Fox News Power Rankings: Hello, Wisconsin

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: Fox News Power Rankings: Hello, Wisconsin – Manchin: Kavanaugh has ‘all the right qualities’ – Ryan’s PAC rakes in huge haul – GOP members struggle with Russia relationship – Hey Boo Boo!

FOX NEWS POWER RANKINGS: HELLO, WISCONSIN
However much you believe gerrymandering is to credit or blame for Republican control of Congress, there’s no debate that the party’s breathtaking success on the state level has a great deal to do with the GOP’s electoral achievements of this decade.

You’ve probably heard it said before, but in statehouses across the country since 2008, Republicans have been on a tear. They control 32 legislatures outright and split control of another four with Democrats. And though they have lost some ground since their high water mark, Republicans still hold the governorship in 33 states.

This matters more than just for bragging rights. In addition to the ability to draw congressional districts and develop talent for federal elections the states also give Republicans an edge when it comes to either obstructing, as they did with the Obama administration, or advancing federal initiatives, as they are doing now.

That’s a long way of saying that the contests for 36 governorships this year matters a great deal whether you live in Penobscot, Peoria or Pocatello.

As our Fox News Power Rankings show (which you can see today in our brand-new online map) Republican successes on the state level mean they have a great deal of territory to defend this fall, including in a number of very blue states. The Republican gubernatorial map is rough for the party as the Senate map is for Democrats.

To go along with our nifty, new map we also have some race rating changes to make.

If you were to trace the GOP’s success through 2016 to just one place it would probably be Madison, Wis. That’s where Gov. Scott Walker pulled off a stunner in 2010, survived a 2012 recall effort led by the government worker unions he zapped after taking office and then cruised to re-election in 2014. Walker’s star dimmed considerably after his botched 2016 presidential run, but that takes little away from the remarkable machine he has built in the Badger State.

We were initially circumspect about Walker’s chances for a third term given the overall political climate this year, the narrowness of President Trump’s victory in Wisconsin and the intensity of Democratic opposition to him. But if there is any governor in America Democrats want to beat the most, it’s Walker.

As Democrats approach their Aug. 14 primary it’s getting clearer that Walker is going to be as tough to defeat this time as he was before. It looks like the state school superintendent Tony Evers has the advantage in a crowded field, but there is nothing like clarity among the Democrats. This would have been a great year for the Blue Team to have avoided a protracted primary fight, but no such luck for them.

But the biggest problem for Evers, or whichever Democrat comes through, is that voters seem to be tolerating Republican rule. The latest poll from Marquette University Law School shows that Walker is still above water in voter’s assessment of his job performance, 49 percent to 47 percent. And while Trump is generally unpopular, his 44 percent job approval rating isn’t quite the millstone that’s dragging down some of Walker’s Republican counterparts in other states.

Forty-four percent job approval may not be exactly dreamy for Trump, but it’s about where he is nationally and it’s certainly good enough to deny Democrats the chance to run a truly nationalized campaign against Walker. While it is true that Democratic intensity, especially in Dane County the home to the University of Wisconsin and in urban precincts of Milwaukee, will be running high there are not signs that America’s Dairyland is taking any sharp left turns so far.  

In fact, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, has been raising the alarm about her own race. Walker’s turnout machine and access to deep-pocketed donors has some Democrats concerned that Baldwin could be the victim of a late-race blitz.

For all those reasons and the power of incumbency, we are shifting Wisconsin’s gubernatorial election from “Toss Up” to “Lean Republican.”

