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On the roster: Hipsters, Henry, hogs and how to lose an election - Poll: Battleground Dems want moderate nominee - Dems discuss options for articles of impeachment - Outside groups swamp vulnerable GOP senators - Thanksgiving couldn’t come at a better time
HIPSTERS, HENRY, HOGS AND HOW TO LOSE AN ELECTION
As the weather turns nippy here in our nation’s capital we cannot resist thinking of Bob Hope’s great old line: “It’s so cold in Washington that the politicians actually have their hands in their own pockets.” In order to keep the blood pumping, what do you say to a serving of news nuggets?
- Oh, Michael Bloomberg. The former New York mayor and multi-billionaire is a national political figure in the same way that Brooklyn hipsters are leading a national cultural trend. It seems true if you live in the media universe of the NYT, “Morning Joe” and Vanity Fair think pieces. In what is at least his third flirtation with a presidential run in this cycle alone, Bloomberg is using his wealth to start to secure ballot access for next year’s primaries… Just in case. This was met with huge response across the media spectrum. But our default position remains, “So what?” We’d imagine that Bloomberg would open up in something like sixth place if he did declare. And as Tom Steyer has shown a willingness to burn bales of money hardly guarantees forward momentum. The consultants who have bought second homes stoking Bloomberg’s presidential fantasies are likely the only ones to benefit from this, ahem, bloomlet.
- But what if he really does jump in? If Bloomberg gets any kind of traction the obvious beneficiary is Elizabeth Warren. The bellyaching from old-guard Democrats like David Axelrod about front-runner Joe Biden has helped draw Bloomberg closer to the race. But what do these mandarins think would happen if Bloomberg really got in? He wouldn’t be drawing votes from Warren, that’s for sure. His only path forward would be to cut Biden off at the knees, further splitting the moderate vote. There are no perfect candidates, that’s a fact the Democratic donor class had better figure out if they’re really serious about winning in 2020.
- One of the strategies Republicans are reportedly weighing to deflect criticism of President Trump’s Ukrainian fiasco is to scapegoat three Trump insiders: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Rudy Giuliani and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. The idea would be to say that three had gone rogue and exceeded the president’s desires. Mulvaney, as it turned out, was quite right in the Oct. 17 press conference that was denounced and derided. His stated position – that Trump had leaned on his Ukrainian counterpart about Joe Biden, that aid to the country was conditioned on cooperation, that politics are part of foreign policy and that everybody needed to “get over it” – has become the de facto position of the GOP and administration. It makes sense to torch Giuliani, who has only been bad news for Trump. Sondland is already acting as a free agent. But it seems more than a little dangerous to try to punish the chief of staff just now.
- As Michael Kinsley long ago taught us about Washington: “The scandal isn't what's illegal, the scandal is what's legal.” A great piece in the WSJ today from reporters Thomas Grove and Alan Cullison illustrates one of the slimiest realities of life in Washington. There’s been a great deal of focus on how Hunter Biden cashed in on his father’s influence with wealthy foreigners seeking favorable treatment from the U.S. government. But like many others, Burisma, the Ukrainian firm at the center of the scandal, pumped big money into official Washington through multiple channels. The slop bucket sloshes on think tanks, lobbyists, message mavens and other influence peddlers. It’s all perfectly legal and perfectly putrid. But from Beijing to Riyadh to Moscow to Mexico City, rich and powerful folks know that the hogs will line up at the trough in Washington every time. Oink, oink.
- We were dubious about the near-universal predictions that Jeff Sessions’ effort to reclaim his Alabama Senate seat would run into a buzz saw of opposition from his erstwhile tormenter, President Trump. Sessions’ rivals were quick to blast him for alleged disloyalty to Trump and most coverage focused on how Trump would play in the primary. But given his first opportunity to lace into Sessions in today’s installment of “Chopper Talk” Trump gave Sessions a pass and even praised his former attorney general for – what else – saying nice things about him. It makes perfect sense to us. Sessions endured all the slings and arrows of Trumps abuse without complaint and had only praise for his former boss in his campaign announcement. If Trump gets in the Alabama political swamp he might lose again, as he did backing Luther Strange in 2017, or help disgraced former Judge Roy Moore win the nomination again in a divided field.
