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On the roster: Pelosi, Mnuchin try to jam Senate GOP – I’ll Tell You What: You gotta pay the cost to be the boss – Commission plans to cut mics next debate – Trump tries new tac: Biden soft on terrorism – Wait ‘til they hear about the pizza
PELOSI, MNUCHIN TRY TO JAM SENATE GOP
As it turns out, it’s a heckuva lot easier to get into a recession than it is to get out of one.
New numbers out today on incomes, unemployment and manufacturing all point to protracted pain for Americans as the economy, still constricted by an again-resurgent coronavirus, sputters on. And even if we could conquer the virus today, there are plenty of reasons we wouldn’t just hop right back to the previous norm of rock-bottom unemployment and steady growth.
But only in a city of such profound economic illiteracy as Washington, D.C. would people have thought otherwise.
The happy talk six months ago went like this: Federal and state governments were going to put the economy into something like a cryogenic freeze and then reawaken the patient after a treatment had emerged.
They would restrict travel, commerce and other normal operations in unprecedented ways, but shield Americans from the consequences with unprecedented federal interventions. The secular faith of modern monetary policy and stimulus spending ordained that we could keep the economy in a deep freeze protected by a thick plasma of conjured cash.
But as most politicians have long failed to grasp, there is no such thing as restoring an economy. You don’t “build back better” or “make America great again, again,” you survive and advance. While politicians natter, markets move on as individuals and organizations chart their own courses.
Both parties have long promised that somehow we can recreate the same economy we had in the 1950s, but they can’t even deliver the same economy we had in March.
Heraclitus told us that ‘You could not step twice into the same river,” and oh brother is that true about economies.
We have no idea what the economy will look like when, probably many months from now, we have a real handle on the virus. As we have learned from stories real and fictional, reversing deep freezes is not a simple matter. We are sure to be surprised by what is worse than we feared as well as what was better than we hoped.
So while Americans have been remaking the real economic future with hundreds of millions of choices – buy or sell, close or open, work or quit, move or stay – Washington is still exactly where it was at the end of March: Arguing over the next round of stimulus.
One thing has changed in recent days, though. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has gone from thorn in the Senate GOP’s side to outright antagonist.
First, some backstory: Since President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cannot even be in the same room with each other, let alone govern constructively, Trump tasked Mnuchin with negotiating a deal for more stimulus checks and more bailouts before the election.
This is fine on the House side since Mnuchin hails from Wall Street and was formerly a Democratic booster before becoming part of Trump world. The financial sector desperately craves another multi-trillion-dollar economic boost and Mnuchin doesn’t have any ideological baggage on spending that would slow things down.
Trump wants a stimulus. Pelosi wants a stimulus. Mnuchin wants a stimulus. So what’s the hold up?
You guessed it: Senate Republicans.
In the same way the White House admires the conservatism and party discipline of the Senate when it comes to rocketing through a Supreme Court nomination before the election, Team Trump is frustrated by those traits when it comes to stimuli.
Part of this is obviously based in the self-interest of individual senators. The 2022 midterm election map is a tough one for the GOP and voting for another huge bailout that Republican voters would tend to see as fiscally reckless aid for big blue cities would invite primary challengers.
But this is a sincere difference of opinion, too. Conservatives really do worry about the danger of a federal deficit that is larger than the economy for the first time since the Second World War. They worry about increasing dependency among businesses and thereby the control the federal government has over them. They worry about what happens if the recession drags on and pressure mounts for trillions more.
That leaves us with Pelosi, under pressure from her swing-district members for action before the election, on one side with Trump (via Mnuchin), who is desperate to boost the economy and get checks to voters as his re-election hopes dim and Senate Republicans on the other.
Given the low confidence Senate Republicans privately express about Mnuchin, Trump has put former House Freedom Caucus leader turned White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on the negotiating team to reassure conservatives. What that misses, though, is the dim view many Republican senators take of the Freedom Caucus efforts to jam the Senate GOP in the past.
Senate Republicans met their minimum FDA requirements last month when their conference backed a “skinny” stimulus that Senate Democrats immediately blocked. The message: We tried, see you in December. Once the threat of a government shutdown was off the table, the Senate GOP was done with the matter.
But now Mnuchin and Pelosi are very excited about the prospects of a deal after House Democrats put forward a $2.2 trillion proposal, as if somehow the problem was getting the two of them on the same page.
