Fox News Power Rankings: Pump up the volume

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On the roster: Fox News Power Rankings: Pump up the volume - I’ll Tell You What: What the Haley’s going on? - Florida attack ads fly despite dreadful hurricane - Dems keep eye on Avenatti 2020 bid - In West Virginia, the goats come to the party for free

FOX NEWS POWER RANKINGS: PUMP UP THE VOLUME
Now that we’re inside the one-month mark until this demolition derby of a midterm election, it’s time for a Fox News Power Rankings update, eh what?

As always, you can visit our super-snappy midterm page that shows you all of the rankings for House, Senate and governor races and provides some context for how we have built our mousetrap.

We have 13 ratings changes for you today, five in the Senate and eight among gubernatorial contests. We’ll be coming back around on House races again in the coming days, so stay tuned for that.

Humans have a hard time making sense of things until we put them into a story. It’s how our brains have worked from the beginning – and it’s an invaluable trait when it comes to passing on deep knowledge and retaining information over time and distance.

But it also has a tendency to make us misplace emphasis by either over- or under-interpreting events depending on whether they fit in the narratives we’ve built in our heads. Confirmation bias – where what we tend to see first and most clearly is that which fits the story we want to tell – and availability cascades – in which new, seemingly comprehensive explanations rapidly gain currency – are particularly powerful in politics.  

The preferred narrative of late has been, not surprisingly, about the biggest self-contained political news story since the 2016 election: the battle over the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Republicans grab polls that show them in better stead and say that the Kavanaugh effect is working for them. Democrats, in turn, snatch polls that show them staying strong and gaining and say that they are the victors of the Kavanaugh conflagration.

Guess what. They’re both right.  

As we get closer to the end of this campaign – as happens every two years – the electorates are becoming more like themselves. We’re getting down to the likely voters and that’s bad news for candidates playing out of position – Democrats in Trump states or districts and Republicans in Clinton states or districts.

The Kavanaugh fight came at almost exactly the moment in every cycle when promising long-shots turn into fool’s errands. We got a partisan intensifier at the start of the election home stretch, just exactly the moment when partisan sentiment intensifies anyway.

After that, it’s just a matter of the map. 

There are nine Senate seats currently held by Democrats in states that went for Donald Trump in 2016 but just one Republican incumbent running in a state carried by Hillary Clinton

That’s just a function of a fluke of how we cycle through Senate elections and some screwy results over the past 12 years, and certainly some of those races aren’t competitive. But among the nine Senate seats we here at Fox News judge to be the most competitive, five of them feature Democrats running in Trump states.

The map in the battle for control of the House is just the opposite. The battleground districts there are overwhelmingly in places that Clinton won. The reason Republicans are bracing for a shellacking is that they have so many suburban races 

The same goes for gubernatorial candidates. There are eight Republicans running to hold governor’s mansions for their party in states won by Clinton and not a single Democrat running to keep a mansion in a state Clinton won. The GOP is currently favored in half of those races, but when taken along with competitive races in three other states where Trump won by less than two points, it adds up to trouble for the red team.

Much of what we’re seeing across the country is the natural reflection of voters engaging on races and making up their minds – partisan preferences are taking hold as they usually do. The Kavanaugh mess has certainly intensified those feelings, but it certainly didn’t create them.

What we’re hearing is the electorate turning up the volume. That’s bad news if you don’t like the music.

