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On the roster: Trump hits ‘whatever’ in his long COVID retreat – Trump plays defense in Arizona – Biden barks at reporter over corruption claims – Tillis campaign hits Cunningham with vet-narrated ad – Getting worked
TRUMP HITS ‘WHATEVER’ IN HIS LONG COVID RETREAT
In President Trump’s broadside today against Dr. Anthony Fauci and the team fighting coronavirus – “these idiots,” as Trump called them – there was one part that the president got absolutely right.
“People are tired of COVID,” Trump said in a conference call with campaign workers intended to boost morale ahead of a grueling home stretch for the struggling campaign.
Tired indeed. It’s been more than seven months since Trump declared a national emergency and vowed from behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office that “the virus will not have a chance against us” because of our vigilance about impeding transmission.
With the death toll more than 220,000 and rising, the economy in a wreck, the prospects for the coming weeks looking grim and Americans getting ready to forgo their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, you most definitely say that people are tired of COVID-19.
But that’s not what Trump was talking about. He meant that people were tired of doing what he called on them to do back in March – tired of all the vigilance and ready to ignore the crisis and get back to business as usual.
“I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have COVID,” Trump said on the call that his campaign had opened up to reporters. “People are saying, ‘Whatever — just leave us alone.’”
If you wanted one sentence to sum up how Trump managed to fritter away the potential political advantages for a leader during a crisis and end up five furlongs back with 15 days to go before the election, there you have it.
It’s not that are no voters who agree with Trump that it’s time to blow off the advice of public health officials. It’s just not that many.
In FiveThirtyEight’s averages, there are about 31 percent of Americans who are either “not very” (19 percent) or “not at all” (12 percent) concerned about infection. That’s less than half of the 66 percent who are either “somewhat” (35 percent) or “very” (31 percent) concerned.
It is no surprise then that Trump is getting bludgeoned when it comes to public sentiment about his handling of the crisis – 58 percent disapprove, 40 percent approve.
Trump indeed has the “whatever, leave us alone” voters squarely on his side and will no doubt get many of those who are “somewhat” worried in spite of his stance, but it’s hard to imagine why a struggling incumbent would kiss off so many voters.
But that’s exactly what he has done. Since his daily coronavirus briefings skidded to a halt in July, Trump has tried again and again and again to turn the page from the crisis even when the electorate is telling him in unambiguous terms they want him to focus.
Imagine talking to a Trump campaign official back in the spring when things seemed to be at their darkest on the pandemic front. What would he or she have told you if you described the condition of the economy and the spread of the coronavirus in mid-October?
What if you added in that the White House had seen a major infection outbreak after ignoring its own protocols? What if you said that Trump had been infected himself but still pooh-poohed mask wearing? What if you said he was holding rallies in swing states even as cases surged? What if you said Trump trashed his own public health team, with particular venom for Fauci? What if you said there had been no additional stimulus or bailouts?
Back then, they would have told you that Trump’s goose would be cooked if things were that bad and the candidate’s message was so undisciplined. But that, they would say, would never, ever happen because they are taking this all very seriously – vigilantly, even.
The trip from the Resolute Desk and uniting to crush the virus in March to “whatever” today tracks with Trump’s diminishing chances for re-election. And if he does indeed lose, the story won’t be much more complicated than that.
THE RULEBOOK: TREAT YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
“The interfering and unneighborly regulations of some States, contrary to the true spirit of the Union, have, in different instances, given just cause of umbrage and complaint to others….” – Alexander Hamilton, writing about problems with current form of government, Federalist No 28
TIME OUT: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
History Channel: “Hopelessly trapped at Yorktown, Virginia, British General Lord [Charles Cornwallis] surrenders 8,000 British soldiers and seamen to a larger Franco-American force, effectively bringing an end to the American Revolution [on this day, 239 years ago]. … After conducting a series of raids against towns and plantations in Virginia, Cornwallis settled in the tidewater town of Yorktown in August. The British immediately began fortifying the town and the adjacent promontory of Gloucester Point across the York River. General George Washington instructed the Marquis de Lafayette, who was in Virginia with an American army of around 5,000 men, to block Cornwallis’ escape from Yorktown by land. … Pleading illness, he did not attend the surrender ceremony, but his second-in-command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. As the British and Hessian troops marched out to surrender, the British bands played the song ‘The World Turned Upside Down.’”
