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On the roster: Bernie faces voters in the heart of Trump country – Welcome to the race Mayor Pete – Mueller report expected Thursday morning – Trump stays on attack mode with Omar – Either a solid prank or a lot of leftovers
BERNIE FACES VOTERS IN THE HEART OF TRUMP COUNTRY
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – If there’s an argument to be made to skeptical mainstream Democrats for nominating Bernie Sanders, it starts right here in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
The 2016 election was a political earthquake in Bethlehem and nearby communities to the north like Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Here in Northampton County, voters hadn’t gone for a Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988 before it went for Donald Trump by 4 points. The shift was even more pronounced in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre) where the Republican share of the vote increased by 13 points from 2012 to 2016.
Without this region, Trump would have come up short instead of his 44,292-vote nail-biter win in Pennsylvania. And if he had missed with kindred voters in Wisconsin and Michigan, he wouldn’t be president today.
Americans who aren’t familiar with these communities or ones like them stretching out into the industrial Midwest and Appalachia may be tempted to accept the version offered by the scores of journalists who have fanned out in the region over the past four years: Doped up, out of work, undereducated xenophobes who voted for Trump out of some malign impulse for revenge against the elites who had ruined their lives.
Not only does that badly shortchange the people who live here it misses the real dynamics at work.
These counties were certainly up for grabs in 2016. This was rock-solid Obama country and, as the 2018 midterm results showed, the reversal to red was hardly permanent. But Democrats are very nervous that it might happen again. The fascination with former Vice President Joe Biden is related to his strong brand and famous name, yes, but also because he is a son of Scranton. Sheriff Joe, the human firewall.
Sanders, though, has a different argument to make. And it includes a subtle threat.
His campaign points to survey data that say 12 percent of Sanders’ 2016 primary voters ended up voting for Trump in November. That would be something like 1.5 million Democratic primary voters switching sides, and plenty of them were in post-industrial eastern Pennsylvania.
Sanders argues that without him, these voters will drift back to Trump. But he also makes the case that he is the candidate who can best undo the party’s long slide with white, middle class voters. These folks have radicalized and become populists who will only respond to a candidate who promises to attack the bipartisan establishment in Washington and Wall Street.
There’s another theory of the case, however. This holds that Hillary Clinton was the worst big-time politician of her era and certainly the worst Democratic nominee since at least Michael Dukakis. Sanders’ own success actually reinforces this thesis. There’s no way he would have had the stunning success he did in 2016 had it not been for the intense, visceral rejection of Clinton and Clintonism by so many Democrats.
Was Sanders, like Trump, the beneficiary of the black hole that has become the Clinton legacy? Or is he the vanguard of still churning populist revolt that will not be sated until massive change comes to the American way of life?
Tonight, Sanders gets to make his case to a local audience here on the grounds of the old Bethlehem Steel Plant. Will they adjudge him to be a re-run of a played-out drama or the leader of a revolution that has only just begun?
[Watch Fox: Hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will help local voters take Sanders’ measure tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. ET]
THE RULEBOOK: EVERYONE’S A CRITIC
“Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1
TIME OUT: ‘YOU WATCH ME, I’LL GET IT DONE’
History: “On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American in the major leagues when he plays his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. … 28-year-old Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut with the Dodgers, against the Boston Braves, in front of more than 25,000 spectators at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. Robinson played first base and went zero for three at the plate. During his first season in the majors, Robinson encountered racism from opposing teams and fans, as well as some of his own teammates. However, the abuse didn’t affect his performance on the baseball field. Robinson played in 151 games, hit .297, stole more bases than anyone else in the National League and was awarded the first-ever Rookie of the Year title. … In 1955, Robinson helped the Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees to win the World Series. He retired from baseball after playing his last game on October 10, 1956…”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 43.2 percent
Average disapproval: 51.6 percent
Net Score: -8.4 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.8 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 45% approve – 51% disapprove; GU Politics/Battleground: 43% approve – 52% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve – 52% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 50% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 43% approve – 53% disapprove.]
WELCOME TO THE RACE MAYOR PETE
AP: “Pete Buttigieg, the little-known Indiana mayor who has risen to prominence in the early stages of the 2020 Democratic presidential race, made his official campaign entrance Sunday by claiming the mantle of a youthful generation ready to reshape the country. … In the hours after his announcement, more than $1 million in donations poured in, said Lis Smith, speaking for the campaign. … Buttigieg will return this week to Iowa and New Hampshire … to campaign as a full-fledged candidate now being taken more seriously. Over the past few months, Buttigieg has appeared frequently on national TV news and talk shows and developed a strong social media following with his message that the country needs ‘a new generation of leadership.’ Buttigieg’s poll numbers have climbed. Some polls put him behind only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sought the party’s nomination in 2016, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet said he’s running.”
