Trump tax story no bombshell


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On the roster: Trump tax story no bombshell - Wallace wants to be ‘as invisible as possible’ for debate - Voters narrowly oppose pre-election court replacement - Biden draws even to Trump among male voters - Should have *ahem* tied the knot sooner

TRUMP TAX STORY NO BOMBSHELL
What will $750 buy you these days? Either one night at the Trump International Hotel or, according to a NYT report, cover a billionaire’s tax bill for one year.

Now, we try not to be this kind of a note, and we certainly acknowledge the potency of class resentment in politics, but it’s hard for us to see how the revelations about Trump’s taxes and business struggles are major movers in the campaign.

It’s certainly helpful for Democratic nominee Joe Biden to have a hard number on which to peg those resentments. It’s far easier to connect with voters on the claim that President Trump pays only $750 a year than it is to say Trump pays “virtually no taxes.” It always helps when you can paint a word picture for voters, as Biden does with his new ad. (And, of course, stickers.)

Trump says that it is all you know what – it starts with a “f” and ends with an ooze. Of course, Trump could prove his case about the Times’ claims by doing what all of his predecessors in the past 46 years have done and release his taxes. But not only is he not doing that, he’s going to the mattresses to keep them from being revealed.

That seems kind of silly now, at least from a political point of view. His reasons for trying to keep his taxes from prosecutors certainly involve legal considerations for him and his family.

We could understand why for political reasons Trump wanted to keep his returns secret in 2016 since the story they tell, according to the Times and some of Trump’s own subsequent explanations, was not in keeping with his pitch as a business whiz. Huge losses leading to penny-ante tax payments isn’t a good look.

And, again, it may not be all about the politics here. The Times says Trump is battling the IRS over an audit that could end up with him having to cough up about $100 million. It wouldn’t be good to be poor mouthing the T men about terrible losses while spinning for voters how he cunningly gamed the tax code. But he was the one who ran for president while fighting a cataclysmic battle with the IRS, much as his 2016 opponent ran for president while being investigated for mishandling state secrets.

On the actual politics five weeks before the end of the election, though, the issue seems like one so well litigated for so long that the actual details aren’t likely to sway voters.

Right-leaning voters (and plenty of others) hate taxes and many no doubt admire Trump’s self-proclaimed skill in minimizing them – as long as it was done legally. As Judge Learned Hand put it: “Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.”

Trump has also gone to pains to portray himself to supporters as a beneficent mogul. Like Herbert Hoover and John Kennedy before him, Trump donates his presidential salary (now $400,000) and has frequently talked about how much it has cost him to be president.

A lot of the stuff in the Times’ reporting – much like its exhaustive work about the empire Trump’s father built and shielded from the IRS to make his children so rich – falls into the gee whiz category for regular taxpayers. It’s fascinating (if disheartening) to read about all the time and effort that rich people put into squeezing every nickel out of each and every of the 2.4 million or so words in the federal tax code.

Or that thanks to the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus efforts, Trump scored a $73 million windfall when a rule change let him apply huge losses in his regular business to the big profits in previous years from “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

There’s no doubt that this will not help Trump with his ongoing struggle with working-class white voters this time around, which is why Biden will be ringing up $750s like a cash register on Tuesday. The preferred narrative for the Blue Team is that Trump is selfish and corrupt, and they will try to use this as evidence of their claims.

One of the reasons that President Obama talked so much about increasing the taxes on rich people was that it’s so darned popular. It was no accident that Warren Buffett’s secretary became the most famous personal assistant since Jane Hathaway.

But while the Times report is chockablock with new details and insights, it doesn’t fundamentally change the public understanding about Trump the businessman. He did get elected with six corporate bankruptcies after all.

Part of what lessens the force of the blow for Trump is how much effort has gone into trying to get to his returns. Unless there was a line item for payments from Vladimir Putin, it’s hard to imagine the real thing living up to the hype.

Like much of the news of late, it’s not good for Trump, but it’s hard to see how this fundamentally changes perceptions of him as a person. Trump in 2016 was something of a mystery.

Four years later, it’s hard to imagine any American being unsure what to make of him.  

THE RULEBOOK: STILL TRUE
“To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.” – Alexander Hamilton, in his general introduction to the Federalist Papers, Federalist No. 1

TIME OUT: ALL ABOUT THE TIMING
History: “On September 28, 1941, the Boston Red Sox’s Ted Williams plays a double-header against the Philadelphia Athletics on the last day of the regular season and gets six hits in eight trips to the plate, to boost his batting average to .406 and become the first player since Bill Terry in 1930 to hit .400. Williams, who spent his entire career with the Sox, played his final game exactly 19 years later, on September 28, 1960, at Boston’s Fenway Park and hit a home run in his last time at bat, for a career total of 521 homeruns. Williams was born on August 30, 1918, in San Diego, and began his major league career with the Red Sox in 1939. 1941 marked Williams’ best season. In addition to his .406 batting average–no major league player since him has hit .400–the left fielder led the league with 37 homers, 135 runs and had a slugging average of .735.”

