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On the roster: Presenting your 2020 Democratic Power Ranking - Unions holding back endorsements in Dem race - McConnell says next step on guns is up to Trump - Manchin stands pat - Take that, Chick-fil-A
PRESENTING YOUR 2020 DEMOCRATIC POWER RANKING
Labor Day has come and gone. And just as it snuffed out your summer, it also closed the first phase of the Democratic nominating process.
Since candidates started announcing in the late winter and through the spring, we were waiting to see what kind of contest we would have. Given the tumult of 2016, almost anything seemed possible.
As it turned out, we could have saved our anticipation. It has been remarkably stable, unto the point of somnolence. There have been a couple of boomlets that went bust and some low-horsepower debates, all bringing us pretty much back where we started.
But now, things may start to get interesting.
Slow erosion has reduced the size of the field from a group larger than some of the Iowa towns where they campaign to something more manageable. As the number of grifter, lost-cause and/or vanity campaigns shrinks, volatility will increase.
As the calendar moves toward the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 3 – five months from today – voters will get more serious and with fewer also-rans soaking up support, we may start to see more dynamism.
In the most recent Quinnipiac University survey, for example, there were five candidates with less than 5 percent of the vote squatting on a combine 12 points. That support is going to go somewhere.
Accordingly, it’s time to introduce our Fox News 2020 Democratic Power Ranking.
There will be much more to rank and rate in the months to come. As we get closer to the filing deadlines for candidates in competitive down-ballot races, particularly as it relates to the struggle for control of the House and Senate, we will introduce Power Rankings for those contests.
Once the parties have completed their presidential nominating processes, we will roll out our battleground state rankings based on how competitive we expect states to be.
But for now, it’s really all about the Democrats and their nominating process.
While a handful of Republicans have either begun or are contemplating challenging President Trump, so far none have added up to more than wishful thinking. If that ever changes, we will take a look.
How Democrats sort out their presidential contest will matter enormously not just for the presidential election, but also for which states and districts will be battlegrounds. In this era of hyper-nationalized politics, the downdraft from the top of the tickets will certainly be powerful.
Ranking the Democratic contenders themselves, however, is a pretty straightforward business. We could, like the Democratic National Committee did, develop a needlessly complex formula for ranking the candidates – one that includes the number of donors or weights early state polls on par with national surveys.
But that would waste everyone’s time.
While we are sure that whatever surprises are in store in the four states that hold nominating contests in February will be significant, we are just as sure that the historical gap between early state preferences and those of the national electorate have greatly diminished.
The nationalized character of American politics means that treating Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina polls as some sort of runic mysteries is not necessary. Early state polls so far mostly track with national surveys, and once voting begins, national surveys will reflect the momentum shifts gained by February successes or setbacks.
It’s hard to imagine that there will be any surprise contenders given what we’ve seen in the past several cycles, but we endeavor to keep our minds open based on what’s happening in the race.
That’s all to say that we will start tracking the top five candidates as reflected by their performance in the five most recent methodologically sound polls. That means surveys that include landlines and cell phones, sample the electorate at random and are conducted by non-partisan or disinterested pollsters. This excludes online surveys, polls that rely on “robo-dial” methods and “opt-in” surveys, which really aren’t even polls at all, but rather contests.
Going forward, here’s what you’ll be seeing in each day’s “Scoreboard” section, plus, starting next week, a parenthetical note of how much they have gained or lost from the week before:
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 28.6 points
Warren: 17.4 points
Sanders: 14.4 points
Harris: 6.8 points
Buttigieg: 4.6 points
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, USA Today/Suffolk University, Monmouth University, CNN and Fox News Channel.]
We may adjust the number of ranked candidates as we go forward, but for now it seems like the natural breakpoint. If we make any changes, we will let you know how and why.
THE RULEBOOK: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW
“Here, my countrymen, impelled by every motive that ought to influence an enlightened people, let us make a firm stand for our safety, our tranquillity, our dignity, our reputation.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 15
TIME OUT: GOOD BOYS IN SPACE
Atlantic: “The cosmonaut ran away a day before his flight. The training had been grueling and confusing. The food was bad. The cosmonaut hadn’t signed up for this at all. It couldn’t have: It was a dog. … The goal for the Cold War rivals was the same: to prove that animals could survive in orbit so that people could, too. But why did the Soviets use dogs, while the Americans used primates? … Dogs were everywhere. The Moscow streets were crowded with stray dogs—free, if unwilling, volunteers. … Primates were more difficult to acquire. … American researchers picked primates because of their physiological similarities to humans, according to veterinarians and historians. They wanted chimps for their intelligence, too. … Dogs couldn’t be expected to manage similar duties, but the Soviets weren’t concerned, [Amy Nelson, a history professor at Virginia Tech] says. Their early cosmonauts would do little piloting.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Average approval: 41.4 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -13 percent
Change from one week ago: down 0.4 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 44% approve - 54% disapprove; Monmouth University: 41% approve - 53% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve - 55% disapprove.]
