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On the roster: Scott takes the lead – First Lady takes center stage – How Trump holds on to economic approval ratings – Biden tries to get Black male voters to re-engage – Hat City heat
SCOTT TAKES THE LEAD
The thing that people often forget about political parties is that they are not principally ideological organizations.
The Republican Party of today is where the Democrats were for much of the 20th century – socially conservative and fiscally liberal. Democrats are still figuring themselves out, but depending on how this election plays out, it’s certainly possible to imagine a socially liberal and more fiscally conservative coalition like the one Republicans enjoyed in the 1950s over there.
That’s not to say that parties have no ideological role to play, it’s just that their main function is to try to win elections, not espouse particular views. Many of the folks you heard last week and will hear this week would have been just as enthusiastic sounding about any candidate their party would have coughed up.
And that’s a good thing. The work of political philosophy belongs to, yes, the candidates, but mainly the nerds of academia, think tanks and journalists, pulling their oars on the triremes of policy. The parties hoist the sails and keep the decks shipshape, but the real work is getting done down below deck.
The work of the parties is to select the best candidates to win elections, not to choose candidates of particular ideological leanings. After choosing the best candidates, the parties are supposed to help them win by providing resources and organization. That’s it.
And for both parties, that work for 2024 began this month.
On the Democratic side, it’s pretty obvious that Kamala Harris is the 2024-star prospect. Despite Joe Biden’s protestations to the contrary, it’s hard to imagine him starting a re-election campaign at age 81 if he does win. And even if he loses, Harris will be the best-known, best-funded potential nominee in 2024. She’s next in line.
On the Republican side it’s already quite a lollapalooza. Republicans can already feel the hot breath of Josh Hawley on their necks. Marco Rubio has undergone a policy makeover with an eye on populist support. Ted Cruz is trying to execute a quadruple Lindy – for populism, against populism, for populism, against populism. Nikki Haley may go blind squinting as she tries to thread the needle of Trump loyalty and conservatism. Mike Pompeo is attempting a similar trick with the State Department as his campaign team, although Tom Cotton probably already beat him to it.
But anyone who watched the first night of the Republican National Convention learned a couple of things.
First, those Republicans concerned about the dynastic ambitions of Donald Trump Jr. can breathe easier after the performance he and his partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, turned in. Whatever their advantages on the rubber chicken circuit with donors and in dank meme generation, they are a long way from ready for center stage.
Second, Tim Scott is killing it.
Political history is littered with the bleached bones of those candidates who seemed so right for their moment, but just didn’t have the stuff to go all the way. Scott, so far, is meeting his moment.
As what approximately 14 billion profile pieces of Scott have observed, he has deftly managed to challenge both his party and Democrats on matters of race, which will again be a paramount issue in 2024. He manages to meet the high calling of public discourse; to tell the truth, but tell it with love.
On a night when many of the speakers depicted a nation teetering on the brink of ruin, Scott described a nation and a people better than their politicians.
“We live in a world that only wants you to believe in the bad news … racially, economically and culturally polarizing news,” Scott said. “The truth is, our nation’s arc always bends back towards fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but thank God we are not where we used to be.”
As he did in his efforts on police brutality, Scott navigated between the Charybdis of sloppy anti-Americanism on the left and the Scylla of willful ignorance on the right. With a mix of self-effacing humor and patriotic brio, Scott found a way to tell the truth in a way that he could be heard.
But what the other 2024 aspirants would do well to remember is this: Scott’s appeal was not narrowed by ideological calculation. He was certainly rooted in the kind of American conservatism that goes back 100 years, but Scott’s speech was no ideological oar pulling.
We can’t tell you whether Republicans will next rally behind a conservative or a populist or something else, but we can be sure that the qualities of the candidate will matter far more than their policy portfolio. As President Trump and Biden have both proven in their own ways, personality matters more to parties.
And that’s how Scott jumped out in front of the 2024 horse race.
THE RULEBOOK: DIVERSIFY YOUR BONDS
“Nations in general, even under governments of the more popular kind, usually commit the administration of their finances to single men or to boards composed of a few individuals, who digest and prepare, in the first instance, the plans of taxation, which are afterwards passed into laws by the authority of the sovereign or legislature.” – Alexander Hamilton, on the general power of taxation, Federalist No. 36
TIME OUT: BREAKING THE THRALL OF VIKING MYTHS
Smithsonian: “One of the most enduring components of the Viking image is the notion of freedom—the adventure of a far horizon and all that went with it. But for many, this was an unattainable hope. … The institution of slavery had long antecedents in Scandinavia, probably going back thousands of years before the time of the Vikings. … In the Viking Age … for the first time, Scandinavians began to make the active acquisition of human chattel a key part of their economy. This was one of the primary objectives of Viking raids and military campaigns… [The] conventional vocabularies of enslavement … have rarely been applied to the Viking Age. In particular, there is ambiguity in the terminology because a very different word has always been used in place of ‘slave’: the Old Norse thræll—giving us the modern English ‘thrall,’ which we now use as in being enthralled by a person, a work of art or an idea.”
