**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Dems need an answer on the border - Beto calls Bibi a racist - Buttigieg shares the struggle behind his coming out - Mulvaney: Voters will ‘never’ see Trump’s taxes - ‘That's frickin’ sweet’
DEMS NEED AN ANSWER ON THE BORDER
There are a lot of reasons that President Trump probably wanted to ditch Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary. She’s a by-the-numbers holdover from former Chief of Staff John Kelly, and not a good fit for a corner-cutting showman of a president.
But the biggest reason is the most obvious: Trump has yet to deliver on his most important campaign promise of securing the southern border.
Trump’s political exposure on the subject is certainly mitigated by the fact that his supporters blame Democrats primarily for the worsening situation along our border with Mexico. In their minds, the fact that Democrats were willing to keep the government shut down for 35 days rather than give Trump a few billion dollars more for some wall/fence/steel slats is proof enough for Team MAGA.
But as it is with many things, Trump’s main advantage on this subject is that Democrats can’t seem to address it in a sensible way.
As the consensus grows that the surge of refugees at the southern border constitutes a crisis, Democrats generally remain flat footed on the subject. It was fine to denounce Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the mistreatment of children and families and probably even politically useful to mock Trump’s fixation on a “big, beautiful wall,” but that’s not going to be enough.
We don’t know what direction Trump will take now that Nielsen is out of the way, but it seems like a sure bet that he will not be vulnerable to accusations of minimizing the threat.
Democrats have succumbed to the temptation that believing since Trump is intemperate and xenophobic sounding in his remarks on immigration it is enough for them to simply denounce his bluster and condemn his policies as cruelty.
There is no sign of things getting any better at the border any time soon. Voters care deeply about the issue. That means that as Democrats are wrestling their way through their primaries, voters will be confronting more bad news and more alarming images from the border. Candidates will need to have an answer.
THE RULEBOOK: WHEN WILL WE LEARN?
“All violent policy, as it is contrary to the natural and experienced course of human affairs, defeats itself.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
TIME OUT: SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES
Garden & Gun: “Sam Edwards III will be the first to admit it—the past three years have been hard. On January 19, 2016, his family’s decades-old Edwards Virginia Smokehouse went up in flames, leaving the facility destroyed. ‘In my lifetime, I’d never heard of it happening—a fire wiping out an entire ham house,’ says Edwards, the third-generation cure master to run the business his grandfather founded in 1926. In the immediate aftermath, Harper’s Country Hams of Clinton, Kentucky, was one of the first to step in, offering to take over Edwards’ production until the company got back on its feet in their Surry, Virginia, home base. Almost exactly a year later, the unthinkable happened again: Harper’s plant caught fire, too, and both families’ inventories were lost. Even in the face of that kind of devastation, Edwards hasn’t wavered in his determination to restore his historic operation to its former glory.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.6 percent
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent
Net Score: -10.2 points
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: NBC/WSJ: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; 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.]
BETO CALLS BIBI A RACIST
WaPo: “Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke on Sunday described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a ‘racist’ whose outreach to far-right interests as he seeks to hang onto political power has seriously damaged the chances of peace in the Middle East. Speaking at a town hall here at the University of Iowa, the former Texas congressman denounced Netanyahu’s pledge Saturday that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in Tuesday’s Israeli general election. Netanyahu’s proposed annexation, O’Rourke said, ‘will make peace in the long term impossible.’ In response to a voter’s question about his policy toward Israel and Palestinian rights, O’Rourke reiterated his support for a two-state solution and accused Netanyahu of having ‘joined forces with far-right parties who are inherently racist in their speech and the way that they want to treat their fellow human beings in that part of the world.’”
Betomania subsides - Politico: “Yet by the time he left the state on Sunday, it was also clear that the euphoria that greeted [Beto] Rourke’s entry into the race three weeks earlier has started to subside. The inevitable slog of competing in a packed Democratic primary is underway, and O’Rourke has not yet drawn the wave of national adulation from the left that his Senate run against Ted Cruz last year received. ‘He’s going to have to do the work,’ said Scott Brennan, an Iowa Democratic National Committee member and a former state party chairman. ‘And it isn’t all breathless, 300-person crowds.’ … O’Rourke has seen little movement in polls since he announced. … And while O’Rourke sprinted from college campuses and coffee shops to house parties across Iowa, a more established contender, Bernie Sanders, was drawing even larger audiences here.
