A virus that found our political weak spot

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On the roster: A virus that found our political weak spot - Trump puts convention changes on N.C. governor - Sessions sasses - Ah, those Scandinavian romantics

America is such a political basket case that even our viral infections break along partisan lines.

At least that’s how it looks when you start investigating the political geography of coronavirus. We’ve talked from the beginning how red America and blue America are having very different experiences and reactions to the pandemic and the measures taken to control it.

Now we’ve got some very useful evidence to help quantify the split.

Here’s what the NYT found: “Counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities.”

It’s no wonder that Republicans and Democrats are talking past each other.

A plague that hits major population centers hardest is as old as plagues themselves. Population density is a dominant factor in the transmission of every communicable disease we know.

What’s different now is how well sorted politically Americans are and how little empathy partisans have for each other. With urban Republicans and rural Democrats all but extinct, there’s far less political pressure for compassion and compromise than there would have once been.

Viruses exploit the body’s weakness, so perhaps the same goes for entire nations.

Not even Paul Harvey’s “If I Were The Devil” would have a nightmare dream of something so wicked as a politically skewed virus arriving just at the moment when we’re are most seriously testing the ties that bind this union: This ugly election year.

It took little imagination to know what people like that would do with a natural disaster that follows political and socioeconomic fault lines. 

We have a political class that works those same levers every day. They find new and more potent ways to arouse suspicion and resentments against their fellow Americans. They happily ignore the good news when it’s better for someone else. They present every decision as good/evil, us/them, black/white. They question every motive but their own.

They do all the things that would undermine dealing effectively with the deadly virus and its economic aftermath. Cheerful cooperation and mutual respect are desperately needed in a natural disaster like this one. But those things are deadly to more than viruses; they would also kill off the brain-dead negative partisanship that passes for civic discourse these days.

The good news is that if can summon the collective strength to deal with a virus that exploits our tribal partisanship, we will help roll back one of our leading societal ills in the process.

“The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 65

Epicurious: “While there are a handful of things you can cook in 15 minutes or less … most recipes deemed ‘quick’ require that you’re actively cooking for 20 minutes or more, paying attention to whatever’s sizzling in the pan and not attending to your kid’s princess tea party or the Slack questions pinging in from a coworker (or both). … But when undistracted time — and real focus — is in short supply, the answer isn’t whipping dinner together on the fly. It’s putting a pot on low and walking away. If you’re able to be at home right now, a few minutes of mellow prep early in the morning can yield a braise that’ll feed you for days. And the aromas of hands-off, slow cooking have the added bonus of reminding you to stop and breathe, to take a break from worrying about dinner. Your nose can tell that the cooking is already happening, and that the meal is going to be good.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (103 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15)
Lean R/Likely R: (186 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]

Average approval: 44.2 percent
Average disapproval: 52.6 percent
Net Score: -8.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.4 points
[Average includes: American Research Group: 40% approve - 57% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; CNN: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve - 48% disapprove.]

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WaPo: “President Trump threatened on Monday to move the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina — while denying that he wants to hold the convention at his namesake resort in Florida even as some state officials started clamoring for the president’s adopted home state to be the venue. Accusing North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, of being in a ‘shutdown mood,’ Trump — in a string of early-morning Memorial Day tweets — pressured Cooper to guarantee that ‘we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena’ in Charlotte by the late-August convention. … The threat singling out a Democratic governor who has followed federal guidelines echoed Trump’s pressure on other Democratic-led states to reopen as the coronavirus pandemic pushes the economy to the worst crisis since the Great Depression, with approximately 38 million Americans filing for unemployment and scores of businesses shuttering. Trump, who sees a revived economy as critical to his reelection, also has encouraged protests against Democratic governors who have imposed stay-at-home orders consistent with federal health officials’ recommendations.”

Florida volunteers as backup - Miami Herald: “Florida Republicans said they would ‘welcome’ the Republican National Convention if President Donald Trump makes good on a Twitter threat Monday to pull the party’s seminal political event from North Carolina. ‘The Republican Party of Florida would welcome the opportunity to host the Republican National Convention,’ party Chairman Joe Gruters said in a statement. ‘Florida is committed to ensuring a safe, secure and successful event for President Trump and all attendees.’ The Republican National Committee has been planning to host its nominating convention at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte from Aug. 24-27.”

Trump beefs up campaign staff after setbacks - NYT: “President Trump’s aides are promoting one of his top political advisers to deputy campaign manager, in a move to bolster the team heading into the final five months of the re-election effort, officials said on Tuesday. Bill Stepien, the former White House political director who has been working as a senior political adviser to the campaign, said in a statement that the new role will let him support both Mr. Trump and the campaign manager, Brad Parscale. ‘I will continue to support Brad Parscale as he leads the campaign, working with all of our partners in states across the country, and helping to coordinate all of our efforts to ensure the president is re-elected,’ Mr. Stepien said. The campaign is also promoting Stephanie Alexander, currently the Midwest regional political director, to the campaign chief of staff.”

