**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Dems belatedly air their dirty laundry – Trump tries to limit political damage from virus spread – Biden holds on to strong lead in South Carolina – Schumer pushing Bullock towards Montana Senate run – Whatchu lookin at?
DEMS BELATEDLY AIR THEIR DIRTY LAUNDRY
It would be unfair to say that the Democratic debaters in Charleston, S.C. offered no policy specifics or vision.
But it would be quite fair to say the affair had all the statesmanlike consideration of a tipped-over outhouse.
Childishly waving their hands in the air for the attention of the utterly outmatched moderators, the seven candidates were so eager to attack each other that they sometimes forgot which zingers they were deploying against whom. Ordnance was detonating all over the stage.
The overall narrative — aside from resentment-fueled pandemonium — was of front-runner Bernie Sanders, with the help of his wing-woman, Elizabeth Warren, deflecting or just ignoring the questions and allegations presented to him.
Even if it wasn’t a sustained barrage, this was the first time Sanders got the front-runner treatment. Politicians who for months tried to patronize Sanders and his supporters got serious about the fact that the elderly radical guy from Vermont was cleaning their clocks.
But it is long past time for Democrats to get a little dirtied up. They just finished a long, costly and mostly phony pre-primary. Two dozen hopefuls bared their teeth and sang eight bars of “Happy Days Are Here Again” for political reporters and a number of obliging Iowans to check and re-check.
Reporters wrote enough pointless think pieces that you could wallpaper a caucus gymnasium. Do tell: What is the hot scoop on Julian Castro in Ottumwa? How are divorced Swedes who drive classic Chevelles responding to Beto O’Rourke’s wealth tax? Will Bill de Blasio’s height hurt him with low-ceilinged voters?
There were articles and television segments about which candidates were getting too few or too many articles and television segments. The buzz about the buzz about the buzz. Talk about a self-licking ice cream cone.
Then finally — finally! — in June, it was time for debates. Start the fanfare!
But the celebration was brief, indeed. The Democratic National Committee asserted an unusual degree of control over the debate process this cycle – far more than either party did four years ago. Committee members demanded less-challenging debates and a more-favorable schedule. They were still obsessing over recriminations about the Wiki-leaked, boring, stretch run between Hillary Clinton and Sanders in 2016.
There would be justice for BernieBros (or maybe just vengeance) in lots of rule changes that have made life worse for Democrats. Those changes were to be counterbalanced by those intended to protect the presumed establishment front-runner. (lolz)
The result was having opinion show hosts asking questions that were either absolute softballs or pokey sticks to move moderates further left. If you let Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon et. al. question your candidates from an ideological prospective, you’re going to help more intensely ideological candidates. Warren practically rode in a sedan chair.
A couple of the outlets who got debates — PBS and ABC News — did the right thing and offered a straight-news product. These contests helped break up the glacier a bit, but the cockamamie qualification criteria kept the field artificially large.
There was no excuse for having seven candidates on that stage Tuesday. With two contests done and the race moving onto its final phase next week, how is a 10-percent threshold not appropriate? At least 5 percent, people.
While it is certainly true that CBS’ moderators on Tuesday did a dire job of enforcing the rules – save for an impressive performance by Margaret Brennan – what the donnybrook viewer saw on stage was inevitable in this sort of process.
There are many ways in which Democrats screwed up their nominating process this time around, including front-loading their primary calendar, but no failure has been greater than denying their voters the chance to see their candidates hash out their differences in a meaningful way at some point before this.
We do not know what effect the fight will have on the shape of the race. Certainly mainstreamers Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg had good or improved performances. Certainly, Bernie seemed less like your lovably leftist college professor and more like the petitioner shouting at you from outside the grocery store. But the point is, Democrats should have been airing their stinkables a lot sooner than one week before Super Tuesday.
THE RULEBOOK: SPEAK OUT!
