Trump tries tricky dismount from war presidency


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On the roster: Trump tries tricky dismount from war presidency - Poll: Biden gains ground despite dip in favorability - California House race a snapshot of things to come - Stalemate on stimulus - Care enough to caribou

TRUMP TRIES TRICKY DISMOUNT FROM WAR PRESIDENCY 
NYT: “Despite growing evidence that the pandemic is still raging, President Trump and other administration officials said on Tuesday that they had made so much progress in bringing it under control that they planned to wind down the coronavirus task force in the coming weeks and focus the White House on restarting the economy. Mr. Trump said the task force would be shut down and replaced with an unspecified new advisory body as the country moved into what he called Phase 2 of a response to a pandemic that has killed more than 71,000 Americans. ‘We will have something in a different form,’ Mr. Trump told reporters as he toured a Honeywell mask manufacturing plant in Arizona, where he wore safety goggles but no mask. The president praised the work of the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, but said it was time to focus on safety and reopening the country. Mr. Pence said the group would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May, and shift management of the public health response back to the federal agencies whose work it was created to coordinate.”

Grumbles abound - Fox News: “Democrats were quick to condemn the Trump administration Tuesday following comments from Vice President Mike Pence that the White House is in talks to potentially wind down its coronavirus task force, transferring its responsibilities to agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as early as Memorial Day or early June. An official told Fox News that the members of the task force will continue to provide input, but the group will not be meeting as regularly as they had been at the outset of the pandemic. The official added that the White House’s focus was shifting toward vaccines, therapeutics, testing and reopening the economy. The voices panning the Trump administration's decision to work on transferring the task force's responsibilities came from governors' offices, activists and some members of Congress.”

Coronavirus on the march in rural America - AP: “As the world’s attention was fixated on the horrors in Italy and New York City, the per capita death rates in counties in the impoverished southwest corner of Georgia climbed to among the worst in the country. The devastation here is a cautionary tale of what happens when the virus seeps into communities that have for generations remained on the losing end of the nation’s most intractable inequalities: these counties are rural, mostly African American and poor. … Rural people, African Americans and the poor are more likely to work in jobs not conducive to social distancing, like the food processing plant in nearby Mitchell County where four employees died of COVID-19. They have less access to health care and so more often delay treatment for chronic conditions; in southwest Georgia, the diabetes rate of 16 percent is twice as high as in Atlanta. Transportation alone can be a challenge, so that by the time they make it to the hospital, they’re harder to save.”

Tracking state trends - Axios: “In addition to keeping an eye on the tragic, and climbing, numbers of total coronavirus cases and deaths across the U.S., it's important to watch how those trends are playing out over time at the state level. … The Trump administration's reopening guidelines detail that in order to start lifting restrictions and reopening the economy, a state needs to report 14-day trends of fewer cases or fewer positive tests... Not a lot of states meet that criteria. Our chart compares each state's seven-day average of new cases from Monday and the seven-day average from a week prior, April 27. … By this metric, Minnesota, Nebraska and Puerto Rico have the most worrisome trends, while Arkansas and Wyoming have the most positive trends. Twelve states are moving in the right direction. But more than a third of the nation still has growing numbers of cases. And that includes states such as Texas and Virginia, where Republican and Democratic governors are beginning to unveil re-opening plans. These trends only tell us so much.”

Chamber of Commerce offers a roadmap for businesses - U.S. News and World Report: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is providing guidance for America's business owners and employers to better understand their states' reopening procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. The Chamber released an interactive map on Wednesday detailing which states have started the process of reopening their economy and what rules non-essential businesses must follow in those states. … For each state, the Chamber includes information on general workplace guidance for businesses that are reopening, such as social distancing guidance, personal protective equipment requirements and accommodations that should be provided to vulnerable populations during the health crisis. Most states require 6feet of separation between customers, but some have additional requirements such as occupancy limits, which range from a 25% limit to a 50% limit to no limit, according to the Chamber's press release.”

Pressure on president's son-in-law - NYT: “This spring, as the United States faced a critical shortage of masks, gloves and other protective equipment to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a South Carolina physician reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency with an offer of help. Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks had longtime manufacturing contacts in China and a line on millions of masks from established suppliers. Instead of encountering seasoned FEMA procurement officials, his information was diverted to a team of roughly a dozen young volunteers, recruited by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and overseen by a former assistant to Mr. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump. The volunteers, foot soldiers in the Trump administration’s new supply-chain task force, had little to no experience with government procurement procedures or medical equipment. But as part of Mr. Kushner’s governmentwide push to secure protective gear for the nation’s doctors and nurses, the volunteers were put in charge of sifting through more than a thousand incoming leads, and told to pass only the best ones on for further review by FEMA officials.”

