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On the roster: Violence abated - Biden at cusp of nomination win, needs just 69 delegates - Trust on race relations helps Biden widen lead - Trump bails on Charlotte for convention - Beef-o-matic
AP: “Protesters marched on Wednesday in peaceful pleas to end police brutality, after a calmer night in cities across America void of the violence of recent days, as demonstrators heightened calls for justice in the killing of George Floyd. Curfews and efforts by protesters to contain earlier flare-ups of lawlessness were credited with preventing more widespread damage to businesses in New York and other cities overnight. … New York police said they arrested about 280 people on protest-related charges Tuesday night, compared with 700 a day earlier. Nationwide, the number arrested rose to more than 9,000 since vandalism, arson and shootings erupted around the U.S. in reaction to Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis. At least 12 deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.”
Pentagon chief bucks Trump on troop deployments - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump and other top aides were upset that Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly opposed the deployment of active-duty forces to confront protesters in U.S. cities, as Trump has suggested, and viewed the Pentagon chief’s remarks as out of line. Esper, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, said the use of active-duty military forces to perform law enforcement responsibilities within the U.S. is ‘a matter of last resort’ and that the National Guard is better-suited to the job. On Monday, Trump threatened to send U.S. military forces to cities and states that fail to quell violence spiraling from protests over the death of a black man in police custody. … [Esper said] ‘The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.’”
Ross Douthat: ‘Crisis in the Liberal City’ - NYT: “The polarization of American life, the withdrawal of liberal and conservative Americans from one another, has generated a poisonous distillation on both sides. In separating into geographic-distinct enclaves, into heartland and metropole, our factions have become steadily worse versions of themselves — deprived of the leaven of perspective, hardening into self-caricature, losing the democratic capacities that a more diverse and fluid political atmosphere can teach. … But the riots engulfing America’s cities aren’t just a testament to Trump’s mix of provocation and abdication. They also reveal how the Democratic coalition’s distillation into a metropolitan formation, a liberalism of the ‘global city,’ has created deep pressures inside the liberal coalition, fissures that can widen with the right cascade of shocks.”
William A. Galston: ‘I’ve Never Been So Afraid for America’ - WSJ: “April 1968. Smoke was billowing in the distance – from the South Side – as I drove in Chicago, where I was a student at the time. I remember saying to myself: It can’t get worse than this. For more than half a century it didn’t – until now. A health crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial crisis have converged to produce a clear and present danger to American democracy. U.S. enemies abroad cannot contain their glee; America’s friends regret our plight – and fear for the future of a world order that was built on a foundation of American power, principles and persistence. Adam Smith famously remarked that there is ‘a lot of ruin in a nation.’ But there are limits, and we are testing them. Previous crises have always summoned the leadership the U.S. needed. Will our current crisis do the same? I’m not sure. I fear, as never before, for the future of my country.”
THE RULEBOOK: FOR LIBERTY’S SAKE
“In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own…” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 51
TIME OUT: BOOKED UP, INDEED
Writer’s Almanac: “It’s the 84th birthday of author Larry McMurtry, born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and raised in nearby Archer City. His hometown is about 80 miles from the town of Thalia, which is the setting for several of McMurtry’s novels, like … The Last Picture Show (1966) and its four sequels. He writes a lot about small-town life in Texas, and sometimes he writes historical novels about the frontier, like his Pulitzer Prize-winning epic Lonesome Dove (1985), although he strongly resists romanticizing the Old West and doesn’t hold a very high opinion of cowboys in general. In the early 1960s, when he was at Stanford … he began working as a rare-book scout… It was a great job for a bookish kid who liked to hang around and browse the shelves, and when he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1970, he opened his own store in Georgetown, called Booked Up. In 1988, he opened a second Booked Up in his hometown…”
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PRESIDENTIAL 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: 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.2 percent
Net Score: -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 45% approve - 53% disapprove; American Research Group: 40% approve - 57% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve - 53% disapprove.]
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BIDEN AT CUSP OF NOMINATION, NEEDS 69 DELEGATES
Fox News: “Joe Biden ran the table on Tuesday night, moving him closer to going over the top and formally clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, as seven states and the District of Columbia held Democratic presidential primaries. The Associated Press projected the former vice president the winner in Pennsylvania, the state with the most convention delegates up for grabs Tuesday. The Associated Press also called Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota and D.C. for Biden. There’s no more real drama in the Democratic presidential primaries. When Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont suspended his White House bid in April and endorsed Biden, the former vice president became his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. But Biden has yet to secure the 1,991 delegates needed to officially clinch the nomination. Biden's pledged-delegate count stood at [1,922 Wednesday afternoon according to the Associated Press] as the vote continued to be counted. There were 479 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday.”
