So much for that Trump pivot

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On the roster: So much for that Trump pivot – Election delay talk alarms Republicans – Will Biden veepstakes end with the safe pick? – Tech foes whiff on antitrust claims – Swiper no swiping!!!

A week ago today, we were looking at a very different kind of Donald Trump and Trump campaign.

Masks were patriotic, it was “not the right time” for a massive indoor rally in a coronavirus hotspot state and Americans had to confront the hard truth that the pandemic “will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”

That was just the kind of tone Trump needed to take going into a period that will probably determine whether he can turn around his failing re-election effort.

No issue will be as important to Trump’s chances than voter perceptions about the trajectory of the economy, which, of course, depend on the efforts to mitigate the coronavirus. And Trump’s best hope for creating economic optimism aside from corona curbs is to have the federal government blast out trillions of dollars more in stimulus and bailout funds.

Economists have been warning since the moment the last trillions geysered out that the risk of economic catastrophe when the money was gone would be severe. If the virus wasn’t under control by the end of July, they told us, the chances for deep damage would be very real. Without more pumping, we could slide into a long, painful recession.

With that as the backdrop for the negotiations over the promised additional relief, it was smart of Trump to adopt a sobersided tone that reflected the concerns of voters. If he can’t get the money flowing, the economy will crater and if the economy craters, voters will boot Trump out of the White House like he was shot out of a cannon.

Certainly Trump knows he’s losing. People who are winning campaigns don’t ask about delaying them.

By the way, the more Trump roars about trying to prevent mail-in balloting and raises new questions about the legitimacy of the election, the more tools he gives Biden to motivate Democrats to vote. Like bookstores that used to advertise racy texts as “banned in Boston,” Trump is turning the squarest, most adult behavior this side of a six-month dental checkup – completing and returning an absentee ballot – into some kind of daring, rebellious act.  

One other observation about this “delay the election” sassafras, it is another fine example of how Trump is so good at cutting Republicans off at the knees. When Joe Biden in April warned that Trump would try to “kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” the presidents’ supporters rushed forward to call it a baseless canard and accuse Biden of scaremongering. 

At the time, campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh showed the level of rhetorical restraint that so typifies his organization in his assessment of Biden’s charge: “Those are the incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality.”

Today, Murtaugh’s staffer, Hogan Gidley, declared that Trump was “just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created.” So, ixnay on the “incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings” then? 

And, bloop, just like that, Trump booted away another day and another chance to get his party united behind some policy that might convince voters that the Republicans deserve to remain in power.

Just a week after Trump seemed to be rousing himself to the idea that self-discipline and seriousness would be needed to navigate his way through the terrible predicament in which he finds himself and his country, we’re back to business as usual.

If we do end with Trump and the GOP getting tossed out on their ears in November we will certainly look back on this week as yet another inflection point.

Think about it. Today we got news that the damage already done to the economy in the second quarter was greater than any similar period ever recorded. More unhappily, we found out that layoffs were again accelerating. And unhappiest of all, we discovered that we had hit a new single-day high for coronavirus deaths.

That’s quite a Thursday morning.

Meantime Republicans are chasing their tails over relief efforts on which not only hang the stimulus payments Trump hopes will revive the economy and his chances, but also funds for re-opening schools and stopping deepening layoffs in state and local government.

The stakes could hardly be higher. So, what’re the president and the administration doing to save the day – aside from making things worse by trying to slip in money for White House renovations and a new FBI center? Zilch-o. Trump won’t negotiate himself and has Steve Mnuchin negotiating with Democrats without ever finishing negotiating with Republicans.

With all the bad economic news and Republican disarray, the Senate GOP is increasingly likely to cave completely to Democratic demands. They’ll be begging for a Pelosi-crafted plan by Monday. Democratic Senate candidates are rejoicing from coast to coast.

Like the ObamaCare debacle that foreshadowed the GOPs 2018 whipping, this has all the hallmarks of gross mismanagement and un-seriousness.  

And when the leader of the party in power is riffing on Twitter about delaying the election or sending out tweets with doctors contradicting his own advice about masks from a week ago, you can only assume that he’s given up trying to prove otherwise.

