**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Can Trump and Mueller make a deal in time? - Florida Senate race will have a recount - What’s next in Washington: Could it be Speaker Pelosi? - 2020 Scouting Report: Trump moves on to 2020 campaign - Magical trash panda
CAN TRUMP AND MUELLER MAKE A DEAL IN TIME?
You would have thought President Trump would have been in a better mood at his press conference today.
Not only did Republicans fare well in the battle for the Senate with a net gain of either two or three seats, depending on final counts in Arizona and Florida, but he had finally obtained his long-sought prize: The head of Jeff Sessions.
Those two things are related, of course. If Republicans had lost the Senate, replacing Sessions would have been nearly impossible. But with a little more breathing room, Trump is free to make another pick, someone who can relieve Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of his duties overseeing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
That does not mean, however, that Trump will not have to tread carefully. Even if the Republicans end up with a four-seat majority, Sessions’ replacement will have to meet a pretty high standard for independence and ethical rigor.
Jeff Flake and John McCain may be gone, but Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Thom Tillis, Mike Lee, Chuck Grassley and their new colleague, Mitt Romney, won’t just sit up and beg on command.
Trump will have to do at least as well as he did with his selection of a new FBI director to get a nominee through.
The urgency with which Trump acted in discharging Sessions is a reflection of how consuming this matter has become for the administration. Now with Democrats soon to be in control of the House, those concerns will surely deepen.
In addition to having to worry about what Democrats are poking their noses into, Trump also loses the able ministrations of his guard dogs on key House panels. With Devin Nunes and Bob Goodlatte no longer in position to run interference for Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will have less to worry about.
During the coming lame duck period there will be much for Republicans to consider as they decide what to do with the remaining weeks of one-party power in Washington. You can bet that there will be plenty of action.
Aside from considering what to do on spending bills and other budgetary matters in an effort to give the Republican Senate a leg up next year, there will also be the question of what to do about Mueller.
The obvious answer is that it is in the best interests of the president and his party, not to mention the country, to bring Mueller’s probe to a swift, authoritative conclusion.
That, of course, means the president will have to talk to Mueller, who, by all accounts, is eager to bring the matter to conclusion.
It’s not unreasonable to think that the Mueller matter could be completed before Christmas. While it’s obvious that there will be consequences for some other of the president’s associates, there’s also no reason to think that the conclusions would be an existential threat to the presidency.
The alternative – trying to stonewall through two years of a Democratic Congress and during a presidential campaign – suggest that Trump had better get this lame duck to fly.
THE RULEBOOK: STEADY AS WE GO
“In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 62
TIME OUT: ORANGE YOU GLAD?
Atlantic: “Thousands of years ago, in what’s now Afghanistan, people unearthed the tangled, gnarled roots of Queen Anne’s Lace—a ubiquitous, hairy-stemmed plant with a spray of tiny white flowers. These fibrous, twisted roots were white and bitter-tasting, but they had an appealing spicy, piney, earthy aroma. … Today, they’re mostly consumed in the form of two-inch orange slugs, marketed under the label ‘baby carrots.’ … To anyone who’s tasted the root of Queen Anne’s Lace, a ubiquitous weed found by roadsides all over the world, the fact that our ancestors bothered to eat it at all is somewhat perplexing. But that’s just one of the carrot’s many mysteries—perhaps just as perplexing is the carrot’s contemporary color. After all, as the University of Wisconsin carrot breeder Irwin Goldman told us, the existence of anything but a white carrot is a genetic mistake that, from a biological perspective, makes no sense. The orange color in a carrot comes from a chemical that’s found in plant leaves. We don’t usually see it, because it’s masked by the green chlorophyll, but when autumn comes and the chlorophyll fades, the same pigment is responsible for fall’s glorious displays of yellows, oranges, and reds.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
FLORIDA SENATE RACE WILL HAVE A RECOUNT
Gainesville Sun: “Scott declared victory late Tuesday and Nelson’s campaign expressed disappointment with the results as returns showed the governor holding a more substantial edge. But the final, unofficial tally brought the margin close enough for a recount. A recount will be conducted of the vote tally in Florida’s hard-fought U.S. Senate race after Republican challenger Rick Scott’s lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson fell below the threshold of half of one percent. ‘We are proceeding to a recount,’ Nelson said Wednesday morning. Unofficial results show Scott ahead by about 34,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast, or 0.42 percentage points. Scott declared victory late Tuesday and Nelson’s campaign expressed disappointment with the results as returns showed the governor holding a more substantial edge. But the final, unofficial tally brought the margin close enough for a recount. The Florida Senate race has been a tight contest from the beginning. With statewide turnout about 62 percent, Scott pulled in strong vote totals across reliably red counties in suburban Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.”
