By Chris Stirewalt
Published March 29, 2019
On the roster: Are Biden and Bernie for real? - Trump seeks to make the most Mueller for 2020 - McConnell sidesteps health insurance imbroglio - Pelosi popularity strong among Dems - An Odie-ous mystery solved
ARE BIDEN AND BERNIE FOR REAL?
U.S. News: “Three months into the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have maintained their positions as dual Democratic front-runners, one without even being a declared candidate. And yet there's an abiding sense among some Democrats and Republicans that the predominant positions of the two septuagenarians are eminently fragile, largely based on name recognition and prone to crumble as more voters dial in and sort through the bountiful options before them. The burgeoning candidacies of Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke look like the strongest initial threats to the polling leaders' supremacy, both decades younger, fresher and offering that intangible ingredient of organic excitement. ‘Kamala had the best rollout. Bernie probably surprised people that he still had such a strong following in terms of fundraising. I think he showed a lot of muscle,’ says the Rev. Al Sharpton… ‘I think it's between Bernie and Kamala: They had the best first three months.’”
Harris’ big dollar donors are raising some questions - RCP: “Harris will leave the campaign trail to headline the April 1 fundraiser hosted by [multimillionaire Angelo] Tsakopoulos in Sacramento. The lieutenant governor and daughter of the real estate developer, Eleni Kounalakis, will also attend. The dinner runs between $1,000 and $2,800 a plate, according to the Sacramento Bee. And the meal raises an awkward question: Are wealthy donors with questionable pasts a political liability in an increasingly progressive Democratic presidential primary? Does it matter? … The public certainly thinks money in politics is a problem. … Harris has skipped that primary posturing. She is digging for donor gold in the Golden State right now. Of course, even if she finds some, a single donor won’t be enough. The influencers that will surround the senator in Sacramento can only give a maximum of $5,600 — half for the primary, the other half held in reserve for the general.”
Booker hometown rally to kickoff national campaign swing - Fox News: “Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker’s heading home to kickoff what he’s calling a ‘Justice for All Tour.’ The Democrat from New Jersey announced on Friday that he’ll hold a hometown kickoff in downtown Newark on Saturday, April 13. Booker served as the mayor of the Garden State’s largest city for two terms before winning his Senate seat in 2013. Booker declared his candidacy for the White House in February, but as is often the practice, an official presidential campaign announcement is followed by formal kickoff event at a later date. The practice allows a candidate to grab extra media attention and hopefully build more excitement among supporters. The event in Newark is the first in a two-week cross-country tour that Booker’s campaign said will be used ‘to highlight his message of reigniting our sense of common purpose to build a more just country for the American people.’”
Hickenlooper’s different drummer - Politico: “[John] Hickenlooper is certainly different. Nothing about his appearance, from his rumpled shirts to the crooked row of bottom teeth to the untamed wisps of gray flopping over his forehead, seems especially presidential. He speaks in frenetic bursts, beginning one word before concluding its predecessor, his rhetorical pacing off-key like a garaged piano. Every question asked of him invites a story, often with no guarantee of a thematic circling back to the subject at hand. He says things like, ‘I’m not the smartest guy out there,’ not exactly standard fare for an aspiring leader of the Free World. … The candidate’s friends call him ‘odd,’ ‘quirky,’ ‘eccentric.’ For anyone who watched Hickenlooper’s recent CNN town hall—a prime-time event capable of jump-starting a longshot candidacy—these descriptors seem generous.”
Miami gets first Dem debates - Miami Herald: “Miami won’t be the home of the 2020 Democratic convention, but the city will get to host the first debates among the top 20 candidates hoping to win the party’s nomination. The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that it has selected Miami to host the party’s first debates, on June 26 and 27. … The debates are scheduled over two nights as the DNC expects to make room for as many as 20 candidates. Participants in a given debate will be selected randomly, so headliners like Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris could be on stage with fringe candidates like Andrew Yang or even Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.”
THE RULEBOOK: NATURALLY
“When men exercise their reason coolly and freely on a variety of distinct questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions on some of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions, if they are so to be called, will be the same.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 50
TIME OUT: ALOHA 'OE
Smithsonian: “Born in 1838, [Queen] Liliʻuokalani [the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands] began her musical training at around age seven as part of her schooling. … In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group led by U.S. Government Minister John L. Stevens, and Queen Liliʻuokalani was put under house arrest at the ‘Iolani Palace as a result. During her time there, she composed many pieces mourning the treatment of her homeland and people. One such song was ‘Mai Wakinekona a Iolani Hale.’ Liliʻuokalani anonymously wrote the song’s lyrics and published them in a weekly Hawaiian language newspaper, subversively messaging how she came to be imprisoned. The following week, someone published a response in song lyrics, ‘We have heard you, oh heavenly one, our ruler, and we support you.’ … This piece was only recently discovered. Many of the Queen’s lesser-known compositions are now being newly appreciated as the Hawaiian language is making a comeback after years of oppression.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.6 percent
Average disapproval: 52.4 percent
Net Score: -9.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.6 points
[Average includes: Pew Research Center: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve - 50% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 51% disapprove.]
