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On the roster: Trump reboots, races to define Biden as time runs short - Jitters as secretive veepstakes enters home stretch - Trump bashes his top virus doc, blames Pelosi - Dems try to push Kobach into winners’ circle - ‘Stop! Sanitize!’
TRUMP REBOOTS, RACES TO DEFINE BIDEN AS TIME RUNS SHORT
Fox News: “The Trump campaign resumed airing national ads on Monday with what officials called a ‘smarter, more strategic’ approach focused on early voting states, after hitting pause in order to review their tactics. The campaign last week took a brief hiatus from the airwaves, as new campaign manager Bill Stepien conducted a review of where and when their ads were airing. The latest ads, which begin airing Monday, recognize the ‘staggered calendar’ in the 2020 election given the prevalence of early voting, a campaign official told Fox News. ‘The countdown clock may show 91 days left in the race but, in reality, the election starts a lot sooner than that,’ Stepien told Fox News. ‘In many states, more than half of voters will cast their votes well before Election Day and we have adjusted our strategy to reflect that.’ Stepien added: ‘Joe Biden is continuing to spend millions of dollars a week in states that won’t come online for two months and we encourage him to keep at it.’”
Trump threatens suit over Nevada mail-in voting - The Nevada Independent: “Hours after President Donald Trump threatened litigation over it through a tweet, members of the Nevada Senate voted on party lines to approve a bill that expands mail-in voting during times of emergency. As in the Assembly, AB4 stoked strong feelings in a Sunday morning floor debate. Republicans in the minority argued that voters can already choose to vote by mail if they request an absentee vote, that a state of emergency enabling the format could last indefinitely, and that provisions newly allowing non-family members to turn in ballots on behalf of others — a practice known as ballot collection or ‘ballot harvesting’ — could encourage fraud. ‘The idea that we are disenfranchising anyone is a canard,’ Republican Sen. Keith Pickard said before the 13-8 vote. ‘We have absentee voting accessible every day.’”
Bungled New York primary stokes fall fears - NYT: “Election officials in New York City widely distributed mail-in ballots for the primary on June 23, which featured dozens of hard-fought races. The officials had hoped to make voting much easier, but they did not seem prepared for the response: more than 10 times the number of absentee ballots received in recent elections in the city. Now, nearly six weeks later, two closely watched congressional races remain undecided, and major delays in counting a deluge of 400,000 mail-in ballots and other problems are being cited as examples of the challenges facing the nation as it looks toward conducting the November general election during the pandemic. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other officials are trading blame for the botched counting in the city, and the Postal Service is coming under criticism over whether it is equipped to handle the sharp increase in absentee ballots.”
Republicans worry Trump depressing turnout with mail-in attacks - WaPo: “President Trump’s … attacks on mail balloting are discouraging his own supporters from embracing the practice, according to polls and Republican leaders across the country, prompting growing alarm that one of the central strategies of his campaign is threatening GOP prospects in November. … Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, describing a recent meeting with a group of Republican voters in Fort Payne, said he felt compelled to explain that there is only one kind of mail-in voting in Alabama, and that it is safe and secure. ‘They were confused about two different kinds of mail-in balloting,’ he said, ‘where one is ‘good’ and one is not.’ Merrill’s concerns were echoed by senior White House and campaign aides, as well as GOP operatives in numerous key states including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Iowa, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to criticize the president.”
Prosecutors probe Trump on business fraud - NYT: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office suggested on Monday that it has been investigating President Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than the prosecutors have acknowledged in the past. The office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., made the disclosure in a new federal court filing arguing Mr. Trump should have to comply with its subpoena seeking eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns. [Prosecutors] said that ‘undisputed’ news reports last year about Mr. Trump’s business practices make it clear that the office had a legal basis for the subpoena. The reports, including investigations into the president’s wealth and an article on the congressional testimony of his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, said that the president may have illegally inflated his net worth and the value of his properties to lenders and insurers. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have said he did nothing wrong.”’
