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On the roster: Fox News Power Rankings: Candidates still count - Another key Trumpworld figure cuts deal with feds - Fox News Poll: Voters split on confirming Kavanaugh - Florida primary leaving some deep wounds - Putting the head in headshot
FOX NEWS POWER RANKINGS: CANDIDATES STILL COUNT
With just seven primaries left in 2018 we look forward to soon being able to retire – for the time being, at least – from our work of reminding you that candidates count.
It is only too easy to look at elections as marshalled armies of data points arrayed against each other on the ballot box battlefield. Thirty-seven percent of whosits voting at a greater intensity than 41 percent of whatsits, etc.
This version lets both voters and politicians off too easily and unreasonably reduces the importance of quality candidates. The numbers of whosits and the intensity of the whatsits really does depend on who is running. This week’s changes to the Fox News Power Rankings tell that tale quite clearly.
We’re looking at the Senate this week, so first some context is in order. You can click here to see how things stand, but the short version goes like this: Democrats would need to gain two seats to take control of the Senate. There are 36 seats up for grabs this year, but for now only 11 appear to be competitive in any real sense. Of those, Democrats currently control seven and Republicans control four.
For Democrats to take the Senate they need to win nine of the 11 most hotly contested races. So you can see why even in a tough year for the GOP, Republicans remain bullish on their chances to actually expand their narrow majority.
Doing so would be a lot easier, however, if the Red Team can find a way to not give back any seats.
Republicans could take a good step in that direction on Tuesday in Arizona. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring and his departure touched off what at the outset looked to be one of the worst primary battles of 2018.
Rep. Martha McSally has the backing of the GOP establishment and has shown prodigious fundraising abilities and solid political skills in a state where maverick-y voters tend to defy conventional political definitions. Unfortunately for her, McSally drew former state lawmaker Kelli Ward as her principal primary foe.
Ward gained national attention in 2016 when she tried to unseat Sen. John McCain. She fell short after a nasty race, but demonstrated her powerful connection to the large contingent of Arizona populist nationalists of the Trump variety.
But McSally has caught a couple of breaks. First was the candidacy of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, recipient of a preemptive pardon from President Trump and a hero to immigration hardliners. Arpaio’s entry meant Ward had to cover her own right flank rather than focusing on McSally. McSally’s other good fortune was that the Trump movement and the president himself opted to stay out of the race all together.
The vote may be Tuesday, but we could have probably declared the race as good as over last week when Ward, who has trailed in every public poll taken since April, invited a notorious figure from the 2016 election – one of the principal abettors of a conspiracy theory which held that Democrats were raping children in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant – on her bus tour.
For some time it appeared that McSally might go too far in kowtowing to the populist nationalists, but she has mostly kept it together, and looks poised to cruise on Tuesday. That’s bad news for Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema who has, until now, had an open lane to reinvent herself as a moderate in what is still a Republican-leaning state.
As McSally’s first general election ad shows, the free ride is over.
Because of McSally’s surprisingly clear flight path to victory, we are changing the race rating from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up.” Let the desert duel begin.
Meanwhile in Montana, we have the battle of the flat tops.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester was a marked man after he helped scuttle Trump’s nomination of his doctor, White House physician Ronny Jackson, to lead the troubled Veterans Administration. While the president vowed to knock Tester out in retribution, Republicans still needed a vehicle for their revenge.
In June, the state GOP chose state Auditor Matt Rosendale as their man. He’s been in politics in his adopted home state since 2010, using the fortune he made in real estate back East to, with varying degrees of success, push his way into state politics.
But despite a presidential campaign visit and two months to take the fight to Tester, Rosendale appears to still be lagging. They may have the same haircut, but so far Tester seems to have succeeded in setting himself apart.
For that reason, we move the race one notch to the left from, “Toss Up” to “Lean Democrat.”
THE RULEBOOK: ROOM TO GROW
“When the dimensions of a State attain to a certain magnitude, it requires the same energy of government and the same forms of administration which are requisite in one of much greater extent.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 13
TIME OUT: ‘IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT, YOU GET TOUGHER’
Naval aviator John McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam from Oct. 26, 1967 until March 14, 1973 – 1,966 days. He endured brutal beatings and abuse for much of that time because he declined to accept the pardon offered to him as the son of the admiral in command of the U.S. Pacific fleet. McCain refused to jump ahead of enlisted men and those who had been imprisoned before him. But his refusal denied the communists a public relations victory, and they spent their fury on the young pilot.