- The American Enterprise Institute’s Matthew Continetti is always a must-read for us. Few political writers, left, right or center, can match his combination of gifts of language and perception while maintaining the requisite honest self-appraisal to avoid dogmatism. His analysis of this week’s Virginia election results is perfect proof: “As Virginia has moved into the Democratic column, the state Republican Party has become more populist, more nationalist, and more culturally conservative. The dwindling number of Republicans who spoke the language of suburbia could not escape their party's national reputation for hostility to immigrants and opposition to progressive ideals. A similar process occurred in states like California, Colorado, and Nevada. It may also be underway in Arizona and Texas (!).”
- How about a little shameless self-promotion? You can hear Chris on the most recent installment of Jonah Goldberg’s Remnant podcast. It’s got it all: Cutting edge analysis, cured meat, “Caddyshack” and the dangers of political determinism. Listen here.
- Writing at the NYT Timothy Egan explores the dangers of “insufferable wokeness” for Democrats looking to win converts ahead of the 2020 election. “It’s no mystery why so many Democrats can no longer connect to the white working class. Progressives promise free college, free health care, free child care, and scream in bafflement, What’s wrong with you people? No doubt, some of those people are racist and xenophobic. But many others simply feel insulted and dismissed.” Democrats interested in forging a winning coalition ought to read Egan right after they finish watching Aziz Ansari’s latest comedy special “Right Now.” And if they don’t have time for that, just try the one-minute clip of former President Barack Obama who reminded listeners: “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly.” More addition, less division, please.
- Speaking of good things to watch, we loved director David Michôd’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” The film, called “The King,” distributed by Netflix and starring Timothée Chalamet, is wonderful in many ways, not the least of which is in rescuing the character John Falstaff from the clammy clutches of venal buffoonery in which so many directors have placed him. But the obvious great omission is one of Shakespeare’s finest speeches: The St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry before the Battle of Agincourt. There is perhaps no finer, fuller expression of patriotism and the duty of men at arms than the speech. But we know that Chalamet’s take on Hal wouldn’t allow for such heroic orations. And who would want to follow Kenneth Branagh’s unsurpassable performance? So by all means watch “The King,” but maybe also take three minutes to watch Branagh raise the banner – “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers” – to get in the right spirit this Veteran’s Day weekend.
THE RULEBOOK: RULES ARE RULES
“When men, engaged in unjustifiable pursuits, are aware that obstructions may come from a quarter which they cannot control, they will often be restrained by the bare apprehension of opposition, from doing what they would with eagerness rush into, if no such external impediments were to be feared.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 73
TIME OUT: ALLES KLAR, HERR KOMMISSAR?
WSJ: “On the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, an unremarkable East German functionary named Günter Schabowski bungled an assignment – and accidentally helped bring down the Berlin Wall. … At a press conference that was broadcast live … [Schabowski] broached the topic only in the final minutes, after a stultifying, hourlong description of the East German regime’s internal debates. … Then a reporter asked about travel possibilities for East Germans. Schabowski initially answered in soporific fashion, with frequent pauses and ‘uhs.’ But then he mumbled that the party had decided ‘to issue a regulation that will make it possible for every citizen…to emigrate.’ A reporter shouted, ‘When does that go into force?’ The interruption visibly irritated Schabowski, who fumbled with his briefing papers to search for the answer. His aide finally pointed out the relevant page, and Schabowski read the text aloud so rapidly as to be almost incomprehensible… Someone shouted again, ‘When does that go into force?’ Schabowski scanned the unfamiliar text again and picked out some of its words: ‘Immediately…without delay.’ … Caught unprepared, the secret police, border guards and military forces scrambled to reassert their power, but it was too little, too late.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 27.6 points (↓ 0.2 points from last wk.)
Warren: 22.6 points (no change from last wk.)
Sanders: 17.6 points (↑ 3.4 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 7.6 points (↑ 0.2 points from last wk.)
