Trump unbound

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On the roster: Trump unbound - Time Out: Ride the lightning - Pressure grows on Clintons to shutter foundation - Power Play: What matters this August - You’re doing it wrong

It looks like Trump may finally get to be Trump again.

After a months-long struggle to make peace with the GOP, Republican nominee Donald Trump is going his own way with a new campaign boss who reflects Trump’s own trans-partisan mojo.

Just listen to Trump’s lines about “peaceful regime change” at his Milwaukee rally on Tuesday.

“I’m fighting for real change, not partisan change where everyone else gets rich but you,” Trump said. “I have said it first and I will say it for a long time: We are probably going to break that system.”

Leaving aside the un-Trumpish note of “probably,” that is a line that could have electrified a Bernie Sanders rally. The Trump campaign, like Sanders’, is about the revolt of the white working class – left, right and in between. And Trump may finally be getting a campaign to support that message.

There is much supposition as to why Trump tapped Steve Bannon, the head of pro-Trump site Breitbart News, to lead his campaign and why he did so in such a sudden move.

The timing of the pick may be explained by the rapidly declining fortunes of Paul Manafort, the GOP establishmentarian who took over Trump’s campaign in a springtime shakeup designed to placate Republican donors.

It seemed like the writing was on the wall for Manafort after he succeeded in pushing the shotgun marriage between Trump and the aggressively conventional governor of Indiana, Mike Pence. Manafort toppled Trump loyalist Corey Lewandoski and then succeeded in forcing Trump to act more like a Republican. But the problem with coups is that you’re always looking over your shoulder.

As Manafort was being supplanted, yet another story about his ties to Putinist Russia was hitting the wires. From his work in Eastern Europe, Manafort should have known well what becomes of inconvenient political advisors. And after a weeks-long skid in the polls, Manafort was looking more inconvenient than a two-story outhouse.

But the pick of Bannon is no mystery.

Under Bannon, Breitbart has championed the idea of preserving white American cultural identity in the face of an increasingly diverse population.  Withering attacks on free trade and Muslim migration further suggest this strong connection to ethnic and cultural, rather than ideological, conservatism.

Nationalism, long freighted with the ugly connotations of the World War II era, is making a comeback. And Bannon’s Breitbart and Trump have found common cause in it.

And Trump now knows that he doesn’t need the GOP cash machine. He showed last month that he can shuck plenty of cash out of his core supporters with small-dollar online contributions, just as Sanders did with his seemingly unending candidacy.

Trump’s self-generated funds will be a pittance compared to those of Hillary Clinton, but they will be more than enough to keep him flying across the country and retaining the requisite paid staff to hold events, deal with the press and produce and place some ads.

Trump was always going to lag Clinton on cash, even with the party. It’s just that now he can meet the minimum financial requirements without the headaches of trying to please Republicans.

But Trump will also soon see more Republicans abandon his cause. The Tuesday shakeup will disquiet party elders and some in the rank and file – especially as Trump keeps up the “regime change” talk.

The Republican nominee will continue to see college educated and more affluent white voters reject his candidacy.

So at this point Trump has to stick with his decision to run essentially as an independent who toppled the GOP and now wants to destroy the other party. There’s no going back now.

After the 2012 election, Republicans had a choice to make. Faced with the declining share of white voters, the party could either try to broaden its appeal with minorities or narrow its focus on blue-collar white voters to intensify the GOP share of the white majority.

For a year or so, the party seemed determined to make a down payment on the majority-minority future with immigration legislation and concerted outreach to non-white groups. But with the capsizing of the immigration plan in 2013, it started to become clear that the supporters of broadening the base were on the losing side.

Pundits scoffed at Sen. Ted Cruz’s claim that he could win the general election without a pivot. Cruz argued that millions of blue-collar white voters in the Upper Midwest – the archetypical Reagan Democrats – would return to the polls to vote for a staunch conservative.

When Cruz launched his campaign 16 months ago few would have imagined that the GOP nominee would go far beyond even Cruz’s concept of mobilizing working-class whites and alienating minority voters. But here they are.

The question for Trump and Bannon now is whether they can pull it off and find a way to build their new left-right white coalition in the 12 weeks before the election.

Rock critic Drew Millard examines what makes a band’s work canonical, and finds that juxtaposition matters. Hazlitt: “Metallica began its career by making four records—Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and …And Justice for All—that are the foundation upon which thrash metal was chaotically wrought. Much like the Beatles, Metallica showed up to the party, changed music forever, then suddenly left without so much as a goodbye. Not by imploding like the Beatles did, but by making the conscious decision to actively and enthusiastically sell out and make populist, semi-generic hard rock albums that sold like hotcakes. And because of this, their fans really, really f***ing hate them. … The funny thing is, though, I get the sense that Metallica fans wouldn’t view the band’s early material with such reverence if the band hadn’t started systematically alienating the people who got them to the top.”

