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On the roster: Battleground Power Rankings: North and South – Trump, Biden duel in Florida as polls show tight race – Wisconsin GOP blames hackers for theft of $2.3 million – McSally goes back to MAGA – Stay chipper, folks
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS: NORTH AND SOUTH
Wisconsin and Georgia haven’t both voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, but they sure might this time – and that should tell you plenty about what kind of year this has been for the GOP.
With just five days before the end of the presidential contest, it’s time for our final swing-state rankings.
Minnesota: Lean Democratic → Likely Democratic
First, a culling of the herd. We had been tracking 13 states as at least somewhat competitive, but that number drops to an even dozen as Minnesota – once a potential pickup opportunity for Republicans – heads out to pasture. There’s no evidence to support the claim President Trump will improve on his tantalizingly close 1.5-point loss in 2016, so we have to turn Minnesota loose.
Wisconsin: Toss Up → Lean Democratic
The polls are just as strong, if not stronger for Democratic challenger Joe Biden in neighboring Wisconsin, but we’re still more skeptical about his chances there. We are bullish enough on Biden in America’s Dairyland to now give him the lean in Wisconsin.
First, the cause for skepticism. Wisconsin is the most Republican of the Great Lakes states. It has rough political parity and the state GOP once built an impressive turnout machine in the Ryan-Walker era. And it also had the greatest polling error of any of the three states Trump flipped in 2016 to pull off his narrow, historic upset – 7.5 points.
But the arguments that favor Biden winning are stronger. Let’s start with the polls. Four quality pollsters have done surveys in the Badger State this month, giving Biden a 9.3 percent advantage, considerably higher than Hillary Clinton’s 6.8-point advantage four years ago.
What’s significant about Biden’s position, though, isn’t the raw margin, but its context. In 2016, There was an average of 14.8 percent of voters who were undecided or who were leaning toward a fringe candidate. And those undecided broke hard and late for Trump, pushing him past Clinton.
This time, Biden’s advantage is actually 4 points greater than the total average undecided/other vote of 5.3 points. There just isn’t enough gas in the tank for Trump to see a late surge like four years ago.
With a terrible coronavirus surge and hardened opinions about Trump, it’s more likely that Biden will win among undecided or late-breaking voters. If he just split the remainder with Trump, Biden would finish with more than 55 percent of the final count.
Georgia: Lean Republican → Toss Up
Republicans could explain away the tight races in Georgia in 2018, particularly the squeaker for governor. The GOP had engaged in awful primary contest that left nominee Brian Kemp in tough position of the general against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Kemp pulled it out anyway, and in a historically bad year for Republicans when the Democratic base punched way above its weight thanks to huge enthusiasm. Once we get to the quadrennial electorate, they said, Georgia would get back to itself.
We place more stock than most in electoral history and were inclined to the thinking that Democrats were again kidding themselves about turning Georgia blue.
Well, they ain’t kidding anymore.
The most recent Monmouth University poll has Biden up by 4 points with 4 percent undecided/other. That is tighter than a pair of yoga pants after a visit to the airport Cinnabon.
While an average of worthwhile polls puts Biden’s advantage as slightly smaller, there is no question that this is now, at best for Republicans, a jump ball. With both campaigns going hard after voters there in person and on the airwaves, they know it, too.
With these changes, Biden has 259 electoral votes on his side of the ledger, meaning that any of the seven toss-up states except for Iowa could put him at or over 270 and in the Oval Office.
