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On the roster: Supreme Court may be the sleeper issue for 2020 – CDC won’t hit target for school reopening rules – Senate GOP wants corona lawsuits to go to feds – Ohio swings back to the center of presidential politics – Fox goes after WaPo
SUPREME COURT MAY BE THE SLEEPER ISSUE FOR 2020
How big of an issue is the Supreme Court for the 2020 presidential election and which side would be most advantaged if it becomes a bigger one?
It looks like we are getting ready to find out. A very busy season for controversial high-court decisions is now followed by news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most famous, oldest and second-longest serving justice has suffered a recurrence of cancer, this time in her liver.
The 87-year-old liberal icon says that she will not step aside and will continue to work as she goes through a new round of chemotherapy. She has in the past been treated for colorectal, pancreatic and lung cancers and through a spokeswoman says she is keeping up an “active daily routine.”
Supreme Court speculation has already been pretty frothy in Washington, including now-dispelled speculation that the court’s longest serving member, Clarence Thomas, might step down while assured of a Republican appointee being confirmed. Then there was the rumor of the threat that Samuel Alito, seething over the Roberts-Gorsuch Western swing dance on social issues, would quit the court in a fit of pique.
Thomas is at his post and even seemingly invigorated by the new atmosphere on the court and Alito is no one to surrender. But there are always Supreme Court rumors here and election years predictably produce bumper crops. That’s especially true in the wake of Mitch McConnell boosting the GOP in 2016 by turfing Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.
The Supremes certainly added to the drama with a slew of decisions that outraged and gratified various activists on issues including presidential immunity, abortion restrictions, religious liberty, gay rights and more. Both Republican- and Democratic-leaning activists found plenty to be alternately upset and happy about as the John Roberts chiefdom started to come into its fullest flowering.
With all that scenery set, word that Ginsberg is again struggling with her health set off today a fresh round of speculation heating up telephones and text screens.
Even assuming that Ginsberg remains her unsinkable self until past Election Day – and who wouldn’t after all she’s overcome heretofore – keen members the Blue Team and the Red Team both see this as another intensifier in what may be the sleeper issue of 2020: The battle for the Supreme Court.
The orthodox view among Republican politicos is that conservative voters care more about the Supreme Court than liberal voters. The preservation of the seat held by Ginsberg’s longtime conservative counterpart, Antonin Scalia, for now-Justice Neil Gorsuch is considered a key component of the GOP issue set that allowed the Red Team to carry the suburbs in 2016.
Affluent Republican-leaners who were skeptical of Donald Trump’s capacity to serve as president in a competent, honorable way were confronted with the certainty that Hillary Clinton, a liberal legal activist herself, would remake the courts in the same way Trump has ended up doing for the other side. One could argue that Trump’s vow to allow the Federalist Society to limit his pool of potential nominees was his single most important campaign promise.
Ergo, the more attention on the court and the greater perceived chances of a vacancy would benefit Republicans who could find lots from the Senate Judiciary Committee service of Joe Biden to convince voters that he would be a radical counteraction of Trump’s project of packing the courts with young conservatives.
And given the anger among Republican social conservatives about decisions (or non-decisions) on gay rights, abortion and gun control, there’s less chance of right wingers becoming complacent.
Democrats, though, would argue that the times have changed.
They would point to the intense resentment over both the Garland blockade and the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Those twin defeats did prove to be fundraising bonanzas for the Blue Team and provide the grist needed to keep partisans angry and engaged.
More importantly, though, Ginsberg is not Scalia. She is, in fact, his equivalent for the Democratic side. She has been lionized in films, books, daily news coverage and across pop culture as “the notorious RBG.” Whenever she does step down, even if that’s still far off, it will be a major turf war. This isn’t replacing a swing-voting, little-seen justice. This is a heroine of the American Left.
Given how much Trump talks about his judicial appointments, Biden should have considerable leeway in talking about his own potential picks. There’s hardly a sense that we are currently at risk of capsizing into a sea of liberal judicial activism – an attitude that was prevalent as recently as the Obama-era appointment fights. If persuadable voters get Trump’s message about conquering the courts, they will startle less easily at the idea of giving Biden a pick or two.
Republicans in recent years have proven that they are better at obtaining political advantage from court appointments. Democrats believe that their time to reverse that trend is now.
