The president argues the anti-monument movement is misguided; John Roberts reports from the White House.

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On the roster: The bubblicious Trump campaign – I’ll Tell You What: There are no historians in the mob – Corona surge spooks re-opening – Biden booming in battlegrounds – Look out Jeremiah

The most telling story in all of the postmortems of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 face-plant is the one about the campaign union volunteers heading from Iowa to defend Michigan in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Clinton was getting crushed in Iowa, and had been for weeks, while things were looking tight in the Great Lakes State. But when the bosses at the campaign headquarters in Brooklyn got word of the enterprising union members’ move, they urgently ordered them back to Iowa.

Why? Because Brooklyn wanted to trick Republicans into spending money in Iowa and not shift their focus to Michigan and other “blue wall” states where the race was tightening in the closing days.

The secret to winning those states was, apparently, to do almost nothing to demonstrate interest or urgency while pretending that the states that weren’t competitive were actually the competitive ones.

You need a lot of really smart people to come up with a strategy that stupid.

But it also requires a stubborn devotion to ignoring reality. Clinton’s campaign couldn’t fix itself because the candidate and her team refused to acknowledge the facts on the ground because they did not comport with their preferred worldview. The bubble was so thick that no breath of fresh air could ever penetrate.

So, what was Clinton’s opponent doing in the closing weeks? Donald Trump was on a white-knuckle ride following the release of a tape of him bragging about how he can grab women he meets by the genitals and kiss them because he is a celebrity.

Trump’s numbers plummeted. His national average dropped under 40 percent and his deficit to Clinton reached its highest point of the campaign at more than 7 points. Republican leaders were telling Trump to drop out of the race and let Mike Pence try to prevent a top-to-bottom wipeout. After months of GOP anxiety, the worst seemed to be coming true.

But then Trump did the most surprising thing of his campaign: He straightened up. Having been convinced that he was heading for ignominy, Trump calmed down, started reading from the teleprompter and offered a version of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” focused on traditional Republican appeals on taxes, the judiciary and other suburban-friendly policies.

Trump then caught a break from James Comey, who re-inserted himself in the race to revive questions about Clinton’s mishandling of state secrets – with a bonus cameo appearance by her top aide’s disgraced husband, Anthony Weiner.

And while it is true that Trump was very, very lucky with Comey and the dunderheadedness of the Clinton campaign, his surprise victory would not have been possible if he hadn’t been willing in mid-October to radically alter his behavior and approach to the election.

He could change. Clinton could not.

So, what is it going to take this time around for Trump to straighten up? He’s getting pasted far worse than he ever did in 2016. He’s back at his low-water mark at or just below 40 percent but his opponent is doing what Clinton never could and capitalizing. Joe Biden is at or above 50 percent and he’s not even breaking a sweat.

Sen. John Thune, the number-two Republican in the Senate, warned Trump publicly this week that things have to change. Thune, hardly a pot-shot guy, is expressing the concerns of every Senate Republican we have talked to privately: That the GOP is facing a serious landslide and the loss of the upper chamber.

“It will probably require not only a message that deals with substance and policy but, I think, a message that conveys, perhaps, a different tone,” Thune told reporters. Trust us when we say that’s a fastball from the laconic loyalist from South Dakota.

But Trump and his campaign are acting like Team Hillary four years ago. The polls are wrong, they say. We’re winning, they claim. All is well, they exclaim in a reedy wail.

There is an aloofness to Trump’s re-election effort that surpasses any campaign we have ever seen.

Arizona is struggling terribly with coronavirus and there is a bipartisan plea for precautions like masks and social distancing. What does the campaign do? Pack 2,000 supporters into a megachurch for a maskless rally. Hard to imagine a more tone-deaf way to try to win a swing state.

Trump’s administration is extending international travel restrictions that impose considerable economic and emotional hardships on the part of citizens but that officials say are crucially important. What does his campaign do? Get a waiver so that Nigel Farage can travel from Britain to a rally in Oklahoma. What could more perfectly telegraph a disconnection from voters’ concerns?

Or how about this one? Federal officials warn Americans that the coming weeks will be so crucial in arresting the spread of the virus and that Americans should inconvenience themselves and go without their normal amusements for the greater good.