TRUMP SEEKS TO MAKE THE MOST MUELLER FOR 2020
Atlantic: “[Special Counsel Robert] Mueller might be done with his investigation, but [President] Trump and company are loath to let it drop. They want to capitalize on the president escaping criminal charges and make Mueller’s findings a core piece of 2020 campaign messaging. … Yet many Republican lawmakers and strategists fear that Trump would be fixating on the wrong message at the wrong time. They worry that Trump risks repeating the same strategic blunder he made in the midterm elections, which culminated in Republicans losing control of the House. Rather than spotlight economic gains rung up on his watch, the president might wind up dwelling on collateral issues of scant interest to voters. … Trump allies see Barr’s letter as a kind of Swiss Army knife—a tool useful in all kinds of situations. Not only is it exculpatory, they say, but it also implicitly rebukes the press for its coverage of the Russia investigation, inoculating Trump from any future scandal that reporters might unearth.”
Trump campaigns in Michigan, attacks opponents - Fox News: “In his first major rally since Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared him of any collusion with Russia, President Trump took the stage before a boisterous full house at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Thursday night -- and proceeded to tear into Democrats and the FBI as unintelligent ‘frauds’ who tried desperately to undermine the results of the 2016 election. ‘The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullsh--,’ Trump said to thunderous applause, ‘-- partisan investigations, or whether they will apologize to the American people.’ Trump continued to unload on his opponents… Addressing counterprotesters outside the arena and progressives in general, Trump asked: ‘What do you think of their signs, 'Resist?' What the hell? Let's get something done.’”
Mueller or no Mueller, Trump approval stays steady - Pew Research Center: “The public’s views of Donald Trump have changed little over the course of his presidency… The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 20-25 among 1,503 adults, finds that 40% approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, little changed since January (37%). … Trump’s job rating was not significantly different in the days following the release of Barr’s report… Trump’s job rating continues to be more stable – and more polarized along partisan lines – than those of past presidents. Currently, 81% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of Trump’s job performance, while 88% of Democrats and Democratic leaners disapprove.”
POLL: HUGE MAJORITY WANTS FULL MUELLER REPORT
NPR: “Days after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation report, overwhelming majorities of Americans want the full report made public and believe Barr and Mueller should testify before Congress, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Only about a third of Americans believe, from what they’ve seen or heard about the Mueller investigation so far, that President Trump is clear of any wrongdoing. … At the same time, 56 percent said Mueller conducted a fair investigation, and 51 percent said they were satisfied with it. That included 52 percent of independents who said they were satisfied with the investigation. It's one of the rare questions in the first two years of the Trump presidency in which a majority of independents sided with Republicans instead of Democrats on a subject. … Overall, three-quarters said the full Mueller report should be made public. That included a majority of Republicans (54 percent). Just 18 percent overall said Barr's summary is enough.”
How did Trump avoid a special counsel interview? - WaPo: “In the end, the decision not to subpoena the president is one of the lingering mysteries of Mueller’s 22-month investigation… An interview with the president would have been pivotal to helping assess whether the president had corrupt intent, a key element of such a charge, legal experts said. It is an open question whether a subpoena would have survived the court challenge that Trump’s lawyers say they would have mounted. The Supreme Court has never issued definitive guidance on issuing a subpoena to a president, but had Mueller pursued one, the courts could have established a precedent for future presidents. In assessing whether to pursue such a high-stakes move, the special counsel was not operating with complete autonomy. That was a contrast with predecessors such as Kenneth Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton and had broad leeway under the now-expired independent counsel statute.”
