Home(page) at last

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On the roster: Home(page) at last - Time Out: Hail to the Chief - Trump looks to use V.A. nominee bust to target Tester - Audible: Why we fight - Be a pelican, not a pelican’t

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – We hate to say, “At last!” because we have been talking about these midterm elections for so long, but we can’t help ourselves: At last!

We are on the road on the eve of what promises to be a very consequential debate in a very consequential Senate race here in the Mountain State. And it doesn’t hurt either that not even Aaron Copland could have conjured an Appalachian Spring more glorious than the one we find here.

The first order of business is that we are proud to share with you the Fox News Channel’s brand-spanking-new 2018 elections page.  Loyal readers have been following along with our Fox News Power Rankings for several months, but even we need the help of a couple of spreadsheets to keep track of all of the changes. Now, it’s all in one place and ready for your review.

We hope you’ll bookmark the page and follow along as the campaigns unfold. There will be upgrades and new features as we go.

For those of you unfamiliar with our ratings, we have sorted senatorial, gubernatorial and House elections into five categories ranging from Likely Republican to Lean Republican to Toss Up to Lean Democrat to Likely Democrat.

Readers will also note that our “Control of House” average of generic ballot polls is now illustrated in a handy-dandy bar graph. We’re pleased with the result and very grateful to all of the folks in web design and across the network who help make it possible.

Speaking of race ratings, we do have one change of note this week.

We had long held that Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent. The fundamentals of the race look very bad for Donnelly. Like his Democratic colleagues from North Dakota, Missouri and West Virginia, Donnelly represents a state that was heavily Republican in 2016. But in addition, he happens to hail from Vice President Mike Pence’s home state, and Pence is running point on GOP midterm efforts this year. Add in the senator’s relatively low name identification in the Hoosier State and he looked like a sure-fire loser.

But with a plum so ripe for the picking, Republicans have gotten overeager in their primary. The three-man pig pile in the GOP primary has gotten very ugly indeed.

Remember, primary fights over issues don’t translate very well into general-election contests. What primary voters care about often seems narrow or abstruse to the general electorate. But character attacks are always useful to opponents of the other party. 

Whoever emerges from the May 8 Republican contest will certainly face the same charges he heard in the primary, but this time backed by more money and louder voices.

And that brings us back here to Morgantown.

Tuesday’s debate, which will be moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, will give Republicans Rep. Evan Jenkins, Secretary of State Patrick Morrisey and former coal executive Don Blankenship a chance to sort out their own acrimonies just a week before their primary.

Their real quarry, Sen. Joe Manchin, is in a better position with voters than his colleague Donnelly. Manchin has twice been elected governor and already had to run for the Senate seat twice. It will take real toughness and acumen to knock him out.

Tuesday night starting at 6 pm ET you can find out who’s got it and who doesn’t.

“It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good…” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 37

History: “In New York City, George Washington, the great military leader of the American Revolution, is inaugurated as the first president of the United States. In February 1789, all 69 presidential electors unanimously chose Washington to be the first U.S. president. In March, the new U.S. constitution officially took effect, and in April Congress formally sent word to Washington that he had won the presidency. He borrowed money to pay off his debts in Virginia and traveled to New York. On April 30, he came across the Hudson River in a specially built and decorated barge. The inaugural ceremony was performed on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street, and a large crowd cheered after he took the oath of office. The president then retired indoors to read Congress his inaugural address, a quiet speech in which he spoke of ‘the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.’ The evening celebration was opened and closed by 13 skyrockets and 13 cannons.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.8 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-13.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.4 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 38% approve - 57% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approval - 54% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.2 percent
Democratic average: 47.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up one point
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 47% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP.]

Roll Call: “President Donald Trump escalated his feud with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester [over the weekend] using a tweet to call for the Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member to resign. The Montana senator on Wednesday made public allegations from whistleblowers against Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, Trump’s military physician and nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs that helped him decide to step aside. … The Senate GOP’s campaign arm issued its own statement that featured this headline: ‘Tester’s gamble backfires.’ The Senate GOP’s campaign arm echoed recent statements from the president, saying Tester’s actions are ‘sure to hurt his re-election prospects in a state Trump won by more than 20 points.’ The GOP president on Saturday continued his apparent use of the matter to try to fire up the Republican base in Montana, writing in a second tweet that the ‘great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human being.’”

