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On the roster: Trump’s return to the campaign trail backfires - Biden still lagging in cash despite record breaking May - Barr raises eyebrows over firing of U.S. Attorney - Hickenlooper primary challenger goes on attack - A happy Father’s Day, indeed
TRUMP’S RETURN TO THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL BACKFIRES
AP: “President Donald Trump’s return to the campaign trail was designed to show strength and enthusiasm heading into the critical final months before an election that will decide whether he remains in the White House. Instead, his weekend rally in Oklahoma highlighted growing vulnerabilities and crystallized a divisive reelection message that largely ignores broad swaths of voters — independents, suburban women and people of color — who could play a crucial role in choosing Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The lower-than-expected turnout at the comeback rally, in particular, left Trump fuming. … But less than four months before early voting begins in some states, there are signs that independents and educated voters — particularly suburban women — have turned against him. Republican strategists increasingly believe that only a dramatic turnaround in the economy can revive his reelection aspirations. … The campaign had been betting big on Tulsa. … His first rally in 110 days was meant to be a defiant display of political force to help energize Trump’s spirits, try out some attacks on Biden and serve as a powerful symbol of American’s reopening.”
An aggressive style may be his only 2020 play - Politico: “After three months of little public activity, both candidates have launched their general campaigns in earnest. … And amid widespread civil unrest and an ongoing pandemic, the opening stage of what is likely to become one of the most bitter, intensely personal general election campaigns in contemporary history began to unfold. … The no-boundaries approach is in keeping with Trump’s style. Yet it’s also a necessity for an unpopular president facing an electoral landscape that’s tilted against him. … Trump’s advisers have long believed he could recover if he could drag Biden’s favorability ratings down. Confronting an opponent who is viewed more favorably than Hillary Clinton was in 2016, Trump is laboring not only to depict Biden as mentally unfit – but as an addled tool of the Democratic Party’s most extreme fringe. … While Biden is now advertising, there is disagreement among Democrats about how frequently Biden should appear in public… But Republicans — and Trump himself — will continue to goad him to draw him out. Trump’s campaign has been taunting Biden to make more public appearances, a strategy Republicans view as a win-win.”
Mark Barabak: Biden isn’t Clinton, and that’s a problem - LAT: “Joe Biden is old. He has a paper trail reaching back half a century. He is, by his own admission, a ‘gaffe machine’ who regularly trips over his own tongue. He is not, however, as widely and viscerally disliked as the last Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and that’s complicating President Trump’s reelection effort. The incumbent is deeply unpopular and, if history is a guide, stands little chance of drastically changing those sentiments by election day. His best — and possibly only — chance of winning a second term is making Biden seem the more unpalatable of the two; turning the election, in the political shorthand, into a choice between candidates rather than a referendum on Trump’s personality and performance. The strategy worked four years ago against Clinton. …This time seems different.”
WH adviser Kevin Hassett to leave this summer - Axios: “White House adviser Kevin Hassett will leave the administration this summer, after returning in March to help the president respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, according to two administration officials. Hassett has shown an ability to translate economic numbers into tangible terms for the president, steering Trump to support more stimulus and relief. His departure could cede power to administration officials who oppose a $2 trillion package and worry about the deficit. Hassett's exit will deprive the president of another voice defending him on cable TV. It also drains more in-house expertise ahead of the election. Andrew Olmem, a deputy on the National Economic Council, left his post on Friday.”
THE RULEBOOK: ‘EVEN THE JUDGES’
“Even the judges, with all other officers of the Union, will, as in the several States, be the choice, though a remote choice, of the people themselves, the duration of the appointments is equally conformable to the republican standard…” – James Madison, Federalist No. 39
TIME OUT: GREATNESS CAN’T BE RUSHED
Garden&Gun: “[Andre] Pater is a Polish American painter who, experts and collectors agree, ranks among the greatest sporting artists alive, an heir to the mantles of such legends of the field as George Stubbs and Sir Alfred Munnings, British painters of centuries past who are lauded, in particular, for their masterful depictions of horses. … That artistic power—that shock of recognition at seeing how Pater marshals brush and pigment to transfer the soul of his subject onto canvas—helps explain why the last four decades have taken him on a long, steady trek toward the summit of the sporting-art world. A perfectionist widely known for his luminous renditions of horses, jockeys, polo players, gundogs, and of course hounds, Pater, who is sixty-seven, mostly paints on commission but refuses to rush the outcome. He’s made portraits of an equine who’s who of celebrity Thoroughbreds: Secretariat, Smarty Jones, Justify, Barbaro.”
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NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 41 percent
Biden: 50.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 9.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.4 points; Trump ↓ 0.8 points
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 38% - Biden 50%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 41% - Biden 49%; CNN: Trump 41% - Biden 55%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 42% - Biden 49%; NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 43% - Biden 50%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (103 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15)
Lean R/Likely R: (186 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 54.8 percent
Net Score: -12.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.6 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 44% approve - 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 40% approve - 57% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 42% approve - 52% disapprove.]