“Let the point of extreme depression to which our national dignity and credit have sunk, let the inconveniences felt everywhere from a lax and ill administration of government, let the revolt of a part of the State of North Carolina, the late menacing disturbances in Pennsylvania, and the actual insurrections and rebellions in Massachusetts, declare–!” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 6
TIME OUT: CHEERS TO CANNED COCKTAILS
Garden & Gun: “‘Lots of people think this is the sample size,’ laughs Yoni Reisman, co-founder of Tip Top Proper Cocktails. But the Atlanta-based company’s petite (seriously—at 100 ml., or about 3.3 oz., you could conceivably take them on a plane) canned drinks pack a punch. Tip Top’s Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and Negronis range from 52 to 74 proof. They’re on the leading edge of the move toward lower-volume, higher-proof canned cocktails among the many bubbly, sweet options that have flooded the ready-to-drink marketplace. Reisman and his business partner Neal Cohen, both music-festival veterans, knew that developing serious canned cocktails called for seriously tasty recipes, so they partnered with expert mixologist (and previous G&G Made in the South Awards judge) Miles Macquarrie. … Because the high proof level would corrode a traditional aluminum can, Tip Top’s drinks are instead canned in steel at a facility in North Charleston, South Carolina.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.
ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 46 percent
Average disapproval: 50.4 percent
Net Score: -4.4 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 2.2 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 49% approve – 48% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 47% approve – 50% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve – 51% disapprove.]
WANT MORE HALFTIME REPORT?
You can join Chris and Brianna every day on Fox Nation. Go behind-the-scenes of your favorite political note as they go through the must-read headlines of the day right from their office – with plenty of personality. Click here to sign up and watch!
TRUMP TRIES TO LIMIT POLITICAL DAMAGE FROM VIRUS SPREAD
U.S. News & World: “President Donald Trump will hold a press conference Wednesday evening to address the growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus in the U.S. The president tweeted that the press conference will take place at 6 p.m. and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘and others,’ will be in attendance. Trump tweeted shortly before his announcement that the ‘low ratings fake news’ is ‘doing everything possible to make the coronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets.’ However, he insisted that the U.S. is in ‘great shape.’ On Tuesday, Trump said the CDC and his administration were doing a ‘great job of handling coronavirus,’ which included closing borders to certain areas of the world. He called out Democrats, claiming they said it was ‘too soon’ to make such a call, but that it was ultimately the correct decision. The CDC warned Americans on Tuesday that it is all but certain the novel virus, which has infected more than 80,000 people and killed about 2,700 worldwide, will spread throughout the country. The agency advised people to begin taking measures aimed at containing the potentially deadly virus.”
Schumer requests more federal funding – WashEx: “Senate Democrats plan to seek $8.5 billion in new federal funding to battle the coronavirus outbreak after condemning President Trump’s $2.5 billion request as inadequate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ‘is preparing a detailed Senate request’ for the money, a top aide told the Washington Examiner. … Congress is preparing to take up the supplemental spending measure soon, but the final number will have to be negotiated between Democrats and Republicans in both chambers. The House, run by Democrats, has not yet proposed a spending figure and is likely to take up the legislation first, as is customary. Senate Republicans on Tuesday agreed with Democrats that Trump’s request may be too low.”
BIDEN HOLDS ON TO STRONG LEAD IN SOUTH CAROLINA
The Greenville [S.C.] News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden has a sizable lead in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, according to results of Clemson University’s Palmetto Poll released Wednesday morning. Biden received support from 35% of the poll’s respondents, said Clemson University political science professor Bruce Ransom. Tom Steyer was a distant second with 17%, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was third with 13%. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, each had 8%. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota had 4% and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii had 2%. The Palmetto Poll, which Clemson has conducted since 1999, shows Biden with a larger lead in South Carolina than several other recent polls. … The former vice president needs a victory in the state’s First-in-the-South primary after lackluster showings in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary and a second-place finish in last Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.”
