The majority leader’s comments come as Congress seems far apart on a potential deal for coronavirus legislation, but as there is a heightened sense of urgency to pass a bill with boosted unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the week.
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On the roster: As clock ticks, McConnell accuses Dems of sabotage – I’ll Tell You What: Grace Coolidge was a cool chick – Trump backs off in Michigan – Biden ready to defend Harris against Dodd claims – Laugh it up, fuzzball
AS CLOCK TICKS, MCCONNELL ACCUSES DEMS OF SABOTAGE
Fox News: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said that Democrats were trying to ‘sabotage’ the coronavirus bill … for political reasons the same way … they stymied Senate Republicans’ police reform efforts last month. McConnell, R-Ky., made the remarks just days before Americans will lose their boosted unemployment benefits from the federal government and, for many, their rent will come due. Democrats have said that the $1 trillion GOP proposal, which is controversial within even the Republican caucus … does not do nearly enough. But McConnell accused Democrats of not stepping up to the table to negotiate over what he called a ‘serious’ proposal in contrast with House Democrats $3 trillion bill that was passed in May … ‘The only reason I can see that Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leader would sabotage negotiations is if, as some concluded when they killed police reform in June, they actually think bipartisan progress for the country would hurt their own political chances.’”
Trump pans Senate GOP stimulus plan as ‘semi-irrelevant’ – Fox News: “President Trump on Tuesday called the Senate Republicans’ coronavirus relief package ‘semi-irrelevant’ when asked whether he supported the legislation at a news conference, underscoring the deep divides between the White House, congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats as lawmakers scramble to pass something in the coming days. … ‘And we’ll be talking about it. There are also things that I very much support. But we’ll be negotiating. It’s sort of semi-irrelevant because the Democrats come with their needs and asks and the Republicans go with theirs. So we’ll be discussing that with [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch [McConnell] and all of the other people involved.’ The Senate package certainly doesn’t include all that Trump wants. Republicans refused to support a payroll tax cut, which Trump made clear was a priority. And Trump is right that the Senate GOP plan is almost certain to undergo a major overhaul before it reaches his desk.”
Pergram: Why the coronavirus bill won’t get finalized until the 11th hour – Fox News: “Congress constitutes its own temporal distortion. Its own wrinkles in the space-time continuum. Congress sometimes serves as a literal black hole, consuming time. It’s either nothing o’clock – or the 11th hour. That’s because little of consequence gets done on Capitol Hill until the 11th hour. And after months of a time vacuum amid coronavirus, the clock is ticking again on Capitol Hill. It’s the 11th hour, as lawmakers struggle to finalize the next round of pandemic legislation. ‘This won’t get done until the 11th hour,’ said one senior administration source to Fox about the bill recently. Sure about that? … The true deadline is the end of the week. Extra unemployment benefits Congress approved for workers to cope with the pandemic expire on Friday night. And the rent comes due for millions then, too. You can practically hear the chimes tolling.”
Mask foe Gohmert bumped from Texas trip after corona test – Politico: “Rep. Louie Gohmert — a Texas Republican who has been walking around the Capitol without a mask — has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple sources. Gohmert was scheduled to fly to Texas on Wednesday morning with President Donald Trump and tested positive in a pre-screen at the White House. The eighth-term Republican told CNN last month that he was not wearing a mask because he was being tested regularly for the coronavirus. ‘[I]f I get it,’ he told CNN in June, ‘you’ll never see me without a mask.’ Reps. Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.), Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Tom Rice (R-S.C.) have tested positive for the virus, along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).”