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NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 43 percent
Biden: 51.2 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 46% – Biden 50%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 41% – Biden 50%; Fox News: Trump 42% – Biden 49%; NPR/PBS News/Marist: Trump 42% – Biden 53%.]
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)
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 43 percent
Average disapproval: 54.6 percent
Net Score: -11.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change in points
[Average includes: CNN: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 42% approve – 57% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve – 55% disapprove.]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
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FIRST LADY TAKES CENTER STAGE
WaPo: “On the eve of her big speech headlining the second night of the Republican National Convention, first lady Melania Trump appeared in front of the White House to talk up her husband’s record on women. … It was a prelude to Tuesday’s prime-time speech… With President Trump’s campaign strategists privately saying that suburban women are a weak spot for him, they hope she will help attract voters from that crucial bloc. For the first lady, it also will be a chance for redemption. The last time she spoke at the Republican National Convention, she was accused of plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. … This time around, Trump — the only first lady who did not grow up speaking English — has spent days crafting the speech, according to a White House aide. … White House officials and members of the first lady’s staff would not answer basic questions on the record, if at all, fully aware that she prefers to be tight-lipped.”
Law and order back in primetime – Fox News: “Republicans at their convention Monday warned that if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the presidential election Democrats will allow the unrest and riots that have spread throughout the country — most recently in Kenosha, Wis. — to continue and that ‘no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in radical Democrats’ America.’ Expect the Tuesday convention broadcast to amplify that message, based on the speakers’ lineup that includes two state attorneys general and Angel mom Mary Ann Mendoza, whose child was killed by an illegal immigrant drunk driver in 2014. Here’s what to watch for on the second night of the RNC. The selection of speakers betrays a lot of what a party is trying to get across in its messaging. … Tuesday speakers: First lady Melania Trump; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds; Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez; Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron; Abby Johnson, Jason Joyce; Myron Lizer; Mary Ann Mendoza; Megan Pauley; Cris Peterson; John Peterson; Nicholas Sandmann; Eric Trump; Tiffany Trump.”
RNC is mixing official business and politics – AP: “Plenty of presidents have walked right up to the line separating official business from politics — or even stepped over it. President Donald Trump has blown past it with a bulldozer, and his planned Republican convention speech from the White House lawn this week might be the latest and most blatant example yet. Down in the polls and facing the headwinds of a coronavirus-battered economy, Trump made the case that the White House is the easiest location for the Secret Service and law enforcement to secure for his acceptance speech after Republicans were forced to scale back their convention because of the pandemic. … That’s not the only mixing of government and politics this week: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is among the Trump Cabinet officials who will address the convention… Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue talked up Trump’s reelection during an ‘official’ visit Monday to a North Carolina farm with the president. Under a federal law known as the Hatch Act, civilian employees in the executive branch cannot use their titles when doing political work.”
Haley says she is open to rejoining Trump administration – Fox News: “Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Tuesday she would be open to returning to the Trump administration if the president is reelected but said it’s ‘too soon to tell’ if she’ll choose to run for the nation’s highest office in 2024. Haley told Fox Business’ ‘Mornings with Maria’ she has not spoken with the president about taking another post in his administration. ‘Right now, we want to see the president and Vice President Pence get over the finish line in November,’ Haley said. ‘I think that’s what’s most important. But certainly any chance there is to serve our country, I want to do it.’ ‘All that nonsense about me and Pence, he’s a dear friend, he’s done a great job. He’s been loyal to the president, and the American people should be very proud,’ she said, referring to a push from some pundits for President Trump to abandon Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate and choose Haley instead.”
HOW TRUMP HOLDS ON TO ECONOMIC APPROVAL RATINGS
NYT: “…Why does President Trump continue to get higher marks on economic issues in polls than his predecessors Barack Obama, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush enjoyed when they stood for re-election? Mr. Trump’s relative strength on the economy… [is] among the crucial dynamics in battleground states in the Midwest and the Sun Belt that are expected to decide the election. Many of these states have struggled this summer with rising coronavirus infection… Polling suggests that Americans who form Mr. Trump’s voter base are less likely to have lost a job or income than Democratic or independent voters. That divergence is partially driven by race — the coronavirus crisis has disproportionately harmed Black and Latino workers, who lean heavily Democratic — but may also reflect regional divides. Small business owners in small, more rural states that backed Mr. Trump in the 2016 election report less economic damage from the crisis than those in larger blue states, according to an analysis of census survey data by the Economic Innovation Group in Washington.”
