**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: The Sun Belt warms to Trump - Biden campaign establishes legal war room - Despite warnings Trump held indoor Nevada rally - The race for Florida is a tight one - Crocnapping 


New swing-state polls from the NYT and Siena College suggest that Trump has missed his intended target by playing on fears about urban unrest, but hit a different one anyway.

First, some background.

The conventional wisdom and the evident strategy from the Trump campaign has been that Wisconsin is the reddest of the three northern “Blue Wall’ states that delivered Trump’s upset victory four years ago.

When a police shooting in suburban Milwaukee kicked off weeks of protests and violence, the assumption was that it would benefit Trump, who rushed to campaign at the scene of the riot.

But at least so far, there’s no sign that it’s working. And there’s even some indication that it has backfired, particularly in neighboring Minnesota, where Trump is falling farther behind.

But what about the Sun Belt?

In Nevada, 60 percent of all White voters and 69 percent of Whites without college degrees said addressing law and order concerns was more important than addressing the coronavirus – outpacing White voters in Wisconsin by 12 points and 15 points, respectively. Nevada was similarly skewed on the question compared to Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Recent Florida results have a similar tale to tell. A survey from NBC News and Marist College found Biden and Trump in a dead heat there even as the same pollsters found Trump falling farther behind in Pennsylvania.

While they didn’t ask the same questions comparing coronavirus to urban unrest, it’s clear that Trump’s tough-on-crime rhetoric connected with lots of voters, and not just Whites. Latino voters picked Trump over Biden on handling crime by 9 points.

A Monmouth poll out last week said 71 percent of Hispanic, Asian and other voters who were neither simply White nor Black said maintaining law and order was “a major problem.” That’s higher than any demographic group in the survey.

While voters in this group believe Biden is more likely to have success in preserving law and order – 37 percent for Trump to 59 percent for Biden – it’s just as clear that the issue can move voters typically outside of the Trump coalition.

The issue may not deliver those who Trump calls “the suburban housewife,” but it obviously has resonance with blue-collar voters of all stripes, which is good news for Republicans in poorer states, many of which happen to be in the nation’s southern tier.

Think of it this way: Nevada, Maine and New Mexico were the two poorest states by median household income that Democrats won in 2016 and Florida is the poorest swing state. Similarly, Nevada and New Mexico were the only two states with college graduation rates below the national average to vote Democratic four years ago and Florida is one of only three states below that threshold on this year’s swing state list.

If Trump is having a particularly hard time with college-educated and more affluent voters, northern tier states pose special challenges for Republicans this year – especially if those voters remain focused on the coronavirus and the economy. And with large African American populations and relatively small numbers of Hispanic voters, it may be hard for Trump to make up lost ground in the Upper Midwest.

It would make sense that the voters with the fewest resources and the least education would have the greatest concerns about crime. They are the ones most likely to be victims and, outside of African American voters, may be less likely to put the incidents of violence in a social justice construct.

We allow that Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona especially are tough for Trump and that Florida, as usual, will be a nail biter, but if Republicans can sweep the Sun Belt and win every state south of Virginia, the Red Team could lose all three of the Blue Wall states and still win the Electoral College.

That’s not the most likely scenario since you’d have to imagine a Trump campaign strong enough to win New Mexico would be able to hold on elsewhere, but it does illustrate a point.

Trump’s strategy to bring more working-class voters into the electorate by emphasizing issues about law and order and urban unrest could be more effective than Democrats would like to think.

“A legislature, without exceeding its province, cannot reverse a determination once made in a particular case; though it may prescribe a new rule for future cases.” – Alexander Hamilton, discussing the distribution of judicial authority, Federalist No. 81

History: “On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.”’The poem, originally titled ‘The Defence of Fort M'Henry,’ was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. … After one of Key’s friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren’t allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump: 43.6 percent    
Biden: 50.6 percent    
Size of lead: Biden by 7 points    
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 0.6, Trump ↑ 1 point    
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 46% - Biden 51%; Kaiser Family Foundation: Trump 43% - Biden 48%; Monmouth University: Trump 44% - Biden 51%; CNN: Trump 43% - Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% - Biden 52%.]    