THE RULEBOOK: IF HE DOES SAY SO HIMSELF 
“I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of [electing the president] be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 68

TIME OUT: THE BEST PORTMANTEAU SINCE BRUNCH
History: “[On this day in hisotry in] a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterrand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age. The Channel Tunnel, or ‘Chunnel,’ connects Folkestone, England, with Coquelles, France, 31 miles away. The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to two-and-a-half hours. As the world’s longest undersea tunnel, the Chunnel runs under water for 23 miles, with an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed. Each day, about 30,000 people, 6,000 cars and 3,500 trucks journey through the Chunnel on passenger, shuttle and freight trains. … In 1996, the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.”

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SCOREBOARD 
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 44.6 percent
Average disapproval: 49.8 percent
Net Score: -5.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.6 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; PRRI: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; IBD: 44% approve - 44% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve - 47% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 43% approve - 53% disapprove.]  

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POLL: BIDEN GAINS GROUND DESPITE DIP IN FAVORABILITY
Monmouth University: “Recent headlines may have dented Joe Biden’s favorability rating ever so slightly but he has actually widened his national lead over Donald Trump in the race for president. The Monmouth University Poll finds that voters are divided on the credibility of a sexual assault allegation against the Democratic nominee. The poll also finds that former President Barack Obama is largely popular with the American electorate, 2020 voters are not as interested in considering a third party candidate as they were four years ago, and Democrats hold a lead in the generic House ballot. Also, half the nation’s voters are likely to consider voting by mail this November. Biden currently has the support of 50% of registered voters and Trump has the support of 41%. Another 3% say they would vote for an independent candidate and 5% are undecided. This represents a slightly wider lead for the Democrat than in previous Monmouth polls – 48% to 44% in April and 48% to 45% in March.”

Biden faces continued pressure on veep pick - WaPo: “Joe Biden is under escalating pressure from competing branches of his party as he ponders the most consequential decision of his presidential candidacy: a running mate. Black Democrats have joined in a concerted effort to urge him to pick a black woman as his vice-presidential nominee. Now some liberal groups and activists, who have long had an antagonistic relationship with the presumptive nominee, are pressing Biden to select a liberal woman. … Biden’s decision could foretell which direction he believes is most important for the party he now leads and which parts of the party he thinks must be mobilized to win the White House. Democrats have been split since 2016 over whether energizing black voters or winning over some white working-class voters in the industrial Midwest represents the best shot for the party in November. Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago was narrow enough that either option could explain it, giving Democrats little certainty as they try to wrestle the presidency from Trump.”

Trump stays quiet while campaign runs with Biden assault claim - Politico: “The Trump campaign is going all in on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden. Donald Trump? Not so much. It’s a disconnect that stems from the different calculations each is making. The campaign sees a political opening. … But on this one issue, Trump appears to see himself in Biden. He has talked about the allegation as akin to the more than 20 women who have — he claims — baselessly accused him of sexual misconduct. … Trump’s rare hesitation to go on the attack against a political opponent has not stopped campaign operatives from plotting a full-tilt offensive around the allegations. They have released an attack video, taken to social media, written op-eds and sent talking points to surrogates. They say the political benefits outweigh the drawback of reminding voters of the scores of women who have relayed various stories about Trump’s own alleged sexual misconduct.”

Trump faces tough sell with black voters - NPR: “Before the coronavirus crisis decimated the U.S. economy, the record-low unemployment rate for African Americans was the backbone of President Trump's reelection pitch to black voters. It was always a tough sell, given his past performance with African Americans. Now it's even tougher after the pandemic has erased economic gains and forced the campaign to adjust its message in its outreach to black voters. Early government data show that black employees are losing work at a higher rate than white workers. … Trump has directed his White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to focus on minority communities affected by the coronavirus. The council, headed by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, is supposed to identify additional funding needs for these areas.”

Judge orders N.Y. primary to proceed - WSJ: “New York’s presidential primary will proceed as planned on June 23, a federal judge ordered Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres said in a 30-page ruling that officials at the New York State Board of Elections violated the constitutional rights of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang as well as delegates for him and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders when they canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary last week.”

STALEMATE ON STIMULUS
WaPo: “President Trump’s latest red line for the next phase of coronavirus legislation — a payroll tax cut for workers — has few fans in Congress even among Republicans, further complicating the path toward a new rescue package as House Democrats rush to release their own plan as early as next week. As senators returned to Washington this week to an unusually sparse and eerie Capitol, resistance began to mount against Trump’s favored form of putting more money into workers’ pockets, with lawmakers noting that a payroll tax cut helps only those gainfully employed at a time when record numbers of Americans are filing jobless claims. The payroll tax funds the Social Security and Medicare programs. The intraparty rift on a payroll tax cut comes as the Democratic-led House scrambles to produce additional coronavirus legislation with perhaps another massive price tag. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, made it clear they will hit pause on any rescue package as they begin to scrutinize the effectiveness of previous rounds of aid sent to states, hospitals, consumers and small businesses.”