THE RULEBOOK: EASIER SAID THAN DONE
“Will it not be more safe, as well as more simple, to dismiss such vague and uncertain calculations, to examine each power by itself, and to decide, on general principles, where it may be deposited with most advantage and least inconvenience?” – Alexander Hamilton, writing in a larger essay about the powers of trial for impeachment, Federalist No. 66
TIME OUT: CORONA KRAMPUS
People: “For the first time in 73 years, there will be a distinct lack of gemütlichkeit — the feeling of cozy cheeriness — in [Franconia Germany’s] largest city this Christmas season. With records dating back to 1628, the famed Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. For the four weeks of Advent, the city’s main market square is transformed into a village of wooden stalls adorned with red-and-white striped cloths, each one housing dozens of vendors offering unique handicrafts and something-for-everyone gifts. This much-anticipated event attracts two million visitors to Nuremberg annually, and for locals, the scent of grilled sausages, sweet roasted almonds, and mulled wine wafting through the city is an unmistakable hallmark of the season. … City officials had been hopeful to move forward with the festivities … but eventually determined that doing so would send the wrong signal. … The coronavirus pandemic has left little untouched in 2020, but this is the first time since World War II that the Nuremberg Christmas market has been canceled.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 41.6 percent
Biden: 51.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 10 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.6 points, Trump ↑ 1.8 points
[Average includes: USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 44% – Biden 52%; CNN: Trump 42% – Biden 54%; CNBC: Trump 40% – Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 41% – Biden 51%; NYT/Siena: Trump 41% – Biden 50%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (115 electoral votes): Georgia (16) Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (164 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (259 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 53.8 percent
Net Score: -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 2.4 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; CNN: 42% approve – 56% disapprove; CNBC: 42% approve – 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 55% disapprove.]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
TRUMP, BIDEN DUEL IN FLORIDA AS POLLS SHOW TIGHT RACE
Fox News: “President Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden are set to hold dueling campaign rallies in Florida — a crucial battleground state vital to winning the White House — with just five days left in the presidential race. The candidates will appear in Tampa hours apart on Thursday, looking to make last-minute appeals and energize Central Florida voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election. … A USA Today/Suffolk poll released Wednesday shows Biden with a comfortable 8 percentage point lead nationally, but the race is much tighter in the key swing states candidates need to win to reach 270 electoral votes. An aggregate of polls from RealClearPolitics shows that Trump has pulled into a virtual tie with Biden in Florida… Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percentage points in the Sunshine State four years ago. Florida, with 29 delegates up for grabs, is one of the biggest prizes on Election Day — if Trump loses the state on Tuesday, his path to reelection would be considerably more difficult.”
Florida, Iowa remain tight, Biden holds lead in Pennsylvania, Ohio – Quinnipiac University: “In Florida, Biden gets 45 percent support among likely voters and Trump receives 42 percent, matching the margin in early September when Biden was up 3 percentage points. … In Iowa, Trump gets 47 percent support among likely voters and Biden gets 46 percent. That compares to an October 7th survey when Biden held a slight lead of 50 – 45 percent, in what appears to have been a polling bump for Biden following the first presidential debate and President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. … In Pennsylvania, Biden leads Trump 51 – 44 percent, largely unchanged from his 51 – 43 percent lead on October 21st. … In Ohio, 48 percent of likely voters support Biden and 43 percent support Trump. On October 14th, Biden received 48 percent and Trump had 47 percent.”
Biden holds steady in Keystone State – TribLive: “Former vice president Joe Biden continued to hold a six-point lead among likely voters in Pennsylvania last week as the number of undecided voters declined, a poll Franklin & Marshall College Poll found. … It found 50% of voters contacted supported Biden, compared to 44% who supported President Donald Trump. That left about 5% undecided or supporting a third party candidate. That’s a dramatic departure from the same point in 2016, when about 14% of voters here were undecided a week before the election. One of the findings that may give the Trump campaign cause for concern is the change in voting patterns from 2016, said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist and director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll.”
Red Texas stays a toss up – NYT: “Although a Democrat has not carried Texas since 1976, recent public and private polls suggest a highly competitive race, with some surveys showing Mr. Biden up narrowly and others showing Mr. Trump enjoying a small lead. Yet even as leading figures in both parties urge their respective presidential nominees to take Texas seriously, the campaigns are still reluctant to spend precious remaining time and money there. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden is expected to appear in the state before the election, the president has not spent a cent on television commercials, and until this week Mr. Biden had resisted advertising in Texas’ two largest markets, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. Though the state isn’t essential to a Biden victory, Democrats have been more aggressive here. Mr. Biden is dispatching his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, to Texas on Friday, and Democrats have also planned a multicity bus tour across the state.”
Poll: 3 of 4 voters worried about post-election violence – USA Today: “Americans are increasingly worried about what will happen at the finish line of this year’s tumultuous election, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, including whether the voting will be peaceful and the outcome broadly accepted. Three of 4 voters express concern about the possibility of violence on Election Day. Only 1 in 4 say they are ‘very confident’ that the nation will have a peaceful transfer of power if Democratic challenger Joe Biden defeats President Donald Trump. … Biden holds a steady 8-point lead over Trump in the nationwide poll, 52%-44%, taken after the final presidential debate last Thursday. … Democrats hold a double-digit advantage on congressional races. By 49%-39%, those surveyed say they are more likely to vote for an unnamed Democratic House candidate than an unnamed Republican.”
