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On the roster: House Power Rankings: When trends collide – Rudy lawyer says he has digital dirt on Biden’s son – Trump struggling in Rust Belt, especially in Michigan – Graham rebuts Kamala Harris’ attack on Barrett’s candor – Mama llama drama
HOUSE POWER RANKINGS: WHEN TRENDS COLLIDE
You could float an anvil in the partisanship of the past two-dozen years it’s so thick.
As we saw in 2016, when, for the first time ever, no state split its votes for president and Senate, Americans have developed quite an allergy to bipartisan voting. The same has been very true in the House, too.
Race watchers used to talk about “coattails.” Ronald Reagan had them in 1980 and 1984, but neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton in their decisive wins of 1988 and 1992 had enough fabric back there to do any good for their parties in the House.
Since then, though, the bond between presidential performance and the composition of our most democratic institution, the House, has been ironclad. Starting in 1996, the party that got more votes nationwide for president has also gained seats in the House. That means that in six cycles, the GOP has only gained House seats in one presidential year, 2004.
But there’s been another strong trend in recent presidential years with the House: Because midterm elections have tended to be so rough on the party in the White House, there’s usually some giveback in the presidential year.
When a party rides a midterm wave like Republicans did in 1994 or 2010, it wins seats in districts where it probably doesn’t have the strength necessary to hold on in a higher-turnout presidential year.
Those two trends seemed to be on a collision course this year.
There’s never been any serious idea that President Trump would win a popular vote mandate this time around. His potential path has always lain in another narrow victory loop-de-loop in the Electoral College. But at the same time, Democrats in their biggest-ever midterm gains in 2018 had almost certainly outrun their supply lines with victories in traditionally red districts.
Our working assumption at the start of the year was that House Democrats would probably lose a few seats from their 18-seat majority but still be comfortably in command.
In late January, Democrats held a narrow-ish lead in what pollsters call the “generic ballot.” That’s where voters are asked not about their own district, but which party they prefer to be in control of Congress. Generic ballot surveys have a great track record for being predictive of congressional control and we expect the same to be true this time.
In the aftermath of House Dems’ failed impeachment gambit, the party’s advantage in the RealClearPolitics average had shrunk to just about 3 points – substantially behind the party’s 8-point romp in 2018. Democrats in control but with fewer seats sounded right.
But as Republicans began to stagger under the weight of public disapproval for Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the generic ballot shifted. As of today, the average stands at about 7 points, right about where it was ahead of the Democratic romp in 2018.
The shift in public opinion then affected other factors in the battle for House control. Republican fundraising dried up, candidate recruitment was poor, retirements mounted and in at least one case had a primary upset that put a seat in play that otherwise wouldn’t have been.
We looked at the 34 most competitive House contests and found Democrats well positioned to pick up 5 Republicans seats for openers even before getting into the 14 seats we rank in the ‘toss-up’ category. If the two parties just split the toss-ups evenly, Democrats would gain another seat.
You can look at the races individually here, but our best guess right now would be Democrats increasing their House majority by six or more seats. That would take the Blue Team to a larger House majority than even after the back-to-back Dem gains of 2006 and 2008.
That would not only give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more leverage over her restive progressive insurgents like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her crew but also empower the nationalist Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus who would have fewer moderate voices with which to contend.