Coronavirus creates eerie scene on Capitol Hill - Fox News: “Coronavirus certainly didn’t upend the political sniping. That’s never seemed to subside on Capitol Hill. But, the two Senate hearings shed light on what life on Capitol Hill likely will be like for months – if not much longer. When the House met briefly Tuesday morning to swear-in Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., a handful of members stood at a distance. House Reading Clerk Susan Cole and House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy spoke not from the dais, but from a lectern far away in the House chamber. … The Capitol has pulsed whenever Congress was in session. There’d be a clamor in the halls. Bells and buzzers would sound, signaling votes on the floor. Elevators rattled. A din filtered out into the hallways of the Longworth House Office Building as lobbyists and tourists co-mingled, waiting in line for coffee. Long lines snaked around corridors in the Hart Senate Office Building for major hearings. But, not now. Congress won’t have any of that anytime soon, and it’s unclear when it can.”

McConnell protégé, Trump’s judicial nominee clashes with Dems - WaPo: “President Trump’s nominee to the most influential federal appeals court clashed with Democrats over his past comments about the Affordable Care Act, while Republicans praised his recent ruling allowing limited Easter church services during the coronavirus pandemic. Judge Justin Walker, a protege of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, faced criticism at Wednesday’s confirmation hearing over his remarks two years ago that rulings upholding the ACA were ‘indefensible’ and about jokes he made at the law’s expense at a ceremony in March marking his entry onto the federal bench. Republicans are pushing to elevate Walker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — a promotion that Democrats decry as too quick for the 37-year-old after just six months as a district judge in Kentucky.”

CALIFORNIA HOUSE RACE A SNAPSHOT OF THINGS TO COME
NYT: “Christy Smith, a Democratic House candidate in suburban Los Angeles, had just finished a debate (over Zoom, of course) and was eager to point something out: First, President Trump had endorsed her Republican opponent, Mike Garcia. Then the president raised the specter of voting fraud, writing on Twitter: ‘Turn your Ballots in now and track them, watching for dishonesty. Report to Law Enforcement.’ Democrats saw this special election on May 12 as a referendum on Mr. Trump even before the coronavirus crisis brought his leadership front and center for many Americans. For Mr. Garcia, the president’s support means potentially more donors and a motivated, loyal base. For Ms. Smith, it’s a vulnerability to attack. … The election is a microcosm of the country’s politics amid the health crisis: It is an early test of Mr. Trump’s sway in a race both he and his former rival, Hillary Clinton, have weighed in on. It is a battle over vote-by-mail in which doubts have been sown over the election’s integrity. And it is showing just how nasty politics can be, even under lockdown.”

Candidates turned relief workers - Politico: “Clayton Fuller was filming his first campaign ad for Congress when he got a call from his Air National Guard commanding officer: He was being activated for coronavirus duty. Now the Republican from Georgia is spending his days far away from the campaign trail, coordinating the cleaning of nursing and veterans’ homes in Alabama. But because he’s under federal orders, he can no longer ask for votes himself — this week, he’s missing two virtual candidate forums. … Fuller represents an extreme example of how the coronavirus has transformed elections up and down the ballot. With electioneering largely on hold, campaigns are adapting in fundamental ways — many morphing into mini-relief organizations by channeling their donor and volunteer bases into coronavirus-related work in their communities. The pivot is part altruism and part political self-interest: The candidates are raising big money for relief, but in many cases are making sure voters know about their good deeds, now and in the run-up to November. Campaigning under coronavirus runs the gamut.”

Loeffler leans in to wealth - Politico: “Republican Kelly Loeffler is leaning on one of her greatest assets and most glaring liabilities to turn around her campaign: her money. The Georgia senator, facing declining poll numbers and ongoing scrutiny over controversial stock trades, this week launched a $4 million ad campaign highlighting ways she’s used her wealth for Covid aid efforts in her state. Those include donating her salary, deploying her private plane to help transport stranded cruise ship passengers and making a $1 million personal donation to a relief organization, along with her support of the Senate's legislative responses.”

