President Trump says mortality from the coronavirus is down, as Dr. Fauci calls the death rate a ‘false narrative;’ Kristin Fisher reports on the latest.
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On the roster: Feds to loosen school corona rules under pressure from Trump – Texas deaths, hospitalizations soar – SupCo curbs ObamaCare mandate on birth control – Kennedy wins chance to take on turncoat Van Drew – Eligible receiver downfield
FEDS TO LOOSEN SCHOOL CORONA RULES UNDER PRESSURE FROM TRUMP
USA Today: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is revising its guidance on reopening schools after President Donald Trump tweeted his disagreement with them, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday. ‘The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,’ Pence said at a news conference at the U.S. Department of Education. ‘That's the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.’ Trump tweeted Wednesday that he disagrees with the CDC's ‘very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools’ as the coronavirus pandemic continues… He also threatened to withhold funding from schools that don't populate their classrooms this fall. Asked about that threat, Pence said the administration wants to include ‘incentives for states to go forward’ in the next federal stimulus package. ‘And as we work with Congress on the next round of state support, we're going to be looking for ways to give states a strong incentive and encouragement to get kids back to school,’ said Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.”
Convention plans still in flux as Florida woes grow – Politico: “President Donald Trump redirected the Republican National Convention to Florida after North Carolina's Democratic governor couldn’t ‘guarantee’ a full venue in August because of the coronavirus pandemic. But with coronavirus cases skyrocketing in Florida as Trump's poll numbers drop in his must-win battleground state, it looks like the president won't get his full-blown festivities there, either. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, refused to say on Tuesday whether he would lift a rule mandating that indoor gatherings stay under 50 percent capacity — which would hold the Jacksonville convention to 7,500 people. Two octogenarian GOP senators, Lamar Alexander and Chuck Grassley, announced they wouldn’t attend the convention amid the pandemic, which has hit the elderly the hardest.”
Trump says election ‘a much closer situation’ – RealClearPolitics: “‘If the Republicans don't toughen up and get smart and get strong and protect our heritage and protect our country,’ he explained, ‘I think they're going to have a very tough election.’ … Trump has hit on the message he believes will carry him to a second term. He is not unaware of the spate of polling that shows [Joe] Biden expanding his lead, numbers he takes seriously. But Trump spoke longingly on Tuesday of a kind of campaign that is no longer possible amid a pandemic. ‘This was going to be a blowout, and then China hit us with the ‘China virus,’ and all of a sudden, it discombobulated this country and the entire world. Now, it's a much closer situation,’ he said. ‘We were sailing to an easy victory. Now, I have to fight for the victory, but I've been fighting all my life. That's what I do. I fight for victory.’”
Cook slides key states into Dem column – Cook Political Report: “This election is looking more like a Democratic tsunami than simply a Blue wave. President Trump, mired in some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency, is trailing Biden by significant margins in key battleground states like Pennsylvania (8 points), Michigan (9 points), and Wisconsin (9 points). He’s even running behind Biden in his firewall states of Florida and North Carolina. We’ve made changes to our Electoral College ratings to reflect this reality. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska’s 2nd district move from Toss Up to Lean Democrat. Maine, once in Lean Democrat, moves to the safer Likely Democratic category. Georgia has joined Arizona, North Carolina and Florida in the Toss Up column, although, at this point, Biden would be slightly favored to win at least Arizona and Florida. … These moves alone push Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold (to 279).”
THE RULEBOOK: MADE FOR EACH OTHER
“This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 2
TIME OUT: ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE
History:“On July 8, 1776, a 2,000-pound copper-and-tin bell now known as the ‘Liberty Bell’ rings out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Four days earlier, the historic document had been adopted by delegates to the Continental Congress, but the bell did not ring to announce the issuing of the document until the Declaration of Independence returned from the printer on July 8. In 1751, to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly ordered the bell to be constructed. After being cracked during a test, and then recast twice, the bell was hung from the State House steeple in June 1753. Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act.”
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NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 41.4 percent
Biden: 51 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 9.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.4 points; Trump ↑ 2 points
[Average includes: IBD: Trump 40% – Biden 48%; Monmouth: Trump 41% – Biden 53%; CNBC: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; 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)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.2 percent
Average disapproval: 56.4 percent
Net Score: -16.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.6 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve – 56% disapprove; Monmouth: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; CNBC: 43% approve – 57% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve – 58% disapprove.]
