What happens if there’s no clear winner?

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On the roster: What happens if there’s no clear winner? – Friday deadline looms with no virus deal in sight – Trump provides moderator list in push for earlier debate – Trump holds narrow lead in Iowa – Ya burnt

There has been a lot of loose talk from both presidential candidates about rigged or stolen elections of late, and many predict a lengthy legal battle over the presidency.

President Trump warned this week that the outcome could be in dispute for “months and months” or “for years.”

But let’s not get ourselves all knotted up in the claims of our hyper hyperbolic president or his rhetorically sloppy challenger, Joe Biden. Instead, let’s run through the realities of an inconclusive presidential election.

First, let’s remember that it’s Congress, not the courts, that certify the results of a presidential election. Each state chooses its electors and those electors’ votes are transmitted by the state elections boss – usually a secretary of state – to the Senate.

On Jan. 6 a joint session of the next Congress will meet to ratify those findings and declare the candidate that has won a majority of the vote – 270 votes or more – the president.

What the president is suggesting is that there would not be results from all the states by then or, what he and Biden have both suggested, is that the results may be rigged or disputed. And that’s where things could get very interesting.

Courts certainly do have their place in this, but that happens long before Congress acts. State elections officials have to certify their electors before the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which is Dec. 14 this year. All of the legal jockeying that takes place will have to occur between Election Day and then.

Those who recall the drama around the 2000 election will remember that what was in legal dispute was the power of Florida’s secretary of state to certify the results despite demands from Al Gore’s campaign that recounts continue. The court deferred to state authorities and Florida certified its electors.

Given how long counting has taken in some state primaries this year it’s not unreasonable to think that we could see legal battles rage until the last minute, but one way or the other, by Dec. 14, they’re obliged to convene their electors and transmit the results by certified mail.

But what if some states don’t finish in time or what if secretaries of state certify electors with claims widely in dispute? The Constitution has an answer.

If the disputed or incomplete results don’t prevent a candidate from reaching 270 votes then it’s no big deal. Congress can ignore what’s missing and still pick a president.

But if the number of missing or disputed electors is large enough or the election close enough that the absence prevents either candidate from getting to 270, the House gets to choose. Just as would be the case in a 269-269 tie, the House would select one of the candidates who has won electoral votes.

We have some precedent here. In 1877, the results from three states were in dispute in a race close enough to call the final result in question, so Congress created a bipartisan panel to review the results. The House certified the panel’s findings and awarded the presidency to Rutherford Hayes despite his evident initial defeat. (It went along with some horse trading in which Republicans agreed to end military Reconstruction.)

But however Congress gets there, on Jan. 6 the members will either certify the results or the House will get to work making its choice. Here, the House acts differently than usual. The delegations from each of the 50 states get one vote. California and Montana would be equals.

The current Congress is pretty narrowly divided with 25 Republican-majority delegations, 24 Democrat-majority delegations and one tie, Pennsylvania. We don’t know what the next Congress will look like exactly, but we can assume it won’t be wildly different.

There are currently four states with caucus control decided by one seat: Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Michigan. One imagines there would be a great deal of deal making in such places. It would be hot stuff, indeed.

But however it goes, the House would pick a president before noon on Jan. 20 when the current president’s term expires.

Our Founders and the Constitution contemplated the possibility of contested elections and on three separate occasions it has fallen to Congress to resolve such disputes. If we end up screwing up this election beyond repair or if the participants try to wreck the republic in order to keep or obtain power, it won’t be the end of us.

Instead, it will be a heckuva lesson in civics and politics for us all.

“It is a sound and important principle that the representative ought to be acquainted with the interests and circumstances of his constituents.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 56

WaPo: “Koko Kondo had a secret mission as a girl: revenge. She was determined to find the person who dropped the atomic bomb on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. The attack, one of two atomic bombs the United States dropped to end World War II, had caused the suffering and the terrible burns she saw on the faces of girls at her father’s church. She wanted to square off and give them a punch. She got her chance in 1955. Ten-year-old Kondo appeared on … ‘This is Your Life’ that was featuring her father, the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto. … Kondo stared in hatred at another guest: Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb. … Kondo saw tears well in Lewis’s eyes, and her hatred melted away. ‘He was not a monster; he was just another human being. … I knew that I should hate the war, not him,’ Kondo [said].”

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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: 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.]

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.