Trump continues to lay groundwork for fraud claims - Politico: “First he lit into Michigan and Nevada, threatening to withhold federal funding because of his assertion that both states were preparing to commit voter fraud through mail-in ballot applications. Then President Donald Trump followed up Sunday with two more broadly worded warnings that November would be ‘the greatest Rigged Election in history.’ ‘The Democrats are trying to Rig the 2020 Election, plain and simple!’ the president claimed. Trump’s increasingly amped-up rhetoric surrounding the integrity of the November election is beginning to bring to center stage a previously muted conversation. With the president lagging behind Joe Biden in public opinion polls six months before the general election, his opponents are becoming increasingly anxious that Trump may attempt to undermine the results of the election if he loses — or worse, might attempt to cling to power regardless of the outcome.”

Biden comes out from lockdown for Memorial Day wreath laying - Bloomberg: “Joe Biden emerged Monday from his stay-at-home lockdown after more than 10 weeks to mark Memorial Day with a tribute to veterans. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and his wife, Jill, visited the Veterans Memorial Park at the Delaware Memorial Bridge to lay a wreath of white roses. Both wore black masks over their mouths and noses. Biden’s wearing of personal protective gear stood in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has made a show of flouting local standards by skipping a mask at events outside the White House. The visit was Biden’s first public trip since he said he would abide by the state’s coronavirus rules and the advice of health experts. He and his wife placed a wreath of white roses and stood solemnly for a moment or two of silence before walking back toward their car. ‘It feels good to be out of my house,’ he told reporters.”

Whitmer’s husband caught in corona controversy - The Detroit News: “The owner of a Northern Michigan dock company says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's husband wanted his boat placed in the water before the Memorial Day weekend as Whitmer urged residents not to rush to the region. No longer visible to the public, Facebook posts from NorthShore Dock LLC and its owner, Tad Dowker, focused on what Dowker said was a request last week by Whitmer's husband, Marc Mallory. The posts have drawn the attention of Republican state lawmakers, who said the Democratic governor's family may not be following her guidance for the rest of the state. Whitmer's spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, didn't confirm or deny Monday the assertions by the marina company or its owner. Brown said the administration wouldn't address ‘every rumor that is spread online.’”

Biden’s got the advantage in Minnesota poll - The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune: “Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a small lead over President Donald Trump among registered voters in Minnesota, according to the first presidential poll in the state since the Democrat clinched his party’s nomination. A new Minnesota Poll conducted by the Star Tribune, MPR News and KARE 11 found Biden ahead of Trump 49% to 44% in the general election matchup less than six months ahead of Election Day. Biden fell just short of a majority, but 7% of Minnesotans said they are still undecided. The poll also found that statewide, 53% of voters disapprove of the Republican incumbent’s job performance as president, compared with 45% who approve. Only 2% were undecided about Trump, reflecting a high degree of polarization heading into the fall election season.”

AL.com: “A Twitter battle between President Donald Trump and his former attorney general spilled into Saturday, with Jeff Sessions defending his support among conservatives and the president later on Sessions to withdraw from the Alabama senate race. Trump, in his Saturday evening tweet, called on Sessions to drop out of the race for Senate and ‘pray’ that Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones loses in November. … Sessions, late Saturday, said he will ‘never apologize for following the law’ and defended his decision in 2017 to recuse himself from the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election. … Sessions, in the Friday night Tweet, told Trump he did his duty and ‘you’re damn fortunate I did. I protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration.’ Sessions responded after Trump tweeted earlier on Friday his support for [TommyTuberville.”

King’s primary challenger eschews bigotry claims - AP: “Rep. Steve King is fighting for his political life — but not because he’s compared immigrants crossing the border illegally to cattle. His Republican opponents in next week’s primary aren’t raking him over the coals for making light of rape and incest. His chief rival’s ads don’t mention the time he wondered when the term ‘white supremacist’ became offensive. Instead, the nine-term congressman known for his nativist politics is fighting to prove he can still deliver for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Since Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments, in a rare punishment, King has been dogged by questions over whether he’s lost all effectiveness. Some longtime supporters are turning away, not because of his incendiary remarks but because they think he can no longer do the job.”

House Dems spend $18.3 million for fall TV ads - Roll Call: “With less than six months before Election Day, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved more than $18.3 million in airtime for broadcast television ads during the final months of the campaign. It’s likely the first of multiple rounds of reservations, considering the committee’s independent expenditure arm spent more than $73 million on TV during the 2018 cycle. This initial round of reservations overlap with the Senate and presidential battleground states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Pennsylvania, where media markets are likely to get crowded and expensive. Back in April, the two biggest partisan super PACs — the GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund ($51 million) and Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC ($43 million) — placed nearly $100 million combined in initial ad reservations. The National Republican Congressional Committee hasn’t made its initial ad reservations.”

