**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: No, free market conservatives are not becoming Dems - Trump’s Tampa rally shows dominance over Florida GOP - Poll: Heller, Rosen in dead heat for Nevada Senate - White House scales back shutdown threat - One ugly baby
NO, FREE MARKET CONSERVATIVES ARE NOT BECOMING DEMS
There’s been considerable discussion around the idea, encapsulated in a Politico piece today, that the business community is gravitating toward Democrats in the era of Donald Trump.
While the idea has just the right man-bites-dog appeal for an editor scrounging for summertime think pieces, it strikes us as wrongheaded for a few reasons.
First, many of the biggest in big business already had a blue hue. Never forget that the bigger a company, the more likely it is to favor government regulation and intervention. The small- and medium-sized business guys and gals are the free marketers. The companies with the deep pockets to play the influence game and the profit margins to survive burdens that would crush smaller competitors are no bastions of libertarian thought.
If you think you will be with the winners, you’re all for the government picking winners and losers. When the drug lobby lined up to back ObamaCare, for instance, it was treated as a shocking reversal for a right-leaning industry. Pffffttttt…
Second, given the expected Democratic gains this fall, we would naturally assume that trade groups that rely on friendly relations with the powerful would start hedging their bets. It happened in 2010 and would logically happen the other direction in 2018. Tracking these kinds of contributions is significant not because it is a leading indicator, but rather because it is a lagging one.
Businesses are responding to the same trends we all see, not acting on their preferred outcomes. But like political betting markets, such donation trends have the advantage of crowdsourcing. Donors generally care deeply about how they’re spending their money, and many corporate donors are less interested in shaping outcomes than they are in being favorably positioned for what comes next.
Third, this is not happening in a vacuum. As the Republican Party continues its transition away from conservatism and toward populist nationalism, there will be many on the free-market side of things who abandon a party that embraces economic interventions for its own preferred winners. But there’s zero indication that Democrats will be a welcoming home for the devotees of Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek.
Democrats are rather busy right now trying to find some way to absorb and channel the energy of newly empowered activists on the far left without terrifying suburban swing voters. The idea that there is room in the Democratic Party of the future for the champions of free enterprise sounds as fanciful as the onetime notion that the Tea Party-era GOP could be a lasting home for upscale moderate Democrats put off by the excesses of Barack Obama’s first term.
But none of that is to say that there isn’t a sea change taking place inside the Republican Party right now. And certainly the rupture between President Trump and free-market evangelists Charles and David Koch and the donor network they have built over the past decade is a significant piece of that.
As we have discussed before, Trump would probably benefit from a Democratic takeover of the House. His 2020 chances would be improved for a number of reasons. Swing voters concerned about keeping him in check would be calmed, Republican infighting would be minimized by the end of substantive policy discussions and Trump would have a foil in the new House speaker to run against until Democrats pick their nominee two years from now.
While the Democratic House anguished over articles of impeachment and wasted time on showboat-y oversight hearings, Trump could lament their obstruction and radicalism. Conversely, if House Republicans hold on with a diminished majority, they will be expected to govern. Which they would be unable to do.
Additionally, the Republicans who remain after a shellacking will be far more pro-Trump. Imagine if 35-40 House Republicans lose this fall. They would overwhelmingly come at the expense of moderate, Trump-skeptical Republicans who represent swing districts where the president is unpopular.
The Freedom Caucus might not be able to pick the next speaker of the House, but they’d have a darned strong voice in picking a minority leader.
But there are other virtues for Trump in a midterm loss.
Trump’s onetime soothsayer Steve Bannon is trying to emerge from exile after the president dumped him for his backbiting, leaky ways in the White House. In an interview with New York magazine, Bannon outlined his vision of how the GOP needs to dump dissenters and focus on maximizing participation of core supporters – a mostly male coalition he called “Deplorables Plus.”
“The Republican college-educated woman is done,” Bannon said. “They’re gone. They were going anyway at some point in time. Trump triggers them. This is now the Trump movement.”
