**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Trump’s vote fraud claims explained - Furious infighting over secretary of state pick - Competing pressures for Trump’s Cuba policy - Audible: Like for a hoedown? - Possible Viagra side effect?
TRUMP’S VOTE FRAUD CLAIMS EXPLAINED
Why would President-elect Donald Trump try to delegitimize the results of an election he won?
Suggesting massive fraud in an election in which you prevailed seems rather screwy, especially when your rivals are already pushing for recounts and claiming vote fraud.
There’s always some vote fraud, especially with more than 134 million ballots cast, but there isn’t even evidence of the localized vote rigging in the upper Midwest claimed by Trump’s detractors, let alone the systemic illegality which he claims.
So why is Trump feeding the trolls?
Some have suggested it is an attempt to distract reporters from the savage infightingwithin his team over key cabinet picks, the reports that he has been mostly avoiding classified national security briefings, or increasing scrutiny of his overseas business dealings.
It’s understandable that journalists would jump on the distraction theory since it inflates the value of journalism and offers a convenient rationale for seemingly irrational behavior.
But it’s probably simpler than that.
In Trump’s oft-stated, Manichean worldview, winning is good and losing is bad. The fact that Trump lost the national popular vote by, at this counting, about 2.2 million votes – nearly 2 points – is therefore bad.
Making matters worse is that Democrats are now looking to delegitimize the president-elect’s actual electoral win, not just emphasize his symbolic popular defeat.
Trump’s stunning victory rests on his narrowly flipping three blue states: Wisconsin (.8 points), Pennsylvania (1.1 points) and Michigan (.2 points).
The recount already underway in Wisconsin seems unlikely to change the outcome there. And even if Democrats and the members of the Green Party could get recounts running before results are made final on or before Dec. 13 in the other two states, the likelihood of reversing all three is remote to the point of absurdity. They’d have to overcome 68,028 votes in Pennsylvania alone.
But it obviously rankles Trump, whose tendency to seethe is something we may have forgotten about. So let’s hop in the Wayback Machine for a moment.
Many, this note included, determined that the seesawing letters from FBI Director James Comey had only marginal effects on the presidential election.
That was wrong.
Topline numbers didn’t change much and most voters said Comey’s mixed messages about the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of state secrets made little or no difference to them. Yes, we saw shifts in voter intensity favoring Republicans, but the imbalance had disappeared before Election Day.
But as analysts had observed throughout the cycle, the candidate that did best was always the candidate least discussed.
About five weeks ago, Trump delivered a speech in Gettysburg, Pa. – a hinge point in the closing chapter of the campaign. Part of it was a carefully crafted, competently delivered policy address written by his advisers. The other part was a diatribe against the women who accused him of sexual assault, even promising to sue them after the election.
But after Trump’s Gettysburg redress, we heard hardly a gurgle from the same steaming cauldron of resentments that issued the attack on the accusers. In fact, for the 16 days until Election Day, we saw a politician devotedly on message.
Meanwhile, Clinton and her misdeeds, criminal or not, dominated coverage. And as we saw throughout the campaign, the more voters heard about either candidate, the less they liked them. Comey’s zigzag may not have hurt Clinton on the merits, but it did the worst thing he could do to either of the 2106 major party nominees: It kept her in the news.
The crucial demographic group for 2016 would turn out to be the nearly one in five voters who told exit pollsters that they viewed both candidates unfavorably. Among that group, Trump won by a 17-point landslide.
Trump’s lower profile and relative modesty continued in victory. He was magnanimous with Clinton, gracious with President Obama and preached unity. Otherwise, he was out of sight. Reporters and analysts grew forgetful about the Trump they had covered for 18 months.
But now, the cauldron is bubbling again.
It has been observed of Clinton’s entry into the recount game that perhaps the wrong candidate was asked if he would abide by the voters’ verdict. But also forgotten was to ask Trump if he would respect the outcome, even if he won.
For the aforementioned reasons of counting and calendar, fraud claims probably won’t matter. And certainly, muddying the waters will help Trump stay a winner in the eyes of his core supporters who will believe him in spite of – or perhaps especially because of – reporting that shows his claim to be baseless.
But Trump’s claims are the best indication so far that we are returning to the pre-Gettysburg Trump.
Find your foxholes, folks.
THE RULEBOOK: GOOD AND BAD
“It may perhaps be said that the power of preventing bad laws includes that of preventing good ones; and may be used to the one purpose as well as to the other.”– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 73
TIME OUT: HIGH LIFE
How do you get a hot meal at 30,000 feet in the air? Decades of culinary and technological evolution has landed at a hot bath. Wired: “Think about airplane food and you may sigh with longing or groan with dread. But whatever class you sit in, you should know that filling that tray took a lot of effort. Not just prep work in the galley or the cooking down on land, but decades of technological innovation…Severe safety regulations, eviscerating weight and space considerations, and the logistics of air travel transform simple tasks into feats of engineering…The advent of sous vide –submerging vacuum-sealed food in a temperature-controlled water bath – gave cooks more control over the amount of doneness. As the machines became widely available and affordable around 2009, everyone from United Airlines to JetBlue adopted the method.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
FURIOUS INFIGHTING OVER SECRETARY OF STATE PICK
The Hill: “President-elect Donald Trump is ‘furious’ over Kellyanne Conway’s comments on Sunday about Mitt Romney, two sources told MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’ Trump’s top aides said they were ‘baffled’ over Conway’s comments about Romney, MSNBC reported. A source said the comments escalate concerns that Conway is ‘pushing her own agenda’ instead of driving Trump’s message. ‘It’s dangerous,’ a top transition aide told MSNBC. Incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus and incoming chief strategist Stephen Bannon are reportedly getting more and more frustrated that Conway is not becoming a team player. ‘Morning Joe’ senior producer JesseRodriguez tweeted early Monday that Conway called the show’s reporting ‘false’ and ‘sexist.’ Romney is set to meet with Trump on Tuesday. Trump transition team says that the president-elect will meet with David Petraeus today, and Mitt Romney tomorrow.”