SENATE RACE RATING CHANGES:
Mississippi (special election): Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)* vs. Chris McDaniel (R) vs. Mike Espy (D) - Likely R to Lean R

North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp (D)* vs. Kevin Cramer (R) - Lean R to Likely R

Texas: Ted Cruz (R)* vs. Beto O’Rourke (D) - Lean R to Likely R

Tennessee: Marsha Blackburn (R) vs. Phil Bredesen (D) - Toss Up to Lean R

Ohio: Sherrod Brown (D)* vs. Jim Renacci (R) - Lean D to Likely D

GOVERNOR RACE RATING CHANGES:
Arizona: Doug Ducey (R)* vs. David Garcia (D) - Lean R to Likely R

Georgia: Brian Kemp (R) vs. Stacey Abrams (D) - Lean R to Toss Up

Kansas: Kris Kobach (R) vs. Laura Kelly (D) vs. Greg Orman (I) - Lean R to Toss Up

Ohio: Mike DeWine (R) vs. Richard Corday (D) - Lean R to Toss Up

Connecticut: Bob Stefanowski (R) vs. Ned Lamont (D) - Toss Up to Lean D

Michigan: Bill Schuette (R) vs. Gretchen Whitmer (D) - Toss Up to Lean D

Wisconsin: Scott Walker (R)* vs. Tony Evers (D) - Toss Up to Lean D

Oregon: Kate Brown (D)* vs. Knute Buehler (R) - Likely D to Lean D

[Ed. note: * denotes incumbent]

THE RULEBOOK: WOULDA, COULDA
“Had the convention attempted a positive enumeration of the powers necessary and proper for carrying their other powers into effect, the attempt would have involved a complete digest of laws on every subject to which the Constitution relates…” – James Madison, Federalist No. 44

TIME OUT: BERSERK FOR BOARD GAMES 
Smithsonian: “In central and eastern Sweden from 550 to 793 CE, just before the Viking Age, members of the Vendel culture were known for their fondness for boat burials, their wars, and their deep abiding love of hnefatafl. Also known as Viking chess, hnefatafl is a board game in which a centrally located king is attacked from all sides. The game wasn’t exclusive to the Vendels—people across northern Europe faced off over the gridded board from at least 400 BCE until the 18th century. But during the Vendel period, love for the game was so great that some people literally took it to their graves. Now, a new analysis of some hnefatafl game pieces unearthed in Vendel burial sites offers unexpected insight into the possible emergence of industrial whaling in northern Europe. For most of the game’s history, its small, pebble-like pieces were made of stone, antler, or bone from animals such as reindeer. But later, starting in the sixth century CE, Vendels across Sweden and the Åland Islands were buried with game pieces made of whale bone. In the new research, Andreas Hennius … and his colleagues traced the source of the whale bone by following a trail of evidence that led them to the edge of the Norwegian Sea about 1,000 kilometers north of the Vendels’ heartland in central Sweden.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 42 percent
Average disapproval: 53 percent
Net Score: -11 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.8 points 
[Average includes: CNN: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; IBD: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 53% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
42 percent
Democratic average: 49.6 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 7.6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.4 points 
[Average includes: CNN: 54% Dems - 41% GOP; IBD: 45% Dems - 43% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 48% Dems - 42% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems - 42% GOP; Pew Research Center: 52% Dems - 42% GOP.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: WHAT THE HALEY’S GOING ON?
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the exit of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the Kavanaugh impact on the midterms and the proper way to eat steak. Plus, weekly mailbag questions and trivia! LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

FLORIDA ATTACK ADS FLY DESPITE DREADFUL HURRICANE 
Politico: “It had once been considered taboo in Florida to run negative campaign attack ads as a hurricane batters the state. But no more. As Hurricane Michael bore down Wednesday on the Panhandle with Category 4 winds, the Republican Party of Florida broke with that tradition and continued to air two ads bashing Ron DeSantis’ Democratic rival in the race for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, over his city’s response to a hurricane in 2016. And in the U.S. Senate race, the Democratic super PAC backing Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) began running a negative commercial in strike-zone markets calling his opponent Gov. Rick Scott a dishonest ‘shady millionaire who doesn’t look out for you.’ Also in those markets, a Republican super PAC supporting Scott is attacking Nelson in ad for being ‘an empty suit.’”