After returning home in 1973, McCain wrote a first-person account of his ordeal for U.S. News & World Report. We encourage you to read it all here. But in light of the announcement from McCain’s family that the 81-year-old senator from Arizona has discontinued medical treatment for the aggressive form of brain cancer with which he was stricken last year, we suggest some special consideration of the following passage:
“I was finding that prayer helped. It wasn’t a question of asking for superhuman strength or for God to strike the North Vietnamese dead. It was asking for moral and physical courage, for guidance and wisdom to do the right thing. I asked for comfort when I was in pain, and sometimes I received relief. I was sustained in many times of trial. When the pressure was on, you seemed to go one way or the other. Either it was easier for them to break you the next time, or it was harder. In other words, if you are going to make it, you get tougher as time goes by.”
So should every believer pray: courage, guidance and wisdom so that we too might get tougher as time goes by.
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 52.6 percent
Net Score: -9.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 2 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve - 53% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 53% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 40.6 percent
Democratic average: 49.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8.6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 1.8 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 49% Dems - 38% GOP; Monmouth University: 48% Dems - 43% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 42% GOP; CNN: 52% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 46% Dems - 39% GOP.]
ANOTHER KEY TRUMPWORLD FIGURE CUTS DEAL WITH FEDS
WSJ: “Allen Weisselberg, President Trump’s longtime financial gatekeeper, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Michael Cohen in the criminal investigation into hush-money payments for two women during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Weisselberg was called to testify before a federal grand jury in the investigation earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal previously reported, citing people familiar with the investigation. The decision by prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office to grant immunity to Mr. Weisselberg escalates the pressure on Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Weisselberg has served for decades as executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. After Mr. Trump was elected, he handed control of his financial assets and business interests to his two adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg.”
National Enquirer killed safe’s worth of damaging Trump stories - AP: “The National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush-money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Donald Trump leading up to 2016 presidential election, people familiar with the arrangement told The Associated Press. The detail comes as several media outlets reported Thursday that federal prosecutors have granted immunity to National Enquirer chief David Pecker, potentially laying bare his efforts to protect his longtime friend Trump. … Several people familiar with the Enquirer’s parent, American Media Inc., who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they signed non-disclosure agreements, said the safe was a great source of power for Pecker, the company’s CEO.”
Continetti: ‘From Reality TV to Reality Politics’ - Free Beacon: “Trump went from star of reality TV to sole practitioner of reality politics. He turned Republican, national, then world politics into a riveting spectacle, a new sort of contest in which the stakes are nothing less than the fate of the United States and the protagonist must face down a staggering number of opponents to win the prize. And Trump had an advantage. He alone was familiar with the contents of the reality politics rulebook. Which meant that his antagonists, from Bob Corker to Robert Mueller, from Chuck Schumer to Elizabeth Warren, from the media to the NFL, from Ayatollah Khamenei to Xi Jinping, were on defense. … I had assumed that Trump's unusual background would limit his influence over candidate behavior. As Cohen, Omarosa, and Avenatti show, one has to be removed from statehouses and governor's mansions to practice reality politics. Recent events give me second thoughts. The emergence of these anti-Trumps suggests that there is a future for outsiders versed in tabloids, wrestling, and ‘structured reality.’”
FOX NEWS POLL: VOTERS SPLIT ON CONFIRMING KAVANAUGH
Fox News: “Voters are increasingly divided over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court since President Trump announced him as his choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Forty-five percent would confirm Kavanaugh, while 46 percent oppose him, according to the latest Fox News poll. Last month, voters supported him by a 38-32 percent margin. Many voters at that time, 30 percent, had no opinion on Kavanaugh’s nomination. That makes sense, given interviews for the July poll were conducted July 10-11, which was soon after the president’s July 9 prime-time announcement of his selection. Since July, support for Kavanaugh is up 15 points among Republicans (was 70, now 85 percent), while opposition among Democrats is up 20 points (was 58, now 78 percent). There’s a gender gap too, as men (53 percent) are 15 points more likely than women (38 percent) to support his confirmation. Many other nominees received similar mixed support. For example, voters backed the confirmation of President Trump’s first nominee Neil Gorsuch by a 45-39 percent margin (March 2017), and former President Obama’s second nominee Elena Kagan by 38-36 percent (June 2010).”
Kavanaugh takes a step back from presidential immunity - The Hill: “Senate Democrats on Thursday pressed Judge Brett Kavanaugh on how he would view potential obstruction of justice or other possible criminal charges against President Trump if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh appeared to walk back some of his earlier claims that the president should be shielded from investigations while in office, Democratic lawmakers who spoke with the Supreme Court nominee told The Hill. Trump has faced heightened legal scrutiny this week after his former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen told a judge that Trump directed him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money involving two women, in violation of campaign finance law. Senate Democrats say that Kavanaugh's handling of any case against Trump that could potentially come before the Supreme Court will take center stage when the nominee's confirmation hearings begin after Labor Day.”
