Some watchwords for silly season


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On the roster: Some watchwords for silly season - Poll: Sinema leading in Arizona Senate race - Ryan speaks out against Trump’s birthright claims - Connecticut’s two thorns: Dannel and the economy - A power ballad so strong they called the bomb squad 

SOME WATCHWORDS FOR SILLY SEASON
One week, America. Do you think you’ve got it in you? 

As voters survey their options strewn across the electoral landscape like the rejected remnants of a wedding reception buffet, it's pretty hard to keep an appetite. 

We say every two years that the election is the most expensive of its kind and the nastiest. This year has certainly lived down to that expectation. 

This is known as the “silly season.” It's the time at the end of every campaign cycle where candidates and campaigns do and say crazy things in an effort to win. 

A good rule of thumb is that whoever is acting craziest is the one who thinks he or she is losing. 

There's a corollary here: The candidate who brings up social issues first and most aggressively is also generally the one who is losing. 

If Republicans felt confident about their chances this year, they would be talking about peace and prosperity and encourage the country to keep a good thing going. Instead, they're talking about whether President Trump can unilaterally revoke birthright citizenship for people born in the United States.

Or, if Claire McCaskill felt secure in keeping her Missouri Senate seat we doubt she would have suddenly adopted new enthusiasm for militarizing the southern border.

By this point in any campaign cycle it's generally too late for personal attacks. Sometimes there is something – like the 2000 revelation of George W. Bush's youthful drunken driving arrest – that's big enough and unknown that the revelation is worth holding for the end. 

But particularly as Americans become more accustomed to voting over the course of a month or six weeks, October surprises really need to be dropped in September. 

What it is not too late for is scaring the hell out of people, spreading misinformation and placing blame in the event that you lose. 

Politicians in both parties have already laid the ground work for who they will be blaming if they come up short. Late November will see plenty of crow served alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.

As you will see below we are chockablock with new information on key races and lots of new polls. There will be plenty to digest every day for the next week. 

But before you dig in, we'd only encourage you to bear a few things in mind:

1) Be skeptical. Given the high propensity for politicians and media outlets to engage in sensationalism around this time, take a breath and think through what you see and hear.

2) The polls are not authoritative. We expect that polling overall will perform really well, but there will be some races where pollsters just blow it. Do yourself a favor and focus on polling averages instead of individual polls and always remember that the numbers you're looking at at any given time may be the ones we're laughing about eight days hence.

3) It's just an election. However, you hope things to turn out this year, remember that the future of the republic does not hang on these midterms. If the party you don't like wins, you will still live under the freest, fairest, greatest government in the world. 

4) You're allowed to have fun. This is an amazing spectacle to watch and in which to participate. You don't need to feel bad about enjoying it.  

THE RULEBOOK: EVERYTHING ELSE, TOUGHEN UP
“Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 52

TIME OUT: PANIC ON THE PROGRAM 
NYT: “On Oct. 30, 1938, [Orson Welles] directed a radio adaptation of ‘The War of the Worlds,’ reimagining its Martian invasion through fictitious news flashes. Many contemporary newspapers claimed the show sparked a mass panic, sending multitudes of listeners fleeing their homes in fear. But that stubbornly persistent narrative is false. The myth of the ‘War of the Worlds’ panic not only misinterprets how media persuasion and fake news actually work — it prevents us from understanding how to grapple with the problem today. Over the past decade, a scholarly consensus has formed that the press grossly exaggerated the effects of Welles’s broadcast. Only a small fraction of radio listeners mistook it for real news, and precious few did anything that could be described as ‘panicking.’ The better question, then, is why ‘The War of the Worlds’ frightened some people but not others.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 42.2 percent
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent
Net Score: -11 points
Change from one week ago: down 3.2 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 53% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; CBS News: 42% approve - 53% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41.6 percent
Democratic average: 50.6 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 9 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.6 points  
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 50% Dems - 40% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 51% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; Fox News: 49% Dems - 42% GOP; ABC/WaPo: 53% Dems - 42% GOP.]

POLL: SINEMA LEADING IN ARIZONA SENATE RACE
NBC News: “Fueled by advantages among Latinos, independents and women, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema holds a 6-point lead over Republican Martha McSally in Arizona’s key Senate contest, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll of the state. Sinema, a Democratic congresswoman, gets support from 50 percent of likely voters, while McSally, a GOP congresswoman, gets 44 percent. A combined 6 percent are undecided or prefer someone else. In September’s NBC/Marist poll, Sinema’s lead over McSally was 3 points in this head-to-head contest, 48 percent to 45 percent. When the ballot expands to include the Green Party’s Angela Green, Sinema’s edge is cut to 3 points, 47 percent to 44 percent — essentially unchanged from Sinema’s 2-point advantage in September, 45 percent to 43 percent. Forty-four percent of these voters say they have already cast their ballots, and Sinema receives support from 51 percent of them to McSally’s 47 percent. Sinema’s leads — in both the head-to-head matchup and the three-way ballot — fall inside the poll’s margin of error.”