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NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.4 percent
Biden: 52.4 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 12 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 1.2 points, Trump ↓ 1.8 points
[Average includes: AP/NORC: Trump 36% – Biden 51%; KFF: Trump 38% – Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 43% – Biden 54%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 42% – Biden 53%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 43% – Biden 55%.]
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: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 55.6 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3 points
[Average includes: AP/NORC: 39% approve – 61% disapprove; KFF: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 45% approve – 55% 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 [email protected]
TRUMP PLAYS DEFENSE IN ARIZONA
AP: “President Donald Trump came out swinging Monday at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the press and polls that show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states in a disjointed closing message two weeks out from Election Day. On the third day of a western campaign swing, Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that gave him a come-from-behind victory four years ago. But his inconsistent message, the newly rising virus cases and his attacks on experts like Fauci could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base. … At a rally in Prescott, Arizona, Trump assailed Biden for pledging to heed the advice of scientific experts, saying dismissively that his rival ‘wants to listen to Dr. Fauci.’ … At his rally, Trump also ramped up his attacks on the news media, singling out NBC’s Kristen Welker, the moderator of the next presidential debate, as well as CNN for aggressively covering a pandemic that is now infecting tens of thousands of Americans every day.”
Factors that could help produce a Trump victory – Politico: “By almost every measure that political operatives, academics and handicappers use to forecast elections, the likely outcome is that Joe Biden will win the White House. Yet two weeks before Election Day, the unfolding reality of 2020 is that it’s harder than ever to be sure. And Democrats are scrambling to account for the hidden variables that could still sink their nominee — or what you might call the known unknowns. Republican registration has ticked up in key states at the same time Democratic field operations were in hibernation. Democratic turnout is surging in the early vote. But it’s unclear whether it will be enough to overcome an expected rush of ballots that Republicans, leerier of mail voting, will cast in person on Nov. 3. There is uncertainty about the accuracy of polling in certain swing states, the efficacy of GOP voter suppression efforts and even the number of mail-in ballots that for one reason or another will be disqualified.”
When it comes to demographics, what will 2020 look like? – FiveThirtyEight: “The question, then, in 2020 — as it is in every election — is what will the electorate look like this time around? … We tried to answer this question by comparing data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study to 2020 data from Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape polling conducted over the past month. This comparison is hardly perfect… But this is as close as we can get to a direct comparison before the election, and it did allow us to identify some interesting trends. First off, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is attracting more support than Hillary Clinton did among white voters as a whole — especially white women, older white voters and those without a four-year college degree — which has helped him build a substantial lead of around 10 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average. However, Trump is performing slightly better than last time among college-educated white voters, and he has gained among voters of color, especially Hispanic voters and younger Black voters.”
So far so good when it comes to early voting – NPR: “Early voting turnout continues to shatter records, as sky-high voter enthusiasm meets the realities of the United States’ creaky machinery of democracy amid a pandemic. That means long lines in some places and administrative errors with some mail ballots, but a system that is working overall, according to experts. ‘Despite some of those concerns, things are going at this point reasonably well,’ said former Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, speaking specifically about the expansion of voting by mail. More than 26 million people had voted as of Saturday, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a turnout-tracking database run by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald. That’s more than six times the number of votes cast by the same point in 2016. … Democrats have cast about 53% of the early votes, according to predictive analysis by the data firm TargetSmart, which uses voter data beyond party registration to project turnout trends. That’s compared with 36% by Republicans.”