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Average of national presidential polls:
 Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9.2 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8

In their Tuesday editorial, the liberal newspaper argued that Bill and Hillary Clinton’s family foundation is already proving to be a distraction for Hillary Clinton as she seeks the White House, and would be a liability for her as president: “Although the charity founded by former President Bill Clinton has done admirable work over the last 15 years, the Clinton Foundation is also clearly a liability for Hillary Clinton as she seeks the presidency. The once-and-maybe-future first family will have plenty to keep them busy next year if Hillary Clinton defeats Donald Trump in November. The foundation should remove a political — and actual — distraction and stop accepting funding. If Clinton is elected, the foundation should be shut down.”

Ties to Nigerian land deal raises questions -
Fox News: “Shortly after Hillary Clinton left the Obama administration, the State Department quietly took steps to purchase real estate in Nigeria from a firm whose parent company is owned by a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, records obtained by Fox News show. On March 20, 2013, William P. Franklin, an ‘international realty specialist’ at the State Department, emailed Mary E. Davis, an American diplomat stationed in Africa, instructing her to ‘put on Post letterhead’ an ‘expression of interest’ by the department in purchasing property at Eko Atlantic…”

With so much overheated campaign coverage and batch after batch of new polls, what should you really be paying attention to in this long, hot August? WATCH HERE.

FBI defends Clinton decision, gives House GOP documents from investigation - WaPo

Trump’s veterans co-chairman stands by call for Hillary to be shot by a ‘firing squad’ -

Trump to start airing television ads this week -

Trump to headline Ernst’s ‘Roast and Ride’ in Iowa -

David Drucker
looks under the hood at the top Clinton PAC - WashEx

Rick Perry
to father of Muslim Army officer killed in Iraq: Shame on you - WaPo

Trump up 11 points in Indiana but Dem Senate candidate also leads - The Hill

Liz Cheney wins Republican primary for House seat - AP

“Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country.” – Donald Trump on “FOX & Friends” when asked whether he trusted the intelligence he would be receiving today in his first classified briefing.

“Are you sure Megyn Kelly doesn’t write your material about Donald Trump?” – Ken Tidwell, Summerfield, Fla.

[Ed. note: Then you must have found it particularly fair and thoughtful, Mr. Tidwell. Thanks much!]

“Blame the GOP for Trump’s self-destruction as a candidate? You have usually been sensible; did all those criticizing you for supposedly dumping on Trump get to you?” – John Johnson, Tucson, Ariz.

[Ed. note: It’s not that the GOP is to blame for Trump’s woes. It is rather that Trump’s efforts to be a more typical Republican highlighted rather than concealed his weaknesses with voters. Trumpism holds that the country is four years away from irrevocable ruin and only he can save the republic. That’s a damn-the-torpedoes approach that depends on Americans embracing radical change at the edge of the abyss. If you favor modest reform, Trump is not your guy. If you favor the nuking the system, then you are a potential Trump voter. A candidate can’t preach on the looming apocalypse but align himself with anyone who is part of the “establishment.” Trump’s campaign overhaul and calls for “regime change” suggest he is going to make a go of it on his own.]

“It’s time for Trump’s children to have a Come to Jesus meeting with their dad. This is not going to work and it’s time for him to get out of the campaign. He cannot continue to behave this way and expect to win. This is no way for a presidential candidate to act, so get out while there might still be time. I’m ok with Mike Pence as a candidate and his choice of a running mate. But there is no way I could vote for a man who sounds like a 15 year old boy.” – Denise Quigley, Georgetown, Texas

[Ed. note: Good point on the kids, Ms. Quigley! After being front and center at the convention – and to overwhelmingly positive reviews – we have seen much less of them. Maybe there will be a reemergence.]

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

WAFF: “A strange twist was revealed in a murder-for-hire case in Morgan County [Ala.] Monday. A husband is trying to help his wife who's accused of wanting him dead. Sarah Shepard is accused of paying an undercover cop to kill her husband, Richard Shepard. Hartselle police say faked his own death to help them charge her. Shepard helped her attorney try to convince Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson to reduce her $500,000 bond on Monday. … Shepard told the judge that there isn't any way his wife could have devised the scheme without it being suggested to her by the undercover officer. He said she can hardly put together a weekly grocery list. … Investigators say they first talked to her in April after a concerned citizen told them that Shepard openly talked about getting someone to kill her husband. On May 20, Hartselle police arrested her. Officers say she gave a down payment to the undercover officer to kill her husband.”

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.