Harris: 3.2 points (↓ 1.2 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: Monmouth University, NBC News/WSJ, ABC News/WaPo, Fox News and IBD.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 55.4 percent
Net Score: -13.4 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.4 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 45% approve - 53% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 39% approve - 59% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve - 57% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve - 56% disapprove.]
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POLL: BATTLEGROUND DEMS WANT MODERATE NOMINEE
NYT: “Democrats in the country’s most pivotal general election battlegrounds prefer a moderate presidential nominee who would seek common ground with Republicans rather than pursue an ambitious, progressive agenda, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll of primary voters across six states. As the Democratic candidates intensify their argument over how best to defeat President Trump, their core voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida are counseling them to pursue a political middle ground. A majority of those surveyed said they wanted a Democratic nominee who is more moderate than most Democrats, and they overwhelmingly preferred one who would bridge the partisan divide in Washington. The party’s voters are more evenly split on the scale of change they are seeking from their nominee: 49 percent said they preferred a candidate who would return politics in Washington to normal, while 45 percent hope for one who will bring fundamental change to American society.”
Report: Steyer aide offered money for endorsements in Iowa - AP: “A top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in Iowa privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations. The overtures from Pat Murphy, a former state House speaker who is serving as a top adviser on Steyer’s Iowa campaign, aren’t illegal — though payments for endorsements would violate campaign finance laws if not disclosed. There’s no evidence that any Iowans accepted the offer or received contributions from Steyer’s campaign as compensation for their backing. But the proposals could revive criticism that the billionaire Steyer is trying to buy his way into the White House. Several state lawmakers and political candidates said they were surprised Steyer’s campaign would think he could purchase their support.”
DEMS DISCUSS OPTIONS FOR ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT
ABC News: “House Democrats have considered drafting as many as three articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, as they prepare to take their Ukraine impeachment inquiry public next week… No decisions have been made, and what happens will ultimately be shaped by the conclusions and findings of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. … Democrats have floated the possibility of charging Trump with abuse of power for efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s family and the 2016 election, as well as obstruction of Congress for the administration’s refusal to comply with subpoenas for records and witness testimony. They have also weighed an obstruction of justice charge centered on the president’s efforts to obstruct former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller’s findings in the second volume of his report, focused on obstruction, are repeatedly referenced in the report accompanying their resolution laying out the impeachment inquiry.”
Mulvaney defies subpoena - Fox News: “Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday defied a subpoena to appear before House committees for a deposition as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Mulvaney was called to testify on Friday at 9 a.m., but did not show up. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., subpoenaed Mulvaney after the White House rejected the original request for him to appear. Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Oversight Committee Acting Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., had wanted to hear from the top White House official, claiming he had ‘substantial first-hand knowledge and information’ relevant to the inquiry.”
Drucker: Republicans see Mark Meadows angling for Mulvaney’s job - WashEx: “There is growing talk on Capitol Hill that Mark Meadows is angling to become the next White House chief of staff amid signs President Trump has been unhappy with the current acting holder of the position, Mick Mulvaney. The conservative Republican congressman in recent days accompanied Trump to New York to attend a mixed martial arts fight and then joined the president a couple of days later for a campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky — trips and locales with no connection to the Republican congressman’s western North Carolina House district. Meadows, like Trump, was a real estate developer before entering politics and has played a key role in defending the president against impeachment. … ‘Of course that’s what he wants,’ a Republican congressman told the Washington Examiner, requesting anonymity in order to speak candidly. At least one White House aide shares that opinion.”
Judge orders Trump to pay $2 million to charities over foundation misuse -WaPo: “A New York judge on Thursday ordered President Trump to pay $2 million in damages for misusing funds from a tax-exempt charity — taking the charity’s money to pay debts for his for-profit businesses, to boost his 2016 campaign and to buy a painting of himself, according to court documents. That order, from state Judge Saliann Scarpulla, settled a lawsuit filed against Trump last year by the New York attorney general. It marked an extraordinary moment: The president of the United States acknowledged in a court filing that he had failed to follow basic laws about how charities should be governed. Previously, Trump had insisted the charity was run properly and the suit was a partisan sham. ‘Mr. Trump owed fiduciary duties to the Foundation,’ Scarpulla wrote in the order, meaning duties to safeguard the foundation’s money. ‘Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation.’”
