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On the roster: Biden needs a veep who can do the talking – Trump tries to shore up Ohio amid corona woes – DNC lineup touts unity, nods to bipartisanship – Dems, Team Trump scramble to revive stimulus talks – ‘The boars calmly ate a pizza from his backpack’
BIDEN NEEDS A VEEP WHO CAN DO THE TALKING
Is there a sub-basement, root cellar or some other space farther below ground in Joe Biden’s Delaware home? Because if so, that’s exactly where Democrats would like to put him today.
In just one session this week with members of the national associations for Black and Hispanic journalists Biden managed two major blunders. First, like a sketchy dude who shows up at your party, he unexpectedly introduced cocaine into the conversation. Then he managed to yet again to sound dismissive of Black voters’ concerns as he was discussing the political diversity among Hispanics.
The first one was just, well, peak Biden. Challenged on his mental acuity, Biden got angry and said, basically, how would you like it if I asked you whether you were high on drugs. That it was to a reporter of Jamaican ancestry made it even cringier. This is another in Biden’s long history of being thin-skinned to personal attacks. It was that way in his first presidential run and it’s been that way this time or else we’re lying, dog-faced pony soldiers.
The second one was also just the most recent instance in Biden’s long history of terrible awkwardness in talking about race also going back decades. What he said was not only true but also uncontroversial, just not coming from him.
Here’s Biden talking to the journalist groups: “What you all know but most people don’t know, unlike the African American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.”
This is common knowledge among political professionals, analysts and academics. While something like 9 out of 10 Black voters typically have backed Democrats since the Civil Rights era, Hispanic support has varied more widely on a national level – George W. Bush scored something like 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004 – but differs dramatically state to state.
Hispanic voters in California are different in partisanship from those in Texas are different from those in Illinois are different from those in Florida in ways we just don’t tend to see with African American voters.
But Biden had recently put himself in trouble on his expectations of Black voters with an outburst of the first kind where he took offense to the questioning of a Black radio host about Biden’s commitment to Black causes. “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump,” Biden scoffed, “then you ain’t Black.”
We believe Biden that his cocaine riff and questioning blackness were meant in jocular ways. But as Mitt Romney learned with his joking $10,000 bet in a 2012 debate, jests can reveal larger truths to voters. In this case, the truth is that Biden feels support from Black voters is his due.
So when he was explaining the political characteristics of America’s largest minority groups it didn’t matter that he was right. It mattered that he was saying out loud something he has already shown insensitivity about.
There are lots of things that may be true that politicians (or anyone) shouldn’t say out loud in every setting. And you can always add to that list topics on which you have already muffed it.
Biden here benefits from some of the same low expectations as his opponent, President Trump. When they say things that sound like a garbled Google translation or offer up some ripely offensive term or just get the facts all wrong, it sort of rolls off. When the clickbait headlines scream, “You’ll never believe what so-and-so said,” we think “that’s where you’re wrong” and save ourselves the annoyance.
But sometimes a gaffe is so pungent that it breaks through. Trump finds out from time to time that he still has the capacity to shock, even if the shocks don’t vibrate to his benefit the way they once did. And Biden knows that he’s just a couple of wrath garbles away from his capacity to lead being a serious question in this election.
Biden is currently doing about the minimum he can do in terms of active campaigning. And it’s working. There’s no sign of any real tightening in the race nationally and Biden continues to far outperform 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
But more will be asked of him in the next several weeks. He has a major convention speech to give, interviews to do alongside his running mate and the three debates with Trump. It’s pretty clear that will be more than enough for Biden.
Which raises this question: Will Biden’s running mate be up to what will likely be her role as primary spokesperson for the campaign?
Front-runner Kamala Harris was weak under pressure in her own presidential run and often struggled to explain herself in her many flip-flops. Karen Bass essentially disqualified herself in her mishandling of questions about her soft touch on the Castro regime. “I am not a communist.” Sheesh. That leaves Tammy Duckworth as the best communicator in the bunch. She knows her brief and knows how to handle high-pressure situations.
Biden surely knows he can’t keep playing Frogger and scrambling through these interview sessions without getting splattered too often. He needs a running mate who can.