Senate candidates deny wrongdoing in donor scheme -
 Indianapolis Star: “Three Indiana members of Congress gave and received money from Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci in what experts said may have been an improper straw donor scheme — including two Indiana congressmen running for the U.S. Senate. The Senate candidates, Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, denied any wrongdoing. Rep. Jackie Walorski's campaign did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking comment. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Messer and Walorski received contributions from Renacci's congressional campaign between April and June last year. Although he was not named in that story, Rokita also received campaign contributions from Renacci.”

Kraushaar: Former Dems lose their GOP primary stigma in Trump era - 
National Journal: “But despite being attacked for being liberals-in-disguise by their primary rivals, their past partisan apostasy hasn’t diminished their political prospects. [GOP state Rep. Mike Braun] holds the late momentum in his primary against two sitting GOP congressmen, Todd Rokita and Luke Messer—despite Rokita slamming Braun as a ‘lifelong Democrat’ on the airwaves. Meanwhile, [Rep. Evan Jenkins] is running neck-and-neck against [W. Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey], with one new public poll showing him with a narrow advantage. The congressman’s standing hasn’t been dented by Morrisey’s persistent argument that Jenkins is a closet progressive. If Braun and Jenkins win their respective nominations, they’ll be joined by newly appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi as leading GOP Senate candidates who until recently were dependable Democrats.”

Party switcher complicates Minn. Dem Senate primary -
 Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Richard Painter, a longtime Republican who was chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s White House, intends to run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota this year as a Democrat, according to a filing he made recently with federal elections officials. Painter, a persistent and frequent critic of President Donald Trump on national cable TV news appearances and on Twitter, is expected to announce his candidacy at a Monday news conference. He’s running for Democrat Al Franken’s former seat. Franken resigned Jan. 2 in the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to be his successor. That seat is up this fall in a special election, and Smith has said she intends to run for the right to finish the term through 2020.”

Scott starts campaign with $1 million a week fundraising - WashEx: “Florida Gov. Rick Scott raised $3.2 million in the first three weeks of his bid for the Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. Many expected Scott's campaign to be a fundraising juggernaut. Scott has delivered, raising close to Nelson's total during the first three months of 2018 after announcing his bid on April 9. ‘It is clear that Americans are ready to see a change in Washington,’ Scott said in a statement. … The $3.2 million total comprises only individual contributions and does not include any from Scott himself. Scott, a multi-millionaire, contributed $73 million to his 2010 bid for the Florida governorship, and another $13 million on his 2014 re-election bid.”

Pelosi brings in huge cash - Politico: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi raised $16.1 million for House Democrats in the first quarter of 2018, a massive pile of cash that brings her total this cycle to $66.7 million. She is outpacing her fundraising of the 2016 cycle by nearly $10 million, according to sources familiar with the effort. Pelosi has an unmatched ability to raise cash, and that's crucial for any Hill leader. Her ability to raise money for the party is always the subject of chatter in the Capitol. Next up: Pelosi is doing fundraisers in New York, Boston, Tampa and south Florida this recess.”

[Ed. Note: For context, House Speaker Paul Ryan toted earlier this month that he had raised about $54 million so far this cycle.]

Proxy fight between House factions threatens GOP hold on Ohio seat -Politico: “Republicans’ latest special election headache is unfolding in central Ohio, where a chaotic primary has divided the party and stoked fears of losing another seat in Donald Trump territory to Democrats. The race pits the two wings of the House Republican Conference against each other, going all out to nominate rival candidates. On one side is the scrappy co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Jim Jordan, who is lining up behind Melanie Leneghan, a self-described Trump Republican. Jordan is going up against former Rep. Pat Tiberi, a close ally of GOP leadership who resigned from his seat in January and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from his old campaign account to boost state Sen.Troy Balderson as his successor.”

Left and left-er in Ohio gubernatorial primary - NYT: “Richard Cordray speaks softly and carries a big stack: lime-green index cards, pressed into his shirt pocket, near enough for any sudden onset of note-taking. A former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he has been endorsed in his bid for Ohio governor by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has told him he needs to learn how to brag more. ‘I am pretty good at getting back people’s money,’ Mr. Cordray managed before an outdoor crowd of dozens here recently. Polite applause followed. He is trying. Dennis Kucinich speaks until someone interrupts him — and even this is often insufficient — and carries a bag of vegan groceries heavy enough to sink his right arm like a weight-bearing scale of justice. A former congressman and presidential candidate also running for governor, he has been endorsed in the May 8 Democratic primary by allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, who remember Mr. Kucinich’s lectern-pounding opposition to the Iraq war and his long-ago turn as the ‘boy mayor’ of Cleveland.”

