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On the roster: Shutdown wipes out a decade of job gains - Azar under fire for testing botch - I’ll Tell You What: Tao of the Corned Beef Sandwich - Biden seeks soft spots in hard news landscape - Shredded, bro
SHUTDOWN WIPES OUT A DECADE OF JOB GAINS
Fox Business: “Another 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, as massive job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic continued to grow. The new report, which covers the week ending April 18, brings total job losses since the virus outbreak triggered widespread stay-at-home measures five weeks ago to more than 26 million, erasing the entirety of the 22.78 million labor market gains since the Great Recession more than a decade ago. With a labor force that totals about 162 million people, the claims figures suggest the unemployment rate is about 16 percent, or roughly one in six Americans — significantly higher than the 10 percent peak seen during the 2008 financial crisis. The previous one-week high for jobless claims was 695,800 in 1982.”
Economy forecast to shrink by 6 percent this year - Politico: “Fitch Ratings predicted Wednesday that the U.S. GDP will shrink by around 6 percent this year. … Claims by self-employed workers made temporarily eligible last month for jobless benefits are starting to show up in the weekly count as some states are finally getting procedures in place to process the new claims. But many other states still haven't updated their systems, and are still advising gig-economy workers to wait.”
Masked members ready bailout vote, fight looms over next round - AP: “A nearly $500 billion measure helping businesses and hospitals cope with the coronavirus’ devastation edged toward House passage Thursday, as lawmakers’ face masks and bandannas added an eerie tone to Congress’ effort to aid a staggered nation. … The day’s debate was almost overshadowed by social distancing steps that produced a stark image of how the pandemic is changing what used to be normal behavior in Washington. … Supporters are already warning that more funds will be needed almost immediately for the business-backed Paycheck Protection Program. Launched just weeks ago, the program quickly reached its lending limit after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help. Battle lines are forming over the next measure amid growing demands to help out state and local governments, the Postal Service and first responders.”
AZAR UNDER FIRE FOR TESTING BOTCH
WSJ: “On Jan. 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told President Trump the coronavirus epidemic was under control. The U.S. government had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis, Mr. Azar told the president in a meeting held eight days after the U.S. announced its first case, according to administration officials. At the time, the administration’s focus was on containing the virus. When other officials asked about diagnostic testing, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to answer. Mr. Azar cut him off, telling the president it was ‘the fastest we’ve ever created a test,’ the officials recalled, and that more than one million tests would be available within weeks. That didn’t happen. The CDC began shipping tests the following week, only to discover a flaw that forced it to recall the test from state public-health laboratories.”
Officials mocked Azar’s corona point man as ‘the dog breeder’ - Reuters: “Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him ‘the dog breeder.’ … Harrison, 37, was an unusual choice, with no formal education in public health, management, or medicine and with only limited experience in the fields. In 2006, he joined HHS in a one-year stint as a ‘Confidential Assistant’ to Azar, who was then deputy secretary. He also had posts working for Vice President Dick Cheney, the Department of Defense and a Washington public relations company. Before joining the Trump Administration… his personal financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 until 2018 he ran a company called Dallas Labradoodles.”
Top researcher says politics drove agency decisions - Fox News: “The vaccine expert who oversaw the agency charged with research into countering the coronavirus said Wednesday that he was dismissed after resisting efforts by the Trump administration to expand the availability of an anti-malarial drug pushed by President Trump. Rick Bright… said in a statement that he believed his transfer Tuesday to a role with fewer responsibilities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was in response to his call for the federal government to ‘invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.’ … A study released Tuesday of 368 patients in veterans' hospitals found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine, including more deaths compared to those given typical care.”
