No secret genius in Trump’s attacks on freshman four


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On the roster: No secret genius in Trump’s attacks on freshman four - I’ll Tell You What: Fan service - Bernie goes all in on health care attacks - House kills impeachment resolution against Trump - Randy, indeed 

NO SECRET GENIUS IN TRUMP’S ATTACKS ON FRESHMAN FOUR 

At this point in 2018, Democrats led Republicans by almost 8 points on the question of which party voters preferred to control Congress. 

As it would turn out, that’s almost exactly where the final tally ended up in November. Democrats would go on to exceed the 35-seat gain that was expected for their party in the House. 

But at that moment, Republicans had their doubts about the polls. Sure, President Trump had just stumbled through his summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but the economy was good and Trump had just nominated appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy

As the summer wore on, Republican optimism increased as Democrats began sharpening their attacks on Kavanaugh. 

And then on Sept. 16, lightning struck. A psychology professor from California went public with her accusation of rape against Kavanaugh and one of his friends when the boys were in high school in suburban Washington. 

The instant political analysis, guided by lots of polling that supported the claim, was that Democrats were making a political mistake in backing so strongly the accuser. Many Republican voters were feeling blue because of the expected midterm tsunami, but the Kavanaugh fight – centered as it was on a backlash against the #metoo movement – was just the thing to get GOP voters to storm the polls in November.

We bring this all up because of the analysis we are hearing that Trump’s incendiary feud with four freshmen congresswomen is of some real political significance for 2020. 

First, a little hindquarters covering on our part: Any analysis of an election 474 days away comes with enough caveats to render it nearly meaningless. We have little idea how the Democratic nominating process will go and, more importantly, no reasonable way to speculate on what the economy will look like a year from now. 

All of that having been said, this looks like another Kavanaugh moment. 

While it is certainly true that for members of the president’s die-hard base, his nativist-sounding attacks on Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley are seriously stimulating. 

Even better for their partisan tingles, the hated media is practically drowning in accusations of racism against the president. Any day that Trump is being called a racist by the New York Times, Washington Post, most television networks and by official decree of the Democratically controlled Congress is a satisfying day for the president’s base. 

When the president’s supporters chanted, “Send her back,” about Somali-born Omar at a campaign rally Wednesday, it had to be music to Trump’s ears. His supporters have already internalized his defiant response to the racism claims. 

Trump today officially distanced himself from the chant, saying he didn’t like it, but that will only make it more delightful to his most enthusiastic supporters. We expect we will hear it with the same kind of regularity with which Trump supporters would roar for the incarceration of Hillary Clinton. The fact that it’s a little forbidden makes it even more tantalizing.

So is it all a genius political play? Nah.

Trump has made no secret that he intends to run against the most radical vision of the Democratic Party imaginable: socialism, infanticide and open borders. To that end, almost anything Trump does to elevate the freshman four helps drive home his 2020 narrative.

But that doesn’t quite apply here. The stakes and level of interest are far lower now than they were a year ago with the Kavanaugh nomination, but the contours look the same.

Were there some upsides for Republicans to having a Supreme Court nominee accused of a drunken high-school rape? Sure. It mobilized the GOP base and donor class in a serious way. Would it have been better to not have had the ordeal? Probably.

The Kavanaugh carnage wasn’t forgotten by November, but any lingering political effects had dissipated. Democrats did a little better than expected, exceeding even the good performance polls had been forecasting for months and months. Red wave, red schmave.

Are there some upsides for Republicans to the accusations of racism against Trump? Sure. When the president, who is hugely popular in his party, is perceived as being under siege, there’s an obvious rally-round-the-flag effect. Would it be better if Trump could avoid saying that immigrants who criticize the country should go back to where they came from? You bet.  

The 2020 election will be fought in the suburbs, and this week Trump reminded the same voters who took the House from Republicans last year why they don’t much care for the GOP these days.