Bloomberg: “The White House and congressional Democrats are running up against a self-imposed Friday deadline to strike a deal on a virus relief package with little sign they’ve narrowed most fundamental differences. Neither side indicated they would walk away from negotiations if an agreement can’t be reached. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said unless some compromise can be found soon, more negotiations may be fruitless. ‘Our objective is to try to reach an understanding of the major issues by Friday,’ Mnuchin told reporters after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday. … Meadows said the administration and Republicans have already given more ground than Democrats in talks. He said if a deal was still out of reach by the end of the week, President Donald Trump was prepared to use executive authority to provide forbearance on student loans, impose a moratorium on evictions and extend supplemental unemployment insurance.”

Pelosi rejects short-term federal unemployment extension, again – Fox News: “The top two Congressional Democrats Thursday accused Republicans of trying to ‘nickel and dime’ struggling Americans by pushing for the smallest coronavirus relief bill possible and not understanding the gravity of the pandemic and economic fallout. The comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at a Capitol news conference revealed Democrats are standing firm for a massive stimulus package, similar to House Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act, and have rejected GOP efforts to slim down the response. Pelosi said while there’s been progress negotiating with Republicans, ‘we’re not there yet.’ She again refused to pass a short-term $600-per-week extension to the expired unemployment benefits, arguing the need for a bigger deal is the priority.”

Job loss damage becoming permanent – Politico: “Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 1.19 million last week million last week, the Labor Department reported. The decline follows two weeks of increases in mid-July as states imposed new shutdowns. There are 31.3 million U.S. workers receiving jobless aid payments. Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the coronavirus recession, but for many of them the news is getting even worse: Their positions are going away forever. Permanent losses have so far made up only a fraction of the jobs that have vanished since states began shutting down their economies in March, with the vast majority of unemployed workers classified as on temporary layoff. But those numbers are steadily increasing — reaching 2.9 million in June — as companies start to move from temporary layoffs to permanent cuts. The number is widely expected to rise further when the Labor Department reports July data on Friday.”

U.S. News & World: “President Donald Trump’s team is requesting a fourth presidential debate against former Vice President Joe Biden be added in early September… In the letter sent to the Commission on Presidential Debates on Wednesday, Trump confidante and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani asked the nonpartisan commission to schedule a fourth debate in early September or, if they decline the proposal, suggested moving up the third and final debate to the first week in September. He proposed adding another debate that would be held before Sept. 4, which is when North Carolina begins sending out absentee ballots. … Giuliani submitted a list of two dozen suggested debate moderators, naming ‘Today’ show co-anchor Hoda Kotb, CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and a number of Fox News hosts, including Bret Baier, Maria Bartiromo and Harris Faulkner. Giuliani also requested information about back-up plans for debate locations ‘in the event additional COVID-19 complications arise at any of the locations.’”

Trump tops Biden as both tout large July fundraising hauls – Fox News: “President Trump’s re-election campaign says that it and the Republican National Committee (RNC) and their joint fundraising committees combined brought in an eye-popping $165 million in contributions last month. The Wednesday evening statement from the Trump campaign also touted that they now have more than $300 million cash on hand as of the end of July. The combined Trump campaign/RNC haul is a record and is up more than $30 million from the $131 million they raised in June. Their war chest total appears to be a slight increase from the $295 million they had in their campaign coffers at the end of June. The campaign spotlighted that July was their largest online fundraising month ever. … The announcement from Trump’s re-election team came soon after Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s presidential campaign reported that it and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and their joint fundraising committees combined hauled in $140 million in last month.”

Monmouth University: “Both the presidential contest and the U.S. Senate race in Iowa are very competitive according to the Monmouth (‘Mon-muth’) University Poll. … Among all registered voters in Iowa, Donald Trump is supported by 48% and Joe Biden is supported by 45%. … Overall, 45% of Iowa voters have a favorable opinion of Trump and 50% have an unfavorable view. Biden gets a similar rating of 43% favorable and 49% unfavorable. Slightly more Iowa voters have a very unfavorable opinion of Trump (45%) than Biden (38%). In the election for U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Joni Ernst (48%) and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield (45%) are locked in a tight battle. Libertarian Rick Stewart earns 2%, independent Suzanne Herzog has 1%, and another 3% are undecided. … The poll also finds that 40% of Iowa voters say it is very likely they will vote by mail rather than in person this November.”