THE RULEBOOK: TEXAS IS BIGGER THAN FRANCE
“When Montesquieu recommends a small extent for republics, the standards he had in view were of dimensions far short of the limits of almost every one of these States. Neither Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, nor Georgia can by any means be compared with the models from which he reasoned and to which the terms of his description apply.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9
TIME OUT: LE CORBUZZIER
Smithsonian: “The same mathematical model that explains how crystals grow can also explain how tropical stingless bees build honeycombs in spiraling, multi-terraced shapes, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Bees from the genus Tetragonula specialize in sophisticated feats of architecture built from hexagonal beeswax cells. Each individual cell is both the landing spot for an egg and a building block for structures that can grow up to 20 levels high, Brandon Specktor reports for Live Science. Stingless bees’ hives can come in several shapes, including stacks of circles in a bulls-eye, a spiral, a double spiral, and a group of disorderly terraces. How and why bees build the complex shapes without any blueprints has perplexed scientists, but the researchers show that each individual bee might be following a few simple rules. … When each bee follows the same rules in a different part of the hive, a pattern emerges overall.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.6 percent
Biden: 51.8 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% – Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% – Biden 51%; Monmouth University: Trump 41% – Biden 53%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.4 percent
Net Score: -15.6 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; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve – 60% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 42% approve – 56% disapprove; Monmouth University: 41% approve – 54% disapprove.]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: GRACE COOLIDGE WAS A COOL CHICK
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss all of the political action from the White House and Congress as COVID-19 continues to challenge the United States. They discuss the GOP’s proposed stimulus bill, unemployment, the return of schools, and President Trump’s chance at reclaiming the 2020 election. Plus, Chris answers what Dana calls “the best trivia we’ve ever had.” LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
TRUMP BACKS OFF IN MICHIGAN
NYT: “President Trump’s campaign has quietly receded from the television airwaves in Michigan in recent weeks, shifting money elsewhere as one of the key Midwestern states that powered his surprise victory in 2016 threatens to move more firmly back into the Democratic column in 2020. Michigan began the year with expectations that it would be one of the most intense battlegrounds in the country, but its share of Trump television advertising dollars dwindled this summer as Joseph R. Biden Jr. built a steady advantage in the polls. Since the end of June, Mr. Trump has spent more money on ads in 10 other states — with Michigan falling behind even much smaller states like Iowa and Nevada — and in recent days, Mr. Trump’s campaign stopped buying ads in Michigan entirely. The Biden campaign has more than tripled what Mr. Trump spent on television in Michigan in the last month, by far the most lopsided advantage of any swing state where both are advertising.”
Trump stumps in battleground Texas – Houston Chronicle: “President Donald Trump is headed to Odessa and Midland today for his 16th visit to Texas during his presidency. Trump is set to land in Midland at 11:30 a.m. before going to Odessa for a fundraising event at the Marriott. The president will later tour an oil rig at Double Eagle Energy in Midland and talk about his energy policies. The president’s visit just a couple months before early voting begins highlights how Texas might see a closer presidential race than it has in decades. Three public polls show Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a dead heat, the Houston Chronicle reports. Before this, Texas was a reliable source of votes for Republicans. … Biden criticized Trump’s visit as the state reels from the coronavirus and Hurricane Hanna, the Houston Chronicle reports. ‘Mr. Trump, now isn’t the time for politicking or photo-ops,’ Biden said Wednesday morning.”
Dead heat in Georgia poll – Monmouth University: “Donald Trump and Joe Biden are engaged in a tight race for Georgia’s electoral votes according to the Monmouth University Poll. … Among all registered voters in Georgia, Trump is supported by 47% and Biden is supported by 47%, with 3% saying they will vote for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and 3% who are undecided. These results include 42% who are certain to vote for Trump and 39% who say the same for Biden. At the other end of the spectrum, 45% say they are not at all likely to vote for the incumbent and 44% say the same for challenger. … Overall, 46% of Georgia voters have a favorable opinion of Trump and 45% have an unfavorable one – including 38% very unfavorable. Biden gets a 41% favorable and 46% unfavorable rating, including 34% very unfavorable.”
BIDEN READY TO DEFEND HARRIS AGAINST DODD CLAIMS
USA Today: “Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was captured Tuesday holding a note with Sen. Kamala Harris‘ name printed across the top with talking points, including, ‘Do not hold grudges.’ The other talking points about Harris were: ‘Campaigned with me & Jill.’ ‘Talented.’ ‘Great help to campaign.’ ‘Great respect for her.’ Harris, D-Calif., was a Biden rival when she was running her own campaign for president but has since emerged as a top contender for the vice presidency. The does ‘not hold grudges’ talking point may be reference to the clash between the two at the first Democratic debate, when the former California attorney general went after Biden, who was considered the front-runner for most of 2019, on his civil rights record. … According to POLITICO, former Sen. Chris Dodd, who is a member of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, was stunned by Harris’ attack, reportedly saying, ‘She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse.’ Those comments have drawn criticism, especially from Democratic women, who say Harris is being held to a standard that wouldn’t apply to a man.”
