Likely voters don't like their options

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On the roster: Likely voters don’t like their options - Power Play: Battle for military votes - Trump says he will demand plan for defeating ISIS - Dems block Zika funding bill over abortion - You’re doing it wrong

Why is Hillary Clinton doing 3 points better, on average, in head-to-head matchups with Donald Trump than she is when voters are allowed to choose from a list of candidates that includes minor parties?

Aside from the obvious conclusion that a more crowded field helps Trump – regardless of what those seeking to crowd it may claim – the answer here is about likely but unwilling voters.

Each election cycle, pollsters and campaigns are on the hunt for likely voters: high-propensity ballot casters who will make up the overwhelming majority of the electorate, as they do every election.

But as the WSJ points out today, many of those likely voters don’t like their choices. The share of undecided voters stands at 13 percent in the latest WSJ poll, 5 points more than at this point in the previous cycle.

More interesting is how many of those undecided voters are college-educated, white, suburbanites. This ought to be good news for Republicans since those voters are the key bloc of their coalition.

Think of undecided voters as a glacier on a mountainside. As the ice melts, it’s bound to run off one way or the other. In this case, the Republicans would seemingly stand to benefit when this glacier gives way.

But they aren’t budging so far.

And this is the way in which minor-party candidates could deliver the presidency to Trump: Clinton will probably need some of these frustrated typical Republican voters to come her way.

If too many stay home or cast protest votes for non-viable candidates, Trump could sneak past her in a close race. As David Drucker explains, Clinton is aware of this and has been stepping up her courtship of GOP-leaning voters, especially on national security.

And if she gets her way, enough of those typical Republicans will, albeit grudgingly, give her their support. But they would be putting limits on her power.

In the poll, 48 percent of the undecided voters said they preferred Republicans to keep control of Congress, almost 20 points higher for the group than at this point in 2012.

Clinton is deeply mistrusted by voters and Americans have long shown a preference for divided government. It may be that as these swing voters make their minds up to vote for Clinton, they are also choosing to make sure to hamstring her with a Republican Congress.

In the event of a Clinton victory, we may be seeing ticket splitting at a level not seen since the 1980s…not to mention two years of gridlock after she takes office.

“Liberty is to [partisanship] what air is to fire, an [element] without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes [partisanship], than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.” – James Madison, “Federalist No. 10

The New Yorker describes how an ancient hallucinogen brew has become the latest trendy trip in New York’s bohemian neighborhoods and California’s Silicon Valley: “The process of making ayahuasca is beyond artisanal: it is nearly Druidical. ‘We pick the chacruna leaf at sunrise in this very specific way: you say a prayer and just pick the lower ones from each tree,’ a lithe ayahuasquera in her early forties—British accent, long blond hair, a background in Reiki—told me about her harvests, in Hawaii. ‘You clean the vine with wooden spoons, meticulously, all the mulch away from the roots—they look so beautiful, like a human heart—and you pound these beautiful pieces of vine with wooden mallets until its fibre,’ she said. ‘Then it’s this amazing, sophisticated process of one pot here and one pot there, and you’re stirring and you’re singing songs.’”

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Average of national head-to-head presidential polls:
 Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +4 points
[Polls included: CNNBoston HeraldIBDFox News and USA Today]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +1 point
[Polls included: GWUCNNBoston HeraldIBD and Fox News]

Donald Trump
 and Hillary Clinton will both make their pitch to be commander-in-chief today, but are these Republican-leaning voters more up for grabs this cycle? How will two non-military candidates best make their case? Chris Stirewalt explains in just 60 seconds. WATCH HERE.

WaPo: “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday called for an end to budget sequestration for military spending, calling increased defense spending a national security priority. ‘As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military. It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military,’ Trump said Wednesday during a speech at the Union League in Philadelphia. The budget sequester of 2013 called for harsh, automatic cuts in both defense and domestic discretionary spending if certain caps were violated. It resulted from a budget standoff between the Republican Congress andPresident Obama; the sequester was a compromise reached between spending hawks and Democrats who favored greater domestic spending.”

Trump says he will demand plan for defeating ISIS - Time: “Donald Trump will give his top military officials a maximum of a month to deliver a plan to vanquish ISIS if he wins the Oval Office, he said Tuesday. The Republican presidential nominee outlined the order before a small crowd in North Carolina. ‘We are going to convey my top generals and give them a simple instruction,’ Trump said, according to ABC News. ‘They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS. We have no choice.’ Trump and Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton are set to discuss military and veterans’ issues Wednesday night at a ‘commander-in-chief forum,’ which is hosted in New York City and sponsored by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.”

[Clinton touts 95 military endorsements to Trump’s 88 - The Hill]

NYT: “Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly denounced pay-to-play politics during his insurgent campaign, is now defending himself against claims that he donated $25,000 to a group supporting the Florida attorney general, Pam Bondi, to sway her office’s review of fraud allegations at Trump University. Mr. Trump’s payment of a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service over that 2013 campaign gift amounted to only the latest slap of his wrist in a decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.”