(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)

Average approval: 43.8 percent    
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent    
Net Score: -9.4 points 
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.4 points  
[Average includes: Fox News: 48% approve - 51% disapprove; Kaiser Family Foundation: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Monmouth University: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 54% disapprove.]  

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.

 NYT: “Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign is establishing a major new legal operation, bringing in two former solicitors general and hundreds of lawyers in what the campaign billed as the largest election protection program in presidential campaign history. Legal battles are already raging over how people will vote — and how ballots will be counted — this fall during the pandemic, and senior Biden officials described the ramp-up as necessary to guard the integrity of a fall election already clouded by President Trump’s baseless accusations of widespread fraud. The new operation will be overseen by Dana Remus, who has served as Mr. Biden’s general counsel on the 2020 campaign, and Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel during the Obama administration who joined the Biden campaign full-time over the summer as a senior adviser. Inside the campaign, they are creating a ‘special litigation’ unit, which will be led by Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and Walter Dellinger, two former solicitors general, who are joining the campaign.”

Dems expand online access for voter registration, mail ballot requests - AP: “Democrats are rolling out an expanded online portal that allows people to register to vote and request a mail ballot in their state and even helps digitize their signature on their paperwork. The updates to the Democratic National Committee’s IWillVote.com are an example of the latest way both parties have tried to adapt the mechanics of modern campaigning to the realities of voting during the pandemic. ‘The stakes for our country have never been higher, and we’re making sure Americans have all the information they need in order to make their plan to vote and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House,’ Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said in a statement released Monday. Both major parties have rejiggered their get-out-the-vote playbooks during the pandemic. Democrats’ adjustment has been most dramatic as they’ve largely suspended the door knocking that is a staple of election years.”

Fox Poll shows Biden-Trump in a 5-point race - Fox News: “The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket is ahead of the Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket by a 51-46 percent margin. That 5 percentage-point advantage sits right at the margin of sampling error of the latest Fox News survey, taken after the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Majorities of likely voters have a positive opinion of Biden and trust him over Trump on coronavirus, Supreme Court nominations, and uniting the country -- and that nudges the former vice president just over 50 percent in the presidential race. The national survey, released Sunday, is the first Fox News has conducted among likely voters this year and the first time it included running mates in the vote preference question. Both tickets have secured the backing of their key voting blocs. Biden leads among women, suburban voters, seniors, millennials, Blacks, and Hispanics.  Trump is ahead among men, Whites, rural voters, veterans, White Catholics, and Gen Xers.”

Biden’s virus-free bubble - Politico: “Joe Biden’s chartered airplanes and SUVs are meticulously sprayed with disinfectant and scrubbed. The microphones, lecterns and folders he uses are wiped down in the moments before his arrival. News reporters covering the campaign have their temperature taken. People he meets are scanned in advance with thermometer wands and guests at his events are cordoned off in precise locations mapped out with a tape measure. The former vice president is seldom without a mask when in public or around anyone other than his wife, Dr. Jill Biden. Access to their home is limited to only a few staffers — and when they’re inside, each wears a mask, including Biden. The level of discipline is such that at times when someone stops to take a drink of water, that person will turn their head away from the others to reduce the chances of scattering droplets, according to campaign aides.”

AP: “In open defiance of state regulations and his own administration’s pandemic health guidelines, President Donald Trump hosted his first indoor rally since June, telling a packed, nearly mask-less Nevada crowd that the nation was ‘making the last turn’ in defeating the virus. Eager to project a sense of normalcy in imagery, Trump soaked up the raucous cheers inside a warehouse Sunday night. Relatively few in the crowd wore masks, with a clear exception: Those in the stands directly behind Trump, whose images would end up on TV, were mandated to wear face coverings. Not since a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was blamed for a surge of coronavirus infections has he gathered supporters indoors. ‘We are not shutting the country again. A shutdown would destroy the lives and dreams of millions Americans,’ said Trump, before using his inflammatory moniker for the coronavirus. ‘We will very easy defeat the China virus.’”

