Trump starting to sound desperate


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On the roster: Trump starting to sound desperate - As with Obama and Cruz, Trump embraces birtherism - Biden backs multi-month national mask mandate - Virus deal may slide into government shutdown - The real eagle, the real hunter king

TRUMP STARTING TO SOUND DESPERATE
One of the motorcyclists in South Dakota for the super spreader jamboree in Sturgis got thrashed by a mother bison. 

The woman’s injuries were deemed not serious by local authorities, but, as the video shows, she took a beating so bad that it shook her right out of her Levi’s. 

The bruised biker’s offense was simple: Getting too close to the bison’s nursing calf. 

And the woman was just one of many bikers who were trying to mingle with the wild animal herd. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the kind of intellects who would both attend a massive rally with people from every corner of the country during a pandemic and get in the personal space of a nursing mother who weighs a half ton and can be as tall as five feet at the withers. 

But before you think yourself too superior, it’s easy to see how the desire to have something so amazing – contact with a baby animal that looks like a “Star Wars” creature but one that is a great American symbol – might cloud anyone’s thinking, at least for a moment. 

Which, of course, brings us to the 2020 election. 

One of the most effective postures of candidate Donald Trump in 2016 was that he ran like he had nothing to lose – a wealthy man, erstwhile playboy and liver of the good life. As was the case with Ross Perot and other rich-dude candidates, it was appealing to think of a person who didn’t really need the gig. 

American voters, like mother bison, tend to react very poorly to too much eagerness when it comes to power. 

One of the least appealing parts of the Clinton almost-dynasty was the naked need for power – the say anything, do anything, ends-justify-the-means approach to politics was queasy making. 

Both presidents Bush and Barack Obama were certainly eager to obtain and maintain power but worked hard to avoid the appearance. In the case of the first Bush, probably a little too hard. But they all understood the contradictory electoral demands. Voters expect candidates to work tirelessly to earn their support while simultaneously seeming nonchalant about the whole thing. 

It’s like asking someone to carry a refrigerator up a flight of stairs while whistling “Sunny Side of the Street.” 

Trump seemed genuinely not to understand why Americans recoiled from his barely veiled threat last year against the Ukrainian prime minister in an effort to scrounge up some dirt on the son of Joe Biden. As his defenders during the subsequent impeachment argued, the president can do anything he thinks is in the best interest of the nation, and Trump thinks his holding on to power is what’s needed. 

It was revealing. While previous presidents, notably Richard NixonLyndon Johnson and John Kennedy certainly abused their authority in pursuit of maintaining power, we had never seen a president do so openly. But as they say, Trump says the quiet part out loud. 

We’re back in that same tall grass again this week as Trump toys publicly with a threat to sabotage mail-in voting unless House Democrats agree to his demands on a coronavirus stimulus. As Trump said today, unless Nancy Pelosi agrees to cut out spending that would benefit big cities, he will refuse any measure to provide the Postal Service the money it needs for the election. 

As with his Ukrainian power play, Trump seems not to understand how this position might look to voters coming from the president who directs through his appointees the Postal Service: Give him what he wants, or he will precipitate election disaster that he believes would be in his benefit. 

Even if it is an empty negotiating tactic, as his Ukrainian threat turned out to be, it is not a good look for someone in power. 

That goes also for his efforts to squeeze damaging findings about Biden out of the Justice Department in time for the election. On Thursday, Trump warned Attorney General Bill Barr to hurry up with an investigation of misconduct in the probe of the Trump campaign for ties to the Kremlin. Trump said he knew Biden was guilty and was growing impatient for results. 

Today, the Justice Department probe got its first scalp in its probe, a staff lawyer at the FBI who pleaded guilty to doctoring an email from the CIA in order to make it easier to maintain a wiretap on a member of Trump’s campaign. 

We have no reason to believe that U.S. Attorney John Durham was capitulating to Trump’s pressure. These kinds of pleas are often weeks or months in the making. But Trump’s fulminations badly detract from the image of a politically impartial Justice Department Durham is tasked with pursuing. Instead, it might look to an uninformed observer like Trump demanded action and they hauled this guy into court. 

When Trump says Attorney General Bill Barr had better come across on the Biden business or be cast aside as “just another guy” it leaves Barr to tell reporters that he and his team will “use our prudent judgment to decide what’s appropriate before the election and what should wait until after the election.” 

