Man oh mandate

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On the roster: Man oh mandate – Lankford to intervene if transition stalls further – Biden announces White House chief of staff – Georgia runoff candidates worry about digital ad bans – Bay bae come back

So what’s a mandate anyway?

Looked at one way, a mandate is the power a new president brings to office as a result of his election victory. This is about using a decisive win to advance certain policy sets.

Looked at another way, though, a mandate is about the expectations and limitations placed on a new president by voters.

Like Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan before him, Joe Biden will enter office with an obvious mandate, having forced in a decisive fashion a sitting president or his designated successor from power.

While popular vote tallies don’t matter for winning office, they do for presidential mandates. Biden has already surpassed Obama’s record for total votes and for votes as a share of the total population – and did so in the highest-turnout election in history. Coupled with what looks like a 306-vote victory in the Electoral College, that sure sounds like a mandate.

But for what? And can he make it stick?

Like his predecessor, Biden’s first mandate from and for voters is not to be the other candidate.

As in 2016, the 2020 results can most directly be seen as a rejection of the other guy (or gal). President Trump’s 2016 support was more about opposition to Hillary Clinton than support for Trump. In 2020, Trump found himself on the other side of the equation, as voters prioritized his ouster over support for Biden.

So just like that, Biden can fulfill the first part of his mandate at 12:01 pm on Jan. 20. Check the box.

But, unlike Trump, Biden has three other mandates.

Voters have spoken clearly in support of his more aggressive approach on coronavirus. Biden ran as much against the pandemic as he did Trump, playing up his cautious, mask-forward approach to corona protocols. As the third deadly wave of the pandemic sets in and hopes for a vaccine rise, the president-elect should find plenty of bipartisan support on that front.

A vaccine will help sooth GOP concerns that whatever restrictions are imposed at the local, state and national level will be temporary rather than the interminable experience Americans have had since March. The expected hardships of the next two months will also tend to sweep away some of the resistance to stringent pandemic rules.

The next mandate is interwoven with the one above: Biden has to take the lead on getting the economy back on some kind of stable footing. If the end of fall and beginning of winter bring the hardships predicted by experts, the economic situation could be even more grave come January. That should give Biden a pretty free hand when it comes to designing a stimulus/bailout package. We’ll have to see what is accomplished during the lame-duck session, but whatever takes place, there will still be a substantial appetite for a big cash injection.

Given the narrowly divided nature of the Senate, that also means that tax increases of a serious kind are probably not on the table, meaning Biden should have a pretty good shot at a good economy.

Biden’s other mandate may prove to be the trickiest one. His campaign’s closing argument was a call to unity and bipartisanship. Understanding well that he would need the support of moderate and even right-leaning independents, Biden proposed a cease-fire in the partisan wars that have raged with increasing intensity since at least the beginning of this century.

His success in doing so will depend, of course, on the willingness of some sizable minority of Republicans to meet him there, but also on his capacity to deliver results.

Obama squandered his mandate. The 44th president looked at political capital as a fixed asset that could be spent but not really gained. His moves on a Democrat-written stimulus and a procedural end-run to jam through ObamaCare were done under the idea that he had to act while he was still popular in order to gain policy advantage.

But that’s not how things work. Biden clearly understands that bipartisan consensus is necessary for major initiatives. That’s true for helping voters to accept the results but also to create the conditions for future success.

It is an entirely open question whether Biden, a likely one-term president who is facing long knives on the progressive side of his party, can pull off terpsichore of this magnitude. But it’s certainly what voters have asked for and maybe even given him a little clout to try to deliver.

“It is of high importance to the peace of America that she observe the laws of nations towards all these powers, and to me it appears evident that this will be more perfectly and punctually done by one national government than it could be either by thirteen separate States or by three or four distinct confederacies.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 3

Ohio County [W.Va.] Library: “Brewer and businessman Henry Schmulbach was born in Germany [on this day in 1844 ] … The Schmulbachs joined a thriving German immigrant community in the Northern Panhandle [of what is now West Virginia]. Henry went to work with his uncle in the retail grocery business while still a teenager, later switching to the wholesale liquor trade. … He … purchased the Nail City Brewery in 1882, renaming it the Schmulbach Brewing Company and increasing capacity to 200,000 barrels annually. He was president of the German Bank, now WesBanco, president of the Wheeling Bridge Company, and president of local telephone and streetcar companies. He was the owner of steamboats and a stockholder in several iron and nail companies. … [The Schmulbach Building was] West Virginia’s first high-rise office building. … Schmulbach’s Chapline Street house [was] added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Many visitors find a humorous resemblance to a dollar mark in his intertwined initials on the doorway.”

