What we can learn from early vote returns

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On the roster: - What we can learn from early vote returns - ‘Bill Clinton Inc.’: Hacked emails show massive buckraking - I’ll Tell You What: Election night decision time - Audible: Lowest of low - And then he slipped on a pair of Uggs and sipped a PSL

Your election countdown calendar reads “12 days.” But rather than the passage of time, you really ought to think of this election like a software download.

Today, the display would read: “10 percent complete.”

According to AP data, more than 13.4 million votes have already been cast in 37 states, far more than at this point four years ago. The trend suggests that perhaps 40 percent of all ballots will be in before Nov. 8.

For race watchers, this is a bonanza. It means we get a lot more tea leaves to read. Sometimes we can know at least the party affiliations the voters requesting early ballots. In other cases, we have to guess based on the demographic makeup of the counties and their electoral histories.

So let’s get reading, starting with the must-win states for Republican Donald Trump.

North Carolina: In-person early voting started here last week and Democrats are running ahead of Republicans in ballots submitted 46 percent to 29 percent. The pace is actually somewhat slower than in 2012, but probably due to new restrictions on poll hours. The rate is expected to increase as the polls remain open longer.

Florida: With more than 2 million ballots already returned – perhaps a quarter of the total expected – Republicans find themselves in trouble in the Sunshine State. After failing to deliver their normally dominant mail-in voting performance, the GOP is getting swamped in the early in-person vote. It took Democrats far longer in 2012 and 2008 to catch up when President Obama won here, but they have already pulled even this year at about 41 percent.

Ohio: There’s good news for Trump in the Buckeye State. Democratic strongholds of Cuyahoga and Franklin counties continue to show deep declines in ballot requests compared to 2012. And, Democratic data firm Catalist found the white share of Ohio ballot requests was up to 91 percent from 87 percent. The black share declined to 7 percent from 10 percent.

Georgia: Another bright spot for the GOP. Like Ohio, Georgia doesn’t report party affiliation on early votes, but participation is up markedly and, again, mostly among white voters. Catalist found that the white share of ballots rose a percentage point to 66 percent. The black share fell to 31 percent from 34 percent.

Utah: In the most Republican state in the union, the GOP finds itself essentially tied with independents on early voting. That’s good news for Utahan independent candidate Evan McMullin, who has polled well there. Also good for McMullin: Catalist found faster gains among voters ages 22 to 49, the toughest group for Trump.

Texas: Yuuuuuge early turnout in Texas, with almost a million ballots cast in the first two days of voting – a 46 percent increase from four years ago. There’s no party breakdown here but Democrats are crediting some of the surge to a massive early-vote outreach with Hispanic voters. Or, maybe it’s just that Texas Republicans really like Trump.

Arizona: Another state seeing eye-popping increases in early voting. Last cycle, the GOP was up by 7 points in ballots cast. This time, it’s essentially a tie.

Iowa: Democrats are dragging here. They’re up 8 points on Republicans in early-ballot requests, but that pales compared to a 14-point advantage in 2012.

Nevada: The early returns are actually down in the Silver State, but that seems to be a mostly Republican problem. Democrats lead in returned ballots, 46 percent to 35 percent.

Colorado: It looks like the same story in Centennial State as its Western neighbors: Democrats lead 40 percent to 34 percent among the 416,000 ballots already returned by mail. In 2012, Democrats trailed Republicans at this point by 10 points.

So, while there’s good news for the GOP in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia, most of the auguries are ominous for the red team.

We ought to bear in mind that Democrats have traditionally made better use of early voting and that Republicans could close these deficits on the last day. But right now, the enthusiasm gap seems to favor Democrats, as does the party’s turnout operation.

“In this respect, therefore, there is no comparison between the intended power of the President and the actual power of the British sovereign. The one can perform alone what the other can do only with the concurrence of a branch of the legislature.”– Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 69

Nat Geo: “For the first time in centuries, scientists have exposed the original surface of what is traditionally considered the tomb of Jesus Christ. Located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, the tomb has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., and most likely centuries earlier. ‘The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,’ said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project. ‘It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.’ According to Christian tradition, the body of Jesus Christ was laid on a shelf or ‘burial bed’ hewn from the side of a limestone cave following his crucifixion by the Romans in A.D. 30 or possibly 33.”

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

Average of national head-to-head presidential polls: 
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +6.2 points
[Polls included: CNBCIBDABC/WaPoFox News and ABC News.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +6 points
[Polls included: CNBCIBDABC/WaPoFox News and ABC News.]

The Hill: “An internal memo released Wednesday by WikiLeaks reveals new details about the interplay between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton family’s personal business interests. The 12-page document is penned by Doug Band, a longtime Clinton confidant who had been the Clinton Foundation’s primary fundraiser for a decade. Band wrote the memo as a principal for Teneo, a private consulting firm that raised tens of millions of dollars for the Clinton Foundation while also acting as a personal in-house agency for Bill Clinton. In the memo, Band describes his ‘unorthodox’ role in raising money for the nonprofit foundation while simultaneously securing for-profit opportunities for the former president. The document argues that Band’s dual lines of work were ‘independent’ of one another.”

The Judge’s Ruling:  Obama’s FBI - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano examines how the FBI became a political tool: “When FBI Director James Comey announced on July 5 that the Department of Justice would not seek the indictment of Hillary Clinton for failure to safeguard state secrets related to her email use while she was secretary of state, he both jumped the gun and set in motion a series of events that surely he did not intend.” More here.

