**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: What should worry Democrats about Virginia - House GOP looking for fixes to keep tax plan alive - Report: Mueller sweats Flynn - Brazile tells Clinton-allied critics ‘go to hell’ - Yes, Rocky, you are still a good boy 

Could Democrats really blow the Virginia governor’s race? It almost seems like they’re trying to find out.

Let’s start with an understanding of the stakes in the Old Dominion. If the blue team cannot win in a state Hillary Clinton carried by about six points last year, and where Donald Trump specifically and Republicans in general are about as unpopular as they are in the country as a whole, it would be an epic collapse.

In the series of special House elections Democrats have lost in the past year, each has come with the consoling notion that the Democrat was the underdog and that improved voter intensity on their side was a harbinger of good things to come for the party in 2018.

But this one shouldn’t even be close.

The latest Fox News poll shows Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam with just a 5-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie, and more than enough undecided voters to throw the race to the GOP.

You would have to say that Northam is still the favorite, but the trend line has not been friendly in the closing weeks. An average of the five most recent methodologically sound polls shows the Democrat with a 5-point lead, down from a 7-point advantage from a month ago.

It’s not a collapse, but the Democrats are acting like they really might lose this thing.

There is some precedent for that concern, especially since Gillespie almost stunned the nation with an upset in 2014 against Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. If former RNC chairman Gillespie over-performed on Tuesday in the same fashion he did three years ago, he would win… and there would be a line of Democrats starting from the Alexandria side to jump off the middle of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

A Washington Post poll gives a good insight on the current problem for Democrats. And it happens to be the same one that they have had for a couple of generations.

The survey, conducted with ABC News, shows Democrats leading by 11 points in the so-called generic ballot, a test of which party voters would generally prefer control Congress. That’s big, and not far afield of where other surveys have shown the 2018 midterm matchup.

But the Post/ABC pollsters did something interesting. Though we know it is far too early to determine who will be a “likely voter” a year from today, when the pollsters’ limited the sample to those respondents who said that they voted in the 2014 midterm election and are certain to do so again, the democratic disadvantage disappears, leaving the two parties basically tied.

Gillespie definitely is thinking about voter intensity. He has run a race praised by former top Trump strategist Steve Bannon as “Trumpism without Trump.” Bannon suggests Gillespie’s focus on wedge issues and identity politics could be a way forward for the GOP. Broad appeal is no match for identity politics in low turnout elections.

The way Democrats could lose Virginia and fall short of the mark in 2018 is exactly the same way they lost in 2016: Lukewarm support among party loyalists coupled with an uninspired outreach to the blue-collar voters most sympathetic toward the ongoing Republican culture war appeal.

Moderate candidates like Northam face an unhappy Democratic base, which once catered to becomes unwilling to accept reasonable political accommodations. Thus limited, the candidates can’t execute the pivot to middle-class suburbanites on a mostly economic message.

If you were betting, you’d still need points to want to take Gillespie on Tuesday. But the dynamics of this race so far should concern Democrats nationally.

If their preferred candidate, running against a Republican who has embraced Trump tactics, cannot win Virginia by a better margin than Clinton did a year before, the much-vaunted Democratic groundswell may never materialize.

“I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 84

The Atlantic: “Every big, ambitious project has to start somewhere, and for U.K. Biobank, it was at an office building south of Manchester, where the project convinced its very first volunteer to pee into a cup and donate a tube of blood in 2006. U.K. Biobank would go on to recruit 500,000 volunteers for a massive study on the origins of disease. … This spring, 11 years after the first volunteer gave up a tube of blood, U.K. Biobank announced it would release its full genetic data set to registered scientists in July. This huge amount of genetic information, combined with the thousands of other characteristics tracked by U.K. Biobank, allows scientists to look for the genetic determinants of virtually any disease. Geneticists marked their calendars. ‘We heard stories that people who head groups had canceled holidays,’ says Jonathan Marchini, a statistical geneticist at the University of Oxford. ‘Everyone has been waiting for this for so long.’”