Tester wins re-election in Montana - Vox: “Sen. Jon Tester — perhaps the Democratic incumbent President Trump most dearly wanted to defeat — eked out a win for a third term. Even though Trump won Montana by 20 percentage points in 2016, Tester managed to defeat his Republican opponent, state auditor Matt Rosendale. It’s a blow to Trump, who has been furious at Tester for months because of the senator’s role in the defeat of Trump’s scandal-plagued VA secretary nominee Ronny Jackson. Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, went public about allegations that Jackson drank on the job and improperly gave out medication — and Trump was eventually forced to withdraw the nomination.”
Arizona Senate race remains too close to call - KGUN: “There still is no clear winner in the close race between Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema. The race remains too close to call between the two Congresswomen from Arizona, and Garrett Archer -- an analyst from the Arizona Secretary of State's office -- says hundreds of thousands of votes remain to be counted. Archer says most of the ballots that remain to be counted are early ballots that were sent late, and provisional ballots that need to be verified. With nearly all of the ballots cast on Election Day counted, McSally leads Sinema by about 16,000 votes -- or about 0.9 percent. In Pima County, election officials say nearly 80,000 ballots still need to be counted. Sinema carried a strong lead in Pima County, with 55.2 percent of the vote counted so far, while McSally only received 42.8 percent. County election officials say they won't resume counting those ballots until Thursday.”
Abrams holding out for a runoff against Kemp in Georgia - WaPo: “Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, continued Wednesday to hold out hope for a runoff with Republican Brian Kemp, who saw his lead shrink a bit overnight, but was still ahead with more than 50 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Kemp was just over 15,000 votes above the threshold to avoid a runoff, said Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’s campaign manager, who estimates there are at least that many outstanding mail-in ballots that have yet to be counted in Democratic-leaning counties. Earlier Wednesday, the campaign estimated that there are at least 77,000 outstanding ballots, including absentee and provisional votes cast on Tuesday. As of 11 a.m., unofficial returns showed Abrams trailing Kemp by just over 67,000 votes.”
WHAT’S NEXT IN WASHINGTON: COULD IT BE SPEAKER PELOSI?
Roll Call: “…Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel is officially under way. Several Democratic candidates expressed opposition to Pelosi or echoed general calls for new leadership during their campaigns, but only a handful made specific pledges to oppose her during a floor vote for speaker. No one has announced plans to challenge Pelosi for the gavel, and many members who are looked at as future leaders have announced bids for lower level leadership positions. Regardless of whether she gets a challenger, Pelosi is expected to win a majority of the Democratic Caucus’s support for speaker. But she’ll need to lock down 218 votes from her own party for the floor vote. … This list does not include incumbents… Will vote against Pelosi on the floor … Conor Lamb, Pennsylvania’s 17th District, Jason Crow, Colorado’s 6th District [and] Abigail Spanberger, Virginia's 7th District. Oppose Pelosi but floor position unclear … Rashida Tlaib, Michigan’s 13th District, Mikie Sherrill, New Jersey’s 11th District, Anthony Brindisi, New York’s 22nd District, Jahana Hayes, Connecticut's 5th District, Jeff Van Drew, New Jersey's 2nd District, Joe Cunningham, South Carolina's 1st District [and] Haley Stevens, Michigan's 11th District. Wants new leadership … Dean Phillips, Minnesota’s 3rd District [and] Max Rose, New York’s 11th District.”
House Dems ready list of investigations into Trump - Reuters: “Armed with subpoenas and a long list of grievances, a small group of lawmakers will lead the investigations poised to make President Donald Trump’s life a lot tougher now that Democrats have won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Using their control of House committees, Democrats can demand to see Trump’s long-hidden tax returns, probe possible conflicts of interest from his business empire and dig into any evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign team in the 2016 election. Trump said early on Wednesday that House investigations would be countered by investigations of Democrats by the Senate, which remains in Republican hands after Tuesday’s congressional elections. ‘If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!’ the president said on Twitter.”
Jim Jordan will challenge McCarthy for House GOP leader - Axios: “Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) officially announced Wednesday that he will challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for House minority leader. Why it matters: Jordan, the founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told his colleagues in July that he was running to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House. McCarthy has Ryan's endorsement and is a close confidant of President Trump, though conservative leaders have argued in a letter obtained by Axios that Jordan is the solution to ‘failed’ Republican leadership, which has ‘proven that it’s part of the Swamp.’”
