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On the roster: Biden is a Bubba, not Obama lite - Senate headed for cliff with no deal in sight - Team Trump pulls ads ahead of reset - Bass backers boost favorite in veepstakes - The real G.O.A.T. 

There’s been a great deal of talk across the political pitch about a former Democratic president and his influence on the party now. It’s just they’re talking about the wrong one.

After winning a second term with a rout of Sen. Bob Dole in 1996, Bill Clinton declared that he would govern from the “vital American center.”

Clinton, as has often been his wont, was taking some liberties. In this case, it was the phrase “vital center,” coined by liberal historian and Kennedy brain trustee Arthur Schlesinger. Schlesinger, in his 1949 book of the same name, was talking about the contest between totalitarianism and liberal democracy on the world stage. Clinton was repurposing the term to suit his vision of American domestic policy and politics. 

As Democrats would come to realize in a second Clinton term, the Arkansan revival of Camelot was decidedly less charming than the one set in Cape Cod.

Clinton’s dream was to create a lasting majority for Democrats by bringing back those white, working-class voters who had been drifting away from the party since 1968 – the kinds of traditional Democrats who voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Clinton’s win in 1996, he believed, foreshadowed a powerful new coalition of Black voters, liberal women and “Bubbas” like him.

A guy who won combinations no Democrat had in decades – Arizona and Massachusetts, Oregon and Louisiana – had some powerful evidence that such a coalition might be possible. The liberal, urban party born out of the Civil Rights Act and the Vietnam War might really be replaced with a pragmatic, pro-business, culturally moderate blob that could retake and hold the House and Senate while simultaneously cracking the Republican electoral map.  

Clinton was all about “law and order,” famously once leaving the campaign trail in 1992 to make sure that a developmentally disabled man was executed in Arkansas and pushing federal agents onto the streets of big cities to end the crack wars as president.

Clinton was also against permissive welfare programs, swiping the issue right out from under Republicans’ noses. As he had proclaimed in his State of the Union address that year, “the era of big government is over.”  

Clinton was all about business, too, exulting in the dotcom boom and record profits on Wall Street. As he was schmoozing with Harvey Weinstein and getting $200 haircuts on Air Force One, Clinton was dispelling that old un-glamorous liberal baggage.

And unlike one-termer Jimmy Carter, Clinton wasn’t afraid to flex America’s muscle, lobbing airstrikes hither and yon and declaring as part of his election-year reboot in a 1996 speech that America was “the indispensable nation” that would shape the post-Cold War world. So much for the party’s Vietnam syndrome, right?

Like Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines, Bill Clinton was going to have it all – country and rock n’ roll. And he promised, in one of the groaners of modern political rhetoric, to “build a bridge to the 21st century.”

But, that’s not what happened at all. Unlike the new coalitions that endured long after Franklin Roosevelt’s and Nixon’s presidencies, the Clinton era had the shelf life of a cut avocado. The center, it turned out, wasn’t so vital after all. It wasn’t really even “the center,” but rather a temporary coalition driven by, among other factors, a weak Republican Party with bad nominees who were captive to an increasingly radical base. 

When Clinton left office after a furious legacy-building effort in the wake of his victory over Newt Gingrich’s ill-conceived, poorly executed impeachment effort, many signs suggested that the 42nd president’s hopes had been realized. 

While then-Vice President Al Gore’s somnambulant profusion of earth tones came up just short in 2000 after losing his home state of Tennessee, Clinton’s Arkansas and longtime Democratic bastion West Virginia, the president left office with sky-high popularity, the Senate back in Democratic hands and an eroded Republican majority in the House. 

But Republicans had learned a thing or two and Democrats were already forgetting Clinton’s lessons. The GOP was consolidating its hold on states that had been competitive or Democratic-leaning locally despite Republican votes for president. The great GOP victory of 1994 turned out not to be the House, but the 10 governors’ mansions that broke an era of Democratic hyper-dominance on the state level.

George W. Bush typified the new Republican model: A socially conservative, pro-government chief executive from a state that had kept a strong Democratic lean at home long after its 1972 switch to the GOP in national politics. The Red Team wasn’t going to be out-Bubbaed by Bubba anymore.

In 2004, Democrats did exactly what Clinton and his vital centrists at the Democratic Leadership Council told them never to do: They nominated another dovish liberal from Massachusetts who was easily caricatured by the Bush campaign as weak effete. In 2008, the party went farther left and picked an African American liberal from Illinois – explicitly rejecting the demand of the House of Clinton to be returned to the throne.

Barack Obama had shown some chops with that vital center business. He mounted his 2004 Senate campaign with an explicitly bipartisan pitch of a country beyond divisions of red and blue. And as he rolled to victory in 2008 with the help of the twin Republican miseries of the Iraq War and financial panic, Obama continued to reach for the center.