Now, this may not be a sound approach for winning a midterm election where the districts most at risk for the GOP are districts where Trump did poorly two years ago, but it is a potential model for Trump’s re-election campaign. After the refiner’s fire of a midterm defeat burns through the GOP, Trump would be freer to run without so many conservative sticklers grousing about ideological transgressions or behavioral excesses.
Trump rightly sees the pro-market, traditional conservatives like the Kochs as a threat to his 2020 ambitions and to his ability to remake the Republican party in his own image and attitude. And such conservatives rightly see that Trump is undoing a multi-generational effort to remake the GOP as a party of Goldwater-Reagan-style classical liberalism.
But the idea that conservative, free-marketers are heading for the Democrats or that Democrats would even have them? We say again: Pfffftttttt…
THE RULEBOOK: RUNNING IN PLACE
“It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22
TIME OUT: DUMPSTER DIVING
The Sacramento Bee: “Max Brown was picking through an Incline Village dumpster for a community service project when a collection of 1980s cassettes caught his eye. … Then he noticed the substantial pile of worn books buried beneath them. … It wasn't until six months had passed that Brown offhandedly bent back the cover of one of the books and saw ‘from the library of Thomas Jefferson’ inscribed on the open page. … After Google searches and Library of Congress inquiries, Brown discovered records suggesting that Jefferson had purchased copies of two of the dumpster-found books in 1818 and had rebound them with a new cover. … Brown shared this information with Endrina Tay, a staffer at Jefferson's presidential library. … Tay concluded that two of the books Brown found were indeed Jefferson's own … But just as much as this revelation gratified Brown, it frustrated him. He had auctioned off the volumes in question months earlier, before he knew the full extent of their value.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent
Net Score: -11.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 58% disapprove; NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist University: 39% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 40 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 0.8 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: Dems 51% - GOP 39%; NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist University: Dems 47% - GOP 40%; Fox News: Dems 48% - GOP 40%; Suffolk University/USA Today: Dems 45% - GOP 39%; CNN: Dems 50% - GOP 42%.]
TRUMP’S TAMPA RALLY SHOWS DOMINANCE OVER FLORIDA GOP
Politico: “As a candidate, Donald Trump humiliated former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and crushed the state’s sitting Sen. Marco Rubio. Now, as president, he’s asserting his dominance over the Republican party in the nation’s most important swing state as he lands in Tampa on Tuesday to rally for Rep. Ron DeSantis’ surging gubernatorial campaign ahead of Florida’s Aug. 28 primary. Heading into the primary season, DeSantis was little-known to Republican voters. But then Trump tweeted support for him in December and followed with a second tweet in June, sending DeSantis zooming ahead of his primary opponent. … ‘Trump is vertically integrating the Republican party,’ said Rep. Matt Gaetz … ‘He’s reshaping the Republican party not just in his rhetoric, that story has been written a thousand times, but through a personnel standpoint,’ Gaetz added, calling the Tampa rally ‘a message to House Republicans.’”
Poll: Scott leads Nelson in Fla. Senate race - Orlando Sentinel: “Gov. Rick Scott has opened up a narrow lead over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in their Senate race, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll. Scott led Nelson by 47 to 44 percent, a small shift toward Scott from the company’s February poll that showed Nelson with a slight one-point lead. Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, based in Jacksonville and Washington, D.C., conducted the survey of 625 registered Florida voters on July 24 and 25. ‘The overall trend line is running in Scott’s favor, as his support has slowly but steadily increased over the last 17 months, while Nelson’s has remained static,’ the poll said.”
Desantis teaches kids to build ‘wall’ in campaign ad - Fox News: “Even Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis’ kids know he supports President Trump. The GOP gubernatorial hopeful highlighted his Trump-themed talks with his two children in his latest campaign ad. In one clip, DeSantis plays with blocks with his daughter, coaching her to ‘build the wall.’ He also tries to teach his daughter to talk by pointing out the ‘Make America Great Again’ words on a Trump campaign sign. … Trump endorsed DeSantis in June, saying he would be “strong on borders, tough on crime [and] big on cutting taxes.”