Kavanaugh not involved in report on Ken Starr office leaks - WaPo: “An investigation into alleged leaks to the press from the office of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr in the 1990s makes no reference to any role played by his one-time associate, Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. The 1999 report, made public Thursday by the National Archives, cleared Starr’s office of allegations that it improperly leaked grand jury testimony. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee had urged its release in an effort to determine whether Kavanaugh was involved in such leaks. Kavanaugh played a lead role in Starr’s investigation into the death of Clinton White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster and President Bill Clinton’s relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky. He was a go-to source for journalists and authors.”
FLORIDA PRIMARY LEAVING SOME DEEP WOUNDS
Orlando Sentinel: “With Florida voters finally about to decide party nominees on Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats could find themselves damaged by the fighting and attacks that have marked the race for governor. … On the GOP side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis haven’t let up on each other after weeks of bickering. Most polls suggest DeSantis, an outsider running largely on his endorsement by President Donald Trump, is leading over Putnam, a close ally of many state Republicans. … At the same time, attacks on former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham by fellow Democrats – especially Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene – could damage her going forward, especially if progressives backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum or Winter Park businessman Chris King find themselves on the losing side again when Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic race for president.”
It's official: Balderson wins Ohio special election - Cincinnati Enquirer: “After all votes were counted, Republican Troy Balderson won a surprisingly tight race to replace former U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi in a closely watched central Ohio district. Balderson, with endorsements from President Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich, eked out a win over Democrat Danny O'Connor to fill the remaining months of Tiberi's term. ‘I'm humbled by the support I've received from voters and look forward to representing Ohio's 12th Congressional district in Congress,’ Balderson said in a statement Friday. He added that O'Connor ran a ‘hard-fought race.’ In an unusual turn of events, Balderson and O'Connor will face off again on Nov. 6, fighting this time for a two-year term in Congress. Balderson's slim victory allows Republicans to maintain control of a seat that hasn't been ceded to Democrats in decades. Tiberi and Kasich both served the district for years. The race never should have been that close.”
Dem Danny O'Connor flips stance on Pelosi speakership - Free Beacon: “Danny O'Connor, a Democratic congressional candidate in Ohio, said Friday he would not support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) for speaker after previously saying that if she's the one the ‘Democratic Party puts forward,’ he would. O'Connor appeared on MSNBC's ‘Morning Joe’ to discuss his candidacy and answer questions about Pelosi, and he said Washington, D.C. needs ‘new leadership.’ MSNBC guest John Heilemann [said] … ‘My question for you is, what do you think of where the speaker currently is and whether you can envision a world in which Nancy Pelosi is not the speaker of — the potential speaker of the House and the head of your party?’ Heilemann asked. After dodging the question, MSNBC guest Susan Del Percio … repeated Heilemann's question about whether he will support Pelosi for speaker if Democrats take control of the House. ‘No, I would not,’ O'Connor said. … O'Connor's response contradicts what he said on MSNBC's ‘Hardball With Chris Matthews’ on July 24.”
Pence, Scalise raise big bucks in New Orleans - The [Louisiana] Advocate: “Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise rallied 140 Republican donors Thursday night in New Orleans by repeatedly warning about the specter of a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic speaker of the House. … The fundraiser at the National World War II Museum took place at a time when many analysts believe that Democrats can win enough seats… Pence and Scalise told the well-heeled crowd that would be bad for America. … Pence and Scalise credited the tax cuts and other moves by the Trump administration with generating the country’s current strong economic growth, including what they said are record low unemployment rates among African-Americans and Hispanics.”
Trump sticks with establishment in Mississippi - WaPo: “President Trump declared his support Thursday for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), wading into a closely watched race that has divided Republicans. In a pair of late-afternoon tweets, Trump wrote that Hyde-Smith has helped him ‘put America First!’ and has his ‘complete and total Endorsement.’ Hyde-Smith was appointed earlier this year to succeed Republican Thad Cochran, a longtime senator who stepped down amid health problems. She is running in a special election that will be held on Nov. 6, the same day as the regularly scheduled midterms. … Also in the Mississippi race is Chris McDaniel, an insurgent conservative who has been hostile to Senate GOP leaders and nearly defeated Cochran in 2014. McDaniel was encouraged to run by Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist.”