What they are really doing is ratcheting up pressure on the Senate GOP to come up from the $500 billion proposal they coughed up after much effort in early September.
It’s hard to imagine how Senate Republicans would go for even doubling their offer let alone quadrupling it – a fact the Republican-held White House knows perfectly well. But Mnuchin is now setting the stage to hand a major victory to Pelosi just weeks before Election Day.
While the Senate is busy sprinting through a Supreme Court nomination, House Democrats would be able to pass a very generous aid package next week and then leave town, allowing their vulnerable members to go home blame Mitch McConnell for the lack of relief.
Instead of Senate Democrats being the ones blocking legislation, the stink eye would fall back on the Republicans in the upper chamber. In a year when control of the Senate is very much on the line and key individual races are tighter than a fat man’s wetsuit, this kind of blame-game stuff can actually matter.
THE RULEBOOK: WE CAN WORK IT OUT
“IT IS not a new observation that the people of any country (if, like the Americans, intelligent and wellinformed) seldom adopt and steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion respecting their interests.” – John Jay, discussing dangers from foreign powers and influence, Federalist No. 3
TIME OUT: SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS
The Writer’s Almanac: “Today is the (85th) birthday of British actor and singer Julie Andrews, born in a suburb of London. Her parents first noticed her unusual voice when she was singing ‘Strawberry Fair’ with a group of children and her voice floated over the others, since she was singing in a higher octave than the rest. She started taking voice lessons with a retired opera singer when her doctor discovered she had a ‘nearly adult larynx.’ Her mother and stepfather were singers who performed for British troops during WWII, and she went on tour with them at age 11. She moved to New York and began a career on Broadway at 19, and she starred in the musical My Fair Lady. In 1964, she made her film debut with Mary Poppins, which became Disney’s greatest box-office success. The next year, she starred in The Sound of Music, which was 20th Century Fox’s biggest hit until the premiere of Star Wars.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 43 percent
Biden: 51.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 0.4 points, Trump ↓ 0.4 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: Trump 45% – Biden 50%; NYT/Siena College: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% – Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 43% – Biden 51%.]
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: 44.8 percent
Average disapproval: 52.6 percent
Net Score: -7.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.2 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; NYT/Siena College: 46% approve – 50% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approve – 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve – 53% 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.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: YOU GOTTA PAY THE COST TO BE THE BOSS
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt convene following the first 2020 presidential debate. They discuss their takeaways from President Trump and Vice President Joe Biden‘s respective performances, the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court, the potential for voter fraud in this election and the Senate races Chris is keeping his eye on. Plus, Chris gets in gear for SCOTUS nominee trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
COMMISSION PLANS TO CUT MICS NEXT DEBATE
CBS News: “The commission that oversees the general election presidential debates said Wednesday it will be making changes to the format of the remaining two debates. One key change it plans to implement: Cutting off the microphones of President Trump and Joe Biden if they break the rules, according to a source familiar with the commission’s deliberations. The plans have not been finalized and the commission is still considering how it would carry out the plan. The Commission on Presidential Debates is responding to Tuesday’s face-off between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, which was marred by frequent interruptions by the president and mud-slinging. In a statement following the presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, the first of three scheduled in the run-up to the general election, the commission said the event ‘made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.’”
Biden campaign made fundraising records during debate – Politico: “Joe Biden’s campaign hauled in nearly $10 million during the first presidential debate Tuesday night — smashing its own single-hour fundraising record, as small-dollar donors continue to fuel the former vice president’s mounting money advantage. Biden’s campaign raised $3.8 million during the 10 to 11 p.m. hour Tuesday night, as Biden and President Donald Trump clashed in a insult-laden debate. From 9 p.m. to midnight, the Biden campaign brought in nearly $10 million from 215,000 donors, including more than 60,000 new contributors to the campaign, according to a Biden campaign official. Nearly 100,000 signed up to volunteer for the Biden campaign during the debate, as well.”