As the final stretch of the race for the presidency and for control of the Senate shapes up, we’re going to find out who is right.
THE RULEBOOK: GUNS AND BUTTER
“The truth is, that the existence of a federal government and military establishments under State authority are not less at variance with each other than a due supply of the federal treasury and the system of quotas and requisitions.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
TIME OUT: HOMEY
Garden&Gun: “Like most of us during the pandemic, Margo Price has been doing the best she can. At her home just outside of Nashville that she shares with her husband, the singer-songwriter Jeremy Ivey, and two children, music is always present… She frets about money; like most artists, Price makes the majority of her income on the road. And she was supposed to release her third studio album, That’s How Rumors Get Started, in May but had second thoughts. … It was worth the wait. Released this summer, Rumors is an instant classic, a strikingly assured effort that owes as much to the dreamy Laurel Canyon vibe as it does to Nashville’s twang. Songs like the title track and ‘Letting Me Down’ shimmer with the harmonies of Fleetwood Mac, while ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ is a scuzzy blues stomper, and the monster closer ‘I’d Die for You’ unfolds as a searing love song to her husband, with Price’s voice exploding in a howl as defiant as it is swooning.”
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: 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)
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.]
CDC WON’T HIT TARGET FOR SCHOOL REOPENING RULES
NPR: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not release a set of documents this week aimed at giving schools advice on how to reopen to students after coronavirus shutdowns, NPR has learned. Instead, the full set will be published before the end of the month, a CDC spokesperson says. ‘These science and evidence-based resources and tools will provide additional information for administrators, teachers and staff, parents, caregivers and guardians, as together we work towards the public health-oriented goal of safely opening schools this fall,’ the spokesperson said. President Trump has emphasized that he wants to see schools reopen their classrooms in the fall, but many teachers and parents have balked, concerned that children would spread the virus and get sick themselves. Trump complained on Twitter that the CDC’s existing guidance was ‘too tough.’”
Meadows keeps up Team Trump attacks on Fauci – Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump’s chief of staff criticized Anthony Fauci for comparing the current coronavirus outbreak to the 1918 flu pandemic, after reprimanding another top White House adviser for publicly attacking Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. ‘He suggested that this virus was worse than, or as bad as, the 1918 flu epidemic,’ Mark Meadows said during a Fox News interview Thursday. ‘I can tell you that not only is that false, it’s irresponsible to suggest so.’ Fauci said Tuesday at an event sponsored by Georgetown University that the coronavirus is a ‘pandemic of historic proportions’ and ‘when history looks back on it, will be comparable to what we saw in 1918,’ when influenza killed tens of millions of people worldwide. Covid-19 has so far killed more than 588,000 people worldwide, and more than 138,000 in the U.S., according to statistics compiled by Bloomberg.”
Poll: Trump still dropping on handing of pandemic – ABC News: “With COVID-19 cases soaring nationally, Americans by nearly a two to one margin distrust what President Donald Trump says about the pandemic, and six in 10 in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll disapprove of how he’s handling it, up steeply since the early days of the outbreak. Just 38% in the national survey now approve of Trump’s response, down from 46% in late May and a narrow majority, 51%, in late March, a 13-point drop. Disapproval gained 15% in the same period, to 60%. Among Trump’s challenges is his credibility on the issue in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. Only 34% of Americans place a great deal or good amount of trust in what he says about COVID-19, while 64% trust him not so much or – in the case of nearly half the public – not at all. There’s also a disconnect in terms of priorities, with Americans, by 63-33%, saying it’s more important to control the spread of the virus than to restart the economy, a goal Trump has stressed. That 30-point preference for controlling the spread has widened from 20 points in late May.”
Kemp sues to prevent mask mandate – Fox News: “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta to block the city from enforcing its mandate to wear a mask in public and other rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying in a court filing that the city’s leadership was illegally circumventing state executive orders with their own edicts. Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, in a suit filed in state court late Thursday, argued that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has overstepped her authority and must obey Kemp’s executive orders under state law. Kemp ‘seeks to have this Court make a declaration that Mayor Bottoms’ executive orders are more restrictive and contradictory to his executive orders, and therefore, Mayor Bottoms’ COVID-related executive orders are suspended,’ the lawsuit states.”
