A quick game of quarters

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On the roster: A quick game of quarters - Russians reportedly targeting McCaskill - Trump didn’t know of meeting with Kremlin agent - Senate sets up vote on spending deal - Cubs fan achievement unlocked

A QUICK GAME OF QUARTERS 
In the spring of 1994, The U.S. economy was kicking into overdrive. The economy grew at an eye-popping 5.6 percent rate, building on an already robust 4 percent rate the quarter before.

Bill Clinton had won the presidency in the waning days of a brief recession two years prior on a promise to restore economic vitality and was darned well delivering.

His predecessor, conversely, had anemic growth during the spring of the 1990 midterm election year as George H.W. Bush’s party faced voters for the first time since his big win in 1988.  

Clinton got shellacked, losing the House for the Democrats for the first time since Harry Truman was in office. Bush did far better, losing just a handful of seats in the House and just one seat in the Senate, a very fine showing for any first-term president, let alone one presiding over a logy economy.

So what gives?

The 4.1 percent increase in the U.S. gross domestic product announced today is unquestionably good news for Republicans fighting to hold the House. The second quarter of this year was the first time that we could expect to see real consequences from the GOP tax cuts passed at the end of last year, and now the party has a strong case to make that it’s economic agenda.

Democrats were quick to pour cold water on the numbers, decrying them as a “blip” and a “sugar high.” It’s not usually a good look to talk down prosperity and it’s certainly too soon to say whether this kind of performance is sustainable. 

President Trump’s predecessor can certainly attest to that. The economic recovery that took the nation to a similar number – 3.9 percent GDP growth – in the second quarter in 2010 sputtered and stalled in the summer. Then-President Obama believed Democrats could run that year on a strengthening economy, but wound up having to plead for patience in the face of “headwinds.”

The mantra of Clinton’s 1992 campaign “It’s the economy, stupid” is pleasing to those among us who believe that voters are rational actors. But people do not really vote their pocketbooks as much as they vote their feelings about their pocketbooks, security, status, etc. Voter psychology is no simple numbers game.

As we have been saying for much of this election year: Wait and see. Once we get to Labor Day, we’ll start being able to make some firmer judgements.   

THE RULEBOOK: BIG PICTURE, PLEASE
“The variety of more minute interests, which will necessarily fall under the superintendence of the local administrations, and which will form so many rivulets of influence, running through every part of the society, cannot be particularized, without involving a detail too tedious and uninteresting to compensate for the instruction it might afford.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 17

TIME OUT: FOR THE BIRDS
Eater: “‘I don’t tip because society says I have to,’ says Mr. Pink, the crook played by Steve Buscemi in the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. … More than 20 years later, there are real people, dining among us, who still feel that way. ‘I just don’t feel the need to tip that much,’ explains Sam, a 29-year-old woman living in New York City. … Sam knows that she should tip, and shame around not tipping well is one of the reasons she has asked not to be identified by her full name here. … Studies say that when it comes to bad tippers, most are just people who don’t know any better. According to Michael Lynn, a tipping expert at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, 40 percent of people aren’t aware that they should be tipping between 15 and 20 percent.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
42.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 
53.2 percent 
Net Score:
 -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 1.2 points 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.4 percent
Democratic average: 48.6 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
Democratic advantage up 0.4 points  
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 39% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]

RUSSIANS REPORTEDLY TARGETING MCCASKILL
Daily Beast: “The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin’s 2018 election interference. McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year… There’s no evidence to suggest that this attempt to lure McCaskill staffers was successful. The precise purpose of the approach was also unclear. Asked about the hack attempt by Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, McCaskill told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she wasn’t yet prepared to discuss it.”