After all of Trump’s pressuring and wheedling of the Justice Department, just imagine how “prudent” it would appear for the federal prosecutors to do anything to criminally implicate the opposition candidate. It would be steroidal Comeyism. 

Or how about Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee? He’s been on a media blitz this week trying to reassure Trump supporters that he is doing everything he can to use his position to get the hits in on Biden in time to sway the election. 

“The more that we expose of the corruption of the transition process between Obama and Trump, the more we expose of the corruption within those agencies,” Johnson said on a talk radio show. “I would think it would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.” 

Talk about getting too close to the bison, senator! That one makes Kevin McCarthy’s Benghazi boner look like smooth statesmanship. 

The president’s supporters may be glad that he is doing what he accused his predecessor of: Trying to use government authority to try to maintain power. He and they may believe that such conduct would be justifiable and even morally right given their view that the Obama administration did it first. 

But what they cannot say is that it is politically wise to be seen doing so. 

Voters do not like desperation for power. What they like even less is desperation to maintain it. As Trump fumes and rages and threatens he does not much seem like a man with the light touch on the reins that voters prefer. 

Biden, who has devoted himself for decades to the goal of acquiring the ultimate political power in our system, manages to seem almost apologetic about it. His posture of reluctant aspirant may not gibe with his real record, but he knows it is one that voters want to see. Biden may be carrying it too far for the sake of avoiding typically terrible live interactions with reporters, but he certainly seems convincing as a reluctant candidate. 

The more desperate Trump seems to maintain power, the more likely he is to end up with a bison horn where he won’t like it. 

THE RULEBOOK: @THOMAS JEFFERSON 
“Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 15 

TIME OUT: THE BATTLING BENAVIDEZ BROTHERS 
Sports Illustrated: “The latest home for one of boxing's youngest champions is the last place anyone would look. There are reasons for that, starting with the gunshots back in Phoenix that split apart and redirected the paths of the fighting Benavidez brothers, threatening to derail their father’s dream. José Benavidez Sr. had stolen food, slept in cars, carried guns, boosted stereos, learned a sport, opened gyms, fought off rivals. And then, finally, on the verge of grasping all he desired, the plan he scratched and begged and worked tirelessly for started to fall apart. … Three years after the shooting upended all his sacrifice, Senior and his sons — José Jr. and David, who won his first belt at 20 — can be found in the greater-Seattle area in Renton, Wash. …Their gym is tucked into a strip mall of impossibly diverse options: fish house, halal market, teriyaki restaurant, copy spot, haircut place, climbing space for kids and the massage parlor, Blissful Knead.”

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SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 42.8 percent 
Biden: 52 percent   
Size of lead: Biden by 9.2 points   
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.2 points, Trump ↑ 2.2 points   
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 42% - Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 42% - Biden 53%; Pew Research Center: Trump 45% - Biden 53%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% - Biden 51%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% - Biden 54%.]

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: 41.2 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent   
Net Score: -13.8 points   
Change from one week ago: ↑ 2.2 points  
[Average includes: Fox News: 44% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS News/Marist: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; Monmouth University: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 56% disapprove.]

GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
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AS WITH OBAMA AND CRUZ, TRUMP EMBRACES BIRTHERISM
AP: “President Donald Trump on Thursday gave credence to a false and racist conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris’ eligibility to be vice president, fueling an online misinformation campaign that parallels the one he used to power his rise into politics. Asked about the matter at the White House, Trump told reporters he had ‘heard’ rumors that Harris, a Black woman and U.S.-born citizen whose parents were immigrants, does not meet the requirement to serve in the White House. The president said he considered the rumors ‘very serious.’ … Harris, who was tapped this week by Joe Biden to serve as his running mate on the Democratic ticket, was born in Oakland, California, and is eligible for both the vice presidency and presidency under the constitutional requirements. The question is not even considered complex, according to constitution lawyers. … Trump built his political career on questioning a political opponent’s legitimacy.” 

Campaign boosts smear - CBS News: “A legal adviser to President Trump's reelection campaign is amplifying a false theory from a conservative law professor that Kamala Harris may not be eligible for the vice presidency due to questions surrounding the immigration status of her parents at the time she was born. Harris was born in Oakland, California, on October, 20, 1964. Constitutional scholars and Supreme Court precedent have long held that anyone born in the U.S. is an American citizen, which makes them eligible for the presidency. Jenna Ellis, the Trump campaign adviser, reposted a tweet Thursday from Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, in which he asked whether Harris is ‘ineligible to be Vice President under the U.S. Constitution's ‘Citizenship Clause’’ and shared an op-ed from John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University, published in Newsweek. … But Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley Law School and a constitutional law expert, told CBS News in an email that the issue ‘is a truly silly argument.’”