CDC boss on tightrope - WaPo: “Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a candid warning Tuesday in a Washington Post interview: A simultaneous flu and coronavirus outbreak next fall and winter ‘will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through’ … The next morning, Trump cracked down with a Twitter edict… By Wednesday evening, Redfield appeared at the daily White House briefing — saying he had been accurately quoted after all, while also trying to soften his words as the president glowered next to him. … The remarkable spectacle provided another illustration of the president’s tenuous relationship with his own administration’s scientific and public health experts…”
THE RULEBOOK: EVERY NOW AND THEN
“IT MAY be contended, perhaps, that instead of OCCASIONAL appeals to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against them, PERIODICAL appeals are the proper and adequate means of PREVENTING AND CORRECTING INFRACTIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 50
TIME OUT: ‘FULL FATHOM FIVE THY FATHER LIES’
Today is (probably) the birthday of the greatest writer in the history of English. Science is helping shed new light on the life of William Shakespeare. The Conversation: “Archaeological evidence recovered from non-invasive investigations at Shakespeare’s burial place has also been used to provide further evidence of his personal and family belief. Multi-frequency Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) was used to investigate the Shakespeare family graves below the chancel of Holy Trinity Church. A number of legends surrounded Shakespeare’s burial place. Among these were doubts over the presence of a grave, its contents, tales of grave robbing and suggestions of a large family crypt. The work confirmed that individual shallow graves exist beneath the tombstones and that the various members of Shakespeare’s family were not buried in coffins, but in simple shrouds. Analysis concluded that Shakespeare’s grave had been disturbed in the past and that it was likely that his skull had been removed, confirming recorded stories.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 46 percent
Average disapproval: 49.2 percent
Net Score: -3.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.2 points
[Average includes: NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 49% approve - 49% disapprove; Monmouth University: 46% approve - 49% disapprove; CNBC: 46% approve - 43% disapprove.]
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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: TAO OF THE CORNED BEEF SANDWICH
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt check-in from their quarantine quarters. They address the partisan conversation around getting Americans “back to normal,” updates on the economy, privacy while preventing a pandemic. Plus, Chris answers world leader trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
TRUMP FEUD WITH GEORGIA GOV. SPILLS INTO CORONA RESPONSE
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “President Donald Trump’s opposition to Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to start reopening parts of Georgia’s economy will force Republican candidates to pick between their party’s leader or the state’s top official amid the coronavirus pandemic. That tension quickly factored into the race between U.S. Kelly Loeffler, Kemp’s appointee to the seat, and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, whom Trump initially favored. Loeffler said Thursday she supports Kemp’s ‘efforts to begin to get Georgians back to work safely,’ while Collins was critical of the governor. …. ‘But leadership is about making decisions and communicating them effectively, and I think the governor has caused a lot of confusion by picking seemingly random businesses to open but leaving the stay-at-home order in place.’ … Many other GOP officials were conspicuously unwilling to wade into the high-stakes row after Trump said he ‘totally disagreed’ with Kemp’s decision to let barber shops, tattoo parlors and other businesses reopen Friday if they followed safety measures.”
Whitmer looks to loosen up - Detroit News: “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she expects to roll out a plan Friday for a short-term extension of her statewide stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus. During a news briefing, Whitmer said there are reasons for 'cautious optimism' and that some restrictions could be loosened in the state. But that will come only if facts and data support it, she said. The number of patients hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 has declined 15% in the past 10 days, she said.”
Poll: Optimism grows, but broad support for quarantine remains - Kaiser Family Foundation: “The latest [Kaiser Family Foundation] Health Tracking Poll conducted April 15-20th finds about half the public (51%) now saying that when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., ‘the worst is yet to come.’ This is down 23 percentage points from the share who said the same (74%) in the Early April KFF Health Tracking Poll conducted less than three weeks ago. Majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (56%) continue to say ‘the worst is yet to come,’ but now twice as many Republicans say ‘the worst is behind us’ (53%) as say ‘the worst is yet to come’ (27%). While an increasing share of the public now say the worst of the outbreak is behind us, most Americans (80%) say strict shelter-in-place measures are worth it in order to protect people and limit the spread of coronavirus.”
BIDEN SEEKS SOFT SPOTS IN HARD NEWS LANDSCAPE
WaPo: “Homebound at his estate in Wilmington, Del., [Joe] Biden’s quarantined campaign is adjusting to a new reality in which the prime-time TV slots that would carry his rallies and speeches under normal conditions are now largely dedicated to subjects other than the 2020 presidential campaign. Making matters worse for Biden, President Trump dominates each evening with his coronavirus task force briefings… That’s left Biden with little choice but to spread his message around — bracketing the president by offering himself to local newscasts in battleground states that run his interviews while viewers wait for Trump’s briefings and hamming it up on radio or late night (or late, late night) TV. Biden’s appearances tend toward relatable and soft, in contrast to Trump’s more contentious evening performances. But they also aim at groups of voters that Biden must attract to win in November, including suburbanites, younger voters and nonwhite voters.”