Complaints continue about Hawley’s campaign effort - KCUR: “The Jackson County Republican ice cream social drew only a couple dozen Republican voters on July 15. But all of them wore yellow ‘Claire... you’re fired!’ stickers. County party chairman Mark Anthony Jones called up the contenders for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination one by one, though one key person was missing: the front-runner, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. … Hawley spokeswoman Kelli Ford said in an email that Hawley had another commitment that day, but didn’t specify. She added that Hawley kicked off his campaign in March in Raytown, and is ‘currently on his 100-stop working tour and looks forward to being back in Jackson County to meet with voters.’ But to county GOP vice chair Jennifer Finch, it’s part of a larger trend of the establishment’s handpicked candidate passing on local events. And it’s something she and others say is making it hard for Hawley to earn the trust of voters ahead of the Aug. 7 primary. ‘We have a little game statewide called ‘Where's Josh’? Kind of like Where's Waldo. Josh is only showing up to the things that are pre-scripted and pre-approved,’ Finch said.”

The mother of all gender gaps - Cook Political Report: “One of the bigger challenges for Republican congressional candidates this year, is to win over women voters who don’t like President Trump.  And, the number of women who don’t like Trump, especially those who live in battleground suburban districts is ... huge. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that just 39 percent of women give Trump a favorable approval rating, compared to 58 percent who disapprove of the job he’s doing.  And, among white, college-educated women (a.k.a. suburban women voters) the gap is staggering – just 26 percent approve to 71 percent disapprove. Their distaste for the president is seeping into their 2018 voting intentions as well.  For example, back in 2014, white college women voters – according to merged NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys – preferred a Democratic Congress to a Republican one by just two points (46 to 44 percent).  This July, the margin ballooned to a whopping 25-point margin (58 to 33 percent). Even among white women overall, support for Republican candidates has slipped markedly since 2010 and 2014.” 

RNC tries dry run on ground game -
 Roll Call: “With 101 days left before the midterm elections, the Republican National Committee wants to test the strength of its ground game with a ‘national week of action.’ The committee expects 4,000 volunteers to make 2 million contacts over the week. RNC Deputy National Press Secretary Blair Ellis said the committee has operations in 27 states. … RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the committee has ‘a record number of staff on the ground and more volunteers than ever before, we are ready to defy history this November.’ … The release said the RNC is expected to hit 1 million contacts in Michigan this week and is also coming close to 1 million door contacts in Florida, which it said was double what the goal was the same week in 2016. In North Dakota, where Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is facing a challenge from Rep. Kevin Cramer, the RNC plans to reach 145,000 total contact attempts, which it says is 25 percent of all eligible voters in the state.”

Pete Sessions faces tough test -
 Politico: “Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, a longtime party leader and former House GOP campaign chief, is confronting a treacherous political landscape back at home — a well-funded Democratic opponent with a boffo résumé, a rapidly diversifying and more liberal district, and, perhaps most critically, a constituency of well-educated and upper-income suburban voters who increasingly are turning on the president. His predicament underscores the grave danger confronting Republicans this fall. As the party braces for an electoral drubbing that threatens to wipe out the majority they won eight years ago, the list of incumbents under duress is growing ever longer — and even powerful lawmakers like Sessions, a sharp-elbowed tactician who hasn’t faced a serious reelection contest in over a decade, are suddenly trying to survive a Trump-fueled bloodbath. In Texas alone, Democrats are targeting three Republican incumbents who’ve been in office for over a decade.”

Georgia Republicans unite -
 WashTimes: “With the Georgia governor’s race now set, Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams returned to the campaign trail Thursday, where their approaches proved just as different as their starkly contrasting policies. Kemp, hoping to unite his party on the heels of a divisive primary runoff, wasted no time before attacking his opponent, while Abrams mainly focused on jobs while seeking to reintroduce herself to Georgia voters after being out of the spotlight for two months. … Secretary of State Kemp headlined a Republican ‘unity rally’ Thursday night in a half-full ballroom at a hotel in Peachtree Corners, a suburb north of Atlanta.U.S. Senator David Perdue, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and sitting Gov. Nathan Deal were all in attendance. So too was Kemp’s opponent in the bruising GOP runoff, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who spoke in favor of the man he had days earlier called incompetent and devoid of ideas for the state.”

