The Trump show goes into reruns
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On the roster: The Trump show goes into reruns – Pennsylvania moving out of reach for Trump – Biden to Texas: Yeehaw – Senate GOP full speed ahead on Barrett confirmation – Uh-mend-ment Eight, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
THE TRUMP SHOW GOES INTO RERUNS
President Trump has at various times in the country’s long, punishing struggle with coronavirus tried to present himself as a wartime leader.
If you are a Trump supporter, this sounds like pretty good stuff. When the president told America not to “be afraid of COVID” and dramatically removed his mask before entering the White House, you probably saw shades of Franklin Roosevelt. You likely agree with the president that the country has to basically plow through the epidemic, mourning the dead and comforting the sick but making forward progress.
If you’re opposed to Trump, this sounds like ridiculous poppycock. Trump’s administration’s own mishandling of the virus in the White House looks to you like Trump’s bungling of the virus nationally in microcosm. Mass rallies, maskless indoor events and a mocking disdain for the precautions taken by others add up not to a war presidency but rather a president waging war on public safety.
We often end up here in America because of our magical thinking about presidents and what they can do with their example. If George W. Bush only had not been so bellicose in his language about “evildoers”… If Barack Obama only hadn’t gone to play golf after denouncing the murders of ISIS…
A lot of this comes from partisans and hacky pundits who want to make sure they always have something to fault the president for. In this imagined reality, life is a “West Wing” episode and speeches from presidents change minds and moods in a snap. If only…
The truth is that these days – certainly for the past 12 years – our presidents have turned into the wallpaper of our public life: Always there, sometimes loud, generally disregarded and often fatiguing. Trump, even more than Obama, speaks so much and at such length that there isn’t usually any point in dwelling on any of it. Plus, he’s likely reverse himself soon enough.
We observed last week that Trump’s infection with coronavirus opened an opportunity for him to change the trajectory of the race. A sick president is a sympathetic figure and, as our head of state, can invoke feelings of patriotic support. Most importantly for Trump, we argued, it provided him a reason to get on a new footing on the dominant issue in an election that he is badly losing. No incumbent in nearly 30 years has been where Trump is now, but a story of this magnitude – a president afflicted – certainly could provide an inflection point.
We said this: “It is certainly possible that Trump will try to minimize the virus in himself just as he tried to minimize it in the population. He may brag about having the most impressive viral load and the most positive, positive results of any president in history or talk about how everyone is saying no one has ever made such a beautiful recovery. But it’s also possible that Trump will become willing to show seriousness and empathy. Even toning down his routine and reducing the frequency of his appearances would be a start.”
Well, we know now what he decided to do. Trump certainly sees his illness as an opportunity that he is eager to exploit, but just not in a way that is likely to obtain good results.
Trump buys into the idea that what he says and does will change the way Americans feel about this virus. He is the hero of his own West Wing reality show in which he will keep the nation’s spirits up in this time of trouble – that he will be an inspiration.
The truth is that for any voter who might still be persuaded, it’s highly unlikely that Trump as an example or icon – for good or for ill – makes much difference.
What those voters are likely to want are results in dealing with the pandemic. So far the consensus seems to be that Trump has failed to deliver, whatever the optics.
THE RULEBOOK: ABOUT THE ‘GOOD BEHAVIOR’ PART…
“If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.” – James Madison, discussing republican principles, Federalist No. 39
TIME OUT: NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
The Atlantic: “Cineworld, which owns cinemas around the world, including the Regal chain in the United States, announced [Monday] that it was closing all of its locations after the next James Bond film, No Time to Die, was pushed from November to April 2021. … The need for a guaranteed big opening was why No Time to Die was delayed in the first place: Originally intended for April 2020, its initial postponement made it the first movie domino to fall in the early days of the pandemic. … The truth is, no single factor is to blame. Theaters have been lobbying to reopen for months, even suing states in some cases, as well as fighting with studios that have put their movies out online. But given the dire state of the pandemic in America, audiences were simply never going to flock back, and the stateside release of big movies such as Tenet just lent theaters more false hope.”
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NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 42 percent
Biden: 52.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 10.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 1.4 points, Trump ↓ 1 point
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 41% – Biden 57%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 39% – Biden 53%; Monmouth University: Trump 45% – Biden 50%; NYT/Siena College: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%.]
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: 43.8 percent
Average disapproval: 53.8 percent
Net Score: -10 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 1.4 points
[Average includes: CNN: 40% approve – 57% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve – 55% disapprove; NYT/Siena College: 46% approve – 50% disapprove; Gallup: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approve – 55% 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.