Gillibrand hits $3 million for first quarter fundraising – NYT: “Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign raised $3 million in the first quarter of the year, a spokeswoman said on Sunday, a disappointing sum that ranked her last among the six senators currently running for president. Ms. Gillibrand, New York’s Democratic junior senator, has made running as a woman a central theme of her candidacy, and nearly two-thirds of the campaign’s donors were women, said the spokeswoman, Meredith Kelly. Ms. Kelly did not disclose how many donors the campaign had, but she said that 92 percent of contributions were under $200. Given her modest haul so far, Ms. Gillibrand will likely need to rely heavily upon the roughly $10 million in campaign funds she had left over after her Senate re-election bid last year. Only a few 2020 candidates had such a large cash stockpile to supplement their presidential fund-raising.”
Warren makes pledge to ban oil and gas drilling on federal lands – WashEx: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Monday that she would ban all drilling on federal lands and waters on her first day in office. ‘On my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said in post on Medium outlining her public lands agenda. Warren also said she would reinstate an Obama-era Interior Department rule that the Trump administration has proposed rolling back limiting leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations.”
Caucuses continue to dwindle – NYT: “In this cycle, caucuses are dwindling. Democratic National Committee rules now encourage states to use a government-run primary, where more people participate, and to increase participation in the caucuses that remain. … Already, the three largest caucus states — Washington, Minnesota and Colorado — have flipped to primaries. So have Utah, Idaho and Nebraska. Two more caucus states — Alaska and Hawaii — are using party-run, rather than government-run, primaries. This switch can increase participation and turnout to levels somewhat more like in a traditional primary, depending on how they are administered. That leaves just six caucus states: Iowa and Nevada — the two highest-turnout caucuses… and Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Maine. … The overall effect seems as if it will be pretty modest. That might be something of a surprise. After all, the effect of having a caucus is substantial.”
MUELLER REPORT EXPECTED THURSDAY MORNING
Fox News: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s much-anticipated Russia report is set to be released to the public and Congress on Thursday morning, the Justice Department announced. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told Fox News on Monday the report would be made available — with redactions — Thursday morning to lawmakers and to the public. The news comes despite mounting calls from Democrats to first release the report to Congress without redactions. Attorney General Bill Barr testified last Wednesday he planned to have the report available ‘within a week,’ maintaining his original vow to release Mueller’s full report by mid-April. … Most congressional Democrats demanded Barr turn over the full report, without redactions, to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for review, prior to releasing it to the public. … Barr maintained the DOJ is working ‘diligently to make as much information as possible available to Congress.’ Meanwhile … the DOJ defended Barr’s rollout of Mueller’s conclusions.”
Team Trump taking a relaxed approach to Mueller report – Axios: “Two of the president’s top advisers who will be handling the response to Mueller’s report were watching the Masters when [Axios’ Jonathan Swan] called them about it this weekend. By all accounts, the president himself is also taking a fairly blasé approach. The subject has barely come up, if at all, in recent senior staff meetings, according to two sources with direct knowledge. … Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, told [Swan] Trump hasn’t seen the report. And senior White House aides have scant details about it, telling me they could only guess when exactly it will come out and how much of it will be redacted. Most expect Attorney General Bill Barr to release the report mid-week. … The president’s outside legal team will not read the report alongside his White House lawyers. Rather, the two groups of attorneys plan to go through it separately. A senior Trump adviser said the two groups will write separate responses — with the outside response likely more aggressive than the White House’s institutional response.”
Trump maintains ‘no collusion, no obstruction’ – Fox News: “President Trump on Monday said it was time to ‘investigate the investigators,’ doubling down on Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation. ‘Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction. These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!’ Trump tweeted early Monday. The president’s tweet comes following a week of mounting scrutiny on the attorney general for his testimony that ‘spying did occur’ on the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. Democrats blasted Barr, and accused him of ‘peddling conspiracy theories.’ But despite the backlash from Democrats over his use of the term, Barr’s testimony appeared to refer to intelligence collection that already has been widely reported and confirmed.”
TRUMP STAYS ON ATTACK MODE WITH OMAR
USA Today: “Before taking off Monday for Minnesota, President Donald Trump again attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis and one of the first two Muslim-American women to serve in the U.S. Congress. On Twitter, Trump also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for defending Omar, saying she ‘should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!’ Omar, Pelosi and other Democrats said Trump’s frequent attacks on the freshman congresswoman from Minnesota smack of being anti-Muslim, and are spiking death threats against Omar. Saying threats have escalated since Trump backers used her comments in a 2020 campaign video, Omar tweeted this weekend: ‘We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.’ Trump’s latest attacks came hours before he left for Minnesota, where he is scheduled to hold an economic policy event related Monday’s deadline for tax filings.”