THE RULEBOOK: GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO
“No well-informed man will suppose that the affairs of such a confederacy can be properly regulated by a government less comprehensive in its organs or institutions than that which has been proposed by the convention.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 13
TIME OUT: OH MY GOURD
Garden&Gun: “On a pre-pandemic trip to the Atlanta History Center, [Garden&Gun’s Haskell Harris] learned several things: that their library houses the largest collection of Southern cookbooks; that real-life, period actors greet you like friendly ghosts inside the historic Swan House on the property (always nice to have a heads up if you plan on going); and where loofahs come from. Yes, loofahs, those lovely sponges for scrubbing skin to perfection. It turns out real loofahs do not come from the ocean, like sponges, and not always manmade from a factory, as [Harris] mistakenly thought, but from a gourd. Technically, a plant commonly known as a dishrag gourd (genus Luffa!), which produces prolific fruit that looks very similar to Southern squash or zucchini or cucumber; the loofahs hide inside the fruit. [Harris] spotted one while walking through the kitchen garden of the Smith Farm on the AHC’s property, a home and garden literally moved from North Carolina and restored as a house museum.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.6 percent
Biden: 51.8 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% – Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% – Biden 51%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% – 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)
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent
Net Score: -16 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: Fox News: 45% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve – 58% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve – 60% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 42% approve – 56% 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 TRIES TO SHORE UP OHIO AMID CORONA WOES
NYT: “President Trump traveled Thursday to the crucial battleground of Ohio, hoping to highlight efforts to bolster the economy… But he could not escape the reality of the landscape he is facing: Before Mr. Trump arrived, the state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, tested positive for the coronavirus… The sudden change in plans … mirrored the president’s shifting fortunes in a state that coming into 2020 had seemed unassailable on Mr. Trump’s electoral map. After a second, different type of test on Thursday, Mr. DeWine came up negative. But the failures in his response to the pandemic have changed the forecast for November in Ohio, where cases remain high. Several polls in the state have shown [Biden] running close to Mr. Trump. … But the cost in ‘resources, attention and manpower is likely to cost him another needed state,’ said Nicholas Everhart, the president of Content Creative Media, a Republican national ad-buying firm based in Ohio. Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has laid out tens of millions of dollars for a fall advertising blitz there.”
Trump cuts Michigan deficit to 11 points – Detroit Free Press: “Former Vice President Joe Biden continued to hold a clear lead over President Donald Trump in a new poll of likely voters in Michigan released Friday, though it’s not as large as it was a month ago. A survey done by EPIC-MRA of Lansing showed Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, up 11 percentage points, with a 51%-40% lead over Trump, with 3% for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen and 6% undecided. … ‘It has tightened up a tad,’ EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn said, referencing a late-May/early-June poll that showed Biden with a 16-point lead over Trump and taken at a time when Trump was more actively encouraging the use of military force in confronting civil unrest and protests against police brutality in American cities. ‘But the base of Democrats are still more supportive of him than the Trump voters are and independents … are more supportive of Biden.’”
Commission won’t give Trump another debate, might if both sides agree – USA Today: “The Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday rejected a Trump campaign request to add a fourth debate to the calendar or move up an existing one to the first week of September in order to address an expected surge in early voting. In a letter to the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who made the request on behalf of the campaign, the nonpartisan commission said it was committed to the schedule and while some states begin early voting before the first debate, voters are under no obligation to cast their ballot before hearing from Trump or his challenger Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. ‘There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates,’ the commission wrote in a letter obtained by USA TODAY.”
DNC LINEUP TOUTS UNITY, NODS TO BIPARTISANSHIP
Politico: “Bernie Sanders and John Kasich will share a night in the spotlight, and both Clintons are slated to have prominent speaking roles at the all-virtual Democratic National Convention in less than two weeks, multiple people familiar with the plans told POLITICO. Others who’ve been tapped for coveted speaking slots during an event that’s been shrunk down to eight prime-time hours over four nights are Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Jill Biden. And it goes without saying that the party’s two most popular figures, Barack and Michelle Obama, will be featured prominently. One source said Kasich — the former Republican governor of Ohio and a major critic of President Donald Trump — would appear on the same night as Sanders early in the week in a demonstration of unity. The duo would be designed to showcase a broad anti-Trump coalition that is backing Biden. Democrats are also reaching out to well-known military veterans and Republicans known for their national security expertise for a portion of the convention devoted to foreign policy.”
DEMS, TEAM TRUMP SCRAMBLE TO REVIVE STIMULUS TALKS
AP: “Democratic leaders launched a last-ditch effort to revive collapsing Washington talks on vital COVID-19 rescue money, summoning Trump administration negotiators to the Capitol on Friday in hopes of generating progress. Both sides said the future of the negotiations was uncertain after a combative meeting on Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Friday afternoon. President Donald Trump says he is considering executive orders to address evictions and unemployment insurance, but they appear unlikely to have much impact. A breakdown in the talks would put at risk more than $100 billion to help reopen schools, a fresh round of $1,200 direct payments to most people and hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments to help them avoid furloughing workers and cutting services as tax revenues shrivel. Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerged from Thursday’s meeting to give a pessimistic update about the chances for an agreement.”