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SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 43 percent           
Biden: 51.2 percent           
Size of lead: Biden by 8.2 points           
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 2 points, Trump no change in points           
[Average includes: Monmouth University: Trump 45% - Biden 50%; NYT/Siena College: Trump 41% - Biden 49%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% - Biden 54%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% - Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 43% - Biden 51%.]

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)
[Full rankings here.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 44.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent 
Net Score: -8.6 points 
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1 point
[Average includes: NYT/Siena College: 46% approve - 50% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approve - 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 53% disapprove; NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve - 53% 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.

WALLACE WANTS TO BE ‘AS INVISIBLE AS POSSIBLE’ FOR DEBATE
 Fox News: “Chris Wallace, the host of ‘Fox News Sunday’ and moderator of the first presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden, said that he hopes to remain as ‘invisible as possible’ during their faceoff on Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio. ‘I’m trying to get them to engage…to focus on the key issues…to give people at home a sense of why they want to vote for one versus the other,’ he said. ‘If I’ve done my job right, at the end of the night, people will say, ‘That was a great debate, who was the moderator?’’ The debate will focus on some of the key topics of the day, including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and the violent protests that have erupted across the country. ‘Everything is different about 2020,’ Wallace said. ‘We’ve got the coronavirus, we’ve got this huge economic dislocation, now something of a recovery, we’ve got this racial tension in this country…the violence on the streets…you know, it’s just, it’s a different year. It makes it particularly tough because 90 minutes—the length of this debate—is a lot of time, but there is an awful lot to ask these two men about,’ he said.”

Urine trouble - Politico: “The 2020 campaign for the White House has reached the bizarre stage where the president wants his opponent drug tested before they debate — and his rival’s campaign responds with a potty joke. This latest in the race began Sunday morning when President Donald Trump used his Twitter feed to amplify unfounded statements that Joe Biden takes performance-enhancing drugs before their first face-off Tuesday night. ‘I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night. Naturally, I will agree to take one also,’ Trump wrote. … Even Biden had to chuckle at Trump’s latest taunts, although the Democratic nominee opted against saying anything… Later, the Biden campaign reconsidered. ‘Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it,’ said Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager.”

VOTERS NARROWLY OPPOSE PRE-ELECTION COURT REPLACEMENT 
Monmouth University: “American voters are split on the general question of whether the U.S. Senate should consider a nominee for the Supreme Court at the very end of a president’s term (47%) or if this should be put on hold until after the election (49%). … When asked specifically about the current vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 46% of voters approve and 51% disapprove Trump trying to fill it before the election. However, that opinion is basically flipped when voters are asked if the Senate should hold hearings on his nominee – 53% say it should and 43% say it should not. In 2016, 73% of voters said that the Senate should hold hearings on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.”

Poll shows key demographic groups opposed - NYT: “Only 41 percent said they wanted Mr. Trump to choose a justice before November. More striking, the voters Mr. Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 percent of women, 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to fill the seat.”

White House prepares ‘knife fighters’ to defend Barrett - Fox News: “The White House is mounting an ‘offensive’ communications strategy ahead of Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett's upcoming Senate confirmation fight, with aides describing an aggressive plan for ‘knife fighters’ to ‘fiercely’ defend the nominee ahead of what’s expected to be a heated battle on Capitol Hill. ... Senior White House officials told Fox News that the team is broken into two parts: one focused on communications and the other focused on guiding Barrett through the process on Capitol Hill. Senior officials argued the team is ‘uniquely equipped’ for the mission: The White House communications team will consist of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who is a graduate of Harvard Law School and will take on the role of ‘lead spokesperson.’ Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern, a graduate of Columbia Law School, and White House communications officials Alyssa Farah and Ben Williamson, who are veterans of Capitol Hill and who have unique relationships with Republican leadership in both chambers of Congress, are also on the team.”

BIDEN DRAWS EVEN TO TRUMP AMONG MALE VOTERS
Bloomberg: “Democrat Joe Biden holds an 8-point lead over President Donald Trump, 49% to 41%, in a New York Times/Siena College poll, helped by a wide lead among women voters. Biden leads among women by 53% to 37% but has also drawn level with Trump at 45%-45% among men, who typically lean Republican, according to the survey. … Some 62% of women, 63% of independents and 60% of college-educated white voters said they preferred that the winner of November’s election make the court selection. The poll showed that 57% of respondents said they support the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, against 38% who oppose it.”

Women drivers - WaPo: “Biden and vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) lead Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence by 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, statistically unchanged from the 12-point margin in a poll taken in August just before Democrats and Republicans held their conventions. Biden and Harris also have a 10-point advantage among likely voters, 54 percent to 44 percent. … A sizable gender gap continues to fuel Biden’s lead, with women making the difference in the current state of the race. Trump has a lead of 55 percent to 42 percent among male likely voters, but Biden has an even larger 65 percent to 34 percent advantage among female likely voters. Trump’s lead among men is about the same as his margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Biden’s lead among women is more than twice as large as Clinton’s was then.”