Biden promises a pick next week – Bloomberg: “Joe Biden said Tuesday he would have his choice for a vice presidential running mate the first week of August. ‘I’m going to have a choice the first week in August and I promise I’ll let you know when I do,’ the Democratic presidential nominee told reporters after delivering a speech about the racial-equity part of his economic plan. Biden had previously pushed back his deadline for a decision from Aug. 1 to a bit later in the month. The Democratic National Convention starts on Aug. 17 and he is almost certain to announce his choice before that. The former vice president has pledged to choose a woman running mate. Last week he said that the group of candidates he was still considering included four Black women, among others.”
LOEFFLER MOVES AHEAD OF COLLINS IN GEORGIA POLL
AJC: “[A Monmouth University poll] showed close races in Georgia’s two U.S. Senate contests. Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue held a 49-43 lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff. … In Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, the free-for-all special election for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat, showed the Republican incumbent with a narrow advantage. Loeffler led the pack with 26% of support, followed by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins at 20%. Matt Lieberman was the top Democrat with 14% of the vote, trailed by Raphael Warnock at 9% and Ed Tarver at 5%. … Another 18% of voters are undecided. That contest will feature 21 candidates all on the same ballot with no primary to filter out nominees. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote – a highly likely scenario – the two top finishers head to a January runoff.”
House GOP looks to stave off more losses – Politico: “A slew of dismal summer polls and a persistent fundraising gap have left some Republicans fretting about a nightmare scenario in November: That they will fall further into the House minority. Publicly, House GOP leaders are declaring they can still net the 17 seats needed to flip the chamber. But privately, some party strategists concede it’s a much grimmer picture, with as many as 20 Republican seats at risk of falling into Democratic hands. Far from going on offense, the GOP could be forced to retrench in order to limit its losses. There’s a growing fear that President Donald Trump’s plummeting popularity in the suburbs could threaten GOP candidates in traditionally favorable districts, and that their party’s eagerness to go on offense might leave some underfunded incumbents and open GOP-held seats unprotected. Internal Democratic surveys in recent weeks have shown tight races in once-solid GOP seats in Indiana, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Montana that Trump carried handily 2016 — data that suggest the battleground is veering in a dangerous direction for the GOP.”
Kraushaar: Progressives’ House-race acid test – National Journal: “Two years ago, the notion of running a progressive Elizabeth Warren supporter in a Trump district in Texas would have been seen as political suicide. Now, Candace Valenzuela, a school-board member who talks about her path from homelessness to the pinnacle of local politics, is considered one of the Democrats’ top House recruits in the country. In the primary, she defeated a retired Air Force colonel, the type of candidate who would typically be seen as better-positioned to win over moderate swing voters. Meanwhile, the biggest-name Democratic congressional hopeful in Texas is former gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Davis, whose abortion-rights activism backfired in the conservative-minded red state during her 2014 race, is suddenly looking like a viable candidate in the reliably Republican 21st District, which is even more Trump-friendly than the state at large.”
Tennessee Senate primary getting nasty – Politico: “So much for Southern hospitality. This fall, Tennessee will say goodbye to retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of the last of the genteel Republican moderates in the chamber. And the race to replace him has turned into perhaps the ugliest Republican primary in the country — with spurious super PAC attacks, Mitt Romney being invoked as a slur and President Donald Trump lining up on opposite sides as Sen. Ted Cruz. The race was never supposed to be competitive: The Trump-backed candidate, Bill Hagerty — who served as the president’s ambassador to Japan — was on a glide path. Trump endorsed Hagerty before he even left Tokyo or entered the race. But as the contest has tightened in the run-up to the Aug. 6 election, Hagerty’s main opponent, Manny Sethi, has found traction by claiming to be the true, unapologetic Trumpian conservative in the race — while blasting Hagerty as a squishy, Mitt Romney-loving phony.”
Dems racking up vote-by-mail court wins – Bloomberg: “Democrats on Tuesday notched two victories in lawsuits aimed at making it easier to vote by mail during the pandemic. The state of Rhode Island agreed to eliminate witness or notary requirements for people voting by mail throughout the 2020 elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A judge signed off on the agreement Tuesday. The case was brought on behalf of two voting rights advocacy groups — the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and Common Cause Rhode Island… Also on Tuesday, a judge in Minnesota blocked election officials from enforcing a state law that prohibited voters from helping more than three other people to cast absentee ballots, handing a significant win to two national Democratic organizations that sued to end the provisions.”