The president is going to his country club in New Jersey for a break this weekend, a state whose governor is trying to clamp down on a potential re-infection after a terrible spring. Asked whether Trump would abide by state orders to not interact with locals on his visit, a White House spokesman said he would not and huffed, “The president of the United States is not a civilian.”

And that seems to be exactly the problem. This is a campaign badly out of touch.

“Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 55 

TIME: “NASA announced Wednesday that it is naming the agency’s headquarters building in Washington D.C., after it’s first African American female engineer: Mary W. Jackson… Jackson’s story resonated around the world in the popular movie Hidden Figures, which was based on the 2016 book by Margot Lee Shetterly: ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.’ … Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, officially became NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958. She started out with NASA in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, before leading ‘programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers,’ NASA’s press release said. She posthumously won the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019.”

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

Trump: 38.8 percent
Biden: 50.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.4 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 0.2 points; Trump ↓ 3 points
[Average includes: CNBC: Trump 38% – Biden 47%; NYT/Sienna: Trump 36% – Biden 50%; Fox News: Trump 38% – Biden 50%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; CNN: Trump 41% – Biden 55%]

(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (103 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15)
Lean R/Likely R: (186 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]

Average approval: 41.2 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent
Net Score: -13.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.4 points
[Average includes: CNBC: 39% approve – 52% disapprove; NYT/Siena: 41% approve – 56% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve – 55% disapprove; CNN: 40% approve – 57% disapprove]

This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the destruction and defacement of monuments across the country, Senate Democrats’ plan to block the GOP police reform Bill, and how President Trump’s reelection bid looks amidst some negative polling numbers. They also comment on political newcomer Madison Cawthorn’s win in North Carolina and Erik Larson’s The Splendid and The Vile. Plus, Chris answers signatory trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

AP: “Coronavirus case numbers are rising to dire new levels in several U.S. states and around the world, potentially wiping out two months of progress in fighting the pandemic and prompting governments and businesses to impose new restrictions… American hospital officials and health experts, meanwhile, are warning that politicians focusing on the economy and a public tired of being cooped up are letting a deadly medical disaster spiral to new heights. The 34,700 COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday returned the U.S. to near its late April peak of 36,400 new cases in one day, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Several states have set single-day case records this week, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some also broke hospitalization records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina…. The virus has been blamed for over 120,000 U.S. deaths — the highest toll in the world — and more than 2.3 million confirmed infections nationwide.”

Sky-high layoffs continue for 14th straight week – NYT: “1.5 million workers filed new claims for state unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, the 14th week in a row that the figure has topped one million. An additional 728,000 filed for benefits from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded emergency program aimed at covering the self-employed, independent contractors and other workers who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. The total number of people collecting state unemployment insurance is 19.5 million, down from nearly 25 million in early May. The latest data come amid conflicting signals for the economy. On the one hand, New York and some other places that were hard hit are starting to get back to business.”

Abbott offers urgent warning for Texans CBS News: “Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday the state is facing a ‘massive outbreak’ in the coronavirus pandemic and that greater restrictions may be necessary. Abbott made the comments during an interview with CBS affiliate KFDA-TV in Amarillo, Texas. When asked if he still considered the Texas panhandle a ‘hot spot’ for coronavirus infection, Abbott replied, ‘There is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the state of Texas.’ … ‘We are looking at greater restrictions,’ Abbott said, adding that some new restrictions could be localized to areas that are ‘running tight on hospital capacity.’ New restrictions would be a reversal of Texas’ reopening plan, which has been moving forward this month despite the continued increase in cases and hospitalizations.”

NYT: “President Trump has lost significant ground in the six battleground states that clinched his Electoral College victory in 2016, according to New York Times/Siena College surveys, with Joseph R. Biden Jr. opening double-digit leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Mr. Trump’s once-commanding advantage among white voters has nearly vanished, a development that would all but preclude the president’s re-election if it persists. Mr. Biden now has a 21-point lead among white college graduates, and the president is losing among white voters in the three Northern battleground states — not by much, but he won them by nearly 10 points in 2016. Four years ago, Mr. Trump’s strength in the disproportionately white working-class battleground states allowed him to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. The surveys indicate that the president continues to fare better in these relatively white battleground states than he does nationwide. A separate Times/Siena survey released on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading by 14 points nationwide, 50 percent to 36 percent.”

