It’s on now: 2020 vote kicks off with N.C. ballots

North Carolina first state to send out mail-in ballots

North Carolina sends out nearly 600,000 ballots; Mark Meredith reports.

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On the roster: It’s on now: 2020 vote kicks off with N.C. ballots – Trump denies insulting America’s war dead, POWs – Kenosha visits provide stark contrast – Team Trump ramps up debate prep – Sweeney Todd was happy and look how that ended up

IT’S ON NOW: 2020 VOTE KICKS OFF WITH N.C. BALLOTS
WSJ: “Well over $400 million of presidential campaign advertising – and likely significantly more – is expected to wash across American TV screens in the next two months as the race for the White House enters the home stretch and voters start casting their ballots this month. The ad spending, part of what is expected to be a record for a presidential race, is one of the few measurable metrics in a pandemic-tainted campaign filled with uncertainty and unlike any other in modern history. … As summer vacations end and school resumes, the Labor Day weekend has long been viewed as the start of the sprint to the finish for presidential campaigns. But that has always been a bit of an artificial demarcation—especially this year. Voting could begin this weekend for some in the battleground state of North Carolina, where ballots were to be mailed starting Friday for voters who have requested them. Other states will start voting later this month…”

THE RULEBOOK: PRIDE CHECK
“The inordinate pride of State importance has suggested to some minds an objection to the principle of a guaranty in the federal government, as involving an officious interference in the domestic concerns of the members.” – Alexander Hamilton, discussing the defects of the Articles of Confederation, Federalist No. 21

TIME OUT: GAME ON
Sports Illustrated: “Ah, yes, college football is back. On the field, there were shanked punts, duck-like deep passes and officiating misfires. But quibbling about the performance value of sports amid a pandemic seems frivolous. Here in this hulking heap of concrete (no wonder locals refer to it as The Rock), everyone seemed quite pleased with any live college sports action at all — the first of its kind between two clubs on the NCAA’s highest level since the last conference basketball tournament was halted back on March 12. The time duration between those events? Nearly six months, 25 weeks, 175 days, 4,207 hours, 252,440 minutes, 15,146,400 seconds. In short, just be happy. After all, 53 of the 130 FBS programs have already scratched fall ball.”

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SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 42.6 percent 
Biden: 51.2 percent 
Size of lead: Biden by 8.6 points 
Change from one week ago: Biden no change in points, Trump ↓ 0.4 points 
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 43% – Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% – Biden 52%; USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 43% – Biden 50%; Grinnell/Selzer: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% – 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)

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42.8 percent 
Average disapproval: 53.6 percent 
Net Score: -10.8 points 
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.8 points 
[Average includes: CNN: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve – 54% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 45% approve – 52% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 43% approve – 51% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 42% approve – 57% 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 [email protected]

TRUMP DENIES INSULTING AMERICA’S WAR DEAD, POWS
AP: “President Donald Trump defended himself Friday against accusations that he mocked American war dead as his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, intensified efforts to frame the election as a referendum on the president’s character. The allegations, sourced anonymously in The Atlantic, describe multiple offensive comments by the president toward fallen and captured U.S. service-members, including calling World War I dead at an American military cemetery in France as ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ in 2018. The reported comments, many of which were confirmed independently by the AP, are shining a fresh light on Trump’s previous public disparaging of American troops and military families and opening a new political vulnerability for the president less than two months from Election Day. ‘This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!’”

Read it here - Atlantic: “On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, ‘I don’t get it. What was in it for them?’”

KENOSHA VISITS PROVIDE STARK CONTRAST
Politico: “After the Democratic convention … some Democrats worried that the party had not paid enough attention to the violence and property damage that has accompanied some protests. After the Republican convention … some Republicans worried that the party hadn’t grappled with the inconvenient fact that the alleged breakdown in civic order was happening under the incumbent president. … Presidents don’t always have policy tools at their disposal, but they find other ways to ease tensions during a crisis. This is not Trump’s strength, which became clear during remarks with reporters before he left for Kenosha and on the ground touring areas damaged in riots and at a roundtable discussion with local leaders. … The biggest contrast with Trump was [Biden’s] attempt at words of unity. … Toward the end of his remarks at the church, Biden spoke about the politics of the dueling Kenosha events this week in the wake of the two party’s conventions.”

