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On the roster: Trump’s foul-weather gear – I’ll Tell You What: In or out? – Biden promises veep pick by August – Badger State close to deal on mail-in rules – Might have caught us with bait like that
TRUMP’S FOUL-WEATHER GEAR
What if you had a weather machine? You could make it sunny or rainy, hot or cold wherever you were. Would you set it to “San Diego” and forget it? Or would you always be tweaking it for just the perfect climate for your day, a white Christmas every year and never any rain on your picnic?
Or, would you whip up great big storms when you wanted to? Didn’t get that report done in time? How about a blizzard that shuts everything down? Is your spouse after you to mow the lawn or paint the house? Thunderstorms approaching.
Being president is sort of like having a weather machine.
Politicians usually have to make the most of what’s happening – pounce on an issue or controversy and try to get on the popular side of things. That’s how we get flip-flops. After 2016 we had conservatives who were suddenly nationalists and liberals who were suddenly socialists. They wanted to stay on the sunny side of the mountain.
Sometimes, politicians get their moments to make it rain. Joe Biden is getting ready to pick a running mate, a news story of significant enough size that barring Elvis Presley walking out of an alien ship on the National Mall, it should be the big story of the day.
But Biden doesn’t many other chances; maybe his nomination at whatever convention comes together. But as the challenger, Biden is mostly at the mercy of the news cycle. If Biden news is driving the day it’s probably not good, like his ‘you ain’t black” gaffe on Friday.
Even before he was president, Donald Trump had built a remarkable weather machine. His model runs on outrage, and it is a doozy. When Trump was flirting with a second presidential run in 2012, he went straight to the issue that made most Republicans cringe but was sure to make major headlines: claims that then-President Obama was a secret Kenyan.
The birth certificate jazz did Obama more good than harm, but it proved Trump’s gift for finding the story that would blow up the news cycle and his willingness to set that storm in motion despite reputational risks. And the growing power of social media would only amplify his abilities.
We can’t count all the controversies of 2016, but everyone knows the highlights: Mocking John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war, smearing Ted Cruz’s father (among other indignities piled upon Cruz), attacking the parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, proposing a religious test for entry into the United States and on and on.
Trump missed the sweet spot many times, but never lost his ability to exploit the news media’s desire for salaciousness and hyper-partisanship. Once upon a time, campaign coverage was pretty starchy stuff that news outlets had to zhuzh up to make interesting, often whipping up their own storm fronts in the form of empty controversies. But with Trump in the race, they were the Weather Channel and every day was the Snowpocalyse.
It didn’t matter if they loved him or hated him, just that they followed everything he said and did. Sometimes his self-made storms were effective distractions, sometimes they were worse than the original problem. Sometimes they were intentional, sometimes he was just making the most of an unintentional outrage.
But every president is a weather machine. No matter how boring or modest, a president is one of the few figures in the world who can make news simply by offering an opinion. A president need only pop his head out the door and say, “I’m thinking about bombing such and so” or “We’re investigating XYZ Corp” and markets swing, troops start moving and the world watches.
That actually made things more complicated for Trump when he rose to power. As a candidate, especially in a primary, the “no such thing as bad publicity” bit really holds true. But as president, there is only publicity. They’ll report on what you had for dinner and with whom you played golf. The challenges cease to be about getting coverage, but rather directing it. The controversies have consequences.
This hemmed Trump in – to a degree. He never gave up his Twitteriffic capacity to shock but did learn over time that slurping out military moves, diplomatic gambits, economic policies etc. wouldn’t work. To some significant degree Trump became a part of his own administration, not just a commentator.
Consider Trump’s musings about whether we could be injecting disinfectants into the lungs of coronavirus victims. When he tried the next day to say that he had only been testing reporters to see if they would fall for such an absurd story, it was a no go. He had made a storm but couldn’t control its direction.
Which presented the question: How would Trump campaign as president?
We got our answer this week. As he is looking to beef up his campaign after some stark numbers about the current state of the race, Trump is also turning back on the 2016 weather machine.
His innuendo about one of MSNBC’s morning show hosts is right out of the classic Trump playbook. It generates lots of outrage across the board, does not really bother his core supporters and takes the attention away from other stories that are more broadly damaging, particularly the 100,000-death mark for Coronavirus.
There’s lots of man-made weather is his war with the owners of his favorite social media platform.