Biden gets big endorsement from Rep. Clyburn – AP: “U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress and the kingmaker of South Carolina’s Democratic political orbit, on Wednesday endorsed Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. The backing could provide a much-needed boost for the former vice president heading into South Carolina’s primary. ‘I can think of no one better suited, better prepared, I can think of no one with the integrity, no one more committed to the fundamental principles that make this country what it is than my good friend,’ said Clyburn, appearing with Biden at an event in North Charleston. He called on the people of South Carolina to ‘stand with’ Biden. It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden. The men were in Congress together for more than a decade, with Clyburn also working closely with the Obama administration in his House leadership roles. Biden was among the presidential hopefuls and other political notables who attended two days of funeral and homegoing services last year for Clyburn’s wife, Emily.”
Trump super PAC prepares post-Super Tuesday blitz – Axios: “Pro-Trump super PAC America First Action is preparing to unleash a series of targeted, swing-state attacks on the Democrat most likely to face President Trump after Super Tuesday, people familiar with the group’s plans tell me in an exclusive preview of its strategy. The group has been tracking favorable/unfavorable ratings in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania for 2020 candidates Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg — under the theory that if Trump wins each of these six states he would win re-election. The spending isn’t expected to begin until it’s clear who the Democratic nominee will be, whether that’s after next week’s Super Tuesday or in July at the Democratic National Convention.”
WSJ: New vote rules may complicate life for Dems – WSJ: “Three-quarters of California voters are expected to receive absentee ballots this year, and political experts project that 40% will be cast before South Carolina’s primary on Saturday. But young people especially tend to procrastinate, so all ballots may not arrive until days after Super Tuesday. Many will also have to be verified. That’s because Democrats have recently overhauled so many election procedures that mischief and mistakes are almost certain. Californians may now both register and vote at any place in their county on Election Day. Only two weeks ago California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law letting voters change their party identification and address through Election Day. Independents must ask for a Democratic ballot if they want to vote for a Democrat. Democrats are still griping about the chaotic Iowa caucuses, but the results from California—which awards 495 delegates—may not be known for weeks. This could keep marginal candidates in the race longer. But #Californiaproblems aside, perhaps the larger concern for the Democratic Party is that early voting and late counting could undermine the legitimacy of the eventual nominee.”
SCHUMER PUSHING BULLOCK TOWARDS MONTANA SENATE RUN
Politico: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Gov. Steve Bullock in Montana last weekend as Democrats make a last-ditch effort to woo him to run for the Senate this year, according to multiple sources familiar with the meeting. Bullock, the two-term governor and former presidential candidate, has repeatedly said he has no plans to challenge Republican Sen. Steve Daines this year. But the state’s filing deadline is just over two weeks away, and Democrats have continued to pitch Bullock on seeking the Senate seat before the window closes. Democrats are hoping for a change of heart similar to that of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who also ran for president and initially said he had no interest in the Senate before ultimately changing his mind and entering the Senate race last August. Democrats believe that if Bullock were to reverse course and run for the Senate, it would instantly put Montana in play this fall and give them a wider path to taking back the chamber. Republicans have a 53-47 majority.”
GOP has optimistic outlook on California – LAT: “Republicans are mounting an aggressive campaign to win back some of the seven California congressional seats they lost in 2018, a repudiation that turned the GOP into an endangered species in the state. … Republicans predict the 2018 Democratic victories will prove to be short-lived, in part because the Democratic candidates who promised to become moderate lawmakers ended up supporting President Trump’s impeachment and have few major bipartisan legislative accomplishments to tout. The battle — which could answer whether California voters are done with the GOP or were merely expressing anger at Trump in 2018 — is likely to play out in four of the most competitive districts.”
In a letter 70 former U.S. senators say Senate is failing to perform its duties – WaPo
Boston Globe endorses Warren – Boston Globe
“I was just thinking, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do with all these shirts?’” – Shelby Cole, the former digital director for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, discussing the bulk order of merchandise that was made and then left after the senator dropped out of the race.
Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
WHATCHU LOOKIN AT?
WTSP: “She didn’t look scared, confused or disoriented. She looked angry. A baby girl born on Feb. 13 in Brazil appeared to be less than pleased by her arrival. A photographer captured the moment Isabela Pereira de Jesus locked eyes with a doctor and gave him a perfect death stare. The picture is making international headlines.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The normalization of Trump is one indicator that there may be less to the populist insurrection than imagined.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 27, 2017.
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.