Republican relief as Steve King ousted - Des Moines Register: “Republican voters ousted U.S. Rep. Steve King on Tuesday, delivering an end to the two decades of controversy he brought to his heavily conservative district. The Associated Press has called the 4th Congressional District primary race for state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull, who had the backing of many state elected officials and national Republican groups. Feenstra won with 45.7% of the vote to King's 36%, a margin of just under 8,000 votes, according to unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. Feenstra vastly outraised King and spent heavily on television advertising targeting King as ineffective since he was stripped of his committee seats by Republican leaders in January 2019.”
Ugly GOP House primary sets up rematch in New Mexico - Carlsbad Current-Argus: “Former New Mexico State Rep. Yvette Herrell was declared the winner of the 2020 Republican Primary Election and will challenge incumbent Democrat Xochitl Torres Small for the seat representing New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. When the vote was called about 9:30 p.m, Herrell was leading with 46 percent of the vote, per unofficial results in Tuesday's election, with 292 of 619 precincts fully reporting, and 327 partially reported. Roswell oil executive Claire Chase and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys were trailing with 32 and 23 percent of the vote, respectively.”
Name I.D. problem? Plame trounced in House primary - Santa Fe New Mexican: “Teresa Leger Fernandez, whose life story has stops in Las Vegas, N.M.; New Haven, Conn.; and Santa Fe, could be headed for a Washington, D.C., address. Leger Fernandez captured the Democratic primary in the New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday, with a late but convincing victory in a crowded field of seven candidates. The Associated Press called the race in her favor at 10:47 p.m. She had 42 percent of the vote late in the evening, with former CIA operative Valerie Plame at 23 percent, according to unofficial election results. … In a district that has elected a Republican only once in its history, Leger Fernandez will enter the general election campaign as a heavy favorite.”
Daines, Bullock set for marquee Senate matchup - Great Falls Tribune: “Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock will battle it out on the ballot for U.S. Senate Nov. 3, after Tuesday’s primary in what is being touted as one of the most hotly contested battles in the country. The race was called by the Associated Press about 8:30 p.m. Bullock faced Democratic challenger John Mues of Loma and Daines, seeking his second six-year term, defeated Dan Larson of Stevensville and John Brian Driscoll of Helena. Several Democrats dropped from the race when Bullock entered shortly before the March 9 filing deadline. Bullock had been in the race for president, but dropped out when his campaign failed to gain traction.”
Engel hot-mic miscue deepens primary woes - Fox News: “Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., was caught on a hot mic Tuesday saying he ‘wouldn’t care’ about not being allowed to speak at a news conference about the unrest in his Bronx district following the death of George Floyd – if he wasn't in a competitive Democratic primary. ‘If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,’ Engel can be heard telling Bronx President Ruben Diaz twice, as he asks for a chance to speak at a news conference with city and state officials. ‘Don’t do that to me,’ Diaz responded. Engel, 73, later explained his comments to an NY1 reporter: ‘In the context of running for reelection, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that's why I asked to speak. Of course, I care deeply about what's happening in this country, that's what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life,’ he said. ‘I would not have tried to impose on the borough president if I didn't think it was important.’”
TRUST ON RACE RELATIONS HELPS BIDEN WIDEN LEAD
Monmouth University: “Joe Biden currently holds an 11-point lead over Donald Trump in the presidential race as more voters say they trust the challenger to handle race relations in the country. The latest national Monmouth University Poll also finds somewhat more confidence in Biden’s ability to handle the post-pandemic recovery efforts with more voters thinking that the outbreak will hurt Trump’s reelection prospects than said the same two months ago. Most voters feel that limitations on holding in-person events during the pandemic will have no impact on the campaign’s tone. Biden currently has the support of 52% of registered voters and Trump has the support of 41%. The Democrat’s lead has been slowly widening. It stood at 50% to 41% last month, 48% to 44% in April, and 48% to 45% in March. … One-third of voters (33%) say that race relations will be a major factor in their vote for president this year and another 17% say it will be a minor factor.”
Betting markets flip for Biden - CNBC: “Former Vice President Joe Biden has surged past President Donald Trump in online betting markets tied to the outcome of the 2020 presidential race as the U.S. continues to grapple with a deepening financial crisis, spreading pandemic and historic protests over police brutality. Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee, has taken his biggest lead over Trump to date in Smarkets, a U.K.-based online gambling platform, as well as PredictIt, an online betting platform established by researchers in New Zealand. As recently as last week, Trump was favored to win on both platforms. Biden’s chances have risen to 50%-43% on Smarkets and 53%-46% on PredictIt. Spokespeople for both companies confirmed that trading volume has risen to levels unseen since March, when the U.S. began shutting down major portions of its economy to halt the spread of the coronavirus.”
