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On the roster: Top House Republican sounds alarm – Biden says he would make masks mandatory – Trump way back in Florida as seniors bolt for Biden – White House weighs new mass-testing effort – Hot copy
TOP HOUSE REPUBLICAN SOUNDS ALARM
WaPo: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged concerns Friday that President Trump’s sagging popularity could possibly hurt Republican chances in races key to maintaining the party’s majority in the Senate. McCarthy, speaking during a television interview, was quick to add that he thinks Trump will ultimately prevail against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and that prospects would brighten for Republicans once the campaign comes into fuller view. ‘If the election was today, yes, you’re concerned,’ McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News. ‘Can we do better? Yes, we can.’ Still, the candid public admission from the top-ranking House Republican was notable at a time when the party is increasingly worried about the prospect of not only losing the White House but also having Democrats gain control of both chambers of Congress.”
Trump fumbles on goals for second term – WaPo: “For the second time in two weeks, President Trump joined his friend Sean Hannity for a televised conversation on Thursday. Near the end of the discussion, the Fox News host offered Trump a chance to summarize his reelection pitch. ‘What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast?’ Hannity asked. ‘And what is — what are your top priority items for a second term?’ … ‘Well, one of the things that will be really great,’ Trump replied. ‘You know, the word ‘experience’ is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word ‘experience’ is a very important word. It’s an — a very important meaning. I never did this before,” he continued. … ‘Now I know everybody,’ he said. ‘And I have great people in the administration….’”
Administration backs nixing ObamaCare coverage for millions – WSJ: “The Trump administration urged the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in a legal brief filed Thursday… The administration’s continued support for toppling the ACA is a political gamble as jobless claims stabilize around a historic high of about 20 million because of the pandemic. Democrats, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, are seeking to portray President Trump as endangering health coverage at a time when more than 120,000 people have died from coronavirus. … A decision invalidating the ACA would be a shock to the U.S. health system. It wouldn’t only end coverage for the 11.4 million people who signed up for insurance for this year, but also halt the expansion of Medicaid that covers more than 12 million people. Insurers would again be able to deny people health coverage or charge higher premiums to consumers with pre-existing conditions … Mr. Trump has repeatedly promised to release a new, better health plan but hasn’t done so.”
Half of voters strongly disapprove – NPR: “After weeks of protests against police brutality and racism, and amid a renewed spike in coronavirus cases, the number of voters disapproving of the job President Trump is doing is at an all-time high, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. Trump’s approval rating sits at just 40% overall, while a record 58% disapprove. What’s more, a whopping 49% of voters ‘strongly disapprove’ of the job Trump is doing. That kind of intensity of disapproval is a record never before seen for this president or any past one. In the general election matchup, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by 8 percentage points, 52% to 44%. That’s a considerable margin, and it’s especially important that Biden is above — not just reaching — 50%. But it’s not as wide a lead for Biden as other surveys have found recently.”
Cancels weekend trip to New Jersey country club – Fox News: “President Trump canceled his weekend trip to Bedminster, N.J. on Friday after the state imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for individuals traveling into the region from states seeing a surge in positive cases of COVID-19. The president was scheduled to leave Washington D.C. for Trump National Gold Club in Bedminster Friday afternoon, but the White House made an announcement that the trip had been canceled. It is unclear, at this point, exactly why the president’s plans changed. Trump is deemed ‘essential’ and is not subject to the quarantine recommendations. When asked whether the cancellation was related to New Jersey’s new travel restrictions, White House spokesman Judd Deere told Fox News, ‘It has nothing to do with that.’”
Noonan: ‘The week it went south for Trump’ – WSJ: “Something shifted this month. Donald Trump’s hold on history loosened, and may be breaking. In some new way his limitations are being seen and acknowledged, and at a moment when people are worried about the continuance of their country and their own ability to continue within it. He hasn’t been equal to the multiple crises. Good news or bad, he rarely makes any situation better. And everyone kind of knows. … His long-term political malpractice has been his failure—with a rising economy, no unemployment and no hot wars—to build his support beyond roughly 40% of the country. He failed because he obsesses on his base and thinks it has to be fed and greased with the entertainments that alienate everyone else. But his base, which always understood he was a showman, wanted steadiness and seriousness in these crises, because they have a sense of the implications of things. He doesn’t understand his own base. I’ve never seen that in national politics.”