But as president, he proved to be a consistent, hardline partisan. His defenders argued that Republicans were different and worse than they were before – that somehow the party was more acidly partisan than the one that impeached Clinton – and were unworthy of further wooing.

Whatever his reasoning, Obama’s goal became to break the GOP and not co-opt it. The Bubbas, he decided, would be consigned to the ash heap of history as the power of older, socially conservative white voters was overwhelmed in a demographic wave.

Obama in his post presidency has rediscovered his role as the shamanistic healer once described by Michael Knox Beran. But as we saw in his funeral pitch for ending the legislative filibuster in the Senate, Obama is a sharp-elbowed partisan through and through.

Which brings us to Joe Biden, who once embodied Obama’s small nod to the lingering necessity of Bubbas. Biden is a Clintonite lover of bipartisan deal making and the clinches (often literally) of blue-collar white voters in places like his native Pennsylvania. 

Democrats, with lots of help from Biden, have managed to forget his long history as middle-of-the road, pro-business, law-and-order kind of Senator from Delaware. Biden was a considerable player in the long project to revive Democrats from their post-Vietnam, post-Carter malaise.

While that certainly may help Biden this fall as he steams toward the presidency with the kinds of tactical advantages that not even Obama enjoyed in 2008, it may end up creating serious heartburn for Democrats.

They think they’ve got the heir to Obama, but what they have is a latent Bubba.

“With [France and Britain] and with most other European nations we are rivals in navigation and the carrying trade; and we shall deceive ourselves if we suppose that any of them will rejoice to see it flourish; for, as our carrying trade cannot increase without in some degree diminishing theirs, it is more their interest, and will be more their policy, to restrain than to promote it.” – John JayFederalist No. 4

The Atlantic: “With his distinctive hair, gentle voice, and signature expressions such as ‘happy little trees,’ [Bob Ross] an enduring icon. Even 25 years after his death, he’s popular not only with viewers who remember him fondly, but also with kids who weren’t even born when his show was originally on the air. Bob Ross Inc. is still thriving. The company owns hundreds of highly sought-after Bob Ross originals. … The official Bob Ross YouTube channel, run by the company, has more than 4 million subscribers and more than 360 million total views. … As the coronavirus pandemic has spread and the world has gone inside, tens of millions of people have turned to old Joy of Painting episodes. Bob Ross is the ultimate calming presence. … In every episode, Ross explained his art not merely as a way of layering paint, but also as a way of capturing the eternal beauty of the world and living free no matter the challenges in life.”

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Trump: 40.6 percent 
Biden: 51.8 percent 
Size of lead: Biden by 11.2 points 
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points 
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 41% - Biden 49%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% - Biden 54; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% - Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% - Biden 51%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% - Biden 53%.]

(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)

Average approval: 40.8 percent 
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent 
Net Score: -16 points 
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.4 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve - 60% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 42% approve - 56% disapprove.] 

We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

Politico: “With federal unemployment benefits expiring on Friday — a serious blow to millions of Americans who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic — the Senate became bogged down in partisan fighting and left town without a resolution to the crisis. And two more hours of high-level talks on Thursday night between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on one side and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the other yielded almost no progress. The talks will continue through the weekend, but a deal seems far off at this point. … The end of the $600-per-week federal benefit, when combined with the lapsing of an eviction moratorium, will likely lead to serious financial problems for those hit hardest by the pandemic and economic collapse. More than 1.4 million people filed initial unemployment claims last week, according to the Department of Labor, while the U.S. economy contracted by more than nine percent in the second quarter of 2020, the worst drop on record.”

Republicans sound alarm with word that Trump may cave on liability limits - WaPo: “The White House is willing to cut a deal with Democrats that leaves out Senate Republican legislation aimed at protecting employers, hospitals and schools from coronavirus-related lawsuits, according to two people with knowledge of internal White House planning. The White House wants and is pushing for the ‘liability shield’ as a top priority but would be willing to sign off on a deal that lacks the legal protections, those people said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) controls the Senate floor and could shoot down any deal that leaves out what he has said is a necessary component of any stimulus package. One of the people familiar with the administration’s thinking said the measure was ‘considered important but not absolutely essential.’ The dealmaking flexibility conflicts with the ultimatum McConnell has given Democrats that any congressional stimulus package must make it significantly harder for workers and customers to sue employers and businesses for damages related to the coronavirus.” 