New Mexico House primary garbage fire intensifies - AP: “A candidate in a contentious Republican U.S. House primary in southern New Mexico is calling for one of her opponents to withdraw amid an increasingly personal and nasty contest. Oil executive Claire Chase demanded Monday that former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell exit the race over accusations Herrell was pushing false rumors around Chase’s first marriage — charges Herrell vigorously denies. … ‘Yvette’s candidacy is no longer viable and she should drop out of this race for the good of the Republican Party.’ In an interview with The Associated Press, retired U.S. Marine Jared Richardson said Herrell called last month after he announced his support for Chase on social media and told him that Chase cheated on her first husband while he was deployed in Afghanistan. But according to Chase, she met her current husband after her divorce and two years following her former husband’s return from deployment.”

Nevada Dems drop lawsuit against all-mail primary election - The Nevada Independent: “A cadre of Democratic Party-aligned groups is temporarily dropping a lawsuit asking a state court to implement multiple changes to the planned all-mail primary election in June after Clark County election officials agreed to expand in-person voting sites and other changes. The plaintiffs — including Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, progressive political nonprofit Priorities USA — announced their decision to drop the lawsuit in a joint press release sent out Tuesday after Clark County election officials said in a court filing that they would add two additional in-person voting sites and send out ballots to ‘inactive’ voters.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized with infection, doing fine and still working - Fox News

Pergram: As coronavirus sparks changes, DC blame game intensifies - Fox News

AUDIBLE: YOU KNOW YOU DID, YOU KNOW YOU DID…
“But if this ever changin' world in which we live in makes you give in and cry….” – Lyrics from the Guns n’ Roses cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” which was awkwardly blaring overhead as President Trump toured a factory in Arizona on a campaign stop.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Just a quick note to acknowledge your down to earth West Virginian observation about modeling: ‘But the model – the equation that produces the chart – doesn’t say anything at all. The chart doesn’t see the future any more than a calculator knows how to solve math problems. If you put in wrong or incomplete numbers, it’s not the fault of the calculator for getting it wrong.’ A truer statement has never been said.” – Dan Burch, Turlock, Calif.

[Ed. note: As a person who works with polls and pollsters, I have great sympathy for the struggles of the viral forecasters. They have only limited data to work with and as any economist can tell you, human behavior can be highly irrational and therefore terribly hard to predict. Models are needful and important things, but like polls, they are only one tool for making judgments. That’s why it’s so important for us to choose good and wise people to be our leaders. Many of the most important choices they make will be made without definitive evidence in any direction.]

“Stupendous Halftime Report [Tuesday]… most excellent in terms of your choice of prose, general content & varied subject material.  Keep up the great work…we love it down here in sunny FL. I would like to ask that you all keep a very close eye on what’s going into the next CV19 stimulus package. I surely do not want my hard-earned tax dollars going to bail out badly mismanaged state & local government retirement funds as part of the next round. Please keep a good watch on that for us… thanks!” – Rick Randell, Bradenton, Fla.

[Ed. note: Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write. As it relates to keeping watch on Congress, one of the serious challenges Americans face today is the longstanding bipartisan agreement to avoid normal rules and procedures. Committees and regular order had become a joke long before the current crisis. But the crisis provides good cover for leaders who don’t want real debate. John Boehner was the last champion of regular order to lead either party in the House. It’s just to appealing to negotiate in secret and then offer members a do or die vote in which they are told that even asking questions is tantamount to murder.]

“Your opening paragraph [Tuesday was] genius! I am a daily reader, who is irritated only 48% of the time by your take on whatever situation is at hand. I reckon you have it about right… that, and your partner Dana, who can do no wrong in my eyes.” –  Jim Wofford, Upperville, Va.

[Ed. note: Mr. Wofford, I’ll take 52 percent anytime! And as for Dana, you are 100 percent right.]

“Thanks for the great laugh over the orientation of politicians and pitchfork tines. Can’t think of a better explanation of politics in action.” –Louise Jones, San Marino, Calif.

[Ed. note: Real leadership is about convincing people to follow you where they never knew they wanted to go. Political success is jumping out in front of the parade after it is already underway.]

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

CARE ENOUGH TO CARIBOU
The Guardian: “As Canada’s Yukon territory braces for the coronavirus, residents have been asked keep one caribou’s length apart from each another. (For those not familiar with the dimensions of the reindeer, that’s roughly equivalent to two husky lengths or eight loaves of sourdough bread.) The light-hearted advice is part of a viral public health awareness campaign that seeks to inform residents and pay homage to the region’s cultural history. The guidelines from Yukon’s department of health also advised residents that keeping the distance of four ravens – the official bird of the territory – will help prevent transmission of the virus. The most recent ad, released at the end of April, advises residents to maintain a distance of one cord of wood – the standard measurement for chopped firewood.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I try to explain to friends that we do not sit in overstuffed chairs smoking pipes in five-hour games. We play like the vagrants in the park — at high speed with clocks ticking so that thinking more than 10 or 20 seconds can be a fatal extravagance.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 27, 2002.

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.