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National Review: “Senator James Lankford (R., Okla.) on Wednesday said it’s important for people who voted for President Trump to have ‘all of their questions answered’ regarding unfounded claims of voter fraud, though he issued assurance that there would be a peaceful transition of power, and vowed to intervene if the administration doesn’t begin cooperating with the transition. ‘It is important for the 71-million plus people that voted for President Trump that at the end of it, they know all of their questions were answered,’ Lankford told KRMG, ‘And that there is a president that was actually duly elected.’ … He also told the radio station that he would intervene if the Trump administration has not given Biden access to presidential daily intelligence briefings by week’s end. ‘There is no loss from him getting the briefings and to be able to do that,’ said Lankford, who is on the Senate Oversight Committee.”

Trump’s legal strategy: ‘Let me have the fight’ – WSJ: “Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign is pur­su­ing a patch­work of le­gal at­tacks in key states that have been called for Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden to mount a long-shot ef­fort to try to pre­vent of­fi­cials from cer­ti­fy­ing the re­sults, ad­vis­ers and lawyers in­volved said. Trump ad­vis­ers have grown more vo­cal in con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Trump in re­cent days… An of­fi­cial said Mr. Trump un­der­stands that the fight isn’t winnable but char­ac­ter­ized his feel­ings as: ‘Let me have the fight.’ One po­ten­tial strat­egy dis­cussed by Mr. Trump’s le­gal team would be at­tempt­ing to get court or­ders to de­lay vote cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in crit­i­cal states, po­ten­tially po­si­tion­ing Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled state leg­is­la­tures to ap­point pro-Trump elec­tors who would swing the Elec­toral Col­lege in his fa­vor, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.”

Meanwhile aides begin to plan final 10 weeks – Politico: “On Monday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gathered senior aides on a call. One of his goals: to plot the conservative policy moves they could push through in their final 10 weeks… Since then, staffers have compiled a list of roughly 15 moves they could make through executive orders, executive actions or finalizing agency rules that they plan to pursue in the coming days, according to interviews with three administration officials. On immigration, they are seeking to finalize a rule related to making the standards stricter around H-1B visas, which allow U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. And a potential school-related executive order would seek to give Covid-19 relief money to parents in public school districts shut down by the coronavirus, allowing them to use the funds for private or parochial schools.”

Report: Donations under $8K to Trump ‘election defense’ go elsewhere – Reuters: “As President Donald Trump seeks to discredit last week’s election with baseless claims of voter fraud, his team has bombarded his supporters with requests for money to help pay for legal challenges to the results: ‘The Left will try to STEAL this election!’ reads one text. But any small-dollar donations from Trump’s grassroots donors won’t be going to legal expenses at all, according to a Reuters review of the legal language in the solicitations. A donor would have to give more than $8,000 before any money goes to the ‘recount account’ established to finance election challenges, including recounts and lawsuits over alleged improprieties, the fundraising disclosures show. The emailed solicitations send supporters to an ‘Official Election Defense Fund’ website that asks them to sign up for recurring donations to ‘protect the results and keep fighting even after Election Day.’”

NYT: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. named Ron Klain, a veteran Democratic operative and a decades-long confidant, to be his White House chief of staff Wednesday evening, the first step toward putting in place his administration’s senior leadership. Mr. Klain, a lawyer with deep experience on Capitol Hill, with advising President Barack Obama and in corporate board rooms, served as Mr. Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president and has been seen for months as the likeliest choice to manage his team in the White House. Known for steady nerves, he also has a fierce wit, which he has frequently unleashed on President Trump on Twitter. He was particularly critical of Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, having served as the ‘Ebola czar’ under Mr. Obama… In a statement, Mr. Biden called Mr. Klain an ‘invaluable’ adviser, noting in particular the work they did together during the economic crisis in 2009 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014.”

A look at other names floated for Biden’s cabinet – NYT: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has signaled his intention to draw from a diverse cross section of America in building his cabinet. … In naming the group, Mr. Biden must appease progressives within his own party while gaining support from Republicans who may still control the Senate. …  Mr. Biden’s transition team, led by former Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, a longtime confidant, already has been working on a list of candidates. These are names that have emerged as possible picks for posts. Agriculture Department: Heidi Heitkamp, Amy Klobuchar… Central Intelligence Agency: Tom Donilon, Avril Haines, Mike Morell… Defense Department: Tammy Duckworth, Michèle Flournoy, Jeh Johnson… Director of National Intelligence: Susan Gordon, Lisa Monaco… Education Department: Lily Eskelsen García, Randi Weingarten… Energy Department: Jay Inslee, Ernest Moniz, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randal…”

Biden speaks with world leaders – AP: “World leaders spoke to President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday about cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other issues, even as President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede complicates the U.S. post-election transition.  … The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Biden during their 14-minute call reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea and said he would closely coordinate with Seoul in a push to defuse a nuclear standoff with North Korea. … Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he invited Biden to Australia next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the countries’ shared defense treaty. … Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he and Biden during their call reaffirmed the importance of their countries’ alliances and agreed to further deepen it in face of China’s growing influence and North Korea’s nuclear threat.”