Pelosi, Schumer say White House declined $2 trillion deal – The Hill: “Democratic leaders said Friday that the White House rejected an offer for a roughly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that as part of a closed-door Thursday meeting, Democrats offered to reduce their $3.4 trillion price tag by $1 trillion if Republicans would agree to raise their roughly $1 trillion package by the same amount. That strategy, effectively trying to split the difference between the two sides, would result in legislation costing between $2 trillion and $2.4 trillion. ‘‘We’ll take down a trillion, if you add a trillion in.’ They said absolutely not,’ Pelosi said during a joint press conference with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday.”
Trump faces challenges with stimulus by fiat threat – Politico: “President Donald Trump vowed again Thursday to unilaterally deliver pandemic aid to a struggling public if negotiations with Congress bottom out. But it might not be so easy. Any executive orders are sure to draw legal challenges — not to mention cause further turmoil for governors. Trump said he could issue executive orders in the coming days to cut payroll taxes, provide eviction protections, boost unemployment benefits and assist borrowers with student loans. Any of those moves would be controversial, but perhaps the most brazen is to tap billions of dollars in states’ unspent coronavirus relief funds to revive federally enhanced unemployment benefits that expired last week. Democrats are already angry with Trump’s repeated manipulation of congressionally appropriated cash to score policy wins he couldn’t secure otherwise. It could also exacerbate the deteriorating fiscal picture across the states, which are grappling with devastating revenue shortfalls.”
Williamson: The more things change… – National Review: “For Republicans, the great political challenge is going to be that the entitlements that simply must be reformed are very popular with old white people, i.e., the Republican base. President Trump’s flat refusal to even consider entitlement reform only reconfirms the position of congressional Republicans going back to George W. Bush’s ill-fated and very lonely effort at achieving the mildest reform of Social Security. Republicans have no appetite for cutting the programs that actually represent the great majority of federal spending — popular middle-class entitlements and the military — and they remain fundamentally opposed to raising taxes, and, indeed, would if given the chance cut them still further in spite of the persistent deficit and the fiscal crisis it invites.”
HAGERTY HOLDS OFF CRUZ-BACKED CHALLENGE
Tennessean: “Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty secured the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Thursday after a bitter primary battle that centered on support for President Donald Trump. The win came after a rancorous final stretch of the race that saw high-profile endorsements and attacks on the airwaves and in person. Hagerty took nearly 51% of the vote, while [Manny] Sethi pulled in just under 40%. Trump called Hagerty shortly before 9 p.m. to offer his congratulations. Minutes later, Hagerty addressed an uproarious audience gathered in his native Sumner County, thanking God, his family, Tennessee voters and the president for their support. ‘I cannot thank you enough,’ he said to the cheering crowd. ‘You believed in me, you believe in my vision for this state.’ Joined by U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Tom Cotton; departing state Rep. Andy Holt; state House Majority Leader William Lamberth; and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, he added, ‘I’m looking forward to serving you well.’”
Rep. Ilhan Omar to face tough primary Tuesday – WCCO: “Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and her leading opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, held dueling news conferences Wednesday. There are signs the race is becoming more competitive. Because the 5th Congressional District is so overwhelmingly Democratic, next Tuesday’s primary is widely expected to pick the winner. The Minnesota DFL party filed a federal elections complaint Tuesday against Melton-Meaux, alleging he illegally concealed the identities of his campaign consultants and some of his contributions. He dismissed the complaint as frivolous, and full of ‘falsities.’ ‘What this really is … frankly a desperate attempt by the DFL to resurrect Congresswoman Omar’s campaign that is falling apart. That’s what this is,’ Melton-Meaux said. … Congresswoman Omar is not commenting on the FEC complaint.”