Ponuru: ‘Biden’s Old-Time Liberalism Finds Its Moment’ - Bloomberg: “As racial unrest has spread to more and more cities following the police killing of George Floyd, the far left has been busy devising excuses for riots. … Thankfully, some Democrats have repudiated this dangerous sophistry. Even better, one of those Democrats is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden. In a speech in Philadelphia, he proved that it is entirely possible to view Floyd’s killing as a wake-up call about racism and police brutality while also condemning violence. … Biden went on to say, ‘We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.’ It’s a view that puts him in the center of public opinion. … Biden now seems to assume that condemning lawless violence, even when it is done in the name of racial justice, will not jeopardize that support — and that it would be a mistake to try to placate people who turned out to be louder on social media than they were numerous in voting booths. His speech harked back to an older liberalism, one that was committed to racial equality but not to the shibboleths of wokeness.”
TRUMP BAILS ON CHARLOTTE FOR CONVENTION
Fox News: “President Trump announced late Tuesday that Republicans are ‘forced’ to seek another state to host their convention, saying North Carolina's governor was ‘still in Shelter-In-Place Mode’ and had ‘refused to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena’ in Charlotte, despite earlier assurances. The president didn't name an alternative venue. Earlier in the day, GOP officials said they had started visiting potential alternative sites after Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, told them the coronavirus pandemic required them to prepare for a scaled-back event if they wanted to hold it in Charlotte. ‘Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love,’ Trump wrote on Twitter. … In a tweet after Trump's post, Cooper said it was ‘unfortunate’ that Republicans ‘never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe.’ Cooper had written in a letter to the top convention organizer and the national GOP chairwoman that ‘planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity.’ The letter came on the eve of a deadline from the GOP for assurances that Cooper would allow a full-scale event in August.”
Questions mount about CDC’s failures - NYT: “Long considered the world’s premier public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has fallen short in its response to the most urgent public health emergency in its 74-year history — a pathogen that has penetrated much of the nation, killing more than 100,000 people. The agency made early missteps in testing and failed to provide timely counts of infections and deaths, hindered by aging technology across the U.S. health system. It hesitated in absorbing the lessons of other countries, and struggled to calibrate the need to move fast and its own imperative to be cautious. Its communications were sometimes confusing, sowing mistrust, even as it clashed with the White House and President Trump. … But a New York Times review of thousands of emails, and interviews with more than 100 state and federal officials, public health experts, C.D.C. employees and medical workers, documents how the Covid-19 pandemic shook longstanding confidence in the agency and its leader, Dr. Robert R. Redfield.”
Trump ready to push new stimulus - WSJ: “President Trump is planning to meet with his senior advisers as soon as this week to discuss policy options for the next coronavirus relief package as the administration prepares for negotiations with Capitol Hill, according to a senior administration official. The president’s team has assembled a set of proposals meant to encourage the public to return to work and resume normal life, including going out to restaurants and taking vacations, in an effort to jump-start the ailing economy as quickly as possible.”
Pergram: Congress measures Trump’s response to the George Floyd protests - Fox News
AUDIBLE: DON’T MESS
“Texans can take care of Texans.” – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a news conference declining President Trump’s encouragement to send active-duty military to help with riots and looting.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Your Op Ed was, as usual, well done. The headline however got my hackles up. I believe President Trump wants to achieve the ends that you listed but I’m not sure the Left’s definition of those words are the same. Their rhetoric, their policies and their money is either outright supporting the violent actors or proving to be impotent on stopping the carnage. I marvel at the restraint shown by law enforcement and I’m wary of inserting Army troops into the fray. Not because they cannot do the job but because they will be ordered to support city police forces that are constrained and ineffective by their political leadership. The Left desperately wants current video footage that recalls Selma, Birmingham and Kent State and they will not stop until they get it.” – Steve Aue, Brock, Texas
[Ed. note: I think it would help all of us, Mr. Aue, to try to avoid wherever possible broad generalities about our fellow citizens. I believe that what you call “the Left” wants peace and prosperity. I think “the Right,” including President Trump, wants the same thing. But if we lump together 30 million Americans into monolithic blocs and then ascribe to them bad motives, what chance do we have for any kind of discussion that produces fruitful outcomes? Yes, there are fringe players, but these are not mainstream positions. When we make such accusations, we should always try to be specific, using the names of individuals and groups. I don’t want to put Nancy Pelosi with Antifa or Mitch McConnell with the white nationalists because doing so renders any characterization useless. If we say there is no difference between a working mom demonstrating for justice and a rioter or that there is no difference between a good police officer and a bad one, then how will we build the country we want and that the world needs? Many of us would rather be right than happy these days, cramming ourselves into ideological silos that prevent us from hearing and seeing the world as it is. The good news is that the carnage you describe seems to be abating and, Lord hear our prayer, the issue of civil unrest will be forgotten by the time we get to November. The bad news is that as the threat recedes, we will return to our bunkers taking with us only new resentments that will fuel the next inevitable confrontations.]