Team Biden spends millions on closing ad blitz – Axios: “Joe Biden’s team is spending tens of millions of dollars on a national digital ad campaign in the final days before Election Day — but highlighting a plethora of voters from Pennsylvania in particular, underscoring how critically important the state is. Biden’s team is betting that COVID-19 is on the ballot, and amplifying the stories of those affected by the pandemic with an emphasis on persuading voters in key battlegrounds to support the former VP. Through Friday, Biden’s team will have three ads in rotation on the YouTube homepage masthead as a national component to their closing ad campaign. In addition, they’re trying to reach at least eight subsets of the electorate across 16 states: AZ, FL, MI, NC, PA, WI, MN, NV, CO, IA, GA, OH, NH, VA, TX, NE-2.”
WISCONSIN GOP BLAMES HACKERS FOR THEFT OF $2.3 MILLION
AP: “Hackers stole $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party’s account that was being used to help reelect President Donald Trump in the key battleground state, the party’s chairman told The Associated Press on Thursday. The party noticed the suspicious activity on Oct. 22 and contacted the FBI on Friday, said Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt. Hitt said the FBI is investigating. FBI spokesman Leonard Peace did not immediately return a message seeking comment.”
SupCo lets ballot extensions stand – NPR: “The U.S. Supreme Court has refused, for a second time, a Republican Party effort to block a three-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. That means that at least until after the election, the court will not intervene in the way the state conducts its vote count. The court in a second case from North Carolina, also refused late Wednesday to block a similar extension of time to count votes, an extension put into place by the state election board. New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in either case. … A highly unusual statement issued by the court press office said that Barrett did not participate because of the need for a ‘prompt resolution’ of the question before the court, and because the new justice ‘had not had time to fully review’ the written arguments submitted to the court.”
MCSALLY GOES BACK TO MAGA
NBC News: “President Donald Trump offered a not-very warm welcome to Sen. Martha McSally on Wednesday at his campaign rally in Arizona, where McSally, also a Republican, is fighting to hold on to her seat. After saying she was ‘respected by everybody’ and ‘great,’ Trump rushed McSally to the stage at an airport rally in Goodyear to say a few words. … McSally spoke for just over a minute, and said she was ‘proud’ to work with the president — something a moderator could not get her say during her debate with Democratic challenger Mark Kelly earlier this month. … Polling in Arizona has shown McSally consistently behind Kelly. Earlier Wednesday, McSally published an op-ed article in which she said she will vote for Trump. She had long asserted that she has the right to a ‘secret ballot’ when asked if she’s voting for him.”
Loeffler claims she’s never heard of Trump’s ‘grab ‘em’ hot mic moment – 11Alive: “Sen. Kelly Loeffler said Wednesday that she doesn’t disagree with anything President Donald Trump has said or done. Earlier this month during a debate, Loeffler was asked if President Trump had ever said or done anything she’d disagreed with. Her answer was emphatically ‘no.’ Loeffler told reporters Wednesday that she doesn’t know anything about an Access Hollywood tape made in 2005 in which Trump described sexually assaulting women. This came up again after Loeffler said she doesn’t disagree with anything Trump has said or done. Loeffler has been running to keep the seat to which she had been appointed in the US Senate, and boasts that she is the Senate’s most reliable supporter of the president. Republican US Rep. Doug Collins is trying to beat Loeffler in November’s ‘jungle primary’ special election to get into a runoff in January.”
Ernst Senate race too close to call – Quinnipiac University: “In the U.S. Senate race where Republican incumbent Joni Ernst is seeking re-election, Ernst receives 48 percent support and her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield receives 46 percent. On October 7th, Greenfield held 50 percent support and Ernst had 45 percent. For Greenfield, 42 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of her and 39 percent have an unfavorable one. For Ernst, 44 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of her and 43 percent have an unfavorable one. ‘In 2016, the Hawkeye State gave the president a nine-point win, and in 2014, elected Republican Joni Ernst as the first female Senator from the state by eight points. But now, less than a week until Election Day 2020, both the presidential and Senate races are too tight to call,’ added [Tim] Malloy.”