McCaskill swipes at Warren, Sanders when asked about 'crazy Democrats' - Fox News: “Speaking exclusively to Fox News on Monday, vulnerable incumbent Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill dropped the names of two high-profile colleagues, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, when asked to identify the ‘crazy Democrats’ from whom her campaign has distanced itself in recent days. McCaskill said she wouldn't call the two ‘crazy,’ but noted they had disagreements with each other. The Missouri senator also sounded some full-throated support for the president's tough talk on the incoming migrant caravan from Central America, as well as the administration's crackdown on what it's called endemic fraudulent asylum claims. McCaskill unveiled a new radio advertisement last week in which a narrator assured constituents, ‘Claire's not one of those crazy Democrats.’ ‘The crazy Democrats are people who walk in restaurants and scream in elected officials' faces,’ McCaskill told ‘Special Report’ anchor Bret Baier.”

RYAN SPEAKS OUT AGAINST TRUMP’S BIRTHRIGHT CLAIMS
WashEx: “House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday he doesn't believe President Trump will be able to end birthright citizenship in the United States by issuing an executive order, a step Trump said he was considering. ‘You obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order,’ Ryan, R-Wis., said in an interview with WVLK, a station based in Lexington, Ky. Many have argued Trump can't undo birthright citizenship that easily because that right is in the Constitution, which would have to be amended. Regardless, Ryan said it would be hypocritical for conservatives to back Trump's approach after complaining about former President Barack Obama, who used executive orders and actions to push his immigration agenda through after Congress refused to act.”

Stivers condemns King on white nationalism comments - WaPo: “The chairman of the House Republican campaign arm on Tuesday condemned recent remarks made by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on white nationalism, becoming the highest-profile GOP leader to rebuke the lawmaker to date. In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that King’s ‘recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate.’ ‘We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior,’ Stivers said in the tweet. Stivers’s remarks set him apart from the top three House Republican leaders — Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) — all of whom have declined to criticize King in recent weeks.”

NRCC scrambles to help vulnerable House candidates - WaPo: “On Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee plans to launch an ad campaign in a South Carolina district that Trump carried by 13 percentage points, while House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) intends to campaign for a Kentucky incumbent in a district that went to Trump by 15 points. The last-minute moves follow decisions by Republican groups to toss political lifelines to House candidates in Georgia, Florida, Virginia and Washington state, all in districts where Trump was victorious. Republicans are weighed down by an unpopular president, and the maneuvering reflects the challenging map that has forced GOP leaders to triage their candidates ahead of the Nov. 6 vote. Democrats are favored to win the House majority, according to nonpartisan analysts. They need a net gain of 23 seats.”

With boost from Trump, Chabot begins to lead race - Reuters: “For months, Republican U.S. Representative Steve Chabot was running about even with Democratic opponent Aftab Pureval in his traditionally conservative southwest Ohio district. But as the Nov. 6 elections approach, the contest has begun breaking in Chabot’s favor, one of about half a dozen races in conservative-leaning districts where improving Republican odds are stoking speculation of a tightening battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives that could limit a Democratic ‘blue wave.’ Despite the gains, most independent analysts still predict that Democrats will pick up the 23 seats they need to gain control of the House, where they would be in a position to derail or stall much of Republican President Donald Trump’s policy agenda. … But in Ohio and other districts where Republicans like Chabot have risen in recent opinion polls and in the rankings of political handicappers, their resurgence reflects Trump’s success in charging up his base, helped by his multiple political rallies and this month’s confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.”

Dem pulling away with lead in NY-19 - Monmouth University: “Democratic candidate Antonio Delgado has increased his lead over first-term Congressman John Faso in New York’s 19th Congressional District race, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll. The challenger has built on the small lead he held last month by strengthening his standing among women and making some gains east of the Hudson River. Delgado currently holds a 49% to 44% edge over Faso among likely voters using Monmouth’s standard midterm turnout model. Another 3% support a third party or independent candidate and 4% are undecided. The race stands at 51% for Delgado and 43% for Faso using a model that incorporates a turnout surge in Democratic precincts similar to the turnout dynamic seen in some special elections held over the past year.”