Dems target vulnerable GOPers on anniversary of ObamaCare vote - NBC News: “Senate Democrats are ramping up a new ad campaign pegged for the one-year anniversary of the Senate's failed vote to repeal Obamacare, a campaign meant to tar the GOP on health care issues. The new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plan combines digital ads with messaging from state parties and campaigns meant to criticize the GOP-controlled Senate's health care plan and argue that more Democrats are needed to protect health care. NBC News received an exclusive early look at the plan ahead of its rollout later this week. … One of those efforts will be a new digital ad that rounds up negative media coverage of last year's GOP health care plan that ties into the group's new social push, ‘#VoteForCare.’ That ad will run as part of an already announced six-figure buy. And the committee will be promoting a variety of graphics, news stories and personal testimonials on that "#VoteForCare" push as well.”

Too soon? Gosar sought McCain seat hours after illness was announced - Arizona Republic: “A day after a December 2017 announcement that Sen. John McCain had been hospitalized for the ‘normal effects’ of cancer treatment, Arizona's Rep. Paul Gosar was lobbying for McCain's Senate seat. Gosar's chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein, conveyed the northern Arizona congressman's interest in replacing McCain, R-Ariz., to Gov. Doug Ducey's then-attorney, Mike Liburdi. If McCain's seat were to open, because of his resignation or death, the sitting governor would appoint his Republican successor. The brief text exchange began at 11:56 a.m. Dec. 14, less than 24 hours after news reports of McCain's hospitalization in Bethesda, Maryland. ‘In a meeting, I'll call you back,’ Liburdi wrote to Gosar's chief of staff.”

TRUMP DIDN’T KNOW OF MEETING WITH KREMLIN AGENT 
Fox News: “President Trump unleashed a broadside Friday at his former attorney Michael Cohen, denying his reported claim that the president knew in advance of the controversial June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving his son, members of his campaign and a Russian attorney who supposedly promised ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton. In a blistering tweetstorm, the president also suggested Cohen has turned on him, with the help of Clinton confidant lawyer Lanny Davis, to get out of trouble with his taxi business or other dealings. … The president’s tweet comes as Cohen, who served as a Trump Organization attorney for more than a decade, reportedly claims he was in the room when Trump was informed in advance of the Russians’ offer for dirt and approved the 2016 meeting. Cohen’s claim, reported by CNN and The New York Post, directly contradicts assertions made by the White House and the president on the matter.”

Trump’s money man called to testify in Cohen case - 
WSJ: “Allen Weisselberg, a longtime financial gatekeeper for President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Weisselberg is considered a witness in the investigation, the people said. It isn’t known whether he has already appeared before the grand jury or what questions prosecutors of New York’s Southern District have had for him. The date of the subpoena couldn’t be determined. For decades, Mr. Weisselberg has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Trump Organization, and was once described by a person close to the company as ‘the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump.’ After Mr. Trump was elected, he handed control of his financial assets and business interests to his two adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg.”

SENATE SETS UP VOTE ON SPENDING DEAL
Roll Call: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved Thursday to invoke cloture on the chamber’s four-bill fiscal 2019 spending package, setting up the potential for a floor vote next week. While House members are already leaving town for August recess, the Senate plans to stick around for part of the month. The Kentucky Republican filed motions on both the underlying bill for the appropriations package and Sen. Richard C. Shelby’s substitute amendment. McConnell filed a series of cloture motions on Thursday afternoon, leaving it still unclear when exactly the chamber is likely to get to the vote on appropriations. Shelby, the Appropriations Chairman, had said early in the day the final vote would be next week after senators complained about amendments not getting appropriate consideration. ‘We won’t move the bill, barring a miracle, today,’ he said Thursday morning. McConnell said the next Senate votes would be at 5:30 p.m. Monday on his motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Britt Cagle Grant to be U.S. circuit judge for the Eleventh Circuit.”

Senate votes to roll back tariffs -
 Reuters: “As trade tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing, the U.S. Senate quietly passed legislation on Thursday that would lower trade barriers on hundreds of items made in China. With no debate, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would cut or eliminate tariffs on toasters, chemicals and roughly 1,660 other items made outside the United States. Nearly half of those items are produced in China, according to a Reuters analysis of government records. The United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, are increasingly at loggerheads over trade. U.S. President Donald Trump has announced a series of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports in a bid to halt a Chinese surge in high-technology industries that threatens to displace U.S. dominance. China has retaliated with its own duties on imports from the United States. The White House has not publicly taken a position on the so-called miscellaneous tariff bill, which has now passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously.”