THE RULEBOOK: ONCE UPON A TIME…
“In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 2
TIME OUT: E.T. PHONE HOME?
Atlantic: “For about four days, the radio waves would arrive at random. Then, for the next 12, nothing. Then, another four days of haphazard pulses. Followed by another 12 days of silence. The pattern—the well-defined swings from frenzy to stillness and back again—persisted like clockwork for more than a year. Dongzi Li, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, started tracking these signals in 2019. She works on a Canadian-led project, CHIME, that studies astrophysical phenomena called fast radio bursts. These invisible flashes, known as FRBs for short, reach Earth from all directions in space. They show up without warning and flash for a few milliseconds, matching the radiance of entire galaxies. Astronomers don’t know what makes them, only that they can travel for millions, even billions, of years from their sources before reaching us. In the past decade, astronomers managed to detect about 100 of them before they vanished.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 39.4 percent
Biden: 49.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 10.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 1 point; Trump ↓ 1.6 points
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 44% – Biden 52%; CNBC: Trump 38% – Biden 47%; NYT/Sienna: Trump 36% – Biden 50%; Fox News: Trump 38% – Biden 50%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 41% – Biden 49%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (103 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15)
Lean R/Likely R: (186 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 41.4 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent
Net Score: -13.6 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.8 points
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve – 57% disapprove; CNBC: 39% approve – 52% disapprove; NYT/Siena: 41% approve – 56% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 42% approve – 55% disapprove.]
BIDEN SAYS HE WOULD MAKE MASKS MANDATORY
Fox News: “Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Thursday that he would use federal power to require Americans to wear face masks in public — a move that would mark a significant intervention by the federal government and could see considerable pushback from states. Biden made the comments in an interview with CBS affiliate KDKA, in which he spoke about what he thinks should be done to reopen the country from the coronavirus shutdown. He said that he wants to see greater use of masks. ‘The one thing we do know, these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask,’ he said. ‘Anyone to reopen, it would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks.’ The interviewer asked if he would use ‘federal leverage’ to mandate mask-wearing, ‘Yes, I would from an executive standpoint, yes I would,’ he said, to which the interviewer asked if he would then be mandating mask-wearing.”
Voters not wound up about Biden veepstakes, race not a factor – NYT: “Joseph R. Biden Jr. appears to face limited political pressure from voters about whom to choose as his running mate, with no contender emerging as a clear favorite and the great majority of people saying that race should not be a factor in his decision, according to polling conducted by The New York Times and Siena College. … In the Times poll, four in five registered voters said that race shouldn’t be a factor in Mr. Biden’s selection of a running mate. That group included three-quarters of the black voters polled, and more than 8 in 10 white and Hispanic voters. About a fifth of black voters said they would like to see Mr. Biden choose a black running mate. The largest group with that preference was very liberal voters, at 37 percent; 27 percent of voters with postgraduate degrees said the same. The poll asked respondents if they thought Mr. Biden should chose a black running mate or a white running mate or if race shouldn’t be a factor.”
TRUMP WAY BACK IN FLORIDA AS SENIORS BOLT FOR BIDEN
Fox News: “Voters think Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is better suited to handle the issues of the day, expanding his lead over President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Florida. Biden tops Trump by 9 points, 49-40 percent, in a Fox News survey of Florida registered voters. That’s up from a 3-point edge in April (46-43 percent). Among those ‘extremely’ motivated to vote, Biden’s lead grows to 11 points (53-42 percent). In 2016, Trump received 49 percent of the vote, winning the Sunshine State by one point. The former vice president owes his advantage to the backing of Hispanics (+17 points), women (+18 points), and Millennials born between 1981 and 1996 (+30).”
