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On the roster: Senate Power Rankings: Fifty-one-derful? - Coronavirus surge spooks voters days before vote ends - Voter enthusiasm through the roof - Trump vows comeback - Hot merchandise
SENATE POWER RANKINGS: FIFTY-ONE-DERFUL?
As Republicans have become increasingly resigned to their long odds in retaining the presidency or retaking the House, the Senate has become central for the Red Team’s hopes for saving something good from a very difficult year.
As Democrats have become increasingly giddy about their chances in the presidential and House contests, they have mode and more set the bar for success at taking control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress.
So, who’s right? Don’t ask us. But what we can tell you is that the question of control of the Senate looks not only like it will be narrowly decided, but that it will come down to just a handful of states.
As we tee it up for the final hole on the 2020 links, you’d have to favor Democrats’ chances for retaking the Senate simply because they are also favored to win the White House. If Kamala Harris becomes the president of the Senate, she potentially becomes the 51st vote for Democrats and the majority maker.
After our moves today, we will have 13 competitive Senate races, but just three that we see as Toss Ups. Within the space of our baker’s dozen there are obviously possibilities for bigger gains for Democrats, since Republicans are playing defense in more places. But, we still expect the final result to fall somewhere near 50-50.
First, the changes:
Iowa: Lean Republican → Toss Up
Republicans have run better in Iowa this cycle than any of the other blue-to-red states from 2016, except for Ohio. The presidential contest is neck-and-neck in the Hawkeye State and, despite a narrow polling lead for Joe Biden, no one would be surprised if President Trump pulled out a win here.
The Republican-ness of Iowa and general quality of Joni Ernst as a candidate led us to classify her as favored to win re-election. But prudence demands that we treat this race for what it is: a Toss Up. While Ernst has struggled here and there and perhaps misjudged the windage on Trump, she’s been a good, disciplined campaigner. Her challenger, Theresa Greenfield, however, has met her stride for stride.
Kansas: Likely R → Lean R
We would rather be leaders than followers, but we have to admit that the Kansas race is somewhat competitive. We had moved the Sunflower State Senate contest to Likely Republican after the GOP gave former Secretary of State Kris Kobach the boot.
Democrats had been propping up his candidacy in hopes of a victory like the one they had against him for governor two years ago. Rep. Roger Marshall is about as exciting as a molded fruit salad, which is just perfect for Kansas. We figured it was in the bag for the Republicans.
But what we have learned from both publicly available data and internal polls on both sides is that Republicans are having a hard time in Kansas overall this cycle. That doesn’t mean we expect Trump to lose the state or for Democratic Senate nominee Barbara Bollier to win. But it does mean we should move the race from the sideboard to the back burner. So that’s what we’ll do.
Montana: Toss Up → Lean R
The reverse is true in Montana where incumbent Sen. Steve Daines seems to be surviving the fire.
When popular, moderate Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock declared against the little-known Daines, it meant big trouble for the GOP. Bullock might yet join Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in the Senate, but we are convinced by polling data and insights from race-watchers in Montana that Republicans stand to do well enough in the Big Sky State to get Daines over the finish line.
With that out of the way, our ratings would leave the count in the Senate at 48 states held by, likely to be held by or leaning Democratic and 49 states held by, likely to be held by or leaning Republican.
If that is the case, then the three remaining Toss Up states, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina, will decide control of the Senate. If Democrats can win two of the three (and win the presidency) they take control. If Republicans can hold all three, they keep the Senate regardless of the presidential outcome.
We are aware of polling trends in all three of the states. Republicans are increasingly excited about Susan Collins’ chances in Maine while Democrats are feeling very good these days about Cal Cunningham’s odds of knocking off incumbent Thom Tillis. We’ve already discussed Iowa where Republicans think Ernst looks like a winner.
We’ll see what happens, but it seems the most likely outcomes cluster around 51 seats for one side or the other.
This should put moderates’ minds at ease since a narrowly divided Senate, regardless of which party is in control, is unlikely to be a vehicle for radical change. If we remember the struggles Barack Obama had in 2009 even with a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, it gives us some insight on what a 50-50 Senate would mean -- regardless of the size of the win at the top of the ticket.
