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On the roster: Hits and misses from the conventions – Biden to emerge on campaign trail – Protestors harassed Paul outside White House – A whole new world for primary fights – Never mind…
HITS AND MISSES FROM THE CONVENTIONS
A political convention, like any celebration, is mostly judged in its success by the estimation of the celebrants.
If you thought your party was good, then it was – res ipsa loquitur.
That’s why conventions are substantially immune to rebuttal. The main purposes of the events are to gather together the party faithful, imbue them with enthusiasm (and lots of talking points) and send them out to make disciples of all swing states.
And in that way, both parties this year staged surprisingly successful conventions, even if Republicans on the whole were better at the imbuing part. But certainly both can say that with the limits imposed by the pandemic – limits ultimately ignored by Republicans – their voters go into the shank of the campaign feeling righteous and purposeful.
And bully for them.
Now, this enthusiasm and purpose certainly is valuable. Losing campaigns are often marked by the grudging participation of supporters. We cannot measure the value of commitment from core supporters, but we know that it is reflected in donations, volunteer hours, friends and family members encouraged to vote and – though this probably does as much harm as good – political proselytizing in person and on social media.
You could hardly ask for more deeply committed partisans than having one side that believes America will lose its soul and system of government if the other guy wins and another side that warns of a hellscape in which “no one will be safe” if their guy loses.
We all know that this is a lot of locker room talk – no, not that kind – intended to psych up the team to go bash skulls with the other squad. The choice of one seventy-something white dude from the Mid-Atlantic over another will produce neither Armageddon nor the kingdom of Heaven here on earth. We will have substantially the same blessings and challenges on Jan. 22 that we do today, whichever side wins.
But in our multiple-exclamation-pointed, totally amazing, but like oh-em-gee, the worst society, this kind of over-the-top rhetoric is what passes for what we old fogies used to call “contrast” in elections. And they contrasted the ever-living shirttails out of each other.
There is more, however, to conventions than this secular version of church designed for gathering, equipping and sending forth. There is also the part about working through the concerns of persuadable voters – those that may be watching, those that will see news coverage and those that will hear about it from friends and loved ones.
The three main accusations against Joe Biden going into his convention were that he was 1) a feeble-minded old man too senile to serve 2) unable to unite a deeply divided party 3) soft on crime.
On the first two, Biden succeeded handily.
There was nothing but the spirit of Kumbaya last week, all across the spectrum – from Elizabeth Warren to her natural prey, Mike Bloomberg. Chastened for their blithe opinions about Donald Trump’s electability four years ago, Democrats are sincerely worried that Trump will win again.
The plaintive tone from speakers sounded like a telethon, not a party working out its disagreements. Every time they played Bruce Springsteen, we thought Democrats were going to ask us to adopt a stray dog.
And as for his alleged senility, Republicans have managed to set the bar so low for Biden that his chipper, inclusive and competently delivered acceptance speech sounded like a minor miracle. Lucky for Biden, the GOP seems determined to keep expectations at rock bottom for the upcoming debates.
But Biden did leave some fat in the fire on the question of the Republican charge that he has gone from tough-on-crime to anarchist. While the convention was in many ways a sustained appeal to moderate voters, it steered around completely the worsening unrest in cities across the country.
The closest the Democrats’ infomercial came was a bank-shot argument that when racial injustice is ended that racially charged unrest will end, too. But as Republicans have long known, fears of crime, especially crime with racial overtones, is a potent, visceral and emotional campaign issue.
It’s tricky for Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, since they have strong records on which to run as law-and-order Democrats but are running at a time when so much of the focus is on the role of racism in police brutality. They didn’t have an answer last week, but they’d better find one soon.
The three main accusations against Trump going into this week’s revival of “The Celebrity Apprentice” were that he was 1) a bigot 2) selfishly unprincipled 3) unserious about dealing with the coronavirus.
