What’s next? $600 a week unemployment benefits are slated to expire amid coronavirus uptick.

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On the roster: New normal? Layoffs stay stubbornly high – I’ll Tell You What: Kept warm by outrage – Republicans slash convention size – Dems meddle with Kansas GOP Senate primary – They’re McLovin it

NEW NORMAL? LAYOFFS STAY STUBBORNLY HIGH
Bloomberg: “The number of Americans filing for unemployment barely declined last week, signaling challenges to the economic recovery are multiplying. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs totaled 1.3 million in the week ended July 11, down 10,000 from the prior period — the smallest decline since March, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. Another 17.3 million Americans claimed ongoing unemployment benefits in state programs in the week ended July 4, indicating economic pain remains widespread. The figures add to signs that the labor-market recovery is stalling as coronavirus cases surge and reopenings pause or reverse across the country. Conditions are at risk of worsening with the potential expiration of supplemental federal jobless benefits, along with demand that continues to be depressed in a variety of sectors: American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc., for instance, have indicated they could lay off tens of thousands later this year.”

Economy going sideways – The Atlantic: “Now the economy is traveling sideways, as business failures mount and the virus continues to maim and kill. New applications for unemployment insurance, for instance, are leveling off at more than 1 million a week – more than double the highest rate reached during the Great Recession, a sign that more job losses are becoming permanent. After rising when the government sent stimulus checks and expanded unemployment-insurance payments, consumer spending is falling again, down 10 percent from where it was a year ago. Homebase, a provider of human-resources software, says that the rebound has hit a ‘plateau,’ in terms of hours worked, share of employees working, and number of businesses open.”

Mortgage rate falls to all-time low – Fox Business: “Mortgage rates in the U.S. tumbled to historic lows in the week ended July 16. The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 2.98 percent, falling below the 3 percent level for the first time since record-keeping began in 1971, according to mortgage investor Freddie Mac. Meanwhile, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate slid to a fresh low of 2.48 percent while a 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage had a rate of 3.06 percent, up slightly from last week’s reading of 3.02 percent.”

Nation’s second-largest bank posts huge loss driven by defaults – WSJ: “Bank of America Corp.’s profit tumbled 52% in the second quarter after the bank set aside billions of dollars to prepare for soured loans. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank said Thursday that it earned $3.53 billion, versus the $7.35 billion it made a year earlier. Per share, earnings of 37 cents were above the 28 cents that analysts polled by FactSet had forecast. Profit was hit by an increase in the bank’s provision for loan losses, reflecting concern across the banking industry that the recession resulting from the coronavirus pandemic will result in a wave of defaults.”

Congress under pressure – Politico: “Surging coronavirus infections. Bars and gyms forced to reshut their doors. Talk of new layoffs. The economy’s check-engine light is blinking red again. As lawmakers return to work next week to debate a new stimulus package with a price tag in the trillions, the summer Covid-19 sequel is playing a lot like the spring original. The urgency this time isn’t so much to cushion the economic blow, but to keep the nascent economic recovery on track. The worrying data points are accumulating: California, accounting for nearly 15 percent of the national economy, abruptly shut down many businesses on Monday, following new closures in eight other states. The number of Americans who say they’re unemployed has risen over the past three weeks, the Census Bureau has said. And leaders of some the nation’s largest companies warned this week that they’re bracing for a longer, more painful recession than they initially expected.”

THE RULEBOOK: RAISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
“If momentary rays of glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been so justly celebrated.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 9

TIME OUT: TEENAGE WASTELAND
Smithsonian: “For the elite scientists, engineers and military brass of the Army’s remote nuclear weapons facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico, the night of July 15–16, 1945, was one of excruciating tension. The world’s first atomic bomb, nicknamed the ‘Gadget,’ was scheduled to be tested at a carefully selected site… It represented the culmination of the Manhattan Project, the massive, top-secret effort mobilizing American scientific ingenuity and industrial might … Today, those few who are still alive are a rare breed. Among them is Peter Lax, a 94-year-old mathematics genius and retired professor at New York University, who at the time of the Trinity test was just a 19-year-old corporal stationed at Los Alamos. Recruited for his already-evident mathematical prowess, Lax was far from a key player in the development of the bomb, but his memories of the time shed light on the challenge facing the scientists, many of whom had fled Hitler’s Europe and found refuge in the United States.”

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

SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.6 percent
Biden: 52.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 1.2 points, Trump ↑ 0.6 points
[Average includes: NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% – Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% – Biden 52%; Monmouth: Trump 41% – Biden 53%; USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 41% – Biden 53%; NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 44% – Biden 52%.]

BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 39.4 percent
Average disapproval: 57 percent
Net Score: -17.6 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.8 points
[Average includes: NBC News/WSJ: 42% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve – 60% disapprove; Monmouth: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; Gallup: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; Gallup: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve – 58% disapprove.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: KEPT WARM BY OUTRAGE
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss Jeff Sessions‘ loss in Alabama’s GOP Primary on Tuesday, Democrats who are pushing to end the filibuster in the Senate, the potential for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire from the Supreme Court, and how mail-in voting will contribute to the election from a variety of angles. Plus, Chris answers COVID-19 mailbag questions and electoral map trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

REPUBLICANS SLASH CONVENTION SIZE
WaPo: “The Republican Party will hold a scaled-back convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month that includes a mix of outdoor and indoor venues, according to a letter sent to delegates. The Thursday letter from Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, obtained by The Washington Post, said admittance will be limited to only regular delegates for the first three days of the convention — or about 2,500 people. For the final day, when the president attends, delegates will get a guest, and alternate delegates can also attend — or 6,000 to 7,000 people. In the letter, McDaniel says the changes are to comply with Florida rules after the party moved most of the convention from North Carolina. ‘When we made these changes, we had hoped to be able to plan a traditional convention celebration to which we are all accustomed. However, adjustments must be made to comply with state and local health guidelines,’ she said.”

Trump topples campaign manager, promotes former top Christie aide – Fox News: “Brad Parscale’s abrupt demotion Wednesday night ‘shocked’ some inside the Trump campaign, sources familiar with the move told Fox News, even as President Trump’s sliding poll numbers and the recent Tulsa rally debacle had raised questions about his future. The president announced on Facebook and later on Twitter Wednesday night that Parscale would be replaced as campaign manager by Bill Stepien, who had served as deputy campaign manager. Parscale, who ran Trump’s digital operations in 2016 and was promoted to Trump’s right-hand man for the 2020 cycle, is expected to shift back to his previous role. Two top campaign officials told Fox News that Parscale will serve as a senior adviser focusing entirely on the campaign’s digital operation and data collection. Speculation has swirled for weeks about Parscale’s future, as Trump has fallen behind Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden by double digits in multiple polls…”

White House plumbers look for leaks – Politico: “In the middle of a devastating pandemic and a searing economic crisis, the White House has an urgent question for its colleagues across the administration: Are you loyal enough to President Donald Trump? The White House’s presidential personnel office is conducting one-on-one interviews with health officials and hundreds of other political appointees across federal agencies, an exercise some of the subjects have called ‘loyalty tests’ to root out threats of leaks and other potentially subversive acts just months before the presidential election, according to interviews with 15 current and former senior administration officials. The interviews are being arranged with officials across a wide range of departments including Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury, Labor and Commerce and include the top tier of Trump aides: Senate-confirmed appointees.”

Trump’s low ceiling – NBC News: “Fifty percent of all registered voters in our poll ‘strongly’ disapprove of the president. Fifty percent say there is no chance at all they will vote for him. Fifty-two percent — in a separate question — say they’re ‘very uncomfortable’ about his candidacy. Fifty-one percent are backing Joe Biden in the horserace, versus 40 percent for Trump. One of the old maxims of American politics used to be that an incumbent (for any office) needs to be at 50 percent to be safe for re-election — otherwise there’s a majority of voters who exist that don’t support him or her. … As mentioned above, our NBC News/WSJ poll has 50 percent of registered voters saying there is no chance at all they will vote for Trump. And another 37 percent of voters saying the same about Biden. That leaves 13 percent who are up for grabs, saying there is a fair/small/slight chance they might change their minds about either Trump or Biden.”

Trump shaves Biden’s Arizona lead, still 5 points back – KTAR: “Likely voters in Arizona remained consistent in a presidential poll released Thursday, with Joe Biden staying ahead of incumbent Donald Trump. OH Predictive Insights’ survey of 600 likely voters had the Democratic former vice president leading, 49%-44%. Trump made up some ground since a May poll, when Biden led 50%-43%. But while the Republican closed the gap overall, he fell back when participants were asked to rate their enthusiasm for their candidate. Voters who said they are extremely enthusiastic to vote for Trump went from 70% in April to 58% in the latest poll. For Biden, his supporters’ enthusiasm went from 60% to 63%.”

DEMS MEDDLE WITH KANSAS GOP SENATE PRIMARY
WashEx: “The Democratic establishment is spending big money to meddle in the Republican Senate primary in Kansas, using a super PAC to run advertising boosting immigration hawk Kris Kobach over GOP establishment favorite Rep. Roger Marshall. The super PAC is controlled by Democratic operatives linked to their party’s leadership, and Republicans say the move amounts to dirty tricks intended to elevate weaker Kobach and manipulate the outcome of the Aug. 4 primary. Sunflower State PAC is investing nearly $1 million to air a television advertisement that promotes Kobach as a stalwart conservative allied with President Trump and that undercuts Marshall as a flip-flopper at odds with the White House.”