“It is not necessary that the former [Constitution] should be perfect; it is sufficient that the latter is more imperfect.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 38

As he lay dying, Rep. John Lewis wrote an essay with instructions to the New York Times that it not be  published until after his death. As Americans of every race and creed memorialize him in Atlanta today, the paper published Lewis piece here. We’d like you to read at least this brief excerpt: “Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring. When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

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

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%.]

(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)

Average approval: 40.8 percent  
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent  
Net Score: -16 points  
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.4 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.]  

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.  

Fox News: “President Trump on Thursday floated the possibility of delaying November’s general election, in a fiery new warning about the implications of mail-in ballots. In a tweet in which he claimed that the practice on a ‘universal’ scale would lead to ‘the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,’ Trump suggested: ‘Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???’ The president’s tweet comes 96 days before the Nov. 3 election, and with early voting in some states starting in just two months. It also comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated, with new cases of the virus spiking in many states. Trump’s suggestion coincided too with the federal government reporting on Thursday the worst economic contraction in the nation’s history, as the pandemic has flattened much of the economy and attempted moves by states to revive their economies have been hampered by a surge in new coronavirus cases.”

No proof that polls are missing Republican voters – NYT: “With polls showing Joe Biden holding a commanding lead, one question keeps popping up: Are these polls missing Trump voters? Self-identified Democrats outnumber Republicans in most surveys, sometimes by a wide margin. This might simply mean there are more Democrats than Republicans. But to critics, the partisan makeup of most public polls is self-evidently out of step with a closely divided country. There are many reasons the polls might ultimately be wrong in November, as many state polls were four years ago, but there’s no serious evidence that the polls are systematically missing Republican voters. There’s more evidence to the contrary — that the polls represent Republicans just fine, and President Trump still trails.”

NBC News: “With 18 days until the Democratic convention begins, it’s anyone’s guess whom Joe Biden picks as his running mate. … But at least if recent history is any guide, the safe bet is that Biden’s selection will be pretty conventional — when it comes to experience, qualifications and name identification. For the most part, candidates who are ahead in the presidential contest go with the safe, conventional choice — whether that ultimately works out for them or not. (And by ‘conventional,’ we mean ‘unsurprising’ or ‘less politically risky.’ If Biden picks a woman of color, it would make history, of course.) Think Joe Biden for Barack Obama in 2008. Or Tim Kaine for Hillary Clinton in ‘16. … But that also brings us to one of our favorite lessons about veepstakes: Since we’ve all been covering American politics, the VP choice ultimately doesn’t matter in who wins or loses. After all, if it truly did matter, then Michael Dukakis (with his pick of Lloyd Bentsen) would have beaten George H.W. Bush (with Dan Quayle).”

Behind the effort to sink Harris – CNBC: “Some of Joe Biden’s allies are waging a campaign behind the scenes to stop Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., from becoming his vice president. This disgruntled group of at least a dozen Biden backers, including a few of his top donors, initiated the move against Harris close to a month ago, just weeks before a decision is expected, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. Many who spoke to CNBC declined to be named as these efforts have been made in private. In some cases, her foes have taken their concerns directly to members of Biden’s VP search committee, led by former Sen. Chris Dodd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Cynthia Hogan, who previously served as counsel to the presumptive Democratic nominee when he was vice president under President Barack Obama.”

Obama goes all in on Biden fundraising – NYT: “At fund-raising events where he has pulled in more than $24 million for Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign in the past two months, former President Barack Obama has privately unleashed on President Trump to party donors… With less than 100 days until the presidential election, Mr. Obama has laid out the stakes of 2020 in forceful fashion. He has urged support for Mr. Biden, his former vice president, while worrying about the state of American democracy itself… A virtual conversation on Tuesday with the actor George Clooney sold out of tickets that ranged from $250 to as much as $250,000. … Donors who have paid six-figure sums to see Mr. Obama on Zoom — he held two other, more intimate, conversations for donors with Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and a major Democratic donor, and J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire governor of Illinois — have been privy to wide-ranging Q. and A. sessions about the state of politics and unvarnished analysis from the former president.”