PENNSYLVANIA MOVING OUT OF REACH FOR TRUMP
Monmouth University: “Joe Biden holds a 12-point lead over Donald Trump among all registered voters in Pennsylvania and anywhere from an 8-point to 11-point lead among likely voters, according to the Monmouth University Poll. This marks an improvement from Biden’s single-digit lead in a Monmouth poll just over one month ago. More voters trust the challenger than the incumbent on key issues, such as handling the pandemic. The poll does not find much shift in opinion since the president’s own Covid-19 diagnosis. Other findings show a Democratic advantage in a trio of statewide office races and a tight margin in the generic party preference for Congress. Among all registered voters in Pennsylvania, the race for president stands at 54% for Biden and 42% for Trump. Another 1% support Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and 2% are undecided. Biden maintains a sizable lead when likely voter models are applied.”
Florida razor thin – Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “The presidential race is tied in Florida with less than 30 days to go, according to a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network poll that shows President Donald Trump’s campaign still is highly competitive in a must-win state despite a calamitous stretch. Trump and Democratic opponent Joe Biden each are supported by 45% of voters in the poll, while 6% of voters still are undecided and the rest are supporting third-party candidates or refused to say who they’re backing. ‘You can’t get any closer than a 45/45 split; it really reflects the core support of the respective bases,’ said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. Trump’s campaign sustained a series of setbacks last week, from a New York Times report that the candidate paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 to a widely panned debate performance and Trump’s positive coronavirus test, which has taken him off the campaign trail and put a spotlight on his virus response.”
Biden continues Michigan poll dominance – WDIV: “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has increased his lead over President Donald Trump in Michigan following the first debate, according to a new WDIV/Detroit News poll. The results of the latest survey asked voters about the 2020 race for president, along with their feelings on mail-in voting and other important issues. … Following the first debate of the 2020 election, Joe Biden has taken his largest lead of the Presidential race in Michigan, leading Donald Trump 48.0%- 39.2% — a lead of 8.8%. Trump has lost three points of support since the September post-convention survey. There has been a major shift among voters over the age of 65 towards Joe Biden. Older voters now support Biden over Trump by a margin of 59.1%-29.2% — a nearly 30-point lead for Joe Biden. Biden led senior voters by 7.5% in the Post-Convention survey. Senior voters have shifted by 22 points since early September.”
Wasserman: Ten bellwether counties that highlight Trump’s troubles – NYT: “These 10 bellwether counties — five in Sun Belt battlegrounds, five in the Frost Belt (loosely defined to include Iowa) — could point us toward each state’s winner. They run the gamut from meatpacking hubs to white-collar office parks, and from peach orchards to yacht-dense retiree havens. But there is something they all have in common: Their votes will matter a lot. To win the White House, Mr. Biden will need to flip some combination of the 10 states Mr. Trump carried by less than 10 points in 2016 (in ascending order of margin): Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Iowa. Mr. Biden has several paths to victory, and the first three states alone, in addition to every state won by Hillary Clinton, would be enough to put him into the Oval Office.”
BIDEN TO TEXAS: YEEHAW
Dallas Morning News: “With President Donald Trump hamstrung by a bout with COVID-19, Joe Biden is eyeing opportunity in Texas and doing something no Democratic nominee has done in decades: making a serious push in the state. The former vice president hasn’t scheduled a visit so far. But he has quietly reserved $5.8 million for an advertising blitz through the final four weeks, starting Tuesday. Viewers in Dallas-Fort Worth especially will have trouble avoiding his pitch, which also targets voters in the Houston, San Antonio and Austin markets. ‘It’s a hell of a lot more than anybody else ever spent, that’s for sure,’ Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. ‘This is a very good sign.’ Biden’s ad buy shows up in data collected by Advertising Analytics, which tracks campaign spending. He could still back out, making this a rather elaborate feint, but Texas Democrats believe it’s just the start.”
Trump moves money from Ohio, Iowa to shore up other states – The Hill: “President Trump’s campaign is canceling planned television ads in Ohio and Iowa for this week to instead focus funding in states where polls show the president trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The president’s reelection campaign canceled $2.5 million in ads in Ohio and $820,000 in ads in Iowa, according to ad-tracking firm CMAG, CNN reported Monday. This week will be the third week in a row without Trump TV ads in the two Midwestern states as polls show a deadlocked race between Trump and Biden. … Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager told The Hill that the campaign canceled the ad reservations out of certainty he will win both states. ‘President Trump and his campaign are extremely confident about our chances in these states,’ she said in a statement.”