THE RULEBOOK: RISE TO THE OCCASION
“The sole and undivided responsibility of one man will naturally beget a livelier sense of duty and a more exact regard to reputation.” – Alexander Hamilton, writing about the executive’s power of appointment, Federalist No. 76
TIME OUT: YAS QUEEN
Smithsonian: “She was, in the words of historian John Edwards, Henry VIII’s ‘greatest queen.’ But though Catherine of Aragon’s marriage to the Tudor king lasted 24 years—collectively, his five other marriages spanned just 14 years—she has long been overshadowed by her successors. … Far from being the troublesome, unappealing wife of popular imagination, Catherine was actually a charismatic, intelligent and much-loved queen. Three years into the royal couple’s marriage, Henry was still so besotted with his consort that he invited a Spanish visitor to look at her ‘just to see how bella and beautiful she was.’ In 1513, the queen, then 27 years old, was entrusted with command of the kingdom while her 22-year-old husband waged war against France’s Francis I. Henry left behind a small group of advisors, but as newly discovered documents demonstrate, Catherine didn’t simply defer to these elderly men’s counsel. Instead, she assumed an active role in the governing—and protection—of England.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 42.2 percent
Biden: 53.6 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 11.4 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 1 point, Trump ↑ 0.2 points
[Average includes: ABC News/WaPo: Trump 43% – Biden 55%; Fox News: Trump 43% – Biden 53%; CNN: Trump 41% – Biden 57%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 39% – Biden 53%; Monmouth University: Trump 45% – Biden 50%.]
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: 44.2 percent
Average disapproval: 53.8 percent
Net Score: -9.6 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.4 points
[Average includes: ABC News/WaPo: 45% approve – 55% disapprove; Fox News: 47% approve – 52% disapprove; CNN: 40% approve – 57% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve – 55% disapprove; NYT/Siena College: 46% approve – 50% 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.
RUDY LAWYER SAYS HE HAS DIGITAL DIRT ON BIDEN’S SON
Fox News: “A lawyer for President Trump‘s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News on Wednesday he has obtained a hard drive containing some 40,000 emails, thousands of text messages, and photographs and videos of Hunter Biden – the son of former Vice President Joe Biden – in ‘very compromising positions.’ Attorney Robert Costello confirmed the explosive revelations, first reported by the New York Post, that an Apple MacBook Pro alleged to have belonged to the younger Biden was disassembled and an external hard drive was turned over to the FBI in December – after the computer repair shop owner in Biden’s home state of Delaware notified federal investigators about their existence. … Costello said the laptop was inoperable, but it remained unclear if the FBI retrieved the contents – and if it still existed. However, he underscored that he had in his possession a copy of the hard drive with tens of thousands of potentially damaging correspondence pertaining to Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings, which also implicate his high-profile father.”
‘Unmasking’ investigation closes without charges – Fox News: “The Justice Department reportedly concluded its investigation into unmasking requests made by Obama-era officials without charging anyone involved or releasing a public report on the issue. Sources told The Washington Post that the investigation, previously led by former U.S. Attorney John Bash, concluded without finding any wrongdoing. While ‘unmasking’ names on classified documents is a common practice, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, who revealed the investigation in May, said that month that the frequency of or motive behind Obama-era officials’ requests might have been ‘problematic.’ … The roster featured top-ranking figures including then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s then-chief of staff, Denis McDonough.”
Biden leads in Georgia while Ohio is too close to call – Quinnipiac University: “In Georgia, Biden leads 51 – 44 percent among likely voters, while 4 percent are undecided. On September 29th, the race for the White House was too close to call when Biden had 50 percent support and Trump had 47 percent support. The September survey was taken before the first presidential debate and the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Today, likely voters give Biden a slightly positive 51 – 46 percent favorability rating, compared to a mixed 48 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable rating in the last survey. Likely voters give Trump a negative 43 – 54 percent favorability rating today, compared to a mixed 47 percent favorable and 51 percent unfavorable rating in the last survey. ‘For Trump, 2016 is a distant memory. Defeating Hillary Clinton by 5 points when the polls closed then, and now down seven to Biden with three weeks to go. Warning lights are blinking red and alarms are going off in the Peach Tree state,’ said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.”
Biden hits double digit lead in the Granite State – Boston Globe: “Joe Biden holds a sizable lead over President Trump in New Hampshire, raising the prospect of a November shellacking in a state the Republican just narrowly lost four years ago, according to a new poll from Suffolk University and The Boston Globe. Biden leads Trump 51 percent to 41 percent with 3 percent undecided, according to the survey of likely voters conducted Thursday through Monday, which found the president weighed down by broad disapproval among women and independents. The numbers portend a potentially historic result in a traditional swing state. If Biden wins the Granite State by more than 10 percentage points, it would be the biggest victory by a Democratic presidential nominee there since Lyndon B. Johnson’s 28-point win in 1964.”