Watch for the wave of disinformation – The Dispatch: “Voting in the 2020 U.S. elections will come to a close in 70 days, and disinformation experts are working around the clock to safeguard the democratic process. ‘One of the things you can be pretty confident of,’ said Ben Nimmo, the director of investigations at Graphika, a network analysis firm, ‘is that somebody is going to start posting a video which allegedly shows ballot box stuffing, or it shows people carousel voting or it shows … some kind of electoral irregularity.’ ‘An awful lot of the time, if you reverse search the video or the photo, you find out it happened five years ago in a different country.’ But what if such a video gets picked up by an irresponsible media outlet—or worse, the president—before Facebook’s much-improved security teams can determine its origin and stop its dissemination?”
BIDEN TRIES TO GET BLACK MALE VOTERS TO RE-ENGAGE
NYT: “Black women are the party’s most loyal demographic base — often referred to as its backbone — but motivated Black male voters were a crucial distinction between former President Barack Obama’s record-setting Black turnout in 2008 and 2012 and the diminished performance of Hillary Clinton in 2016. … In interviews with a dozen Black men in Milwaukee during the recent Democratic National Convention, and with several of the state’s most visible Black male elected officials, they predicted that Black turnout in November would look more like it did for Mr. Obama’s victories than for Mrs. Clinton’s loss, fueled by a leap in enthusiasm from Black men. Little of this is because of Mr. Biden’s personal appeal, they said, though he benefits from his close relationship with Mr. Obama and an absence of the sexism that many women running for office face. The interviewees isolated other, more important factors: the constant chaos of President Trump’s administration, a backlash to the president’s demonization of minorities to win over white suburbanites and even Mr. Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate.”
Wisconsin police shooting victim left paralyzed – AP: “A Black man shot multiple times, apparently in the back, by police in Wisconsin is paralyzed from the waist down and has ‘eight holes’ in his body, the father of victim Jacob Blake said. The shooting in broad daylight on Sunday by police in Kenosha, captured on cellphone video that quickly spread on social media, ignited new protests over racial injustice across the country. It comes three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police set off demonstrations around the United States and touched off a wider reckoning on race. Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, told the Chicago Sun-Times in a story published Tuesday that he didn’t know if his 29-year-old son’s paralysis would be permanent.”
Biden, Harris campaign announces routine virus testing – AP: “In a notable change, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, will now be regularly tested for the coronavirus as the race heats up, a campaign aide confirmed Monday. ‘This announcement is another step demonstrating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ commitment to turn the page on Trump’s catastrophic mismanagement during the worst public health crisis in 100 years,’ said Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates. Bates declined to comment Monday when asked if Biden had been tested yet, though deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said Sunday that he hadn’t been. A campaign aide said the decision to move forward with regular testing was based on the recommendations of the campaign’s medical advisers. It comes as the candidate and his running mate are expected to ramp up in-person campaigning in the final 10 weeks of the election.”
Biden tax plan would flip 401(k) incentive structure – Roll Call: “A little-noticed feature of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s tax plan would flip the incentive structure of a retirement system grounded for nearly a century on the tax deductibility of saving. The former vice president’s ‘drastic’ proposal, in the words of one industry lobbyist, would upend existing tax preferences for retirement saving in 401(k)-style plans. The Investment Company Institute, which represents mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other investment vehicles in the U.S. and abroad, has already promised opposition. Under current law, workers contribute pretax dollars and thereby reduce their annual taxable income, but they pay full freight when funds are eventually withdrawn in retirement. The upfront tax break is larger for richer households, however, since deductions are more valuable the higher one’s tax bracket is.”
Cuomo, other governors maintain coronavirus travel rules despite CDC dropping quarantine recommendation – Fox News
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn apologized Tuesday for overstating plasma effect on virus – AP
Pergram: USPS, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy‘s testimony and the optics game – Fox News
Jerry Falwell Jr. out after report that he was cuckolded – WSJ
Census Bureau faces shortened schedule, cut data review time – Roll Call
N.Y. Attorney General pushes for Eric Trump testimony on potential Trump Organization fraud – NYT
“He is a producer of a reality show, and he is a guy who looks for wedges, so this idea of, ‘What would you do with the next four years?’ You might as well ask that question in Greek.” – David Axelrod, former strategist for President Obama, on Trump’s second term agenda.
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HAT CITY HEAT
USA Today: “City officials in Danbury, Connecticut, are slinging sludge back at the famous host of HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.’ After Oliver tore into the town on his Aug. 16 show, the city’s mayor posted a … video vowing to name the town’s sewage plant after the HBO talk-show host. ‘We are going to rename it the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant,’ Mayor Mark Boughton said in the video post on his Facebook page Saturday, taken with the plant in the background. ‘Why? Because it’s full of (expletive) just like you, John.’ … ‘I know exactly three things about Danbury,’ Oliver said on the show. ‘USA TODAY ranked it the second-best city to live in in 2015, it was once the center of the American hat industry and if you’re from there, you have a standing invite to come get a thrashing from John Oliver — children included — (expletive) you.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“To be doing every day what you enjoy doing is rare. Rarer still is to be doing what you were meant to do, particularly if you got there by sheer serendipity.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post about the 25th anniversary of his first column 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.