NBC panned for softballs in Biden town hall – Politico: “NBC gave prime-time treatment to Joe Biden Monday night in a ‘town hall’ that featured undecided voters in Miami. But the voters hardly sounded undecided. Their questions were good. But they were also gentle and sympathetic. And it appeared they were more undecided about whether to cast a ballot at all; if they do, it’s clear whom many favored to start with. This was a Biden-leaning crowd, if not a Biden crowd. So Biden had the equivalent of a one-hour infomercial that played to his strengths: engaging with respectful real voters (he’s been known to blow his stack with citizens who attack him) as he dished out anecdotes and one-liners accrued over decades in public life.”
Michelle Obama offers scathing denunciation of Trump in ‘closing argument’ – AP: “Michelle Obama is going after President Donald Trump in a scathing new video that accuses him of ‘willful mismanagement’ of the coronavirus crisis and of racism. She calls on Black and all young voters not to ‘waste’ their votes. In the video, released Tuesday by Joe Biden’s campaign… Mrs. Obama accuses Trump of being ‘racist’ when he and other Republicans are ‘lying about how minorities will destroy the suburbs,’ which she says is meant to ‘distract from his breathtaking failures.’ She also calls on undecided voters ‘to think about all those folks like me and my ancestors’ and have some empathy for what it’s like ‘to walk around your own country scared that someone’s unjustified fear of you could put you in harm’s way.’”
SENATE GOP FULL SPEED AHEAD ON BARRETT CONFIRMATION
Roll Call: “As President Donald Trump emerged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday evening, Senate Republicans were continuing to operate on a timeline that would allow them to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — even as they faced cases of COVID-19 within their ranks that may have started at the White House. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who has tested positive for coronavirus, said in a Monday radio interview that he was prepared to return to the Capitol to vote to confirm Barrett even if he tests positive shortly before the vote. … Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has already announced that the Senate confirmation hearings for Barrett will kick off as scheduled on Oct. 12, even though [Sen. Mitch] McConnell was able to announce an agreement Monday on the Senate floor effectively scrapping all floor business until at least Oct. 19. Lawmakers would likely only return for floor votes if there is a deal on additional COVID-19 relief.”
Pergram: Nominee to face supercharged atmosphere in the age of coronavirus – Fox News: “Some of this hearing will be remote with senators beaming in their questions due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Senate. And no one is clear on the public’s role in this. Health officials shuttered the complex to the public since the pandemic struck in winter. … As pugilistic as the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings were, this October’s sessions for Barrett pose a different dynamic. Graham now wields the committee gavel and faces an increasingly tough re-election bid against Democratic nominee Jaime Harrison. And Harris, who made a mark in the Kavanaugh hearings is now on the Democratic ticket.”
Pelosi, Mnuchin not giving up on jamming Senate Republicans – Bloomberg: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will resume negotiations Tuesday on another round of pandemic relief for the U.S. economy yet there’s still no clear path to a deal before Election Day. Pelosi and Mnuchin have spoken regularly by phone over the past week after reviving talks with their first in-person meeting since early August on stimulus legislation. While both sides have reported progress, significant gaps remain between the Democrat’s $2.2 trillion proposal and a $1.6 trillion offer backed by the White House. Even with President Donald Trump urging the two parties during his recent hospital stay to ‘get it done’ on a stimulus bill, Congress would have just four weeks to finalize and pass any legislation before the Nov. 3 election. And it’s unclear that an agreement authored by Mnuchin and backed by the White House would have the necessary support in the Republican-led Senate.”
CUNNINGHAM BACKS OUT OF TOWN HALL AFTER CHEATING ALLEGATION SURFACES
Fox News: “All eyes are on North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham after he reportedly pulled out of a town hall event on Monday following the publication of steamy text messages between the candidate and a woman who is not his wife. Cunningham, a Democrat challenging incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., ‘backed out’ of a campaign event scheduled for Monday and organizers hope to reschedule, WUNC reported. The news of Cunningham backing out of the town hall comes hours after another affair allegation against Cunningham surfaced Monday, this time from a woman claiming her friend has been having an affair with Cunningham since 2012. … The allegation that surfaced Monday purports to involve a second woman. The second allegation hinges on a claim from Erin Brinkman, who appears to be a Los Angeles-based lawyer who served on Cunningham’s state Senate steering committee from 2009 to 2010, according to the LinkedIn profile of a woman with the same name.”