One the first one, Trump and the Republicans made a truly compelling argument. We have never seen Republicans lean into issues of race and racism in this way – even at the risk of dampening their own law-and-order message. To hear night after night from speakers who talked about racial disparities in policing, sentencing and opportunities reflect a party and a candidate working hard to reverse perceptions.
One speaker had some nasty tweets of the kind that were common among some Trump supporters back in the days when David Duke was on the Trump Train and the alt-right was in its ascendance. She was flushed in a second. This was the new-look MAGA nation, one that no doubt will make many somewhat wary supporters into enthusiastic apostles.
But on the other two charges, Trump & Co. came up short.
From Mike Pence’s doing what the British could not at Ft. McHenry to Trump’s White House bacchanal of self-aggrandizement, these looked very much like the kind of people who might use diplomatic phone calls to get a leg up on a political challenger or seek criminal charges against their foes in order to retain power.
With a parade of family members that would have made even a Kennedy cringe, Trump obliterated any remaining niceties about separating government from political ambition for the party in power. Like all such expansions of executive authority, the other party will no doubt enjoy abusing the lowered standards of conduct when its turn comes.
But it was on the coronavirus where Trump missed his chance most of all. Much of the week was dedicated to spinning an alternate narrative that casts Trump in a heroic role in confronting the virus. Democrats grouse that it was a fabrication, but it’s not like they were getting real about the failings of the previous administration at their convention. These things are mostly malarkey anyway.
Trump’s problem wasn’t in what he said about the virus, but how the convention acted. There was no excuse for packing thousands of people without safeguards into a confined space to hear this speech. Trump’s rationale for using the White House was the pandemic, but then insisted on pretending the pandemic was not real. His message on the issue that matters most in 2020 was rendered utterly unserious by his desire for a live studio audience.
We won’t remember much of these extravaganzas by the time we get to November, but both parties’ efforts will be shaped by what they’ve done – and what they’ve left undone – in these two weeks.
THE RULEBOOK: LIKE A ROCK, NOT A TRANSIENT METEOR
“By excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.” – John Jay, writing about the powers of the Senate, Federalist No. 64
TIME OUT: MARK TWAIN’S BRAIN
The Paris Review: “[Mark Twain] believed, he once wrote, that a mind ‘still inhabiting the flesh’ could reach another mind at great remove. There was an inciting incident in the spring of 1875 (before Twain’s red hair went gray), which he recollected as ‘the oddest thing that ever happened to me.’ The mail had just come at Twain’s home in Hartford, and he held a fat letter, still sealed. … He recognized the hand of someone from whom he said he hadn’t heard in eleven years. Even so, he knew without opening it that the letter contained a book idea. Their minds had been ‘in close and crystal-clear communication with each other across three thousand miles of mountain and desert on the morning of the 2nd of March.’ Twain, in effect, had sat down to write to this very contact, on the same day, about this very same idea. Twain answered: ‘Dear Dan—Wonders never will cease.’ Dan De Quille was the alias of William Wright. In 1862, both men had started as staffers at the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, and fast became a double-barreled force: the best writers at the hottest paper during the Silver Rush.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 43 percent
Biden: 51.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 46% – Biden 50%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 41% – Biden 50%; Fox News: Trump 42% – Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 42% – 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: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 54.6 percent
Net Score: -11.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 42% approve – 57% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; Gallup: 42% 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.
BIDEN TO EMERGE ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL
KARE11: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he’s planning to hit the campaign trail – in person – after Labor Day, including likely visits to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other critical battleground states. During a fundraiser Thursday, Biden said he’ll start doing in-person events ‘a way that is totally consistent with being responsible.’ Biden named Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Arizona as some of the states that are under consideration by his campaign for in-person events. Biden said he’ll ‘meet people where it matters — not at irresponsible rallies, or staged for TV to boost egos. but real people’s communities, in real local businesses, in their lives.’ He said he’ll hold events ‘consistent with the state rules’ about crowd sizes and other regulations. Biden has largely campaigned virtually from his Wilmington, Delaware, home, only venturing out for small, socially-distanced campaign events in Delaware or Pennsylvania counties just a few hours away.”