Senate GOP scrambles to close fundraising gap – WSJ: “Republicans are sounding alarms after Democratic Senate candidates outraised their GOP opponents in the first six months of the year, a gulf driven largely by small-dollar online contributions. Democratic candidates in the 11 most competitive Senate races collectively raised $67.3 million in the second quarter of the year, $20.5 million more than their Republican counterparts, according to fundraising reports filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. The total includes two Republicans who gave almost $6.5 million…”

Dems retake partisan identification advantage – Gallup: “Since January, Americans’ party preferences have shifted dramatically in the Democratic Party’s direction. What had been a two-percentage-point Republican advantage in U.S. party identification and leaning has become an 11-point Democratic advantage, with more of that movement reflecting a loss in Republican identification and leaning (down eight points) than a gain in Democratic identification and leaning (up five points). Currently, half of U.S. adults identify as Democrats (32%) or are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (18%). Meanwhile, 39% identify as Republicans (26%) or are Republican leaners (13%). These results are based on monthly averages of Gallup U.S. telephone surveys in 2020. In January and February, the months in which the U.S. Senate tried and acquitted President Donald Trump on impeachment charges brought by the House of Representatives, slightly more Americans preferred the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Manhattan district attorney accused Trump of delay ‘strategy’ in tax return fight – NYT

Kemp blocks Georgia cities, counties from mandating masks – Fox News

Russian hackers linked with attempt to steal vaccine data  Bloomberg

The Judge’s Ruling: Even hateful, hurtful and harmful speech is protected speech – Fox News

AUDIBLE: JUST JARED
Jared Kushner was the campaign manager yesterday, is the campaign manager today and will be the campaign manager tomorrow. Brad [Parscale] took the bullet for Jared.”– A ‘source close to the White House’ talking to NBC News about the ouster of campaign manager Brad Parscale.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I was curious if it would be possible to put a human translation of the Hamilton Federalist quotes underneath the actual quote? Man I hope I’m not alone, but every day I try to puzzle out what he’s trying to say and most days I fail. It gets a bit frustrating. Or is there a link you know of that explains each section in the vernacular maybe?” – Erik Koster, Cunningham, Tenn.

[Ed. note: Translation is a tricky business, Mr. Koster. Looking up at my bookshelf I can spy at least seven different translations of the Bible. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. I mostly use an out-of-date edition of the Oxford Annotated Bible. I like the approach to translation, it has all my notes in it dating back to college and it once was my mother’s. There are some “wrong” answers in translation, but no “right” one. But I am particularly leery, though, of promises of conversational style. Idiomatic American English varies so much from place to place, culture to culture that nuances are lost and clarity is sacrificed for the sake of accessibility. But I am sympathetic. Wednesday’s edition was a tough one because we used a passage about taxation in honor of Tax Day but without the context around it, could have been puzzling. We will do better to provide bracketed context in such cases, and we thank you for the reminder. But I would also encourage you and every citizen to take on the papers as they were written. A study guide may help, too. I see that Prof. Jack Rokove from Stanford has a new companion edition to The Federalist in the Cambridge Companions series. I expect it would be excellent to use. If you’ve never read them all or studied their context in a comprehensive way, I promise it would be rewarding.]

“The best coffee is the French press and/or cowboy coffee. This hack will work IF you use paper towels. Once you are finished, even with cold grounds. Take the press out and put two tablespoons of water in the carafe. Swish the grounds and pour the out over the paper towel in a bowl or the strainer you spoke of and let the water drain. The carafe will be clean, and once the paper towel drains throw the whole thing away. If there are grounds in the carafe or on the press rinse again with a bit of water over the paper towel and you are done!! Enjoy this small passion of mine. Coffee is life for me in my quarantine bubble. Much love to you and your boys, from me and my son.” –Polly Barrett, Waco, Texas

[Ed. note: It’s so obvious! Thank you! From bacon blotter to lettuce freshener to cheese keeper, a roll of Bounty is a mile of miracles.]

“Bullroar, sir!  In the body politick, bobbles and botches are all relative. You’ve clearly seen the mote in Trump’s eye while ignoring the beam in yours (or the Dems’).  This virus was a new and evolving situation, not one with a known or decipherable outcome like a trigonometry problem on the SAT exam. Most people with an ounce of objectivity think his execution of the policy levers at hand produced extraordinarily better intermediate outcomes as events unfolded than his opponent and his handlers would have. Or do you still think Trump shut down travelers from China due to xenophobia? As for ‘plunging forward’ on reopening schools, I would refer you to the FACTS recited on Fox News Channel by Dr. Scott Atlas, MD of the Hoover Institution, in full agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics. That more ‘bad reviews’ will follow is axiomatic, given the state of what passes for journalism these days. The only thing accurate about your view is the Basement Bureaucrats rehearsing any Biden statement longer than a sentence and a half will continue nanny nanny boo boo as a campaign strategy, no matter what Trump does for good or ill.” – Howard Bartlett, Casselberry, Fla.