Texas undecideds sour on Trump – Fox News: “Texas is a tossup, as Democrat Joe Biden tops President Donald Trump by a percentage point, 45-44 percent, in a new Fox News survey of Texas registered voters. Ten percent are up for grabs, and this small subgroup of voters is more likely to disapprove than approve of Trump’s job performance by 52-34 percent. The good news for Trump: he bests Biden by 51-45 percent among those ‘extremely’ motivated to vote in the election. Trump corralled the Lone Star State by 9 points in 2016 (52 percent vs. Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent), and it has been in the Republican column in every presidential election since 1980.”
Trump, Tillis in tough reelection bids in Tar Heel state – Fox News: “President Donald Trump trails Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by a 47-45 percent margin, according to a Fox News survey of North Carolina registered voters. That 2-point edge is within the survey’s margin of sampling error. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by nearly four points in North Carolina in 2016. If the election ultimately is about the economy, that should help Trump. By a 9-point margin, Tar Heel voters think he would do a better job than Biden at managing it. If it turns on race relations, Biden has a 13-point advantage over the president. … Currently, [Sen. Thom Tillis] is 2 points behind Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, 39-37 percent. Six percent of voters back a third-party candidate and another 15 percent are undecided.”
Not so peachy for Trump: Georgia a dead heat – Fox News: “Democrat Joe Biden is narrowly preferred over President Donald Trump in a new Fox News survey of Georgia registered voters. Neither candidate receives majority support in the head-to-head presidential matchup, as Biden garners 47 percent to Trump’s 45 percent. Biden’s 2-point edge is within the poll’s margin of error and nearly one out of ten voters is up for grabs. More Republicans (71 percent) than Democrats (65 percent) feel ‘extremely’ motivated about voting this fall. That puts Trump (49 percent) over Biden (47 percent) by 2 points when the race is narrowed to just ‘extremely’ motivated voters. Trump won Georgia by 5 points in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by a 51-46 percent margin.”
WHITE HOUSE WEIGHS NEW MASS-TESTING EFFORT
WaPo: “The Trump administration is weighing a new testing strategy as coronavirus cases mount: testing groups of people together. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [said] that health officials are having ‘intense discussions’ about what’s known as ‘pool testing.’ The idea is that by testing samples from many people all together, officials could test more people with fewer resources. And those who are infected could be more quickly found and isolated. Pool testing would allow officials to cast a much broader net to find cases faster. It would represent a dramatic shift from how coronavirus testing is currently being carried out in the United States – but one that may be sorely needed as virus hot spots worsen and new ones appear. ‘Something’s not working,’ Fauci said of the current approach. ‘I mean, you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working.’”
Abbott slams shut partial reopening – Texas Tribune: “Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday took his most drastic action yet to respond to the post-reopening coronavirus surge in Texas, shutting bars back down and scaling back restaurant capacity to 50%. He also shut down river-rafting trips and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless local officials approve. ‘At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,’ Abbott said in a news release. ‘The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.’ Bars must close at noon Friday, and the reduction in restaurant capacity takes effect Monday. Before Abbott’s announcement Friday, bars were able to operate at 50% capacity and restaurants at 75% capacity.”
Senate GOP getting antsy despise Pence efforts to placate – Politico: “As coronavirus cases spike across the country, President Donald Trump and his top officials say everything is mostly under control. But Senate Republicans are pressing them to show a little urgency. The latest outbreaks are also reshaping the GOP’s political and legislative strategy, with Republicans planning to focus more on health care in the next coronavirus relief bill. And they’re flashing rare frustration at the Trump administration for its decision to wind down federally supported testing sites. … Meanwhile Trump is still downplaying the virus’ impact, questioning the value of testing and ridiculing the idea of wearing a mask despite holding large-scale campaign rallies. But mask-wearing has become virtually ubiquitous among GOP senators and some are now urging Trump to set an example by wearing a face covering, which medical experts say helps slow the spread of the virus.”