Trump cannot shut down Twitter. Nor would the reported details of his executive actions against social media platforms be implemented. The legal battles that would follow would in fact probably tend to bolster the firms’ freedom. Short of legislation rolling back legal protections for the platforms, it’s hard for the administration to do much other than harass and annoy.
But as a story, it is irresistible. It’s about tech and free speech and outrageous Tweets and media bias – its got something for everyone. And far from offending his base, the attacks on left-leaning, West Coast pointy-heads are a rhapsody in red.
So how will Biden, with so little capacity for generating weather patterns of his own, deal with Trump in full-blown campaign mode. Ignore it and hope Trump drowns in the high waters of his own making? Try to surf the waves and get some of the attention?
None of Trump’s 2016 foes ever figured it out, but Biden will need to if he wants to be the first challenger to unseat an incumbent in 28 years.
THE RULEBOOK: TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK
“Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community REQUIRE TIME to mature them for execution.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 26
TIME OUT: HANGING UP HIS SPOON
Smithsonian: “Charlie Papazian, ‘the Johnny Appleseed of good beer,’ as an old friend describes him, ‘or maybe the Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters and Joey Ramone of beer, overthrowing the status quo,’ lives about six miles north of downtown Boulder, Colorado, at the end of a rutted dirt road, in a modest two-story home with views of the Rocky Mountains. … Although he continues to brew beer and to speak at beer events around the globe, Papazian, who is 71, is in the process of slowly withdrawing from the grassroots industry he helped create and sustain over the past four decades. He recently stepped down as head of the Brewers Association, the influential American trade group, and he has officially retired as maestro of the Great American Beer Festival, which he inaugurated in 1982. In an unmistakably valedictory gesture, he donated a battle-scarred old brew spoon, an original homebrewing recipe annotated by hand and a first edition copy of his book to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where the items are now on display indefinitely.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
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: 44.2 percent
Average disapproval: 52.6 percent
Net Score: -8.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.4 points
[Average includes: American Research Group: 40% approve – 57% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve – 53% disapprove; CNN: 46% approve – 51% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve – 48% disapprove.]
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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: IN OR OUT?
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the fate of the Republican National Convention, the weekend’s face mask controversy, Joe Biden‘s possible choice for a running mate and President Trump‘s campaign strategy. Plus, Chris takes a shot at political scandal trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
BIDEN PROMISES VEEP PICK BY AUGUST
The Hill: “Former Vice President Joe Biden says he hopes to decide on a running mate by Aug. 1, about two weeks before the Democratic nominating convention in Milwaukee. Speaking at a digital fundraiser hosted by former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Biden said his campaign’s vice presidential committee has already interviewed the contenders on his shortlist. ‘We’re in the process of deciding the basic cut — about whether or not they really want it,’ Biden said. ‘Are they comfortable? They’ve asked a lot of questions.’ … Biden said he’s looking for someone he is comfortable with, as opposed to an ideological ally.”
Greenberg still likes Warren – Politico: “Stan Greenberg, one of the Democratic Party’s longtime leading pollsters, urged Hillary Clinton in 2016 to pick Elizabeth Warren as her vice president. He thinks Clinton would be president had she listened. Now Greenberg — who popularized the term ‘Reagan Democrats’ and came to prominence as Bill Clinton’s lead pollster — is urging Joe Biden’s team to heed the same advice. Earlier this month, he briefed top Biden campaign officials on two battleground surveys conducted by his firm. Accompanied by a slide presentation that was obtained by POLITICO, Greenberg addressed the question hanging over Biden and his inner circle: Which vice presidential candidate will help the most in November? The conclusion was blunt: ‘Sen. Warren is the obvious solution.’ Biden’s biggest problem, Greenberg said, is that the Democratic Party has not unified behind him.
African-American activists dig in against Klobuchar – Fox News: “African-American activists are escalating their efforts to persuade former Vice President Joe Biden not to name Sen. Amy Klobuchar as his running mate, arguing he needs to choose someone who would excite black voters. Those efforts come amid the national spotlight on the case of a black man in Minnesota who died on Monday after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer who had his knee to man’s neck. That situation appears to be turning up the volume on calls for Biden not to choose Klobuchar. Klobuchar – the Minnesota senator who didn’t resonate with black voters during her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – was already being criticized by activists as a choice that would not motivate black voters to support Biden in November’s general election. African-Americans are a key part of the Democratic Party’s base.”