SENATE GOP WANTS CORONA LAWSUITS TO GO TO FEDS
WSJ: “Top Senate Republicans are pushing to give federal courts jurisdiction over personal injury and medical liability claims stemming from the coronavirus pandemic as part of a temporary set of legal protections for businesses, schools and other organizations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) crafted the measure ahead of negotiations with Democrats over the next round of coronavirus legislation. The proposal, which the White House is reviewing, temporarily offers schools, businesses, health-care providers and nonprofit organizations legal protections when people allegedly exposed to the coronavirus sue them… Under the proposal, defendants in those cases would only be held liable if they didn’t make reasonable efforts to comply with public-health guidelines and instead demonstrated gross negligence or intentional misconduct, according to the summary. The defendants would have the right to move the case to federal court if they so choose, offering a potentially more favorable alternative to state courts.”
White House says Social Security tax cut a ‘must’ – WaPo: “The White House is insisting that Congress include a payroll tax cut as part of the next coronavirus stimulus package, potentially complicating talks with lawmakers by pushing a measure that President Trump has tried but failed to advance for almost a year. ‘As he has done since the beginning of this pandemic, President Trump wants to provide relief to hardworking Americans who have been impacted by this virus and one way of doing that is with a payroll tax holiday,’ White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. ‘He’s called on Congress to pass this before and he believes it must be part of any phase four package.’ Trump’s renewed push for a payroll tax holiday comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) prepares to unveil legislation next week that he hopes will launch negotiations on the next major coronavirus bill.”
Pelosi boasts that she’ll flip ‘em – Bloomberg: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s confident Congress can pass another virus relief plan in the coming weeks and that the GOP will ultimately agree to spending levels closer to the $3.5 trillion proposed by Democrats. ‘I have no doubt they’ll come around,’ she said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. She said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have moved from questioning whether another stimulus is necessary to agreeing that at least $1 trillion more in relief is needed. Democrats and Republicans are set to begin negotiations on another stimulus plan as soon as next week as the coronavirus continues to rage across the country, forcing renewed business shutdowns that are hobbling the U.S. economy. The number of Americans filing for unemployment barely declined last week in a sign that challenges to any recovery continue to multiply.”
OHIO SWINGS BACK TO THE CENTER OF PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS
NYT: “It wasn’t so long ago that Ohio was looking like a lost cause for Democrats, after Donald J. Trump scored a convincing victory there and humiliated the party that had twice carried the state under Barack Obama. Now, unexpectedly, Ohio looms as a tantalizing opportunity for Joseph R. Biden Jr. Two prominent polls of the state last month showed the presidential race in a statistical tie. Turnout in the Ohio primary elections in April was higher for Democrats than Republicans for the first time in a dozen years, evidence of enthusiasm in the Democratic base. And the Trump campaign recently booked $18.4 million in fall TV ads in Ohio, more than in any state besides Florida — a sign that Mr. Trump is on the defensive in a state that until recently seemed locked down for Republicans. With Democratic leaders urging Mr. Biden, the presumptive nominee, to expand his ambitions to states previously considered out of reach, Ohio offers Democrats the possibility of seizing on suburban gains they have made in the Trump era, while restoring parts of the old Obama coalition.”
Never Trump groups target Buckeye State – The Columbus Dispatch: “Republicans working against President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign are targeting Ohio with their latest rebuke of the president. The Lincoln Project super-PAC is aligning with another group, Republican Voters Against Trump, for what they are calling ‘Operation Grant,’ a nod to Ohio native Ulysses S. Grant. That alliance’s plan kicks off with a Lincoln Project advertisement attacking Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that will air on broadcast and cable television from Friday through Monday in Columbus, Cleveland, Akron and Canton. Republican Voters Against Trump is planning its own ad for the Cincinnati market. Their efforts also will include a ground campaign that has had to move onto the web during the pandemic, said John Weaver, a co-founder of the Lincoln Project and former top political adviser to Gov. John Kasich. Weaver said the groups have 20,000 volunteers in Ohio and are planning a town hall meeting for next week.”
Trump campaign lawyer appears on Kremlin-backed TV – Daily Beast: “A top Trump campaign adviser recently appeared on the Russian-government funded TV network RT, which U.S. intelligence agencies have said plays a role in the Kremlin’s plans to undermine American democracy. Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis’ appearance on RT’s The Alex Salmond Show aired on July 9. She appears to be the first Trump campaign official to go on the Russian-funded network since the 2016 election. During her interview, Ellis defended Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and bashed the American media as ‘propagandist activist media.’”
