Trump goes back to basics

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On the roster: Trump goes back to basics - RNC tightens convention restrictions as members bail - Bad blood: Trump Niece bashes Uncle in new book - Primary day for New Jersey, Delaware - The story just sort of *ahem* bubbled up

While it is true that President Trump’s struggling re-election effort has suffered badly for his indiscipline, that doesn’t mean that he’s not executing any plan at all.

Nor does it mean that it necessarily won’t work.

Running for and serving as president is sort of like living by the magma vents on the Atlantic seafloor. Only very specialized organisms can survive in the highly corrosive atmosphere that is toxic to most living things.

Trump’s immediate predecessors, Barack Obama and George Bush, were alike in the gift for surviving amid the sulfuric acid by seeming impervious to it. Whether they actually shattered remote controls and cussed blue streaks in private we can’t know, but their public personas were those of men rising above.

Now, both knew how to exploit the atmosphere. Obama made hay out of the attacks on him (including Trump’s efforts to prove him a secret Kenyan) and by wading into various controversies. Bush was even more cautious, but certainly profited by the culture wars, especially on same-sex marriage. But both preserved a presidential bearing and at least the appearance of some remove.

Trump, on the other hand, is a human magma vent. His political success, as we have often discussed, has substantially relied on his gift for media manipulation. You can bet, for example, that any day when the news is bad for the president, he will attempt to discharge enough sulfur to change the story.

It’s not surprising then that facing at present a potential drubbing, Trump is trying to do what he does best. Right after his admirers are done defending him against accusations of race baiting, Trump tweets “white power” or defends the Confederate Flag.

It may be that Trump lacks the discipline and patience to sustain a more subtle approach to taking advantage of the raging culture wars. But it may also be true that he believes his plan works. After all, it has before.

What’s worse for Trump, trading accusations of racism with Democrats and political journalists or another day focused on the surging coronavirus? Every politician would like to have the ability to switch the narrative, but not every politician can or will endure the sulfuric blowback that might be needed.

You can see his logic here. If Trump could win once riding atop an eruption of upset and outrage, why couldn’t he do it again? His symbiotic counterparts in the political press certainly do their part to puff up each new outrage. Trump uncorks some culture war discharge, his critics swallow it whole and the cycle is perpetuated with a back and forth over who was more wrong and blah, blah, blah…

Aside from keeping coverage pointed away from even more uncomfortable topics, it also keeps Trump’s base occupied. The way to lose in a landslide is to have your own voters give up hope. That’s how you get wiped out: Knowing defeat is inevitable, your people don’t bother voting. That’s exactly the scenario that has Senate Republicans sweating like a cold drink on a hot day. That helps explain why Trump is trolling so hard. It’s fan service.


The more obvious answer is that what works for an outsider, first-time candidate won’t work for an incumbent president. It’s certainly harder to play the victim and it’s impossible to avoid the judgment of voters as they reflect on a first term and imagine what a second term might be like.

Trump is well suited to highly acidic atmospheres, but most voters are not. While Trump’s diversions keep the press and Democrats away from his weaker spots, they also reinforce his weakest one at all: Fatigue.

Americans grow weary of every president sooner or later, which is why re-elected ones tend to become lame ducks so quickly. Since the dawn of the television age, each president becomes part of the furnishings of our lives. Eventually, we tire of the décor. That happened sooner for Trump than any.

Trump and some Republicans tried the same approach in 2018, including with the same fight over statues. But it didn’t work then.

The problem is that while you’re keeping your foes off topic, you’re also showing persuadable voters that you’re out of touch with their concerns. Lots of people feel deeply about these wedge issues, but not many who don’t already have their minds set.

“Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.” – Alexander Hamilton and James MadisonFederalist No. 20

Yahoo: “NASA's most powerful space telescope, Hubble, captured a uniquely picturesque galaxy in a photo the agency released on Thursday. The galaxy, called NGC 2775, is located 67 million light-years away and doesn't seem to be forming stars that much anymore. Astronomers can tell that's the case because of the relatively empty, clear bulge at the galaxy's center. When it was younger, the galaxy's middle region was likely bursting with activity as gas condensed into newborn stars. Now, however, all the gas seems to be used up. The arms spinning around the galaxy's center are ‘flocculent’ — fluffy and feathery-looking — due to dark lines of dust and puffs of gas clouds. Millions of young stars shine bright blue through the haze.”