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UNIONS HOLDING BACK ENDORSEMENTS IN DEM RACE
Fox News: “[Sen. Bernie] Sanders has been making a hard sell for labor support while running a second straight time for the presidential nomination. … But, while Biden, Sanders, Warren and many of the other candidates have been courting organized labor, unions appeared in no rush to jump in and make endorsements as the record-setting field of Democrats battled for the party’s presidential nomination. Biden, to date, has been the only candidate to land a major national union endorsement. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) backed him days after he jumped into the race. The smaller United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union endorsed Sanders last week. It’s a switch from four years ago when many of the powerful national unions weighed in early – as most of them backed eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.”
Three-time candidate Biden says he’s cool with not being president - NYT : “‘How badly do you want to be president?’ Joseph R. Biden Jr. was asked after a recent speech in Prole, Iowa. The answer to such an inquiry would appear self-evident in the case of Mr. Biden, who began his running-for-president routine more than three decades ago; in other words, very badly, one would assume. …‘I think it’s really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be re-elected,’ Mr. Biden said, more of a rationale than answer. He then launched into a classic Biden roller derby of verbiage in which he listed all the reasons he found Mr. Trump so distasteful. …‘Could I die happily not having heard ‘Hail to the Chief’ play for me?’ the Democratic front-runner asked. ‘Yeah, I could,’ he said. ‘That’s not why I’m running.’”
Biden: ‘The details are irrelevant’ - USA Today: “Former Vice President Joe Biden responded to critics alleging he conflated details of a war story on the campaign trail in an interview with the NPR Politics Podcast and Iowa Public Radio released Monday. In the former vice president's view, errors related to details in the story are not relevant to his presidential capabilities. ‘The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,’ he said. ‘It’s like saying I had this very bright reporter and I think her eyes were blue,’ Biden continued. ‘What difference would it make about whether you were a bright reporter. Your eyes are brown. It’s irrelevant and you know it.’ The former vice president wants voters to look at broader policy issues rather than details of storytelling.”
MCCONNELL SAYS NEXT STEP ON GUNS IS UP TO TRUMP
Roll Call: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he expected to know next week whether President Donald Trump would be supporting new gun-related legislation in the aftermath of recent mass shootings. The Kentucky Republican was asked in an interview about criticism he has received from Democrats for not putting House-passed background check bills on the floor. McConnell reiterated to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Senate would not be holding another series of test votes on firearm measures that have no chance of being signed into law. … ‘If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it, it’ll become law, I’ll put it on the floor,’ McConnell said. … On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short told reporters traveling in Ireland that they were in discussions with the Department of Justice about the potential contents of a legislative proposal related to guns.”
Biden gets to Warren’s left on guns - NYT: “Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, two of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination, made the case on Monday for muscular new gun control proposals, but differed on whether it was possible to reach compromise with congressional Republicans. Mr. Biden said it was not. Ms. Warren seemed more open to the idea. … Mr. Biden, the former vice president, has made bipartisanship a theme of his campaign and has talked about working with Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell. But Mr. Biden took an unequivocal stand on expanded background checks and other measures when asked if there was room to reach a compromise… On gun control, [Warren] has endorsed a range of measures, but she espoused a different view from Mr. Biden… Ms. Warren argued that the issue needed to be addressed in a broader way, not just with a single legislative fix.”
MANCHIN STANDS PAT
W. Va. MetroNews: “Sen. Joe Manchin is opting out of a run for West Virginia’s governor. After talking for months about the possibility of running for the chief executive’s seat he occupied from 2004 to 2010, Manchin acknowledged today that he will not run. His announcement came by way of email. ‘I have always said that ‘public service is not self-service.’ So, when considering whether to run for governor, I couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective for the Mountain State,’ Manchin stated. ‘Ultimately, I believe my role as U.S. Senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century.’ What the decision came down to, Manchin said today on MetroNews’ ‘Talkline,’ is the ability to push for important issues in the Senate. … Over the past few weeks, Manchin has said he sometimes leaned one way in the morning and another way later.”
