Trump tries tricky dismount on immigration

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On the roster: Trump tries tricky dismount on immigration - Powell says Clinton tried to ‘pin’ email story on him - Clinton outraises Trump in battleground states - Power Play: Training Day - Yin, meet Yang                             

Donald Trump
’s supporters are being put to the test.

The Republican nominee once famously bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would still stand behind him. He was kidding…up to a point.

The dogged support of a plurality of Republican voters propelled him through missteps that would have ended the campaigns of others and on to the GOP nomination.

In large part, however, Trump’s supposed apostasies in the primaries were the kinds of gaffes or intemperate statements that didn’t have much to do with why so many voters surged to his side at the start of his campaign. Once you accept Trump as Trump you can get over the kinds of behavior that one would never tolerate in another politician.

For instance, Trump is today mean-tweeting the hosts of a cable news morning show. But so what? If Hillary Clinton suddenly did the same thing to the hosts of “FOX & Friends” it would be in the news for days. At this point with Trump, though, it’s just “whatevs.”

Verbal fisticuffs and feuds with individuals already detested by core Trump voters aren’t really much of a test of loyalty, though. The two faults we are most prone to forgive in our friends are their flattery of us and their demonization of our enemies.

What if it was a matter of substance?

Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that the status of Trump’s promised “deportation force” to round up more than 10 million illegal immigrants and expel them from the United States “to be determined.”

That’s a pretty big matzo ball to have hanging out there, especially since it was the, ahem, Trump card, in the Republican primary debate over who could embrace the most draconian policy on illegal immigration.

Think back to when “anchor babies” and a lot of loose talk about amending the constitution around birthright citizenship -- including that of the junior Senator from Texas – was in the news.

Other Republicans favored a version of Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” in which a secure border and internal enforcement measures would drive illegals out of the country. Trump scoffed and touted his plan to round up illegals, famously defending it by invoking “Operation Wetback” from 1954.

If Trump were to ditch the deportation force idea, it would not be the first policy point he had walked back, most notably, keeping all Muslims from entering the United States. He then embraced the idea of banning people from countries tied to terrorism before most recently alighting on a more aggressive vetting process for individual Muslims – essentially the same thing he once decried his rivals for pursuing.

That shift doesn’t seem to have hurt Trump with his core supporters and was quite necessary for him to compete in the general election. Trump would be far from the first presidential candidate to “Etch A Sketch” a few problematic points after the primaries.

In fact, Trump has advantages in this way that politicians do not. The fervent devotion to his core followers is something that we have not seen for a major party nominee in more than a generation. It’s not so much that they believe him it’s that they believe in him. That gives him latitude in theory to reach out to new voters.

But what if the subject is the core of Trump’s issue set: Cleansing America of the scourge of illegal immigrants?

The nominee has previously embraced so-called “touchback amnesty” in which a pathway to citizenship is provided to illegals who first returned to their home countries. So there is evidence, even beyond the Muslim ban, that Trump’s base will overlook policy shifts on the topic.

What remains to be seen is whether they will condone Trump reportedly starting the shift in a closed-door meeting with Hispanic leaders. One imagines that Trump’s shifts on the Muslim ban would have been less well received by his base than if they had been telegraphed in private meetings with imams.

Conway made her “to be determined” comment after the Trump campaign had vehemently denied reports from individuals in the meeting that the nominee expressed interest in a more “humane and efficient” way to deal with illegal immigrants than mass deportations, suggesting that there are indeed changes to come.

Trump has massive advantages in his primary/general pivot that Clinton does not enjoy. Democrats remain highly suspicious of Clinton on issues like trade, national security, and yes, illegal immigration. Like Romney, Clinton will be afforded very little slack by her party’s base.

Trump has already enjoyed grace on a scale unknown in modern politics from his legion of followers. One would not think that this shift would be enough to cause a crisis of confidence, but more shifts will be needed. And those shifts will come against a backdrop not of primary victories but rather a tough slog of a general election campaign.

In order to win, Trump must broaden, not intensify, his appeal. Given the degree to which Trump’s support hinges on intense contempt for Clinton and the political system it may be enough for him just to be against her.

But make no mistake, Trump’s Hispanic outreach and other efforts to normalize will come at a cost to his core brand and reinforce the claim made by his former and current foes that Trump’s candidacy is a “con.”

The Awl: “If you were to ask a random American what he or she thinks about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), it’s safe to bet they wouldn’t have much to say…And yet, deep within the bowels of the treaty, there’s one clause that could have a profound effect on everyday American life — by making it illegal for US cheese makers to use common names rooted in regional European culinary traditions like feta, muenster, or parmesan. EU negotiators are serious enough about this that it’s had the US dairy world in a tizzy for two years, underscoring how attached our cheese culture is, both emotionally and financially, to its (often only name-deep) European heritage.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions

Average of national head-to-head presidential polls
: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9 points
Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton + 6.6 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8

Fox News: “Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday he only sent a memo about his email practices to Hillary Clinton and didn’t encourage her to use private email practices during her time at the State Department. The New York Times reported last week that Clinton told the FBI that Powell detailed to her his email practices under George W. Bush…Powell said in a statement that he had no recollection of this conversation with Clinton and elaborated on his statement to The New York Post, saying ‘The truth is she was using it (her personal email) for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did.’ He added that, ‘her people have been trying to pin it on me.’ Powell said it didn’t bother him, according to The Post.”