Biden makes cringey quip - Fox News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden used an unfortunate choice of words Thursday while visiting Kenosha, Wis. in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Biden's speech aimed at addressing racial unrest veered into talking about inequities in taxes at one point. He stopped himself from laying out his tax policy in detail, saying if he goes on any longer ‘they'll shoot me.’ The Democratic nominee, who has been prone to gaffes, billed his first trip to Wisconsin during the 2020 campaign as a moment for healing in the wake of racial unrest and violence. He met with community leaders at Kenosha's Grace Lutheran Church and listened to their concerns on topics like economic inequality, restoring faith in policing, criminal justice reform and improving education.”

Dem pollsters warn Biden of lukewarm Hispanic support in Florida – Politico: “Joe Biden is underperforming among Florida Hispanic voters while Donald Trump has marginally increased his numbers from 2016, according to a new poll in the must-win battleground state for the president. Biden leads Trump among Hispanics by 53-37 percent in the poll conducted for Equis Research, a Democratic Latino research firm. While his advantage seems large, Biden’s 16-percentage point margin spells potential trouble for him because it’s 11 points lower than what Hillary Clinton received in 2016 exit polls, when she lost the state to Trump. At the same time, Trump is running slightly ahead of his statewide Hispanic performance in 2016 by about 2 points thanks to increased backing from conservative Cuban-American voters and additional support from a broader coalition of Latino voters, specifically men, whom the president’s campaign has courted.”

Biden promises regular corona tests going forward – AP: “Joe Biden said Friday that he's been tested at least once for the COVID-19 virus and promised he will be tested regularly during his general election campaign against President Donald Trump. The Democratic presidential nominee told reporters of his testing protocol during a wide-ranging news conference in which he blasted Trump for downplaying the coronavirus and thus ensuring that it will continue to kill Americans and ravage the economy. For much of the summer, Biden's advisers deflected questions about whether the former vice president was being tested himself as he anchored his campaign almost exclusively from his Delaware home, traveling sparingly as a precaution. ‘They’re going to do it on a regular basis,’ Biden said of the testing. He noted that the Secret Service agents assigned to protect him and ‘everyone’ else who comes into his home is tested already. Biden said he didn’t know specifically when his next test would be.”

TEAM TRUMP RAMPS UP DEBATE PREP
Politico: “During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump blew off his first round of debate prep. … Now the Trump campaign and top advisers want to avoid the same misstep this fall when the president first faces off against former Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 29. The Trump team has been studying Biden’s idiosyncrasies in debates and other venues and preparing tactics for Trump, according to interviews with a dozen campaign aides, White House officials and outside advisers. Some have noticed the way he says, ‘C’mon, man,’ whenever he feels frustrated, and they’re trying to identify words or phrases that trigger him to ‘reboot,’ as one person familiar with the planning described it. Essentially, Trump aides are looking for ways to trip up Biden in an effort to spur an incoherent or unsatisfactory response — bolstering a key Trump argument against Biden built around his age.”

Amy Walter: ‘With two months to go, a steady presidential race’ - Cook Political Report: “These last two weeks provided Pres. Trump the best opportunity to change the trajectory of this race. … Pollsters and strategists we spoke with over the last couple weeks of August — Republican and Democrat — told us that [they] didn't see much, if any, real changes taking place in voter perceptions of the election. This week, a slew of new, high-quality polls out this week confirmed their off-record observations: Biden continues to hold a steady lead over President Trump. … As I've written for a while now, the margin between Biden and Trump is less instructive than the vote share that Trump is getting. For example, a Monmouth poll out this week found Biden's lead over Trump in Pennsylvania had narrowed from seven points in July (51-44 percent) to four points (49 to 45 percent.) …While the margins may be different, or have changed, one thing has remained constant: Trump has not been able to improve his share of the vote. He remains stuck at 44/45 percent of the vote.”