Peterson will face serious challenge - [Minneapolis] Star Tribune: “Former state senator and lieutenant governor Michelle Fischbach announced Monday that she will challenge a Democrat stalwart, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, for the Congressional seat in Minnesota’s western Seventh District. Fischbach will be a formidable opponent for Peterson, a 15-term congressman who has defeated a string of poorly funded Republican candidates even as his district has grown more conservative, said Sam Winter, a spokesman for Fischbach’s campaign. ‘It is the most pro-Trump district in the country held by a Democrat,’ said Winter, noting that Peterson won re-election in 2018 even though the Republican president carried his district by 31 points in 2016. Fischbach seized on the president’s popularity in her written announcement, and highlighted Peterson’s voting record in opposition to President Donald Trump’s administration.”
GOP primary fight takes shape in Kansas’ 3rd District - Topeka [Kan.] Capital-Journal: “A 2020 Republican primary for the U.S. House seat held by Democrat Sharice Davids took shape with filing of federal election documents by Amanda Adkins, a former campaign manager for the GOP’s Sam Brownback. Adkins, a Cerner Corp. executive and one-time director of the Kansas Republican Party, created a campaign committee Friday by filing with the Federal Election Commission. Republican Sarah Hart Weir, the former president of the National Down Syndrome Society, did so in July. Both are building campaigns aimed at Davids, who in 2018 defeated incumbent GOP Congressman Kevin Yoder. Davids won the 3rd District, considered a political swing district, with 53% of the vote against 44% for Yoder.”
Costly GOP primary good news for Mississippi Dems - Mississippi Today: “[Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves] faced a couple Republican challengers, including former chief justice Bill Waller Jr., who had jumped unexpectedly into the primary. … But with one of the largest fundraising totals amassed in Mississippi political history — $7 million on hand, at the time — the Reeves campaign wasn’t all too worried about the Republican challengers and the legislative setback. Instead, Reeves and his campaign worked to get an early start on knocking Attorney General Jim Hood, the then-presumed Democratic nominee for governor. … That strategy ended up being the most costly of Reeves’ political career. In order to get through the Republican primary, Reeves spent at least $6.2 million. That spending total crushes the previous record for money spent in a statewide election primary, previously held by current Gov. Phil Bryant, who spent $3.1 million in the 2011 gubernatorial primary.”
Sanford delays presidential campaign announcement due to Hurricane Dorian - The [Charleston, S.C.] Post and Courier
AUDIBLE: DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO
“I love my job. It's the best and the hardest job I've ever had and it's what kept me going through four cancer bouts.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said on a panel at the National Book Festival on Saturday.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Could you explain something to me? Why is Senator [Martha McSally] (R-AZ) such a weak candidate? She's a strong candidate on paper, yet she couldn't beat a far left Democrat in a state that's to date has been reliably red. Instead, she had to be appointed to the late Senator [John McCain’s] seat.” – Jeff Smith, Warner Robins, Ga.
[Ed. note: I think part of the answer here may be in your assumption about the 2018 contest. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is no “far-left Democrat.” Her campaign rhetoric and subsequent voting record have been matters of great frustration for the left wing of her party. Sinema is young and moderate, a very attractive candidate in a state electorate that is getting younger and more moderate with every passing day. McSally is pretty moderate herself, but she was freighted in 2018 with a president and party that were unpopular in her state but a Republican base that was not united entirely behind her. Arizona is so far showing the perils for majority parties as they fall into parity. As happened in Virginia, the shrinking GOP was increasingly beholden to fringe political figures. Those fringe candidates then produce general election losses, further shrinking the party. Lather, rinse, repeat.]
“[W]hat leaps out at me from the current leaders for the 2020 presidential nomination is how very old they all are. Historically the average age of a newly elected president is under 56 years. On Election Day, Warren will be 71, Trump 74, Biden 78, and Sanders 79. On the day he left office Reagan, chided for being too old for the job, was younger than Biden and Sanders will be in November 2020 before serving a single day. At 70 and after serving two terms, Eisenhower was younger than any of these four. I, too, am an active late septuagenarian and although more than one of my doctors has told me, ‘You look better than your chart,’ I can testify to the fall off in mental acuity and stamina. (Cf. this note). More important than this, for my granddaughter’s sake, I’d prefer someone who realized that he or she would have to live twenty years or so with the consequences of the decisions made on his or her watch.” – Bob Foys, Chicago
[Ed. note: I hardly think your note is evidence of any slippage, Mr. Foys! Quite the opposite. We’ve discussed in the past how the ideological life cycle of the Baby Boom generation has shaped our politics for the past 50 years. I think that like a lot of your contemporaries, Boomer politicians are not well disposed to the idea of retirement to make way for the next generation. When the change comes, though, I imagine it will be quite sudden. My cohort is demographically outmatched on both sides, so I’d imagine we are just a cycle or two away from a serious youth movement in politics.]