MCCONNELL SIDESTEPS HEALTH INSURANCE IMBROGLIO
Politico: “Mitch McConnell has no intention of leading President Donald Trump’s campaign to transform the GOP into the ‘party of health care.’ ‘I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker,’ McConnell said in a brief interview Thursday… Now in divided government, with the Senate majority up for grabs next year and McConnell himself running for reelection, another divisive debate over health care is the last thing McConnell needs. … So the Kentucky Republican and his members are putting the onus on the president to figure out the next steps. McConnell’s clear reluctance toward trying to draft a sweeping health care bill in the Senate reflects his political instincts: that it’s better to focus on perceived Democratic weaknesses — the left’s push on ‘Medicare for All’ — than to struggle to unify his own party on a plan almost certain to be rebuffed by Senate Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”
Trump’s ask: A ‘spectacular’ plan - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump said he asked a group of U.S. senators to create a health-care plan to replace Obamacare, as his administration seeks to have the law signed by his predecessor invalidated in court. Republicans John Barrasso of Wyoming, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rick Scott of Florida are developing the plan, Trump told reporters Thursday as he departed the White House for a political rally in Michigan. ‘They are going to work together, come up with something that’s really spectacular,’ Trump said. ‘Maybe we’ll even get support in the House from Democrats. But it’s going to be far better than Obamacare,’ the president added, calling the law a ‘disaster.’”
Judge blocks Trump plan to let employers work around ObamaCare rules - AP: “A federal judge has struck down a small-business health insurance plan widely touted by President Donald Trump, the second setback in a week for the administration's health care initiatives. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates wrote in his opinion late Thursday that so-called ‘association health plans’ were ‘clearly an end-run’ around consumer protections required by the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, another federal judge blocked the Trump administration's Medicaid work requirements for low-income people. The plans at issue in Bates' ruling Thursday allow groups of small businesses and sole proprietors to band together to offer lower-cost coverage that doesn't have to include all the benefits required by the ACA, often called ‘Obamacare.’ They also can be offered across state lines, an attempt to deliver on a major Trump campaign promise.”
PELOSI POPULARITY STRONG AMONG DEMS
Pew Research Center: “As the new Congress approaches the 100-day mark, the public generally has negative views of both Democratic and Republican leaders. Just a third approve of the job performance of Democratic congressional leaders, while 59% disapprove. Job ratings for GOP leaders are similar (31% approve, 63% disapprove). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job rating is somewhat more negative than positive: 40% approve of her job performance while 46% disapprove. Still, Pelosi’s job rating is more positive than then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s was two years ago. At similar points during their tenures as speaker, John Boehner and Newt Gingrich had evenly divided job ratings. The partisan gap in views of Pelosi’s job rating is generally wider than those of her predecessors. Democrats are about four times as likely as Republicans to approve of Pelosi’s job performance than are Republicans (62% vs. 15%). … Early in her tenure as House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s job rating is deeply divided along partisan lines. … About six-in-ten Democrats (62%) approve of Pelosi’s job performance.”
Pelosi backs new DCCC hiring policy against progressives’ pleas - National Journal: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders expressed support Thursday for a new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hiring policy that progressives claim will blackball vendors who work for primary challengers against incumbent Democrats. That comes after a tense meeting Wednesday afternoon between DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos and leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who want Democrats to rescind the rule. The policy states they will neither hire nor recommend to House offices any political vendors who work to oust sitting Democrats. ‘I support the chair of the DCCC,’ Pelosi said, when asked whether she backs the policy. In the private meeting, progressives invoked Pelosi as an example of a leader who understands their concerns as members from left-leaning districts, as opposed to Bustos, who represents a district that supported President Trump, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.”
Senate approves GOP budget - AP
McConnell sets up debate next week to make confirmation of Trump nominees easier - Roll Call
Brexit is beaten for third time Friday, no sign if Britain will leave the EU - WaPo
Rep. Dan Crenshaw could be the GOP’s answer to progressive House Dems - National Review
AUDIBLE: NAME DROPPING
“As a former seven-year Reagan administration Justice Department official, I kind of think that the president's early steps in this administration have gone well beyond anything President Richard Nixon ever did.” – Former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld talking about President Trump with Shannon Bream on “Fox News @ Night.” Weld plans to make a decision on running for president in April.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway. 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
“Sometimes I just don’t get [The Rulebook]. The first sentence is easy enough. I don’t follow the meaning of the second sentence. Would it be possible to get a ref’s interpretation of [Thursday’s] rule? ‘The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men. A guaranty by the national authority would be as much levelled against the usurpations of rulers as against the ferments and outrages of faction and sedition in the community.’ – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 21.” – Mike Tardif, Santa Ana, Calif.