Take a look at Roll Call’s list of vulnerable senators – Roll Call
Arnon Mishkin: At VP debate, understudies Harris and Pence look to protect the bosses — it won’t be easy – Fox News
AUDIBLE: KEEP IT IN CHECK
“I think he got out over his skis and frankly, I think it’s a lesson to all of us that we need to exercise self discipline.” – Sen. John Cornyn speaking about President Trump with the Houston Chronicle editorial board.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I have never ‘written in’ before. I am honestly not certain this will reach your desk. But I am feeling an odd sense of despair tonight and I don’t know who else to write to… As my name might suggest, I am ethnically of Armenian heritage. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East as kids in the 1970s. This week, Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s help, launched attacks into Nagorno-Karabakh. I feel rather helpless about this entire thing. Maybe it is granddaughter-of-survivors’ guilt, but I feel like I’m watching a country on the brink of another genocide. … In our cast of players the U.S. is noticeably absent. And in our absence, a democracy is not only being threatened, but bad actors are emboldened that they can act without consequences. I know we cannot police the world, but aren’t we supposed to stand for something bigger? Aren’t we the ones who stand up for the little guy? For democracy? Perhaps I am naive and grew up in a Reagan-loving-immigrant household which exalted America as the Shining City on the Hill, the America that liberated Europe, America that fought and won great ideological battles. … I can’t help but wonder if we are that same America. … I know there are polls to be conducted, a President with Covid to get well, debates to be had. But…there is a but. And it is a consequential one. Have we, with all of our recent struggles, forfeited our ideological and moral authority in the world? And, if so, will innocents suffer because of it? I fear the answer is yes. ” – Zari Panosian, Scottsdale, Ariz.
[Ed. note: It is such a sad moment, indeed, Ms. Panosian. And while I am sure that supporters of Azerbaijanis and their Turkish and Russian backers would characterize the situation differently than you did, it seems pretty obvious to the rest of the outside world that this is an effort to purge the region of its Armenian majority. I have no idea what the right course of action is here, but I do know this: When the United States is distracted, struggling and riven by domestic strife as it is today, it changes the calculus of other world leaders. While it’s true that America cannot be the policeman to the world, a stable, strong and vigilant America makes aggressors think differently. Russia and Turkey especially have been on a spree in recent years that would have been unimaginable another time. America cannot provide security and peace to all peoples, but the Pax America has been good for the world, particularly Americans. And you have identified the key component. You can have peace through strength, yes; but only if it is coupled with moral leadership. I do not believe that we have abandoned that place, despite some signs to the contrary. But I do think that the enemies of freedom will always be testing that proposition. I encourage you not to despair. Your Armenian cousins are among the toughest, most resilient people in the world. They will endure.]
“THANK YOU for the James Brown cape reference on Special Report this afternoon. You made my day. As a trial lawyer, I think James Brown is one of the all-time greatest showmen and performers ever. Like many Americans, my onetime all-white family is now very racially mixed through marriage. One of my cousins married a wonderful African-American man who, among many other talents, is an accomplished amateur R&B singer. He carries me (literally) when it’s Karaoke time at family parties and I insist on making a fool of myself trying to sing my favorites by Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett. He’s always up for singing with me, which is kind of like Justin Verlander agreeing to play catch with a blind man: it’s mainly done out of a mix of love and pity. If that’s not America, I don’t know what is: even pasty white guys like us can have soul! We haven’t tried James Brown, but that’s gotta be next!” –Brian D. Liddicoat, Watsonville, Calif.
[Ed. note: I love it, Mr. Liddicoat! And kudos to you for your bravery at the microphone. I love James Brown’s music (I was talking just the other day how his take on “That’s Life” leaves Frank Sinatra’s in the dust) but I also love his story and what it tells us about America. I highly recommend Geoff Brown’s (no relation) “The Life of James Brown.” You will leave with a deeper appreciation of the godfather’s music, but also how he shaped and was shaped by the cultural currents of his time.]
“Burr has already announced he will be retiring after this term (in 2022) so the NC seat will also be an open seat.” – Lesley Wischmann, Holly Ridge, N.C.
[Ed. note: Quite right, Ms. Wischmann! I’ve got too much inventory in my warehouse and I forgot myself. Thanks much.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
UH-MEND-MENT EIGHT, DOO, DOO, DOO, DOO, DOO, DOO
The Oklahoman: ‘Two former detention officers and their supervisor were charged Monday after an investigation found inmates at the Oklahoma County jail were forced to listen to the popular children’s song, ‘Baby Shark,’ on a loop at loud volumes for extended periods of time. At least four inmates were subjected to the ‘inhuman’ discipline in an attorney visitation room of the jail last November and December, according to the charge. The inmates were forced to stand the entire time, hands cuffed behind them and secured to the wall, the investigation found. … District Attorney David Prater charged them with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy. ‘It was unfortunate that I could not find a felony statute to fit this fact scenario,’ Prater said. ‘I would have preferred filing a felony on this behavior.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Rome had gladiators bash each other up until one died. Football does not go quite so far.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about football in the Washington Post on Jan. 25, 1985.
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.