Ex-GOPers turn Trump vengeance on Senate majority, call Collins a ‘stooge’ – Axios: “The Lincoln Project, a group founded by “never Trump” Republicans that has produced some of the cycle’s most memorable ads, today begins spending $4 million to blitz Senate races in Alaska, Maine and Montana. This is the Lincoln Project’s biggest buy to date, and the Senate ads will air for seven to 10 days in key markets. The ads — which include ‘Real’ in Alaska and ‘Strong’ in Montana — support challengers to incumbent Republicans. ‘Trump Stooge,’ airing in Maine, criticizes Sen. Susan Collins for not standing up to President Trump. ‘Maine deserves a leader, not a Trump stooge,’ the ad says. ‘We’re moving into the active phase of the fall campaign as voters, stuck at home because of COVID-19, tune in earlier than ever,’ communications director Keith Edwards told Axios.”
Ponnuru: From ‘never Trump’ to ‘never Republican’ – Bloomberg: “[The] tactical case for conducting a Sherman’s march through the GOP is weak. The problem is not just that very few voters cast their ballots for tactical reasons. It’s that it’s not at all clear that the Republican Party can be burned down or Trumpism extinguished. Let’s say that the November elections lead to Republicans losing the White House, 20 House seats, 12 Senate seats and five governorships: a result considerably worse for the Republicans than most observers expect. That would leave them with roughly the same amount of power they had in 2009, after George W. Bush’s disastrous second term. Eight years later, they had a majority of everything. Or think back to the aftermath of Watergate. Four years after Gerald Ford left office, they had the White House again and their first Senate majority in decades. Parties can bounce back quickly, even after defeats that look epochal.”
DEAL TO TAKE TRUMP RIOT SQUAD OUT OF PORTLAND
Oregonian: “Federal officers will start pulling out of Portland on Thursday in a phased withdrawal and state troopers will arrive instead to help safeguard the federal courthouse downtown that has become a national symbol of political conflict as well as a focal point for protests calling for consequential police reform. Gov. Kate Brown made the announcement in a statement Wednesday and described the federal officers ‘an occupying force’ that has ‘refused accountability and brought strife to our community.’ Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf, in a separate announcement, said he had been in talks with the governor in the last day and agreed to a ‘joint plan to end the violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement.’ But he tempered the statement by saying the ‘augmented’ federal force would remain in Portland ‘until the violent activity toward our facility ends. We are not removing any law enforcement while our facilities and law enforcement remain under attack.’”
Follows weeks of unrest – Fox News: “Tuesday marked the 62nd consecutive night demonstrations continued in downtown Portland in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis. Portland police officers clashed with demonstrators before federal agents arrived to protect the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, Multnomah County Justice Center, and other government buildings the July 4 weekend. Crowds — ranging from hundreds to thousands of people — have tried almost every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the courthouse. They’ve set fires and hurled fireworks, Molotov cocktails, and bricks, rocks, and bottles at the agents inside. Authorities this week reinforced the fence by putting concrete highway barriers around it. Federal officers often respond by firing tear gas, pepper balls, and impact munitions.”
TRUMP SAYS TROOP WITHDRAWAL TO PUNISH GERMANY
USA Today: “The Pentagon is proceeding with President Donald Trump’s plan to move 12,000 U.S. troops out of Germany – about 6,400 forces will be brought home and 5,400 shifted to other countries in Europe, U.S. defense officials said Wednesday. The move will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete. It has attracted bipartisan congressional opposition, raised concerns among NATO allies and appears to be fueled at least in part by Trump’s displeasure at Germany’s failure to spend more on defense. The Pentagon said the action was part of its plan to strategically ‘reposition’ U.S. forces in Europe to better counter threats from Russia and China. … ‘They take advantage of us on trade, and they take advantage of us on the military,’ Trump said of Germany on Wednesday, speaking to White House reporters. ‘So we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent,’ Trump added, before heading to Texas for a campaign event.”