THE RULEBOOK: HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS? FUGGETABOUTIT
“In most of these particulars, the power of the President will resemble equally that of the king of Great Britain and of the governor of New York.” – Alexander Hamilton, writing about the character and role of the president, Federalist No. 69
TIME OUT: OPERATION CHINCHILLA
The Atlantic: “The short-tailed chinchilla, a high-altitude South American rodent, was hunted almost to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries for its highly prized fur. It’s now endangered, and one small colony of the species in Chile is worth far more alive than dead, skinned, and dried. The colony in question sits atop 3.5 million ounces of extractable gold, a resource set to be developed by Gold Fields, a South Africa–based mining company. Gold Fields’ CEO, Nick Holland, said at a 2017 mining conference in Cape Town that the chinchillas were one of the main obstacles to the project, but that the company would find a way to protect the colony. … Gold Fields’ environmental permit for the Salares Norte mining project—which has a construction price tag of more than $800 million—hinged on the company finding a way to move the chinchillas, which are protected under Chilean law. The result is a kind of mini–Noah’s Ark initiative, high in the mountains of northern Chile.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 41.6 percent
Biden: 51.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 10 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.6 points, Trump ↑ 1.8 points
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 44% - Biden 52%; CNN: Trump 42% - Biden 54%; CNBC: Trump 40% - Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 41% - Biden 51%; NYT/Siena: Trump 41% - Biden 50%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (115 electoral votes): Georgia (16) Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (164 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (259 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 53.8 percent
Net Score: -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 2.4 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 46% approve - 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; CNN: 42% approve - 56% disapprove; CNBC: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove.]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
CORONAVIRUS SURGE SPOOKS VOTERS DAYS BEFORE VOTE ENDS
Fox News: “The U.S. recorded a record-high 88,521 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, pushing October’s total to over 1.7 million illnesses. Thursday also saw an additional 971 deaths, according to data recorded by Johns Hopkins University. The sobering, record-setting number comes amid a series of lockdown measures implemented in hotspots across the country, while still others buck the advice of public health officials urging social distancing measures and mask usage. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told the ‘Fox News Rundown’ podcast Thursday that some coronavirus restrictions will need to remain in place even after a vaccine is proven to be safe and effective. Once the vaccine is approved, Fauci said, it will take several months to distribute to the population, and even then there will be a percentage of people who won’t get the vaccine. ‘As that process evolves, you cannot abandon public health measures because the vaccine is not going to be perfect and not everybody is going to take it,’ he said.”
Investors flee as pandemic worsens - WSJ: “U.S. stocks fell Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average on track to close out its worst week and month since March in the final lap of the presidential race. Volatility reigned in the week before the Nov. 3 contest. Investors have been spooked by a record high in coronavirus infections in the U.S., fresh lockdowns in Europe that threaten economic growth and a mixed bag of earnings report from big technology companies. ‘Markets are concerned that we are replaying February and March,’ said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG Group. ‘It probably still isn’t in that category yet, but it is heading in the wrong direction.’ The Dow dropped 1.3% on Friday. The blue-chip index has shed more than 7% this week, putting it on track for its worst weekly performance since the height of the pandemic-induced market tumult.”
Trump Jr. says virus deaths ‘almost nothing’ as numbers climb - Politico: “Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, falsely claimed on Thursday that the number of Americans dying from the coronavirus amounts to ‘almost nothing.’ … Roughly 1,000 Americans died from the disease on Thursday, as Trump Jr. appeared on Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s show to downplay the U.S. death toll. … “The reality is this: If you look, I put it up on my Instagram a couple days ago, because I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new infections,” Trump Jr. said. ‘But I was like, ‘Well, why aren’t they talking about deaths?’ Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing. Because we’ve gotten control of this, and we understand how it works.’”
VOTER ENTHUSIASM THROUGH THE ROOF
FiveThirtyEight: “According to the latest Gallup poll, released this morning, 69 percent of registered voters say that they are more enthusiastic to vote this year compared to previous elections. That is a stark contrast to the 2016 election, when enthusiasm to vote was relatively low. According to Gallup, which has asked voters about how enthusiastic they are to vote for at least the last two decades, only about half of registered voters said they were more enthusiastic to vote in 2016 than they had been in previous elections. And regardless of who Americans plan to vote for, other polls also show that they think this election is important. Ninety-four percent of registered voters said in a YouGov/The Economist poll conducted earlier this week that voting for president this year is ‘very important.’”
Alberta: Americans learn to distrust voting, but do it droves - Politico: “History will record that in the summer and fall of 2020, at the peak of the most unusual and bitterly contested election in modern times, the president and his team made a sport of plucking minor incidents from local news feeds and distorting them into data points of a grand conspiracy to deny him a second term. History will also record that their efforts have been wildly successful. While visiting places like Luzerne County that were targeted by the president’s campaign and his administration – as well as dozens of other towns where I spoke with voters about their faith in America’s system of elections – I have been struck by a glaring disconnect. Voters who still believed enough in their own local voting system to cast a ballot had become convinced that the national system was irredeemably corrupt.”
Lawyers sift through arcana as they consider far-flung scenarios - Politico: “First, there’s the chance that officials within a closely contested state might send two different results to Congress, one giving Trump the win, the other giving Biden the win. It’s a scenario that almost happened in Florida in 2000, and one that would leave the country without an obvious path to determine who won the state — and possibly the country. Second, there’s the chance that the House of Representatives has to step in if no candidate clears the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win the presidency. While more clear-cut legally, this situation would still create a confusing moment in which each state delegation gets to cast just one vote for president. So even though Democrats control the House, they wouldn’t necessarily have the advantage, angering swaths of the country.”