Trump still likes idea to send immigrants to sanctuary cities – LAT: “President Trump still ‘likes’ the idea of transferring immigrants in the U.S. illegally to so-called sanctuary cities like San Francisco, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday. But she portrayed the notion as a burden-sharing strategy that the Democrats should welcome rather than a plan designed to punish political adversaries like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). Senior Democrats pushed back on the idea, previously rejected by administration lawyers in internal White House deliberations, as probably illegal and emblematic of the administration’s failure to conceive of a fair and coherent immigration policy. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, described the administration’s policymaking on immigration as built around crises that the president had created.”
Dems think Miller’s to blame – WaPo: “House Democrats are sharpening their focus on White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller, with key lawmakers saying he should be brought before congressional committees to testify about his role in recent policy controversies. The talk of hauling Miller before lawmakers comes days after The Washington Post reported that he played a key role in a plan first discussed last year to release undocumented immigrants into ‘sanctuary cities’ represented by President Trump’s Democratic critics. While the plan never came to fruition because of objections from agency officials, Trump has since embraced the idea. With a spate of new vacancies at the Department of Homeland Security … Miller has emerged as a key target for Democrats who see him as an influential survivor in an administration that has otherwise churned through personnel.”
Graham to introduce immigration legislation – Fox Business: “Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he will draft legislation in an effort to fix immigration laws in the U.S. ‘I’ll be introducing a package, and hopefully with Democratic support, that will change our asylum laws,’ Graham, R-S.C., told ‘Sunday Morning Futures.’ Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said a large majority of people who apply for asylum are released, but never return for their hearing. … ‘It’s impossible to do a hearing in 20 days,’ Graham said, adding that he wants to modify the decision and asylum laws. ‘So we’re going to try to change the time you can hold an unaccompanied minor or a minor child beyond 20 days because if you come up with a family and you have minor kids in the family, we release the whole family in 20 days because you don’t want to separate families.’”
TWO YEARS LATER TRUMP TAX CUTS STILL UNPOPULAR
Politico: “President Donald Trump boasted in Michigan last month that he signed into law ‘massive tax cuts, the biggest in the history of our country.’ As Americans rush Monday to finish up their own taxes, their judgment on Trump’s beloved tax cut bill is pretty clear: Most really don’t like it. Multiple polls show a majority of Americans don’t think they got a tax cut at all — even though independent analyses show they did. And only around a third of the country approves of the legislation itself, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress at the end of 2017. So as Trump moves closer to full-time reelection mode later this year, he will have to battle a stark reality: While his personal rating on the economy remains high, his signature legislative achievement is widely viewed as a political dud, one that has drawn special anger in places with high state and local taxes and pricey housing markets where deductions were limited to reduce the overall cost of the tax plan.”
Sarah Sanders: Congress is not ‘smart enough’ for Trump’s taxes – WaPo: “White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday that she doesn’t believe members of Congress are ‘smart enough’ to examine President Trump’s tax returns, pushing back against Democrats’ demands for information on the president’s finances. House Democrats have given the Trump administration a hard deadline of April 23 to turn over the president’s tax returns, arguing that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s concerns about the request ‘lack merit.’ In an interview with ‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace, Sanders said that Democrats were treading a ‘dangerous road’ and that their request for Trump’s tax returns is ‘all about political partisanship.’ ‘Frankly, Chris, I don’t think Congress — particularly not this group of congressmen and women — are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump’s taxes will be,’ Sanders said.”
Trump campaign raked in over $30M in first quarter – Fox News
Looking at Ohio swing voters, Obama is still candidate of choice – Axios
Pergram: ‘Black holes and Congress’ accomplishments at 100 days’ – Fox News
AUDIBLE: OH NOW…
“Candidly, I don’t even know all the reasons why this is going so well.” – Pete Buttigieg in an interview with New York Magazine.
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EITHER A SOLID PRANK OR A LOT OF LEFTOVERS
WJTV: “Mystery mashed potatoes are popping up on front porches in the Belhaven (Miss.) community. … Who leaves mashed potatoes on someone’s front porch? … ‘This neighborhood does a lot of quirky things, we decorate road signs we put Christmas trees in our potholes, so it’s not surprising at all, that’s why I love this neighborhood, because they do so many strange things, but it’s definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve seen since living in Jackson,’ Jordan Lewis said she found mashed potatoes left on her car. After posting to Facebook, Jordan Lewis found she wasn’t alone, several others said they also found a bowl of potatoes on their property. ‘They’ve found it on their mailboxes, on their cars… So we don’t know if someone is just playing a prank or if someone just had a lot of leftovers,’ Lewis joked.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“While retrospective judgment tends to make us feel superior to our ancestors, it should really evoke humility. Surely some contemporary practices will be deemed equally abominable by succeeding generations. The only question is: Which ones?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the National Review on May 8, 2015.
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.