Will make fly-in battleground stops during DNC - Fox News: “President Trump will campaign in key general election battleground states next week at the same time as the Democratic National Convention formally names former Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s standard-bearer. Trump’s reelection campaign announced Friday that the president will hold events in Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday and Arizona on Tuesday. While the Trump campaign has not announced the president’s travel for next Thursday, campaign officials confirmed to Fox News that Trump is expected to visit Scranton, Pa. … The trip should come hours before Biden is scheduled to give his presidential nomination acceptance address, which will be the biggest speech of his half-century career in politics. … The announced stops in Mankato, Minn.; Oshkosh, Wisc.; and Yuma, Ariz., are scheduled to be held at hangars or other aviation facilities at airports – and will likely use Air Force One as a backdrop.”

Falls into tie among white voters - NPR: “Democrat Joe Biden's lead has expanded to double-digits against President Trump in the presidential election, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. Biden now leads Trump 53% to 42%, up from an 8-point advantage at the end of June. … Biden also has significant advantages with Black voters, young voters, whites with a college degree and suburban voters. Trump draws his strongest support from white evangelical Christians, whites without a college degree and those who live in rural areas. … What's particularly striking is Trump and Biden are now tied with whites at 48%. Trump had a 6-point advantage with the group at the end of June. … Neither Trump nor Biden is viewed very favorably, but Trump's score is far worse than Biden's. Just 35% said they have a favorable view of Trump, even less than approve of the job he's doing; 60% have an unfavorable view.”

Requests mail-in ballot for himself - USA Today: “For the second time as a Palm Beach County voter, President Donald Trump has requested a vote-by-mail ballot ahead of Florida's primary election on Tuesday. And the president who has just spent the past few weeks excoriating mail-in voting has less than a week to cast it. The request for himself and first lady Melania Trump came Wednesday, the Palm Beach County elections website shows. The ballot would have been picked up, not mailed to his Palm Beach private club, Mar-a-Lago, because the deadline to send out ballots has passed. Now it must travel to Washington, D.C., where the president and first lady can vote and then return before 7 p.m. Tuesday, when all mail-in ballots must be submitted.”

BIDEN BACKS MULTI-MONTH NATIONAL MASK MANDATE
NPR: “Joe Biden is calling for everyone in the United States to wear a mask, well into the fall. ‘Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum,’ Biden said Thursday afternoon in remarks in Wilmington, Del. ‘Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing. The estimates by the experts are it will save over 40,000 lives.’ His comments came after a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic with his new running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and public health experts. … The former vice president said he would use the power of the executive branch to do everything possible to make mask-wearing in public a requirement — though mandates have come at the state level, and many governors have opted against such measures. … But his statement Thursday was the most direct comment he's given to date. ‘It's not about your rights; it's about your responsibilities,’ Biden said. He tried to present the issue as a matter of patriotism to protect fellow Americans.”

Alex Thompson: ‘What Obama really thought about Biden’ - Politico: “The way Joe Biden explained it on the campaign trail in Iowa, he and his friend Barack Obama had long talked of Biden succeeding him in the White House… Now, after four years, the plan could finally go forward, with Biden running as the administration’s true heir. … But behind all the BFF bonhomie is a much more complicated story—one fueled by the misgivings the 44th president had about the would-be 46th, the deep hurt still felt among Biden’s allies over how Obama embraced Hillary Clinton as his successor, and a powerful sense of pride that is driving Biden to prove that the former president and many of his aides underestimated the very real strengths of his partner. … Next week, Barack and Michelle Obama are each headlining different days of Biden’s convention… But past tensions between Obama’s camp and Biden’s camp have endured, forming some hairline fractures in the Democratic foundation.”

Steady lead in new Fox News poll - Fox News: “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is up 49-42 percent over President Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup, according to a national Fox News survey of registered voters. Nine percent are undecided or back a third-party candidate. Since March 2019, Trump’s support has stayed between 38-42 percent, and Biden’s lead has been outside the poll’s margin of sampling error 16 times. At the same time, the Democrat’s current 7-point lead is a bit lower than his 8-point advantage last month (49-41 percent) and 12-point lead in June (50-38 percent). The poll was conducted Sunday through Wednesday, so over half of the interviews were completed before Tuesday’s announcement of California Sen. Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate.”