TRUMP VOWS COMEBACK
Fox News: “President Trump told supporters in Michigan on Friday that Democratic rival Joe Biden would ‘eradicate the economy’ while he would ‘eradicate the virus,’ as he delivered his closing message in the remaining days of the election. The presidential competitors are both crisscrossing the Midwest on Friday in a last-ditch battle for the vote before Tuesday. Both candidates will visit Wisconsin and Minnesota, while Trump is visiting Michigan and Biden will visit Iowa. ‘… While Trump's Michigan supporters stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the 34-degree weather, Biden is holding socially-distanced events and drive-in rallies. … Trump has frequently pitched Tuesday's election as a high-stakes choice between a ‘socialist hellhole’ under Biden and the ‘American Dream’ under him.”
Will be in Dubuque Sunday for a rally - Des Moines Register: “Republican President Donald Trump will return to Iowa this weekend, holding a rally in Dubuque the Sunday before Election Day. The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Dubuque Regional Airport. The doors are set to open at 10 a.m., and it is open to the general public. This is the president's second trip to Iowa this month as he looks to shore up support in a competitive election cycle. Trump held a rally at the Des Moines International Airport on Oct. 13. And, he was in nearby Omaha, Nebraska, on Oct. 27 where he was joined by a number of Iowa Republicans. His running mate, Vice President Mike Pence, held a Des Moines rally Oct. 29.”
Understanding the Trump rally phenomenon - AP: “As President Donald Trump faces an uncertain future, so too does a fixture of the American political scene over the last five years: the Trump campaign rally, a phenomenon that has spawned friendships, businesses and a way of life for Trump’s most dedicated supporters. His fans have traveled the country to be part of what they describe as a movement that could outlive his time in office. Some have attended so many rallies they’ve lost count, road-tripping from arena to arena like rock groupies. … Indeed, the Trump campaign estimates the events have generated tens of millions of dollars a week in free television coverage. While many rally-goers are loyal Trump supporters who don’t need motivation, the campaign said 22% of those who attended the Lititz rally were not Republicans and 21% had not voted in 2016.”
Team Trump changes election night plans. - NYT: “President Trump has called off plans to appear at the Trump International Hotel on election night and is likely to be at the White House instead, according to a person familiar with the plans. Advisers had said privately that Mr. Trump was going to appear at his namesake hotel in Washington for an election night party for which his campaign had sent out multiple fund-raising solicitations to his supporters. ‘November 3rd will go down in history as the night we won FOUR MORE YEARS. It will be absolutely EPIC, and the only thing that could make it better is having YOU there,’ read one solicitation from the president that included an image of Mr. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, under the words ‘Join us on election night.’ It was unclear why the plans had changed. But the prospect of the president appearing on the night of the election at the hotel was certain to reinforce concerns about Mr. Trump mingling the office with his business.”
Trump immigration guru Miller vows new crackdown in second term - NBC News: “President Donald Trump's senior adviser Stephen Miller has fleshed out plans to rev up Trump's restrictive immigration agenda if he wins re-election next week, offering a stark contrast to the platform of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. In a 30-minute phone interview Thursday with NBC News, Miller outlined four major priorities: limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing so-called sanctuary cities, expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants and slapping new limits on work visas. The objective, he said, is ‘raising and enhancing the standard for entry’ to the United States. Some of the plans would require legislation. Others could be achieved through executive action, which the Trump administration has relied on heavily in the absence of a major immigration bill.”
BIDEN MAKES LAST-MINUTE RETURN TO HAWKEYE STATE
KCCI: “Joe Biden hosted a drive-in campaign rally Friday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Biden called on Iowans to support Democrats Theresa Greenfield, Rita Hart, Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne and J.D. Scholten. He was quick to target President Donald Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the White House has given up on trying to control the virus and that Trump had surrendered to the virus. ‘I've said it before, I’m not going to shut down the economy. I'm going to shut down the virus,’ Biden said. Supporters in about 100 cars honked in approval each time the Democratic candidate took a pause. Biden went on to talk about taxes, saying many Fortune 500 companies didn’t pay any taxes in the last year. … Biden also said he differs from Trump on health care, saying Trump believes health care is a privilege and he believes it is a right. … As a key swing state, Biden and Trump are fighting for Iowa as a new poll shows a slight lead for the president.”