In Hill hearing, Fauci optimistic vaccine will be widely available - AP: “Once a coronavirus vaccine is approved as safe and effective, Americans should have widespread access within a reasonable time, Dr. Anthony Fauci assured lawmakers Friday. Appearing before a House panel investigating the nation’s response to the pandemic, Fauci expressed ‘cautious’ optimism that a vaccine would be available, particularly by next year. ‘I believe, ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, that Americans will be able to get it,’ Fauci said, referring to the vaccine. There will be a priority list for who gets early vaccinations. ‘I don’t think we will have everybody getting it immediately,’ Fauci explained. But ‘ultimately, within a reasonable time, the plans allow for any American who needs the vaccine to get it,’ he added. Under direction from the White House, federal health authorities are carrying out a plan dubbed Operation Warp Speed to manufacture 300 million doses of a vaccine on a compressed timeline.” 

NBC News: “President Donald Trump's campaign has virtually disappeared from the airwaves as it undertakes ‘a review and fine-tuning of the campaign's strategy’ as an official put it after the replacement of campaign manager Brad Parscale. With less than 100 days until Election Day, the Trump campaign spent virtually nothing on television or radio ads on Wednesday and Thursday, according to data from Advertising Analytics. And it has effectively nothing booked through August. Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign has spent $3.9 million over those two days and has another almost $6 million booked through the end of August. When asked about the lack of spending, a Trump campaign official pointed to the decision earlier this month to demote Parscale and elevate deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien to fill that role. ‘With the leadership change in the campaign, there's understandably a review and fine-tuning of the campaign's strategy. We’ll be back on the air shortly, even more forcefully exposing Joe Biden as a puppet of the radical left-wing,’ the official told NBC News.” 

Biden keeps Florida edge in new poll - WJAX: “A Mason-Dixon Poll of registered voters in Florida shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with a slight lead over Republican President Donald Trump in the state. …Biden has the support of 50% of likely general election voters, while 46% of respondents support President Trump. The remaining 4% were undecided. … Results of the poll show that Biden leads in the crucial swing area of Tampa Bay, where he has 52% support of likely voters versus President Trump’s 42%. … The results also show an age divide. Among 18- to 34-year-old people, the poll shows Biden has 66% support versus President Trump’s 29% support. Among people ages 35-49, Biden has the support of 53% versus the president’s 44%. …51% of people ages 50-64 and up support the president while 46% support Biden. The poll shows of people ages 65 and up, 52% back the president while 43% support Biden.”

Noonan: ‘Burn the Republican Party down?’ - WSJ: “When the Trump experience is over, the Republican Party will have to be rebuilt. It will have to begin with tens of millions of voters who previously supported Mr. Trump. It will have to decide where it stands, its reason for being. It won’t be enough to repeat old mantras or formulations from 1970 to 2000. It’s 2020. We’re a different country. A lot is going to have to be rethought. Simple human persuasion will be key. Rebuilding doesn’t start with fires, purges and lists of those you want ejected from the party. Many if not most of those calling for burning the whole thing down are labeled ‘Never Trump,’ and a lot of them are characterologically quick to point the finger of blame. … The party’s national leaders and strategists don’t have a lot to be proud of the past few decades. The future of the party will probably bubble up from the states.”

Williamson: ‘The Issue is Trump’ - National Review: “The Lincoln Project has not been suddenly exposed making common cause with Democrats — making common cause with Democrats in opposition to Trump and Trumpism is its raison d’être. Maybe some conservative critics do not think that is a good or worthy undertaking, but those who are engaging with the Lincoln Project have an intellectual obligation to address the actual argument being advanced; i.e., that Donald Trump and his administration represent a special kind of awful that requires bipartisan repudiation. Agree or disagree, that is the question raised by the Lincoln Project. The fact that the Lincoln Project sometimes airs ads on Morning Joe is entirely beside the point. What is most worrisome to me is not that Republicans do not by and large agree with the Lincoln Project’s critique but that they are incapable of taking it seriously. They dismiss it as being of interest only to four self-aggrandizing politicos, but there is a great deal of evidence that this is simply not the case.” 

AP: “California’s leaders were deadlocked and on the verge of financial catastrophe in 2008. Five negotiators, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, couldn’t agree on a budget that would guide the nation’s most populous state through the Great Recession. Enter Karen Bass, who became Assembly speaker that May, the first Black woman to hold the role. She shifted the tone of the talks, helping the group find common ground. … A dozen years later, the bridge-building, unassuming style that colleagues say made Bass an effective leader in Sacramento is among the reasons the current California congresswoman has emerged as a leading contender to become Joe Biden’s running mate. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee appeared with Bass for the first time at a fundraiser on Thursday. He plans to make a pick next week. A former physician’s assistant and community organizer, Bass said she brings experience to tackle the nation’s economic, racial and health care crises.” 

Sacramento Bee urges Biden to pick Bass over Harris - Fox News: “The biggest newspaper in California’s capital city is urging Joe Biden to choose Rep. Karen Bass of California as his running mate instead of the other Golden State politician who’s being seriously considered – Sen. Kamala Harris. ‘If Biden chooses a California VP, he likely won’t pick Karen Bass,’ the Sacramento Bee editorial board wrote. ‘Clearly, however, the community activist whose passion for service led others to draft her into electoral politics is the better choice.’ And the newspaper warned that ‘the Biden campaign should be concerned about things like the secret $400,000 settlement Harris’ office paid to settle ‘gender harassment’ claims against a top aide named Larry Wallace.” 