Biden builds out campaign – WaPo: “Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has hired two aides to helm a new coalitions department modeled on President Barack Obama’s reelection strategy, a campaign expansion that adds more racial diversity to his effort to win the White House. Ashley Allison, a veteran of the Obama White House who is African American, is joining the Biden campaign as national coalitions director. Her deputy will be Jason Rodriguez, who served as the national deputy Latino vote director for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has worked with the Congressional Black Caucus. The moves come amid a broader expansion of the Biden campaign, which included a doubling of his digital staff and new hires in fundraising and organizing. Staffing up will continue and will increase significantly in June, according to Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon.”
Biden to participate in Texas’ virtual-convention – Axios: “Joe Biden will help close out the Texas Democratic Party’s all-virtual convention next week as one of the event’s major speakers. The coronavirus is changing conventions as we know them. Given Texas’ size, the event could serve as a test run of sorts for large-scale virtual events, as planners consider whether at least some aspects of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in August should be virtual. The Texas Democratic Party has been in contact with the Democratic National Convention throughout their planning process, a party official said, sharing best practices on how to host an online event of this size. To avoid any technical difficulties, speakers are pre-recording their videos for the convention, which will play throughout the nine-hour livestream on June 1. Biden is expected to address the importance of turning Texas blue and Texas’ status as a battleground state in his video. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke will also join as a featured speaker.”
New anti-Trump GOP group set to spend $10 million – NYT: “…[A] new effort called Republican Voters Against Trump is hoping to chip away at Mr. Trump’s support from white, college-educated Republican voters in the suburbs, hoping a more surgical approach will help to elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., his expected Democratic opponent. The new group is set to begin a $10 million digital and television advertising campaign that will use personal stories of conservative voters giving voice to their deep — and sometimes brand-new — dissatisfaction with the president. The group will test the premise of whether there are really any persuadable voters left in a deeply tribal moment in American politics, in which views of Mr. Trump, both positive and negative, have only been hardened over the past four years.”
BADGER STATE CLOSE TO DEAL ON MAIL-IN RULES
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Wisconsin election officials agreed Wednesday to send absentee ballot applications to most voters this fall, but the plan could face obstacles next month if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the wording of the mailing. The members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission voted 6-0 to advance the plan a week after they failed to reach consensus on who should receive ballot applications. Under the commission’s plan, the state will not send actual absentee ballots, but rather the forms voters can use to request them. If voters filled out those forms and provided a copy of a photo ID, they would receive an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 presidential election.”
Texas digs in against corona absentee ballots – Texas Tribune: “The Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus does not qualify a voter to apply for a mail-in ballot. In the latest twist in the legal fight over voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, the court agreed with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the risk of contracting the virus alone does not meet the state’s qualifications for voting by mail. ‘We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code,’ the court wrote. Texas voters can qualify for mail-in ballots only if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail. The Texas election code defines disability as a ‘sickness or physical condition’ that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of ‘injuring the voter’s health.’”
ANTI-TERROR MEASURES IN DOUBT AFTER BREAKDOWN
Fox News: “House Democrats scrapped plans to vote on a bipartisan bill to reauthorize national security surveillance tools after President Trump issued a veto threat on Twitter Wednesday night. Democrats had already postponed a vote slated for Wednesday because of earlier objections from the president, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer officially pulled the bill from consideration Thursday morning when it became clear that House Republicans would no longer back the bill. ‘The President tweeted that he would veto the bill, and House Republicans abandoned their support for our national security,’ Pelosi said a statement Thursday after Hoyer announced the vote was off. The planned vote was to reauthorize Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) provisions and enact more reforms to safeguard civil liberties. The House was to take up the Senate measure that passed 80-16 to reauthorize lapsed provisions and revise how the Justice Department and FBI use the tools designed to fight terrorism.”
Compromise talks on business loan terms continue – Roll Call: “A Republican lawmaker said Wednesday that negotiators agreed to adjust a key ratio in a program to relieve small businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic, lowering to 60 percent the portion of loans that must be used for payroll, from 75 percent currently, and giving borrowers more time to use any loans. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, the sponsor of a bill that is scheduled for a House floor vote Thursday, told CQ Roll Call that he expects House and Senate leaders to reach a deal on how small businesses can use a $660 billion lifeline provided in two previous economic relief laws through the Paycheck Protection Program administered by the Small Business Administration. … The bill would reduce an administration requirement that 75 percent of PPP loan funds be used for payroll.”