Michigan, Wisconsin stay strong for Biden - NBC News: “Majorities of likely voters in Michigan and Wisconsin say the winner of the 2020 presidential election should get to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Democrat Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in both states. Those are the results of two new NBC News/Marist polls of these two battleground states, which show Biden ahead of Trump by 8 points among likely voters in Michigan, 52 percent to 44 percent, and by 10 points in Wisconsin, 54 percent to 44 percent. The likely-voter numbers in Michigan are within that poll’s margin of error, while the numbers in Wisconsin are outside the margin of error.”

Steady lead in Minnesota - MPR News: “A new MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE-11 Minnesota Poll of 800 registered voters shows former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by 48-42 percent with 8 percent undecided. The 6 point lead is up 1 percentage point from the last Minnesota Poll in mid-May. The new poll shows Biden with a considerable lead among women and in the core Twin Cities, while Trump draws his strongest support from outside the metro area. … Most registered Minnesota voters—52 percent—disapprove of Trump’s job performance, according to the poll, about the same as the last Minnesota Poll found in mid-May.”

Maine split - Colby College: “The Colby poll showed that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a comfortable statewide lead: 50 to 39 percent.  However, in the Second Congressional District, the poll finds more or less a dead heat, with Biden netting 46 percent of the vote and President Donald Trump with 43 percent. ‘It’s certainly not a surprise that the president’s team is investing in the Second CD,’ said [Dan Shea, Colby College Government Department chair]. ‘There are a number of scenarios where one electoral vote could decide the presidency. Here again, it’s going to be a nail biter.’ … The poll asked if they thought Susan Collins should vote on a nominee as soon as possible or wait until either Donald Trump or Joe Biden is sworn into office. Responses to the question found that 58 percent felt Collins should wait, 35 percent said she should vote as soon as possible, and 7 percent were unsure.”

PELOSI TELLS DEMS: BE READY FOR HOUSE TO PICK A PRESIDENT
Politico: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi has begun mobilizing Democrats for the possibility that neither Joe Biden nor President Donald Trump will win an outright Electoral College victory, a once-in-a-century phenomenon that would send the fate of the presidency to the House of Representatives to decide. Under that scenario, which hasn’t happened since 1876, every state’s delegation gets a single vote. … And right now, Republicans control 26 delegations to Democrats’ 22, with Pennsylvania tied and Michigan a 7-6 plurality for Democrats, with a 14th seat held by independent Justin Amash. … Pelosi, in a Sunday letter to House Democrats, urged them to consider whether the House might be pulled into deciding who is president when determining where to focus resources on winning seats in November. This could lead to more concerted efforts by Democrats to win in states such as Montana and Alaska — typically Republican turf but where Democrats have been competitive statewide.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Kraushaar: ‘Don’t buy into the political panic porn’ - National Journal

Bloomberg commits $4 million to GOTV efforts for Biden in Florida - Miami Herald

AUDIBLE: BUT OTHER THAN THAT, A GREAT GUY 
“Everything he says is false.” – Director of the CDC Dr. Robert Redfield talking on the phone on a flight about Dr. Scott Atlas, overheard by NBC News.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“You both deserve much credit for making it fun and enjoyable to read the news. Even the bad news sometimes. Case in point, the Tampa Bay Lightning story [in Friday’s Halftime Report] about yelling to shoot. I have screamed at the TV with the same invective enthusiasm. Fortunately my neighbors cannot hear me. Last but not least is the way you both make it easier to absorb a political story due to your relaxed and in some cases your writing wit. Thanks and keep up the great work.” – Patrick J. Conroy, North Fort Myers, Fla.

[Ed. note: You can give alllll the credit on that one to producer extraordinaire and super sports fan Brianna. I suspect her appreciation is rooted in personal experience…] 

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SHOULD HAVE *AHEM* TIED THE KNOT SOONER
NDTV: “A man's marriage proposal was ruined by a runaway boat that sent him tumbling into water. A video of the proposal gone wrong was shared on Twitter by Theo Shantonas, where it has gone viral with thousands of views and puzzled comments. In the video, the unnamed man can be seen standing on one boat, while his fiancée-to-be stands on another. The scene was presumably filmed by someone standing on the deck. The man brings the two boats together and stands on the edge of one as he fishes out a ring and pops the big question. His partner, smiling broadly, appears to say yes, and the two reach out to embrace. Things, however, take an unlucky turn when the woman accidentally hits her boat's controls, sending it flying forward. As she lurches forward, shocked by the sudden movement, her leg hit the man in the face and sent him falling into the water. Luckily, the two were not injured.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The premise of a free market is that people can withhold their labor if they find the conditions under which they work intolerable.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about doctors striking in a larger piece about the high cost of malpractice insurance in Time magazine on Jan. 31, 2003.

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.