Sexist? - Kellyanne Conway responded to MSNBC’s reporting that she was in trouble with the president-elect over her remarks texting Joe Scarborough this morning saying that his show’s reporting was sexist.
[AP reports that although the transition team is in chaos over the secretary of state spot, it doesn’t seem like the decision is ‘imminent.’]
COMPETING PRESSURES FOR TRUMP’S CUBA POLICY
Bloomberg: “The death of Cuba’s Fidel Castro offers an early glimpse at how U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will need to balance his pro-growth economic plans and allegiance to business with the hard-line campaign pledges that helped him win the election…Trump went further on Monday morning, saying that ‘if Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.’ But to backtrack now on Obama’s detente may put Trump, the billionaire businessman, at odds with U.S. companies hoping for a foothold there…Trump now has to walk a line between business executives who see opportunity 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the U.S., and exiled anti-Castro Cubans, who have voted reliably Republican for years. Many Cuban-Americans continued that support for Trump, helping to push him to a win in Florida, a key battleground state.”
Those scheduled to meet with Trump today include:
--Gen. David Petraeus, former director of the CIA
--David Clarke, the controversy-courting Milwaukee County Sheriff, reportedly under consideration to lead the Department of Homeland Security
--John Allison, former CEO of regional banking powerhouse BB&T, mentioned as a possible Treasury secretary
--Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma
--Paul Atkins, a former Securities and Exchange Commission member
--Dave Steward, CEO of World Wide Technology, a major federal contractor for information systems
--Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of Chicago-based real estate giant General Growth Properties
--Kathleen White, an energy expert from the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.
--Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to George W. Bush
AUDIBLE: LIKE FOR A HOEDOWN?
“If we’re given the White House and both houses of Congress and we don’t deliver, I think there will be pitchforks and torches in the streets.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas to ABC News
Harry Enten argues we’ve never known less about a president-elect’s ideology than Trump -FiveThirtyEight
A list of 282 campaign promises from Donald Trump - WaPo
Trump’s tax plan would mean an increase for the middle class - Fox News
Becoming Bannon: A look at Trump’s top adviser during Harvard years - Boston Globe
Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner the ultimate loyalist - WaPo
What if the internet is bad for human freedom? - NY Magazine
Poll: Eight in 10 Americas say the country is ‘deeply divided’ - CNN
Pelosi rival Tim Ryan says Dem failure due to lack of economic focus - AP
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“[Bean soup] must be thin, so as to soak up into thick slices of fresh-baked, homemade bread. And a whisper of shredded carrot is not amiss, nor are a few finely diced potatoes for a little body. And of course a couple of bay leaves are understood.” – John Mayer, Centerview, Missouri
[Ed. note: Yes, Mr. Mayer, a hint of laurel is lovely, and while shredded carrots sound pretty fancy, they might be a welcomed addition. On the matter of thickness though, I am strictly bipartisan. I start with a thinner broth knowing that as the soup goes through cycles of cooling and rewarming, it will thicken. One reason bean soup is such great cold-weather food is that you can make a vat and keep it on the porch between heatings. Just make sure to latch the screen door or the raccoons will get in after it. One day, I’ll have to tell you the story of my father’s decade-long battle with the orneriest raccoons ever to dip their paws in Short Creek.]
“Honey Baked Ham tried to sell me one of their optional ‘boneless’ spiral-sliced hams today. I replied, ‘Are you crazy, I buy the hams for the bone to make my beans?’ The navy beans are certainly fine, but I prefer butter beans, and don’t even think of sugar in the corn bread!” – Joe Guyton, San Antonio
[Ed. note: Heresy! Boneless ham would be like fat-free bacon. What’s the point?]
“Since moving from the Wheeling area a few years ago, I no longer see Adam Kelly’s special columns. Thanks for sharing the link and bringing back the memories of my years living in WV!” – C.H. Pavlock, Pittsburgh
[Ed. note: It was my pleasure. Hope yinz and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
POSSIBLE VIAGRA SIDE EFFECT?
Peoria [Ill.] Journal Star: “A man who asked a prostitute to tie him up was surprised that she stole his cellphone and TV after she did so. An 85-year-old man told police Thursday afternoon he invited a woman to his North Valley home to have sex, which he had done on multiple occasions over the last several months. She tied his hands together as a form of foreplay, and then left with his cellphone and 36-inch television. The man could not give police the suspect’s name or address.”
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.