Senate races in Kentucky, South Carolina and Maine are tight – Quinnipiac University: “In three high-profile Senate races in the states of Kentucky, South Carolina, and Maine, three longtime Republican incumbents are facing competitive races, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University poll of registered voters in each of those states released today. … Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a slight lead over Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, 49 – 44 percent, with 5 percent undecided. … The U.S. Senate race in South Carolina is a tie, with 44 percent of voters backing Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and 44 percent backing Democrat Jaime Harrison. … The U.S. Senate race in Maine is too close to call with Democrat Sara Gideon getting 47 percent of the vote and Senator Susan Collins getting 43 percent.”

GOP Senate super PAC launches $21M ad buy – Politico: “Republicans’ chief Senate super PAC is launching a new $21 million TV and radio ad buy in August across five races as the party continues to fight to protect its majority against massive Democratic spending. Senate Leadership Fund, the outside group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will launch ads starting next week in Montana, Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina, and will also go up in Arizona later this month, according to details shared first with POLITICO. The August wave represents an earlier-than-expected launch for the super PAC, which had previously booked $90 million in ads set to run across the Senate map starting after Labor Day. The five states are all ones in which Republican incumbents are vulnerable and are considered by both parties to be among the most competitive and expensive races on the map. Senate Leadership Fund had previously booked air time in all five of the states for after Labor Day, along with Colorado, Kentucky and Maine.”

Fox News: “Joe Biden says he doesn’t ‘hold grudges’ against Sen. Kamala Harris of California for her takedown of the former vice president at the first Democratic presidential primary debate 14 months ago. And in an interview with reporters that aired Thursday morning during the virtual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said that Harris is ‘very much in contention’ as Biden decides whom he’ll choose as his running mate. Speculation that Harris might be Biden’s choice increased last week… Asked in the interview that aired Thursday about [former Sen. Chris] Dodd’s [concerns about Harris], Biden remarked, ‘He didn’t say that to the press, he was talking to somebody offline, and it was repeated.’ And pointing to Harris, the former vice president emphasized that, ‘I don’t hold grudges.’”

Arnon Mishkin: Biden could benefit by skipping Democratic Convention – Fox News: “The announcement Wednesday that former Vice President Joe Biden will not travel to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee to accept his party’s presidential nomination because of the coronavirus pandemic could be a plus for his presidential campaign. … Now with no need to travel to the Democratic Convention, Biden can continue his shelter-in-place campaign from home. Since Biden is leading Trump by significant margins in opinion polls among voters nationally and in key states, he has little incentive to change his strategy and start traveling around the country campaigning. The very real danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic gives Biden a good excuse to stay home and portray himself as a responsible candidate concerned with public health. When a president is running for reelection, the campaign invariably turns into a referendum on the incumbent. That’s truer than ever this year.”

Fox News: “Polls are open in Tennessee, where two Republicans who tout their support for President Trump but bash each other are facing off in a Senate primary Thursday to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander. The primary showdown between Bill Hagerty and Dr. Manny Sethi also pits the president against two top conservatives – Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Hagerty doesn’t waste an opportunity to remind voters that he’s backed by Trump. ‘Conservative Bill Hagerty. Endorsed by President Trump. Hagerty and Trump will rebuild our economy,’ says the narrator in one of the Tennessee Republican’s recent TV ads. … In the Trump era, a presidential endorsement is usually enough to put a GOP candidate over the top in the Republican primary. But Hagerty’s one-time lead over Sethi disappeared in recent weeks. … Sethi – who’s running as an outsider and an insurgent candidate – is also trying to claim the Trump mantle. He touts that he voted for Trump in Tennessee’s March 2016 Republican presidential primary and points out that Hagerty supported Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the GOP primaries four years ago.”

Both candidates center campaigns around supporting Trump – NYT: “The increasingly toxic primary, in a state once known for its genteel politics, highlights the transformation of the Republican Party since Mr. Alexander first captured this seat nearly two decades ago. Whereas Mr. Alexander, 80, centered his first Senate primary message on electoral experience and education policy, his would-be successors have defined their pitches almost entirely in terms of Donald Trump — campaigning not on ideas and vision but on a blanket promise to support the president, and to spurn those who cross him. In a state where 94 percent of Republican voters support Mr. Trump, it’s not a bad strategy. But for some observers, the lead-up to Thursday’s election has signified the undignified demise of the longtime centrist flavor of Tennessee Republicanism. Politicians who might have once aspired to the bipartisan statesmanship of Senator Howard Baker are now happy to contort themselves to the ideological and dispositional demands of Trumpism.”