Report: Top health official makes claims of pandemic conspiracies - NYT: “The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus accused career government scientists on Sunday of ‘sedition’ in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election. Michael Caputo, 58, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said without evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a ‘resistance unit’ determined to undermine President Trump. Mr. Caputo, who has faced criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger. ‘You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,’ Mr. Caputo, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April, told followers in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page.”

Survey finds Americans’ knowledge of their rights, government has increased - Annenberg Public Policy Center: “In a period defined by an impeachment inquiry, a pandemic, nationwide protests over racial injustice, and a contentious presidential campaign, Americans’ knowledge of their First Amendment rights and their ability to name all three branches of the federal government have markedly increased, according to the 2020 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey. Among the highlights of the annual survey, released for Constitution Day (Sept. 17): Americans are much more aware of all five rights protected by the First Amendment when asked unprompted to name them; Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) correctly named freedom of speech as one of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, up from 48% in 2017; More than half of those surveyed (51%) accurately named all three branches of the federal government, up from 39% last year, the prior high point in this survey. The civics knowledge survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania was conducted among 1,009 U.S. adults from August 4-9, 2020, prior to the political conventions.”

NYT: “In an era of polarization, where swing voters are scarce, elections in Florida are won by driving up turnout among the faithful and running up margins in favorable terrain while losing more closely in hostile precincts. In a state so evenly divided that races are often decided by a few thousand votes — or, more memorably, a few hundred — mobilizing the converted outweighs preaching to the undecided few. … That’s partly why Democrats were so stung last week by a federal appeals court decision that almost ensured that at least 774,000 former felons in the state — many of whom lean Democratic — would not be able to reclaim their voting rights this year without first paying all of their court fees. … Four years after Mr. Trump won Florida by just over a percentage point, polls show the state is, true to form, sitting on a knife’s edge — and looming again as a potential tipping point. On Tuesday, Mr. Biden will make his first trip to the state since claiming the nomination last spring. Mr. Trump has made a number of visits to the state, including last week.”

Team Biden feels the lack of Latino support - AP: “Sen. Kamala Harris’ motorcade raced past Colombian neighborhoods and made a quick stop for takeout in Doral — or ‘Doral-zuela’ as it’s known locally because of its large Venezuelan population — before speeding through the Cuban stronghold of Hialeah. But during her first trip to Florida as Joe Biden’s running mate last week, Harris did little to court this region’s booming — and politically influential — Latino population. She instead focused on African American leaders waiting at a historically Black university in Miami Gardens. … In America’s leading presidential battleground, there’s mounting anxiety among Democrats that the Biden campaign’s standing among Latinos is slipping, potentially giving President Donald Trump an opening in his reelection bid. That’s fueling an urgent effort by Biden, Harris and their allies to shore up older voters, suburbanites and African Americans to make up for potential shortcomings elsewhere.”

Florida Latinos become targets of conspiracy theories - Politico: “George Soros directs a ‘Deep State’ global conspiracy network. A Joe Biden win would put America in control of ‘Jews and Blacks.’ The Democratic nominee has a pedophilia problem. Wild disinformation like this is inundating Spanish-speaking residents of South Florida ahead of Election Day, clogging their WhatsApp chats, Facebook feeds and even radio airwaves at a saturation level that threatens to shape the outcome in the nation’s biggest and most closely contested swing state. The sheer volume of conspiracy theories — including QAnon — and deceptive claims is already playing a role in stunting Biden’s growth with Latino voters, who comprise about 17 percent of the state’s electorate. ‘The onslaught has had an effect,’ said Eduardo Gamarra, a pollster and director of the Latino Public Opinion Forum at Florida International University.”