Trump signs executive order banning TikTok, WeChat Thursday – LAT
Judge dismisses McCarthy’s lawsuit to overturn proxy voting – Politico
Condoleezza Rice, Dana Perino join 100-year celebration of women’s suffrage –
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Your whole write-up [on what happens in the event of an inconclusive presidential election] was good, but only applies in that that is the way it should be. Not if it goes awry. Particularly if there is suspicion of widespread corruption and rigging, which we all know is quite likely. So let’s assume some State holds a recount, and suddenly boxes and boxes of uncounted ballots are found here, there, and everywhere, and there’s just not time, or a reliable method, to recount them all. We all know that could happen, and likely will, if votes aren’t panning out the way one party hopes and expects. You can be sure all those boxes are already being put together and hidden in strategic places such as car trunks, post office inner rooms, abandoned transports, and so on, to be ‘found’ if need be. That would be compounded with mail-in voting. And remember the election when it just ‘happened’ that the absentee ballots from the military branches got ‘lost’ and were never counted? What can be done to accommodate those ‘accidental’ errors in results? We just have to accept it? That better not be the case. Oh, and don’t put all questions and answer on Fox Nation. I watch and read Fox News exclusively, but not Fox Nation as I cannot afford to pay for one more thing.” – Cheryl Jasso, Cheyenne, Wyo.
[Ed. note: The short answer, Ms. Jasso, is yes, you have to accept it. Even if you believed that states had engaged in the kind of massive, unprecedented, premeditated fraud you describe, you would still have to accept their conclusions. The states are sovereign when it comes to the conduct of elections and the electors. They have the authority under the Constitution and our laws to conduct elections. If there were gross, obvious misconduct Congress might do as it did in 1876 and have to make some determinations about the validity of certificates. But even if Congress decided such matters in ways that you thought were wrong, yes, you would have to accept it. Even if the process resulted in the presidency of a candidate you thought unfairly chosen, accept it you must. Part of living in a republic means that we vest elected officials at various levels with the authority to act on our behalf. All of the individuals described in the process were elected to their posts, from the local officials who certify county results, to the state officials, to the electors, to the senators and representatives. When decisions have to be made, we have to abide by our leaders’ decisions in all but the most egregious cases. But then we will have another election in two years and people can vote for new leaders or keep the ones they’ve got. While America has an enviable record at holding free and fair elections, we have plenty of election fraud, vote rigging and dubious outcomes, too. It’s bad when it happens, but it’s not the end of the world. The republic is bigger and more important than one office or one election. We retreat to that old piece of wisdom from Republican politician and newspaperman Carl Schurz: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Our work as citizens does not end with an election.]
“I have a question about the polls you use. Are there any that take into account the number of conservatives that don’t respond to a poll, or respond inaccurately for not wanting to get crap for their pro-Trump views? I believe there are a LOT more than many ‘pundits’ are estimating…” – Gregg Mehr, Barrington, Ill.
[Ed. note: I’m not sure how a poll would take that into account if it was so, Mr. Mehr. Just goose Republican numbers a little bit? Sounds pretty dicey. The more important thing here is that we just don’t have any good evidence that such a phenomenon is taking place. Certainly there are voters who claim to be undecided who are probably really leaning one way or the other, but there’s not obvious proof that even that slants Republican. We know for example that in recent polls of registered voters conducted from voter registration files by Sienna College for the New York Times the response rate was higher among Republicans than it was among Democrats. What Republicans have to hope at this point is that the polls are understating Trump’s performance not because likely Republican voters are too ashamed or afraid to say so but rather that there are new voters coming into the pool. If lots of blue collar, low-propensity voters were suddenly becoming animated it could change the calculus. Like all downscale groups, poor Whites vote at a far lower frequency than more affluent citizens. There are plenty of those folks out there and one assumes that if they do show up, it will be for Trump, who dominates among White voters without post-secondary degrees, So if you’re looking for hope, place it with an as-yet undetected turnout surge with lower-income whites than goats in the polling machine.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
‘THE BOARS CALMLY ATE A PIZZA FROM HIS BACKPACK’
BBC: “A nudist in Berlin got too close to nature for comfort when a wild boar snatched his plastic bag – which had his laptop inside. The naked man gave chase to the boar and her two piglets – much to the amusement of fellow sunbathers. Adele Landauer, an actor and life coach, took photos of the chase at Teufelssee – a popular bathing spot – and put them on Facebook. ‘Nature strikes back!’ she wrote, adding that the man laughed it all off. … Ms. Landauer provided more details on her Instagram page, saying the incident was a good example of someone persevering to achieve their goal. She said there were many nude sunbathers at the spot when the wild boars appeared. While the man was bathing, she writes, the boars calmly ate a pizza from his backpack and then ‘they were looking for a dessert.’ ‘They found this yellow bag and decided to take it away. But the man who owned it realized it was the bag with his laptop.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“We live in a unipolar world. … Multipolarity will come in time. But it is decades away.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in The New Republic on July 29, 1991.
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.