BIDEN BARKS AT REPORTER OVER CORRUPTION CLAIMS
Fox News: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has remained mum on questions about his knowledge of his son Hunter’s overseas business dealings, which were discussed in a series of emails purportedly found on a laptop belonging to his son. The New York Post last week published the controversial emails, which were later obtained by Fox News, related to Hunter Biden’s work with Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, as well as his work with a Chinese energy firm. While the Biden campaign has hit back at the New York Post report, the former vice president himself has not given a substantive answer on the emails. Biden, over the weekend, was asked about the Post report by a CBS News reporter, to which he replied: ‘I have no response.’ It’s ‘another smear campaign,’ he said.”
FBI probes Rudy for smear – USA Today: “When the New York Post published the alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Hunter Biden, the newspaper cast the information as a ‘smoking gun.’ Enter the FBI. Less than three weeks before one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in history, federal authorities are investigating whether the material supplied to the Post by Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia. The inquiry, according to a person familiar with the matter, is at least in part, aimed at determining whether Russia has set its sights on a familiar target: Biden’s father, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The person is not authorized to comment on the matter publicly and asked not to be named in order to speak candidly. The FBI has declined to comment, refusing to either confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.”
Trump spy boss defends – Fox News: “Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Monday said that Hunter Biden’s laptop ‘is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign,’ amid claims from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff suggesting otherwise. Ratcliffe, during an exclusive interview on FOX Business’ ‘Mornings with Maria,’ was asked about the allegations from Schiff, D-Calif., who over the weekend said that the Hunter Biden emails suggesting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had knowledge of, and was allegedly involved in, his son’s foreign business dealings. ‘It’s funny that some of the people who complain the most about intelligence being politicized are the ones politicizing the intelligence,’ Ratcliffe said. ‘Unfortunately, it is Adam Schiff who said the intelligence community believes the Hunter Biden laptop and emails on it are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.’”
Biden only has debate on this week’s schedule – AP: “The Democratic nominee’s motorcade rolled shortly after noon on Monday from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to the Queen, a downtown theater where his campaign has built a makeshift studio and stage for its candidate to hold virtual events, as well as some speeches and press conferences in person. Biden was taping an interview with ‘60 Minutes,’ which was scheduled to air on CBS next weekend. Biden’s traveling press pool caught a glimpse of him entering the theater, but he did not answer questions. Biden has nothing else on his public schedule this week except Thursday night’s debate in Nashville, Tennessee. His campaign says he plans to use the bulk of the remaining time preparing for the second and final time he is scheduled to face off with President Donald Trump before Election Day on Nov. 3.”
TILLIS CAMPAIGN HITS CUNNINGHAM WITH VET-NARRATED AD
Fox News: “As Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham continues to do well in the polls despite revelations of an extramarital affair, Sen. Thom Tillis‘ campaign is pulling out all the stops with a statewide television ad narrated by Army veterans who say they ‘can’t trust Cal Cunningham in the Senate.’ ‘The Code of Military Justice. All soldiers live by it. Just like the oath we all take. … Cal Cunningham violated his oath when he had an affair with another soldier’s wife,’ the veterans narrating the video ad say. The veterans are North Carolina residents who say they’re voting for Tillis, a Republican. … ‘The real Cal Cunningham is a hypocrite who disgraced his family, the Army and the people of North Carolina,’ [Tillis campaign manager Luke Blanchat told Fox News.] The U.S. Army Reserve is investigating North Carolina Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham shortly after a military wife told the Associated Press she engaged in an extramarital affair with the politician as recently as July. Cunningham is a married father of two.”