JOBLESS CLAIMS TOP 40 MILLION IN 10 WEEKS
Politico: “Workers filed 2.1 million new unemployment claims last week, the Department of Labor reported, suggesting about a quarter of the workforce is seeking jobless aid to weather the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. The latest figure indicates that the pandemic has pushed 40.8 million Americans out of work in just 10 weeks. DOL also reported that another 1.2 million people applied for benefits under the new temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program created for individuals who are typically ineligible for unemployment insurance, such as self-employed workers. With those people added, the raw unadjusted number of claims filed last week could be as high as 3.1 million, though there could be some overlap between the new program and traditional unemployment benefits. … California saw the highest number of new claims last week, reporting an estimated 212,343 new applications filed. New York followed with an estimated 192,193 new claims.”
White House shelves economic forecast amid bad news – Fox News: “The White House has decided against releasing a new round of updated economic projections this summer in an unprecedented move as the country continues to reel financially from the coronavirus-spurred downturn. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the internal White House economic team, will not send out their projections this summer – despite assurances from a number of top Trump administration advisers that the economy will swiftly recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. The numbers are normally produced jointly by the Office of Management and Budget, CEA and Treasury Department. … The Labor Department report included a positive sign: The number of people now receiving benefits fell for the first time since the outbreak intensified in mid-March, from 25 million to 21 million. That suggests companies are starting to rehire and could mean that total job losses will peak in May.”
The Judge’s Ruling: Coronavirus shutdowns ordered by governors and mayors are unconstitutional – Fox News
AUDIBLE: THE TURTLE IN NO HURRY
“I just think it’s too early to make a final judgment about how much or when, but I think about a month from now we’ll take a look at how things are going and be able to make a more intelligent decision than a grab-bag of $3 trillion that (the House) threw together.” –Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s response when asked how much money Congress should spend on the next coronavirus relief bill.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“The [article included in Wednesday’s Halftime Report] ‘Corona cases concentrated in few Congressional districts’ [from] Pew Research Center is an example of how Research Centers fulfill the old adage that there are lies, damn lies and then statistics. Pew has lost its bearings. Is the next segment going to predict that because most Coronavirus deaths occurred in Democrat districts that Republicans will flip the district in November? As Marshall McLuhan said some time before the information age that is upon us, ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a hallucinating idiot…for he sees what no one else does: things that, to everyone else, are not there.’ That pretty well sums up Pew’s research.” – Ron Smith, Larned, Kan.
[Ed. note: What on earth are you talking about, Mr. Smith!? I don’t know if you have some personal issue with the Pew Charitable Trusts, but that survey said absolutely nothing like that. And if anything, I would think heavy concentrations of coronavirus would make districts MORE likely to vote Democratic, not less so. That study was just highlighting the starkness of the political geography of the pandemic. And not to pile on here, but McLuhan was talking about the adage from Erasmus “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” McLuhan was contradicting, saying that a person who can see something real that others cannot is not believed and instead shunned. Your use of it here would make Pew the sighted one and you the blind, which I assume is the opposite of what you meant.]
“I admit it. I have had enough of both the R and D candidates, their shenanigans and frankly just plain dumb political posturing. Neither one is acting very presidential and seeming to worry about the country and our future. On any average day, one or the other of them (you pick which depending on the day) is looking like an imbecile for some remark or action. With that sentiment out of my system, can I suggest a modification to the scoreboard and your reporting? Can we please add in Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian Candidate to the reporting and commentary? I see lean R and lean D, how about adding a lean I (for independent)? I freely admit she is an absolute long shot. I am just fed up enough to say, ‘why not?’ Oh, and yes, I do remember Ross Perot and how that turned out. Maybe if Jo gets some traction, the powers to be will remember Ross also. Thanks again for the great daily reports. They are the high point for the afternoon and a bit of sanity in the jungle of political news.” – Peter Eick, Boerne, Texas
[Ed. note: I’ll make you a deal, Mr. Eick: I will set the bar low for third-party purposes. We will soon be adding another panel to our Scoreboard that averages national presidential polls. When we have any candidate that has just 3 percent of the vote in five recent methodologically sound polls, we will add them to the stack.]