ECONOMY CLAWED BACK JUNE-SEPT., BUT STILL IN A DEEP HOLE
Fox Business: “The U.S. economy grew at a record-shattering pace in the third quarter as businesses reopened from the coronavirus shutdown, but the nation remains in a deep hole from the COVID-induced recession. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, surged by 33.1% on an annualized basis in the three-month period from July through September, the Commerce Department said in its first reading of the data Thursday. The previous post-World War II record was a 16.7% increase in 1950. Refinitiv economists expected the report to show the economy had expanded by 31%. But the headline figure obscures the full picture: The economy contracted at an annual revised rate of 31.4% in the previous quarter, the sharpest decline in modern American history. Looking at the quarterly data, the nation’s GDP grew 7.4% from the second to the third quarter, compared with a 9% decline between the first and second quarters. The economy remains 3.5% smaller than at the end of 2019.”
Pelosi thinks even bigger on post-election stimulus – WSJ: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday the coronavirus relief plan she has been discussing with the White House could morph in the lame-duck session of Congress, absent any formal agreement on its details and shifting incentives for both parties after the election. ‘There’s very little that we have a commitment from them on. We have, shall we say, narrowed our differences,’ the California Democrat said in an interview. The speaker last spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday. The two have been discussing a roughly $2 trillion package but have yet to finalize details, and both sides have acknowledged there is no time to pass legislation before election Tuesday. President Trump has repeatedly said he would like to pass more coronavirus relief, including a second round of direct checks to Americans.”
Tech CEOs get grilled by senators over online speech – WSJ
Report: Former Homeland Security official admits he was ‘Anonymous’ – NYT
AUDIBLE: ‘HISTORY IS FILLED WITH HARD CHOICES’
“Thomas Paine reminded the beleaguered colonial army, on the verge of freezing to death in New Jersey at Christmastime in 1776, that those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” – Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano provides historical perspective in his weekly column. Read it here.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“McCain was a RINO, who killed the repeal often disastrous Obamacare. Flake is a joke and could not be reelected. McSally and Trump could surprise. The problems with snowbirds moving south to escape liberal policies (not only for the weather) is that they bring their liberal philosophy with them, thinking that it will turn out differently than the places they left. It never does. ‘Centrists’ are on the yellow line, neither fish nor fowl. They go by emotion, not facts.” – Tommy Toles, Jefferson, Ga.
[Ed. note: Flake most certainly would have had lots of trouble getting through a Republican primary. But I think folks in Arizona view McCain differently than you do. He ran well ahead of Trump when they were both on the ballot in 2016, and in his passing was darned near beatified. Trump’s anger at McCain may be justified in your eyes, but expressing it so much was certainly unwise.]
“I hope you are getting a lot of sleep ahead of next Tuesday. I’m curious about something you can shed a light on hopefully. The Democrats, much more so than the Republicans, have tight and consistent messaging. Every day, or at least every news cycle, we see countless Dems being interviewed and they all say the same thing. Obviously there’s a script each is given. Who writes the script, who approves it and how are they distributed? Should the GOP take a lesson here?” – Rick McGee, Longmont, Colo.
[Ed. note: The Biden campaign is the headwaters of the great river of blather. The Senate and House committees are major tributaries. But it doesn’t take too much instruction if the folks at the top are consistent themselves. The folks downstream pick up the palaver just by listening. For the Republicans, it’s been every man or woman for themselves. President Trump is singularly undisciplined, a trait that he believes gives him a competitive advantage. Whatever the case, it dramatically reduces the potency of the Red Team’s message for lack of a united voice.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
STAY CHIPPER, FOLKS
UPI: “A Georgia food writer who missed visiting restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic found a unique way to bring the experience home: creating a miniature eatery for a chipmunk that frequents her front porch. Angela Hansberger of Tucker said the forced closing of restaurants during the coronavirus outbreak came as a blow to her both professionally and personally. … She said her chipmunk restaurant project began when her uncle sent her a tiny picnic table that she had originally intended to nail to a fence for squirrels to climb. ‘I set it down on my front porch while I took the packaging to the recycle bin,’ she told NBC’s Today show. ‘When I walked back, there was a chipmunk sitting there like a little person.’ … Hansberger started creating chipmunk-sized versions of popular restaurant foods to feed her daily guest, who she named Thelonious Munk.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Terror and paradox are not easy to live with. To rest strategic stability on terror and paradox is to ask a lot of a democratic society.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in a larger piece about weapons of mass destruction in The Weekly Standard on Dec. 9, 2002.
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.