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Trump: 41.4 percent
Biden: 51 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 9.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.4 points; Trump ↑ 2 points
[Average includes: IBD: Trump 40% - Biden 48%; Monmouth: Trump 41% - Biden 53%; CNBC: Trump 41% - Biden 49%; USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 41% - Biden 53%; NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 44% - 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)
[Full rankings here.]

Average approval: 40.2 percent
Average disapproval: 56.4 percent
Net Score: -16.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.6 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve - 57% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve - 56% disapprove; Monmouth: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 43% approve - 57% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve - 58% disapprove.]

WSJ: “The Trump administration is pressing the nation’s school systems to educate children in-person this fall, preparing to offer safety guidelines for reopening, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill search for an agreement to provide schools the federal aid they say they need to do so. … Schools across the country closed this spring … likely leading to learning loss for many children and placing burdens on parents who have been forced to work from home. The resurgence of the virus across the south and west of the U.S.… has complicated the push to bring groups of children into schools. Decisions about how and whether to reopen schools are largely up to state and local governments… But Mr. Trump has repeatedly made his stance clear. ‘SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!’ he wrote in a tweet Monday. ‘You forgot to add the word ‘SAFELY,’ tweeted back Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association…”

Florida makes it mandatory Fox News: “The Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order on Monday mandating that all of its schools must reopen for the fall semester, following months of closure due to the coronavirus. The order, signed by Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, addresses all school boards and charter school governing boards. It says that all ‘brick and mortar schools’ must reopen beginning in August at least five days per week and that they must follow the guidelines as set by the Florida Department of Health…The department’s order further requires all schools that accept state scholarship money to submit a reopening plan that satisfies the state’s requirements.”

Reuters: “The Republican Party will provide mandatory coronavirus testing at its August national convention in Jacksonville, according to a memo delivered on Monday. The plan to require thousands of attendees to get tested for the coronavirus before entering the convention site illustrates the efforts the party is undertaking to ensure President Donald Trump speaks to a packed house when he accepts the nomination. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, an 86-year old Republican from Iowa, said on Monday that he will skip the Republican National Convention in August due to coronavirus concerns. The Jacksonville Host Committee has not provided details on the logistics or how the cost will be covered.”

Dems rethink convention nodesPolitico: “First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether even gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases. With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation — regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.”

California hospitalizations stress systemReuters: “New coronavirus cases soared in California over the July Fourth weekend, stressing some hospital systems and leading to the temporary closure of the state capitol building in Sacramento for deep cleaning, officials said on Monday. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 50% over the past two weeks to about 5,800, Governor Gavin Newsom said at a briefing. About a third of those hospitalized were in Los Angeles County, state and local records showed, with about 630 confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients requiring intensive care. And 25% of the hospitalizations in the county in July were among patients aged 18 to 40, health officials said, as new cases increasingly hit a younger population that may have been lax about safety precautions in recent weeks.”

Short on supplies... again - AP: “The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs. A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.”

Atlanta mayor, veep hopeful tests positiveAP: “Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. The 50-year-old Democrat is among the women named as a potential vice-presidential running mate for presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden. ‘COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive,’ Bottoms tweeted. She told MSNBC that she decided her family members should get tested again because her husband ‘literally has been sleeping since Thursday.’ She said the only other symptoms she and her husband have been experienced are those similar to allergies they have.”

LAT: “Donald Trump’s upbringing in a deeply dysfunctional family makes him a uniquely destructive and unstable leader for the country, his niece writes in a scathing new book obtained by The Times, perhaps the most personal in a series of deeply unflattering tell-all accounts about the president. Mary Trump paints a disturbing portrait of her uncle, saying he paid a friend to take his SATs so he could get into college and grew up bending the truth to promote himself. The future president’s father was a ‘high-functioning sociopath’ and his mother ‘emotionally and physically absent.’ ‘Honest work was never demanded of him, and no matter how badly he failed, he was rewarded in ways that are almost unfathomable. He continues to be protected from his own disasters in the White House,’ writes Mary Trump, the daughter of the president’s eldest brother, Fred.”

Biden goes deep with Pennsylvania teamPhiladelphia Inquirer: “Joe Biden has added two Philadelphians with extensive experience in Pennsylvania politics to lead his campaign operation in a state critical to the presidential election and his hopes of winning the White House. Biden on Tuesday named Brendan McPhillips as his Pennsylvania state director and Sinceré Harris as senior adviser in the state, the campaign first confirmed to the Inquirer Tuesday. McPhillips, who lives in Point Breeze, most recently led Pete Buttigieg’s campaign in Iowa, helping the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., pull off a surprising first-place finish. McPhillips previously managed Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s primary campaign for U.S. Senate in 2016 and Helen Gym’s successful 2015 City Council run. He also led Andrew Gillum’s 2018 bid for governor of Florida.”