Florida’s poll tax for felons struck down - Politico: “A federal judge on Sunday dismantled Florida’s restrictive felon voting rights law in a ruling that could open the door to hundreds of thousands of new voters being added to rolls just ahead of the 2020 presidential election. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared key portions of the state’s felon voting law unconstitutional, ordering the state to put in place a new process that would help people register to vote in the state. Throughout his 125-page ruling, Hinkle chided the state for a ‘pay-to-vote’ system that he said was Byzantine because, in some instances, former felons could not even figure how much money they owed.”

Judge rules S.C. voters don’t need a witness for absentee ballots - AP: “A federal judge says people voting by absentee ballot in South Carolina don’t have to have a witness sign the voting papers. U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs on Monday ordered South Carolina officials to not enforce the requirement for a witness signature on ballots in the June 9 primary or any ensuing runoff elections. She said having to seek a witness increases the chance that a voter would contract or spread the coronavirus. Childs, however, did not permanently strike down the requirement as unconstitutional. ‘The evidence in the record points to the conclusion that adherence to the witness requirement in June would only increase the risk for contracting COVID-19 for members of the public with underlying medical conditions, the disabled, and racial and ethnic minorities,’ the judge wrote in her order.”

Pergram: Campaign rhetoric avoids complexity and reality - Fox News

Libertarian Party nominates Jo Jorgensen for presidential nomination - Reason

Meatpackers’ virus woes deepen, prompting new scarcity concerns - WaPo

Jessica Melugin: Presidential panel on social media bias misfires - Competitive Enterprise Institute

“Forty-five thousand young people — the biggest student population we’ve ever had — are telling us they want to be here this fall. To tell them, ‘Sorry, we are too incompetent or too fearful to figure out how to protect your elders, so you have to disrupt your education,’ would be a gross disservice to them and a default of our responsibility.”  Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana who is now the president of Purdue University, writing about his decision to convene the fall semester with in-person classes.

“Come on man. ‘The good news is, our great pollsters are able to figure it out and provide reliable, predictive products.’ Mr. Braud [in Friday’s Halftime Report] is 100% correct. Seems you have forgotten the 2016 Election Cycle. Are your ‘great pollsters’ factoring in that silent Trump supporter this time around?” – Al DiStefano, Cumming, Ga.

[Ed. note: You have been a pretty regular correspondent for quite a while, Mr. DiStefano, and I’m pretty certain that this isn’t your first complaint about polling, so please forgive me if I am repeating myself. There is no evidence of “silent Trump” supporters. Quite the contrary. There is lots of evidence that Trump supporters proudly and enthusiastically proclaim their allegiance. Polls in 2016 were more accurate than they were in 2012 when pre-election surveys understated support for Barack Obama by more than three points on average. Would we say that there was a “silent” Obama vote? We would instead say that the polling missed a bit, but generally got the shape of the race right -- just as it did in 2016. And I feel certain that I’ve told you this before, so forgive me for repeating: Don’t place so much emphasis on polling. It’s just one tool we have for watching the race unfold. I hope that will keep you in good stead for the rest of this cycle.]

“OK, so [Henry Ford] had social problems. That was a hundred years ago! How many people have the Democrats praised that are alive or dead and lot later than that? Castro, Che Guevara and several leaders in Communist China and the USSR come to mind very quickly. Let's throw in a handful of terrorists, current racists and criminals and I'll put Trump's record against their slimy record any day. I could have thrown in Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat president for good measure. Stating that about Trump in relation to Ford is just pandering.” – Ron LawrenceSt. Cloud, Fla.

[Ed. note: I assume the Democrats who attacked Trump over praising Henry Ford’s good “bloodlines” were about as sincere in their outrage as the Republicans who were attacking Biden over his dumb gaffe. Neither party has the market cornered on the subject of bigotry and both on a daily basis exploit those deep wounds in an effort to gain power. Our political class is dominated by a great lot of moral imbeciles, so I do my best to ignore their moral posturing.]

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Deutsche Welle: “Danish officials eased coronavirus restrictions for travelers from other Scandinavian countries and Germany, providing they are visiting the country for a legitimate ‘purpose’… The new regulations allow entry for people seeking to reunite with their spouse or fiancée in the Scandinavian country. The easing also applies to other romantic couples who had been in a relationship for at least six months. However, the partner who is attempting to cross the border would be required to present evidence of the relationship and its duration. ‘They can bring along a photo or a love letter,’ deputy police chief Allan Dalager Clausen told Danish broadcaster DR. ‘I realize these are very intimate things, but the decision to let in the partner ultimately rests on the judgment of the individual police officer,’ he added. …partners would need to prove they had regular in-person meetings before the crisis, as relationships which consisted ‘solely of written or telephone correspondence’ would not be recognized…”

“Let's remember. In a democracy, there is no such thing as a permanent ban in any case. Any ban can be revisited at any time.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in a statement for the President’s Council on Bioethics in which he references his longer article ‘Crossing Lines,’ published in The New Republic on April 29, 2002.

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.