Cornyn distances from Trump – The Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “U.S. Sen. John Cornyn acknowledged Friday that at times he has disagreed with President Trump on issues such as budget deficits and debt, tariffs and trade agreements and border security. But, the senior Republican senator from Texas, who is being challenged by Democrat MJ Hegar, said he chose to work on those disagreements with the president’s staff in private discussions, rather than by publicly voicing his opposition. Although polls show Cornyn with a small lead over Hegar, both candidates are vying for undecided voters during an extraordinary election season in which many once-solid Republican public office seats are now in reach for Democrats. During a meeting with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board, Cornyn was asked if he and other Republicans regretted not pushing Trump to combat the COVID-19 virus more aggressively, or rein in some of his political stances that were unpopular or stood little chance of passing in Congress. Cornyn initially described his relationship with Trump as ‘maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.’”
Balz: ‘Texas is the most intriguing political state in the country this fall’ – WaPo: “There are the known battleground states that will decide the presidential race this fall, and then there’s Texas, which might just be the most politically intriguing state in the country right now. Whichever way it goes in November, there’s no question that President Trump is a problem for Republicans in the Lone Star State. … Early voting began last week, and in some of the most populous counties, where Democrats have been gaining strength, numbers have been eye-popping. Data experts say it’s far too early to draw conclusions about whether the early turnout signifies a huge Democratic surge or merely a sign that Democrats determined to deny Trump a second term are eager to cast their ballots right away. Strategists in both parties nonetheless are trying to decipher the numbers for any trends.”
Virtual Senate debate in Georgia in two sessions – AP: “Candidates in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat held by Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler squared off in their first debate Monday afternoon. Loeffler faces a large field of opponents including Democrat Raphael Warnock and fellow Republican Doug Collins in a race for the seat she was appointed to 10 months ago. … Monday’s debate was broken into two parts, with a handful of top contenders participating in one session and other candidates relegated to a different session. Warnock went into the debate coming off a strong fundraising quarter. … Voting is under way in Georgia, and people are voting early in record numbers. According to a news release from Georgia’s secretary of state, more than 1,482,000 ballots had been cast by Sunday, including mail ballots and early in-person voting. During a similar period in 2016, a little over 578,000 ballots were cast.”
AUDIBLE: ONLY A LITTLE STITIOUS
“But I’m not a superstitious person.” – Clynton Christie, shortly after casting an early ballot for Joe Biden, talking about Vigo County, Indiana’s president picking record. The county in western Indiana has backed the White House winner in every election since 1956.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Thanks for the interesting history essay involving the Grover Cleveland/William Jennings Bryan era, leading up to the Scopes trial and Bryan’s demise. Reminiscent of Inherit the Wind.” – Keith Ward, Medford, Ore.
[Ed. note: One thing our Senate has these days is wind… Thanks much for the kind note!]
“I thoroughly enjoyed your piece on Senate hearings. I have had the misfortune of attending a few of them and it was clear to me that they can best be described as tag team demagoguery.” – George Fuller, St. Louis
[Ed. note: Well put, Mr. Fuller! They get the Constitution on the mat every time.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WHDH: “A rapper who boasted in a YouTube music video about getting rich by committing unemployment benefits fraud was arrested for allegedly bilking the COVID-19 jobless relief program, authorities said. Fontrell Antonio Baines, who uses the stage name ‘Nuke Bizzle,’ was charged by criminal complaint with fraudulently applying for more than $1.2 million in jobless …The 31-year-old possessed and used debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department, according to an affidavit. … Evidence gathered during the investigation indicated that at least 92 debit cards that had been pre-loaded with more than $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits were mailed to Baines’ addresses, according to the affidavit. Baines and his co-schemers allegedly accessed more than $704,000 in benefits through cash withdrawals, including in Las Vegas. The affidavit further alleges that Baines bragged about defrauding the EDD in a music video posted on YouTube and in postings to his Instagram account…”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“When Editorial Page Editor Meg Greenfield approached me to do a column for The Post, I was somewhat daunted. The norm in those days was to write two or three a week, hence the old joke that being a columnist is like being married to a nymphomaniac — as soon as you’re done, you’ve got to do it again.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about his column anniversary in the Washington Post on Dec. 18, 2009.
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.