Key Biden union ally accused of pension misdeeds – WSJ: “The head of a major firefighters union, a supporter of Democratic Party causes and a confidant of presidential candidate Joe Biden, is mired in an internal dispute over allegations of financial mismanagement, improper pension payouts and misuse of union resources for personal expenses. Harold Schaitberger, the longtime president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, is accused by the union’s treasurer of prematurely collecting well over $1 million in payments from a union pension fund while still working at the union. … Mr. Schaitberger, 74 years old, also failed to pay roughly $1 million in taxes on more than $3 million in deferred compensation over two decades as president, according to union officials … Mr. Schaitberger also faces scrutiny from current and former union officials for charging the union for thousands of dollars in steak dinners, bar tabs and music downloads, according to tax filings and current and former members of its Washington staff.”

Fiorina says she will vote for Biden  The Atlantic: “Republicans who say Donald Trump should lose in November but insist they won’t vote for Joe Biden aren’t being honest, Carly Fiorina argues. Fiorina was a Republican candidate for president just four years ago, and was briefly Ted Cruz’s prospective running mate. Trump needs to go, she says—and that means she’s voting for Biden. Fiorina is not going to keep quiet, write in another candidate, or vote third-party. ‘I’ve been very clear that I can’t support Donald Trump,’ she told me, in an interview that can be heard in full on the latest episode of The Ticket. ‘And elections are binary choices.’ She struggled with the decision, and whether to go public. But she said that this struggle is one Republicans need to have—including those who have rationalized supporting Trump despite their disagreements, because of some of his policies or judicial appointments.”

Politico: “President Donald Trump wasn’t the only one thrown off course by a lower-than-expected turnout at his comeback rally in Tulsa. Republican officials and Trump campaign aides, some of whom have been working since last year to plan the party’s convention festivities, said the disappointing event last weekend in Oklahoma imparted a critical lesson as they look ahead to Jacksonville, Fla., where Trump will deliver his acceptance speech as the GOP’s presidential nominee in late August: Learn to manage expectations and plan for trouble. ‘The last thing we want to do is overpromise and underdeliver,’ said an adviser to the Trump campaign. ‘Obviously we wish Tulsa had not turned out the way it did, but it was a useful reminder of what we hope to avoid next time.’ The debacle that unfolded in Tulsa … has raised the stakes for the Jacksonville convention, where hundreds of Republican delegates, party leaders and MAGA devotees will send Trump off to battle against his presumptive Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.”

Report: Secret Service agents ordered to quarantine after Tulsa rally Fox News: “Dozens of Secret Service personnel were instructed to self-quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus following President Donald Trump’s rally last week in Tulsa, Okla., according to a report. The order came after two Secret Service members and at least eight Trump campaign advance staffers tested positive for the virus, including two staffers who learned of their infection after the president returned to Washington on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported. In a statement to Fox News, a Secret Service spokeswoman said the agency would not confirm the details of the Post report.”

Dems lay out plans for virtual convention Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Organizers upended the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday as they told state delegations not to travel to Milwaukee, moved the convention to a smaller venue and added satellite events around the country. But even as Democrats downsize their convention – in contrast to what Republicans are doing – they say former Vice President Joe Biden will still formally accept the nomination in Milwaukee. ‘Vice President Biden intends to proudly accept his party’s nomination in Milwaukee and take the next step forward towards making Donald Trump a one-term president,’ Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement. ‘The city of Milwaukee has been an incredible partner and we are committed to highlighting Wisconsin as a key battleground state at our convention this August.’”

CBS News: “The House is poised to approve a wide-ranging police reform bill proposed by Democrats on Thursday, after Senate Democrats blocked a more modest proposal from moving forward in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill, titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, comes amid continuing protests against police brutality and racial violence that have rocked cities across the country. Floyd, a black man, was killed in May by a Minneapolis police officer who pinned his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes. ‘Today we have the opportunity and the obligation to ensure that his death and the death of so many others is not in vain,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Thursday morning. Pelosi noted that Thursday marks exactly one month since Floyd was killed. The House is set to debate and vote on the bill later in the day.”

