Trump’s Mission: Burn it down

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On the roster: Trump’s Mission: Burn it down – Pelosi, Mnuchin nearing stimulus agreement – Trump posts yet-to-air ’60 Minutes’ interview – Obama brings Dem energy to Florida – What? No time for an In-N-Out stop?

TRUMP’S MISSION: BURN IT DOWN
When then-President Obama and members of his administration would talk about their plan, or, more accurately, the absence of one, for the still-ongoing nightmare in Syria, reporters were treated to what sounded like a David Fromkin lecture.

To deal with the slaughter in Syria and the threat from Russia and Turkey in the region, one first had to resolve the 1,400-year blood feud between Sunni and Shia Islam. Then the Iranians and the Gulf Arabs would work together.

Oh, is that all?

This would be like telling someone the directions for making a quart of ice cream starts with inventing cold fusion.

Obama’s Rube Goldberg approach to the Syrian genocide comes to mind as we have read and listened to very smart Republicans explaining how President Trump should approach his final debate, which will take place in Nashville tonight.

What Trump should do, they say, is be disciplined and focus on his still-popular economic policies and hit challenger Joe Biden on a tax plan and other proposals that they say would further harm the already ruined economy.

We’re not trying to be snarky here, but if Trump could do that, don’t you think he already would have at some point… ever?

What many Republicans fear from Trump tonight is a repeat of his self-immolation in the candidates’ first outing. Trump is currently Schiff-deep in his conspiracizing about his allegations about Biden’s son, Hunter, a real rough case. The worry is that Trump will again go too hard in his efforts to anger and fluster Biden and again burn himself down in the process.

Muted microphones can’t keep a committed Trump from smashing up the scenery like he did in Cleveland. What Republican officeholders and strategists want is for him to show calm and composure enough to reassure anxious center-right swing voters and keep the focus on pocketbook issues.

Even if Trump could regain the composure he showed in the final debate of October 2016, which was pretty wild and interrupt-y itself, this is not the time for Trump to opt for sherbet over blaze orange.

As we have talked about before, Trump is doing about as well as he was at this point in 2016. He had about 40 percent of the vote in an average of polls 12 days away from Election Day, just exactly what he’s got today. Trump’s problem is Biden, who is outperforming his predecessor by about 4 points.

Trump has a hard ceiling of support, and always has – just like Hillary Clinton. She could never crest the 50 percent mark in our averages, even when Trump was staggering. Biden, on the other hand, has mostly been on the sunny side of the 50 percent line.

Trump can’t beat Biden as Biden is currently defined: an amiable if obtuse old-school politician. He’s basically running as Eugene Gatling, and there’s no way Trump, snowed in with negative personal views, is going to top that this year.

So Trump must go all in on trying to ruin Biden – to defame his character and to draw Biden into the kind of angry tirade that would harm his nice guy image.

We were frankly surprised that Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s other squaddies waited this long to start the sliming of Biden in earnest. It helps Trump in the sense that, like the claims at this point four years ago about criminal prosecutions relating to the Clinton Foundation, that the election will be over before the questions are resolved. But it still may have come too late.

Trump needs Biden to break tonight and raise doubts about his own character and fitness that might drag the Democrat down to a Clintonian level in the mid-40s. Trump’s voters will stay with him no matter how brutish or cruelly he behaves, and Biden’s support is far less devout. This is Trump’s last chance for a torch job, so how can he act like he’s a different person now?

As with those feuding Middle Easterners whom Obama said he meant to reconcile, for Trump it’s probably enough just to hurt the other guy.

THE RULEBOOK: BRING IT ON!
“It would be easy to show, if it were necessary, that no important power, delegated by the articles of Confederation, has been or can be executed by Congress, without recurring more or less to the doctrine of CONSTRUCTION or IMPLICATION.” – James Madison, discussing the authority of individual states, Federalist No. 44

TIME OUT: WITH PRIDE
Tennessean: “Veteran country singer Charley Pride will receive the Country Music Association’s annual lifetime achievement award, the organization announced Thursday. Pride, 86, will accept the 2020 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award during the 54th annual CMA Awards, airing live from Nashville on November 11. The association is recognizing Pride as ‘the genre’s first Black superstar.’ His dozens of hits include his 1971 signature ‘Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’, ‘Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone’ and ‘All I Have to Offer You (Is Me).’ He was named the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 1971, and was the first black man to co-host the ceremony in 1975. He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. In a release, CMA CEO Sarah Tahern called Pride ‘the epitome of a trailblazer.’ … ‘His distinctive voice has created a timeless legacy that continues to echo through the country community today.’”

