**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Pelosi trumps Trump - I’ll Tell You What: This podcast has no side effects - Fox Poll: Shutdown alarms voters, Trump gets blame - ‘Medicare for all’ poses dangers for 2020 Dems - He'll be on his way in a Jif
PELOSI TRUMPS TRUMP
One of the arguments made for Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, especially from the candidate himself, was that because Democrats are so bad, mean and nasty, it was time for Republicans to respond in kind.
As he scythed his way through the Republican field, the howls rose up from the squeamish. Trump dealt in half-truths and peddled obvious fictions to harm his opponents. He was cruel and taunting. He was unserious on policy and only cared about political advantage.
That came the response from the deplorables: But he fights. After eight years of believing that squishy establishment Republicans knuckled under to the extravagant demands of Barack Obama and pressure from the media, Trump’s core supporters relished his pugnacious, audacious candidacy.
One thing many political reporters and most Democrats fail to see about the Trump phenomenon is that something like a third of the country saw in Obama all of the evils commonly seen in Trump. It’s fine to talk of “whataboutism” or to declare it invalid as a mode of argument, but that does not change the way those voters view the world.
And Trump certainly did have a point about the reflexive crouch in which many of his fellow Republicans placed themselves. Rather than fighting for conservative positions, many seemed to be arguing for a slower implementation of liberal policies, especially on the sharpest of wedge issues, immigration.
After dispatching a field of more than a dozen candidates of some standing, Trump turned his attention to the other party. Democrats, unfortunately for them, had chosen exactly the wrong person to deal with the honey badger candidate. Much of Hillary Clinton’s career was spent shaming people into not discussing her obvious weak spots, including corruption and her husband’s satyriac scandals.
Like Primo Carnera, Hillary had faced so many palookas in her career she had forgotten that the fights had been rigged until she got to the heavyweight bout. It was an Electoral College TKO.
Things moved along pretty well in the first half of Trump’s term because his opponents were Republicans. Trump did not get everything he wanted, but his opponents in the GOP were highly motivated to accommodate or at least placate him wherever possible.
If you string together the statements from Republican leaders in Congress from 2017 and 2018 you can almost hear the fear. Some longtime senators basically fled the scene rather than face Trump’s wrath. He did not win in every primary where he played, but his record was good enough to convince even well-established GOPers that it was better to play along and live to fight another day.
In his brief but meteoric political career, however, Trump has never faced the likes of Nancy Pelosi.
Unlike the Republicans, she has no right flank for him to threaten. Unlike Hillary, Pelosi is not the least bit concerned about appearing ruthless or being unpopular. Likability, schmikability. Worse for Trump, he doesn’t have to just beat Pelosi in one contest, he has to battle with her for two years, including during his re-election effort.
Consider the battle over Trump’s State of the Union Address. She invites him, he accepts and then she pulls the rug out from underneath him. Trump retaliates, canceling her trip to Afghanistan and then boldly declares that he’s coming to give the speech whether she likes it or not.
This afternoon Trump found himself out honey badgered when she simply said no. Talk about shut down.
Trump can complain all he wants about her cruel partisanship or stage a media stunt or stomp on his hat, but it won’t matter to her. Her constituents in San Francisco and her fellow Democrats in the House will only love it more.
And for those Democrats and media observers who will complain that she’s being petty or vindictive and that this is a distraction from the real issues, she and her supporters will know just what to say: But she fights.
THE RULEBOOK: ABOUT THAT…
“As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 51
TIME OUT: OUT OF POCKET EXPENSES
NatGeo: “Australia has a complicated relationship with its national symbol. Kangaroos are among the world’s most iconic, charismatic species—the living, bounding emblems of the country’s unique biodiversity. At once sublime and adorably absurd, they are evolutionary marvels—the only large animal that hops. And Australians are demonstrably proud of them. Kangaroos star in movies and TV shows, poems and children’s books. … There may be no animal and nation in the world more closely identified. But there are more than twice as many kangaroos as people in Australia, according to official government figures, and many Aussies consider them pests. Landholding farmers, called graziers, say that the country’s estimated 50 million kangaroos damage their crops and compete with livestock for scarce resources. Australia’s insurance industry says that kangaroos are involved in more than 80 percent of the 20,000-plus vehicle-animal collisions reported each year.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 38.6 percent
Average disapproval: 56.6 percent
Net Score: -18 points
Change from one week ago: down 2 points
[Average includes: CBS News: 36% approve - 59% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; Pew: 39% approve - 58% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 37% approve - 57% disapprove.]