Kraushaar: Trump has the golden touch in GOP primaries - National Review: “If there’s any doubt that the Republican Party has been reshaped in President Trump’s image, just look at the impeccable record that his endorsed candidates have achieved in primaries this year. Trump is the GOP’s King Midas, turning even some underwhelming candidates into unbeatable juggernauts—at least among rank-and-file Republican voters. Ever since Trump awkwardly waded into the Alabama Senate race, his endorsees have won nine of the last 10 contested races—including a clean sweep in primaries.”
POLL: HELLER, ROSEN IN DEAD HEAT FOR NEVADA SENATE
Reno Gazette-Journal: “Undecided voters could play a major role in Nevada come November as the race for U.S. Senate and governor are locked in a virtual dead heat. The contest for U.S. Senate between Republican incumbent Dean Heller and Democratic challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen is statistically tied in the Silver State, according to a Suffolk University/Reno Gazette Journal poll released Tuesday. Heller is facing a higher unfavorability rating among likely voters. About 41 percent of voters have a negative view of the incumbent while 39 percent have a favorable rating. Meanwhile, 34 percent of voters gave Rosen a favorable rating compared to 27 percent who gave her a negative view. There's another challenge facing the Democratic challenger: name recognition. About 16 percent of likely voters have never heard of Rosen — higher than any other major candidate on Nevada's ballot this fall.”
Poll: Cuomo holds two-to-one lead over Nixon - Siena College: “With a little more than six weeks until primary day, Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a two-to-one, 60-29 percent lead over Cynthia Nixon in the battle for the Democratic nomination for Governor … ‘Liberal Democrats are strongly with Cuomo, while moderates are overwhelmingly with Cuomo. Nixon trails among men by 26 points and an even larger 34 points with women. Cuomo has the support of three-quarters of black Democrats and two-thirds of Latinos,’ Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said. ‘More than 80 percent of Democrats supporting Cuomo say they are voting for him more than voting against Nixon, however, 60 percent of Nixon voters say their vote is more against Cuomo than it is for her. Nixon has the anti-Cuomo Democrats but she’ll need to expand on that to make this race competitive.’”
Pence stumps for Balderson in Ohio - Cleveland Plain Dealer: “In the final days of an intense campaign for Ohio's 12th Congressional District, Vice President Mike Pence visited Monday to rally support for Republican Troy Balderson. The vice president's appearance in GOP-friendly Licking County illustrates both the competitiveness and the importance given to the Aug. 7 special election among Balderson, Democrat Danny O'Connor and Green Party nominee Joe Manchik. Democrats are hoping to flip the Central Ohio district that they have won exactly once since 1940, giving them momentum as they attempt to recapture the House in the November midterms.”
Trumpified GOP flipping Connecticut’s electoral map - AP: “In this year’s election, candidates for statewide office often stump east of the Connecticut River, reaching out to the many blue-collar Republicans who enthusiastically backed Donald Trump in 2016 and now complain they’re fed up with the Democrats at the state Capitol. In Ashford — a community of 4,300 about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of Hartford — Gerald Nagy, the Republican chairman of the Town Committee, is seeing the shift before his eyes. ‘Over the last year, since last summer, I have had 10 guest speakers in this room speaking to this committee,’ Nagy said. ‘The candidates see an opportunity.’ While Democratic candidates in Connecticut and other traditionally blue states have been exploiting Trump’s unpopularity, hoping it will bring out voters, GOP contenders are courting newly discovered pockets of Trump supporters for the Aug. 14 primary.
WHITE HOUSE SCALES BACK SHUTDOWN THREAT
WSJ: “President Trump has been threatening to close down the government if Congress doesn’t meet his immigration priorities, but he has privately agreed to put off a potential shutdown or any fight over border wall funding until after the midterm elections, an administration official said Monday … Mr. Trump supports a plan to avert a shutdown before the election by passing some less-controversial spending bills and a short-term patch that would keep the rest of the government running, the administration official said. ‘The president made it very clear to the leadership that a fight was coming and he’s done putting it off … he understands the political practicalities of having to put it off until after the election but it’s coming in early November and early December … The president sees merit in having this battle after the election.’”
