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On the roster: A word about stimulus willy-nillyness – I’ll Tell You What: Something’s happening – It’s O for Sheriff Joe in Philly – Biden denies son profited from his name – Mr. Misty
A WORD ABOUT STIMULUS WILLY-NILLYNESS
In Albert Brooks’ lovely, funny “Defending Your Life” – a movie that imagines eternal judgment as something like a bureaucratic administrative law court – Brooks’ character’s lawyer, played perfectly by Rip Torn, has the unfortunate duty of having to explain to his client how the universe works.
At one point, the lawyer blows off his client’s question with “you wouldn’t understand” and his client is incensed. “Don’t treat me like a moron!” he says. “Try me.” So, the lawyer gives it a shot.
And what does the defendant say? That’s right: “I don’t understand.”
Which, of course, brings us to the latest installment of trying to explain to Wall Street what Washington is doing.
Readers of financial news have awoken each day for weeks to the latest details on the negotiations between the Trump administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Because of the latest squiggles emanating from Pelosi’s talks with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin we are told that futures are up, yields are down, forecasts are sideways, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Like the throngs outside the Vatican awaiting white smoke from the chimney, the financial world hangs on the talks. It’s no surprise that Wall Street, which has weathered the coronavirus quite nicely on a combination of stimulus cash and a long tech boom, very much wants another $2 trillion pump from Uncle Sam.
How happy they have been to see President Trump and Pelosi get into a bidding war in which they seem poised to blow past Pelosi’s original $2.2 trillion offer and into the further reaches of the fiscal stratosphere.
Just two weeks ago Trump shut down negotiations and blamed Pelosi for asking too much. But by Monday of this week, Trump had broken completely and said Pelosi wasn’t asking for enough.
“I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats,” he said in a phone call to “Fox & Friends.” “Not every Republican agrees, but they will. I want to do it even bigger, because this is money going to people who did not deserve what happened to them.”
If you’re a finance bro, this is like Christmas came early. The top Democrat and the top Republican want to send out another round of stimulus checks, provide more bailouts for more businesses and keep subsidizing expanded unemployment benefits.
A poll this week says 72 percent of voters want such a deal, so it’s time to celebrate the next big market run, right?
You wouldn’t understand…
Mitch McConnell, the sensei of the Senate GOP, has been warning in private and in public for weeks that he does not believe that the Senate should try to juggle the first-ever Supreme Court confirmation during an election and the largest-ever federal stimulus package in the 13 days before voting ends.
He paints a convincing picture that the Republicans could end up losing control of one or both of those heavy-laden freight trains if they run them at the same time.
Then there’s the substance of the matter. It’s one thing to get Republicans to take a chance on a Supreme Court pick they believe in, but quite a different thing when it comes to federal cash pumping about which conservatives are dubious, to say the least.
With the just-completed federal fiscal year coming to a crashing end with a mind-bending $3.1 trillion deficit and oceans of red ink as far as the eye can see in the quarters ahead. Many are also concerned about they believe are the long-term distortions continued aid at these kinds of levels will cause in discouraging work etc.
There is not an attitude of stimulus willy-nillyness among conservatives these days. They would far rather wait for the lame duck session than pass something with Trump breathing down their necks right now.
McConnell this week will drive back around his $500 billion “skinny” stimulus again this week. Democrats blocked it last time, but the leader remains keen on key provisions, like curbs on coronavirus lawsuits. And it provides political cover. The Senate GOP can honestly say it is at work on the issue.
As has often been his approach in the Trump era, McConnell says that if Pelosi and Trump do reach a deal that he will bring to the floor for a vote.
If, in fact, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows can get enough of his former mates in the Trump nationalist Freedom Caucus to back the Pelosi plan, it would certainly up the pressure on the Senate GOP. But those cats know exactly what they would do to an incumbent who voted for Pelosi-backed pork: Primary the bejeebers out of him or her. Does their Trump devotion go that far?
Or does Pelosi pass another package on a party-line vote and leave it like a bag of flaming doggie doo doo on the Senate’s front door?
Whatever happens, now, though, she can’t really lose.
In one scenario, she crushes the GOP’s resistance and gets more than she even asked for. Even better for her, the payload would come too late to provide a real economic boost before the election that might help Trump. Conservatives will fume over the betrayal.
In the other scenario, she has forced Trump and the GOP Senate into an ugly fight at the worst possible motive and left them with the blame for killing a popular package.