THE RULEBOOK: OF, BY, FOR THE PEOPLE 
“Although [some men] might not have been personally concerned in the administration, and therefore not immediately agents in the measures to be examined, they would probably have been involved in the parties connected with these measures, and have been elected under their auspices.” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 50

TIME OUT: EVERYTHING BUT THE SQUEAL 
Garden&Gun: “In Memphis, where dry-rub pork spareribs and pork shoulder sandwiches became twentieth-century coins of the barbecue realm, and where pork obsessives still convene each May to crown world champions of whole hogs, pork shoulders, and pork ribs, barbecue is in flux. Across the city, across the South, across the nation, new definitions, new dishes, and new personalities have emerged. For lovers of barbecue, this is a time of great change and great promise. It’s also a time of questions: Do we now witness the beginning of the end? Or the dawn of a golden age? Not long ago, it was common to categorize our crazy quilt of barbecue styles and substyles into four regions: Carolinas, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas. America is now unlearning that too-simple narrative. Dishes once cooked and served in a couple of counties in one state now span the region. … Cities that have not been traditional centers of barbecue excellence now host vital interpreters of classic styles and makers of new styles.” 

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance
Average approval
: 44.8 percent
Average disapproval: 50.6 percent
Net Score: -5.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.6 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 47% approve - 50% disapprove; CNN: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 43% approve - 49% disapprove.]

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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: FAN SERVICE
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the ongoing battle between President Trump and House Democrats and how the 2020 field should be considered a five person race... but not really. Plus, Dana answers mailbag questions and Chris answers trivia questions. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

BERNIE GOES ALL IN ON HEALTH CARE ATTACKS 
Fox News: “Sen. Bernie Sanders put a number on his Medicare-for-all plan this week, saying his proposed successor to ObamaCare would likely cost between $30 trillion and $40 trillion over 10 years. The presidential candidate also dismissed criticisms of his plan's feasibility as ‘absurd,’ claiming it would actually help the U.S. save money, he told The Washington Post. ‘What the most serious economists tell us, that if we do nothing to fundamentally change the health care system, which is what Joe [Biden] was talking about, keeping it as it is, we'll be spending something like $50 trillion over a 10-year period,’ he told The Post. … In a speech Wednesday at George Washington University, Sanders said it is an ‘international embarrassment’ that the U.S. doesn’t guarantee health care as a right. He said under his plan patients would still be able to see their doctors but won’t have to ‘deal with rip-off insurance companies.’”

Former Obama, Clinton bundlers torn between Biden, Buttigieg and Harris - Politico: “Big-money Democratic donors have jumped off the sidelines of the presidential race, and three candidates are the clear winners of their support: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Each of those three candidates received more than 220 donations from top fundraisers who helped raise at least $100,000 (and sometimes many multiples more) for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign or at least $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2012, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission data. Members of this group of nearly 2,000 so-called ‘bundlers’ have tapped their personal networks in the past to collectively raise tens of millions of dollars for Democratic campaigns. But while top Democratic fundraisers donated more money in the second quarter than in the slow first three months of the race, many are no closer to choosing a single candidate…”

‘Pete Buttigieg Is Still Figuring This Out’ - NYT: “Amid the attention paid to Buttigieg’s eclecticisms — his frequent literary references, his ability to speak eight languages, his classical piano training and Radiohead fandom — it’s easy to overlook the fact that he is, at heart, a fairly conventional political animal. Buttigieg is steeped in campaign life, having worked for John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008, and he tends to talk, more than most candidates, like an operative. In 2017, he ran unsuccessfully to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee — a position that is essentially that of a glorified fund-raiser, talking head and political strategist rolled into one. His early ambitions, his methodical climb up the accomplishment ladder and his youthful attention to networking have more in common with Bill Clinton than Obama.”

HOUSE KILLS IMPEACHMENT RESOLUTION AGAINST TRUMP
WaPo: “House Democrats joined with Republicans on Wednesday to kill an impeachment resolution against President Trump, a move that is likely to rankle the Democratic Party’s liberal base clamoring to oust the president. The vote was 332 to 95, with 95 Democrats voting to keep the resolution alive and 137 of their colleagues siding with Republicans. It was a surprising turn, just one day after the two parties bickered bitterly over House passage of a resolution condemning Trump’s racist remarks. Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) put Democratic leaders in a bind Tuesday night by filing articles of impeachment accusing Trump of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. His resolution, which cited Trump’s comments targeting four minority Democratic congresswomen, was privileged, requiring that the House act within two days. … Senior Democratic leaders favored a procedural vote to table, or effectively kill, the resolution, avoiding a direct vote on the impeachment articles. Republicans supported that step, receiving the sign-off from the White House, said a Republican congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.”