GOP leaders yawn at Trump’s shutdown threats - Politico: “President Donald Trump keeps threatening a government shutdown over his border wall. And Republican leaders keep ignoring his warnings. The congressional GOP is intent on sending Trump a series of government spending bills over the next two months that would fund the vast majority of the federal government. And despite the president’s statement on Monday that he would have ‘no problem doing a shutdown,’ Republicans seem sure that he’s not talking about a funding lapse right before the midterm elections. … Asked whether he took Trump's shutdown threats seriously, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) replied: ‘No. He knows that would be a disaster. I think he wants to throw everything out there so everyone knows it’s an important thing. He knows the game.’”
Senate digs through record number of documents on Kavanaugh - USA Today: “Senators have begun the deepest dive ever into the writings of a Supreme Court nominee, digging into a record 1 million-plus pages of legal opinions and emails from Brett Kavanaugh's career as a federal judge, White House attorney, and assistant to the prosecutor who investigated former President Bill Clinton. The massive volume of Kavanaugh's records dwarfs those of the last two Supreme Court justices to be confirmed – Neil Gorsuch and Elena Kagan. Senators reviewed about 182,000 pages of documents on Gorsuch and about 170,000 pages on Kagan. … Democrats and Republicans are battling over whether they should have access to more as they debate the merits of President Donald Trump's nominee. The fight centers on whether senators should see emails and other documents from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary to former President George W. Bush, from 2003-2006.”
JURY SELECTED IN MANFORT TRIAL
WaPo: “A jury of six men and six women has been seated who will decide whether President Trump’s former campaign chairman is guilty of several felonies. Paul Manafort is on trial in Alexandria federal court on bank- and tax-fraud charges brought by the special counsel investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election. “Nothing you do as an American citizen is more important than jury duty,” Judge T.S. Ellis said. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made working for a Russia-backed political party in Ukraine, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in. Potential jurors had already answered written questions regarding their knowledge of the case and their ability to set that knowledge aside. Based on their answers, Ellis rejected more than three dozen people because they had competing obligations or indicated they could not be impartial.”
Trump team preparing report to counter Robert Mueller - USA Today: “Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's lawyer, said his team was preparing a "counter-report" designed to rebut any accusations that special counsel Robert Mueller makes in his expected report about the Russia investigation. Giuliani told USA TODAY that he believed Mueller's team is ‘writing the report as we speak.’ Giuliani's own team worked on its ‘counter-report,’ which he said would be released after his team reviewed whatever Mueller filed with the Justice Department. It's unclear whether the special counsel will file anything with the DOJ. … Giuliani said he had no firsthand knowledge of Mueller's plans, but he expected the special counsel to file something by Sept. 1, two months before the midterm elections.
Lawmakers struggling to develop a response to Trump-Putin - AP: “Congress is producing an unusual outpouring of bills, resolutions and new sanctions proposals to push back at President Donald Trump’s approach to Vladimir Putin, shore up relations with NATO allies and prevent Russian interference in the midterm election. But it remains uncertain if any of their efforts will yield results. Lawmakers are struggling with internal party divisions as well as their own onslaught of proposals as they try to move beyond a symbolic rebuke of Trump’s interactions with the Russian president and exert influence both at home and abroad. And while many Democrats are eager for quick votes, some Republicans prefer none at all.”