[Ed. note: When we look at the Federalist Papers we are reading impassioned arguments from the proponents of the Constitution for the creation of a federal republic to replace the confederacy that was in place from 1781 to 1789. When Hamilton wrote those words in December of 1787 he was attacking the then-governing charter, the Articles of Confederacy, as insufficient. A chief problem, he argued, was that the national government lacked the authority or practical ability to enforce the laws that it passed or to guarantee the rights of its citizens. Some 4,000 armed rebels led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays had staged a nearly year-long insurrection in western Massachusetts that ended just six months before Hamilton was writing. Shays & Co. were protesting what they said were heavy-handed taxation and tax collection by the government of the state of Massachusetts. Their goal was the violent overthrow of the government of the commonwealth before they were eventually crushed by a private army raised by the anxious citizens of Boston led by Revolutionary Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. Rage mobs fighting private armies is not exactly conducive to good order and predictable governance. Hamilton argued that the loose affiliation of the confederacy and weak central government was an invitation to further problems of this kind and that the national government needed the power to enforce the basic rules and keep order. What he’s saying in the passage we quoted is that in a republic the remedy for bad state government remains the same – an election – but that the federal government would serve as a counterweight against bad state leaders or “usurpations of rulers” as much as it will provide protection from rage mobs attacking the rule of law itself, “the ferments and outrages of faction and sedition.”]
“I get as much enjoyment from your response to the ‘Bleachers’ as I do from the ‘Report.’ You would be a great diplomat. Two more for your ‘creel.’ I was born in Parcoal and spent my early youth in No. 4 (a town on 1947 WV maps, and not even a wide place in the road now), both in Webster County.” – Rod Steorts, Sutton, W. Va.
[Ed. note: Sweet fancy Moses! I of course knew of Parcoal, which I have passed through several times on my way to Kumbrabow State Forest and Helvetia (near another favorite of mine: Czar, W.Va.). But I knew nothing of No. 4, W.Va. That’s a fine catch indeed.]
“Chris, Read with interest your list of West Virginia datelines in the response to the gentleman from Rhodelia. Having been raised at Mud, W.Va. (post office no longer exists), which is just over the hill from Big Ugly, I was pleased to see it made your list. One of my favorite headlines from the Hamlin Lincoln Journal has always been: ‘Big Ugly Woman Injured in Auto Accident.’” – Billy Atkins, Morgantown, W. Va.
[Ed. note: But was she?]
“Oh Chris why would you not want the Cubs to have a great season? We are in first place at the moment. Love the Halftime Report and I make sure I read it every day no matter how long it is.” – Anne Purcell, Chicago
[Ed. note: Ms. Purcell, I am a devout supporter of the National League franchise in St. Louis. For there to be true harmony in my baseball universe it’s not just necessary for the Cardinals to win but for the Cubs to lose. You could say that it’s small of me, but the crackle of that rivalry has warmed my heart even late in seasons like last year after hope was gone for the pennant to return to where it belongs, 700 Clark Ave. And something tells me that this year’s battle between our two warring tribes may indeed be one for the history books. See you in September!]
“Chris — Thanks for the humanity — and I would add, ‘Christianity’ except that the idea of love for the ‘aliens resident among’ us springs from the Hebrew Bible — in your response to a writer insisting on the ‘illegals’ label. Blessings!” – Rev. John Johnson, Tucson, Ariz.
[Ed. note: I will only quote theologian and Pastor Tim Keller back to you, Rev. Johnson: “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.”]
“Why on Fox Nation with Brianna and Chris is the horseshoe hanging pointing down allowing the luck to run out? Been wondering.” – Steve Adams, Bellefonte, Pa.
[Ed. note: You caught me, Mr. Adams! The horseshoe is not there for luck, as I am not the superstitious type. It is there to remind me to be worthy of my heritage. It was made by my great-grandfather, James. He was by all evident results a pretty poor farmer and lacked the instincts for business. But he was, by the accounts I have heard, a very good farrier, a man on whom his neighbors relied to keep their horses afoot. Old Jim Stirewalt was a poor man and perhaps not a particularly gifted one, but he found a way to keep himself and his family going. When I don’t know what to write or what to say, I am reminded to stoke the fire, grab the tongs and hammer away.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
AN ODIE-OUS MYSTERY SOLVED
AFP: “For more than 30 years bright orange ‘Garfield’ phones have been washing up on the French coast to the bemusement of local beach cleaners …the novelty landline phones, modelled on the prickly feline cartoon character, that have plagued the northern Finistere beaches for decades. ‘Our association has existed for 18 years and in that time we have found pieces of Garfield telephones almost each time we clean,’ said Claire Simonin, the head of local beach cleaning group Ar Viltansou in Brittany. But it wasn't until a local resident revealed that he had discovered the container after a storm in the 1980s that they were finally able to locate it -- wedged in a partially submerged cave only accessible at low tide. … ‘Under the boulders in front of the entrance, we found 23 complete handsets with electronics and wires. They were everywhere,’ she added.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“‘If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen’ [Barack Obama said.] … To say all individuals are embedded in and the product of society is banal.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for the National Review on July 20, 2012.
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.