Clinton outraises Trump in battleground states - USA Today: “Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has raced past Republican Donald Trump in the television and ground war for the presidency, also is harvesting more cash than her Republican rival from the states that could decide the election, a USA TODAY analysis of new campaign-finance reports shows. The former secretary of State outraised Trump in 10 of the 11 most competitive states last month, according to the analysis. Trump edged Clinton in one state, Nevada.  The analysis examined July contributions from individuals who have donated more than $200 to the campaigns. July marked the best fundraising month for both candidates. Candidates do not have to disclose names and addresses of donors who contribute $200 or less.”

Presidential transitions are complex and expensive operations - and hugely important. The non-partisan Partnership for Public Service helps the President-elect hit the ground running. Go inside the transition prep with CEO Max StierWATCH HERE.

Trump begins debate prep - NYT

Poll: Clinton has edge in Ohio, Portman hefty lead -
Monmouth University

Clinton’s new ad contrasts commander-in-chief qualities with Trump’s rhetoric - The Hill

Pro-Clinton PAC puts out new Trump ad focused on groups he’s insulted in the past - The Hill

Clinton campaign manager dismisses questions on family foundation, points to Trump, Putin ties - Fox News

Silicon Valley Republicans keep their financial distance from Trump, even those who support him -

Sean Hannity
says he is advising Trump -

Priebus says Trump showing ‘maturity’ -

In key states, Republicans have seen registrations spike - Politico

[Ed. note: Yeahbut… don’t forget the “cash for clunkers” theory on 2016 primary voters.]

Nate Silver explains the discrepancy between state and national presidential polls - FiveThiryEight

One Arizona county demonstrates the problems of Obamacare with the exit of Aetna - Politico

In their latest podcast, Doyenne of decency Dana Perino and Appalachian analyst Chris Stirewalt discuss the truth about polls, the state of the race and even Patsy Cline’s greatest songwriter. Who knew Dana had a career in country music? LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

“What you’ve got to do is go online… go online and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness.’ Take a look at the videos for yourself.” – Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in an interview with Fox News Channel colleague Shannon Bream.

“Chris, thanks for the reference to Hawkshaw Hawkins on the recent podcast.  I went to Pandora and created a “Hawkshaw Hawkins” station, and enjoyed listening to HH as well as others in that genre.  Also, Pandora provided a pretty good biography, including the fact that Hawkshaw was not his real name (Harold Franklin Hawkins).  Anyway, again, thanks for the HH reference!” – Ace McInturff, Sequim, Wash.

[Ed. note: I’d love Hawkshaw even if he wasn’t a West Virginian! Truly, a beguiling sound. Aside from the bittersweet “Sunny Side of the Mountain,” I’d also recommend his rebuttal to “Wabash Cannonball,” called “Pan American.”]

“Dear Chris, We love reading this report and listening to you when you are on air (usually with Hemmer and Martha). My spouse and I are currently obsessed with the media’s reliance on the RCP average of averages. Neither of can recall in any statistics class (we both have master’s degrees- one in economics education and one in sports medicine) the validity of said calculation. Could you provide an explanation as to why the media is fixated on this artificial number? Seems to us that the media needs a quick and dirty method to explain perceived trends. Perhaps the explanations ought to focus on a better way to explain survey bias and sample weighting. Since we are from the ‘land  beyond O’Hare’ in Illinois, we struggle daily to plow thru media manipulation of factual events.  Thanks!” – Laurel and Alan Howard, West Chicago, Ill. 

[Ed. note: What a great question, Mr. and Mrs. Howard! Poll averages can be very helpful things, but the individual components matter. We like averages of polls because they help minimize the significance of the occasional outlier survey. Even good pollsters using good methods can have polling results that are, well… screwy. By making a mélange – I have compared it to a Slim Jim of polls – you control for outliers but still include polls that could be the beginning of new trends. Yummy! But, when there are too many bad ingredients it overwhelms what’s good. Yuck! We stopped using the poll average you mentioned because on some days, like today, only one of the five surveys in the average meets our standards for a methodologically sound poll. Too much filler, not enough choice cuts. The Halftime Report poll averages uses only polls that meet our standards: 

“Fox News Halftime Report provides a daily average of the five most recently completed methodologically sound national presidential polls. The polls included must be from nonpartisan sources. The surveys must be conducted among a sufficiently large population over an appropriately narrow period of time. The interviews must be conducted by live telephone interviews. We exclude online polls and so-called ‘robo’ polls that overlook the growing population of cell-phone-only voters.”]

“‘More inconvenient than a two-story outhouse?’ [As mentioned in Halftime Report on Aug. 17] Au contraire!  I have seen photographs of centuries-old wooden Swiss chalets with two- and three-story outhouses, large wooden tubes running from the top floor to the bottom and beyond, with separate ‘accessibility’ on each floor.  There might have been such in antiquity as well, besides the communal multiple-‘holer’ rooms discovered in the ruins of ancient Greek cities.  Those 'dual' toilets people complained about during the Russian Olympics were nothing by comparison!” –Warren Malach, Sacramento, Calif.

[Ed. note: I think I’d still prefer an upper berth, Mr. Malach…]

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

KTVI: “[Sauget, Ill.] Gateway Grizzlies outfielder Brandon Thomas experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat Sunday night, all in one swing of the bat. Thomas hit a grand slam in the bottom the second inning, smashing the windshield of a truck in the parking lot. Only after the game did Thomas realize the truck was his! Thomas, who went 2 for 5 on the day with four RBIs, took the matter in stride, tweeting, ‘definitely worth it.’ The Grizzlies beat the Joliet Slammers 17-6.”

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