DNC DELEGATES OFF THE HOOK, TOLD TO AVOID MILWAUKEE
NYT: “Democratic officials have instructed senators, members of Congress and party delegates not to physically attend their national convention this summer, a sign of the ever-shrinking aspirations for their big campaign event in the face of a surge in coronavirus cases in the United States. The directive, issued Thursday, ensures that little will happen at the convention site in Milwaukee beyond speeches from former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his vice-presidential nominee and a handful of other top party leaders. The remainder of the events — state delegation meetings, parties, voting on the party platform and on Mr. Biden’s nomination — will happen virtually or not at all. ‘We have been working closely with state and local public health officials, as well epidemiologists, and have come to the hard decision that members of Congress should not plan to travel to Milwaukee,’ Chasseny Lewis, a senior adviser to the convention committee, wrote in an email to congressional aides. ‘No delegates will travel to Milwaukee, and Caucus and Council meetings will take place virtually.’”
Biden cuts Trump cash advantage by $100 million – Politico: “Joe Biden has nearly closed the once-yawning cash gap between him and President Donald Trump, with big donors flooding his campaign and the Democratic National Committee with money in recent months. Trump and the Republican National Committee have spent years building a formidable war chest, starting soon after he was elected and continuing as Democrats burned money in their own primary in 2019 and early 2020. The Trump campaign and its affiliated groups closed out June with $295 million in the bank. But Biden and the DNC, which outraised Trump and the RNC for two consecutive months, has rapidly cut down that advantage to just $53 million, according to Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon. O’Malley Dillon tweeted on Thursday that the campaign and its affiliates have $242 million in cash on hand, ‘making a $100 million dent’ into Trump’s cash advantage just in the past three months.”
INCUMBENT CARNAGE CONTINUES AS ENGEL DEFEATED
NYP: “Jamaal Bowman has defeated veteran Rep. Eliot Engel, unseating the powerful chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a stunning upset, according to the Associated Press. Bowman, a progressive former middle school principal backed by the Justice Democrats, triumphed over Engel, a 16-term congressman, more than three weeks after the New York Democratic primary took place on June 23. The AP called the race on Friday morning. Engel, 73, had been besieged by gaffes and accusations he was missing from his Bronx-Westchester district as the coronavirus pandemic raged. …Engel’s campaign was counting on a record number of mail-in ballots cast amid the pandemic to help him overcome his challenger’s commanding lead. But Bowman’s lead expanded during the weeks-long counting of absentee ballots in New York’s 16th Congressional District… In a statement, Bowman promised to ‘cause problems’ in Washington, a sign that the outspoken left flank of the Democratic Party, headed by Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is growing.”
Cook slides 20 more House seats toward Ds – Cook Political Report: “Trump now trails Joe Biden by nine points in the FiveThirtyEight average, roughly matching Democrats’ average lead on the generic congressional ballot and seven points larger than his 2016 popular vote deficit. But because there are plenty of solidly blue urban districts where Trump didn’t have much room to fall in the first place, his decline is especially acute in swing suburban districts with lots of college graduates. Republicans began the cycle hoping to pick up 18 seats to win the majority back. Now they’re just trying to avoid a repeat of 2008, when they not only lost the presidency but got swamped by Democrats’ money and lost even more House seats after losing 30 seats and control two years earlier. For the first time this cycle, Democrats have at least as good a chance at gaining House seats as Republicans on a net basis.”
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Florida felons will have to settle fines, fees before voting rights restored – Fox News: “The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request to block a Florida law requiring those who have been convicted of felonies and served their sentences to pay outstanding fines and fees owed in connection with their cases before voting. The court’s order keeps the law in place heading into the state’s primary election for non-presidential races, which is scheduled for Aug. 18 with a registration deadline of July 20. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan dissented with the majority’s opinion. … A District Court had blocked the law, but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision by putting a stay on the lower court’s ruling. The Supreme Court Thursday denied an appeal of the Eleventh Circuit’s decision.”