Will: Cancel the rest – WaPo: “The putrescence of America’s public life was pitilessly displayed Tuesday when, for 98 minutes, whatever remains of the nation’s domestic confidence and international stature shriveled like a brittle autumn leaf. The national interest — actually, national security — demands that the other two scheduled mortifications, fraudulently advertised as presidential debates, should be canceled: When a nation makes itself pathetic, the response of enemy nations is not sympathy. And an additional 180 or so minutes of ignorant assertions mitigated only by the inarticulateness of the purveyors of them will swell the electorate’s already abundant crop of cynics, well defined as people prematurely disappointed about the future.”
TRUMP TRIES NEW TAC: BIDEN SOFT ON TERRORISM
Fox News: “During a rally in Duluth, Minn., on Wednesday, President Trump said that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would turn Minnesota into a ‘refugee camp’ and open ‘the flood gates to radical Islamic terrorism’ if elected. His remarks came on the same day the State Department announced a new 15,000-refugee admissions cap to ensure the ‘safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.’ ‘Biden has even pledged to terminate our travel ban on Jihadist regions, opening the flood gates to radical Islamic terrorism,’ Trump said of his administration’s 2017 order banning travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela and North Korea, which the Supreme Court upheld in 2018. … President Trump narrowly lost Minnesota, which hasn’t voted for a Republican president since Richard Nixon‘s 1972 victory, to 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election.”
Will Trump’s dwindling chances make him dangerous? – FiveThirtyEight: “President Trump’s quest to win a second term is not in good shape. He entered Tuesday night’s debate with roughly a 7- or 8-point deficit in national polls, putting him further behind at this stage of the race than any other candidate since Bob Dole in 1996. If we look at potential tipping-point states, the race is a bit closer, but not that much closer. After a couple of strong polls for Joe Biden earlier this week in Pennsylvania — the state that’s currently most likely to decide the election — Trump now trails there by 5 to 6 points. He’s down by about 7 points in Michigan and Wisconsin, meanwhile. Those states, along with Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire — where Biden has also polled strongly lately — suggest that Biden is winning back some of the Obama-Trump white working-class voters who flocked to Trump four years ago. Indeed, Biden is as close to winning South Carolina or Alaska as Trump is to winning Michigan and Wisconsin, based on recent polls of those states.”
Alberta: ‘Trump is not the man he used to be’ – Politico: “In the wake of Tuesday’s 90-minute barroom argument, many was the pundit who argued that we really shouldn’t be surprised. Trump is Trump. The hysterical norm-shattering guerilla we saw debating in Cleveland is the same hysterical norm-shattering guerilla we saw coming down the escalator in Manhattan. The manic president on stage was no different than the manic president on Twitter. But this isn’t quite right. In reality, the candidate we saw Tuesday night—the worn, restless, curmudgeonly incumbent of 2020—bore little resemblance to the loose, rollicking, self-assured candidate of 2016. It might be hard to remember through the fog of these past four years, but the animating sentiment for Trump during his first run for the presidency wasn’t hatred or division. It was fun. He was having the time of his life. Nothing Trump had ever experienced had showered him with so much attention, so much adulation, so much controversy and coverage. He loved every moment of it.”
After public tensions Pompeo, Vatican talk China – AP: “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vatican officials discussed religious freedom and their differences over China on Thursday, a day after tensions over the Holy See’s outreach to Beijing spilled out in public. Pompeo spent 45 minutes in the Apostolic Palace with his Vatican counterpart, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said both sides ‘presented their respective positions’ about relations with China in a climate of ‘respect, openness and cordiality.’ The State Department’s deputy spokesperson, Cale Brown, said the men ‘discussed the importance of defending religious freedom and other human rights issues, and expressed particular concern about the situation in China.’ Pompeo was in Rome to participate in a conference on religious freedom organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, and to meet with Italian and Vatican officials.”
Parscale steps down from Trump campaign – Politico: “Brad Parscale, a senior adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign who was involuntarily detained by police this weekend, said he is stepping away from the reelection effort and seeking help for what he called ‘overwhelming stress’ on him and his family. In a statement provided to POLITICO on Wednesday, Parscale’s wife, Candice, also denied that Parscale physically abused her, despite a police report in which said she told authorities the contrary. … Parscale, 44, was demoted as campaign manager in July as the president’s poll numbers cratered. Long one of Trump’s closest aides, Parscale remained on the reelection effort in a limited capacity: He made trips from his home in Florida to the campaign’s Arlington, Va., headquarters and worked on digital projects, including producing videos for the Republican National Convention.”