Barr intensifies warnings about mass fraud in mail-in ballots – NBC News: “Attorney General William Barr on Thursday raised concerns that expanding mail-in voting could lead to widespread fraud — but admitted he had no evidence to support his claims. In an interview with NPR, Barr was asked if he believes an election conducted mainly by mail can be secure. ‘Personally, no. I mean, we just mailed out checks under this program. And what is it? I heard something like 20 percent or something were misdirected,’ Barr said, referring to stimulus checks sent out by the federal government as part of a coronavirus relief package. Barr said that he thinks the same thing can happen with mail-in ballots. ‘I know things can happen like that,’ he said. ‘Because I know people move, a very high percentage in the United States, people move all the time. And I also know that you can easily take things out of mailboxes.’”
PARTISANSHIP-CHOKED CONGRESS SET TO FLOP ON POLICING
Politico: “As the United States faces its biggest crisis over civil rights in decades, Congress is poised to do nothing. Again. What could have been a searing, soul-searching moment where America’s political leaders helped establish a new national accord on race and the role of police in society has instead devolved into a frenzy of political posturing, campaign sloganeering and ugly partisan fights. The House on Thursday passed a sweeping police reform bill that would ban chokeholds, end the use of ‘no-knock’ warrants, create a national registry for officers accused of misconduct, and make it easier to prosecute officers. Yet Democrats picked up only a few GOP votes, guaranteeing the proposal has no chance of moving in the Senate. And the Senate can’t even agree to begin debate on a police reform bill, with Democrats blocking efforts to take up a proposal drafted by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), one of two Black Republicans on Capitol Hill.”
How restaurant habits foretell surges in corona – Bloomberg
Statehouse candidate’s daughter takes to Twitter begging followers to vote against her dad – NY Post
House approves DC statehood bill, GOP calls move Dem ‘power grab’ – Fox News
AUDIBLE: FROM THE BAYOU TO THE GLACIERS
“[Joe Biden’s] not a very gimmicky kind of person, and I don’t think people are looking for a gimmicky president. I’ve said before in a kind of exaggerated way, I don’t care. Pick Sarah Palin. I’ll be for her too. I just want to win this thing.” – Democratic strategist James Carville speaking to MSNBC.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with former CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden. 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
“I’m not a fan of taking qualified immunity away from the police. However, if that is what most Americans want, I will accept it. If this is our country’s future, then I think we should not single out the police. Qualified immunity should then be stripped from all local, state and federal government employees. Included in this list should be politicians, teachers and professors of all public and private schools and universities.” – Jim Hain, Omaha, Neb.
[Ed. note: We should first be clear in what we’re talking about when we say, “qualified immunity.” It is a legal doctrine that, under a 1982 Supreme Court decision, protects officers from lawsuits unless they knowingly violate the legal and constitutional rights of a suspect. As time has gone by, courts have made it harder and harder to sue police officers for misconduct on the job. There’s evidence that the doctrine is changing, though. The high court this month rejected an appeal from an innocent Idaho woman whose home police destroyed with tear gas grenades, but the number of cases that address police misconduct is mounting. After almost 40 years, there’s increasing pressure to revisit the doctrine. The original intent of the doctrine as it took form in the middle of the last century was to prevent harassing plaintiffs from basically bankrupting jurisdictions with frivolous lawsuits. Those kinds of protections are likely to remain for police and all public officials, but what is likely to change are the ways in which courts broadly apply the protections as it relates to police misconduct.]
“Your lead analysis of 25 June is what I have been saying for months! Thank you for putting it so much more lucidly than I ever could. Beware of who the DNC picks to run as VP candidate. (S)he could very well be the next President!” – Tom Scherer, Udonthani, Thailand
[Ed. note: I note that the president has scrapped his plans for a weekend at his New Jersey country club. Is this a sign of the ship turning or just another zigzag? And if he is trying to get a hold of himself and his campaign, can he stick with it? The answers to those questions may decide whether this is a campaign or a boat race and whether Republicans get wiped out up and down the ballot like they did in 1958.]