Duckworth touts heartland cred with coal-country pitch - Fox News: “Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., wants to give struggling coal communities a jolt of new federal investment and help transition out-of-work miners into new jobs and cleaner energy production. Duckworth, considered a potential running mate for Joe Biden, introduced sweeping new legislation this month that gives Medicare coverage to laid-off coal workers, provides tuition-free college for coal workers and their families, calls for a $15 dollar minimum wage and modifies U.S. bankruptcy rules to require coal companies to pay for worker health care and pensions benefits. … There's no cost estimate yet on her legislation, but Duckworth says it's time to think big about the untapped economic opportunities in coal communities. She calls her proposal a Marshall Plan for Coal Country, a nod to the post-World War II investment program to rebuild war-torn cities, industries and infrastructure in Western Europe.” 

Biden, Bernie teams clash during convention meeting -  Politico: “A Democratic Party meeting that leaders hoped would project unity weeks ahead of the national convention instead broke out into a behind-the-scenes feud over corporate money in politics. At a virtual gathering of a key committee for the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders-allied members said Joe Biden appointees called them ‘children’ and made other rude comments in a breakout room where they were talking privately. The argument served as a reminder of the tensions that are still simmering below the surface between moderate and progressives as the party seeks a united front against President Donald Trump. It also shows the limited power of Biden and Sanders, whose teams worked closely to hash out a deal on another plan under consideration by the committee with the goal of showing harmony. ‘It was not only disturbing, but disrespectful,’ said Nina Turner, Sanders’ former campaign co-chair who served on the committee.” 

NYT: “As the Kansas Senate primary barrels to a close, tensions are rising between Senate Republicans and the White House over the potential nomination of Kris Kobach, who party officials fear would jeopardize the seat and further imperil their Senate majority. Senator Mitch McConnell is worried that Mr. Kobach, the controversial former Kansas secretary of state who lost the 2018 governor’s race, may win the nomination in Tuesday’s primary, only to lose the seat in November — and he is frustrated that President Trump is not intervening in the race, according to multiple G.O.P. officials. Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republican leaders have made urgent pleas to the president to block Mr. Kobach by endorsing one of his opponents, Representative Roger Marshall. But Mr. Trump has so far declined to do so, and his aides said they had no plans to change course. Compounding the frustration of Capitol Hill Republicans, White House aides have refused to tell Mr. Kobach, a longtime booster of Mr. Trump, to stop using the president’s imagery in his campaign materials.” 

Rep. David Schweikert admits 11 ethics violations, will pay $50,000 fine Arizona Republic 

Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads push for a constitutional convention - AP

“We the people, including congressmen and presidents, can have differing views on how to perfect our union while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is a good and noble one.” – Former President George W. Bush eulogizing Rep. John Lewis.

Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller. 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. 

“I just wanted you both to know that, after skimming the steaming pile of horse manure that is Twitter in the hours following Herman Cain's death, then reading through Tuesday's Report, complete with depressing news about, well, EVERYTHING and a salty complaint from a reader...I'm brought to pent-up tears (good ones?) with the Krauthammer quote about his beloved brother... A reminder of one of those things that makes this life meaningful. God is STILL good. [Exhales] Thank you.” – Becca Chambless, Frisco, Texas 

[Ed. note: Amen, amen and amen, Ms. Chambless! Charles’ column after the death of his brother, Marcel, belongs in the pantheon of great periodical writing of all time. And please take some advice from one who knows: You won’t miss a thing after you leave Twitter. That joint is a dump.

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

People: “As much as Carole Scarsella loved cigarettes and cheering for the New York Yankees, there was one thing the New York grandmother despised above all else. In an obituary published this weekend in the Buffalo News, Scarsella's family paid tribute to her by detailing the many things she enjoyed, such as her affinity for books, slot machines and video games. ‘She loved to read. Her favorite author was Stephen King. She had a private library of hundreds of books,’ Scarsella's obituary reads. … Scarsella — who died on July 19 — was also a sports fan, and aside from her Yankees fandom, she had a deep fondness for NBA star LeBron James, her family explained. But as most New Yorkers can relate to, Scarsella had it out for one former New England Patriots player. ‘She was an avid sports fan,’ Scarsella's obituary continued. ‘She loved the New York Yankees and Lebron James. She HATED Tom Brady.’” 

“The pardon is for tyrants. They like to declare pardons on holidays, such as the birthday of the dictator, or Christ, or the Revolution (interchangeable concepts in many of these countries).” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Jan. 8, 1987. 

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.