Less than two weeks out from Election Day, the candidates are roaring to the finish line as news networks prepare to call not just the presidential, but several down-ballot races. Chris Stirewalt gives Dana Perino an inside look at the Fox News Decision Desk team and how the channel will make the calls well into the early morning hours. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.

“Honestly, she has less energy than Jeb Bush. I mean it. I mean it” – Donald Trump swiping back at Hillary Clinton for calling him out on taking a day off the trail to promote his new D.C. hotel.

The inside story of Trump’s ‘Project Alamo,’ a digital platform that could haunt the GOP for years - Bloomberg

‘Ab ki baar Trump sarkaar’: Trump speaks Hindi in new ad - 

Trump touts ‘new deal for black America’ - Fox News

Poll: Clinton leads by 7 points in Pa. - NYT

Mich. poll: Clinton way ahead, but gap narrows - Detroit Free Press

Trump surrogate former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer dismisses Hispanic voters flipping the state for Hillary: ‘They don’t vote’ - Boston Globe

Podesta tops Hillary’s shortlist for chief of staff spot - Politico

Michelle Obama hits the trail with Hillary today for the first time - Winston-Salem Journal

First lady featured in ad for pro-Hillary PAC - USA Today

ObamaCare premiums give new life to GOP Senate candidates in tough reelection races - AP

Dems poised to pick up 10-20 House seats - Cook Political Report

GOP’s hold on state legislatures could slip in wake of Trump - Reuters

Cruz says there’s precedent to continue blocking Supreme Court nominees under Hillary presidency - WaPo

“Your story on Mahalia Jackson was awesome. She was all that and more for this, at the time young child, growing up in California, in a home that loved her and listened to her often. Even going to hear sing several times. To watch my ‘white’ mother sing and belt out a song sounding much like her beloved singer. Thank you for bringing a little perspective back to this 2016 crazy time.” – Billie Rosmarino, Temecula, Calif.

[Ed. note: What a wonderful story, Mr. Rosmarino! Thank you for sharing it. Stories like Jackson’s are so much the story of America. As we used to say about my grandparents, who were of just a slightly older vintage than hers, that they “grew up with the country.” I have always been a believer in telling history through the eyes and experiences of individuals, and what wonders did Jackson see. And one tip for you: when it comes to cleaning house or any other ridding up, there is nothing like putting on one of her albums and throwing wide the windows. It’s just good for the soul.]

“With all of the media coverage about Trump’s alleged sexual dalliances it’s hard for me to concede and accept if they are real or part of the Dem’s dirty trick ‘Swiftboat’ strategy to discredit Mr. Trump. I keep going back to Harry Reid’s words when he was asked if he felt bad that he lied about continuing to push the dialogue about Mitt Romney not paying any income taxes? Reid responded: He didn’t win, did he! Hmmm?” – K. Ruszkowski, Williamsburg, Va.

[Ed. note: Diogenes would have run out of oil long ago in this election. Establishing the truth or falsity of political claims has always been tough, but now has devolved into something close to impossible. Look at the comical end to which “fact-check” journalism has come. But that falls apart usually on subjective claims about how a policy would or would not work and on the definitional terms use by the fact checkers. This time though, we have what amount to criminal allegations against both major party nominees. Trump is accused of sexually assaulting women. Clinton is accused of obstruction of justice. For most people, the credulity with which these claims are met is a question of partisan loyalty. For those looking for the actual truth, it may take months or even years before we really know, if we ever do.]

“Chris, right after I read that Marco Rubio had a 10 point lead, and the Dems were making a push, I got yet another dire email from the Rubio campaign asking if I was with him in this fight. (Note - ‘with him’ seemed to actually mean if I would pledge more money). I live in California…I donated to Rubio’s Presidential campaign, and since, I have been bombarded daily from his campaign, Trey Gowdy, Trump, even Ted Cruz. Each email was a dramatically written End-Of-Times prediction where my donation was the difference. I get the need for the party to get as many donations as possible, but is this onslaught common practice? It seems intrusive, as well as not very smartly targeted.” – Matthew Freitas, Modesto, Calif.

[Ed. note: RIP your inbox! I can commiserate since many campaigns over the years have found my email address and filled my account to the brim with panicky alerts. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was arguably the worst offender, with a constant bombardment of spammy submissions, and I have never made a political contribution in my life. These campaigns just dump this stuff on journalists in hopes that they will catch a mention or two to amplify their money pleas. The calculation here is that it’s worth annoying you and other rational donors in exchange for the contributions they get for triggering an emotional response in others. It is the same model politicians and consultants used with direct mail in the 1990s and the aughts: just keep sending. As you might imagine, the consultants like this idea very much, since it’s not their name that goes on it and they get paid by the contribution. My advice is to delete with extreme prejudice!]

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

CBS Sports: “The internet is a wonderful resource. If you want to know how to do something or how something works or who played the lead character in a specific movie, you can just look it up on the web. Apparently, the internet is also a major reason Sixers rookie Joel Embiid shoots the way he does. Embiid had only been playing basketball for a couple of years before he got recruited to play at Kansas. By the time he was drafted in 2014, Embiid had only been playing basketball for a grand total of just four years. Embiid is obviously a quick learner and had good coaching at KU, and now in the NBA with Philly, so he had turned into a polished yet developing young player. According to Embiid, however, the main reason for his development is because he would endlessly watch videos online of ‘regular white people’ shooting.”

“I think the enthusiasm for Trump surely exceeds that on the part of Democrats for Hillary Clinton but it’s not enough…because the universe of Trump supporters is not large enough to carry a plurality." – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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.