[Ed. note: Well then, Mr. Bartlett! I’m sure you do believe that “people with an ounce of objectivity think his execution of the policy levers at hand produced extraordinarily better intermediate outcomes as events unfolded than his opponent and his handlers would have.” And we know your counterparts believe that had former Vice President Joe Biden been president tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. That’s all a bunch of, to borrow your term, bullroar. Whether Trump would have done better than a hypothetical President Biden is a totally pointless exercise from a rational perspective. That will, of course, not prevent both sides from exploiting their own conjectures and treating them as fact. What is incontrovertible is that voters have concluded overwhelmingly that President Trump has mishandled the pandemic. The WSJ poll out today finds 59 percent of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of coronavirus. It was 62 percent in Quinnipiac’s poll out Wednesday and tracks with pretty much every public poll. You may think that’s undeserved. You may think Trump is the victim of unfair coverage. You may think it’s a raw deal. But that won’t win Michigan. You can’t tell voters they’re wrong, you have to convince them to come around. Remember, the issue isn’t what Trump wants to happen — Americans would love to see schools safely reopened and the economy rocketing upward — but how voters feel the incumbent is doing in delivering those goals. As Trump learned when he was bashing Barack Obama for years on everything from his golfing habits to his failure to disarm North Korea, there are considerable advantages to not being in office. Obama knew that too when he was running against a third Republican term in 2008. Incumbency is a huge plus, but challengers always have the advantage of getting to live in an imaginary alternate reality while those in office have to live with their real results.]

“I read your leading article in the Halftime report of 7/15 ‘GOING TO SCHOOL ON THE POLITICS OF CORONA’ with interest. I agree with you on most of your items and even agree with your take on how President Trump and associates are communicating. BUT, there is a service you can do to your readers and the public as a whole which is a heck of a lot more meaningful then ‘months after months of bobbles and botches on coronavirus’ with no clear explanation. That is the same tact that most in the media take and drives me BUG NUTS. Why don’t you and your colleagues take a real look at all of the decisions made by the administration in relation to COVID-19 from the START. Then look at the information that was available at the time they made the decision (not the information available now) and determine if, at the time their decision was made, was it a correct one. Doing a needed analysis this way is the right way to judge the decisions validity and the real effectiveness of our leaders. This is what the public really needs and is a service few, if any, provide. This is something I believe you can do better than others and without political leaning. The public deserves this.” – Alan EdelkindDublin, N.H.

[Ed. note: I wish we could help on that front, Mr. Edelkind but we don’t wade out into the deep waters of policy here. What we focus on are voter perceptions and candidate efforts to shape those perceptions. I know that may sound like a cop out, but I am neither smart enough nor blessed with enough time to be a policy wonk and an election forecaster. But I also tend to think that policy mistakes don’t matter as much as we might tend to believe. I think voters in crisis situations tend to be very forgiving of leaders who make well-intentioned mistakes amid rapidly evolving circumstances. Approval ratings for governors over the past four months would tend to support that thesis. There are, of course, limits, but I don’t think Trump has been politically hurt that much by the actual policy decisions he and his administration have made. I think the reason Trump is so far underwater is his incapacity for effective communication. The guy just can’t seem to get it together and deliver any kind of clear, consistent message to voters that he: cares about their well-being, is focused on the problem and is implementing an understandable strategy to help them win. The administration’s public-facing response has been a disaster, and it seems largely because Trump can’t control himself and deliver the kind of leadership Americans expect from their presidents in trying times. Trump could have made every policy choice exactly right and still suffer from his bad judgment on communications.]

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

THEY’RE MCLOVIN IT
NY Post: “In a pandemic, no one knows you’re underage. That’s what Gen Z has discovered as they’ve updated the fake ID for the COVID-19 era, hitting up liquor stores dressed as elderly grandmas wearing coronavirus face masks. The ‘prank’ has taken social media platform TikTok by storm, with videos of users bedecked as boozehound nannas – seemingly victorious, bottles in hand – racking up millions of views. … ‘Now that we have to wear masks, this is the best time to buy alcohol with a fake ID since the early ’80s,’ stand-up comedian Jason Lawhead posted on Twitter. … A little artistry can go a long way. One TikTok video with over 1.5 million views depicts a blond girl getting wrinkles drawn on with makeup. The video then shows her using a walking frame in a car park, clutching a bottle of pink liquid, wearing a baggy jumper, wire-rimmed glasses and a babushka headscarf.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Over the past hundred years, Americans have elected 13 Republican Administrations and 12 Democratic ones. Power could not be more evenly divided. American presidential elections are essentially a flip of the coin.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Nov. 20, 2000.

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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