Fox News Halftime Report -- One joke explains Trump’s approval ratings

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Fox News Halftime Report

August 2, 2017

By Chris Stirewalt


On the roster: One joke explains Trump's approval ratings - Trump backs curbs on legal immigration - Debt ceiling talks run aground - Anxieties grow on insurance rate hikes - Heavy metal Holstein

ONE JOKE EXPLAINS TRUMP'S APPROVAL RATINGS 
Do you believe President Trump was joking if he said, as reported, to members of his New Jersey country club that the reason he spends so much time there is "that White House is a real dump?"

Whatever your answer, test it against this hypothetical: Would you feel the same way if the quote were attributed to former president Barack Obama talking to fellow jet-setters in Hawaii? 

How did you feel when Michelle Obama, a descendant of slaves, rightly pointed out her pride in living as first lady in a White House that had been built with slave labor?

Much of how we perceive our unique political moment is based on the motives and attitudes we attribute to politicians themselves. And much of that is inherently altered by one of the most powerful intellectual opiates known to man: faction. 

If they were being honest, even Trump's staunchest critics would have to acknowledge how unlikely it is that a man who talks about how the Oval Office brings people to tears and gushes to visitors about the majesty of the executive mansion would sincerely refer to the White House as a dump. 

But for people who need daily affirmation to the terribleness of Trump, that out-of-context quote fits too perfectly with the narrative of Trump as an ungrateful, spoiled brat. As they used to say in the newspaper business, it's too good to check.
 
Just as some readily believed Obama was a secret Muslim with a forged birth certificate who sneered at the privileges of the presidency, now others see Trump as a Kremlin agent who stole the election and now has the temerity to deplore the restrained opulence of the White House. 

Maybe one day the two men can play a round golf together and talk about it…

A new Quinnipiac University poll out today shows Trump with about the same standing (33 percent approval) as when he took office (36 percent). The president has seen scores as high as 42 percent, but he's mostly ping-ponged in the same mid-30s range for his nearly 200 days in office.

While there is much to worry the president in the poll – particularly the 58 percent who believe he has attempted to interfere into the investigation of his own campaign – the relative consistency of Trump's approval numbers, even following weeks of dire news, is remarkable.
 
Think about it this way: This is a guy who has seen his son revealed as eager to get help from the Kremlin despite absolute denials, watched his health insurance legislation sprawl out like a waiter with a tray full of dishes tripping on a rug and, finally, orchestrated a historically heinous outburst of West Wing infighting. 
 
All that just happened, and Trump is only 3 points below where he was right after he took the oath of office. 

Political analysts have been puzzling over this consistency, but if you just think about it in terms of Trump's White House joke, it's not complicated at all.

You can attribute Trump's durability with his base voters as personal attachment or policy support or loathing of Democrats or disgust with the media or anything you like, but the simpler answer is that the power of partisanship – and even faction within parties – is a force as powerful in politics as the very moving of the tectonic plates is to the earth.

For one third of the nation, Trump could almost do no wrong, and for another third he will never do anything right. The stability that builds into national opinion is never to be forgotten.
 
But we should also remember what analysts are increasingly prone to forget: The persuadable third of voters between those two poles is increasingly up for grabs.

It's just that politicians don't spend much time or effort on them.

THE RULEBOOK: CAUSE OF ACTION
"The number of wars which have happened or will happen in the world will always be found to be in proportion to the number and weight of the causes, whether REAL or PRETENDED, which PROVOKE or INVITE them." – John JayFederalist No. 3

TIME OUT: COOL CAT
It was on this day in 1927 that President Calvin Coolidge shocked the nation with his announcement that he would not seek a second full term. He made his declaration exactly four years to the day after he assumed office when a heart attack killed his predecessor, Warren Harding. Coolidge won a full term in a landslide the next year, and was considered a shoo-in for 1928. But he issued a typically terse statement from the White House: "I do not choose to run for President in 1928." It would take him almost a year to convince his fellow Republicans not to nominate him anyway. Finally convinced of his adamancy at their convention Kansas City in 1928, the GOP settled for then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, who won a smashing victory promising a continuation of Coolidge's policies. After leaving office, Coolidge would write of his decision to leave office: "It was therefore my privilege, after seeing my administration so strongly endorsed by the country, to retire voluntarily from the greatest experience that can come to mortal man. In that way I believe I can best serve the people who have honored me and the country which I love."
 
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -19.8 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.8 points

[President Trump's score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

TRUMP BACKS CURBS ON LEGAL IMMIGRATION
WashEx: "President Trump announced Wednesday he will support a revised Senate bill that would implement a merit-based point system for foreigners who apply for legal permanent status through their employer. 'This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century but the bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and America first,' Trump said during a press conference at the White House Wednesday. 'This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.' The Washington Examiner first reported Tuesday evening Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas would meet with Trump on Wednesday to unveil an immigration bill…"

Justice Department to take on affirmative action in college admissions - NYT: "The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department's civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times. The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on 'investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.'"