Pergram: ‘Congress may have missed its moment’ – Fox News: “The Senate failed to start debate on a police-reform bill Wednesday, blocked by Democrats who preferred the House legislation. [Tim] Scott wrote his own police-reform bill for Senate Republicans. He argued that in many respects, the House Democrats’ measure, crafted primary by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., ‘went too far.’ But, Scott conceded his bill and the one crafted by Bass had about ‘90 percent’ similarities. … The biggest difference in the legislation drafted by Scott and Bass: qualified immunity. Democrats have insisted on curbing qualified immunity, a shield police officers often would deploy to protect themselves from lawsuits and prosecution. Scott called the Democrats’ request a ‘poison pill,’ and qualified immunity was one of the few issues [Mark] Meadows flagged with the House Democrats’ bill. … The House is set to pass its bill on Thursday, barring an invasion of murder hornets.”

U.S. Marshals asked to protect monuments nationwideNY Post: “U.S. Marshals have been told they should gear up to defend national monuments across the country, after several of the structures were toppled or vandalized during recent protests, a report said on Wednesday. The service ‘has been asked to immediately prepare to provide federal law enforcement support to protect national monuments,’ Marshals Assistant Director Andrew C. Smith wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post. ‘This is a challenging assignment due to the breadth of possible targets for criminal activity,’ Smith wrote. To coordinate, the Marshals Incident Management Team will start a Joint Operations Center in Springfield, Va., and every Special Operations Group deputy will be made available to help as soon as Thursday, he wrote.”

Mounting criticism ahead of Trump’s trip to Mount Rushmore AP: “President Donald Trump’s plans to kick off Independence Day with a showy display at Mount Rushmore are drawing sharp criticism from Native Americans who view the monument as a desecration of land violently stolen from them and used to pay homage to leaders hostile to native people. Several groups led by Native American activists are planning protests for Trump’s July 3 visit, part of Trump’s ‘comeback’ campaign for a nation reeling from sickness, unemployment and, recently, social unrest. The event is slated to include fighter jets thundering over the 79-year-old stone monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills and the first fireworks display at the site since 2009.”

The Judge’s Ruling: The war on statues – This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why the statue protests don’t erase history, but admit that good men did very bad things: “Should we really forget Washington, Jefferson and Madison? We have come a long way since the attitudes and the eras that permitted the most grotesque exploitation of human beings by others, the most abominable legal institution in our history, and the most hypocritical suppression of human worth in the history of the Western world – slavery in America. Though it legally ended with the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1868, slavery has had an afterlife almost as hateful as the institution itself. The afterlife has consisted of laws, customs and attitudes intended to repress the lives and liberties of African-Americans.” More here.

NYT: “President Trump’s erratic performance in office and his deteriorating standing in the polls is posing a grave threat to his party’s Senate majority, imperiling incumbents in crucial swing states and undermining Republican prospects in one of the few states they had hoped to gain a seat, according to a new poll of registered voters by The New York Times and Siena College. Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, a Republican, trails her Democratic opponent, Mark Kelly, by nine percentage points while Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina is behind his Democratic rival, Cal Cunningham, by three. … In Michigan, which Senate Republicans viewed as one of their few opportunities to go on the offensive this year, Senator Gary Peters, a first-term Democrat, is up by 10 percentage points over John James, who is one of the G.O.P.’s most prized recruits. The poll showed that the same voters who are fleeing the president — highly educated white Americans, many of them once-reliable Republicans — are providing an advantage to Democratic Senate candidates.”

Delayed elections the new normal – AP: “Kentucky and New York had primaries Tuesday, but the winners of the closest races probably won’t be known until next week. What’s going on? Get used to it. Slow vote counts and delayed results are a feature of elections during the pandemic and are likely to continue into the general election in November, when many election officials say that, absent a landslide, it won’t be clear who won the presidential election for several days.”

Watchdog report shows IRS sent stimulus checks to more than 1 million dead citizensPolitico

SupCo strengthens Trump admin’s deportation powersAP

WH Council of Economic Advisers Acting Chairman, Tomas Philipson, to step downWSJ

“Everyone should just wear a damn mask, like you guys are, like I am right now.” – Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talking to reporters about the efforts to control a surge in coronavirus infections.