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SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 39.8 percent     
Biden: 51 percent     
Size of lead:
Biden by 11.2 points     
Change from one week ago:
Biden ↓ 2.6 points, Trump ↓ 3 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: Trump 41% – Biden 51%; NYT/Siena: Trump 41% – Biden 50%; AP/NORC: Trump 36% – Biden 51%; KFF: Trump 38% – Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 43% – Biden 54%.]

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: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 55.2 percent
Net Score: -13.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 4 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 55% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve – 55% disapprove; NYT/Siena: 43% approve – 51% disapprove; AP/NORC: 39% approve – 61% disapprove; KFF: 44% approve – 54% 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.

PELOSI, MNUCHIN NEARING STIMULUS AGREEMENT
Bloomberg: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are ‘just about there’ on resolving a key piece of a coronavirus relief package, even as there are significant differences still being negotiated. Pelosi said she and Mnuchin were nearing agreement on how to allocate money for testing and tracing to safely reopen schools and the economy, a key aspect in the talks. She said they still haven’t settled three of the main sticking points: Democrats’ demands for aid to state and local governments, school funding and Republican insistence on a liability shield for employers. Pelosi and Mnuchin are scheduled to talk by phone again Thursday afternoon as they rush to forge a compromise that would allow introduction of stimulus legislation in the House. Stocks were little changed as investors monitor the status. They tumbled earlier this month when President Donald Trump pulled his team out of the talks — underscoring why neither side will want to be seen walking away from the table amid the final countdown to Election Day. The risk of a selloff gives both teams an incentive to keep going, even if a deal remains elusive.”

TRUMP POSTS YET-TO-AIR ’60 MINUTES’ INTERVIEW
The Hill: “President Trump on Thursday posted his full interview with ‘60 Minutes’ ahead of its scheduled air time in an apparent attempt to undercut the news program after he walked out on the interview, bristling at questioning from journalist Lesley Stahl. The president posted the nearly 40-minute sit-down to his Facebook page with the caption: ‘Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.’ ‘Tonight’s anchor, Kristen Welker, is far worse!’ Trump added, referencing the NBC News anchor who will moderate the presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn. Trump abruptly ended the interview with Stahl before a scheduled walk-and-talk with the president and Vice President Pence. During the interview, he bemoans that Stahl opened the interview by asking if he was ready for ‘tough questions,’ calling it ‘no way to talk.’ He complains repeatedly that Stahl did not ask tough questions to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, to which Stahl responds that she did not interview Biden. Trump corrects himself to say ‘the interview’ with Biden. ‘I think we have enough. We have enough,’ Trump says in the clip, moving to end the interview.”

Trump’s path to victory hinges on Florida and Pennsylvania AP: “President Donald Trump still has a path to the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win reelection. But it requires everything to break in his direction a second time. Persuadable voters in battleground states will need to overwhelmingly swing in his favor. He’ll have to win back crucial voting blocs. And his turnout operation will need to dramatically outperform Democrat Joe Biden’s in an extraordinarily turbulent year. … While Trump has multiple roads to victory, his most likely route hinges on winning two crucial battleground states: Florida and Pennsylvania. If he can claim both and hold onto other Sun Belt states he narrowly carried in 2016 — North Carolina and Arizona — while playing defense in Georgia and Ohio, which he won handily in 2016 but where Biden is now competitive, he will win.”

Fox Poll: Trump gains in Ohio, Biden ahead in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – Fox News: “Donald Trump holds a narrow advantage in Ohio, while voters in the three battleground states that put him over the top in 2016 prefer Joe Biden, according to Fox News statewide surveys of likely voters. Biden leads by 12 points in Michigan (52-40 percent), 5 points in Pennsylvania (50-45 percent), and 5 points in Wisconsin (49-44 percent).  Biden’s advantage is outside the margin of error in Michigan, but not Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  Trump carried each of these states by less than a percentage point in 2016. Trump’s 2016 victory in Ohio was by a wider 8-point margin, which is higher than his current 3-point edge in the Buckeye State (45 percent Biden to 48 percent Trump).  That’s a reversal since last month, when Biden was ahead by 5 points in Ohio (50-45 percent). The number who favor Trump’s re-election lags his 2016 vote share in each state. Biden’s leads are not insurmountable.  Trump has improved his standing in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin since September.”