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

Trump net job-approval rating: -19.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.6 points

Reuters: “Facing pockets of discontent in their own Republican ranks, tax negotiators in the U.S. House of Representatives will seek this week to brook differences over their far-reaching tax bill and stick to a self-imposed deadline of passage this month. The House tax-writing committee begins revising the bill on Monday with tweaks and some more substantial changes expected to a number of individual and corporate tax proposals. House Republicans last week unveiled the first draft of a 429-page tax bill that, if enacted, would be the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax system since the 1980s.

Three contentious issues with the House tax plan - Axios: “Three problems to watch as the House Ways and Means Committee finalizes the Republican tax reform bill this week… The new fault line for big business: an excise tax on cross-border transactions. … Pro-life groups and social conservative leaders are fighting to save the adoption tax credit, which the GOP bill scraps. Influential social conservative leaders such as Penny Nance and Marjorie Dannenfelser are leading the charge. … A number of Republicans believe it's political malpractice to eliminate a longstanding tax break for people who have very high medical costs.”


NBC News: “Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump's former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia's intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. Michael T. Flynn, who was fired after just 24 days on the job, was one of the first Trump associates to come under scrutiny in the federal probe now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Mueller is applying renewed pressure on Flynn following his indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.”

Judges keeps Manafort, Gates under house arrest - USA Today: “A federal judge on Monday ordered former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates to remain under house arrest  with their movements tracked by GPS devices – until they offer up more bail money to assure their future appearances in court. Federal prosecutors, who have leveled a 12-count indictment alleging a complex money laundering and tax fraud conspiracy, said they were ‘close’ to reaching an agreement with the men's lawyers to free them from home confinement.”

More flexibility? Russian lawyer says Trump Jr. hinted at helping oligarchs -Bloomberg: “A Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s oldest son last year says he indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. … ‘Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,’ Trump Jr. said of the 2012 law, lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya recalled. ‘I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it,’ he added, according to her. … Veselnitskaya also said Trump Jr. requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign. She didn’t have any and described the 20-minute meeting as a failure.”

Wilbur Ross defends ties to Putin cronies - Politico: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Rosssaid Monday that there is ‘nothing whatsoever improper’ about the relationship between an international shipping company he holds significant investments in and a Russian energy company whose owners include an oligarch subject to U.S. sanctions and a family member of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Disclosure documents previously filed by Ross show that the commerce secretary holds an investment worth between $2 million and $10 million in partnerships that have a stake in Navigator Holdings, the shipping company, according to The New York Times. Navigator earns millions every year, the Times reported, via business with Sibur, a Russian energy company whose owners include Gennady Timchenko, a friend of Putin’s who is subject to U.S. sanctions, and Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s son-in-law. ‘There’s nothing whatsoever improper about Navigator having a relationship with Sibur,’ Ross said.”

LA Times: “Donna Brazile, the former interim head of the Democratic National Committee, said on Sunday that she had found ‘no evidence’ of rigging of the 2016 Democratic presidential contests in Hillary Clinton's favor, though excerpts from her new book have been seized upon by Clinton critics to make that case. Brazile, who temporarily headed the party late in the election cycle, caused a stir with previews of her forthcoming book, ‘Hacks,’ in which she strongly criticizes Clinton and her staff over a joint fundraising agreement with the party committee. … But she also said she has no regrets about her scathing assessment of the Clinton campaign’s flaws or her account's overall critical tenor, despite strong pushback from Clinton allies. Referring to ‘those who are telling me to shut up,’ Brazile said: ‘You know what I tell them? Go to hell. I’m going to tell my story.’”

Clinton campaign manager says Brazile under ‘pressure’ from publisher - Daily Caller: “Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook took shots at former Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile over her claims that Clinton had special control over the DNC. … Mook had a hard time remaining diplomatic about the whole scandal during a Monday CNN interview, and knocked Brazile for putting her book out around the same time as some key elections. ‘I’m sure Donna was under a lot of pressure from her publisher to put her book out on this election week when we have critical elections going on around the country, but I wish she had just put her foot down and said no,’ Mook said.”