Bloomberg to spend at least $100 million to support Biden - WaPo: “Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to spend at least $100 million in Florida to help elect Democrat Joe Biden, a massive late-stage infusion of cash that could reshape the presidential contest in a costly toss-up state central to President Trump’s reelection hopes. Bloomberg made the decision to focus his final election spending on Florida last week, after news reports that Trump had considered spending as much as $100 million of his own money in the final weeks of the campaign, Bloomberg’s advisers said. Presented with several options on how to make good on an earlier promise to help elect Biden, Bloomberg decided that a narrow focus on Florida was the best use of his money.”

Trump pegs Medicare reimbursements for drugs to rates in single-payer nations - Reuters

Grandson of Harding’s mistress wants president’s body exhumed from Ohio tomb - AP

Trump US ambassador to China to step down and jump on campaign trail - Fox News

“Many liberal males never grow balls…” – Sen. Ted Cruz in response to a tweet about a segment on gender reveal parties from “The Daily Show.”

“That 9/11 report was worth a standing o! (Stands, applauds). Excellent. I pray that I and my fellow Christians will work hard to be salt and light and spark the return of that spirit in our country. Now, please clarify/explain/retract (haha). In this week's ITYW podcast, y'all were discussing the pathetic soft questions for Biden, and your subsequent FNC appearance expressing your disappointment. On the podcast (18:50) you said you know some of those reporters and stated ‘they weren't trying to help Biden.’ I nearly drove off the road. You really think the vast majority of the media doesn't want to help Biden? Really?” – Becca Chambless, Frisco, Texas

[Ed. note: Ms. Chambliss, you have provided a perfect opportunity for us both to practice what we preach. What I said in the podcast was that it was not the intent of those reporters to help Biden. I do not believe that when they crafted their questions they did so with malign intent to influence the election. That makes it better in the sense that they were being sincere but worse in the sense that they were oblivious. If we want to believe in America, we have to start offering a little more patriotic grace to each other. These weren’t bad people trying to do a bad thing. These were well-intentioned people missing the mark, as we all often do.]

“Your synopsis on this Anniversary of the attacks on America of September 11, 2001, was thoughtful and spot on with one exception. Without saying Vietnam, you alluded to it as a ‘military defeat.’ I beg to differ. The ‘defeat’ was political, pure and simple. Our military was far superior, given the opportunity to perform; but it was severely hamstrung from Washington. H. R. McMaster's classic ‘Dereliction of Duty’ spells it out, warts and all; civilian command and military careerism. The ‘defeat’ must be laid at the feet of Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara, and not the military. Fifty years later, many of us who merely survived, still carry the scars of service, but do not consider ourselves to have been ‘defeated.’” – James W. Herzog, Spartanburg, S.C.