DEBT CEILING TALKS RUN AGROUND 
WaPo: "Talks between the White House and the Senate's top Republican and Democrat broke up Tuesday with no progress on raising the country's debt ceiling, an impasse that threatens a financial crisis if left unresolved. The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29, when the Treasury Department says it would no longer be able to pay all of the government's bills unless Congress acts. A default would likely set off a major disruption to the world financial system, with a stock market crash and surging interest rates that could send the economy into a recession. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has urged Congress for months to raise the debt limit, but the White House has lacked a unified message and run into resistance on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans are at odds on key tax and spending issues."

McConnell plans to pass tax bill with just GOP votes - Politico: "Senate Republicans are sticking to their plans to pass a tax bill with 50 Republican votes, despite Democratic pleas not to be sidelined as they were on health care. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday reaffirmed the GOP's long-standing intention to shield any tax overhaul from a likely Democratic filibuster by using the procedural protections of budget reconciliation. In explaining his decision to reporters, the Kentucky Republican cited a Tuesday letter from 45 Democratic senators urging Republicans not to use reconciliation and vowing to oppose a tax plan that adds to the deficit or cuts the annual bill of the richest 1 percent of taxpayers."

But will it be this year? - WaPo: "The White House's push to quickly pass a major package of tax cuts through Congress is facing a fall calendar full of legislative land mines, potentially delaying a key part of President Trump's agenda into at least 2018. The Trump administration sees tax cuts as an achievable victory after a string of failed attempts to pass other parts of the president's legislative agenda, as well as a proposal that could unite a party fractured over Senate Republicans' failure last week to vote through a repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act."

ANXIETIES GROW ON INSURANCE RATE HIKES
Fox News: "Top health insurance companies in numerous states are looking to hike premiums by double-digits – some by roughly 30 percent or more – for ObamaCare plans in 2018, according to newly released figures that could light a fire under stalled efforts on Capitol Hill to fix the program. …  The Wall Street Journal reported that major insurers in Idaho, West Virginia, South Carolina, Iowa and Wyoming are pitching premium hikes averaging 30 percent or higher. Other states also could see double-digit hikes, including New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas – while elsewhere, insurers are eyeing smaller increases. The requests are preliminary and could change before insurers strike 2018 agreements with federal officials in the fall. But they underscore concerns about Affordable Care Act plans becoming increasingly unaffordable, as Republicans struggle to come up with an ObamaCare replacement bill that can pass Congress."

Illinois facing rate spike on Washington uncertainty - Chicago Tribune: "Health insurers want to raise premiums next year for Illinois consumers who buy coverage through the Obamacare exchange — in many cases citing uncertainty surrounding the health care law as a reason for the proposed jumps. Average rate increases for individual plans in Illinois could range from 5 percent to 43 percent depending on a number of factors… Health Alliance and Blue Cross also considered the unknown fate of subsidies now paid to insurers meant to offset the expenses of reducing deductible and copay costs for lower-income plan members. Cigna based its proposed increase on the assumption that those subsidies would disappear. 'Health plans must plan for the possibility (of) the individual mandate and/or federal subsidies going away,' said Laura Mabry, a spokeswoman for Health Alliance, in an email Tuesday."

IN LATEST REVERSAL, TRUMP ADMITS COACHING SON ON RUSSIA 
Wash Times: "The White House confirmed Tuesday that President Trump 'weighed in' to help craft his son's response to reports of a meeting last year with a Russian lawyer — a move that could fuel an expansion of investigations into Trump campaign figures' dealings with Moscow. Legal analysts said drafting a misleading memo is not necessarily a crime, but it could give the ongoing special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller room to interview additional White House officials. … 'Assuming all this is true, the first thing that stands out is the number of people who have been exposed to the scope of the special counsel,' said Bradley Moss, an attorney who handles national security cases. 'At a minimum, it's a political issue for the president. It looks horrible.' … Mr. Trump's lawyer last month had denied the president's involvement in crafting the response."

Trump signs new Russia sanctions - The Hill: "President Trump quietly signed legislation on Wednesday hitting Russia with new sanctions and limiting his administration's ability to lift them. The White House had sought to water down the bill's provisions, which give Congress the power to veto the lifting of sanctions on Moscow. Trump has sought warmer relations with Russia, even amid the myriad investigations into whether his campaign officials colluded with Moscow to impact the 2016 election. Trump is reportedly considering restoring Russian access to two diplomatic compounds the Obama administration seized last year in retaliation for its campaign meddling.

Mueller enlists former DOJ official to team - WashEx: "Special counsel Robert Mueller has hired Greg Andres, a former Justice Department official, as the newest member of his team investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, according to a report Tuesday night. Andres is the 16th lawyer to join Mueller's team, according to Reuters."

House Judiciary to focus on Hillary - Bloomberg: "[Bob Goodlatte] has called for new scrutiny of decisions made by President Barack Obama's Justice Department in its probe of [Hillary] Clinton's use of a private email server, as well as alleged Clinton ties to foreign governments and the leaking of classified information."