Chad Pergram: Who will be what in the House in the 116th Congress? - Fox News: “is as muddled as it’s been in decades. We start today with a look at the GOP leadership contests and scenarios. We’ll evaluate the Democrats later in the week. Here’s the process. The full House votes for speaker on January 3, 2019. The winning candidate must secure an outright majority of the entire House: at least 218 votes cast by the 435 members. The Democrats will formally nominate one candidate. The Republicans another. But it’s not unusual for members of both parties to cast ballots for someone besides the formal nominees. Plus, the House Speaker doesn’t have to be a member of the body. The House Democratic Caucus and House Republican Conference will likely meet in late November or early December to select their candidates. Only members who prevailed in the midterm election and will be part of the 116th Congress will take part in this internal election. Who assumes the speakership in addition to who emerges as the top leaders on both sides of the aisle hinges on which party is in charge - and by how many seats - in the new Congress.”

CONNECTICUT’S TWO THORNS: DANNEL AND THE ECONOMY
NYT: “Ned Lamont, the Democratic candidate for governor [in Connecticut], has tried to tie the Republican candidate, Bob Stefanowski, to Mr. Trump… In a state that has voted Democrat in the last seven presidential elections, including 2016 … Mr. Lamont’s strategy would seem sound. And yet Connecticut is one of only two states, along with Oregon, where Democrats are thought to be at risk of losing the governor’s seat. A recent poll by Sacred Heart University and the Hearst Connecticut Media Group showed Mr. Lamont leading Mr. Stefanowski, 39.5 percent to 36.1 percent… The reasons for Mr. Lamont’s struggles lie in the particular dynamics affecting Connecticut politics, not least of which is the overwhelming unpopularity of Dannel P. Malloy, the two-term Democratic governor who is not seeking re-election. … Beyond the competition between anti-Trump activism and Mr. Malloy’s rock-bottom approval ratings, the other predominant campaign issue is the state’s poor fiscal health; it is projected to have a budget deficit hovering north of $4 billion over the next two years. Which candidate’s vision resonates with voters remains to be seen.”

Hogan connects with black voters - WaPo: “As a lifelong Democrat, Jay Hopkins says he expects to vote for Maryland gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous even as he struggles to identify a compelling reason beyond party loyalty. Yet Hopkins, an African American cook who lives in Baltimore, voices no shortage of praise for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, ticking off the incumbent’s efforts to reduce taxes and tolls and his decision to dispatch federal troops to restore order during the city’s 2015 riots. … In fact, Hopkins said, he’s satisfied enough with the governor that he can envision crossing party lines for the first time to vote for him. … Like the national party, Maryland Democrats have long relied on African Americans to turn out in large numbers for their candidates, an expectation rooted in loyalty passed down through generations. But Hogan’s black support has more than doubled since his first campaign for governor in 2014, from 14 percent to 33 percent, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll earlier this month. A survey by Morgan State University released last week echoed the finding.”

OREGON VOTERS TO DECIDE FATE OF STATE’S SANCTUARY LAW 
Fox News: “Voters in Oregon are about to weigh in on one of the most controversial topics of our time. Should the local government provide sanctuary to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally? Ballot Measure 105 would repeal the country’s oldest sanctuary state law, passed almost unanimously in Oregon in 1987. It bars local police from using resources to enforce immigration law. Oregonians for Immigration Reform is spearheading the repeal effort. Leaders say it is policies like this that encourage the caravan of Central Americans making its way through Mexico to the U.S. border. … According to the Center for Immigration Studies, there are 300 sanctuary city jurisdictions, including seven states. Immigrant rights groups working to defeat the repeal of Oregon’s law are trying to keep the focus local and not on caravans, President Trump or the border wall.”

Idaho GOP governor endorses Medicaid expansion - The Hill: “Idaho’s Republican Gov. Butch Otter on Tuesday endorsed a ballot initiative that would expand Medicaid eligibility to thousands of people. … Supporters of the measure say it would provide coverage for up to 62,000 Idahoans who now fall into a coverage gap, making too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the state insurance exchange. If the state were to expand Medicaid coverage next week, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost. Idaho is one of 18 states that have yet to expand coverage under ObamaCare using federal money. Otter is not running for re-election. In a debate Monday night, Lt. Gov Brad Little (R) said he would implement the measure if voters approve it. … Little's challenger, Democratic state Rep. Paulette Jordan, said she supports the measure.”

MUELLER'S RUSSIA PROBE NEARS POST-MIDTERM PHASE
Fox News: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is nearing a critical phase -- as the looming midterms could clear the way for a final set of twists and turns in the long-running probe. Key sentencing dates are on the horizon. Mueller's team is widely expected to issue findings soon after the Nov. 6 elections. And the case could yet hold some surprises, given the recent statements of central players. … But the expectations are that Mueller is nearing the final phase of the investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates in the 2016 presidential election. Reports suggest that federal investigators are finalizing their conclusions on the collusion issue and whether the president took any actions that could be considered obstruction of justice. Two sources close to Trump’s legal team told Fox News that the probe is ‘winding down.’ A spokesman for Mueller’s team declined to comment on their timeline.”