JITTERS AS SECRETIVE VEEPSTAKES IN HOME STRETCH
Politico: “The competition to be named Joe Biden’s running mate has entered the final stretch with huge unknowns about how it will unfold — among even some of the candidates themselves. At least some of the contenders were in the dark on Sunday about their upcoming interviews with Biden: They were told to be prepared for in-person sit-downs while at the same time cautioned that could change due to health and logistical concerns surrounding Covid-19. For weeks, aides of contenders going through the vetting process said they had little visibility into the campaign’s thinking. They’ve scoured news reports for tidbits on the finalists and any window into where they are in the horse race. Amid the uncertainty, short-listers have adopted competing strategies, with several lesser-known candidates taking to TV news shows to raise their profiles while more prominent contenders such as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren remain out of the spotlight.”
Biden’s got a friend in Pennsylvania - Politico: “Senior citizens and suburban voters are sinking President Donald Trump’s campaign across the country. But here in Pennsylvania ... their defection to Joe Biden is hurting Trump even more acutely. It’s a very big problem in a swing state that’s central to his Rust Belt path to victory. Four years ago, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to carry Pennsylvania, in part by winning older and suburban voters, as well as blue-collar white workers in ancestrally Democratic areas. Now, with less than 100 days till Election Day, surveys show those voters are eyeing something different yet again. … Democratic elected officials, party leaders and strategists in Pennsylvania said that Biden is ahead because of Trump’s mishandling of Covid-19 — which is particularly risky to seniors — as well as his broken campaign promises to workers about spending big on infrastructure and rewriting trade deals to benefit them. They believe voters like Biden because he is known as someone who can work across the aisle to solve the nation’s problems.”
Battleground-state Dems still fret over Biden’s low-profile campaign - WaPo: “In the states that will likely decide the presidential election, President Trump is everywhere. Discussion of his presidency and the actions of his administration — often critical — fill social media feeds, newscasts, letters-to-the-editor pages and socially distanced end-of-the-driveway conversations. For months, his campaign ads dominated the airwaves. His name decorates signs and flags hung on barns, boats and retirement community golf carts. That has not necessarily helped Trump, who trails former vice president Joe Biden in almost all key states. Yet to some of Biden’s supporters, Trump’s continuing dominance is a warning sign. They are lobbying for Biden to take a more aggressive stance, worried that despite his seeming advantage he has failed so far to persuade people to vote for him — not simply against Trump. … The worries echo those preceding Hillary Clinton’s surprise losses in states that formerly had been reliably Democratic, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.”
But it’s Texas that’s getting a boost - CBS News: “Everything's bigger in Texas — including… Joe Biden's campaign staff. [Today] the Biden campaign announced a slate of staff hires aimed at flipping the historically conservative Lone Star State, last won by a Democratic presidential candidate in 1976 by Jimmy Carter. The Biden campaign insists its push for the state's 38 Electoral College votes is real. ‘We are quite serious about putting [Texas] in play,’ Jenn Ridder, the campaign's national states director, told CBS News. ‘Increasingly we are seeing polls that show that there is real opportunity there for us.’ … Six Texas Democratic operatives have already been hired, led by state director Rebecca Acuña, who was raised in Laredo and has worked in various roles in state and congressional politics.”
THE RULEBOOK: IMPRESS WITH LESS STRESS
“It is, that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 14
TIME OUT: TWO MORE HAPPY FLORA-BAMA TOURISTS
NatGeo: “After more than two months aboard the International Space Station (ISS), NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned to Earth [Sunday], parachuting through the planet’s skies in a SpaceX Dragon capsule. The pair splashed down at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico—a site off the coast of the Florida Panhandle and far enough west to avoid the winds and rain of Hurricane Isaias. The pair’s journey home concludes a history-making test flight called Demo-2, which returned crewed spaceflight capabilities to the United States after a nearly 10-year hiatus. The mission lifted off on May 30, marking the first time NASA astronauts piloted a spacecraft that’s owned and operated by a commercial company, rather than the space agency itself. Now, with a successful round trip on the books, SpaceX will launch at least six more NASA flights to the ISS. The first of these, called Crew-1, is scheduled for late September at the earliest. On the second flight—scheduled for spring 2021—Behnken’s wife, astronaut Megan McArthur, will launch aboard the same SpaceX Dragon that he test flew.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.6 percent
Biden: 51.8 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 41% - Biden 49%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% - Biden 54; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% - Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% - Biden 51%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% - Biden 53%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(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)
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent
Net Score: -16 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.4 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve - 60% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 42% approve - 56% disapprove.]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
TRUMP BASHES HIS TOP VIRUS DOC, BLAMES PELOSI
Fox News: “President Trump claimed Monday that White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who [said] the pandemic is now ‘different’ than it was before and ‘extraordinarily widespread,’ was caving to pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had harsh words for Birx. Trump has insisted that the rising number of COVID-19 cases is merely the result of increased testing and not an indication that the spread of the disease has gotten worse, but Birx said that the country was in a ‘new phase’ of the pandemic. ‘So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx… In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!’ Pelosi was critical of Birx and the rest of the administration in an interview with ABC News… ‘I think the president is spending -- spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his -- she is his appointee,’ Pelosi said. ‘So, I don't have confidence there, no.’”