Hogan takes double digit lead in Maryland gubernatorial race -WaPo: “With less than a month until Election Day, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has built a formidable lead over Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds, with few voters undecided and most preferring the incumbent Republican even on key Jealous issues such as health care and education. Likely voters in Maryland support Hogan by a 20-point margin, 58 percent to 38 percent. Just 5 percent have not settled on a candidate. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1, Hogan appears to have assembled a coalition that cuts into the Democratic base, well ahead of Jealous in bellwether Baltimore County and running competitively in heavily Democratic Montgomery. Jealous leads Hogan in only one of Maryland’s major geographic blocs — Prince George’s County.”

Grassley promises to raise big for Collins post Kavanaugh fight - The Hill: “Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) promised to raise $3 million to support Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to counteract anger over her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh. ‘I'm going to help raise $3 million to match that,’ Grassley told Martha MacCallum during an interview on Fox News Tuesday, when asked what he thought of a fundraising effort against Collins in Maine that has raked in about $3 million. Collins has come under fire from many on the left for supporting Kavanaugh in a narrow confirmation vote, who was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford and other women. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, which remain uncorroborated. … Heidi Hess, the co-director of Credo Action, told The Hill that Collins faces a ‘tough’ reelection fight. … Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice has said she will consider running against Collins in 2020.

Romney dodges questions on past Trump attacks during debate - Fox News: “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a heavy favorite in the race to replace retiring Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, ducked questions about his previous attacks on President Trump during a debate on Tuesday night. Romney called Trump a ‘phony, a fraud’ during the 2016 presidential campaign, and said he was playing the American people for ‘suckers.’ … But on Tuesday, when asked whether those comments were reflective of his current views, Romney appeared to hedge. … Romney said that while he disagreed with Trump's decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and had some concerns about his sweeping imposition of tariffs (which Romney said could ultimately ‘work out well’ if they convince China and other countries to treat the U.S. more fairly), he supported Trump's tax cuts and ‘wise’ deregulation agenda.”

Beto may find some support from white Evangelical women - NYT: “[Listening to the five evangelical moms] this November, they have all decided to vote for Mr. [Beto O’Rourke], the Democratic upstart who is on the front line of trying to upend politics in deep-red Texas. In the Senate race, one of the most unexpectedly tight in the nation, any small shift among evangelical voters — long a stable base for Republicans — could be a significant loss for Mr. [Ted Cruz], who, like President Trump, has made white evangelicals the bulwark of his support. To Democrats nationwide, who have largely written off white evangelical voters, it also sends a signal — not just for the midterms but also for the 2020 presidential campaign — that there are female, religious voters who are open to some of their party’s candidates. The women, who are all in their 30s, described Mr. O’Rourke as providing a stark moral contrast to Mr. Trump, whose policies and behavior they see as fundamentally anti-Christian, especially separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, banning many Muslim refugees and disrespecting women.”

DEMS KEEP EYE ON AVENATTI 2020 BID
AP:Michael Avenatti held court last month with a dozen Democratic strategists in the main dining room at The Palm — a see-and-be-seen table at one of Washington’s most prominent power lunch spots. Avenatti did most of the talking. While he offered few details about how he planned to raise enough money or hire the staff to run a presidential campaign, one participant and another person briefed on the lunch said he cast himself as one of the few Democrats who knows how to go head-to-head with President Donald Trump. The sources requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss details of the meeting. Avenatti’s brash confidence is being closely watched by Democrats in Washington and key political battleground states with a mix of intrigue and trepidation. Trump’s victory over more experienced politicians in the 2016 campaign has reshaped traditional views of who would make a viable presidential candidate. Yet some party leaders are worried about trying to replicate Trump’s approach by backing another untested and unpredictable candidate — a concern that was heightened after Avenatti’s involvement in the recent Supreme Court confirmation fight.”