Boy Scouts deny Trump's boast - The Hill: "The Boy Scouts of America is denying President Trump's claim that the head of the organization told him it was 'the greatest speech' the organization ever heard. 'The Chief Scout Executive's message to the Scouting community speaks for itself,' the organization told Time magazine Tuesday. Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month that the head of the Boy Scouts had called him to thank him for the speech. 'And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,' Trump said in the interview, the transcript of which was released by Politico Tuesday. Michael Surbaugh, leader of the Boy Scouts of America, apologized last week for the speech, saying that they 'sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.'"

Lewandowski walks fine line on lobbying - NYT: "…Mr. [Corey Lewandowski] started a new consulting business, according to corporate filings. And now, as he takes on an increasingly broad role as an unofficial White House adviser, he is building a roster of clients with major interests before the Trump administration... Mr. Lewandowski appears to be positioning his new firm as an 'advisory' business, part of a growing cohort of Washington influencers who advise companies on how to navigate the government but do not register as lobbyists or disclose their clients."

DEMS STIR 2020 TALKS IN IOWA 
Politico: "Two House Democrats who have drawn increasing notice as potential 2020 White House hopefuls after opposing their own party's leadership are heading to Iowa. Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan will join Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos as the headliners of the annual Polk County Steak Fry of the Iowa Democratic Party in September, multiple Democrats familiar with the arrangement confirmed to POLITICO. The trips fuel speculation that Moulton and Ryan are considering White House runs. The Iowa state party committee was set to announce the speakers for the closely-watched event on Wednesday. The Des Moines event is a reincarnation of the steak fry fundraising event that former Sen. Tom Harkin used to host. That event was a frequent destination for presidential hopefuls. Hillary Clinton stopped by the event in 2014... Barack Obama spoke at the event in 2006, and then he and Clinton both headlined the event in 2007."

Sasse rebuffs Heritage for top job - Politico: "The Heritage Foundation has approached one of the Senate's leading anti-Trump Republicans, Ben Sasse, to gauge his interest in serving as president — an indication the influential conservative think tank may turn away from its supportive posture toward the president. Sasse, who was elected to his first term in the Senate in 2014, has swatted down the overtures from Heritage's board of trustees, according to two sources familiar with the recruitment effort. The Nebraska senator rose to national prominence when he announced early in the primary calendar that he would support neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, and he has been a persistent critic of Trump ever since."

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Trump's fundraising prowess keeps Republican Party close - AP

Trump prepares push against China on intellectual property theft Politico

Senate confirms Wray to lead FBI - Politico

AUDIBLE: YAS QUEEN 
"In this White House, most of the drama queens are men." – Stu Loeser, former press secretary to New York Mayor Michael Bloombergtalking to Politico about the role of women in the Trump White House. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"…your statement that 'Republicans are willing to fight for an agenda' is spot-on!  The problem is their agenda and it's not the one we voted on.  It's 'Let's keep on not having term limits and paying attention to the pill lobby (and others) and whatever way we need to vote to keep the elite here forever' agenda." – Bud Reed, Neosho, Mo.

[Ed. note: Greetings to you, Mr. Reed, in the land of the Spooklight! You have keyed in on something important here which is that the strongest establishment in American politics is bipartisan in nature. Some of this is very helpful in the sense of maintaining norms, order and continuity for the republic over time. But when we ask why, no matter the outcome of elections, certain enormously popular propositions like term limits never seem to gain any traction. I would submit that those people who are looking to change that tendency either through the two-party system or by introducing a new party are going about it the wrong way. The Constitution provides for the voice of the people in regard to policy, albeit with a high bar. Americans regularly amended the Constitution until fairly recently in history. Rather than militating for a change in the way politics works, issue advocates might do better to seek bipartisan support for popular initiatives and thereby turn support for a proposed amendment into a witness test for candidates of both parties.

"Say WHAT!? Rep. Costa says America has an economically diverse country and that 'one size does NOT fit all'...!? Then just how did Obamacare get passed in the first place with its own 'one size fits all' formula? The level of sheer hypocrisy of our elected officials is truly mind-boggling, but not as mind-boggling as the voters who keep sending them back to Washington, election after election!" – Chuck Howard IIITunica, Miss.

[Ed. note: At the beginning of his 2012 campaign for president, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got in trouble for saying that he didn't think "right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering." Gingrich was dissing now-House Speaker Paul Ryan's purposed changes to Medicare. Gingrich would later backtrack, but he was really onto something, and not just about Medicare. Both parties suffer for viewing legislation as opportunities to remake society. The more intimately involved in people's lives the federal government becomes, the harder it is for members of both parties to resist the urge to use domestic policy to shape the conduct of the nation's citizens rather than serve their interests.]

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

HEAVY METAL HOLSTEIN 
AP: "KISS front man Gene Simmons is udderly thrilled by a newborn calf born with strikingly similar black-and-white markings to the face paint he wears on stage. Simmons tweeted his admiration for the calf on Sunday, saying, 'This is real, folks!!!' The calf was born Friday at a ranch near Kerrville, Texas, which is about 60 miles northwest of San Antonio. Heather Taccetta, who lives at the ranch with her family, said Tuesday that the calf belongs to her grandmother. It is named Genie, in honor of Simmons. Taccetta says the calf and its mother are doing fine and that Genie is a family favorite and won't be sold for slaughter."



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