“I’m sure you aren’t really permitted to give your opinion, but what is a conservative, Christ follower supposed to do this November? I’ve always believed that not voting is a vote for the other guy, but that being said, I’m just not sure what to do. It seems like almost every day for the past 3.5 years or so, I have had to give a big, disappointed sigh when I hear about a tweet or other reckless, immoral or simply politically ignorant comment that comes out of President Trump’s mouth. It is exhausting. I can’t vote for him. I don’t think he is fit and I’m not really sure he is mentally stable enough at this point. But then on the other hand, we have another guy who wants to give taxpayer money for abortions and already caused me to lose my health insurance and doctor once, despite the promise that wouldn’t happen. Biden surely isn’t any more moral, just in a different way. At this point, I’m rambling, but I think it comes from a place of sadness, confusion and disappointment. What is the answer to all this, Chris? P.S. love you and Dana to pieces.” – Katie Hacker, Evington, Va.
[Ed. note: First, cheer up! You are right that I will offer no political opinions, but I will tell you what I have learned about hard decisions. If I believe that God is the maker of the universe — omniscient, omnipresent and all powerful — then what am I doing worrying about anything beyond my control? There are moral cases to be made for both major party candidates. There are moral cases to be made for voting for a fringe candidate. There is a moral case to be made for writing in “Frank N. Stein” or “Suzy Creamcheese.” Whatever you choose after prayerful consideration will be just fine because God will still be God when you are done. This is one vote in one election (and you live in a commonwealth unlikely to be competitive anyway), so take the pressure off yourself and trust that there is a plan for this world.]
“I greatly appreciated your comments Tuesday highlighting the destructiveness of escalating divisiveness. Then [Wednesday] morning I read a summary of a study Facebook did that concluded that they could increase ‘engagement’ by fueling ever greater divisiveness — i.e. sending participants more and more stories (true or not) that reinforce their existing biases. I suspect that our political class and a significant portion of our news industry discovered this fact of human nature some time ago. So, my question is – doesn’t the survival of our species require at least periods of cooperative behavior? Is there no inherent self-corrective instinct that will reverse or at least moderate these phenomena? In my lifetime I think of the divisiveness related to the Vietnam war and racism and before that the McCarthy era. Both eventually abated (after considerable harm was inflicted on our nation) and followed by periods of peace and very high productivity. Is there hope at the end of the currently quite dark tunnel? Thanks for your daily attempt to shed objective light on our collective dysfunction.” – Matt Lincoln, Portola Valley, Calif.
[Ed. note: There is ALWAYS hope, Mr. Lincoln. In fact, I’m quite optimistic these days. Just as in the periods you mentioned, we’re stuck inside a system that doesn’t seem sufficient to our needs. And, just like those times before, I expect a period of unity and advancement to follow this cruddy cul-de-sac. That’s because when people get sick and tired of being sick and tired, they become willing to lay down the weapons with which they’ve been clubbing each other. Think about how silly the constructs of the 2016 election looks in light of recent events. If voters knew that there would be 100,000 dead Americans in a matter of four months and an economy in tatters, they would not have tolerated what they did when the economy was growing and we had never heard of COVID-19. An immutable law of human nature is that pain is the touchstone for spiritual growth. We mature because we can’t bear the pain our immaturity brings. That goes for people and nations.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
MIGHT HAVE CAUGHT US WITH BAIT LIKE THAT
AP: “Glazed or jelly? A black bear roaming around a Florida city proved no match for the doughnuts that lured the animal into a humane trap. The Fort Myers News-Press reports that the juvenile 250-pound (113- kilogram) bear spent a good chunk of Tuesday morning meandering around the Gulf coast city. Wildlife officials say bears tend to move more in the spring in search of mates and, as always, food. In such a congested area, tranquilizing the bear wasn’t an option, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Adam Brown. … So instead, officers turned to doughnuts from Krispy Kreme and some blueberry pie-scented spray in a trap. That did the trick. Brown said the bear was relocated to a state-managed wildlife area. Authorities estimate there are about 4,000 black bears in Florida. Wildlife officials say people should be sure to secure their garbage cans…”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It would be nice to breed for beauty and brains, but history and genetics teach that the confluence of the two is as rare in dogs as it is in humans.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 15, 1994.
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.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.