In case of emergency break out the Buttigieg

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On the roster: In case of emergency break out the Buttigieg - Biden ignores call to go hard left - Team Trump goes all in for Rust Belt states - Audible: Lightsaber not included - Cheers, mate!

CLAREMONT, N.H. – South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is really only the second biggest surprise to Democrats in their 2020 presidential nominating process.

The biggest shocker turns out to have been hiding in plain sight the whole time: The overwhelming popularity of former Vice President Joe Biden.

One of the ways in which the 2016 election scrambled our collective political brain is that it encouraged us to see black swans all around us. When one has covered, participated in or just observed the biggest political upset in at least two generations, one tends to start overestimating the probabilities of unlikely events.

Biden, a fixture in the Democratic hierarchy for decades who served as the loyal lieutenant to the former president and beloved by his fellow partisans, should have been an obvious frontrunner all along.

The arrival of the boyish mayor of a small city in northern Indiana on the national stage is a genuine surprise. Biden’s dominant place in the race should not have been.

But it should also be no surprise that the Biden backlash, which still hasn’t taken hold despite several running starts, will be upon us some day. We do not know its cause, intensity or duration, but it will come to be, even if the political press has to will it into existence.

Given that knowledge and the fact that we are still nine months away from the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary, now is a good time for Democrats to be thinking about contingency plans. If Biden, the affable golden retriever of a candidate turns out to be a dog that will not hunt, what are they to do?

Watching Buttigieg turn the crowd of 450 in the Steven’s High School gymnasium into putty in his hands one gets the idea that he really might be the one.

He adds protein to his leafy green cerebral style with bits of red meat here and there (including a lame cheap shot at his hosts) but manages to do so in a way that mostly seems sincere. In an era where voters, especially those under 40, desperately crave authenticity, Buttigieg has so far managed to seem earnest without being tedious.

His best moment of the evening at the Fox News town hall here came when asked about how he would deal with the pugilist in chief. He of the Twitter rant. Buttigieg at first appeared nonplussed and then said, “The tweets are... I don’t care.” The crowd, many members of which arrived as skeptics, roared its approval.

Buttigieg has only been under the microscope for a couple of months, and much of the coverage he has received has been embarrassingly fawning. As the first openly gay major party presidential contender with a gift for the kind of intellectual party tricks that make over-educated reporters swoon, the 37-year-old Indianan has gotten kid-glove treatment.

But he has been remarkably sure footed for one so inexperienced on the national stage.

As of this writing there really only seem to be four candidates other than Biden who have managed to break out of the pack: Buttigieg and three of the seven senators running, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Sanders and Warren are locked in a death match for the old-fashioned pitchfork populist vote. At times it seems like they are actually running for the privilege of a lengthy chase of the frontrunner capped off with a shouty convention speech in Milwaukee.

But if Biden does implode, which he will have ample time and opportunities to do, Buttigieg and Harris look like they would be the most direct beneficiaries. The split would likely be along racial lines, but if Biden does go belly up there would be lots of delegates to spread around.

The candidate Democrats saw on stage here Sunday must have looked like an increasingly reasonable alternative.

“But it is an evil infinitely less likely to attend us in a united than in a disunited state; nay, it may be safely asserted that it is an evil altogether unlikely to attend us in the latter situation.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 26

History: “On this day in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis are given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans. … Strauss brought Davis to San Francisco to oversee the first manufacturing facility for ‘waist overalls,’ as the original jeans were known. At first they employed seamstresses working out of their homes, but by the 1880s, Strauss had opened his own factory. The famous 501 brand jean—known until 1890 as ‘XX’—was soon a bestseller, and the company grew quickly. By the 1920s, Levi’s denim waist overalls were the top-selling men’s work pant in the United States. As decades passed, the craze only grew, and now blue jeans are worn by men and women, young and old, around the world.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 44.4 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -7.4 points
Change from one week ago: up one point 
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve - 53% disapprove; IBD: 43% approve - 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; Gallup: 46% approve - 50% disapprove.]

WaPo: “In his opening weeks as a presidential candidate, [Joe] Biden has rejected much of the conventional wisdom that drove the first stretch of the Democratic nomination fight, refusing to play to the party’s liberal wing, focus on the wrongs of the past or call for revolutionary transformation. To the surprise of many, he has been rewarded with a lead in the polls that, so far at least, has proven durable and steady. As a result, his candidacy is challenging assumptions about what Democratic voters want in the era of President Trump. At its heart, Biden’s campaign is a gamble that his rivals are wrong in seeing the current Democratic Party as liberal, angry and ready for revolution — a case he made in unusually pointed terms at a rally in Philadelphia on Saturday. … For Biden’s team, the Democrats jockeying for ever more dramatic solutions to the nation’s problems are missing the point. They think the Democratic Party is already fundamentally different from the GOP, which shifted rapidly to the right on many issues in recent years, and say there's no need to answer that with a lunge to the left.”