Bipartisan group wants to reassure NATO allies -
 The Hill: “A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Thursday to require President Trump to get the Senate's approval before he withdraws the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The bill—from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)—would require Trump to get the support of two-thirds of the Senate if he wanted to withdraw from the alliance or modify U.S. membership. It would also authorize the Senate Legal Counsel to challenge any attempt by the administration to withdraw from NATO without the Senate's consent in court. ‘Just as it was required to join NATO, Senate approval should be required before this President – or any U.S. President - can withdraw,’ Kaine said in a statement. McCain added that Trump's ‘mistreatment of our closest allies’ had ‘raised doubts’ about the U.S. commitment to NATO.”

Massachusetts Dem seeks House leadership post - Politico: “Rep. Katherine Clark is running for vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus, becoming the first member to declare her candidacy for the No. 5 leadership post. ‘I think it’s got great opportunity,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview. Clark emphasized her current job — she helps oversee recruitment for House Democrats’ campaign arm — as an asset in the contest, which could attract several members looking to rise in the ranks. ‘Through my work recruiting candidates, I really am looking to be a voice and be at the table in leadership,’ she said. 

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Oh haiiiiiiii…. Mueller, Trump Jr. share a gate for their airport waits - Fox News 

Judge lets citizenship question remain on census while suit progresses ABC News

Fifty years ago today a conservative activist changed the way we see politics Smithsonian

AUDIBLE: BUT NOT LISA 
“It dawns on me: They don’t think I’m Beto, they think I’m Joe Kennedy, or at least some Kennedy.” – Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, reminiscing on the night he was elected into Congress in 2012.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin and President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.  
 
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I cannot give enough praise for your insight regarding the dysfunction of Congress, but I am at a loss to determine how enough Americans can ‘fix’ it. It seems no matter which party I vote for, NOTHING changes. This is the main reason I voted for Trump, after voting for Obama twice (hoping for that ‘change’ he promised). I am VERY pleased with Trump’s accomplishments, though he often gets himself in trouble with his political incorrectness). If I can get politically correct Congressmen who ACTUALLY get things done, I would be ecstatic!! The American voters are sick and tired of the Jordan’s and Pelosi’s of the world... COMPROMISE AND SOLVE our issues (immigration, Health Care, our critical education system, etc.). It is SO DISGUSTING to see them ALL place their political careers ahead of DOING the right thing. Keep up the good work, calling them out on these issues. Congress is in danger of ruining the separate-but-equal 3 branches of government our founding fathers so wisely created.” –Joe Clark, Assonet, Mass.

[Ed. note: If capitalization counts for sincerity, Mr. Clark, then I believe! Thanks for your kind words and for your readership.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at 
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CUBS FAN ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED
Chicago Tribune: “A man struck in the head by a metal pin that rolled out of the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field earlier this week was apparently spared more serious injury by a plastic bucket he was wearing on his head, according to police and the Cubs. The mishap occurred Tuesday night during the Cubs game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The pin ‘rolled out of the scoreboard when the (score) tile was being changed,’ said Cubs spokesman Julian Green. The hand-operated center field scoreboard at Wrigley has been in use since 1937. Green said the team has had no problems like this before. The 19-year-old man who was hit was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center and received five staples to close a cut on his head, Green said. … Since it was deemed an accident and not a structural issue, the Cubs are not concerned about a recurrence. … The fan could not be reached, and it wasn’t clear why he had a bucket on his head. But it may have stemmed from an extra-inning game in mid-May 2015, when a few Cubs players emptied the bubble gum containers in the dugout and wore them on their heads as ‘rally caps.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“When our son Daniel turned 10, he wanted a dog of his own. I was against it, using arguments borrowed from seminars on nuclear nonproliferation. It was hopeless. One giant "Please, Dad," and I caved completely. Robyn went out to Winchester, Va., found a litter of black Labs and brought home Chester.” – Charles Krauthammer, writing in Time magazine, June 10, 2003. 

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.