out. He told The Associated Press he did not rape anyone but did have consensual sex after drinking.”

Vermont Dems not coalescing ahead of gubernatorial primary -
 Vermont Public Radio: “The state’s primary elections are about three weeks away, but many Vermonters are not yet tuned into statewide politics, according to the new VPR - Vermont PBS Poll. … Incumbent [Republican] Gov. Phil Scott enjoyed a 43 percent approval rating overall. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they disapproved of Scott’s performance, and 29 percent said they weren’t sure.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
GOP lawmakers face busy week before August recessThe Hill

Mueller plans to question ‘Manhattan madam’ in Russia probe WaPo

Senate to vote on confirmation of VA secretary MondayAP

Barbara Lee launches campaign for Democratic Caucus chairPolitico

Steny Hoyer unveils ‘Make It In America’ agendaRoll Call

Phil Levy: What if tariffs are the end, not the means?
 - Forbes

AUDIBLE: TOUCHÉ

“You’re not going to make me hate somebody just because they’re rich. I want to be rich!” – Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, speaking at a Third Way event on Friday.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I have been a Trump supporter for a couple of years now, especially when he won the Republican nomination for President.  However, I must admit he (Trump) looked like Putin had ‘overwhelmed’ him during their private meeting. I’m not one of those opposed to private meetings between Presidents of countries whether they be adversaries or not. Trump’s usual bluster had vanished. He came off like a ‘wus.’ What he said about our intelligence community was astounding. I was sitting here watching the press conference live and said ‘Insert foot into mouth!’ He’s really going to pay for that one (blunder). I’ve looked at his record of approving sanctions against Russia and that is about the only reason I’m forgiving him. I’m still a supporter of our President, but this incident will not blow over anytime soon.” – Alan Dickey, Menifee, Calif.

[Ed. note: As they would say, Mr. Dickey, that’s going to leave a mark. How much and for how long, of course, depends on what happens next. The most significant immediate result of the president’s Helsinki flop is that his administration has kicked into overdrive efforts to show toughness toward the Kremlin. This is in part to reassure voters at home and allies abroad that the president’s performance is not reflective of actual policies but also to keep Trump’s cabinet calm as well. The president has been walking back his walkback from last week in which he states plainly that Russia did interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign and was to blame for targeting Trump’s opponent. But now we’re back to “hoax” etc. One also assumes that this is why Trump was so eager to schedule a second meeting with Putin, this time on Trump’s home turf. One assumes Trump would like to execute a do-over before the midterm elections.]

“Though a critic of Trump, I find myself intrigued by a possible Art of the Deal, especially in North Korea. Could the Good-Cop/ Bad-Cop Strategy be at work in three foreign policy realms? Maybe Trump has cast himself as the Good Cop in Singapore and Helsinki, but the Bad Cop in Brussels (where Mattis played the Good Cop).  Trump has sent Bad Cop Pompeo to North Korea to play ‘gangster.’ And while Trump made nice with Putin, maybe Pompeo was Bad-Copping Lavrov in their ‘parallel’ Helsinki meeting. Something this complex is more likely to have originated with Pompeo, first in his class at West Point and member of the Harvard Law Review. Announcement of the Washington Summit with Putin may mean the ‘Cops’ reached a deal with Putin. Maybe we recognize Crimea as once again Russian (which it was beginning in 1783 until Khrushchev transferred its governance internally to his Ukrainian-Soviet homies). Or maybe we lift sanctions, in exchange for Russia pulling out of the Donbas and pledging no more meddling in elections. Will Trump time an announcement just before the mid-term, confounding his critics? We Democrats would probably say that kind of a deal would be rewarding aggression. What do Republicans say to this thought experiment?” – John McNeill Lee, Walnut Creek, Calif.

[Ed. note: That’s a lot of maybes, Mr. Lee! There’s certainly something to what you say, since Trump does tend to set himself up as the friend to Kim Jong Un. But Trump seems to want to play the opposite role with China, despite his initially chummy relationship with that country’s ruler Xi Jinping. It’s other Republicans who are calling for the end of the trade war, while Trump is pouring fuel on the fire. As far as Putin goes, I’m pretty sure there are no good cops in Russia – definitely not in the KGB. On the whole though, I take your point about Trump trying to throw his negotiating partners off balance, and so far the negative repercussions have been relatively modest. But so too have the benefits.]

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TOO SOON?

WOIO: “A Bureau of Motor Vehicles office in the Cleveland area is using a photo of LeBron James in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey to stop people from smiling while having their picture taken. Roni Zemelman shared the photo on Facebook that shows James’ photo taped below the camera used for driver’s license and identification pictures. ‘At the Ohio DMV, where it’s forbidden to smile for your license picture,’ Zemelman wrote on Facebook. ‘They enforce this rule by making you look at the Lebron on Lakers picture...’ Zemelman’s photo has gone viral thanks to ESPN with over 1,700 shares and more than 8,900 likes.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“In mathematics, when you’re convinced of some eternal truth but can’t quite prove it, you offer it as a hypothesis (with a portentous capital H) and invite the world, future generations if need be, to prove you right or wrong. Often, a cash prize is attached. In that spirit, but without the cash, I offer the Krauthammer Conjecture: In sports, the pleasure of winning is less than the pain of losing.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, June 29, 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.