Stimulus package still stalled, Pelosi digs in for more spending - AP: “Slow, grinding negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief bill are set to resume Monday afternoon, but the path forward promises to be challenging and time is already growing short. Republicans are griping that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t drop her expansive wish list even as concerns are mounting that the White House needs to be more sure-footed in the negotiations. Both the Trump administration negotiating team and top Capitol Hill Democrats remain far apart, and talks since Saturday — when the combatants announced modest progress — have yet to lend momentum. Both sides used television appearances over the weekend to showcase their differences. Ahead of Monday’s talks, all sides predict a long slog ahead despite the lapse of a $600-per-week supplemental COVID-19 jobless benefit, the beginning of school season and the call of lawmakers’ cherished August recess. Several more days of talks are expected, if not more.”
Administration threatens unilateral action to juice economy - Fox News: “The Trump administration is considering taking ‘a number of options’ without congressional approval as negotiations on the fourth coronavirus stimulus relief package are stalled between the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Fox News has learned. A senior administration official told Fox News Monday that the administration is weighing taking unilateral action to quell the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘As the negotiations continue to progress as a snail's pace, the administration is considering a number of options that might be available without congressional legislative action,’ the official told Fox News. At this point, it is unclear what item the administration could attempt unilateral action on, but much of the negotiations on Capitol Hill have come to a stalemate with regards to unemployment benefits.”
DEMS TRY TO PUSH KOBACH INTO WINNERS’ CIRCLE
Politico: “Senate Republicans have opposed [Kris] Kobach for a year, fretting that he can’t win a Senate contest after losing the 2018 gubernatorial race, and have warned about him consistently in public and in private. After failing to woo Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race, Republicans had mostly rallied behind Rep. Roger Marshall, who was leading Kobach comfortably in internal polling earlier in the summer. But after nearly $5 million was dumped in by a super PAC with ties to Democrats to elevate Kobach and bash Marshall’s image, Republicans acknowledge that the primary is a dead heat. A Kobach victory would upend the battle for control of the Senate. Democrats haven't won a Senate race in Kansas since the 1930s, but with Kobach on the ballot, Republicans would be forced to sink millions into trying to defend a seat party officials believe should have stayed safely in their column. … GOP leaders concede the fight to keep the Senate has gotten harder in recent months but believe the party still can maintain control if it isn't dumping money into places like Kansas.”
Count may go on for more than a week - The Kansas City Star: “Officials in Kansas, where Republican voters will select a general election contender for the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, are explicitly cautioning against expecting reliable results Tuesday night. Missouri, which will decide whether to become the 38th state to expand eligibility for Medicaid, is more optimistic about a timely outcome. … Election officials in several Kansas counties, including the two most populous, Johnson and Sedgwick, have been encouraging voters for months to use mail ballots. As of July 31, nearly 315,000 have been sent to voters across the state, six times more than at this point in 2016 or 2018. Roughly half of those ballots have already been returned.”