Elizabeth Warren: Biden must pursue ‘bold’ ‘progressive’ agenda – WaPo: “[The Biden-Harris ticket] did it by running on the most progressive economic and racial justice platform of any general election nominee ever. They ran on explicit plans to create new union jobs in clean energy, increase Social Security benefits, expand health care, cancel billions of dollars in student-loan debt, hold law enforcement accountable, make the wealthy pay their fair share, tackle climate change and provide for universal child care. And it wasn’t just the top of the ticket. Progressive ballot initiatives won across the country. Florida became the eighth state to pass a $15 minimum wage. Arizona voted to increase taxes on the wealthy to fund public schools. Multiple states — red and blue — passed ballot measures to legalize marijuana. And Colorado said yes to 12 weeks of paid family leave. The lesson is clear. Bold policies to improve opportunity for all Americans are broadly popular. Voters recognize that these reforms are necessary to fix what is broken in our nation.”

Ocasio-Cortez slammed by state Dem leader – Fox News: “State Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs ripped into Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wednesday over disappointing results in key New York battleground congressional and legislative races last week. Jacobs, who also serves as the Nassau County Democratic leader, said he’s had it with AOC and other left-wingers lecturing Democrats who have to fight to compete and win races in purple districts in Long Island and upstate. ‘AOC has no standing on how to run a general election in the suburbs and upstate. AOC is in a district that’s 6-1 Democrat and she couldn’t find a Republican in her district with binoculars,’ Jacobs told The Post. ‘I invite AOC to come to Long Island and stand for election in one of our districts. You’ll see different results,’ Jacobs said. Ocasio-Cortez, who represents portions of The Bronx and Queens in the 14th congressional district, easily won re-election to a second term over Republican challenger John Cummings last week.”

CBS News: “Both Democrats and Republicans are worried social media platform bans on political ads could hinder them as they try to reach voters ahead of the Georgia Senate runoffs. Facebook and Google both banned political and social issue ads in the wake of the November election in an attempt to prevent abuse of their platforms, disinformation and confusion about the results. On Wednesday, Facebook confirmed its post-election ban on these ads will continue amid ongoing vote counting and legal efforts in some states. ‘The temporary pause for ads about politics and social issues in the US continues to be in place as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the election. Advertisers can expect this to last another month, though there may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner,’ the social network said in a statement. … Google has also enforced a temporary restriction on ad content that makes reference to the election. It states advertisers can’t run ads on ‘candidates, the election, or its outcomes’ while the policy is in place.”

Georgia secretary of state to quarantine after wife tests positive for coronavirus – WAGA-TV: “Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is in quarantine after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Tricia Raffensperger tested positive Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told The Associated Press. Brad Raffensperger was en route to get tested and plans to self-quarantine as a precaution even if his test is negative, Fuchs said. If the secretary of state tests positive, Fuchs said she and other members of his staff who have been in close contact with the secretary will get tested and quarantine.”

Iowa Dem to request a recount in 2nd District – Des Moines Register: “Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart plans to request a recount in all 24 counties in Iowa’s 2nd District, with the race still too close to call. ‘With so much at stake in this election and such a slim margin separating the candidates, Iowans deserve to know categorically that their ballots have been accurately counted. Over the last several days, multiple consequential errors have materialized in this race that have serious implications for the district’s future representation,’ Hart’s campaign manager, Zach Meunier, said in a statement Thursday. According to the announcement, the campaign will file requests for recounts at auditor’s offices across the district by the end of day Friday, the deadline to make such a request.”

AP: “The U.S. has recorded over 240,000 deaths and more than 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week. Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions. Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39. A month ago, the U.S. was seeing about 730 COVID-19 deaths per day on average; that has now surpassed 970. Among the many health officials sounding the alarm was Dr. Julie Watson of Integris Health in Oklahoma. ‘We are in trouble,’ she said. … Oklahoma’s health department said Wednesday that 1,248 people were hospitalized for confirmed or probable coronavirus, shattering the previous one-day record of 1,055.”