WaPo: “Data released Monday by the Small Business Administration shows that businesses owned by members of Congress and the law practice that represented President Trump were among the hundreds of thousands of firms that received aid from the agency. As part of its $660 billion small-business relief program, the SBA also handed out loans to private schools catering to elite clientele, firms owned by foreign companies and large chains backed by well-heeled Wall Street firms. Nearly 90,000 companies in the program took the aid without promising on their applications they would rehire workers or create jobs. The data, which was released after weeks of pressure from media outlets and lawmakers, paints a picture of a haphazard first-come, first-served program that was not designed to evaluate the relative need of the recipients.”

Donors cashed inAP: “As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to President Donald Trump’s election efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data. Many were among the first to be approved for a loan in early April, when the administration was struggling to launch the lending program. And only eight businesses had to wait until early May before securing the aid, according to the AP’s review of data released Monday…All told, the Trump supporters who run these companies have contributed at least $11.1 million since May 2015 to Trump’s campaign committees, the Republican National Committee and America First Action, a super PAC that has been endorsed by Trump, the AP review found. Each donor gave at least $20,000.”

White House wants another $1 trillion by August Bloomberg: “The White House wants Congress to pass another stimulus package by the first week in August, before lawmakers head home for their annual summer recess, and to keep the cost at $1 trillion or less, according to Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide. ‘I think we want to make sure that people that are still unemployed or hurting are protected but at the same time, we want to take into consideration the fact the economy is bouncing back and want to try to contain the amount of spending,’ Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg Radio...The White House and lawmakers are set to intensify talks on a new package of virus-related stimulus this month, as they return to Washington after the Independence Day holiday.”

NYT: “Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s home state is holding a presidential primary, and New Jersey has a full slate of congressional primaries on tap in an election that will be held mostly by mail...For Democrats in New Jersey and across the country, Representative Jeff Van Drew’s switch to the Republican Party in December, after the impeachment vote against President Trump, was nothing short of a betrayal. Potential opponents began quickly jockeying to take on Mr. Van Drew in what will be one of November’s most watched congressional races. But the primary battle in South Jersey has turned toxic, fracturing the state’s Democratic establishment along lines both familiar and foreign to those who closely follow the political machinations of Trenton. Backing Amy Kennedy, a mental health advocate and former teacher who is part of the Kennedy political diaspora, is Gov. Philip D. Murphy, along with progressive activists and labor unions who often side with him.”

Huntsman accepts defeat in return bid for Utah governorDeseret News: “Utah’s GOP gubernatorial primary was called Monday for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox by the Associated Press after new results showed him continuing to hold onto a lead over former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Cox, who’s scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon, said in a statement that he and his running mate, state Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, ‘are humbled by the vote of confidence from the people of Utah in selecting us as the Republican nominee for governor and lieutenant governor.’ He said ‘as farm kids from Sanpete County,’ he and his wife, Abby, ‘never dreamed of having this opportunity. If elected in November, we will take our rural values of hard work, honesty and responsibility to the governor’s office each day.’”

Foreign students can’t stay in U.S. for online classes – NPR

“Well, the vice president says he will transform America. He will. And the American people will pay a fearsome price. His foreign policy is hugs and hot cocoa for America’s enemies. If he’s elected, my advice to you is to build a fallout shelter.”– Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., talks Joe Biden on Fox News.

“I am troubled by your report of the recent “NASCAR” tweet of the President. …that excerpt omits the key fact that Bubba Wallace has nothing to apologise for because he had no role in reporting the alleged hate crime, nor in its investigation.  The Fox News report you cite included ‘I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,’ South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said’ and both the presenters on the Fox News video clip and your friend Howie Kurtz went out of their way to explain to viewers that the matter was not a hoax and that Wallace was not involved. Fair and balanced reporting which is what I expect from the Halftime Report, and that surely requires you not to selectively edit a balanced report of a misleading tweet in a way that ‘removes the antidote but retains the bane’. I don’t imagine you will publish this but I hope you recognise your own responsibility to take care not to create nor to propagate, by selective editing, a fake narrative.” -- Dr Evan Harris, London, U.K.