The Judge’s Ruling: The Limits of Free Speech - This week, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why Trump’s attack on congresswomen was ‘racist,’ but House Dems shouldn’t censure him: “We have a president who sounds more like a Mafia don than a statesman and a Congress that wants to pick and choose whose offensive words to condemn. Yet even a condemnation of Trump by the House alone -- the Senate seems to work for him -- would be legally meaningless and also just words. Any person faithful to the Constitution should disagree with all these words -- the president’s words and the censuring congressional words. But like Voltaire, a patriot will defend to the death the right to utter them. In America, we don’t punish mere words, and there are no limits on public free speech – ‘free’ meaning free from government interference.” More here.

House votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt - WaPo: “The House on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for failing to provide documents related to the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, escalating the fight between Democrats and the White House over congressional oversight. The 230-to-198 vote along party lines came one day after the House approved a resolution condemning President Trump’s racist remarks aimed at four minority congresswomen. After a string of legal defeats, Trump last week abruptly retreated from his efforts to add the question to the census, announcing that he will instead order federal agencies to provide the Commerce Department with records on the numbers of citizens and noncitizens in the country. But lawmakers continue to demand answers about the motivations behind the administration’s 19-month effort to ask about citizenship status on the decennial survey.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Pergram: Unprecedented anger on House floor, but things are looking up - Fox News

Budget deal hits hurdle on offsetting increases for defense and non-defense programs The Hill

Trump campaign finance investigation at an end NYT

AUDIBLE: HMMMMMMMMM…
“And so I always leave open the possibility that something will change and my path in life will change too…” – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking with a Kansas City radio station on Wednesday, appeared to be reconsidering his stance on a Senate run in Kansas. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I read your answer to Mr. Perry [in Wednesday’s Halftime Report] and was happy to see that someone with a voice is aware of the slow, self-imposed, erosion of the powers and duties of the legislative branch. I do however see a little light being shed on the problem by the Supreme Court. Two recent cases decided by the court have sent a message to both the legislature and the federal courts as to their duty. Rucho instructed the Federal Bench that gerrymandering for political reasons was beyond the reach of the judiciary and was a state question. The Davis decision said that a law was unconstitutional as a ‘vague law was no law at all.’ The court’s opinion stated ‘When Congress passes a vague law, the role of courts under our Constitution is not to fashion a new, clearer law to take its place, but to treat the law as a nullity and invite Congress to try again.’ They court has clearly said put in the hard work and do your job. Maybe there is still some hope.” – Walter Roth Jr., Ayden, N.C.

[Ed. note: Amazing as it may sound, the defining issue for the high court in the next decade may be deference to the legislative branch. Chief Justice John Roberts has certainly made it his cause, and with the aid of Justice Neil Gorsuch, seems to be making some serious headway. We may yet even see the entire concept of the administrative state – the intentional devolution of congressional power in favor of executive bureaucracies – toppled. Wild!]    

“With all of the money being raised by the two major parties, do you think it might be a good idea to buy some stock in various advertising agencies or media companies since that is where almost all of that money is going to end up?” – Chuck Howard III, Munford, Tenn.

[Ed. note: Trust me when I say, Mr. Howard, that there are lots of hogs at that trough. The biggest beneficiaries of the money are likely to be local television stations and Facebook. And with the current forecast of $10 billion in election spending, there will be lots to spread around. But also keep it in context: Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on fishing equipment.] 

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

RANDY, INDEED 
ITV: “Staff at Hatton Country World in Warwickshire [England] couldn't understand why they suddenly had 100 pregnant guinea pigs on their hands - until they realized one of the male rodents had managed to escape his enclosure and infiltrate the female-only enclosure. They noticed that the exhausted father-to-be, now nicknamed Randy, had lost a little weight, but did not realize why until they discovered he was actually a male rodent being kept busy in the wrong pen. The animal park, which already has 300 male and female guinea pigs, is now readying itself for a population boom in the next few weeks. … ‘We don't know how long Randy was in the female enclosure but it could have been several weeks which would have given him time to go round the entire female population.’ … Staff are now looking to build an extension to the guinea pig farm to accommodate Randy's huge brood.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Football has even less respect for time. In fine imperial fashion, it decrees its own calendar, with its own Year One. To make matters worse, football tried to abolish the seasons.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Jan. 25, 1985.

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.