John Kelly to remain Trump’s chief of staff through 2020 - WaPo
Trump isolated from GOP amid talks with Europe - WashEx
‘A cloud of weed and French-fry exhaust’: Dems contemplate a long strange 2020 trip - Daily Beast
Trump administration mulls a unilateral tax cut for the wealthy - NYT
Grassley, Feinstein probe alleged misconduct at migrant detention centers - AP
Mystery sting targets Shaheen for dirt on Russia sanctions - Daily Beast
AUDIBLE: TUNE IN, TURN ON…
“I'm thinking, 'Man, I must be dropping acid.' Not that I've ever dropped acid. But…for the record, I have not.” – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in a Senate hearing today on the suggestion that the federal government should trim its administrative healthcare costs.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I am a die-hard supporter of the President through and through. Genuine or not, he stood up for the heartland when no one else would and that goes a long way. I am a teacher who pays dues to a union that doesn’t represent my political interests. My husband works in a steel factory, so to see Trump bucking the old school globalist Republican orthodoxy is a welcome change. The fact that the economy has continued to roar despite the fearmongering of the “free traders” SHOULD be a recipe for strong GOP elections in 2018 and 2020. But like your column on Friday pointed out, I fear we are living through an age where “it’s the economy, stupid” less and less and elections are more a result of whether or not we just plain old like someone. If the Democrats are as fired up as they appear to be about our President’s anti-PC stance, I think that will be the driving force in any national election while he is our President. What I’m saying is, it’s actually not the economy, in my opinion! Does that mean I’m stupid?” – Shirley Middledich, Terre Haute, Ind.
[Ed. note: Ha! Our politics fail us when they fail to reflect the baffling, contradictory wonderful complexity of human nature. Before “it’s the economy, stupid” the saying was “people vote their pocketbooks.” And while economic concerns may be at the top of the heap of issues for most voters, we still have to pay attention to what’s in the rest of the heap. And, most importantly, the context. Politics, like much in life, depends not on how well you do, but rather how much better you do than expected. Trump has made good use of the claims his detractors made about him in 2016. Democrats argued that a Trump victory would mean nuclear war and an economic depression. Every day with peace and prosperity therefore can be cast as a win for Trump. But every day of beating those expectations bumps the bar a little higher for 2020, something he will have to bear in mind.] ]
“The problem with the Dems is they are moving too far left. I’m not a Trump voter, more of independent, but I voted for Hillary Clinton because I thought at least I knew what she was about and she seemed willing to make some compromises, while Trump was all over the map. I used to vote Republican down the ballot, but the Tea Party movement and some of the far right crazies scared me away. Now the left seem to be doing the same with this Cortez nut who wants to provide free this and that and the other. If Bernie or her runs in 2020, I fear I’ll have no options left, and I’ll probably just go back to voting Republican by default. Say what you want about Trump (I probably agree!) but I don’t want to be Venezuela!”– Peter Leonard, Denton, Del.
[Ed. note: I think you’ll be safe from Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in 2020, Mr. Leonard. She won’t be 35 until 2024, so you have a minute on that one! But I certainly take your point. Both parties are radicalizing and leaving a growing majority of Americans feeling alienated. I would submit, though, that **ahem** market forces will work to rectify the problem. Either one party or the other will find a way to scoop up the neglected moderate majority or another party will show up to pick all of that low-hanging electoral fruit that both left-wing socialists and right-wing nationalists are leaving on the tree. The other possibility is that events will intervene and force us to grow up and act like Americans again. As for your voting habits, I will say this: Factionalism is an unavoidable byproduct of liberty. But it is not a prerequisite for participation, especially as a voter.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
ONE UGLY BABY
KENS-5: “Two people have confessed to stealing a shark from the San Antonio Aquarium and concealing it in a stroller. According to the Leon Valley Police Department, a male suspect reached into the tank and removed a gray horn shark from an exhibit. ‘Security footage indicated that the suspects brought their own net to capture the horn shark’ the aquarium said in a statement. ‘After grabbing the shark they entered into one of our filter rooms where they poured the bucket of bleach solution that employees used for the disinfection of tools into our cold water exhibit filtration system, causing harm to other wildlife. (If it weren't for the fast acting experienced staff, the bleach would have done more damage.) They then used the sanitation bucket to aide in transportation of the shark into the stroller and hurried up the stairs and out to the parking lot.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Things can’t get any worse, we hear, so why not shake things to their foundation? Anyone who thinks things can’t get any worse knows nothing. And risks everything.” – Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post, February 11, 2016.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Dave Sweet contributed to this report.