We’re not saying that it makes sense as a practical way to run a government, especially to the bottom-liners on Wall Street, but like we said, you wouldn’t understand.
THE RULEBOOK: GIVE TO 233 YEARS…
“The injury which may possibly be done by defeating a few good laws, will be amply compensated by the advantage of preventing a number of bad ones.” – Alexander Hamilton, in a larger essay about provisions regarding executive authority, Federalist No. 73
TIME OUT: CURBSIDE SERVICE FROM 186 MILLION MILES
Cosmos: “In a brief moment that its principal scientist Dante Lauretta described as ‘transcendental,’ NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully played tag with an asteroid. The [maneuver], officially called TAG (touch-and-go), saw the intrepid spacecraft touch town perfectly in one of the few safe landing zones on an asteroid [186 million miles] away. It then activated its sample collection mechanism, and safely backed away, all without hitting any of the dangerous boulders flanking the tiny collection site, whose safe zone was a mere [26 feet] in diameter. ‘I can’t believe we actually pulled this off,’ Lauretta said as the control [center] exploded in cheers and pantomimed high-fives. … The landing, which occurred right on schedule at [6:12 pm EDT Tuesday], is the culmination of the spacecraft’s four-year, multi-billion-[mile] journey to asteroid 101955 Bennu, from which it hopes to return a sample for study on Earth in 2023.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40 percent
Biden: 51.4 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.4 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 2.2 points, Trump ↓ 2.2 points
[Average includes: NYT/Siena: Trump 41% – Biden 50%; AP/NORC: Trump 36% – Biden 51%; KFF: Trump 38% – Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 43% – Biden 54%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 42% – Biden 53%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42.4 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 43% approve – 55% disapprove; NYT/Siena: 43% approve – 51% disapprove; AP/NORC: 39% approve – 61% disapprove; KFF: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve – 54% 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.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: SOMETHING’S HAPPENING
With just two weeks until “the end of the election,” Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss all-things 2020. They cover some potential election outcomes, how current polling might differ from the actual election results, the continued conversation around COVID stimulus, and what to expect from a few key Senate races. Plus, mailbag questions, Dana shares her caffeine troubles, and Chris is scolded for loving water. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
IT’S O FOR SHERIFF JOE IN PHILLY
AFP: “Former US president Barack Obama hits the campaign trail for Joe Biden on Wednesday in a bid to drum up support for his former vice president among young Americans and Black voters in the final stretch of the White House race. As the 59-year-old Obama makes his first in-person campaign appearance — at a drive-in car rally at a sports stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — President Donald Trump is to visit North Carolina, one of the battleground states key to victory on November 3. Biden, 77, who is leading in the national polls, had no public events on his schedule for the third day in a row, leading the 74-year-old Trump to accuse his Democratic opponent of going ‘into hiding.’ The Biden campaign said the former vice president was preparing for the second and final debate against Trump, which is to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday.”
Biden holds edge in the Keystone State – The [Beaver County, Pa.] Times: “President Donald Trump has sliced into former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania, but Biden still holds an 8-point advantage less than two weeks before the election, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. The poll released Wednesday shows Biden leading 51% to 43% in Pennsylvania, compared to a 54% to 41% lead he had two weeks ago. The latest results put Biden’s advantage back to where it was in early September, when he led 52% to 44% in a Quinnipiac poll. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,241 likely Pennsylvania voters from Oct. 16 to 19. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. A USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll also released Wednesday has Biden leading Trump 49% to 42% in Pennsylvania.”
BIDEN DENIES SON PROFITED FROM HIS NAME
Fox News: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denied that his son Hunter Biden profited because of his ties to the former vice president and said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., should be ‘ashamed of himself’ for saying Hunter Biden used his last name ‘to make millions of dollars’ in shady overseas deals. ‘This is the same garbage [from] Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s henchman,’ Biden told local Wisconsin outlet WISN. ‘It’s the last-ditch effort in this desperate campaign to smear me and my family. Even the man who served with him on that committee, the former nominee for the Republican Party, said there’s no basis to this.’ ‘The vast majority of the intelligence people have come out and said there’s no basis at all,’ Biden continued. ‘Ron should be ashamed of himself.’ The Democratic presidential nominee was referring to comments Johnson made Monday during an interview on ‘Hannity.’”