But voters are divided on who will win - Pew Research Center: “With less than three months until the 2020 presidential election, a larger share of registered voters say they would support Joe Biden (53%) over Donald Trump (45%) if the election were held today.  … And although voters’ predictions for who will win the presidential election largely align with their candidate preference, voters who support Trump or lean toward voting for him are slightly more likely than Biden supporters to say that their candidate will win (90% vs. 82%). Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, majorities of voters consistently expected a Hillary Clinton victory. In August of 2016, 55% said Clinton would win, compared with 42% who expected Trump to win. Trump supporters are far more confident their candidate will win today than they were four years ago. Currently, 90% of Trump supporters expect him to win; at about the same point in the campaign four years ago, only 74% of Trump supporters said he would prevail over Clinton.”

VIRUS DEAL MAY SLIDE INTO GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
Roll Call: “If coronavirus relief talks are at a stalemate, as top administration officials and Democrats said this week, it may be a divided Senate GOP that set the first dominoes tumbling. And it may take the threat of a partial government shutdown next month to get things back on track. The next deadline to force action is Sept. 30, when Congress has to pass a continuing resolution to keep federal agencies operating at least through the November elections. Combining stopgap funds and pandemic relief into one bill could be a less painful vote for Republicans than separate votes on each. … Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who helped write a major piece of the Senate GOP’s $1 trillion series of relief measures, told reporters Wednesday it was likely that negotiations bleed into the stopgap funding talks after Labor Day. Blunt said a deal could be reached sooner if Democrats agreed to drop about one-third of the nearly $3.4 trillion House-passed relief bill, which he said ‘had nothing to do with COVID-19.’”

Poll shows more than a third of Americans won’t get vaccine - NPR: “…71% of Americans now see the coronavirus as a real threat, up significantly over the last several months, as more than 167,000 Americans have died and more than 5 million have become infected with the virus, as of Friday. And yet, more than a third of Americans (35%) say they won't get vaccinated when a vaccine comes available; 60% say they will. There are huge splits by education and party on this. Those with college degrees are 19 points more likely to get vaccinated than those without (72% to 53%), and Democrats are 23 points more likely than Republicans (71% to 48%). Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he is concerned about the unwarranted vaccine skepticism in some of the country and how that could slow overcoming the virus.”

Fauci backs in-person voting with precautions - Fox News: “National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week there is ‘no reason’ Americans can’t vote in person for the 2020 presidential election, so long as voters follow proper social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. ‘I think if carefully done, according to the guidelines, there’s no reason that I can see why that not be the case,’ Fauci told ABC News this week. ‘If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing, and don’t have a crowded situation, there’s no reason why shouldn’t be able to do that.’ Fauci added that individuals who are ‘compromised physically or otherwise’ and who are not interested in physically going to the polls on Election Day, can use mail-in voting. But Fauci doubled-down, saying ‘there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person or otherwise.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Crisis nothing new to the long history of the Postal Service National Geographic

Fox Poll: Big shift in asking government to ‘lend me a hand’ amid pandemic, unrest Fox News

AUDIBLE: PROBABLY LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT VIEW
“Climb upon Geraldine Ferraro’s and my shoulders, and from the most amazing view in your life consider lessons we learned.” – 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in a social media post offering Kamala Harris advice. Both Palin and Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic nominee, proved to be considerable liabilities after poor vetting by their presidential campaigns failed to identify major defects as potential running mates.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY 
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Trump campaign senior adviser Steve Cortes. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.   

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

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

THE REAL EAGLE, THE REAL HUNTER KING
AP: “A bald eagle launched an aerial assault on a drone operated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy – known as EGLE – ripping off a propeller and sending the aircraft into Lake Michigan. The attack happened … when the drone was mapping shoreline erosion near Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to document and help communities cope with high water levels, the department said in a statement. Environmental quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King said he had completed about seven minutes of the … flight when satellite reception became spotty. King pressed a button to return the $950 drone to him and was viewing his video screen when the drone began to twirl. ‘It was like a really bad roller coaster ride,’ said King, who looked up and saw the eagle flying away, apparently unhurt by its confrontation with technology. … EGLE’s drone team is considering … designs on the aircraft to make them look less like seagulls…”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Clearly not everything with an environmental claim is worth doing. How to choose? There is a simple way. First, distinguish between environmental luxuries and environmental necessities.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 17, 1991.

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.