Facing primary troubles, Tlaib won’t back Biden – Fox News: “Endorse Joe? Rashida Tlaib says no. The Michigan congresswoman and far-left ‘Squad’ member said this week she won’t back Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. ‘He hasn’t directly called me or anything, but no,’ Tlaib told Newsweek magazine about a Biden backing. ‘Right now I’m focused on my election, my constituents and my residents,’ she added. One reason, said Tlaib – who backed Bernie Sanders for president before he ended his primary run, and who faces a primary election of her own next Tuesday – is that she doesn’t want to get into debates with people in her district on whether Biden deserves their vote. … ‘If the ultimate goal is to get rid of Donald Trump, that doesn’t have to involve me actually endorsing Biden,’ she added. ‘My constituents don’t need to be bogged down in, ‘Is he the best candidate?’ That’s not what you have to convince my residents.’”

National Journal: “It was supposed to be a chance for Congress to present a united front against a sprawling tech industry increasingly seen as beyond the reach of antitrust law. But Wednesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, which brought together four of the most powerful technology executives to answer for the anticompetitive behavior Democrats claim they’ve uncovered in the course of a massive investigation, was devoid of nearly any discussion of antitrust law as it’s currently constituted in the United States. While Democratic lawmakers grilled the heads of Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon on the alleged harm their operations have wrought on competing companies, they did little to explain how that harm damages U.S. consumers. They also largely failed to articulate whether, or how, the controversial ‘consumer welfare standard’ of U.S. antitrust law—which predicates any antitrust action on the harm a company’s operations is causing to people’s pocketbooks—should be reformed or scrapped in response to the novel problems posed by the 21st-century digital marketplace.”

Poll: Americans who get news from social media are less engaged, knowledgeable – Pew Research Center: “The rise of social media has changed the information landscape in myriad ways, including the manner in which many Americans keep up with current events. In fact, social media is now among the most common pathways where people – particularly young adults – get their political news. A new Pew Research Center analysis of surveys conducted between October 2019 and June 2020 finds that those who rely most on social media for political news stand apart from other news consumers in a number of ways. These U.S. adults, for instance, tend to be less likely than other news consumers to closely follow major news stories, such as the coronavirus outbreak and the 2020 presidential election. And, perhaps tied to that, this group also tends to be less knowledgeable about these topics.”

Forbes: “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized for a procedure on Wednesday just weeks after announcing that she is undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrence of liver cancer — raising concerns because a vacancy could allow President Donald Trump to nominate his third conservative justice to the court. Ginsburg underwent a nonsurgical and ‘minimally invasive’ procedure at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York on a bile duct stent that was placed last August and is expected to be released from the hospital by the end of the week, spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said in a statement Wednesday night. This is the third time in three months that Ginsburg has been hospitalized: earlier this month she was hospitalized to treat an infection and in May she was treated for a benign gallbladder condition but called from the hospital to participate in oral arguments, which the Supreme Court held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

U.S. News and World: “Herman Cain, a former presidential candidate and business executive, died from a nearly month-long battle with the coronavirus, his official Twitter account confirmed on Thursday. Cain tested positive for the virus in late June and was admitted to a hospital in Atlanta on July 1, nearly two weeks after he attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cain, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 and founded the Godfather’s Pizza chain, died at the age of 74. ‘You’re never ready for the kind of news we are grappling with this morning. But we have no choice but to seek and find God’s strength and comfort to deal… #HermanCain,’ his account tweeted Thursday morning. Cain, who was briefly mentioned last year as a potential Trump pick for the Federal Reserve board, attended the president’s rally in Tulsa on June 20 as the city reported a spike in cases of COVID-19. …[It’s] unclear exactly how Cain, a co-chairman of Black Voices for Trump, contracted COVID-19.” 

The Judge’s Ruling: Portland protests are about dissent, and without dissent we’d have little freedom – Fox News

Ohio House of Representatives deposes Republican speaker indicted in massive corruption case – Cleveland Plain Dealer

Alabama GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville ignores D.C. quarantine order for fundraising visit – WaPo

“When he reached St. Peter’s gate, the first words to come out of his mouth will be 9-9-9.” – Mitt Romney on Herman Cain, per Fox News Capitol Hill producer Jason Donner.

“I am a County Administrator in a small county in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. We have an expression up here about the lake, ‘It’s not Great, it’s Superior.’ My question is that as a leader in small government I make a point to read stories from both conservative and liberal news outlets regarding the same story, but more importantly, I read the comments to see what the followers of said news outlets say about the story. The reason I do this is do get a better feel for our citizens and not ensure I am not just reinforcing my own beliefs/outlook as I run the County. My question is, what news outlets you would recommend for me to get a good balance of views. The easy answer is CNN/FOX, but I would like to hear your thoughts.” – Clark Schroeder, Ashland County, Wis.