National security columnist David Ignatius writing at WaPo: “Saudi Arabia’s CrownPrince Mohammed bin Salman says he’s cracking down on corruption. But the sweeping arrests of cabinet ministers and senior princes Saturday night looked to many astonished Arab observers like a bold but risky consolidation of power. MBS, as the headstrong 32-year-old ruler is known, struck at some of the kingdom’s most prominent business and political names in a new bid to gain political control and drive change in the oil kingdom.…MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.”

Hoity hoosegow - AP: “Reports suggested those detained were being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh... A Saudi official told The Associated Press that other five-star hotels across the capital were also being used to hold some of those arrested. The Ritz Carlton had no availability for bookings until Dec. 1, 2017 – a possible sign that an investigation of this scale could take weeks.”

The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators in 2018 - Roll Call

White House sends Bannon protégé to pitch DACA deal to nationalist media - Daily Beast

Rand Paul 
recovering from 5 broken ribs after beating by neighbor at Kentucky home - Fox News

First GOPer to lead Kentucky House since 1921 steps down over harassment claim  - Lexington Herald-Leader

“He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States.” – President Trump to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the possibility of responding to a North Korean nuclear missile launch.

“What is Gillespie’s problem with President Trump? What could he possibly have to lose by campaigning with him? It’s an insult to real conservatives in southern VA when our own candidates refuse to show the proper respect. I for one would have attended a Gillespie/Trump rally and know several dozen others who would be enthusiastic to turn out to vote had there been a real alliance. Now, since Gillespie appears to care more about what the liberals in NoVa think than actual conservatives, it’s rubbed me and a lot of people I know the wrong way.”– Ted Gladdis, Boones Mill, Va. 

[Ed. Note: I would imagine, Mr. Gladdis, that Gillespie is less concerned about which way you are rubbed and more concerned about which way you vote. If he can still count on your vote but has simultaneously managed to make himself palatable to moderate voters with misgivings about Trump then he has succeeded in his strategy. It’s the same way Ralph Northam probably feels about hardcore liberals. He’s fine if they hold their noses when they vote for him.]

“Chris, I hate to say it but I see the GOP tax plan going the same way as healthcare. And why wouldn’t it? Remember when conservatives actually pretended to care about deficits? Where are the offsets in wasteful spending? Enough of this nonsense about eliminating deductions that benefit hard working Americans. Show me welfare reform. The worst part is you have people putting out the “growth pays for itself” myth again. They sound like Democrats! Where is the fiscal restraint? And if they finally get some backbone and cut spending, will the John McCain’s of the world be too scared of the political ramifications to vote for it?” – Susan Dunbaugh, Oshkosh, Wis. 

[Ed. Note: I suspect you’re right about the fate of this proposal. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some alternative tax plan that emerges later, perhaps from the Senate. We’ve talked before about the ways in which the GOP’s refusal to address spending has made taxes such a difficult lift. But I also think they have another problem: they’re raising taxes on some people. I think there was probably considerable appetite for a bold plan that involved moving toward a much simpler, flatter system. The GOP has instead just picked a different set of winners and losers, including a dose of class-resentment. Overly rigid policy principles can make it harder to pass legislation, but an insufficiency of principles can be just as detrimental. As with ObamaCare, at a certain point the whole exercise becomes just about the exercise of political power for its own sake, i.e. “we need a win.” And that’s an unconvincing argument to make when asking lawmakers to act against their own constituents’ narrow interests.]

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

Telegraph [U.K.]: “Rosalyn Edwards was working in her kitchen on [Oct. 25], when she suddenly started to hear strange noises. When she turned around she was stunned to discover her Border collie puppy, Rocky, had proudly led nine sheep into her house. The seven-month-old sheepdog-in-training had taken advantage of an open gate to usher the sheep through into the Edwards’ home in Devon via the back door. Mrs. Edwards, 40, said: ‘I thought it was funny at the time, but then there was quite a lot of wee, poo and mud everywhere. It took me a little while to clean it all up. ‘My son and husband had gone out into the field, and the gate was left open. Rocky got them out and led them to the house. … Mrs. Edwards added: ‘Rocky did look quite pleased with himself, but he’s going to need more training.’”

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