GOP heading for a recount in battleground Texas district - Texas Tribune: “Raul Reyes announced Friday night that he will seek a recount in the razor-thin Republican primary runoff to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in his national battleground district. Reyes' announcement came after the Texas GOP certified the results of his July 14 runoff against Tony Gonzales. The campaigns said the final margin was Gonzales by 45 votes, though the party had not confirmed that as of late Friday night. ‘We worked too hard, for too long, not to ensure every legal vote was counted properly,’ Reyes said in a statement. Reyes' move all but ensures another chapter in the dramatic runoff, particularly when it comes to endorsements. President Donald Trump supported Gonzales, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz backed Reyes. Gonzales' campaign called Reyes' plans for a recount ‘hopeless and selfish,’ noting Gonzales has maintained his small lead since the runoff.”
MURDER RATE SOARS IN BIG CITIES
WSJ: “A sharp rise in homicides this year is hitting large U.S. cities across the country, signaling a new public-safety risk unleashed during the coronavirus pandemic, and amid recession and a national backlash against police tactics. The murder rate is still low compared with previous decades, and other types of serious crime have dropped in the past few months. … A Wall Street Journal analysis of crime statistics among the nation’s 50 largest cities found that reported homicides were up 24% so far this year, to 3,612. Shootings and gun violence also rose, even though many other violent crimes such as robbery fell. Police, researchers, mayors and community leaders see a confluence of forces at work in the homicide spike. Institutions that keep city communities safe have been destabilized by lockdown and protests against police. Lockdowns and recession also mean tensions are running high and streets have been emptied of eyes and ears on their communities.”
Campaign dumps Cowboys for Trump after leader tells Black athletes to ‘go back to Africa’ - AP
Case of stolen antique windmill blows into already ugly House primary - Arizona Republic
John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize winner for Northern Ireland accords, dies at 83 - BBC
How California botched its cannabis legalization - 60 Minutes
Pergram: In Congress, challenges of combating coronavirus parallel fights across the country - Fox News
AUDIBLE: NEVER TWEET
“In order to do our job well, writers and editors, we need to have a level of bravery and thick skin and fearlessness. And when you're living in fear of an online mob … that's extremely dangerous." – Bari Weiss, former NYT opinion editor and columnist, to talk show host Bill Maher.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I am having a hard time understanding the difference between absentee voting and mail in voting. Most people that I know who vote absentee are not absent from home on Election Day. So can you enlighten me?” – Mary Anne Kenerson, Clarkston, Mich.
[Ed. note: Good question, Ms. Kenerson! The truth is there’s no difference for the purposes of the current discussion. There is such a thing as “in-person absentee” voting, which is when people who won’t be able to vote on Election Day can go to a polling place to cast their ballot. So while not every absentee vote is by mail, the overwhelming majority are. The term “absentee ballot” is a holdover from the era when almost all votes were cast in person and on Election Day. Over the past 25 years, the trend has been strongly toward convenience voting and away from in-person voting on Election Day. Many states, like the biggest battleground, Florida, now just make no delineation. Any citizen who wants to vote by mail may do so, no excuses necessary. So the two terms certainly may be used interchangeably. Also, the absence in “absentee” is in most states -- including Michigan -- so broadly understood as to include those people who would face any practical obstacles in voting in person on Election Day, e.g. work, childcare, health concerns etc. No need to turn your friends in to the authorities!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
NY Post: “You can’t touch this high school principal’s hilarious back-to-school message to students. Dr. Quentin Lee, head of Childersburg High School in its namesake town in Alabama, knew his students would need a morale booster before coming back to class during the coronavirus pandemic. So the former band director tapped his musical talents to write and record a parody of MC Hammer’s 1990 classic ‘U Can’t Touch This’ — with a decidedly pro-hygiene theme. … ‘We are working tirelessly to make sure school is a place where students can be accepted, loved and clean,’ Lee told local media outlets. ‘Everybody needs love, regardless of political party or ethnic background. If we can allow people to laugh and forget about their problems, then we’ve accomplished the goal.’ The final cut … depicts Lee rapping about sanitizers and social distancing, wielding a thermometer gun and doing the Running Man — all the while demonstrating how students should expect to behave in school upon their return.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Doctrines, like submarines, tend to be launched with fanfare.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 24, 2001.
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.