Wisconsin soured on Black Lives Matter – Mediaite: “New polling suggests support for Black Lives Matter dropped by 13 points in Wisconsin between June and early August — while a net positive approval rating of +25 completely evaporated. The survey data collected by Marquette Law School indicated 48 percent of Wisconsin residents surveyed between August 8-9 approved of Black Lives Matter, with 48 percent saying they disapproved. That was a shift from 61 percent who said they approved between June 14-18, next to 36 percent who said they disapproved. The data was released on Wednesday, but collected before the August 23 shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. … Marquette’s polling also indicated a stark divide along racial lines. Of white respondents surveyed, 45 percent said they approved of the BLM movement, compared to 78 percent of Black and Hispanic respondents who said they approved.”
Biden has been safe from backlash… so far – FiveThirtyEight: “In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, the popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement skyrocketed. … In particular, white Democratic support of the movement increased from about 80 percent to 90 percent, and there were both more white independents expressing support for BLM and fewer expressing opposition. At about the same time, Joe Biden led President Trump by about 6 to 7 percentage points in FiveThirtyEight’s average of national polls. But between that time and the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday (we have barely any new polling since Blake’s shooting), Black Lives Matter’s surge in popularity ended: About 49 percent of registered voters said they supported the movement, compared with around 38 percent in opposition — similar to BLM’s net approval before Floyd’s death. That drop in popularity has largely been driven by increased opposition among white Republicans (80 percent of whom oppose the movement, higher than before Floyd’s death) and white independents (who now support BLM at similar levels as before Floyd’s death).”
D.C. to commemorate King’s march, braces for trouble – AP: “Capping a week of protests and outrage over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin, civil rights advocates began highlighting the scourge of police and vigilante violence against Black Americans at a commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. An estimated thousands have gathered Friday near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic ‘I Have A Dream’ address, a vision of racial equality that remains elusive for millions of Americans. … Martin Luther King III, a son of the late civil rights icon and the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose civil rights organization, the National Action Network, planned Friday’s event, delivered keynote addresses that show the urgency for federal policing reforms, to decry racial violence, and to demand voting rights protections ahead of the November general election. ‘We’ve come to bear witness, to remain awake, to remember from where we’ve come and to carefully consider where we’re going,’ King said.”
George Packer: Biden must give up wishful thinking on riots – Atlantic: “Here is a prediction about the November election: If Donald Trump wins, in a trustworthy vote, what’s happening this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will be one reason. Maybe the reason. And yet Joe Biden has it in his power to spare the country a second Trump term. … The simultaneous mayhem in Kenosha seemed like part of the script, as it played into their main theme: that Biden is a tool of radical leftists who hate America, who want to bring the chaos of the cities they govern out to the suburbs where the real Americans live. The Republicans won’t let such an opportunity go to waste. … Trump will bang this loud, ugly drum until Election Day. He knows that Kenosha has placed Democrats in a trap. … Nothing will harm a campaign like the wishful thinking, fearful hesitation, or sheer complacency that fails to address what voters can plainly see. Kenosha gives Biden a chance to help himself and the country.”
Robert Tracinski: Bubba knew what to do – The Bulwark: “I suggested a little while ago that Joe Biden needs a Sister Souljah moment, a reference to an incident in the 1992 presidential campaign when Bill Clinton criticized a race-baiting black rapper. … When I suggested this, the riots had abated for a while in favor of peaceful protests, and Biden held a strong lead in the polls. … This week of protests and riots in Kenosha has changed that calculation. … Is this Joe Biden’s Sister Souljah moment? Maybe, but he needs more than a moment. The Democratic party needs a Sister Souljah month. A month in which Democratic mayors and governors stop trying to appease the rioters and instead shut them down. A month in which the media and commentators stop making excuses for the rioters and start exposing the viciousness of their destruction. What they need to recognize, and what they need to say to the American people, is that how you fight for a cause says a lot about what that cause actually is.”