Campaign flexes Hollywood muscle – NBC News: “Justin Timberlake, Natalie Portman, Alanis Morissette and more are lending their star power to Joe Biden’s campaign coffers for virtual fundraisers in the closing weeks of the campaign, according to a list of invitations to the events obtained by NBC News. Democrats have long tapped Hollywood stars for money and glitz, but the shift from in-person to virtual events during the coronavirus pandemic has made it easier for campaigns to book stars and put on more elaborate events, such as re-assembling the entire cast of a classic film for the first time ever to perform a live script read. Meanwhile, retired four-star Gen. Stan McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan who endorsed Biden earlier this month, is hosting a virtual fundraiser with Richard Armitage, a former top State Department official under George W. Bush.”
TRUMP STRUGGLING IN RUST BELT, ESPECIALLY IN MICHIGAN
Politico: “Michigan is looking less competitive by the day, and there’s a growing likelihood of Joe Biden blowing out Donald Trump here come November 3. All three Rust Belt states that Trump improbably won in 2016 — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — are problematic for the president this year. But Michigan is where things look bleakest. His support has diminished among the white working-class. Black turnout appears certain to rebound after a dismal showing in 2016. New laws that allow for early voting and no-excuse-absentee balloting are expected to push voter participation to historic levels, with Democrats the expected beneficiary of low-propensity Michiganders flooding the ballot box. But the simplest explanation for the president’s trouble here is that he’s continuing to hemorrhage support from white, college-educated women in the suburbs of Detroit. It’s hard to overstate just how badly Trump is performing with this crucial demographic.”
It’s showing in the polls – WOOD: “With the election being a couple of weeks away, a new poll shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is holding on to his lead over President Donald Trump in Michigan. In the EPIC-MRA poll released Wednesday morning, 48% of respondents said they would vote for Biden and 39% would vote for Trump if the election was held immediately. Those are similar results to polls published in August and September by EPIC-MRA. As people finalize their plan on how to vote, 46% said they intend to vote at the polls and 51% say they are voting absentee. Out of those planning to vote in-person, 44% said they were very certain they were going to the polls. Forty-eight percent intending to vote absentee said they are very certain about their plans.
Tar Heels aren’t warming up to Republican candidates – NYT: “With a half-million votes already cast, President Trump and Senator Thom Tillis trail their Democratic challengers in North Carolina, according to a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College, signaling potential trouble for Republicans in a state critical to both the presidential race and the battle for control of the Senate. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. leads Mr. Trump among likely voters, 46 percent to 42 percent, while Mr. Tillis is behind Cal Cunningham, his Democratic challenger who is embroiled in a scandal over salacious text messages, 41 percent to 37 percent. … The poll was conducted within the last few days, well after Mr. Cunningham offered an awkward public apology for the romantic (but PG-rated) texts he sent this summer to a woman who is not his wife. It found that Mr. Cunningham, a former state senator and an Iraq war veteran, retains a 15-point advantage among women.”
NBC to host Trump town hall Thursday – NYT: “President Trump may not be debating Joseph R. Biden Jr. on the same stage on Thursday night as originally planned. But the two candidates will still face off head-to-head. NBC News confirmed on Wednesday that it would broadcast a prime-time town-hall-style event with Mr. Trump from Miami on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern, with the president fielding questions from Florida voters. The event will directly overlap with an already-scheduled ABC televised town-hall meeting with Mr. Biden in Philadelphia, which will begin at the same time. Mr. Biden’s town hall has been on the books since last week, after Mr. Trump, who had recently contracted the coronavirus, rejected plans to convert the second formal presidential debate into a virtual matchup; the debate was eventually canceled. The NBC event, to be moderated by the ‘Today’ show host Savannah Guthrie, had been contingent on the Trump campaign providing independent proof that the president would not pose a safety risk to the other participants — including NBC crew members, voters and Ms. Guthrie herself.”