Majority of voters say Trump ‘does not deserve’ to be reelected – Gallup: “The majority of U.S. registered voters, 56%, believe President Donald Trump does not deserve to be reelected, while 43% say he does. Voters are even less likely to think ‘most members of Congress’ deserve reelection (29%), although six in 10 say their own House member does. These data are from a Sept. 30-Oct. 15, 2020, Gallup poll. The percentage of voters who say Trump deserves reelection to a second term is down seven percentage points from Gallup’s previous measure in January — a much different time in Trump’s presidency, when confidence in the U.S. economy was high, the Senate was preparing to vote to keep Trump in office during his impeachment trial, and only a few cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the U.S. The percentage of voters who currently say Trump deserves to be reelected matches his latest overall job approval rating from the same poll.”

OBAMA BRINGS DEM ENERGY TO FLORIDA
Politico: “Barack Obama is being tapped to gin up support for voting ahead of Election Day in Florida, putting the former president at the center of a new TV ad campaign kicking off in the nation’s biggest swing state. ‘It is going to be close and it could come down to a handful of voters just like you,’ Obama says in the new Democratic National Committee ads set to start running Thursday. ‘I’m asking you to bring this thing home. Leave no doubt. Vote early.’ The ad, a copy of which was provided to POLITICO, does not mention Joe Biden or any overtly partisan themes. Instead, it focuses exclusively on the DNC’s get-out-the-vote messaging. … The new DNC spot will begin running Thursday in the Miami media market, with plans for expansion in the coming days. Florida is the only state where it will initially run on TV, but it will appear digitally in a host of other swing states.”

After spending Wednesday night in Philly – TMZ: “Joe Biden’s campaign is pulling out the biggest gun right before the election — Barack Obama in the flesh pounding the pavement for his ex-Veep. The former President was out in Philly Wednesday, campaigning for Joe and Kamala Harris in the first in-person event Barack held on behalf of the team. He started out by having a panel discussion with Black male leaders in the city, and eventually migrated to the streets … where he addressed a crowd of volunteers with a bullhorn. It was kinda odd but badass all the same to see 44 rallying up the troops — while wearing a mask, of course — by telling them despite all the digital ads a candidate might employ … good old-fashioned person-to-person conversation is how voters truly connect to a cause.”

LAPTOP CONNECTED TO HUNTER BIDEN LINKED TO FBI MONEY LAUNDERING PROBE
Fox News: “The FBI’s subpoena of a laptop and hard drive purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden came in connection with a money laundering investigation in late 2019, according to documents obtained by Fox News and verified by multiple federal law enforcement officials who reviewed them. It is unclear, at this point, whether the investigation is ongoing or if it was directly related to Hunter Biden. Multiple federal law enforcement officials, as well as two separate government officials, confirmed the authenticity of these documents, which were signed by FBI Special Agent Joshua Wilson. Wilson did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. One of the documents, obtained by Fox News, was designated as an FBI ‘Receipt for Property’ form, which details the bureau’s interactions with John Paul Mac Isaac, the owner of ‘The Mac Shop’ who reported the laptop’s contents to authorities.”

Hunter Biden business partner calls email ‘genuine’ – Fox News: “Tony Bobulinski, who was listed as the recipient of an email published by the New York Post that appeared to detail a business arrangement involving a Chinese company and members of the Biden family, has confirmed that the email is ‘genuine’ and provided more information regarding the Bidens’ role in the deal. The email includes a note that ‘Hunter has some office expectations he will elaborate.’ A proposed equity split references ‘20’ for ‘H’ and ‘10 held by H for the big guy?’ with no further details. ‘The reference to ‘the Big Guy’ in the much publicized May 13, 2017 email is in fact a reference to Joe Biden,’ Bobulinski said in a statement to Fox News. Bobulinski said he is the CEO of Sinohawk Holdings, which he explained ‘was a partnership between the Chinese operating through CEFC/Chairman Ye and the Biden family.’ He said he was brought on as CEO by Hunter Biden and James Gilliar, who was listed as the sender of the email.”

Report: Hunter Biden Emails circulated in Ukraine – Time: “Explicit photos and emails purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden were circulating in Ukraine last year at the same time that Rudy Giuliani was searching for dirt there on former Vice President Joe Biden, two people approached about the material during that period tell TIME. The emails’ alleged availability, which has not been previously reported, comes to light in the wake of Giuliani’s recent claims that he obtained private photos and emails of Hunter Biden from a broken laptop abandoned in Delaware. … Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment on the origins of the material he obtained. Over the past year, the practice of selling or leaking private communications has become so common in Ukraine that the government has announced plans to pass a law against it. Igor Novikov, a former adviser to Ukraine’s President who now researches disinformation, referred to the practice as Ukraine’s ‘national sport’ in a recent interview with the Washington Post.”