#MeToo movement torn on how to handle Biden allegation - Politico: “After making it more socially acceptable for sexual assault survivors to come forward and helping bring down dozens of powerful men, the #MeToo movement is facing a new challenge: how to grapple with the allegations against Biden without tearing itself apart. Celebrity #MeToo activists have publicly fought over [Tara] Reade’s claims. Supporters of President Donald Trump … have seized on Biden and other Democrats’ past comments about believing women’s accusations as proof of hypocrisy. And victims fear that what they see as the botched handling of Reade’s allegations by fellow activists, the media and politicians has threatened one of the movement’s hardest-fought gains. The debate is complicated by another factor: Some worry about the prospect of inadvertently advancing the political fortunes of a president who has been accused of assault himself, and is deeply loathed by feminists and Democrats.”
Biden campaign on ‘hiring freeze’ - CBS News: “While many businesses and organizations throughout the country are being forced to downsize amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden is facing unusual challenges in expanding his presidential campaign, now that he is the presumptive Democratic nominee. …[As] the public health crisis continues to keep the economy and routine life largely at a standstill, job-seeking Democrats may also have to wait a little longer to join the presidential campaign. From the end of March until recently, multiple Democratic operatives described what they called a campaign ‘hiring freeze’ to CBS News. Seven Democratic operatives who inquired about employment opportunities with the Biden campaign for a range of positions told CBS News the guidance they received was that hiring was still on hold. All of the operatives had worked for Democratic primary campaigns and were granted anonymity to avoid any potential employment impact.”
Dems hold steady polling lead in the House - Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “The national House generic ballot has also been very consistent for the three-plus years he’s been in the White House. Democrats have led almost every single one of the nearly 400 House generic ballot national polls released since Trump took office, as compiled in the 2018 and 2020 RealClearPolitics averages. … Out of 309 polls included in the 2018 database, 305 showed Democratic leads; three were tied and another showed a Republican lead of one point. Out of 88 polls this cycle, 87 have shown a Democratic lead, and one has shown a tie. The current RealClearPolitics average shows a Democratic lead of 7.4 points, almost exactly the same as its final average in 2018. … It’s reasonable to continue to believe that Democrats have a lead on the House generic ballot at this time, and that this lead is more than just a few points.”
Dem group backs lawsuit to ease Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail laws - The Philadelphia Inquirer: “A major Democratic political group is backing a new lawsuit aiming to make it easier to vote by mail in Pennsylvania because of the coronavirus crisis. The suit was filed Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans and funded by Priorities USA, the main super PAC supporting likely presidential nominee Joe Biden. The suit cites obstacles created by the pandemic — including health risks for voters and poll workers — as requiring expanded mail voting. Filed in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, it is seeking: To require prepaid postage for all absentee and mail-in ballots; To allow mail-in ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to seven days later, rather than received by Election Day, as under existing law; To allow third parties to collect and return absentee or mail-in ballots…”
SWING STATE POLLS SHOW BIDEN AHEAD IN KEY RACES
Michigan - Fox News: “Majorities of Michigan voters are concerned about coronavirus, think President Trump was too slow reacting to it, and favor waiting to reopen the economy. That contributes to Joe Biden leading the presidential race in a Fox News Poll of Michigan registered voters released Wednesday. Biden’s 8-point advantage over Trump, 49-41 percent, is slightly larger than the poll’s margin of sampling error. However, both candidates remain below 50 percent and 10 percent of voters are still up for grabs. Trump is preferred among white men (+17 points), white evangelical Christians (+51), and whites without a college degree (+8). In 2016, he won whites without a degree by 31 points. The former vice president owes his lead to women (+20 points), non-whites (+63), and voters over age 65 (+19). … But likeability could be the key. By a 10-point margin, more have a favorable (53 percent) than unfavorable (43 percent) opinion of Biden. Views of Trump are net negative by 8 points (44 favorable, 52 unfavorable).”