Harris calls for fining companies over gender pay gap - Fox News: “Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris is vowing to fine corporations that don’t take steps toward closing the gender pay gap. The Democrat from California wants to turn the current system on its head. Instead of requiring female employees to come forward with complaints, her plan would require companies to submit data each year on equal pay to comply with new standards. The plan, unveiled Monday, was touted by the Harris campaign as ‘first-of-its kind’ and ‘historic.’ … Harris said her proposal would “finally put the burden of ensuring equal pay on the corporations responsible for gender pay gaps, not the employees being discriminated against. … The senator’s plan, if passed into law, would mandate that large corporations obtain ‘equal pay certification’ from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Companies failing to land a certification would face fines – for every 1 percent wage gap, they would be fined 1 percent of their profits.”

Warren’s corporate advocacy past could hurt her working-class platform - Fox News: “As Sen. Elizabeth Warren climbs in Democratic presidential polls, touting an image as the champion of the working class against powerful corporations, it's only a matter of time before she faces renewed questions about her history advocating on behalf of the kinds of corporations she now vilifies. That work predated her time in the Senate. She helped LTV Steel in its effort to dodge paying employee benefits in 1995; helped defend the Travelers Insurance company in a 2009 Supreme Court case against consumer asbestos claims and did bankruptcy consulting work for Dow Chemical after a lawsuit by thousands of women with allegedly faulty breast implants that caused health problems. On the campaign trail, that history is not part of the personal narrative. … Fox News contacted Warren’s presidential campaign and Senate office but got no formal response…”

Politico: “Donald Trump’s aides and allies are moving aggressively to shore up his support in three Rust Belt states that propelled him to the presidency — but where his own polling shows him in trouble heading into 2020. Trump will travel to Pennsylvania Monday for a rally that comes after recent visits to Wisconsin and Michigan, two other states at the center of his reelection strategy. … Behind the scenes, they've rushed to the aid of languishing state Republican Party machines and have raised concerns that a potential GOP Senate candidate in Michigan could hurt the president’s prospects there. They are also scrutinizing the map for opportunities to fire up his base in the trio of states. … The Trump campaign recently completed a 17-state polling project that concluded the president trails Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, according to two people briefed on the results.”

Trump readies formal re-election launch - Axios: “President Trump plans to formally launch his re-election campaign next month, likely with a burst of swing-state rallies, Republican sources tell [journalist Mike Allen]. Why it matters: Trump's personal campaign approach is aimed at sowing further division in the huge Democratic field, and trying to dominate the news so the national discussion hovers on his turf. What's next: In conversations, Trump makes it clear that he thinks of the official kickoff as June 16 — four years to the day since he rode down the gold escalator in Trump Tower to announce his improbable 2016 run. That date is Father's Day this year, so look for events around that date, not necessarily on it. One ignition plan calls for a cluster of Make America Great Again rallies, although nothing has been finalized.”

Pergram: McConnell nicknames become political weapons - Fox News

Koch network to get new name and strategy - WaPo

Give this a read: ‘The teen who thwarted Bill de Blasio’s presidential announcement’ - New Yorker

Illinois Republicans consider push to separate Chicago from state - Fox News

Gov. Ralph Northam promotes policies to advance causes important to black voters - WSJ

“I used to call myself Darth Vader when I was back in the campaign finance wars.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview talking about his various nicknames that he continues to embrace.

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UPI: “A restaurant in Manchester, Britain, accidentally served a group of three businessmen a $5,000 bottle of wine after they had ordered a bottle worth $290. The men had ordered the cheaper bottle of Bordeaux to go along with their meal at the Hawksmoor steakhouse when a manager visiting from another store for training, picked out the wrong wine. ‘To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4500 on our menu, last night - hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway,’ the restaurant tweeted on Thursday. … Another member of the restaurant’s staff realized the mistake after the customers asked for another bottle. The staff member, instead of telling the three men what had happened, steered them in the direction of another wine.”

“A debate over the relationship between religion and government is about the meaning of our national existence.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for The New Republic on April 9, 1984.

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.