NBC News: “New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Thursday against the National Rifle Association and four individuals, including powerful leader Wayne LaPierre, seeking to dissolve the gun rights advocacy group for ‘years of illegal self-dealings’ that funded a ‘lavish lifestyle’ for its top executives. James said the not-for-profit organization undercut its charitable mission by engaging in illegal financial conduct, including diverting millions of dollars ‘for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.’ ‘The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law,’ she said. Also named in the complaint are Wilson ‘Woody’ Phillips, a former treasurer and chief financial officer; Joshua Powell, a former chief of staff and the executive director of general operations; and John Frazer, the corporate secretary and general counsel.”

Ohio governor tests positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump visitFox News

As Trump intensifies ObamaCare attacks, red state voters embrace itWashTimes

Pergram: Beware the Ides of August and why this one is primed to be the dooziest of dooziesFox News

Acting State Department inspector general resigns WSJ

The Judge’s Ruling: Unlawful federal spying on journalists in Portland should cost officials their jobsFox News

“I have a 23-year-old son whom I love dearly, whose politics are very, very different from my own and from the rest of our family. My son and I will have some robust disagreements over some matters of policy, not all. And yet, at the end of the day, you know, I love him dearly and he loves me.” – Former national security adviser, and Democratic vice president contender, Susan Rice in an interview with NPR.

“I think you may have misread Hamilton [in Wednesday’s Rulebook]. He was writing about the ‘Chief Magistrate’ aka Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Nothing to do with the College.” – Dennis Gallion, Griffin, Ga.

[Ed. note: I can see why you would think so, Mr. Gallion. We now use the term “magistrate,” on those rare occasions when we do, to refer to judicial officials. The federal courts and some states refer to first-tier judges who handle preliminary hearings and adjudicate minor offenses or small claims as “magistrates.” Certainly the word has an explicit legal role in its origins. The magistrates of ancient Rome held various judicial authorities over the span of the monarchy, republic and empire, but it’s the base word, “magus” or “master,” that is the key to understanding. The way to think of a magistrate is as the Romans meant it: one empowered to administrate. Those lower-level judges that may have caused your confusion are so named because they are carrying out administrative functions so that the superior judges are free to deal with the cases themselves. What the Framers and their contemporaries meant by “magistrate” was one with the authority to administer, including on certain judicial kinds of matters as part of the ordinary administration of government. While the greatest power would be with the people and their representatives in Congress, the president – the chief magistrate – would take care of those things that are not suited to congressional deliberation. In our system prior to our defeat of the Founders’ vision, Congress would create laws and the executive would be the master of implementing those laws. The reason presidents were given such broad power was in part because it was assumed they would need latitude in order to carry out the stated wishes of Congress. Now, presidents just make up laws as they like, disregard the laws they don’t and dare the courts to deny them or Congress to impeach them. It is a dangerous habit and one that will eventually be our undoing as a country if we can’t get things back in working order. You are far from the only one who has forgotten the proper role of the president as an administrator – one whose power is beneath that of the people by their representatives in Congress. By the way, the only time the Constitution ever mentions the chief justice of the Supreme Court is the passing instruction that he will be the one to preside over an impeachment trial. So the Framers assumed that there would be such a person but left it to Congress and the court to sort out how such a position would be filled.]

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WPIX: “Oliver Neligan, a veteran and retired MTA worker, was on his way to Sunday morning mass when he noticed a man following him from the deli where he just picked up his morning coffee. Neligan left the shop at the corner of 60th Street and Queens Boulevard in Woodside, heading for 8 a.m. service at Saint Sebastian Catholic Church, just about six blocks away. ‘When I went to take a sip of my coffee, he jumped me from the back and put his hands around my neck,’ the 84-year-old Irish immigrant recalled. ‘I threw the coffee cup up and I tried to hit him with it,’ he told PIX11 Wednesday. ‘Then he grabbed me and I kind of wrestled with him, and we went down.’ … ‘I grabbed the mask out from his face and he took off running,’ Neligan recounted at the scene of the crime. ‘He didn’t get my money,’ he said.”

“At the heart of all baseball sentimentalism is this confusion of the young and the good.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on May 12, 1989.

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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