Giuliani turns over alleged laptop – Delaware News Journal: “Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to tarnish Joe Biden’s presidential campaign continued in Delaware when he visited a police station Monday to share files from what he said was Hunter Biden’s laptop. ‘They’ve got a hard drive or a laptop or something to that effect. They try to turn it over to New Castle County PD. New Castle County PD calls us,’ said Mat Marshall, a spokesman for Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. Jennings’ office gave the device to the FBI, which reportedly is investigating the veracity of claims about the origin of the laptop and how its contents were shared with Giuliani’s team, Marshall said. ‘As we’ve seen in multiple reports, (the FBI) is looking into whether these claims are credible,’ he said. ‘In light of their investigation, we’re referring it over to them now.’”
New film shows Rudy in compromising position – AP: “Rudy Giuliani is shown with his hand down his pants after flirting with an actress playing a young woman pretending to be a television journalist in a scene in Sacha Baron Cohen‘s latest mockumentary, a sequel to his hit ‘Borat’ film. The scene shot in a New York hotel room in July — which resulted in Giuliani calling police — includes a moment when Giuliani is seen lying on a bed with his shirt untucked and his hand down his pants with the young woman nearby. Giuliani went to the hotel room thinking he was being interviewed about the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response. The young woman is flirtatious with him and invites him to the bedroom, which is rigged with hidden cameras. Giuliani then asks for her phone number and address. He lies back on the bed and has his hands in his pants.”
TRUMP MAKES HIS CASE IN THE TAR HEEL STATE
Fox News: “With the November election less than two weeks away, President Trump is continuing his campaign swing through the pivotal battleground states with a planned rally in North Carolina, where he’s currently neck-and-neck with Democratic rival Joe Biden. Trump’s rally in Gastonia, N.C., comes just one day before the candidates will face off for the second and final presidential debate on Thursday night, which will be moderated by Kristen Welker of NBC News. Like the first debate, each candidate will be allotted two minutes of speaking time to answer the moderator’s questions; but under a new plan announced Monday by the Commission on Presidential Debates, during that portion of the debate, the opposing candidate’s microphone will be muted. ‘I’ll participate. I just think it’s very unfair,’ Trump said Monday when asked by reporters about the change.”
Appeals court allows NC absentee deadline extension – AP: “A federal appeals court has ruled that North Carolina can accept absentee ballots for more than a week after Election Day as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Tuesday night declining to block the deadline extension that was announced in late September. At the time, the State Board of Elections increased the deadline from three days to nine, as long as ballots were postmarked by Election Day. The change was part of a settlement with voting rights advocates. State and national Republican leaders went to court to fight the deadline extension.”
Bloomberg’s Florida spending forces Trump on defense – Politico: “Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s $100 million investment in Florida to defeat Donald Trump is recasting the presidential contest in the president’s must-win state, forcing his campaign to spend big to shore up his position and freeing up Democratic cash to expand the electoral map elsewhere. Bloomberg’s massive advertising and ground-game spending, which began roughly a month ago, has thrown Trump into a defensive crouch across the arc of Sunbelt states. As a result, the president‘s campaign has scaled back its TV ad buys in crucial Northern swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — a vacuum being filled by a constellation of outside political groups backing Joe Biden. ‘It’s forced the Trump campaign to retrench in Florida. You can see it in the spending habits, in television and digital. They’re investing more at the expense of places they need to win,’ said Steve Schale, who leads the pro-Biden Unite the Country super PAC.”
Report: Trump records show business history with China – NYT: “President Trump and his allies have tried to paint the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., as soft on China… But Mr. Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company. And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.”
SENATE CONTEST KNOTTED UP IN IOWA
Monmouth University: “Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield and Republican incumbent Joni Ernst remain locked in a tight U.S. Senate battle that has not really shifted in the past month. Among registered voters, the race stands at 47% Greenfield and 47% Ernst, with 2% supporting another candidate and 2% undecided. The Democrat has a nominal 49% to 47% lead among likely voters in Monmouth’s high turnout model, which is similar to her 49% to 46% lead least month. Greenfield has a larger lead in a low turnout scenario (51%, to 45% for Ernst) if low-propensity Republican voters waiting until Election Day do not show up. … Slightly more voters say Ernst has been too supportive of President Trump (45%) than say she has given him the right amount of support (42%). Even more voters say Greenfield will be beholden to the left wing of her party if she is elected (50%) than say she will be more of an independent voice (37%).”