TEXAS DEATHS, HOSPITALIZATIONS SOAR
AP: “The record high of 10,028 new cases in Texas served as another alarming new measure of the swift resurgence of COVID-19 nationwide and the failures of the country’s response. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas aggressively began one of America’s fastest reopenings in May but has begun reversing course in recent weeks, ordering bars closed and mandating face coverings. Texas surged past 8,000 statewide hospitalizations for the first time over the long holiday weekend – a more than quadruple increase on the past month. On Tuesday, the number of hospitalizations soared past 9,000. Texas also set a new high for deaths in a single day with 60. Mayors in some of the biggest cities in the state and U.S. – including Austin, San Antonio and Houston – have warned that hospitals could soon become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Along the Texas-Mexico border, some cities imposed curfew orders in hopes of cutting down on large parties or social gatherings as cases have skyrocketed.”
Lone Star Republican leaders shun in-person convention – Texas Tribune: “The Republican Party of Texas is moving forward with its controversial in-person convention during the coronavirus pandemic — but elected officials including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will be giving their scheduled speeches virtually. ‘All the elected officials are switching from a live, in-person speech to videos,’ Kyle Whatley, the party’s executive director, said during a town hall livestreamed Tuesday night. ‘They’re doing that for us in order to focus all the attention on the business of the meeting and to get everybody in and out of here as quickly and as safely as possible.’ Texas Republican officials typically headline their party’s biennial state convention, which this year is scheduled for July 16 to 18 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. Roughly 6,000 people are expected to attend the event. Attendees will be required to wear masks during most of the gathering, according to party Chair James Dickey, after Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate last week.”
McConnell says ‘one last boost’ of stimulus soon – Fox News: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling a new coronavirus bill may come soon, weeks after Democrats started pummeling the Kentucky Republican for not teeing up another major COVID-19 package like the House did back in May. ‘This is not over. We are seeing a resurgence in a lot of states,' McConnell said. 'I think the country needs one last boost’… McConnell clearly knows it will be hard to get Democrats and Republicans to align on another bill. A senior Senate GOP leadership source reiterated nothing would be a foregone conclusion.”
States, cities and schools slash spending amid revenue collapse – WSJ: “State and local governments from Georgia to California are cutting money for schools, universities and other services as the coronavirus-induced recession wreaks havoc on their finances. Widespread job losses and closed businesses have reduced revenue from sales and income taxes, forcing officials to make agonizing choices in budgets for the new fiscal year, which started July 1 in much of the country. Governments have cut 1.5 million jobs since March, mostly in education, and more reductions are likely barring a quick economic recovery. In Washington state, some state workers will take unpaid furloughs. In Idaho, Boise State University cut its baseball and swim teams in an effort to save $3 million.”
SUPCO CURBS OBAMACARE MANDATE ON BIRTH CONTROL
Fox News: “The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration acted within its authority when it expanded exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement for employers to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception — in a victory for Little Sisters of the Poor, the Catholic group that has been at the center of the national debate over the mandate. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Trump administration and the Catholic charity that cares for the elderly in two related disputes against Pennsylvania, which sued over the validity of a rule from the Trump administration that allowed religiously affiliated groups and some for-profit companies to opt-out of providing contraception coverage to employees. The majority opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that the Trump administration's challenged rulemaking was aboveboard, and hailed the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor.”
Trump tax returns on deck – Fox News: “The Supreme Court is expected to release their final three opinions of current term on Thursday, two of them having to do with subpoenas for President Trump's financial records, including his tax returns. One involves two consolidated cases in which Democrat-led House committees are seeking records from accounting firm Mazars USA, Deutsche Bank, and Capital One, while the other involves grand jury subpoenas from the Manhattan District Attorney's office to Mazars and the Trump Organization. A House Oversight Committee subpoena of Mazars seeks access to a slew of Trump financial documents dating back to 2011, including personal records and records of various affiliated businesses and entities. Democrats pursued the subpoena after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that the president's accountants routinely and improperly altered his financial statements — including some signed by Mazars — to misrepresent his assets and liabilities.”
KENNEDY WINS CHANCE TO TAKE ON TURNCOAT VAN DREW
Philadelphia Inquirer: “Amy Kennedy, a South Jersey school teacher who married into a storied American political family, toppled the region’s most powerful political machine Tuesday to claim an unlikely victory in the Democratic primary for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Kennedy, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, will now bring the Democratic bona fides of her own family – her father was an Atlantic County freeholder – and that of her in-laws to bear against freshman U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a former longtime Democrat who switched parties last year and memorably pledged his ‘undying support’ to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. … The understated Kennedy, 41, her five children eating cupcakes nearby, smiled broadly after taking off her cloth face mask to cheers and a rousing introduction by Gov. Phil Murphy, who introduced her by saying Democrats had ‘won the lottery’ in Kennedy.”