“Thank you for your daily reports. I may not always agree with your assessments, but you have helped me think more critically about many things and challenge some of my perceptions. I didn’t like Trump before he became a politico next, and I don’t like him now. The fact that he is talking about federalizing the National Guard to ‘quell the protests’ has me very worried. These are Americans, and having our military engage US citizens seems very worrisome. Then, I read a peaceful protest was cleared so he can go walk to a church, for a photo op. I wasn’t there, but plenty of news outlets are reporting the same thing (which is what I look for to verify if something is potentially true). Instead of calling for peace, all I hear is ‘tough talk.’ I am so angry at how all this is being handled. I feel a great sadness for my Black neighbors who have to look over their shoulder daily due to a system of racial intolerance. I feel the walls are closing in I feel helpless. I’m on the verge of tears, and feel very ashamed of our country. I depose partisanship. I’m sick of Trump calling anyone a ‘liberal’ or ‘Democrat’ that he claims are his enemies. I’m sick of Democrats calling for his impeachment as soon as he was elected, and dehumanizing republicans. I’m sick of the political figures that will say anything to gain favor with Trump, even though they may know that what he says is either dangerous or stupid. I’m sick of the class wars, the race wars. I really don’t know what to do, but I do hope some day I’ll see politicians on both sides try to work together like the Problem Solvers Caucus, and less of them trying to just stoke their respective bases (Bernie Sanders and Trump). I’m scared for my family, and my fellow citizens. I hope we come out of this a stronger society, but I have my serious doubts. Thank you again for helping keep us grounded in politics, and I hope you and your family are safe and healthy.” – Shawn Wallace, Battle Ground, Wash.
[Ed. note: We are safe and healthy, indeed. Thank you for your good wishes. And this is my message to you: Do not give in. What is broken in our system could be most simply put in the oft-quoted line from W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Here we are in what he called “the widening gyre,” and it seems sometimes like the planets themselves will go hurtling out of orbit. Like a lot of Americans, I’ve had cause in recent days to think about the times Americans faced in the interwar years of the first half of the 20th century. Huge technological and social upheaval, wild economic success, massive economic catastrophe and the understanding that we have entered into a new phase of our national life. I was reading Monday night from a history of the Dust Bowl about how the mothers in the Plains were sometimes driven to suicide by the daily assault of dust in their homes. Every surface, every dish, every bedsheet inculcated with grit and grime. Every day a battle that had to be fought for their family’s survival against pneumonia but ending always in defeat. For 10 years this plague went on. No one could judge them for despairing. And no one should judge you for despairing, either. As Ross Douthat wrote in a piece linked above, the troubles of 2020 reveal “the grinning skull beneath” the ordinary pleasures and routines of life. But as with all revelations, the question immediately confronts us: If that is so, then how shall I live today? What the people trying to tear us to pieces hope is that you will give in to despair and absent yourself from the process. But knowing what we do, we also know the answer to the question of our conduct. In trying times we are called by our duty as Americans and humans to love more, listen more, work more, try harder. It is so hard when it seems like the dust is everywhere and nothing will keep it out, but the only way through is for the best people to find intensity greater than the worst.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
Fox News: “Meet the ‘24-hour meat machine.’ The owner of a butcher shop and restaurant in Rochester, N.Y., told Fox News that his meaty new vending machine is a hit with customers, who can now purchase their steaks and chops with minimal person-to-person contact in a sectioned-off vestibule at the front of his shop. ‘The response has been unbelievable,’ said Kevin McCann, the owner and head butcher at McCann’s Local Meats. ‘On Saturday, I was cutting and restocking the machine four or five times.’ McCann can’t take all the credit for the idea. As he tells Fox News, his friend and mentor Josh Applestone, who operates Applestone Meats in the Hudson Valley, has been utilizing refrigerated meat vending machines for years. … McCann’s new vending machine doesn’t merely help with social distancing protocol, either. The butcher tells Fox News that he hopes his machine — which carries fresh cuts of meat as well as prepared foods — will also provide a much needed service for the local health care community in Rochester.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The second miracle is the substance of [the U.S. Constitution] — the way that the founders, drawing from Locke and Montesquieu and the Greeks, created an extraordinary political apparatus that to this day still works and that has worked with incredible success for nearly a quarter of a millennium.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) from a column excerpted from his post posthumous book, “The Point of It All,” on Nov. 29, 2018.
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.