Bloomberg hints at 2020 run, re-registers as Democrat - NBC News:Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that he had re-registered as a Democrat, in a sign that the former New York City mayor could be seriously considering a presidential bid in 2020. ‘At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution. Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats,’ Bloomberg announced in a post on Instagram that he also shared on Twitter. ‘Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat — I had been a member for most of my life — because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs,’ he added. Bloomberg had been a Democrat prior to his initial mayoral run in 2001, when he became, and was elected as, a Republican. He was re-elected in 2005 as a Republican, but then became an independent in 2007 and was re-elected to a third term in 2009 as an independent.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump narrows shortlist to replace UN ambassador Nikki Haley to five - Fox News

McCarthy to introduce bill that will provide $23.4 billion in border wall funding - Roll Call

Anthony Weiner to be released from prison about three months early - CNN

AUDIBLE: MOVE ALONG
“I took the vote that I took. And I'm good with it and I'm moving forward. I think we all need to be, so I'm not going to dwell on the ‘what ifs.’” – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, when asked by reporters about political retribution for her vote on Kavanaugh.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, just received your book; looking forward to but have not started reading yet.  What is with the Republicans being identified in the color red all the time? When did this start? With red or blue to pick from, logic would say the Dems should be identified with the color red. President Lincoln was a Republican and freed the slaves and the Union Army was uniformed mostly in blue, not red. Socialists and communists predominantly use red as their color. The Chinese government and the Russian government use red, such as the Red Army, Red Square, etc.  Communists are still called ‘Reds.’ The Soviet Union flag was predominantly red color as is the Chinese flag. Socialists are near the same political spectrum point as communists. It seems only logical that maps and other identifiers show Republicans in blue color and Democrats in red color. Am I wrong on this??” – Bill Zeigler, Shelton, Wash.

[Ed. note: I am very grateful for you reading “Every Man a King,” Mr. Zeigler! It was a joy to write (most of the time) and I hope you will find it a joy to read. As for the colors associated with the two major parties, I think you may be overthinking things a bit. Like much of our political world today, the color scheme is the product of television. Prior to the 2000 election color coding was hardly uniform. Some outlets used blue for Republicans and red for Democrats, and dating back to the dawn of the color era in television, networks were even known to go back and forth. Red and blue are the obvious choices since they are the most vivid of the three colors in our flag. In 2000, though, election coverage truly came of age. Not only were there new cable networks in the mix but there was the first election since 1960 that truly balanced on a knife’s edge. The dusty old Electoral College was new again. In that crucible, networks standardized their color scheme and for reasons unknown Republicans ended up with red and Democrats with blue. I tend to think it fits given the hard-power, soft-power preferences of the two parties. But I also think it doesn’t really matter. Enjoy the book and thanks for sharing your question!]

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

IN WEST VIRGINIA, THE GOATS COME TO THE PARTY FOR FREE
Reuters:Spanky and Pippin are literally party animals in the Los Angeles nightlife scene. The Nigerian Dwarf goats are professional party-goers, bringing their special brand of magic to city celebrations and starry soirees. So-called goat mom Scout Raskin, a lifelong animal lover and former child actor, set up Party Goats LA in early 2017 and charges $99 an hour to bring her goats to a party or event. One of the most popular interactions with the goats at parties is to have them jump onto revelers’ backs while they kneel on all fours. … Despite being the same breed and age, the goats have very different personalities, Raskin says. … The goats are unfazed by loud music and crowds of people, Raskin said. … Before hitting the town, Raskin dresses the goats in purple, lace-cuffed velvet jackets and neckbands and wraps their horns in brightly colored tape, for decoration and safety.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“My non-baseball friends are forever puzzled by my devotion to the game. I agree entirely with them about the irrationality of fandom. Why should a grown man with a house, a family, two jobs and a cat named Will Feral … care about a bunch of millionaire 20-something strangers playing a boys’ game in baggy uniforms? It’s ridiculous. Yet when the hometown Washington Nationals win, my mood brightens. Can’t help it.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 21, 2016.

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.