[Ed. note: Mr. Herzog, I would guess from my correspondence with you over these years that you have NEVER been defeated. Certainly our defeat in Vietnam was not a matter of military capacity but political will. We, like the Athenians in their war with Sparta, lost our will to fight as a nation -- if we ever had it. The question the United States has faced repeatedly since the end of World War I was whether we could be what Thomas Jefferson dreamed of: “an empire of liberty.” What Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and other progressives of the early 20th century believed was that the U.S. could deliver on Jefferson’s dream of being the policeman of the world and provide an armed defense or even conquest in the name of democracy. Conservatives rejected this view, hearkening instead to George Washington’s refusal to back the French revolutionaries and warning against “entangling alliances.” But when the causes of spreading democracy became intertwined with combating the spread of communism, left and right for a time found common cause in military interventions. The same was true -- briefly -- about military interventions aimed at militant islamists. But the American electorate tired quickly of these police actions and the friction between political goals and military strategy -- a la Douglas MacArthur v. Harry Truman -- quickly revealed themselves. Our military was defeated in Vietnam, but not because of a lack of capacity or the fighting abilities of our forces. Instead, domestic political sentiment drove politicians to impose impossible limitations and strategies on a military high command that proved only too willing to try to accommodate them -- unto the point of lying about casualties, etc. As you know far better than I, Vietnam was never going to be post-war Germany with neat lines and checkpoints -- or at least not without the kind of sacrifice that American voters would never, ever tolerate. In the long shadow of the second Iraq war, America is again in bipartisan agreement that police actions and long-term engagements of limited scope are unacceptable. That was the view common from the Vietnam midpoint to the first Iraq war. One supposes that the antipathy will last at least as long this time. But it will be just as certain that when enough time has passed, the dreams of Jefferson, Roosevelt and Wilson will return. You are quite right, Mr. Herzog. It was not the fault of you and your brothers in arms that America lost the Vietnam War. Our defeat was born on the home front. But in a republic, for good and for ill, we do not separate the two.]

“Not bad, Mr. Stirewalt, not bad. You're fairly spot on in your Senate Power Rankings, although you didn't analyze the final net pickups.  Minor nits: AZ should be ‘Likely Democrat.’ I'm not sure why, but McSally has been a weak candidate, and the back door appointment hurts her. Likewise, I also see ‘Likely Democrat’ in NC and CO. So score three likely pickups for the Donks. For Lean? Yeah, Montana. Possibly four. Less likely: Georgia and Maine. I just can't see Collins losing in Maine. Loeffler and Collins are indeed committing fratricide, and Perdue is getting hit hard on ethics by Ossoff, and Loeffler is getting hit on that as well. As a transplant to Georgia, my vote's going Libertarian, but due to the <50% runoff standard, I just don't see either flipping. Ossoff is not the candidate to do it; he couldn't even beat a weak candidate in Karen Handel. So the Elephants in this rugby match need at least one pickup, maybe two, to maintain control. That's going to be sweet home Alabama. If they need two, as you note, it's going to have to be Michigan, or hold Montana and Colorado. It really comes down to Trump making the weather, doesn't it?” – Jeff Smith, Army Retired, Warner Robins, Ga.

[Ed. note: You came around in the end, Mr. Smith! We could certainly be more daring in our forecasts -- as my old daddy put it “get a hunch and bet a bunch.’ But that’s not really our place here. What we want to do, especially with seven weeks to go, broadly group the races to watch and then do exactly that. We don’t want to move races off the board only to have to bring them back again a month from now. We don’t know what kind of climate the closing weeks will bring, so it’s better to still be capacious. We assume that there will be at least a major surprise on election night (week) -- some race that no one was watching that turned out to be an upset. Our hope is to have as few of those as possible by having as many races on the board as we can while still rendering some kind of useful judgement.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

AFP: “Villagers in Uttar Pradesh [India] were initially alarmed when they found a crocodile lurking in the local pond. But then they hatched a plan -- to demand a ransom. The eight-foot reptile from a nearby nature reserve turned up in the village of Midania in Uttar Pradesh after monsoon flooding on Tuesday, officials said. Anil Patel, an official responsible for the buffer zone around the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve told AFP that the locals caught the crocodile and then demanded [$681] to give it back. ‘It took us hours to convince them with help from local police and authorities to release the crocodile,’ Mr. Patel said. The villagers were also threatened with legal action, with officials explaining that they risked being jailed for up to seven years. The crocodile, Mr. Patel said, is free now. ‘We released it into the Ghagra river the same day.’ ‘They had no idea that the crocodile was a protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Act. It's important for us to educate more people about wildlife,’ he added.”

“‘Dying is easy. Parking is hard.’ Art Buchwald's little witticism nicely captured his chosen path to a good death: mocking it to the very end.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018), writing about the art of dying well, in Time magazine on March 5, 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.