BIDEN TRIES TO WIN TRUMP VOTERS IN OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA
NYT: “In his most vigorous day of campaigning in months, Mr. Biden embarked on an old-fashioned train tour to directly appeal to the blue-collar white Americans who powered Mr. Trump’s victories in the industrial Midwest in 2016. The trip brought him to a host of cities in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, a region where Mr. Trump had previously won over working-class white voters who traditionally voted for Democrats, setting off a realignment of the political parties. … Mr. Biden, the former vice president, faces a steep challenge in seeking to win back many of the white longtime Democratic voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2016 and have only grown more intense in their commitment to him. In Alliance, Ohio, a sizable and organized pro-Trump contingent showed up on Wednesday morning to loudly protest Mr. Biden’s appearance, and the parts of the states Mr. Biden visited were often blanketed in Trump yard signs. But in this city, and elsewhere in Ohio and Pennsylvania, there were also signs of the radically different environment Mr. Trump faces now — amid a pandemic, an economic collapse and four years of a controversial record — compared with 2016.”
But Biden holds on to Granite State – UNH: “Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead President Donald Trump in New Hampshire with only five weeks to go until Election Day. Half of likely voters say they have definitely decided to vote for Biden while four in ten say they will definitely vote for Trump. Despite trailing, most Trump supporters believe he will win the state of New Hampshire and the presidential election. Last night’s debate is unlikely to have had much impact as most Granite Staters planned to watch all or some of the debate, but the few who have not definitely decided who to vote for were less likely to watch. … Just before the first presidential debate, Joe Biden continues to maintain a solid lead over Donald Trump. When asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held today, 53% of likely New Hampshire voters say they would vote for Joe Biden while 43% would vote for Donald Trump…”
GRAHAM IN DEAD HEAT SENATE RACE
Quinnipiac University: “Republican incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison are locked in a dead heat in the race for U.S. Senate, 48 – 48 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters, which was conducted prior to the presidential debate. This is unchanged from a September 16th survey, which also showed both candidates each getting 48 percent support. Ninety-five percent of likely voters who selected a candidate in the Senate match up say their minds are made up, while 4 percent say they might change their minds. ‘There hasn’t been a Democrat elected to the Senate from South Carolina since 1998. Outspent and labeled by critics as an apologist for President Trump, Lindsey Graham is facing the fight of his political life,’ said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy. In general, 49 percent of likely voters want to see the Republican Party win control of the U.S. Senate, while 44 percent want the Democratic Party.”
White House pressuring Senate Republicans to ramp up scrutiny of tech – Politico: “The Trump administration is pressuring Senate Republicans to ratchet up scrutiny of social media companies it sees as biased against conservatives in the run-up to the November election, people familiar with the conversations say. And the effort appears to be paying off. In recent weeks, the White House has pressed Senate Republican leaders on key committees to hold public hearings on the law that protects Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies from lawsuits over how they treat user posts, three Senate staffers told POLITICO. They requested anonymity to discuss private communications. And action is following. Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker is having his committee vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify about how they police content on their platforms. That’s after the Mississippi Republican tried and failed last week to push through subpoenas that could have compelled the CEOs to testify with only a few days’ notice.”