PROTESTORS HARASSED PAUL OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE
Politico: “Sen. Rand Paul was confronted by protesters early Friday morning after leaving the Republican National Convention at the White House. ‘Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House. Thank you to @DCPoliceDept for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob,’ the Kentucky Republican tweeted early Friday. Paul later added that he felt his life was in danger and would have wound up in the hospital or dead had police not intervened. Videos on social media showed protesters circling around Paul and his wife, Kelley, after they left President Donald Trump’s keynote speech. Protesters shouted at the Pauls, crowding the couple on the street. Protesters demanded the Kentucky senator acknowledge the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police executing a no-knock warrant in her Louisville, Ky., home.”
Anxiety in New Hampshire over Trump rally – Boston Globe: “President Trump is set to host a campaign event Friday evening in Londonderry, N.H., his first major in-person rally since a sparsely attended one in Tulsa, Okla., in June. The president’s appearance in the state comes a day after his official acceptance of the Republican nomination, at a moment when he is trying to keep attention on his message in a reelection campaign that continues to lag in polls. Trump mentioned New Hampshire, along with other campaign battleground states, during his Republican nomination acceptance speech Thursday night. … In Manchester Friday morning, there were mixed feelings about the presidential visit at the Bridge Cafe. Patrick McKeown, 73, said he thinks the rally crowd will look like the one at the Republican National Convention on Thursday. … [Mary Trask] attended a Trump rally during the 2016 election cycle, where she enjoyed the ‘energy and the excitement he brought.’ This time around, Trask won’t be going because of an underlying health condition.”
Kevin Roose: ‘What if Facebook is the real ‘Silent Majority’?’ – NYT: “Listen, liberals. If you don’t think Donald Trump can get re-elected in November, you need to spend more time on Facebook. Since the 2016 election, I’ve been obsessively tracking how partisan political content is performing on Facebook, the world’s largest and arguably most influential media platform. … It’s no secret that, despite Mr. Trump’s claims of Silicon Valley censorship, Facebook has been a boon to him and his allies, and hyperpartisan Facebook pages are nothing new. … But what sticks out, when you dig in to the data, is just how dominant the Facebook right truly is. Pro-Trump political influencers have spent years building a well-oiled media machine that swarms around every major news story, creating a torrent of viral commentary that reliably drowns out both the mainstream media and the liberal opposition. The result is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality.”
A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR PRIMARY FIGHTS
Politico: “So much for the taboo on wading into primaries. Speaker Nancy Pelosi stunned Democrats last week when she backed Rep. Joe Kennedy’s bid to unseat Sen. Ed Markey in a contentious Massachusetts Senate primary. Days later, liberal superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) fired back with an endorsement shocker of her own — becoming the first lawmaker to support a progressive primary challenger trying to defeat House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.), her most high-profile Democratic target to date. The episode represents the latest crack in a long-standing but unofficial policy on Capitol Hill to not get involved in primaries featuring incumbents. And the trend is not just limited to Democrats. An increasing number of House Republicans — including some GOP leaders — have grown more comfortable this cycle picking sides in races where they feel it’s urgent to intervene. Now lawmakers, aides and strategists in both parties say the pattern will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. It’s a shift that reflects the ideological — and anti-establishment — churn taking place in the Donald Trump era, and it’s sparking concern among the old guard about rising intraparty warfare.”
Biden squats on ‘Keep America Great’ domain – Politico
Putin issues threat to anti-corruption protesters in Belarus – NYT
AUDIBLE: A HOUSE DIVIDED…
“Every issue is about race, is about color instead of us sitting down at the table like men and women of common sense and common justice and understanding that our enemies are looking with a greedy vigilance upon us as we tear ourselves apart internally.” – Tennessee state Rep. John Deberry Jr., D-Memphis, in a floor speech on race in America.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with Trump campaign senior adviser Lara Trump and Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“You get worse and worse each week on the Halftime Report. Almost every headline and paragraph slants against the president now. I don’t know why I keep reading as you’ve become so predictable in your framing of the news. I suppose I still like to see what the Never-Trump resistance is up to. The pity is I used to enjoy your and Dana’s commentary as centrist republicans. Dana has remained so, you sir, have jumped the shark these last couple years.” – Scott Lyddon, Savannah, Ga.