2020 SCOUTING REPORT: TRUMP MOVES ON TO 2020 CAMPAIGN
WaPo: “President Trump plans to quickly focus on his reelection campaign following Tuesday’s midterm elections, believing his brand of divisive and confrontational politics will mobilize his supporters and carry him to a second term. Fresh off an 11-rally, six-day campaign swing through key conservative states, Trump has begun talking about holding Make America Great Again rallies early next year, two of the president’s advisers said. He continues to judge his success by crowd sizes — which were large throughout his recent campaign blitz — and applause. Even as he was on the trail for other Republicans, Trump often focused on himself, touting his accomplishments and taking shots at potential Democratic presidential challengers. But it’s an open question whether Trump can re-create the coalition of voters and swing-state victories that delivered him the White House — particularly on the same hard-line themes he relied on during the 2016 campaign and the first two years of his presidency.”
What member from the Blue Team could he be up against? - McClatchy: “Without a clear frontrunner, Democrats are bracing for the possibility of their largest presidential field in recent memory. … The prospective candidates have already spent much of the last two years checking off the traditional pre-presidential boxes… Rep. John Delaney of Maryland even skipped the usual exploratory phase and launched his longshot campaign outright in the summer of 2017. … Here are the potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders to watch. … Perhaps no contender will have a more outsized impact on the shape of the field than former Vice President Joe Biden. … Sen. Bernie Sanders … And John Kerry… At least two other former cabinet officials from President Barack Obama’s administration are openly considering a run. Julián Castro… And former Attorney General Eric Holder… The largest subset of the 2020 Democratic presidential field could come from the U.S. Senate. Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren and Sanders have all taken many of the usual steps towards a bid.”
Some important dates to note for 2020 - McClatchy: “Here are the key dates to keep an eye on for the 2020 campaign for the White House: 2018 Dec. 31: Several potential Democratic candidates … have said they will decide whether to run by the end of the year. … 2019: April 15: First quarter campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission. … Spring/summer: Democrats are reportedly considering holding their first debate of the primaries earlier than usual. … 2020 Feb. 3*: As is tradition, the Democratic nominating process will officially begin with the Iowa caucuses. … Feb. 11*: New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary will take place. … Feb. 15:* Next up are the Nevada caucuses. … Feb. 22*: The South Carolina primary will round out the month of February, and it’s significant because it’s the first test in the South. … March 3*: Nine states are currently scheduled to hold their primaries on 2020’s Super Tuesday. … June 16: The Democratic primary season is set to close out in Washington, D.C. July 13–16: The Democratic National Convention takes place, but the location has yet to be determined. The three finalists to host: Houston, Miami Beach and Milwaukee. Aug. 24-27: The GOP will hold its convention more than a month after the Democrats, a larger gap than usual. … Fall: In between the conventions and Election Day, there are typically three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate.”
Deceased Nevada brothel owner wins Assembly race - Las Vegas Review Journal
Trump shames Republicans who distanced themselves from him and lost - NBC News
AUDIBLE: *COUGH, COUGH* FNVA *COUGH, COUGH*
“Warning: exit polls are like online dating profiles. Things may not be as they appear. And they may break your heart.” – Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, wrote on Twitter.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“On the eve of this midterm election you mentioned gerrymandering that would assist Democrats in obtaining the house. In PA where I live the gerrymandered map which favored Republicans was changed. It was redrawn by the State’s Democratic judicial branch when the Republican chamber resubmitted a map that was significantly not different. The accusation was that it would “gerrymander to assist Democrats” and counter arguments were that it’s boundaries are much more natural and representative. In the end the map proved to be fair as the PA house is now split evenly. I do not know if you had PA in mind when you made your comment. Regardless, would you say this is a good case of a reversal of gerrymandering?” – George Payne, Harrisburg, Pa.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
MAGICAL TRASH PANDA
Memphis Commercial Appeal: “Something had been getting into a Collierville [Tennessee] family's bird feeders and knocking over cushions on the back porch, when Alpha Wildlife went to investigate. The evidence on a railing and a glass table included paw prints that resembled a raccoon, Alpha Wildlife co-owner Matthew Caldwell said. Caldwell set two traps on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning got a surprising text message from the customer: ‘Have you ever seen an albino raccoon?’ ‘I said ‘not in person,’’ Caldwell said. When Caldwell and co-owner David Parrish got to the residence, they found a white raccoon in one trap, and a regular raccoon in the other. Caldwell estimated the albino raccoon was about three years old and ‘fairly big’ —about 25 to 30 pounds. [Caldwell said,] ‘Some wildlife biologists say one in every 750,000 raccoons are albino. I’d say that’s fairly rare.’ They freed the raccoons at Meeman-Shelby Forest…”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 23, 2010.
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.