Dems shift focus from suburban to rural areas - 
WaPo: “Last year, as a wave of special elections popped up, every smart Democrat wanted to focus on [Rep. Tom Price’s] seat. … It led Democrats to believe their initial strategy of focusing on the suburbs gave them a path to the majority. However, the more telling special elections might have been a handful in more rural districts President Trump won by overwhelming margins. Five special elections have been held for seats where Trump won 56 percent to 60 percent of the vote — in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Arizona — and in each of those races the Democrat did much better than expected, winning one and getting very close in two others. … The latest data point for the new baseline came Tuesday in a special election northwest of Phoenix, where no Democrat had reached 40 percent of the vote this century. President Trump won 58.1 percent of the vote there in 2016, a margin of more than 20 points over Hillary Clinton.”

Trump campaign covered $228,000 worth of Cohen’s legal fees - ABC News

Administration insider: Trump’s ‘ready, shoot, aim’ style makes hiring harder - WaPo

V.A. officials grumble that a Trump crony is slowing down major projects - 

Mnuchin expects action on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac after midterms - WashEx

Ross: Trump admin to extend relief from steel and aluminum tariffs to some countries - Bloomberg

Trump threatens gov. shutdown come September over funding for border wall Reuters

Walker removes himself from House chaplain search - Roll Call


“‘The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in For Whom the Bell Tolls. And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride.” – An excerpt from Senator John McCain’s memoir, “The Restless Wave.”

“Do the states that are posturing to allow their electoral votes to ‘shift’ to whomever wins the popular vote have a firm Constitutional footing? Could there be a successful court challenge to keep the status quo?” – James Douglas, Wetumpka, Ala.

[Ed. note: It would certainly be tested, but the states are given lots of latitude for how they conduct their elections. Even if the intent was to bedevil the Constitution, the Constitution would still protect states’ rights to conduct elections as they wish.]

“Populism and nationalism are merely angry reactions from those whom these elites have disadvantaged in their dogged implementation of whatever policies the angry mob fancies today. My point would be that, until we find a way to recover from the pandemic of narrow, angry self-concern and return to a healthy state of reasoned idealism seeking a better society for all, we can expect more angry town hall slugfests, more angry mobs at the voting booths and in cyberspace, more vicious thought police on our campuses, and more institutional dysfunction. What worries me is what comes next in a country and a world that is nine meals away from total social chaos. You might consider recommending one or more books on how a recovery from this pandemic can be achieved. As it stands, the first rule of history is ‘it's always later than we think’ and, from where I sit, western societies are looking a lot like Towers of Babel.” – Eric Hutchins, Santa Barbara, Calif.

[Ed. note: Maybe so, or maybe this is another of the periodic spasms which has afflicted the body politic. It seems like every 30 or 40 years we go through one of these spells. What I am mostly concerned about is finding out how low we will go this time and what lasting changes will be left behind. I remain optimistic mostly because I know that pain is essential to spiritual growth for people and for cultures. My hope is that we can learn more than we hurt this time around.]

“Hi Chris, Do you think it would be possible for you and Dana to discuss [efforts to create a national popular presidential votes through a compact of states] a bit more in depth on the podcast next week, please? I don’t understand how this new electoral vote systems is legal or constitutional. I don’t understand why legislators are actually attempting to possibly go against the direct will of the people. Frankly, it turns my stomach. Love the emails and the podcast! Thanks so much!” – Katie Hacker, Lynchburg, Va.

[Ed. note: I make no promises about what Ms. Perino will and won’t discuss (except for her love of Anne Patchett and terrible things to eat), but I will certainly try!]

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AP: “A pair of pelicans crashed a graduation ceremony at Pepperdine University in the California beachfront community of Malibu over the weekend. The long-beaked birds flew in Saturday as the class of 2018 was receiving diplomas outdoors on a lawn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Video broadcast by KABC-TV shows one of the big birds landed among seated observers who managed to toss it back into the air, only to have it land on a red carpet at the center of the ceremony. The pelican resisted efforts by several men to get it to move along. It finally waddled away.”

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.