POLL CHECK
Senate

Florida: Bill Nelson* (D) 45% vs. Rick Scott (R) 43% - Suffolk

Michigan: Debbie Stabenow* 53% (D) vs. John James (R) 36% - Detroit News

House
CA-45: Mimi Walters* (R) 43% vs. Katie Porter (D) 50% -  NYT

Governor
Connecticut: Bob Stefanowski (R) 43% vs. Ned Lamont (D) 47% - Quinnipiac University

Florida: Ron DeSantis (R) 43% vs. Andrew Gillum (D) 49% - UNF

PLAY-BY-PLAY
US midterms: Trump military funding on chopping block? - Fox Business

Captain “Sully” Sullenberger voices support for Democrats in midterm elections - WashEx

AUDIBLE: HE’S NOT WRONG
“One of the problems in politics is that we put people in a box. And you automatically assume that every person that’s labeled an R or a D has all those same beliefs. No wonder so many people are switching to be independents in this state.” – Democratic candidate for South Dakota governor, Billie Sutton, in the last debate between him and Republican Representative Kristi Noem.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, I enjoy your analysis and wit - Please keep ‘telling us!’ You lost me on one single point in your lead, ‘Partisanship Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.’ Preciously how do you propose voters hold political leaders guilty of serving the hogwash of ‘...calling for unity in one breath and attacking rivals in the next...’? Assuming voters have the presence of mind and fortitude to call out their own politicians, short of casting their vote for the opposition, how does one REALLY hold the ‘hogwashers’ accountable? Calling out offenders on the opposite side seems to be the only play - how's that been working for us? By what means will any politician ever feel the need to repent and abstain from such behavior absent the loss of enough votes to be ‘fired’?” – Bill Romick, Raleigh, N.C.

[Ed. note: That’s just it, Mr. Romick. I think that as more voters have abandoned the major parties, it has made it easier for creeps, extremists and demagogues to win by exploiting some combination of voters who are either gullible or cynical enough to believe them or play along. For all the talk about getting voters in the pool for general elections, what we really need is to see increased participation from normal Americans in primary elections.] 

“Chris, thank you for explanation of the reasons for the possible varied outcomes in the Texas and NJ Senate races. You do a great job of communicating the mumbo-jumbo of election analysis with clarity. The only problem I had was suggesting WVU was going to beat the Longhorns this Saturday.  Hook 'Em!” – Brian Brown, Austin, Texas

[Ed. note: The Halftime Report fearless football forecast holds 100 percent probability that we are going to be in for one helluva football game on Saturday. Let’s gooooooooooooooo…]

“I really had to laugh when I read in your article that the ‘conservative’ Dallas Morning News editorial board was backing Beto over Cruz. That paper hasn't been conservative in eons. The Ft. Worth Star Telegram is owned by the DMN and they aren't conservative either. Cruz is in for a fight, but should win.” – Keith Hearn, Midlothian, Texas

[Ed. note: Ha! I figured we’d hear from someone about that. It might have been better for us to call them “conservative leaning” or “self-described.” I think it’s a thought, well-reasoned and useful product overall, but I certainly get why lots of Texas Republicans get ornery over the “conservative” label.]

“Hi Chris - Recently read your new book and just re-read Friday 10/28 column and got to wondering why you don’t curate a bunch of the non-date-sensitive essays into another book. (Since you don’t already have enough to do…. )” – Victor Wortman, Santa Monica, Calif.

[Ed. note: I have a hard time thinking that I’m in Krauthammer country. I think I’d better keep my nose down and skip the victory laps! Thank you, though. I’m always gratified to hear that folks find my musings useful.]

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A POWER BALLAD SO STRONG THEY CALLED THE BOMB SQUAD 
Charlotte Observer: “The suspicious package that forced Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to close a block of uptown on Tuesday turned out to be a Journey cassette tape… It’s not clear which Journey album created the scare, which prompted some companies to evacuate their buildings. The 100 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was closed for more than an hour as police investigated the ‘small manila envelope handwritten and addressed from out of state to Duke Energy,’ reported WBTV. The envelope was discovered at 6:12 a.m., at the Duke Energy building at 400 South Tryon Street, police said in a press release. ‘An employee found a small package that appeared suspicious,’ said a police statement. ‘As a precaution, pedestrian and vehicular traffic were restricted.’ Investigators used canine and bomb units at the scene, said a police release. Duke Energy sent out an email shortly after 8 a.m. saying the company follows a ‘strict protocol’ in such cases, starting with calling 911.”


AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“In democracies, the electoral process is a subtle and elaborate substitute for combat, the age-old way of settling struggles for power.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Oct. 13, 2016.  

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.