No talk of bounties on U.S. troops on Trump-Putin call – Axios: “President Trump has never confronted Vladimir Putin with intelligence indicating Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, he told ‘Axios on HBO’ in an interview on Tuesday. Why it matters: Democrats have seized on the issue, and Trump’s reluctance to discuss it, as evidence he’s unwilling to challenge Putin even when American lives are at stake. Trump spoke with Putin on Thursday, and subsequently deflected a question about whether he’d raised the alleged bounty scheme, saying on Monday: ‘We don’t talk about what we discussed, but we had plenty of discussion.’ In Tuesday’s interview, he was definitive: ‘I have never discussed it with him.’ Pressed on why he didn’t raise the matter in Thursday’s call, he said: ‘That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.’”
Trump looks to squeeze those brought to the U.S. illegally as minors in wake of SupCo ruling limiting his powers – WSJ
Barr hearing substantially pointless, ugly – Fox News
Much nattering, many nabobs at tech hearing – Fox News
AUDIBLE: WHAT IF THE FLAMINGO PUTS ON BARRY WHITE?
“It’s like a giraffe and a flamingo. They’re both at a zoo. A dumb person may think they could mate for offspring. A smart person knows that’s impossible. That’s our bills. They’re unable to mate.” – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said during a meeting a Tuesday with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I am currently a graduate student studying math and engineering so, I admit, my grasp on the finer details of history is not as good as I would like it to be. I often hear it stated that Jefferson and Hamilton created the ideological divide in American politics with their differing philosophies. The implication being, that Jefferson is the father of the democrats and Hamilton the father of republicanism. … Any thoughts on the shifting sentiments in the established parties or could you recommend and books that can explain this in more detail? Final question, do find it conceivable that the Republican Party can ever adopt a form of Thatcher-ism or is it more likely that we will be plagued by populism for the foreseeable future?” – Nicholas J. McCombie, Pittsburgh, Pa.
“What’s your take on what would happen if Trump is defeated and a new Democrat majority is elected to the Senate, but between election day and January 20th there is a vacancy among the liberal side of the Supreme Court. Trump’s last hurrah?” – Ron Smith, Larned, Kan.[Ed. note: It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where a lame duck president could jam through a Supreme Court confirmation in a matter of a few weeks. With a challenging 2020 Senate map for Republicans there would be little chance of getting 51 votes for such a naked power grab. Nor can imagine Lindsey Graham and the other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreeing to some kind of sloppy sprint for hearings. I think the window is already closed on any more Supreme Court confirmations before next year, even if a vacancy were to occur.]
“So trading on inside stock information is all right after December 20, 2020? Once they are elected, they can break the law? What a bunch of overprivileged morons!” – Edward L. Bradley III, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.[Ed. note: I think what you’re referring to is the Biden campaign’s limit on stock trades by staff members. If Biden does win, his transition staff would immediately be subject to the same disclosure rules and limits that govern federal workers. The restrictions are an expansion of the rules, not a limitation of them.]
“Please explain about the always-enjoyed Q&A going to Fox Nation—are we now expected to pay for what we previously read in email? That would be a *big* disappointment as I’m not interested in the FN streaming service for anything else.” – Dot Nuechterlein, Valparaiso, Ind.[Ed. note: Ms. Nuechterlein, we would never! The Bleachers are staying right where they are. The video version is in addition to, not a replacement for, the written version. I’ll be right here.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
LAUGH IT UP, FUZZBALL
Daily Mirror [U.K.]: “An Australian mum has been slammed with Chewbacca noise phone calls after her vengeful ex-boyfriend posted her phone number around her neighborhood. Jessica has been inundated with voice mails from strangers making Wookiee roars for two weeks after their broke up turned bitter. But it seemed her bitter ex-boyfriend’s prank backfired – as the Queensland mum told reporters she actually found it quite funny. Her former partner’s Star Wars-themed plot involved an advertisement promising a chance to win [$72] for the ‘best’ Chewbacca impersonation. He plastered posters around Cairns in northern Queensland with a picture of Han Solo‘s shaggy sidekick and his ex’s phone number after their three-year-relationship came to an end. The mum-of-three old 9News: ‘This has got to be the most childish break-up I’ve ever had.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Anomic violence, on the other hand, is truly senseless. Thus crimes of madness elicit from us revulsion; crimes of need (like Jean Valjean‘s) sympathy; but crimes for fun, for a video game, for no purpose, elicit rage.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 24, 2001.
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.