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: THIS PODCAST HAS NO SIDE EFFECTS
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the possibility of Secretary of State Pompeo running for U.S. Senate, whether or not there will be a State of the Union on January 29th and the candidacy of Kamala Harris. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
FOX POLL: SHUTDOWN ALARMS VOTERS, TRUMP GETS BLAME
Fox News: “Most voters consider the partial government shutdown a major problem or, even worse, an emergency, according to a new Fox News Poll. After a 33-day stalemate over the funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, the poll also finds an uptick in support for President Trump’s most memorable campaign promise: 43 percent now favor the wall, up from 39 percent in September. Fifty-one percent oppose the wall (unchanged). In a televised meeting in December, Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that, ‘I will be the one to shut it down. I won’t blame you for it.’ The poll finds a slim 51 percent majority says the president indeed is responsible for the shutdown, while 34 percent blame congressional Democrats, 3 percent blame congressional Republicans, and 9 percent blame all of the above. More voters say the federal shutdown is a bigger issue than the border: 75 percent consider the shutdown an emergency or major problem. That’s far more than the 59 percent who feel the same about the situation at the border”
Shutdown shocks multiplying - CNBC: “The financial shock is about to get much worse for government employees sidelined by the budget stalemate in Washington. If the partial government shutdown continues through this week – and there is no end in sight – Friday will mark the second paycheck missed by affected federal workers, whose household budgets have been completely upended. An estimated 800,000 government employees have been caught in the political crossfire of the shutdown, now in its fifth week. Roughly 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed and 420,000 are working without pay. The impact of the government shutdown on the overall U.S. economy, so far, has been limited. Yet, just as the economic impact is concentrated on furloughed workers, some companies and industries are taking a bigger hit than others. Commercial airlines, for example, are facing slower demand as airports struggle with understaffed security checkpoints, are losing revenue.”
White House braces for deepening effects - WaPo: “White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has pressed agency leaders to provide him with a list of the most high-impact programs that will be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March and April, people familiar with the directive said. Mulvaney wants the list no later than Friday, these people said, and it’s the firmest evidence to date that the White House is preparing for a lengthy funding lapse that could have snowballing impacts on the economy and government services. The request is the first known inquiry from a top White House official seeking information about the spreading impact of the shutdown, which has entered its fifth week and is the longest in U.S. history. So far, top White House officials have been particularly focused on lengthening wait times at airport security, but not the sprawling interruption of programs elsewhere in the government.”
Senate to vote on competing bills Thursday - NYT: “The Senate will hold competing votes on Thursday on President Trump’s proposal to spend $5.7 billion on a border wall and on a Democratic bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8 without a wall. It will be the first time the Senate has stepped off the sidelines to try to end the month long government shutdown. The procedural move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is the first time the parties have agreed to do virtually anything since the shutdown began Dec. 22. With most Republicans united behind Mr. Trump’s insistence that any legislation to reopen the government include money for a border wall and most Democrats opposed to the linkage, neither measure is expected to draw the 60 votes required to advance.”
Scramble to save health benefits for workers at risk from shutdown - Morning Consult: “As unpaid government employees with dental and vision insurance through the federal program run the risk of losing coverage once the partial government shutdown eclipses a second pay period Friday, the Office of Personnel Management is working with carriers to extend the grace period from two missed paychecks to three, two individuals with knowledge of the talks said. According to OPM guidance, families with dental and vision insurance through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program who pay premiums via deductions or allotments from a pay provider will be billed for their premiums after two missed pay periods, and enrollees must pay on a ‘timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage.’ Jan. 25 will mark the day furloughed and unpaid working employees miss their second paycheck, and many don’t have the funds to pay the premiums themselves.”