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BIDEN STILL LAGGING IN CASH DESPITE RECORD BREAKING MAY
Politico: “Joe Biden still trails President Donald Trump in cash, but he’s catching up. Biden and the Democratic National Committee hit an all-time monthly fundraising record in May, bringing in $80.8 million. That total topped Trump and the Republican National Committee, which together raised $74 million over the same period. But Trump … leads Biden in cash on hand, $265 million to $122.2 million, an all-important number that shows how much the candidate and committee can still spend. Notably, May was the first full month Biden raised money in tandem with the DNC, drafting off of a joint fundraising agreement that allowed individual donors to give more than $620,000. Saturday night’s Federal Elections Commission filings also shed light on Republicans’ edge in spending this month, an ongoing battle among several outside groups to be Biden’s preferred super PAC and Justin Amash’s brief run for president. POLITICO dug through the numbers and here’s six takeaways from this month’s filings…”
Biden campaign commits to three debates - Fox News: “The Biden campaign has agreed to participate in three planned general election presidential debates in the fall, while slamming the Trump campaign’s push for more debates as an ‘effort to change the subject’ and ‘create a distracting ‘debate about debates.’’ Joe Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon penned a letter, obtained by Fox News, to the Commission on Presidential Debates outlining the campaign’s expectations for the debate schedule this fall. … Dillon wrote: ‘First, once formally invited, Vice President Biden will accept and participate in the Commission’s planned Presidential candidates’ debates for September 29, October 15, and October 22; his running mate will participate in the Vice Presidential candidates’ debate set for October 7,’ she wrote. … ‘We are seeing reports that he has his own proposal for debates—after having said, just six months ago, that he might not want to participate at all in planned debates,’ Dillon wrote. ‘No one should be fooled: the Trump campaign’s new position is a debate distraction.’”
Harris maintains place in veepstakes - NPR: “More than a month before former Vice President Joe Biden's stated deadline for naming his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris is seen as the consensus front-runner to become Democrats' vice presidential nominee. … She topped a recent national poll asking respondents for their preferred Biden running mate. And, for what it's worth, she's the runaway favorite on online betting sites. That's all despite the fact that Harris' own presidential campaign was a disappointment, having never even made it to the Iowa caucuses. Still, Harris allies see the first-term California senator and former state attorney general and San Francisco district attorney as bringing needed demographic balance to Biden's ticket. They also see her prosecutorial résumé as the ideal professional background in a political climate intensely focused on racial justice and policing, and her reputation as a sharp attack dog in Senate hearings as a key asset for a running mate.”
Green Party nominee blames Sanders for not ‘pushing’ Dems to the left - The Hill: “Green Party presumptive presidential nominee Howie Hawkins says even progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have watered down policies espoused by his party and predicts former Vice President Joe Biden (D) has an open lane to the White House in 2020. That's why, he says, liberals who support the Green Party platform — especially in states guaranteed to go Democratic by wide margins — will feel more comfortable this year giving him their vote. Hawkins, who clinched his party's nomination Saturday night, told The Hill that he rejects the idea that Sanders and other prominent progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have pushed the Democratic Party to the left in recent years.”
BARR RAISES EYEBROWS OVER FIRING OF U.S. ATTORNEY
WSJ: “Attorney General William Barr has earned a reputation for being so hard-charging within the Justice Department that even his close aides call him ‘the Buffalo.’ … Mr. Barr’s announcement via press release at 9:14 p.m. Friday that Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was stepping down—which was news to Mr. Berman, who refused—left even some of Mr. Barr’s close allies questioning his management style after a series of controversial moves. … Mr. Barr gave no public rationale for ousting Mr. Berman, or for why the announcement came late on a Friday. The attorney general and other top Justice Department officials have clashed with Mr. Berman for months over matters large and small, and Mr. Barr had come to view him as obstinate and unhelpful, according to people familiar with the matter. … Critics, including current and former Justice Department officials, said Mr. Barr opened himself up to justified suspicion, pointing to the fact that Mr. Berman’s office is pursuing a politically sensitive investigation into the business and political activities of Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, which has already led to campaign-finance charges against several of Mr. Giuliani’s associates.”
Dems seize on US attorney ouster to pursue new probes, hearings - Fox News: “Top congressional Democrats are citing the ouster of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York following a Friday-night standoff in calls for new probes and hearings concerning President Trump's Justice Department. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., over the weekend said his panel would ‘immediately open an investigation’ into the removal of Geoffrey Berman, as part of its larger-scale investigation into what he called Attorney General Bill Barr’s ‘unacceptable politicization’ of the Justice Department. … Nadler’s comments come just days after he issued subpoenas for Justice Department officials Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and John W. Elias, who had filed complaints about the ‘unprecedented politicization’ at the DOJ under Barr’s leadership. Nadler said the two DOJ officials will testify Wednesday and will ‘explain why Barr’s attempt to fire Mr. Berman is part of a larger, ongoing, and wholly unacceptable pattern of conduct.’”