BUTTIGIEG SHARES THE STRUGGLE BEHIND HIS COMING OUT
NBC News: “Pete Buttigieg may not become president or win the Democratic primary, but he's already broken a barrier by delving publicly and intimately into his struggle with his own sexuality in a way no other serious presidential candidate has. In a speech before an audience of LGBT rights supporters on Sunday, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, did not describe being gay as something he always believed was acceptable. Nor did he dismiss lingering questions about his viability as a presidential candidate in a country in which three in 10 adults still say they have some reservations or would be very uncomfortable with a gay candidate, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in February. Instead, he described wrestling with his sexual orientation as ‘a kind of war’ — one he said he was only able to win when he came home from serving in Afghanistan.”
BERNIE WARMS TO THE FRONTRUNNER ROLE
AP: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is quieting critics who questioned whether he could recapture the energy of his upstart 2016 campaign, surpassing his rivals in early fundraising and establishing himself as an indisputable front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Less than two months into his second White House bid, no other declared candidate in the crowded Democratic field currently has amassed so many advantages: a $28 million war chest, a loyal and enthusiastic voter base and a set of clearly defined policy objectives. That puts Sanders on markedly different footing than during his first White House run, creating new challenges for a candidate whose supporters relish his role as an underdog and an outsider. He now carries the weight of high expectations and will face heightened scrutiny over everything from the cost and feasibility of his government-funded policy proposals to his tax returns, which he has not yet released.”
Bernie wants felons to vote while still in prison - Fox News: “Sen. Bernie Sanders has long fought to restore voting rights for felons who’ve completed their prison sentences. Now the presidential candidate wants to go a big step further – arguing that those currently behind bars should be able to vote too. Asked on the campaign trail in Muscatine, Iowa on Saturday if those imprisoned should have the right to vote, the independent senator from Vermont who’s making his second straight bid for the Democratic nomination answered: ‘I think that is absolutely the direction we should go.’ ‘In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That's bad,’ Sanders explained. ‘But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.’”
BOOKER FUNDRAISING LAGS FRONTRUNNERS
WaPo: “Sen. Cory Booker has raised more than $5 million in the two months since he announced his 2020 plans, the presidential candidate’s campaign said Sunday. Booker’s haul, while competitive, puts him behind other Democratic White House aspirants, including former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Booker’s campaign said 82 percent of the donors gave to the senator for the first time and the average online contribution was $34. The New Jersey Democrat, who was first elected to the Senate in a 2013 special election, raised $17.7 million to win a full term one year later.”
Bennet says nothing funny about Biden touchy contretemps - Politico: “Likely Democratic presidential contender Michael Bennet on Sunday criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for joking about the controversy swirling around his touchy, avuncular style that some women say made them uncomfortable. ‘I don't think anyone should make jokes about it,’ the Colorado senator told CNN's Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union.’ ‘This is an important time in our country's history when women are coming forward and able to say when they've been made to feel uncomfortable, whether in a sexual way or a nonsexual way. People's voices should be heard on that.’ … On whether the controversy should disqualify Biden from another presidential bid, Bennet said that would be up to voters to decide.”
Elizabeth Weil: ‘Kamala Harris takes her shot’ - Atlantic: “She delivers her talking points while dressed, as she always is, in her uniform of dark suit, pearls, black heels. I know—you think I shouldn’t be writing about her clothes. But the clothes themselves are a smart, cautious play, one that Hillary Clinton, frankly, could have benefited from. If you wear the same outfit every single day, pretty soon the haters will run out of snarky things to say about your appearance and move on.”
MULVANEY: VOTERS WILL ‘NEVER’ SEE TRUMP’S TAXES
Fox News: “Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told ‘Fox News Sunday’ in an exclusive interview that Democrats will ‘never’ see President Trump's tax returns, days after a House Democrat committee chairman made the unprecedented demand that the IRS provide the documents. Mulvaney's comments marked an apparent escalation in the White House's rhetoric on the issue. On Wednesday, Trump responded with a dismissive taunt to Democrats' renewed push for his tax information, but suggested he might be willing to provide the information pending the conclusion of an audit. ‘Oh no, never -- nor should they,’ Mulvaney told Bill Hemmer, who is filling in for host Chris Wallace, when asked if Democrats will ever see the president's tax returns. ‘That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns. They knew that he didn’t and they elected him anyway.’”