“You repeat Politico’s claim that before this week’s results Trump had a ‘perfect endorsement record’ in GOP primaries. My memory tells me that this is not true, that a few of those whom Trump endorsed did not win their Republican primaries. Keep up the good work.” – Marvant Duhon, Bloomington, Ind.

[Ed. note: I confess I did not give it much thought at the time. It’s obvious that Trump has been on the losing side of some primaries — notably “Big” Luther Strange’s loss to Roy Moore. And he also backed incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman this year before he was stripped of his job by Virginia Republicans for officiating a same-sex wedding. But whether perfect streaks are perfect or just mostly perfect doesn’t really matter to us as much as the obvious fact that Trump long maintained a stranglehold on GOP primaries. What makes the North Carolina case notable was the involvement of former Rep. Mark Meadows, now White House chief of staff, who seems to have sold Trump a bill of goods on getting involved in the race.]

“Just wondering about your take on the ongoing destruction of statues around the country, mostly of the Confederate variety. Given your West Virginia roots, does it seem strange to you that little has been said about the multitude of buildings, bridges, highways, schools, etc. named after the founder and first Exalted Cyclops of the West Virginia Ku Klux Klan chapter? I know he is revered in West Virginia, but I thought Lincoln was revered too.” – Pat Conroy, West Lake Hills, Texas

[Ed. note: Lincoln was not much revered in West Virginia for most of the 20th century. I will not bore you with West Virginia history, but basically once the Confederates in the southern part of the state got the vote back — along with the huge growth of the coal industry in the region and, eventually, the New Deal — the power shifted from Wheeling in the north to Charleston in the south. For 80 years or so, that was the political dynamic. Power has shifted again in the state from blue to red and, increasingly, from south to north because of the economic collapse of the south and growth in the north-central part of the state and the Eastern Panhandle. As for Byrd, it sounds like maybe you want West Virginians to to knock him from his plinth. I always thought it was weird to name so many things after any living person, particularly when what that person did was spend other people’s money on the causes he preferred. A courthouse or a bridge, sure, but it got deep. As for the fact that Byrd expressed enthusiasm for bigotry in his 20s and 30s, I certainly believed him when he said he repented of it. I suppose if leaders in his now-Republican home state wants to un-person the man at whose feet so many of the same folks once groveled for pork spending, that’s their call. Seems pretty petty to me given the fact that the things were named for Byrd in his post-Klan, anti-racist career and not for his race-baiting and that the state has so many need that have to be urgently addressed. We have to make accommodations for the fact that people do change their minds. But you’ll seldom go wrong underestimating the pettiness of politicians.]

“Hi Chris, I know (and greatly appreciate) that your Halftime Report goes on year round, but have been trained not to pay attention to polling numbers until after Labor Day or at least two weeks after the end of both nominating conventions. Does this old saw still cut wood? Or is this time different?” – Matt Lincoln, Portola Valley, Calif.

[Ed. note: I guess that would fall into the category of not watching a baseball game until the 7th inning. If you don’t really like baseball or aren’t that concerned with the outcome, that may be a better choice. But as for us, we like to watch the game from start to finish.]

“Hi folks. Reading (and remembering) his words from ‘The Point Of It All’ strikes me as so very poignant – not only because I miss Charles the way all y’all do, but also because I miss the schooling that gave me the same feeling of reverence for our Constitution that Charles so obviously felt in his every word and deed.” – Guy Goidwin, Lecanto, Fla.

[Ed. note: It is amazing to me that he has been gone now for two years. Wouldn’t you love to hear what he would have to say about all this craziness…]

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

KUTV: “The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is encouraging people to hunt bullfrogs — and you don’t need a license to do so. Bullfrogs are an invasive species in Utah that will eat just about anything, including snakes, fish, toads, and mice. There is no limit and no season for hunting bullfrogs in Utah, many of which can be found in ponds and marshes along the Wasatch Front. And many of Utah’s bullfrogs are gigantic growing up to 8 inches and weighing 1.5 pounds.”

“The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Examiner on Oct. 19, 2009.

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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