Biden moves ahead of Trump in Hawkeye State – Monmouth University: “Joe Biden has taken a small likely voter lead in the presidential race in Iowa, after Donald Trump had the edge in prior polls. … Biden’s lead is driven largely by a gain in support among seniors and voters in swing counties. Trump is supported by 48% of registered voters in Iowa and Biden is supported by 47%. Just 2% say they will vote for another candidate and 2% are still undecided. Trump led Biden among registered voters in prior Monmouth polls – by 50% to 44% in September and by 48% to 45% in August. Biden pulls ahead, though, when different likely voter models+ are applied. A model based on a relatively high level of turnout puts the race at 50% Biden and 47% Trump, while a model reflecting lower turnout produces an even wider 51% to 46% result. Trump led by 3 points among likely voters in Monmouth’s poll last month.”
Cornyn holds lead in Texas – Quinnipiac University: “In the U.S. Senate race in Texas, incumbent Republican John Cornyn leads Democrat M.J. Hegar among likely voters, 49 – 43 percent. Seven percent are undecided. On September 24th, Cornyn had 50 percent support and Hegar had 42 percent, also with 7 percent undecided. Likely voters give Hegar a positive 33 – 26 percent favorability rating, while 39 percent say they haven’t heard enough about her to form an opinion. In September, voters gave her a positive 29 – 19 percent favorability rating while 50 percent hadn’t heard enough about her. Likely voters give Cornyn a positive 42 – 30 percent favorability rating, while 26 percent say they haven’t heard enough about him. In September, they gave him a 39 – 30 percent favorability rating, while 30 percent hadn’t heard enough about him. ‘While Cornyn maintains a lead, there are still two weeks to go, and you can’t count Hegar out,’ added [Tim] Malloy.”
Presidential contest tight in Texas – Quinnipiac University: “In the home stretch of the 2020 presidential election campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden is in a tied race with President Donald Trump in the reliably red state of Texas, and he holds a single digit lead in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, according to Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University polls conducted in both states. … Today, Trump and Biden are tied 47 – 47 percent among likely voters. This compares to a September 24th poll of likely voters in Texas when Trump had 50 percent and Biden had 45 percent. Among those who will vote in person on Election Day, 62 percent support Trump and 32 percent support Biden.”
DEMS EYE STATE HOUSE GAINS AHEAD OF REDISTRICTING
National Journal: “In 2010, Democrats ended up losing control of 21 chambers, limiting their influence in drawing legislative maps that would determine political power for the next decade. Ten years later, Democrats control 39 legislative chambers out of 98 total (excluding Nebraska, which is unicameral). Republicans are on defense, and Democratic groups are stressing the importance of having a seat at the table during redistricting, not to mention the importance of policy goals like expanding Medicaid and increasing voter access. But the task won’t be easy. Despite Democrats’ expanded initiatives, the Republican State Leadership Committee entered the cycle with a gargantuan financial war chest, boosted by maps that Republicans drew themselves after the 2010 GOP wave. And after Democrats’ success in 2018, the remaining targets are often heavier lifts. But some Democrats say that even if they don’t flip every chamber on this list, increasing their representation as a minority party could force their colleagues to the table.”
Barrett meets with senators ahead of committee vote – Fox News
Yanna Krupnikov, John Barry Ryan: ‘The Real Divide in America Is Between Political Junkies and Everyone Else’ – NYT
The 6 topics Biden and Trump will debate at Thursday’s final faceoff – Fox News
AUDIBLE: AGE IS JUST A NUMBER?
“[Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s] only three months older than I am. And I haven’t announced that I’m not running for reelection.” – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, defending Feinstein after the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee received backlash for calling Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s “one of the best set of hearings” she had ever participated in. Members of her party are questioning the 87-year-old’s fitness to take over the Judiciary Committee as chairwoman if Democrats win the Senate.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
Die Welt: “German police said Monday that a 71-year-old man took social distancing to a new extreme over the weekend, by pepper-spraying people who he felt got too close. Police in the western city of Aachen tweeted that there was an ‘unusual use’ of the police force, as the man ‘first sprayed a group of joggers and then two cyclists.’ According to a statement from the local police, the cyclists were a couple who were able to get off of their bikes and call police without causing an accident. A patrolman soon approached the suspected perpetrator, who said he knew no other way to protect himself to keep others at a ‘corona distance.’ Criminal proceedings were launched against the 71-year-old for causing dangerous bodily harm and interference with road traffic. Police were still looking for the joggers to report what they saw to police.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I am not exactly sure how Daniel Krauthammer, age 4, acquired the boxing gloves. But then again, I am not sure how he acquired the plastic gun, the F-15 fighter-bomber with sound effects or, for that matter, the dog.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about his son, Daniel, in the Washington Post on Feb. 23, 1990.
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.