[Ed. note: Mr. Lyddon, I hate to break it to you, but I am not a Republican, centrist or otherwise. Nor am I Democrat. Please believe me that I honest-to-goodness do not care who you vote for and wish you every happiness in your choices. I was as tough as I could be with the previous administration and aim to do the same with this one. Your job is to decide how to vote, my job is to call ‘em like I see ‘em. I think it’s better for everybody if I tend to my own work instead of plumping for one side or the other. I am committed to view with skepticism any man or woman who seeks political power regardless of party.]
“Fort McHenry was more than appropriate for a location, given the hysteria churned up by the left. Look in the mirror and see who is ‘within the beltway.’ You are. Regular folks could care less. You have become a biased outlet, preaching propaganda to the masses. I dare you to tell the truth – the simple truth. But you probably don’t recognize it when you see it. There is an empirical truth. It will set you free. And likely cost you your careers.” – Keith McIntyre, Statesboro, Ga.
[Ed. note: Do you think, Mr. McIntyre, that Democrats are not “regular folks?” Because they sure seem to care about the way this administration conducted itself through the convention. Maybe they’re not regular folks in your estimation because you say they are leftists churning up hysteria. What about independents who are concerned? Sounds like they’re not qualified either. It seems almost as if your test for being one of the “regular folks” is seeing the world the way you do. It’s no surprise that we have such a terrible political climate when so many people dismiss tens of millions of their countrymen as unworthy of even hearing. You gave away the game in your opening attack. You said Pence was allowed to do what no previous vice president would have dared to try because of “the hysteria churned up by the left.” What will you say when a Democrat does the same or worse and cites the hysteria of the right as his or her excuse? What will you do when they say of you that you’re not one of the “regular folks,” because real Americans support the administration? The only way out of the mess we’re in is to demand more of ourselves as citizens, and that work includes learning to love our countrymen. There are many Democrats guilty of the same embittered resentments that you demonstrate. And as long as you all keep drinking poison and hoping the other guy dies we will stay in this sick, sad and sorry condition.]
“I subscribe to several high quality non-tribal daily political newsletters, but yours is the one I try to read every day. I appreciate your common sense and fair reporting, and the thoughtful selection of information each day. And of course the daily Charles quote is priceless. We had the opportunity to meet him several times as one of our sons worked as his research assistant, and he was as delightful and wonderful in person as he was on the Panel and in writing. We miss him tremendously. May God bless you and your efforts to maintain sanity in the midst of chaos!” – Dave Watson, Vernon Hills, Ill.
[Ed. note: One of the hallmarks of a truly great man is that his good works slowly reveal themselves over time. It pleases so much to hear stories like your family’s because it brings into fuller view the greatness of our friend Dr. Krauthammer, even years after his passing. Though not a believer, his actions comported with the best aspirations of Christianity and remain a model for my own professional life. Thank you for your very kind words. We will endeavor to live up to them!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
AP: “Just days ago, officials in Louisiana’s Calcasieu Parish voted not to move a Confederate statue from its prominent place in front of the courthouse. Then Hurricane Laura came along and toppled it. The South’s Defenders Monument was knocked off its pedestal as the Category 4 monster swept through the southwestern Louisiana parish. On Thursday morning it could be seen lying on its side next to its still-standing base — broken tree branches strewn on the grass around it — as a steady stream of onlookers took photos. … The statue in Lake Charles was dedicated on June 3, 1915, according to the American Press. The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, the parish’s governing body, voted Aug. 13 to keep the monument in its place after a sometimes heated public debate involving parish residents.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Not all chess players are crazy. I’m willing to venture that. But not much more. Eccentricity does reign in our precincts.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about the tyranny of chess in the Washington Post on Oct. 16, 1998.
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.