THE RULEBOOK: NO DUH
“For it cannot be presumed that the same degree of sound policy, prudence, and foresight would uniformly be observed by each of these confederacies for a long succession of years.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 5

TIME OUT: JUST ASK ENGLAND
Atlantic: “The World Cup has a long history of injustices. … In so many cases throughout soccer’s past, access to video replays would have helped the referees correct their mistakes, possibly altering the course of the match—and history. But until recently, soccer has been stubbornly resistant to such technology. … Huddled in a central operation room in Moscow, a video-assistant referee—or VAR—and three other assistants with access to several cameras on the field have communicated with each match’s main referee through an earpiece, helping out with difficult calls. While replays have reversed a few bad decisions, the outcome has been largely disappointing. This is in part because the new technology has brought with it many new complications. But it’s also because soccer, at the most fundamental level, is made to be unjust. … Innovations in soccer often solve one interpretative riddle only to create others. One can resent the game’s vulnerability to interpretation, its frequently unjust outcomes, or one can embrace it.”
 
Flag on the play? –
 Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 
52.6 percent 
Net Score:
 -11.4 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 0.8 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 41% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve – 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve – 47% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 43% approve – 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 7.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
no change 
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 50% Dems – 41% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems – 40% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems – 39% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems – 42% GOP; Gallup: 48% Dems – 43% GOP.]

[Watch Fox – The latest Fox News Polls on the midterm race, President Trump’s job performance and more will debut tonight on “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET.]

MANCHIN: KAVANAUGH HAS ‘ALL THE RIGHT QUALITIES’
West Virginia MetroNews: “No, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday, he is not leaning either way yet on the nomination of U.S. District Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. On MetroNews ‘Talkline,’ Manchin called Kavanaugh ‘a very fine person of high moral standards’ with a lot of career judicial opinions to review. ‘He has the all the right qualities. He’s well-educated and, with that, we have to just look at making sure that the rule of law and the Constitution is going to be followed and that’s going to basically preempt anything else he does,’ Manchin said. ‘Most importantly, I intend to hear from West Virginians.’”

Kavanaugh vs. other SupCo nominations Axios: “President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy comes just 120 days before the 2018 midterm election. The big picture: There have been five other cases since 1950 when seats have opened within 150 days of a midterm election. In three of them, the nomination process was completed before the election (David Souter, Antonin Scalia, Arthur Goldberg). In the remaining two instances, both under President [Dwight Eisenhower], the nomination was delayed until after the election (Potter Stewart, John Marshall Harlan II). Why it matters: Mitch McConnell, who stalled Merrick Garland’s nomination to replace Antonin Scalia because it was close to a presidential election, has promised that Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and vote will take place before November.”

Short to leave WH before nomination fight begins – Politico: “President Donald Trump’s legislative affairs director is heading for the exits just as the White House gears up for a major Supreme Court nomination battle and approaches a daunting midterm election landscape. Marc Short, one of the administration’s longest-serving senior aides and a frequent spokesperson for the president on television, is planning to depart by July 20, according to a person familiar with the plans. Short, who declined to comment on the record, is taking a position at Guidepost Strategies consulting firm and will teach at the University of Virginia’s business school, where he received his MBA, and will also serve as a senior fellow at the university’s Miller Center.”

The Judge’s Ruling: No to Kavanaugh – This week, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why he is disappointed with the president’s Supreme Court pick: “The suspense over all this was palpable earlier this week. The showman in the president beat a drum so effectively last weekend that we all watched with excited pulse rates on Monday night. I was and remain extremely disappointed. Donald Trump — whatever you think of him as a president — has been utterly faithful to his campaign promises in foreign and domestic policy. Until now. Now he has given us a nominee to the highest court in the land who typifies the culture he railed against when he claimed he’d drain the swamp. This man and this culture accept cutting holes in the Fourth Amendment because they don’t believe that it should protect privacy.” More here.

RYAN’S PAC RAKES IN HUGE HAUL

USA Today: “A super PAC allied with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is raking in cash to try to prevent a Democratic takeover of the House in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. The Congressional Leadership Fund announced $51 million in donations in the quarter ended June 30. More than half of the donations, $30 million, came from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, according to CLF. The haul is more than the group brought in all of 2016. This same quarter in 2016 the PAC’s donors gave just $4.6 million. With this quarter’s infusion, the GOP super PAC will have $71 million cash on hand, according to CLF. That money will help them as they face an energized Democratic base determined to flip the House. Corry Bliss, the leadership fund’s executive director, said the PAC has already reserved more than $60 million in advertising this fall.”