Family business: Omar pays husband’s firm big bucks – Fox News: “When U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar got remarried in March following her divorce, the Minnesota Democrat tied the knot with a man who was a member of her political consulting team. Now, campaign data show Omar has paid Tim Mynett’s consulting firm a total of more than $878,000 since 2018 — including $189,000 just weeks after the couple announced they were husband and wife, the New York Post reported. In the first quarter of this year, Mynett’s E Street Group has received more than $292,000 from Omar’s campaign for digital advertising, fundraising consulting and research services, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported in April, citing data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Payments for 2019 totaled more than $500,000, the Star Tribune reported.”
AUDIBLE: ‘WE’ SAY?
“I’m not saying Trump’s in my way, he may be a part of my way. And Joe Biden? Like come on man, please. You know? Obama’s special. Trump’s special. We say Kanye West is special. America needs special people that lead. Bill Clinton? Special. Joe Biden’s not special.” – Kayne West in an interview with Forbes
PLAY BY PLAY
Harvard, MIT sue over Trump rules on foreign students – Reuters
Trump hosts Mexican president – Reuters
Chief Justice Roberts injured head in fall last month, was hospitalized – Fox News
Leading artists, writers pen letter denouncing cancel culture –BBC
Poll: Most Americans optimistic on race relations despite troubles–Monmouth University
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“What would happen if Trump refuses to leave office if he were to lose and what would the potential consequences be?” – Jackson Sperry, Chaska, Minn.
[Ed. note: Oh, now, Mr. Sperry! If Trump loses the election, I assume he will want to be as far away from the White House as possible. The 49ers aren’t still hanging around in Miami looking for a rematch. And even if he did want to try to stay, his wife and family would presumably talk and walk him through such madness. If they couldn’t prevail, his fellow Republicans would shut things down by refusing to support him. And if all that failed, we know the military and other parts of the executive branch would refuse to follow his orders after noon on Jan. 20. A president can’t really refuse to leave office because the office leaves him. You can go ahead and strike this one from your fret list.]
“I send this for your (hoped-for) amusement. As one of your liberal readers (and, incidentally, a graduate of George Washington HS in Charleston, WV), in 2001, I had a t-shirt, with cartoon drawings and the following caption: SCOTUS + HOCUS POCUS = BOGUS POTUS SupCo just wouldn’t have worked!” – Lesley Wischmann, Holly Ridge, N.C.
[Ed. note: How about “Uh-oh SupCo low blow”? I’ll keep working on it… Always good to hear from a fellow misplaced West Virginian!]
“This: ‘THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE DODGES ANOTHER BULLET’ was one of the best discussions of the subject I’ve read. But I have a question. I live in Missouri – a very red state. This means that I am pretty much disenfranchised when it comes to presidential elections because I tend to vote Democratic and this is a ‘winner take all’ state. Who I vote for makes absolutely no difference? (The same is true in reverse for the Republicans in our neighbor state of Illinois.) What happens if states apportioned electors based on some less ‘gross’ measure such as by county or even proportionally according to the popular vote?The Halftime Report is still one of the best things to hit my inbox. I don’t always agree, but I recognize the effort to cover all aspects of most issues fairly. I never miss one and I read every word.” – Anne Barnstead-Klos, St. Louis
[Ed. note: First of all, Ms. Barnstead-Klos, let’s go Redbirds. As to the benefits of proportional electoral distribution by state, I am skeptical but not firmly opposed. It avoids some of the worst parts of a national popular vote system, particularly in the conduct of elections. As we see with presidential primaries, proportional allocation is a pretty simple way to deliver more direct democracy. I will have to think, though, about how it would work with the demagoguery question. Would it tend to make campaigning and governance less partisan as candidates looked to pick off electors in states they would lose outright? As it is, moderate voters in both parties tend to get pretty short shrift. Or would it be easier for campaigns and parties to seek electors in a proportional system by running hard to the left or the right? I don’t know. I’m increasingly enamored of James Madison’s idea for choosing electors at the congressional district level with two bonus electors for winning statewide. I will keep chewing this one over for some time, I’m sure. Thanks for putting some more hay in my manger!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
ELIGIBLE RECEIVER DOWNFIELD
ABC7: “Phillip Blanks played wide receiver at a college in Southern California. But the greatest catch he ever made in his life came long after his playing career ended. Heart-stopping video shows Blanks diving to catch a 3-year-old boy thrown off the balcony of a burning building in Phoenix on July 3. ‘Instinct. There wasn't much thinking. I just reacted. I just did it,’ he told Eyewitness News in recalling the moment. The 28-year-old says he was raised with the mindset of always looking to help others: He served in the U.S. Marines and now works in the security industry. And of course his time as a wide receiver at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo in 2016-17 was a big help too.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to assure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety — 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals, and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about airport security in theNational Review on November 19, 2010.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Bree Tracey contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.