Biden makes rare endorsement in testy Delaware primary - NBC News: “Joe Biden is endorsing longtime colleague Tom Carper as he faces his toughest primary battle in decades, a rare move by the former vice president to take sides in a primary in his home state. Biden has agreed to record a robocall on behalf of Carper, who is seeking his fourth term as Delaware senator and has served in statewide office continuously since 1977. It will begin reaching state voters next week ahead of the Sept. 6 primary, NBC News has learned. … At first glance Biden's endorsement of Carper is unsurprising, given the decades-long partnership between the two. But Biden has rarely — if ever — taken sides in Democratic primaries in his state since being elected to the Senate in 1972.”
Senate passes $857 billion spending package, hope to avoid shutdown - Politico
Hunter calls indictment ‘pure politics,’ denies using campaign funds for personal expenses - Fox News
AUDIBLE: EVEN IF THEY DON’T LIKE THE COOKING
“I can take the heat and that's why I stay in the kitchen.” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reiterating to the AP that she’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend tune in while Sandra Smith guest hosts for Mr. Sunday. She will sit down with former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski as well as Former U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. 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
“You made the comment (based, I know on polls) that something better than 80 percent of GOP voters stand solidly behind the president. I am not sure what that ‘solidly’ actually means, but put me in the 20 percent. I feel for every Republican candidate running this year, for I know that at least a few of them must be appalled at, for instance, the remarks about Jeff Sessions, yet have to be afraid ever to hint of any disagreement with the president. Just glad I voted Libertarian so that I could stick to my principles. Cowardly? Maybe, but a bad choice means there was not a good choice. When Trump has done well it has been in areas where any Republican would have done the same.” – John Johnson, Tucson, Ariz.
[Ed. note: One of the most important questions in life, but particularly in politics is always “or what?” And to a certain degree partisan approval or disapproval ratings for sitting presidents are questions relating to voters’ satisfaction with their decisions in the previous election. Many in that 80 percent may not be saying that they are pleased with Trump, per se, but that they are glad that Hillary Clinton is not president. But that will go for 2020 as well, when Clinton is not on the ballot. There’s a great deal of attention paid to these job approval numbers. We do it, as do most of our peers, and they are useful. But in American politics what really matters are choices in binary votes. Of course, many, like yourself opted not to choose the lesser of two evils and excuse yourself from the bloody fray. So far, the Democrats have been the best thing Trump has had going for him. We’ll see if that continues to be the case after 2018 and into Trump’s re-election.]
“‘Who knows what might transpire if members of Congress voted by secret ballot?’ Going out on a limb, I hazard to guess a whole lot of mischief would transpire. We have enough trouble with voice votes. But seriously—as comedians and political pundits are wont to say—why shouldn't all campaign donations be made anonymously so the politicians are not aware of their specific financiers? Making every constituent a possible, anonymous donor is a much better campaign finance reform than anything Russ Feingold and John McCain ever proposed.” – Michael Friend, Atlanta
[Ed. note: You are certainly right, Mr. Friend, but there are a few considerations to bear in mind. Are we to suppose that the individual’s collection of donations on behalf of campaigns would not find ways to signal to office holders the identities of their most generous friends? When a politician showed up at a party and saw people wearing say white boutonnieres or red armbands, he or she might know who gave what. Or, more simply, fundraisers could just tell candidates that Frank N. Stine or I. P. Freely were very, VERY enthusiastic supporters *wink* and did you know that Messrs. Stine and Freely happen to have applied for a fat government grant for their firm? Also to consider: Voters ought to know where campaigns’ support is coming from. It might be material to you to know that one faction, special interest or pressure group had fallen in with big cash for a particular candidate. There are no easy answers when it comes to campaign finance reform. Virginia’s system is pretty good. It doesn’t limit contributions but it does require instantaneous reporting, which is posted immediately online. As a rule, I tend to think that complexity is the enemy of accountability and understanding.]
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PUTTING THE HEAD IN HEADSHOT
UPI: “A Missouri teen's school photos are going viral after the green shirt he wore on picture day blended in with the photographer's green screen. Laurel Hutsell said in a Facebook post that her son, Carter, wore a green shirt for his seventh grade picture day, and he came home concerned that the photographer was using green screen effects. Hutsell said she thought ‘maybe they will be OK,’ but when the sample proofs came back Carter appeared as a floating head due to the green screen backgrounds projecting onto his shirt. ‘At least his hair and smile were on point!’ Hutsell wrote. Inter State Studio, the studio behind the now-viral photos, said the proofs don't go through a human proofing process to allow for a quick turnaround time. The studio said ‘floating head’ incidents like Carter's occasionally happen, but the photos can be fixed for the final product.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Then there is John McCain, who is a party unto himself.”– Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post, May 27, 2005.
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.