Trump says he feels like a coronavirus ‘Superman’ in Pennsylvania – The Philadelphia Inquirer: “President Donald Trump returned to this former Pennsylvania industrial hub Tuesday night for his second campaign rally since being treated for COVID-19 and declared that he ‘felt like Superman.’ ‘I feel your pain because I felt your pain,’ an energized Trump told a raucous crowd of thousands at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. ‘This election is a simple choice,’ said Trump, who emerged from Air Force One without wearing a face mask. ‘If Biden wins, China wins. All these other countries win. We get ripped off by everybody. If we win, you win, Pennsylvania wins, and America wins. Very simple.’ Trump’s campaign stop here came a day after his doctor said the president had tested negative for COVID-19 on ‘consecutive days’ and was ‘not infectious to others.’”
What can go right or wrong on election night… – Bloomberg: “Benjamin Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer, puts the odds of the 2020 presidential election ending up in an all-out legal brawl that lasts into January at less than 1%. Democrat Joe Biden has widened his lead over President Donald Trump in national and most battleground state polls in recent weeks. Ginsberg says the history of past U.S. presidential elections means there’s a very high chance the winner will be clear on election night or within the following three weeks. But all bets are off if the race tightens, given the fiercely polarized electorate, a record number of mail-in ballots and Trump’s hurling of unsubstantiated charges. That could set up a historically contentious — and lengthy — post-election struggle. … Based on interviews with election lawyers and experts, here’s an early look at the possible scenarios for how Nov. 3 and the aftermath could play out…”
GRAHAM REBUTS KAMALA HARRIS’ ATTACK ON BARRETT’S CANDOR
Fox News: “The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett heated up Wednesday afternoon with more tense exchanges over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), specifically with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, appearing to suggest that Barrett was publicly lobbying for a judicial job from Trump by writing a law review article that expressed suspicion of a past ACA ruling. Meanwhile, Barrett continued to tell Democrats she couldn’t answer many of their questions on policy, something that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., defended her on. ‘Sen. [Kamala] Harris mentioned about how much more candid Justice Ginsburg was… I don’t agree with that,’ Graham said. … Klobuchar, D-Minn., after the hearing’s lunch break picked up on a point hammered by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Tuesday. She asked about a 2017 law review article in which Barrett criticized the reasoning of the majority opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius, the original Supreme Court ruling that upheld the ACA’s constitutionality…”
SupCo rules Trump admin to end census counting early – NPR
AUDIBLE: PACE YOURSELF
“Voting in Florida is a marathon. And what you’re seeing is a bit of a sprint from the Democrats.” – Trump’s Florida campaign director, Susie Wiles, told Politico. This comes as Politico reports Democrats are outvoting Republicans for the first time at this stage of a general election.
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MAMA LLAMA DRAMA
UPI: “The Oregon State Police said in a Facebook post that the man was hauling three llamas in the bed of his pickup truck on Interstate 84 when one of the animals jumped out while the vehicle was traveling at a slow speed. The man noticed the llama missing after traveling about a mile down the road and returned for the ‘mama llama,’ but when he stopped his pickup the other two llamas escaped. Trooper Levi Macy arrived on the scene to assist. ‘The owner ran back and gave me the rope to hook to mama llama’s harness,’ Macy said. ‘Mama llama refused to get up as you could see by her displeased facial expression, so I told him that I would llama sit, while he wrangled up the others.’ Macy said the llama sat in the middle of the interstate exit ramp until being loaded back into the truck with the other two animals. She was given some medication to ‘ease her mama llama trauma.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Best to mandate nothing. Let the customer decide. A 60-year-old couple doesn’t need maternity coverage. Why should they be forced to pay for it? And I don’t know about you, but I don’t need lactation services.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about the efforts to repeal-and-replace Obamacare in the Washington Post on March 30, 2017.
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.