Hardship exemptions for IRS workers may delay tax refunds - WaPo: “Hundreds of Internal Revenue Service employees have received permission to skip work during the partial government shutdown due to financial hardship, and union leaders said Tuesday that they expected absences to surge as part of a coordinated protest that could hamper the government’s ability to process taxpayer refunds on time. The Trump administration last week ordered at least 30,000 IRS workers back to their offices, where they have been working to process refunds without pay. … But IRS employees across the country — some in coordinated protest, others out of financial necessity — won’t be clocking in, according to Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, and several local union officials.”
If it rhymes then it must be true - Fox News: “President Trump on Wednesday unveiled a new slogan for the border wall as he presses Democrats to agree to funding for the project amid the government shutdown standoff. ‘BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL! This is the new theme, for two years until the Wall is finished (under construction now), of the Republican Party. Use it and pray!’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. Again, two minutes later, the president tweeted: ‘BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!’ The slogan would seemingly replace the old, ‘BUILD THAT WALL’ that so many Trump supporters have chanted at rallies across the country since he announced his intention to run for president in 2015.”
‘MEDICARE FOR ALL’ POSES DANGERS FOR 2020 DEMS
AP: “Americans like the idea of ‘Medicare-for-all,’ but support flips to disapproval if it would result in higher taxes or longer waits for care. That’s a key insight from a national poll released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. It comes as Democratic presidential hopefuls embrace the idea of a government-run health care system… The poll found that Americans initially support ‘Medicare-for-all,’ 56 percent to 42 percent. However, those numbers shifted dramatically when people were asked about the potential impact, pro and con. Support increased when people were told ‘Medicare-for-all’ would guarantee health insurance as a right (71 percent) and eliminate premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs (67 percent). But if they were told that a government-run system could lead to delays in getting care or higher taxes, support plunged to 26 percent and 37 percent, respectively. Support fell to 32 percent if it would threaten the current Medicare program.”
Where does Biden’s loyalty lie? - NYT: “Joseph R. Biden Jr. swept into Benton Harbor, Mich., three weeks before the November elections, in the midst of his quest to reclaim the Midwest for Democrats. … But Mr. Biden was not there to denounce [Rep. Fred Upton]. Instead, he was collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience, according to a speaking contract obtained by The New York Times and interviews with organizers. … As Mr. Biden considers a bid for the presidency in 2020, the episode underscores his potential vulnerabilities in a fight for the Democratic nomination and raises questions about his judgment as a party leader. Mr. Biden has attempted to strike a balance since leaving office, presenting himself as a unifying statesman who could unseat President Trump while also working to amass a modest fortune of several million dollars. But Mr. Biden’s appearance in Michigan plainly set his lucrative personal activities at odds with what some Democrats saw as his duty to the party…”
Schiff to New Hampshire - WashEx: “Rep. Adam Schiff is making a visit to New Hampshire next month for an event seen as a must-stop for presidential candidates. The California Democrat and House Intelligence committee chairman will be the featured speaker in the next installment of the ‘Politics & Eggs’ breakfast hosted by The New England Council and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. The event is scheduled for Feb. 4. The California lawmaker has given little, if any, suggestion that he will seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Schiff has been a staunch critic of President Trump, and in his new post as chairman, he is in a position to subpoena witnesses in probes related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
South Bend, Ind. mayor also running for president - Fox News: “Pete Buttigieg, a young Indiana mayor with a budding national profile, announced Wednesday he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, adding his name to a rapidly growing 2020 Democratic field. ‘I launched a presidential exploratory committee because it is a season for boldness and it is time to focus on the future. Are you ready to walk away from the politics of the past?’ Buttigieg tweeted early Wednesday, along with a video. Buttigieg, 37, is the mayor of South Bend, Ind. He was elected in 2011, at the age of 29, making him the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with at least 100,000 residents. He enters the race as a clear underdog against a field of better-known primary rivals. ‘The reality is there’s no going back, and there’s no such thing as ‘again’ in the real world,’ Buttigieg says in the video, which shows before-and-after footage of South Bend, a Rust Belt city once described as ‘dying.’”