“I appreciate and value your commentary and insight every day. I also appreciate your links to Judge Napolitano, specifically the link on Thursday which nominally addressed ‘Statues Protest’ but which was powerful and perspective changing, in his blunt assessment of what he referred to as the ‘slavery afterlife.’ Can we ever muster the political and social will to address and redress the economic punishment inflicted upon African Americans for the last four centuries? I would argue that an aggressive and reformed inheritance tax (one with reasonable and modest exemptions to protect the inheritors) could be put to use…to transfer wealth from a small number of citizens to a far larger number of citizens. I recognize this defeats the expectancy interests of a small number of ‘innocents.’ I believe this might however, remove a major objection from the majority of citizens (and the argument that they should not be taxed/punished for the sins of their ancestors to favor a disadvantaged group of contemporaries). I make no pretense to understand how the funds would be fairly or effectively applied to redress economic wrongs. I do however believe that a dedicated source of funds, collected over a few generations might be sufficient to provide some equitable relief and balance the economic scales.” – Dennis Cline, Purcellville, Va.
[Ed. note: Many others share your view, Mr. Cline, about ways to address the injustices of the past without acting unjustly now. On a practical basis, I would caution you that those families in possession of great fortunes have long ago figured out creative ways of avoiding inheritance taxes through foundations, trusts, etc. The taking would have to be pretty blunt and pretty aggressive. Then come the questions about qualifications for benefits. Should someone who emigrated from Africa recently get the same share as an American descendant of slaves? Should the percentage of enslaved ancestors be determinative in the awarding of benefits? Or should we go back to the Jim Crow standards and base it on an individual’s complexion? It gets pretty ugly pretty fast. Leaving aside the scheme that would be used for implementing reparations, though, I worry about the focus on this as a matter of relief. Slavery and then Jim Crow used the force of law to deny human beings not just the chance to amass wealth but also to receive quality educations and enjoy other public goods — from advancement in the military to little league to summer job programs to swimming lessons. Race-based legal discrimination was followed with an attempted remedy under presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon that sought to remedy the questions of wealth accumulation and the denial of public goods through massive new federal spending and public welfare programs. The results have been, at best, mixed. The numbers on America’s black middle class are grim. A stable place in the middle class means not just money but durable families and institutions that can perpetuate generational advantages. Sadly, the same problems are badly afflicting working-class white communities. While an affluent elite — an increasingly diverse one, at that — pulls away from the pack thanks to the advantages of stable communities, strong institutions and an achievement-oriented culture, poorer Americans are left behind in places with weak institutions, high crime, rampant addiction and mass despair. That is then made worse by policing that all too often becomes a revenue source in poor places. Fines, asset forfeiture and general hassling become a de facto tax on poor people, especially poor black people. The two Americas are different in wealth, yes, but more damagingly, they are different in access to the things that make advantages sustainable. We have, as Charles Murray put it, come apart. Dumping money on those problems will not fix them. I’m not saying that the descendants of slaves aren’t owed for their ancestors’ bondage, but I am saying that the issues facing America today are far more cultural and institutional than they are about money. Money can be a tool for addressing these issues, but only a tool.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
Detroit Free Press: “People are getting creative when it comes to staying safe from COVID-19 and it has prompted at least one Michigan library to issue a public warning: Stop microwaving books. A burned book was returned to Kent District Library after being damaged in a microwave. Don’t microwave anything, library officials say. Library books have metal in the security radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are located inside of the book. When the metal entered the microwave, a hole was burned into the cover. ‘I don’t know if it was something that they saw on the news — that they thought maybe the heat would kill COVID-19,’ said Elizabeth Guarino-Kozlowicz, regional manager of Kent District Library. … In addition, USA TODAY responded to public questions about sterilizing face masks and one inquiry was about microwaving face masks. Experts recommended against microwaving masks since metal often is found inside the masks, just like library books.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The oddest thing about the current national crusade against tobacco is not its frenzy–our culture lives from one frenzy to the next–but its selectivity.” – 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.