Al Smith dinner adapts to corona era – Fox News
Supreme Court to begin new term Monday – Roll Call
The Judge’s Ruling: ObamaCare and the Supreme Court — can the government force us to eat broccoli? – Fox News
Trump makes personal letter a requirement for food aid boxes – Politico
AUDIBLE: HEADS UP GUYS
“If either man goes down this road, I hope you’ll be quicker to realize what’s going on than I was. I didn’t have that advance warning.” – Chris Wallace’s advice to the next two presidential debate moderators, Steve Scully of C-SPAN and Kristen Welker of NBC News.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“With all the talk about packing the court, I believe the possibility exists that SCOTUS itself could legitimately declare such an action by Congress unconstitutional. Although the number of Justices has been adjusted several times in the past, I wonder if any of those actions were challenged in court. The rationale behind a challenge would be the clear separation of powers established in the Constitution. The unfettered ability of the Executive and Legislative branches arbitrarily to alter the number of Justices effectively eliminates the Judicial branch as co-equal.” – Pat Conroy, West Lake Hills, Texas
[Ed. note: I hear you, Mr. Conroy, but the Constitution is unambiguous about Congress’ power in establishing the courts. There have been multiple changes to the size of the court prior to the post-Civil War move to nine members. Plus, I’m not so sure you’d like a court that had no checks on itself…]
“Your words: ‘But when you have a broken system and individual incapacity then you’ve got real trouble.’ As a long-time reader of your excellent daily brief, you have often fended off those of us in the bleachers who contend that things are getting very dark for this nation. In so many words, you’ve said ‘things aren’t THAT bad. It’s been as bad or worse in the past and, like then, it will be better in the future than it is now.’ Now, post debate #1, your lead analysis/editorial appears, with careful hedges, to take the opposite point of view that the sky is indeed about to fall. I would argue that, though imperfect, the system you speak of is not nearly as broken as the ‘culture of civility’ that an imperfect system needs in order to move toward a more perfect union. For this, you can thank contemporary non-education and the internet. Americans on opposite sides of today’s political abyss are not talking to each other precisely because we do not want to do what Biden and Trump did to one another and everyone who felt compelled to watch last night. I didn’t watch because I acknowledge that ‘the first rule of history is ‘it’s always later than we think.’’ You may come to feel the same way after November 3rd.” – Eric Hutchins, Santa Barbara, Calif.
[Ed. note: I don’t want to burst your bubble, Mr. Hutchins, but I’m still on the sunny side of the street. Unhappy developments, in fact, often whet the appetite for improvement. Sometimes things do fall apart, and we are certainly tempting fate these days, but, as Adam Smith said “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”]
“Way back in fall of 1966, I was in college in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania. The film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Taylor and Burton had come to the local theater. … I don’t recall much of the film’s content now… All I really recall is that on leaving the theater, I felt like I had just personally witnessed the most awful behavior of two individuals that could ever have taken place. … After watching the entirety of [Tuesday] night’s performance, I felt the same emotional vacuum. I wanted to turn it off at several points, but like people watching a horrific accident, I could not turn away. I had already made up my political mind. In fact, I had already mailed in my absentee ballot. But, I felt that it was my civic duty to watch what I knew would be nothing more than a weak badminton match where the players smashed a badly damaged shuttlecock back and forth for 90 minutes. … I hold the press greatly responsible for debacles like this. The phrase, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ is relevant here. But, it’s our country that’s bleeding. I also hold us, the people, responsible. Who amongst us could pass our own citizenship test? Who amongst us cares? [Tuesday] night was the political equivalent of The Hunger Games. I fear for our country now more than I did at 6:00 p.m. [Tuesday].” – Jim Sobek, McCordsville, Ind.
[Ed. note: You nailed it, Mr. Sobek! But my mantra for 2020 still applies: Believe in America!]
“In [Wednesday’s] Halftime Report, you assume the best in Mr. Biden’s refusal to answer the question about stacking the Supreme Court, among his other non answers. Would you concede that he may equally have refused an answer because he is in agreement with those of his party who would do so if they could? If not perhaps you will explain your clairvoyance on his intentions.” – Paul Thomson, Edmond, Okla.
[Ed. note: The only thing I assumed was that he was acting out of the naked political self-interest to which he himself admitted.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WAIT ‘TIL THEY HEAR ABOUT THE PIZZA
NY Post: “Ireland’s highest court isn’t sweet on tax breaks for footlongs. The country’s Supreme Court ruled that the starch used in Subway sandwiches is too sugary to meet the definition of ‘bread’ — a legal distinction that would have saved the firm some dough. In deciding whether to give the fast-food chain a tax break for serving a ‘staple’ food item, the five-judge panel ruled that the bread’s sugar-to-flour content is roughly five times too high to qualify, according to the Irish Independent. … In its decision, the court rejected arguments by a Subway franchise owner, Bookfinders in Galway, that the restaurant was not required to meet the standard on to-go items such as heated sandwiches, teas and coffees. … While shooting down the legal challenge, Justice Donal O’Donnell said the definition of ‘bread’ was established to distinguish the starch from other baked goods, such as cookies or brownies, that aren’t healthy enough to be considered essential.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Nothing has so impressed me in my brief experience with fatherhood as the apparent autonomy of a child’s soul, the inner logic by which it seems to develop.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about his son Daniel in the Washington Post on Feb. 23, 1990.
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.