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS BUT HIRING SLOWS
Bloomberg: “The U.S. labor-market rebound extended for a fourth month in August, offering hope that the economy can continue to recover despite a persistent pandemic and Washington’s standoff over further government aid to jobless Americans and small businesses. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 1.37 million, including the hiring of 238,000 temporary Census workers, according to a Labor Department report Friday. The unemployment rate fell by more than expected, by almost 2 percentage points, to 8.4%. The dollar and yields on 10-year Treasuries climbed after the report, while the S&P 500 rose at the open before declining amid a rout in technology stocks. The median estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 1.35 million gain in nonfarm payrolls and an unemployment rate of 9.8%. It was 3.5% in February, matching a half-century low. The data signal progress in the labor market is continuing though at a more moderate pace since the initial bounceback in hiring, with payrolls remaining about 11.5 million below the pre-pandemic level.”

Markets tumble - WSJ: “U.S. stocks tumbled again Friday as some investors continued to abandon the technology trade that had fueled the market’s recent rebound. Big tech stocks weakened for a second consecutive day, pushing all three major stock benchmarks toward their biggest weekly losses in months. Investors appeared to be taking some profits after a big run-up in the stocks deemed to be beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped as much as 628 points but later pared its decline to about 290 points as some investors appeared to step into Friday’s dip. Shares of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon all remained down about 2% or more. The S&P 500 fell 1.4%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite retreated 2.3%. All three indexes suffered on Thursday their biggest one-day drops since June.”

White House, Pelosi said to agree to not dicker over continuing federal funding – Fox News: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have ‘an informal agreement’ to keep a stopgap government-wide funding bill at the end of September free of controversy or conflict. A source familiar with the talks said the White House envoy and the Democratic leader haven't agreed to a bill or to legislative text, but they both want to avoid a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic and an economic cataclysm. ‘They agreed it should be clean as they both want to keep the government open,’ the source told Fox News. Government funding runs out a month before the presidential election on Sept. 30, which means if Congress and the White House can't agree on legislation another shutdown is around the corner. President Trump insisted at the end of 2018 he wanted more funding to build a wall with Mexico, sparking a historic 35-day government shutdown.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Barr bucking career attorneys to mount pre-election push to break up tech giant Google – NYT

AUDIBLE: AMEN, AMEN 
“You can’t really have a plan. You wake up the next day and try to do the right thing.” – Alex Shuford III, chief executive of North Carolina’s Century Furniture, talking to the WSJ for the paper’s months-long project to track the struggle of the manufacturer to stay afloat in the time of coronavirus. 

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY  
This weekend Bret Baier anchors for Mr. Sunday. Be sure to tune in for his interviews with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior adviser to the Biden campaign Symone Sanders. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.  

#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.    

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I understand what an Executive Order is but, I’m not sure what a Presidential Memorandum is. Would you please explain the difference between the two? I appreciated the effort you and Ms. McClelland take to put out your must read newsletter.” – Steven Lentz, Cypress, Texas

[Ed. note: In one sense, they are the same thing: Directions from the president to those under his command. Neither has any explicit legal or constitutional definition, but differences have evolved through custom. A presidential memorandum is basically the same as it would be in the private sector. These memoranda are guides for cabinet agencies on how to arrange things, pursue priorities etc. An executive order, on the other hand, usually involves some expansion of executive authority, or at least the exercise of a controversial power. In these, the administration makes a more legalistic argument for a new policy, citing supporting legislation or case law.]

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SWEENEY TODD WAS HAPPY AND LOOK HOW THAT ENDED UP
BBC: “The owner of a hair salon was told she could not run a job advert for a ‘happy’ stylist as it ‘discriminated against unhappy people.’ AJ's in Stroud, Gloucestershire, placed an advert on the Jobcentre Plus website on Wednesday stating it was a ‘happy salon looking for happy people.’ But within hours owner Alison Birch was contacted over the wording of the ad. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the decision was a mistake and has apologized. Ms. Birch, 54, said she thought it was a ‘wind up’ when she received the call but when she checked the number found ‘it was the Jobcentre.’ Ms Birch said she placed an advert for a ‘happy’ part-time, fully qualified, stylist on the Jobcentre website on Wednesday morning. But an hour and a half later, she was ‘amazed’ when she got a call from the DWP.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Paris was nothing but hot air. Withdrawing was a perfectly plausible policy choice (the other being remaining but trying to reduce our carbon dioxide-cutting commitments).” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in the Washington Post on June 8, 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.

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