[Ed. note: Oh my gosh, Mr. Schroeder! NEVER read the comments. Unmoderated comments sections are worse than Twitter, which is saying something. You’d get a better sense of resale political sentiment by listening to hobos arguing over the end of a bottle of muscatel. Think about how quickly trolls can drive out thoughtful, deliberative discussion. Like counterfeiters ruining a currency and a nation’s economy, these people destroy any hope of trustworthy discourse. That’s one of the reasons we love the Bleachers. We don’t have to publish the argyle bargle of the hobos nor do we have to waste time on cynical trolls. I would encourage you to read, watch and listen to news and opinion from a wide swath of sources but never, ever read the comments.]

“Usually your writing is straightforward but entitling the article on the Perdue ad an ‘ad deemed anti-Semitic’ is downright shilly-shallowing. Though some aspects of its production can be discussed, the ad was unquestionably anti-Semitic. Somebody digitally altered the nose of Perdue’s Jewish opponent to make it bigger. This alone suffices to make it intentionally anti-Semitic. The opponent is then pictured with a New York Jew, and the two of them are alleged to be trying to ‘buy’ the election. Someone was actively making a vey anti-Semitic ad. David Perdue approved this ad. His campaign claims he never even looked at it, which would not commend him. Even if this is true, did Perdue fire the Jew baiter who made the ad? Not that I have heard. Georgia certainly has a heritage that would make one pause. When Leo Frank was taken from a state penitentiary by some of Georgia’s leading citizens and murdered, the Governor fled for his life. The murderers and their families dominated Georgia’s government (and its US Senate delegation) for generations. I do not know how many of today’s Georgians would like the ad, but I suspect it would be quite a few.” – Marvant DuhonBloomington, Ind.

[Ed. note: I for one am a BIG fan of shilly shallying when it comes to headlines, especially ones where accusations of such odious behavior are involved. When people are accused of bad acts, my job isn’t to be the initial finder of fact but rather to chronicle the accusation — that goes for prosecutors who we say “allege” criminal activity as well as apparently well-founded claims of anti-Semitism. I’d also likely disagree with you about how many Georgians would like to see an anti-Semitic ad compared to the residents of other states. The hatreds the drove the 1915 lynching of Frank were hardly unique to Georgia or even the South in general. I’m quite confident that an ad playing on the hoary stereotypes about Jewish money and influence would play just as well (or poorly) on either side of Stone Mountain. When Indiana University students were accused of anti-Semitism last year, I’m pretty sure they weren’t all native Georgians. Nor would it be fair for me to say that your state was particularly prone to such bigotry because of its past. American politics, particularly of the populist kind, across the country has a long relationship with anti-Semitism. It’s a rotten business, but sadly not a new development. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to suspend the rules of responsible journalism — especially when it comes to breaking news. I can offer my conclusions in my own analyses, but when tacking a headline on an item on a developing story I’m a strong shilly shallier about substituting my own judgment for that of readers on a very serious accusation.]

“I thought your response to Nick from Pittsburgh [Wednesday] was so spot-on that I shared it on my Facebook page. I expect to be summarily shamed by both the right and the left for doing so.” – Patrick S. Duffy, Long Beach, Calif.

[Ed. note: The burning sensation you feel lets you know it’s working.]

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

Fox News: “A fox with an affinity for fashion is believed to have stolen over 100 shoes in Germany’s capital city. Residents of Berlin’s southwestern Zehlendorf neighborhood recently noticed the disappearance of footwear left outside their homes, according to local media. Among the slippers, sandals, and sneakers to go missing were local resident Christian Meyer’s running shoes, Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel reported. Meyer told the paper that he posted about his stolen shoes on Germany’s community noticeboard-sharing platform, where he learned that dozens of other shoes also had vanished in the area. While investigating the disappearances, he told the paper he caught a fox ‘red-handed’ with a pair of blue flip-flops in its mouth. Meyer took photos of the animal hauling off the footwear and later found its trove of multi-colored shoes. While Meyer has yet to recover his running shoes, at least three pairs of footwear have since been reclaimed by their rightful owners, the report said.”

“Israel is pilloried according to a moral standard to which no other nation in the world is held — not India, not Jordan, not the United States itself.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on May 25, 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.

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