Barr hints at ‘developments’ in Durham probe this summer - Fox News: “Attorney General Bill Barr announced in an exclusive interview with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo that Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation of the Russia probe's origins will likely yield ‘developments’ before summer is over, despite delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In the wide-ranging interview that aired on ‘Sunday Morning Futures,’ Barr said that he was surprised by the overall lack of public interest in Durham's investigation, which follows a Justice Department Inspector General report that revealed inaccuracies and omissions in applications for warrants to conduct surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.”
HICKENLOOPER PRIMARY CHALLENGER GOES ON ATTACK
Politico: “[John] Hickenlooper — who was recruited and immediately endorsed by national Democrats after dropping his presidential bid — remains the favorite in the tighter-than-expected June 30 primary against Andrew Romanoff, the former state House speaker, according to interviews with a dozen Democrats in Colorado and Washington last week, many of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly. Additionally, they say he maintains an advantage in the general election against GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, especially with President Donald Trump's falling poll numbers over the past few months, and in a state where the electorate tilts increasingly blue. But Democrats' nominating contest has become much more competitive and fraught in the final stretch. Romanoff launched the first attack ad of the primary Friday, and a new super PAC created only last week immediately released a negative counterattack battering the lesser-known challenger. After his slip-ups, Hickenlooper has rolled out new local and national endorsements aiming to re-establish his pole position.”
McConnell challengers face unexpectedly tight primary - NYT: “Senate Democrats thought they had it all planned out. Maybe they couldn’t defeat Senator Mitch McConnell, their legislative bête noire, in Kentucky this November. But by nominating Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who earned a national following in a close 2018 House race, they figured they could keep the race relatively competitive… Then came the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor… And suddenly everything changed. Ms. McGrath now finds herself in a rapidly tightening race against Charles Booker, a 35-year-old African-American state representative who was tear-gassed by the police at a recent protest. With just over a week until the Democratic primary, the fury in Kentucky over Ms. Taylor’s death, uncertainty about voting in a pandemic and a host of late endorsements from progressive leaders have provided fresh momentum to Mr. Booker’s candidacy — upending a nominating contest few in the national party were even following last month.”
Conservative Democrat considered a top candidate in NY congressional race - Fox News: “A conservative, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage congressional candidate is one of the favorites to win this Tuesday's New York Democratic primary in what has been called ‘the bluest district in America.’ New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. has a history of stirring up controversy, yet he is a top candidate among the 12 contenders in the Bronx running for the congressional seat left vacant by the retiring Democrat Jose Serrano. ‘There's a real risk that a Trump Republican masquerading as a Democrat could represent the bluest district in America,’ one of Diaz's opponents, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, told CBS News. The district Diaz is looking to represent, New York's 15th, is located next to the one represented by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is among the most left-leaning members of Congress.”
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas breaks with court on decision not to hear case of Kansas man's anti-cop threat - Fox News
Pergram: DACA, LGBTQ decisions leave some conservatives with Supreme Court buyers' remorse - Fox News
AUDIBLE: STAY HUMBLE
“I’m not confident at all. I think the easiest way to ensure Trump’s reelection is to be overconfident. Too many Democrats are looking at national polls and finding them encouraging. Too many Democrats assumed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in and didn't vote or didn't work.” – Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., an ally of Joe Biden, quoted by Politico.
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A HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, INDEED
KFOR: “He’s always been a car guy, kind of like his dad was. Bobbie Bohnsak’s latest purchase came in May and he’s been driving it every day since: a 1974 Dodge Challenger with a personal history that dates back to the day it rolled off the showroom floor. … Bob Bohnsack Sr. was just back from Vietnam, getting ready to leave the Air Force, when he ordered this Dodge muscle car brand new. … Bobbie was 8 when his father died suddenly. A few memories remained, and some pictures with no stories to go with them. But the wishes grew, those could-have-beens that defined the seasons like every harvest season, every June since his Dad passed away. Bobbie didn’t even know the vehicle identification number to start a search. But he found this old bill of sale and there it was. … He logged an online search and miraculously found the car for sale in San Diego, California. … The old Challenger idles kind of rough, but Bobbie doesn’t care. He drives it slow and careful around town, through the ripe wheat of another harvest June, the 32nd since he and his father parted.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“One doesn't expect Dr. Frankenstein to show up in wool sweater, baggy parka, soft British accent and the face of a bank clerk.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 24, 2001.
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.