Fed Chair warns of challenging few months ahead – Bloomberg: “The U.S. economy could be in for a challenging few months as Covid-19 spreads — despite recent positive news about vaccine development, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said. ‘We do see the economy continuing on a solid path of recovery, but the main risk we see to that is clearly the further spread of the disease here in the United States,’ Powell said Thursday during a panel discussion at a virtual conference hosted by the European Central Bank. ‘With the virus now spreading, the next few months could be challenging.’ Fed officials made no changes to their policy stance last week at a meeting following the U.S. election, sticking with near-zero interest rates and bond purchases of $120 billion per month.”

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. trolls Texas counterpart on vote-fraud bountyPittsburgh Tribune-Review

Corey Lewandowski, Trump campaign adviser, tests positive for virusThe Hill

The Judge’s Ruling: Animals bring out the best in us, and the loss of a beloved pet is like no otherWashTimes

“I’m just going to run in 2024. I’m just going to run again.” – President Trump has been saying, according to a senior administration official.

“I’m on the liberal side of the political spectrum but I have to admit that I always look forward to the Half Time Report showing up in my inbox. While I sometimes disagree with you I almost always find your perspective interesting and well thought out. However your recent comments claiming an equivalency between Trump’s claims of voter fraud and the democrats claim of Russian interference with the 2016 are way off.  There was at least some ‘smoke’ in the Mueller report. Trump claims of widespread organized vote fraud are entirely made up without any factual basis. A recent Morning Consult poll showed 70% of Trump voters believe in this entirely fictional conspiracy, shaking one of the basic underpinnings of democracy, belief that the winner will be chosen by the will of the voters. BTW in 2016 Trump claimed Ted Cruz committed voter fraud in the Iowa caucuses.” – Larry Lipschultz, Montclair, N.J.

[Ed. note: I think we have a little bit of a traffic jam here. First, there’s no question that what Trump is doing is a steep escalation of the trend toward delegitimizing presidents of the other party. But I wasn’t talking about the Mueller report, which was an inevitability once Trump fired James Comey for investigating possible connections between his campaign and the Kremlin. I was referring to how Hillary Clinton refused to take ownership of her defeat and insisted on saying that Trump was installed by the Russians. There were lots of reasons why Clinton lost, many, if not most of them relating to her, her campaign and her party. These are certainly not the same things, nor are they the same as the birtherism Trump and some Republicans once peddled or the claims that George W. Bush stole the 2000 election. But they all exist on a continuum.]

“Please enlighten me as to how 4 socialists freshman Congress women are able to swoop into D.C. and take over a Democratic party and force it far left. Why so much power? Are the Democrats really this desperate for money or really spineless? Please tell me what [I’m] missing here. I am not alone being puzzled.” – Pat Repp, Charlestown, R.I.

[Ed. note: First, aren’t you lucky to live in such a beautiful place in the world? Second, they didn’t. Democrats have been moving toward the progressive at a fast pace over the past decade or so, much in the same way Republicans have bolted for the nationalist right. What attention seekers in both parties try to do is jump out in front of the parade and pretend that they are leading it.]

“I was so glad to read the item about Sgt. Roy Benevides. When I was a high school teacher in the small Central Texas town of Brady, the history teacher invited Sgt. Benevides to speak to his class and allowed my class to join them. As Mr. Benevides told his story, I was in awe. He said he began to take the wounded troops to the helicopters and went into a sort of frenzy—he was also bringing the enemy wounded to the choppers. When the crews finally got him on board, he had multiple gunshot wounds and he said his intestines were out of his body. He was unaware of his injuries while loading the wounded. An ordinary man doing heroic deeds.” – Cecelia Sessom, San Angelo, Texas

[Ed. note: So great! Thank you so much for sharing it, Ms. Sessom.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

AP: “Ariel Cordova-Rojas went to New York’s Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge last week to celebrate her 30th birthday. She ended up rescuing a swan with lead poisoning, taking it to a wildlife clinic by foot, car and subway with the help of both friends and strangers. … She wrapped the 17-pound bird, which she says is named Bae, in her jacket and carried it a mile to the refuge entrance… Calls to various animal rescue services and the ranger stations yielded no immediate assistance. Then a couple with a car agreed to drive the swan and Cordova-Rojas to a nearby subway station. … Photos show the swan nestled in an orange jacket on a seat in a train car. Cordova-Rojas [said] the swan was being treated for lead poisoning and with antifungals and antibacterial medications. She has made a friend of another swan at the clinic and is gaining strength and mobility.”

“Under the big gray cloud, amid the general gloom, allow me to offer a ray of sunshine. The last two months have brought a pleasant surprise: Turns out the much feared, much predicted withering of our democratic institutions has been grossly exaggerated. The system lives.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about American democracy in the Washington Post on March 23, 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.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.