[Ed. note: Holy crocano, Doc! We try to keep our blurbs short enough to be suitable for easy reading on a mobile device. I don’t doubt that we could do better in many instances in taking more reflective passages. We rely on the fact that our subscribers bring context with them to our notes. We also provide headlines and other context clues to help. I’m confident they can find their way around one incomplete item from time to time. But accusing me of propagating a fake narrative by selective editing? If you think that’s the kind of shop you think we’re running here I can’t imagine why you’d subscribe. It must get pretty drafty up there on such a high horse.]

“I loved and, agreed, with your response to Jackson Sperry on 7/1. 'If I were advising [Trump], I’d tell him to be as boring as possible for at least the next two weeks.' I was definitely interested in how POTUS's messaging and tone would or wouldn't change in the following days. Over the weekend and then with culture war remarks (ie asking Bubba Wallace to apologize) today, 7/6, I have a new hypothesis. Trump understands at this point the uphill struggle to get re-elected. The messaging and tone he'd have to use to winover independents or undecided voters would not affect his base voting for him, but could affect his 'hero' status to his most faithful supporters. Trump political media enterprise post-election anyone? I don't think any traditional GOP or mainstream conservative is excited about him rehashing culture war issues. It sure doesn't seem like a strategy to broaden his base for an electoral college victory. Cheers,” -- Alex Vigil, Sacramento, Calif.  

[Ed. note; I hear you, but offer my standard cautions against complicated strategies. You know the adage: “never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” It seems far fetched to me that Trump would give up on a chance at another term in power in order to preserve a chance at a dubious post-presidential career as a troll. Trump is older than any incumbent in history to seek a second term so it’s not like he has an unlimited post-presidential timeframe. It seems more likely to me that the president is working under incomplete/incorrect assumptions about the nature of the electorate -- misunderstandings exacerbated by confirmation bias. When your skill is riling the political left and right wings with social issues, you are quite likely to see the world in such a way that suggests your skills are well suited for the moment. I think Trump is trying to recover from the body blows he suffered this spring and summer the only way he knows how. His invocation of the infamous former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, who stoked racial and cultural antipathies to gain and maintain power , told us a great deal about how Trump sees the election and the electorate -- to say nothing of the race baiting stuff on Confederate Flags at NASCAR events and the Washington Redskins. He’s looking for any fight he can get as long as it is on his perceived turf. What he is missing is that so far, persuadable voters are still judging him on job performance.] 

“I suppose I should know the answer to this question but, as hard as it is to believe, I have some doubt that I would be right. We do have two senior men currently running for President so the following situation, although highly unlikely, is possible.  Suppose President Smith is running for re-election against Mr. Jones.  And suppose Mr. Jones wins the election.  Alas, a few weeks before Mr. Jones is sworn into office as President, he dies.  Normally the Vice President would become President.  But the only Vice President we have has also lost the election.  In any event we do still have President Smith in office at this point. My question is on Inauguration Day who is sworn in as President?” -- Tom Snyder, The Villages, Fla.

[Ed. note: Good question, Mr. Snyder! If the incumbent, President Smith, has been defeated in the Electoral College, neither he nor his vice president can continue in office beyond noon on Jan. 20 of the year following the election. As for who replaces the president-elect, under the 20th Amendment, in almost every scenario it is the vice president-elect -- even if the vacancy occurs between the election and the certification of the results by the House and Senate. If somehow there was neither a president-elect nor a vice president elect the office would devolve to the speaker of the House.] 

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Fox News: “Breaking the story of Patrick Mahomes’ historic contract extension probably wasn’t part of the job description when one Missouri liquor store employee applied for the position. But when the time came, Katie Camlin did just that. Camlin, who works at Plaza Liquors in Kansas City, tweeted that a Chiefs employee had come into her store to buy a load of champagne for an apparent celebration. ‘A front office employee for the Chiefs came in and bought six bottles of Dom Perignon. Said there’s a big signing today. He said it’s not Chris Jones, so my guess is a Mahomes deal,’ Camlin tweeted before eventually deleting it, according to the Kansas City Star. More than an hour later, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter had broken the news that Mahomes was signing a 10-year contract extension with the Chiefs. Camlin’s reaction: ‘Holy s—t I beat Schefter hahaha.’”

“After uncounted generations of human beings, we have the unique privilege of living in a time when man has the capacity to travel to other worlds. Anyone who can remain unhumbled by the majesty of the enterprise, dead to the transcendent promise of his own time, should have his citizenship in the twenty-first century revoked.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Examiner on Feb. 17, 2003.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Kim Anderson contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.