Pennsylvania - Fox News: “With most Pennsylvania voters concerned about catching coronavirus and nearly six-in-ten believing the Trump administration was too slow to act, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in that battleground state. Biden is preferred over Trump by 8 percentage points (50-42 percent), according to a Fox News Poll of Pennsylvania registered voters. That is slightly larger than the poll’s margin of sampling error. Eight percent are undecided. Trump gets strong backing from rural whites (+18 points), Gen Xers (+12), and whites without a college degree (+15). He is up by only 7 points among men, below his 17-point advantage in 2016. … Currently, 47 percent approve of the job he is doing as president and 51 percent disapprove.”
Florida - Quinnipiac University: “Florida voters don't have a clear favorite in the upcoming presidential election. If the election for president were being held today, former Vice President Joe Biden would get 46 percent of the vote, while Trump would get 42 percent. The candidates are holding their bases just about equally well, as Biden wins among Democrats 91 - 4 percent and Trump wins among Republicans 89 - 7 percent. The race is close among the key swing group, independents, with Biden getting 44 percent of the vote and Trump receiving 37 percent. … Voters hold a mixed view of Biden and a negative view of Trump, but their favorability ratings are moving in different directions. Trump is viewed favorably by 43 percent of voters, while 50 percent view him unfavorably - a new high favorability for the president in Florida.”
Pergram: Congress torn over calls to return to Capitol Hill during coronavirus outbreak - Fox News
Warren mourns loss of 86-year-old brother from coronavirus - Boston Globe
AUDIBLE: PIERRE ROCKED BY TOMFOOLERY CLAIMS
“We have not overindulged. We have not indulged. ... There's been no tomfoolery.” – South Dakota Senate President Pro Tempore Brock Greenfield proclaiming his sobriety in a recording of the final night of the state’s legislative session last month. The tape was reviewed by a special committee investigating whether Greenfield and other Senate leaders were out drinking to excess as the legislature was trying to finish up.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Wow! If I wasn’t all stretched out and cozy while reading your superb essay, I would have clapped my hands, stomped my slippered feet and belted out the I am Woman anthem! It was inspirational while comforting...reassuring while encouraging. Next time I stand up I’ll march in place. Thank you for doing what you do!” – Patricia Walker, Southington, Conn.
[Ed. note: Anything to get your steps in during the lockdown! Thanks very much for reading and taking time to share your kind words.]
“I was a successful engineer for 40 years. We used to say we could make some existing thing faster, or better or more efficient, or we could make it cheaper for doing the same thing and thus get a bit more profit from it. We often got 2 out of 3 for a very good design, but very rarely did we see all 3 options happen on a single design. And that was the hat trick. The iPhone was one of those. I believe the Tesla cars will prove to be another. Certainly the Ford model T and then A were other examples.” – Louie Schirm, Yorba Linda, Calif.
[Ed. note: One of the reasons I’m an optimist about America in this moment is exactly because of the kinds of innovations you describe, Mr. Schrim! We seldom see coming the things that truly revolutionize the world, but folks like you have a tremendous knack for finding them.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
Fox News: “California officials who closed a popular skate park and filled it with 37 tons of sand in hopes of keeping residents away during the coronavirus outbreak have inadvertently turned the recreational site into a dirt biker’s paradise. A video posted on Instagram this week shows riders catching air at Ralph’s Skate Court in San Clemente despite the city’s effort to enforce social distancing. ‘The fact the city put the sand in there to try to social distance everyone – I think it’s a big joke,’ Connor Ericsson, who posted the video, told KUSI News. … The city of San Clemente first closed all parks and put up ‘no trespassing’ signs on April 1 to contain the spread of the virus. The sand was added last week after officials ‘saw people continue to skate the park,’ Samantha Wylie, the city’s parks manager, told the San Clemente Times.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It has been 25 years since I discovered a psychiatric syndrome (for the record: ‘Secondary Mania,’ Archives of General Psychiatry, November 1978), and in the interim I haven’t been looking for new ones. But it’s time to don the white coat again. A plague is abroad in the land. Bush Derangement Syndrome…”– Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 5, 2003.
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.