WILL POMPEO PREVENT ANOTHER KOBACH DEBACLE?
McClatchy: “Fear that Kris Kobach will capture the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is driving the effort to recruit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race, according to GOP strategists with ties to Kansas. ‘No one wants to relive the disaster that was the Kobach campaign,’ said David Kensinger, who has managed successful statewide campaigns for Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Kensinger said attempts to entice Pompeo, who is fourth in line to the presidency as the nation’s top diplomat, to run to replace the retiring Roberts can absolutely be traced to concerns about a possible Senate run by Kobach, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor. Kobach supporters are active. The political action committee set up to support Kobach’s failed bid for governor has been conducting phone polling in recent weeks on his favorability among GOP voters in anticipation of a possible Senate bid.”
Michael Cohen postpones Capitol Hill testimony, claiming ‘ongoing threats’ from Trump - Fox News
House Oversight Committee adds group of left-wing freshmen members - Politico
White House announces 51 judicial picks, including two for liberal 9th Circuit - Fox News
AUDIBLE: FREDERICK DOUGLAS WOULD LIKE A WORD…
“Never in the history of this country has it been legal to make people work for free but that’s what’s happening to federal employees.” – Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., in a tweet for which he subsequently apologized, saying there was “nothing worse in the history of our country than … slavery.”
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, your Halftime Reports are getting so long that I find myself hitting the delete button before opening them. That is a shame because you are so talented! Dare I refer you to two Items from Winston Churchill: 1) his memo to his commanders on the need for brevity in their reports! And 2) his quote on speech preparation- ‘If I am to speak ten minutes, I will need a week for preparation; If an hour, I am ready now.’ Any hope for a change in format?” – John VonLehman, Cincinnati
[Ed. note: While the note is intended to be read in much the same way as a newspaper was – read this, skim that, scan headlines, etc. – we are always keen to avoid putting more in than is necessary, so I took your criticism to heart. As Sir Winston also said, “It is no part of my case that I am always right.” Our five most recent newsletters averaged 2,977 words, led by Tuesday’s note at a whopping 3,120 words. (Our goal is generally to stay around or preferably under 3,000 words unless merited by events or a special edition for candidate rankings, etc.). But I wondered if you were right that we had been falling into bad practice, since this is something I try to stay vigilant about. So I looked at the corresponding period a year ago when we were discussing, wait for it… a government shutdown. I wish you had written us then! The average newsletter length was 4,007 words, four of the five were more than 3,000 words and the longest was *gulp* 5,300 words. We had grown fatter than summer geese and twice as noisy! I’m sorry you don’t find us useful, but at least we are not falling apart. And I hope you’ll give us another try, perhaps with the old-fashioned hunter’s eye of a newspaper reader. Maybe what Churchill said about war applies to your readership: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
HE'LL BE ON HIS WAY IN A JIF
Boston Globe: “Wareham [Mass.] officials are asking local residents to not, among other things, feed seals peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, after one of the animals was found ashore Monday – along with a few sandwiches. ‘I’m sure someone came across it and felt bad for it,’ Garry Buckminster, the director of the town’s Department of Natural Resources, told Boston.com. ‘While the intent was nice that they thought he would love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his way down the coast, we frown upon it,’ he said. Buckminster had responded to a report Monday afternoon of a possibly sick or injured seal at Swifts Beach. … According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, harp seals mostly sustain themselves by hunting for small fish, such as capelin, Arctic cod, and polar cod. However, sandwiches had been left with the one found Monday, which the department affectionately named ‘Sammy’ in their Facebook post Monday. ‘He is watching his weight,’ officials joked.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“No, I don’t go to [baseball] games to steel my spine, perfect my character, or journey into the dark night of the soul. I get that in my day job watching the Obama administration in action. I go for relief. For the fun, for the craft (beautifully elucidated in George Will’s just-reissued classic, Men at Work), and for the sweet, easy cheer at Nationals Park.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the National Review on April 23, 2010.
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.