Amash not going to campaign for re-election – The Detroit News
“Sometimes life throws you crazy curve balls and the best response is to be grateful for the blessings you do have instead of obsessing over the injustices and unfairnesses that come with life. With every life. Sure, some lives feature more unfairnesses than others. But a life without unfairnesses or obstacles is — like baseball without losses — a mirage. A lie.” – Charlie Hurt writing in the WashTimes.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down for an exclusive interview with President Trump. 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
“There’s that term again, ‘new normal.’ I thought GDP of 1 or 2 percent growth was the previous ‘new normal’ but that didn’t become normal. What was the ‘new normal’ prior to that? My ‘normal’ scorecard has become quite confusing.” – Mark Hoffman, Des Moines, Iowa
[Ed. note: That’s kind of the joke, isn’t it, Mr. Hoffman. As humans, we are naturally taken with the idea that there is some “normal” time, place or way of being. We obsess about it, often to destructive ends. Much of America’s current trouble can be traced to the misplaced assumption that the two decades following the end of WWII were “normal” and that we should, therefore, try to rearrange things to produce the same outcomes. We can’t and they weren’t. But just like you never can walk on the same beach twice, we can never get back to “normal.” So the phrase “new normal’ comes to mean the ad hoc arrangements and attitudes we make up as we go — but don’t worry, soon it will be “back then” and eventually “the old days” before we forget it (and it’s lessons) almost entirely.]
“Since you often quote from the New York Times (NYT) in the Halftime Report, I would like your opinion regarding some recent high-profile resignations from the NYT: the senior editor James Bennet after he allowed an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton to be published; and the opinion writer Bari Weiss after she refused to toe the line ideologically in her writings. Do these departures bring into question the quality of the journalism produced by the NYT? I contend that a journalist can report facts in what they write but by omitting certain other inconvenient facts they are actually misrepresenting the truth. I would even go so far as to say that the NYT is now including ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ but with the proviso that such news is also consonant with their very restrictive politically correct culture.” – James Gray, Greenbelt, Md.
[Ed. note: Well, I guess we could ban the NYT as a sanction for having a newsroom that sounds like it is dominated by prima donnas and attention seeker — an army of enfant terribles who believe they are having mind-blowing realizations but who are really just scolds recycling the failed ideas of the past because no one tried to teach them or they were unwilling to learn. That might please you, I suppose. But I’m not sure what the point would be. You contend that by forbidding articles from the Times we would be protecting readers from these sins of omission. First, I’m not worried about you people. Based on the number of notes like yours we get, I’m not concerned that you’re being led down the primrose path to wokism — or anyplace, for that matter. Second, while Fox News is a hugely powerful news organization, we still have to rely on the reporting of other outlets from the hyper-local to the national to get a complete look at each day’s news. As a result, I don’t think a ban would really be satisfying to you in the end. The Times would laugh off the pinprick that their exclusion here would cause and we would end up having to rely on a smaller pool of outlets, many of which would probably provoke similar complaints on your part. Then we might end up just going to places that only had newsrooms and attitudes that met the kind of high standards for diversity, disinterest and perspicacity we aspire to maintain for ourselves. But even we don’t live up to our own standards. I think it’s better if we mostly ignore newsroom politics, judge work for its own merits and not become hostage to the same kind of thought policing of which the NYT’s Münster rebellion in slim-fit slacks is guilty.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
FOX GOES AFTER WAPO
Washingtonian: “It can be hard to have easy, reliable access to the news necessary to keep you informed. Especially if you don’t have a computer, a smartphone, or a subscription to a paper. … An apparently news-starved fox has taken matters into its own paws and has been spotted stealing copies of the Post from the porches of unsuspecting Arlington residents. Heidi Brock, who has lived in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood for 16 years, was walking her dog the morning of July 13 when she spotted said fox. … Jeff Bezos’s paper apparently has a dedicated wildlife readership: The next morning, June 14, Brock again spotted a fox trotting by with a copy of the Post tucked tidily between its teeth. When asked, Brock couldn’t be sure if it was the same animal she had seen the previous day or if the original one had decided to sleep in and sent a sibling to check out the day’s headlines.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The Pariah Chess Club, where I play every Monday night, admits no one in short pants. … Pariah status has not been required of subsequent members, though it is encouraged. Being a chess player already makes you suspect enough in polite society, and not without reason.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 27, 2002.
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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