“Regarding [last week’s Quinnipiac University poll], does it really matter how many percentage points one candidate has over another, if in the end the balance of the electoral college might be different? I read (and I may misquote since I can’t find it) that Trump could lose by something like 4% of the popular vote and still get elected. Shouldn’t polls be conducted at the State level and converted to a proxy of the Electoral College’s vote?” – Walter Bonomo, Mooresville, N.C.
[Ed. note: I’m a baseball fan, specifically of the St. Louis Cardinals (and whatever team my youngest son happens to be playing for). Now, it is true that to make the playoffs, the Cards need more wins than those little bears from the North Side of Chicago. That’s the only thing that really matters. But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in other data, like how many they’ve won and lost out of the past 10 games, how many games they’ve won by fewer than three runs or any of the other blizzard of statistics available to baseball fans. Head-to-head polls for the general election at this point are like that: Interesting data points that may tell us about the things to come. I love public opinion research and the things it can tell us, but I always try to remember that polls aren’t the point of the process, they’re just interesting snapshots of the game as it’s played.]
“Having grown up in Illinois, your piece on the importance of secretaries of state (Thursday, August 22) brought back memories. Once upon a time when you entered Illinois, the signs said, ‘Welcome to Illinois, Paul Powell, Secretary of State’ (or later, ‘Alan J. Dixon, Secretary of State’ - yes, that Alan J. Dixon who is now senator AJD). My husband thought this was absurd. What about the Governor? Such was the relative powers of the offices! Of course, this references Paul Powell, who holds a particular memory for those of a certain age. When you dealt with the DMV in Illinois way back then, you made your check for a driver's license or license plates to ‘Paul Powell’, not ‘Treasurer of Illinois’ or something similar. Upon his death in 1970, a veritable fortune of checks made out to Paul Powell were found in shoeboxes in his home. Unfortunately, Illinois politics have made only a small improvement since those times.” – Susan Rollinson, Clifton Forge, Va.
[Ed. note: I was immediately reminded of Powell’s legacy line: “There’s only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one.” It’s almost if, Ms. Rollinson, that we shouldn’t let politicians use the machinery of the state for self-promotion! Every time I see a useless, vainglorious sign at the border of a state heralding the benevolent leadership of its governor I feel my hackles rise. There’s enough of a Jacksonian in me to strongly resent people using the power of office to publicize themselves. But then again, growing up in West Virginia, I got to see perhaps the greatest practitioner of them all at work. I think we just narrowly missed being re-named West Byrd Virginia.]
“I’ve been pondering the problem that we have as a country, in our tribalism… and looking at it still continuing after what I think will be a 2020 election fiasco. Has there ever been a situation where the president and vice pres. were from different parties? A possible example this year an Elizabeth Warren/Nikki Haley ticket… It would seem to me that having both political POV represented in a leadership team would give the US a time to regain its senses after the damage that Mr. Trump has done.” – Margie Rikert, Portland, Ore.
[Ed. note: Well, John McCain certainly liked the idea. He very nearly chose Democrat Joe Lieberman as his running mate in 2008. Instead, he went exactly the opposite direction and chose a candidate to strengthen his weak right flank rather than reaching out to the center. McCain blinked because of the obvious truth of American politics today that it’s more desirable to have a loyal plurality than a fickle majority. So I wouldn’t lay the damage all at Trump’s feet. Yes, he is exploiting the trend of rancorous, negative partisanship. But the trend has been going that way for at least a generation. American voters need to have a good long think about how the parties select their nominees. The primary election system that came into ascendency in the 1970s has hardly produced the results its proponents promised. Instead, we have both the durable incumbency of the old smoke-filled rooms but also the demagogic pandering inherent to direct democracy. Blech.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
TAKE THAT, CHICK-FIL-A
USA Today: “Police in Houston are reportedly searching for a man who pulled a gun on employees at a Popeyes restaurant after they ran out of chicken sandwiches. On Monday night, the Houston Police Department published a tweet regarding an incident at the Popeyes, which has surged in popularity since the introduction of its first nationwide chicken sandwich last month. Police said in the tweet a man pulled a gun on employees after learning they had no more sandwiches. According to local station KTRK, a group of people attempted to get inside the store after they were told the bad news about the sandwiches at the drive-thru. ‘It was more of an aggravated assault because he was displaying a weapon and threatened employees,’ Houston Police Lt. Larry Crowson told KTRK. No one was injured during the incident, reports KHOU. Witnesses say the group left the Popeyes in a blue SUV. Anyone with information is asked to contact police.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“For a long time, baseball moguls were oblivious to the fact that memory, personal and national, was the stuff of baseball. Stupidly they tore down much of baseball's past by moving teams and leveling old ballparks. Today, the game's sellers are aware that memory is their greatest asset.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 17, 2007.
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.