New poll shows Biden widening N.C. lead - NBC News: “Joe Biden holds a modest six-point lead with likely voters over President Donald Trump in the hard-fought swing state of North Carolina, a new NBC/Marist poll shows. Among likely voters, Biden’s support stands at 52 percent, compared to 46 percent for the incumbent president. (Among all registered voters in the state, the former vice president’s lead is similar, at 51 percent to Trump’s 46 percent.) Biden’s edge is within the poll’s margin of error of +/-4.7 percentage points for likely voters and +/-4.1 percentage points for registered voters. (A +/-4.7 margin of error means that pollsters believe each candidate’s actual vote percentage could be as much as 4.7 percentage points higher or lower). The poll also shows a 10-point advantage for Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, who hopes to oust first-term GOP incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis.”
Biden says Catholic faith guides policies but gets hit on abortion, religious freedom - Fox News: “Joe Biden is touting his Catholic faith as groups are hitting him on issues held near and dear to the faithful and opposed by the church, including religious freedom for nuns and abortion. In an op-ed for the Christian Post, Biden wrote that his Catholic faith guides his policies, including wearing masks to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, rooting out systemic racism, ending the ‘evil of poverty,’ welcoming immigrants, and doing ‘everything in our power to ensure that all God’s children have the hope and future they so rightfully deserve.’ … Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association -- which has endorsed President Trump's re-election -- told Fox News Biden's candidacy has been confusing to Catholic voters ‘who believe that being Catholic is more than just another label.’”
PERDUE BACKS OUT OF FINAL GEORGIA SENATE DEBATE
AJC: “The third and final televised debate in the race between U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff was canceled Thursday after the Republican incumbent pulled out to join President Donald Trump in a planned rally in northwest Georgia. The debate was scheduled weeks ago to air Sunday on Channel 2 WSB-TV, but Perdue backed out shortly after word spread that Trump would hold a rally for his reelection campaign in Rome the same day. Locked in a statistical tie in the polls, Ossoff accused the Republican of ducking another face-to-face meeting after ‘millions saw that Perdue had no answers when I called him out on his record of blatant corruption, widespread disease and economic devastation’ at a Wednesday debate. ‘Shame on you,’ Ossoff added.”
John James says Dems ‘freaking out’ over close Senate race in Michigan - Fox News: “As Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama are set to campaign in battleground state Michigan Friday, John James, the Republican challenger taking on incumbent Democrat Gary Peters in the 2020 race for Michigan's Senate seat, said he's not fazed. ‘I'm not intimidated by terrorists, I'm certainly not going to be intimidated by a politician,’ James, a combat veteran, told ‘Fox & Friends,’ slamming his opponent Gary Peters, D-Mich., as a politician who shows up in an election year after 30 years in politics. ‘If Gary Peters had spent as much time and money helping Black men as he's now trying to spend beating one in Michigan, I wouldn't have had to run,’ James said. … The Real Clear Politics average has Peters leading James 50% to 42%, but James said Democrats are ‘freaking out’ because the two are ‘in a virtual tie’...”
Maine independent says she won’t play spoiler - Politico: “Progressive independent Lisa Savage would be an obvious spoiler for a Democratic candidate in most races. But she vows her presence in Maine’s wild Senate contest won’t hurt Democrat Sara Gideon, and may even help. Maine is crucial to Senate Republicans’ path to keeping their majority. And the race between GOP Sen. Susan Collins and Gideon, the Democratic state house speaker, could come down to the state’s unique voting system for federal races, which allows voters to select multiple candidates and rank them in order of their preference. If no candidate clears a 50 percent threshold, then the race immediately tabulates voters’ second choices. While Savage is unabashedly to the left of Gideon and supports big ideas like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, she says the state’s ranked choice voting rules won’t undermine Gideon — even if she takes a significant chunk of the vote. Savage even claims to have tried to establish a pact with Democrats to ensure that Collins is gone on Nov. 3.”
GOP notches win on cutting off late voters in Minn. - The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune:
Talking to voters in key counties, then and now - WSJ
AUDIBLE: OVER NIAGARA
“He was transferred to keep him away from the daughter because the governor didn’t like whatever they were doing.” – A source said regarding reports that a state trooper assigned to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s security detail was transferred to a post near the Canadian border after the governor learned of the trooper’s relationship with his daughter, Cara Kennedy-Cuomo.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday shares new Fox News national polls. He’ll also sit down with Trump campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
New Hampshire Union Leader: “A Keene man was stopped trying to leave an adult store this week with more than $600 in merchandise, police said. The man, 34, attempted to take several items from Vybrant on Emerald Street in Keene, according to Keene Police Sgt. James Cemorelis. Store employees called police when they became suspicious of the man and a woman, according to Cemorelis. When an officer arrived, the man was still inside the store with a bag full of merchandise, Cemorelis said. Surveillance video showed him putting items in a bag as he and the woman walked through the store. A store representative said Thursday that shoplifting has been on the rise at the adult toy and lingerie store.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The end of the cold war changed the structure of the world. The Gulf war merely revealed it.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about living in an “unipolar world” in The New Republic on July 29, 1991.
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.