Ryan focuses on tax cut in final midterm sales pitch – AP: “House Speaker Paul Ryan is crediting the GOP’s tax plan with improving the U.S. economy, an argument that’s central to the Republican pitch to voters ahead of the midterm election. In a speech Thursday to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Ryan says, ‘Tax reform is working. It is improving people’s lives.’ Voters though, aren’t so sure. Polls are showing mixed support for the corporate and household tax cuts President Donald Trump signed into law last year. The plan is projected to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit, but Republicans say those costs will be covered by economic growth. Ryan is retiring rather than seeking re-election, but Republicans are counting on the tax plan as part of the election-year message to keep GOP control of the House in fall.”

Beto beats Cruz in fundraising again –
Texas Tribune: “Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Texas, raised more than $10.4 million over the past three months, he announced Wednesday, revealing a sum that takes his already massive fundraising to new heights. And the El Paso congressman again vastly outraised the Republican incumbent, Ted Cruz, who took in less than half of his challenger’s haul — $4.6 million — in the same time, according to his campaign. O’Rourke also took a decisive lead in cash on hand over Cruz with four months to Election Day, $14 million to $10.4 million. O’Rourke’s latest haul is easily his biggest yet — topping the $6.7 million he raked in during the first quarter, which was far more than Cruz raised for the same period. Cruz’s second-quarter fundraising also was his largest yet, though not nearly enough to keep up with O’Rourke’s torrid pace.”

Ocasio-Cortez steamed at Crowley Daily Beast: “The insanity of New York election law spilled out into a public tit-for-tat on Thursday morning, as insurgent Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused her former primary opponent Rep. Joe Crowley of ‘mounting a 3rd party challenge’ after her stunning defeat of the powerful House Democrat little more than two weeks ago. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Crowley ‘stood me up for all 3 scheduled concession calls’ and linked to a New York Times article reporting that Crowley’s campaign declined to relinquish the Working Families Party line on the November ballot. He had secured the party’s endorsement in the primary and according to the article, WFP’s state director Bill Lipton asked that he vacate it after his stunning major-party defeat. The campaign allegedly did not oblige.”

House Dems discuss options to replace Pelosi – Roll Call: “Some House Democrats have begun to talk more openly about the possibility someone other than Nancy Pelosi may be their leader next year — although, for now, she is still the odds-on favorite to continue leading the caucus. Leadership jockeying has picked up steam in the wake of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley’s primary loss last month. The New York Democrat had been seen by many as a potential successor to Pelosi one day. A few members such as California Reps. Linda T. Sánchez and Barbara Lee are eyeing Crowley’s soon-to-be-open position, but others are discussing and being urged to run for higher posts, including the top spot of Democratic leader. Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi for her post after the 2016 elections and lost, is considering running against her again.”

Emily’s List joins House primary race in Kansas – WaPo: “Emily’s List, a Democratic-leaning advocacy group that supports women in politics, has plunged into the crowded primary for Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District. According to media trackers, Women Vote!, the group’s PAC, is spending nearly $400,000 on advertising in support of Sharice Davids, a Native American activist and former White House fellow who entered the race in February. … And it marks the second attempt by Emily’s List to help a female candidate win the primary, in the only district across the Great Plains — the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma — that backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.”