DNI Ratcliffe, FBI say Iran, Russia attempting to interfere with 2020 election – Fox News: “Russia and Iran are attempting to influence the 2020 elections and have obtained some voter registration information, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said at an FBI press conference on Wednesday. Ratcliffe noted that both nations had taken specific actions to influence voters’ opinions. He noted that the registration information they obtained could be used to confuse voters through false communication. The Iranian interference that’s been discovered, Ratcliffe said, has been designed to incite social unrest and damage the president. ‘This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy,’ he said. ‘To that end, we have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump. You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours or you may have even been one of the recipients of those emails.’”

SENATE VOTES TO ADVANCE BARRETT’S SUPCO CONFIRMATION
Politico: “The Senate voted Thursday to advance Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Senate floor, moving the 48-year-old judge closer to a final confirmation vote that could alter the makeup of the high court for a generation. The vote took place after Senate Democrats decided to boycott the meeting, in an act of protest over Barrett’s rapid confirmation process. Twelve Republicans voted to advance Barrett’s nomination and zero Democrats took part. The Senate will hold a final vote on Barrett’s nomination Monday. Prior to the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) vowed that he would not allow Democrats ‘to take over the committee.’ Graham also further warned ‘the real energy of the Democratic party is to pack the court.’ Instead of attending the hearing, Senate Democrats placed large photos in their seats of people who would be affected if the Affordable Care Act is overturned. In their fight against Barrett’s confirmation, Democrats have been laser-focused on the future of the 2010 health care law.”

Biden shares plan for a commission to study SupCo in “60 Minutes” interview – CBS News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would appoint a commission to study the U.S. court system and make recommendations for reform. President Trump looks back to a pre-COVID economy and calls out China as America’s enemy. Their answers come in separate interviews on CBS News’ ‘60 Minutes’ set to air Sunday — just nine days before the U.S. election. The interview with Mr. Trump and correspondent Lesley Stahl was taped Tuesday at the White House. The president left the interview early and later threatened to release the White House’s own recording. The interview with Biden was conducted Monday by ‘CBS Evening News’ anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell in Wilmington, Delaware. Interviews with the running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, will also be included in the broadcast.”

The Judge’s Ruling: On court packing – This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano breaks down the history of court packing: “The phrase ‘court packing’ is a derogatory reference to legislation that alters the number of seats on the Supreme Court to alter its perceived ideological makeup. The origins of modern court packing are from the depression era when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to expand the court from nine to 15 by adding a new justice for every sitting justice who declined to retire upon reaching his 70th birthday. FDR offered the plan in the spring of 1937, shortly after he was inaugurated to his second term. He had just been reelected in a landslide and was frustrated that much of his legislation had been invalidated by the Supreme Court as beyond the powers of the federal government.” More here.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Biden maintains lead in latest national poll – Quinnipiac University

Dems lead in Iowa House races – Monmouth University

Sooner Poll shows tight races in Oklahoma – KOTV-DT

Post-Schar School poll: Biden leads Trump 52 percent to 41 in Virginia – WaPo

Trump campaign says no connection to armed guards outside Florida polling place – WFLA

Biden senior advisers begin planning for potentially rough transfer of power – WSJ

AUDIBLE: DOUBLED DOUBLE-WIDES
“IF the current President is re-elected, WE WILL NOT RAISE THE RENT FOR AT LEAST 2 YEARS!” – Part of a note the landlord of a trailer park in Fort Morgan, Colorado sent to residents claiming rent could double if Biden is elected.

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

WHAT? NO TIME FOR AN IN-N-OUT STOP?
KNBC: “As far as police chases go, Southern California has seen it all, but Tuesday’s police pursuit may have provided something new–even for the world capital of police chases. While on the run from authorities, a driver pulled into a gas station, paid for gas, filled up and then drove off to continue his getaway. … The driver was wanted for a theft at a Home Depot, according to the Glendora Police Department. The driver moved into the city of Industry around 5:05 p.m.  … Moments later, in the city of El Monte, the driver took advantage of the lack of patrol vehicles following him by pulling into a gas station, running inside and managing to fill up on some fuel before racing away again. … [Around 6:30 pm] the driver pulled into a parking garage … It was not immediately clear if police were able to find the man.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The ‘angry white male’ was thus a legend, but a necessary one.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about partisan politics in the Washington Post on July 26, 2002.

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.

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