[Never is a long time… - TPM: “According to Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, when Trump told reporters he ‘never’ spoke to Bondi about ‘it,’ he meant that he never spoke to her about Trump University, which Bondi was considering suing at the time of the contribution. ‘His comments were in reference to any discussion about Trump University — not the donation,’ Hicks told Politico.]

AP: “Lawmakers returning to Washington after a seven-week break picked up right where they left off — feuding about legislation to battle the mosquito-borne Zika virus and deadlocked over the defense budget. A tightening presidential race and pitched warfare for control of the Senate this November promise to overshadow whatever Congress accomplishes in an election-shortened September session — which, for now, looks like little more than a temporary government-wide spending bill to prevent a shutdown at month's end, possibly linked to money to battle Zika. In its first vote Tuesday, Senate Democrats for the third time blocked a $1.1 billion Zika funding package and an accompanying Veterans Administration spending bill over restrictions on Planned Parenthood. They then voted to prevent the Senate from turning to a $576 billion Pentagon spending measure.”

[Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., explains that Democrats needs to stop ‘playing games’ with the Zika funding bill.]

McConnell-allied Senate groups smash fundraising expectations - Politico

Hispanic Koch-backed group puts big bucks behind Rubio - Tampa Bay Times

New Arizona poll shows Clinton, Trump in dead heat - The Arizona Republic

Clinton launches Spanish-language ads - The Hill

Purported Benghazi email trove turns up bupkis - The Hill

Trump’s attacks target Clinton foundation where it hurts: Haiti - WaPo

Former Texas official claims he was pressured to drop Trump fraud probe - CBS News

Meet Clinton’s data guru - Politico

Meet Russia’s ‘Michael Jackson,’ friend and admirer of Trump - BBC

Ben Carson says Trump’s primary immigration promises ‘irrelevant’ - Politico

RNC digital boss is also the CEO of a vendor selling to the committee - BuzzFeed

“I could use some.” – Hillary Clinton responding to a radio host who suggested her coughing sounds like someone on medicinal marijuana.

“You say the ‘worthwhile’ polls show Donald behind. Yet Fox News on one of their publications shows Trump either neck-&-neck or slightly ahead of Hillary. Who do I believe?” – Lois Wright, Roswell, Ga.

[Ed. note: Your question got me thinking, Ms. Wright. So, as we did above today, we’re going to be including the list of polls included in our averages so you can dig around yourself and play with the numbers. And as for whom to believe, my advice is: none of them… too much. The reason we prefer averages to polls is that it smoothes things out and gives a better shape of the race. Gorge yourself on individual polls to learn about demographics and trends, but make your steady diet on averages. It will save you time and sanity.]

“First off, you are quickly becoming my favorite political analyst. Don't ever lose your ‘the sky is NOT falling’ attitude. It keeps me from drinking too much. Well, that and Jesus. Suppose Hillary does win. How much more liberal do you think her Supreme Court nominee would be, in comparison to [Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland]. And what do you think would be the first major decision the newly tilted court would be tasked with making? Thanks in advance. If you and [Dana Perino] up your podcast to twice a week, I would not be mad.” – Amy Williams, Oklahoma

[Ed. note: And you quickly became my favorite correspondent of the day! Thanks so much, Ms. Williams, and I will pass your kind words on to Dana. And since she is allllllways sweating me to finish sooner, I’ll keep my answer brief; What Clinton might do as president would depend on how she won: was it a squeaker, a blowout and, most importantly, did she have a Democratic Congress to push her agenda through. And as for Garland, if she wins, he’d almost certainly be confirmed before she ever took office.]

“Chris, if my math is correct, 1000 out of 135 million equals one in 135 thousand, which would not place you between unimaginable wealth and a briny death…” – Dave Wittnebert, Seneca, S.C.

[Ed. note: Good question! But like each Powerball ticket and each shark attack, each call has its own probability. Pollsters don’t call the same number twice in the same sample – it’s one and done. Now, if you had more phone lines, you could increase your chances of being polled, but if each phone number called is randomly selected, each number has the same chances of being called.]

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

OC Register: “A man and woman were arrested early Tuesday morning after attempting to make a traffic stop while impersonating police officers, officials said. A California Highway Patrol spokesman said their motive was unclear, but he did say who they were trying to pull over was certain – an off-duty sergeant. The pair were driving a black, unmarked, police-style Crown Victoria… said Tom Joy, a California Highway Patrol officer and spokesman. ‘He recognized that the red and blue lights were too dim and did not stop,’ Joy said…The Crown Victoria’s spotlights turned on and the sergeant, again, refused to stop. Instead, he detailed what was going on to the dispatcher…The sergeant lagged behind the car and kept an eye on it, and officers were able to pull over the suspects on Center Street.”

“[Vladimir Putin] also has this sort of chip as Russia being treated as a minor power by the West after the Cold War where it could intervene against Russia but not the other way around. I think he’s just enjoying [the narrative of Russia’s involvement in the U.S. presidential race] as a way of turning the tables and showing that he can mess with our heads in the same way.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up