GOP MEMBERS STRUGGLE WITH RUSSIA RELATIONSHIP
Politico: “Republicans are having a Russian identity crisis. The congressional GOP is openly struggling with the United States’ relationship with Russia during President Donald Trump’s overseas trip this week — with some worried about fraying U.S. alliances and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing influence and others pleased to see improved relations and fearful of getting on the wrong side of the leader of their own party. The divisions come as Trump lashed out at other NATO member nations in Brussels on Wednesday for taking ‘unfair’ advantage of U.S. military might and several days after a delegation of GOP senators visited Russia and were promptly used by Moscow’s messaging apparatus, which painted them as weak. The party’s stance will come to a head on Monday when Trump meets with Putin one-on-one in Helsinki. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) expressed frustration with the propaganda that followed his recent visit and urged Trump to take a hard line with Putin when they sit down together.”

DHS says no signs of Russian interference for 2018 so far – Roll Call: “U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security are not seeing evidence so far of a concerted effort by Russia to hack or penetrate American election systems during the 2018 midterms, top Homeland Security officials told lawmakers Wednesday. Although the 2018 ‘midterms remain a potential target for Russian actors,’ the intelligence community has yet to see evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with our election infrastructure along the lines of 2016 or influencing the makeup of the House or Senate races, Christopher Krebs, the top DHS official overseeing cybersecurity and elections security, told the House Homeland Security Committee. But intelligence agencies do see Russian actors using social media platforms, adopting false personas and other means to inflame Americans on controversial issues, Krebs said.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Read this: ‘Dana Perino: Ten years after Tony Snow died much too young, I remember the important things he taught me’ – Fox News

McCarthy begins stealthy, strategic speaker campaign
– Politico

Dems officially reduce role of superdelegates – NYT

Trump picks ambassadors for Somalia, Nicaragua – The Hill

AUDIBLE: SORRY NOT SORRY

“I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided not to do it. I like myself too much.” – House Speaker Paul Ryan’s response when asked during an event on tax policy whether he would run for president in the future.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Our truly fearless leader’s criticism of the almost snickering pomposity in Europe and the UN is long overdue. Send in the seagulls. … I like the idea of courting Putin. Russia, with a population of 145 million heavy drinkers, is more apparent than real, nevertheless has great intelligence capabilities which may be bought as they need the bucks. Russia has traditionally been left to the Anti Americans and Chinese so let’s see how they react to our overtures to their girlfriend. Trump will keep ’em guessing! Many thanks for your insights, keep them coming.” – Bob Stenzel, Naples, Fla.

[Ed. note: That may be how you see Russia, Mr. Stenzel. And it may also be pretty close to the truth. But that’s not how Russians see themselves. One of the reasons Putin has been so successful at putting his country in a bear hug is that he is selling what many Russians want to buy: Restoration. Whether czarist or soviet, Russians long for the times in their history when their country truly was a world power. “Great Russia” is both a description of a place on the map that stretches from Poland to the Pacific but it is also an attitude. Those ambitions, coupled with a fatalistic world view that places little value on human life or individual rights makes Putin a very dangerous man. He means us and our allies harm and however we proceed with our foreign policy we must be clear eyed about that.]

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

HEY BOO BOO!

UPI: “A Georgia woman who thought she spotted a large cat in her minivan took a closer look and discovered a black bear eating her lunch. Carrie Watts said her van was parked outside the home where she works as a caretaker and the windows were down due to the heat. Watts said she was vacuuming in the home when she looked out the window and spotted movement inside the van. She said she thought the animal was a large black cat, but she then realized it was a black bear. ‘I panicked. I started screaming. I didn’t know who to call, didn’t know how to get it out,’ Watts told WSB-TV. Watts said the bear stole her lunch, composed of ‘a sandwich, some chips and a cookie.’ She said the bear was undeterred when she set off the van’s theft alarm and remained in the vehicle for some time before attempting to leave with her purse, which it dropped outside the van.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“In Europe, Putin has unilaterally redrawn the map. His annexation of Crimea will not be reversed. The Europeans are eager to throw off the few sanctions they grudgingly imposed on Russia. And the rape of eastern Ukraine continues.”– Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, April 18, 2016.
 
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.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.