OUTSIDE GROUPS SWAMP VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS
Politico: “A quartet of new nonprofit groups has already spent millions of dollars hammering four of the most vulnerable Republican senators on the ballot next year, sparking a wave of concern among strategists trying to protect the GOP’s slim three-seat Senate majority in 2020. Outside groups in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Iowa have already spent or booked over $1 million in each state — and in some cases much more, according to Advertising Analytics — on advertising criticizing the senators, more than doubling the spending from Republican-aligned groups trying to respond. And in one state, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has faced the onslaught without any backup from Republican allies. … [The U.S. Chamber of Commerce] is partnering with state affiliates to boost Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) with six-figure ad buys amid the spending deluge against them, running positive ads focused on local issues there and in North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) faces a primary and a general election challenge.”
Pressure grows on Bevin to put up proof or concede - Lexington [Ky.] Herald Leader: “A growing number of Republican lawmakers are urging Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a fellow Republican, to either provide evidence of the voting ‘irregularities’ he has alleged or concede Tuesday’s election to Gov.-elect Andy Beshear, who defeated him by 5,189 votes. ‘The best thing to do, the right thing to do, is for Governor Bevin to concede the election today so we can move on,’ said Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville. … Bevin bolstered that speculation Wednesday by claiming that thousands of absentee ballots were counted illegally without presenting any proof to back up his claim. Republicans in the legislature aren’t buying it.Nemes said he has not seen much support for an election challenge among his Republican colleagues in the House, largely because the governor has not backed up his claims. None of the lawmakers the Herald-Leader spoke to Thursday said they had seen evidence to support Bevin’s claims.”
GOP candidate in Louisiana’s governor’s race sees fundraising boost - AP: “Republican businessman Eddie Rispone is raking in more campaign cash after becoming the lone GOP contender in the Louisiana governor’s race against Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards. Rispone, owner of an industrial contracting firm, had largely self-financed his campaign in the primary election as he competed with another Republican, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, for dollars. But that’s changing since Rispone reached the Nov. 16 runoff and the competition between the Republican challenger and the Deep South’s only Democratic governor tightened. Finance reports filed with the state ethics administration office Wednesday night show Rispone raised just under $3 million from donors in the latest period, which began shortly before the primary election and ended Oct. 27.”
Steny Hoyer announces House will pass a stopgap spending measure week of Nov. 18 - Politico
Pergram: Republicans trying to put their best lineup on the field ahead of impeachment hearings - Fox News
Facebook debating putting restrictions on targeted campaign ads - Politico
China, U.S. reach agreement to rollback tariffs if “phase one” of trade deal is completed - Reuters
AUDIBLE: MR. WEST IS IN THE BUILDING
“When I run for president in 2024, we would've created so many jobs that I'm not going to run, I'm going to walk.” – Kanye West, referring to the jobs that will be created by moving manufacturing of his shoe brand Yeezy to the U.S., during a surprise appearance at Fast Company's Innovation Festival.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. 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.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
THANKSGIVING COULDN’T COME AT A BETTER TIME
News 12 New Jersey: “Wild turkeys are running amok at an over-55 community in Ocean County [N.J.]. Residents say turkeys in a large flock are blocking their doorways, pecking at cars and behaving aggressively. ‘I can't get out of my door,’ says one resident. ‘Sometimes I can't get out of my car. They go to attack you.’ Just in time for Thanksgiving, an aggressive gaggle of 40 to 60 wild turkeys is terrorizing the community in the Holiday City section of town. Residents say that shooing the birds away doesn't help, and that they actually bite. Some say that the turkeys have even broken windows in people's houses. Meanwhile, Toms River says its animal control officers are powerless to stop the turkeys because they are not licensed to trap wildlife. A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection said that Fish and Game is aware of the situation but did not have further information or comment.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Of all the great imperial powers, America is probably the least imperially minded. Britain and France, at their height, would have stayed in the Gulf after such an extraordinary military victory to rearrange the map and establish themselves as hegemons. The United States, in contrast, could not wait to get out and go home.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in The New Republic on July 29, 1991.
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.