Republicans ready to spend big on Jewish voters - Politico: “Republicans are planning a multimillion-dollar offensive aimed at fracturing the Democratic Party’s decades long stranglehold on the Jewish vote. Spearheading the push is the Republican Jewish Coalition, which receives substantial funding from casino mogul and GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson. … The investment, people familiar with the early discussions said, will far surpass what the group spent in past presidential elections. With Democrats embroiled in a wrenching internal debate over anti-Semitism and support for Israel, Republicans are moving to capitalize with an aggressive campaign painting Trump — who has himself faced accusations of stoking anti-Semitism — as a fierce and unapologetic defender of the Jewish state.”
House freshmen Dems raising big numbers already - WashEx
GOP senators slated to tackle health care take a pass - Politico
Barr to face questions this week from Hill committees on Muller release - Roll Call
House Dems look to resolve months long fight over disaster funds - Politico
“I’m a sports fan.” – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi swatting away a question from USA Today about how her fellow House Democrats say the stack of San Francisco Giants baseball bats in her office symbolize her propensity for knocking heads.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“This is a suggestion for more research and commentary by Fox News. Running for President as an independent candidate without an existing formal structure and legal status of a political party is very difficult as best. Mass media exposure is one thing. However, every state has its own particular laws, regulations or requirements in order to obtain one's name on the ballot. Normally, political parties provide this service and coordinate with the state Secretary of State or other appropriate bureaucrat. Independents start from the beginning during the already very busy political campaign season. I had a friend who worked full time on Ross Perot's staff. He spent an enormous amount of time, energy, and money moving all over the country. He organized supporters, circulated petitions, and worked with the electoral officials. My friend was a hard working, able, experienced person. He was retired career military officer among other things. Put simply, it is my neutral, non-partisan opinion that Mr. Perot had a nearly impossible task. And, Mr. Schultz will do no better.” – Terry Simmons, Reno, Nev.
[Ed. note: On Feb. 20, 1992 during an appearance on Larry King’s television show – where else? – Perot issued a challenge to his supporters: If they could get his name on the ballot in all 50 states, he would run for president. This was also a challenge to the people working for him at his United We Stand group, which I assume includes your friend. They completed their work seven months later, a pretty impressive clip, especially at a time where ballot access was more restrictive and without the technology to organize that we have today. Unfortunately for them, Perot had already spectacularly, bizarrely dropped out of the race that summer before ever officially entering it. But when supporters delivered on the 50-state promise, Perot belatedly jumped in and still ended up with nearly 20 percent of the vote. I think that if Schultz were to put in the hundreds of millions of dollars he has discussed and make a decision on his current timetable of sometime this summer I would think he would have ample time to make the ballot in all 50 states. Whether there would be enough people who cared about that in order to make it consequential is another matter…]
“Chris, When pollsters ask questions about income tax policy shouldn’t they restrict the questions to people who are actually paying taxes? It doesn’t make sense to ask someone who isn’t paying income taxes if the rich should pay more. Seems obvious how the majority of those people who don’t have skin in the game would respond to the question.” – Bob Steinen, Abingdon, Md.
[Ed. note: But they do vote, Mr. Steinen. That would be like asking only military members what they think of foreign policy or only women what the laws on abortion should be. And as Republicans deride an appetite for socialism and high taxation among Democratic candidates, conservatives would do well to remember that such things as those are actually quite popular, and not just among the nearly half of adults who don’t pay federal income taxes. It’s not enough to scoff.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
‘THAT'S FRICKIN’ SWEET’
KRIV: “A Visalia man has gotten pretty used to getting weird looks on the streets, as he drives around a jet ski on dry land. Nick Stemple says he put a jet ski's body right onto a scooter. He calls it ‘Scootski.’ ‘[My friend] built his, and I was just like, ‘That's frickin sweet' and I had to have one,’’ said Stemple. And now that Stemple has his own Scootski, he's never going back. ‘I love this thing! I've gotten rid of my other motorcycles. I ride this every single day,’ said Stemple. Stemple says he got a Honda Elite off Craig's List. His friend had the jet ski. And after about two months of work, he had Scootski. ‘The first question I always get it ‘Does that thing float on water?’ And I always say, ‘No, there's a huge hole at the bottom of it,’’ said Stemple. Scootski goes up to about 70 miles an hour, and get around 30 or 40 miles to the gallon. Stemple rides the thing anywhere and everywhere - even the highway.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“[Ret. Gen. John] Kelly is exerting his authority. He's been given authority. I have to say, Scaramucci, we hardly knew. Though, I think he would be a better contestant on Dancing with the Stars than Spicey would. So I think it's an upgrade for them.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) speaking on “Special Report with Bret Baier” on July 31, 2017.
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.