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On the roster: Dems intent on learning the wrong lesson from 2016 – Former Obama official details bid to blow out Russia intel  – Congress looks to kick the can on spending – McConnell vows: Gorsuch will be confirmed next week – It’s always the last place you look

Republicans ought to keep Josh Kraushaar at the top of their reading lists these days.

National Journal’s political editor has been exploring the increasingly real possibility that the GOP might be in danger of losing its House majority, despite lazy conventional wisdom that claims gerrymandering will make the House Republican for a generation.

In his piece today, Kraushaar raises the alarm for Republicans in suburban districts, like the one outside of Atlanta where early voting is underway in the race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

“Of the 36 at-risk House Re­pub­lic­ans, ac­cord­ing to The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port’s rat­ings, 28 rep­res­ent urb­an or sub­urb­an dis­tricts where Trump isn’t par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar,” Kraushaar writes. 

That’s a chilly thought for Republicans who saw their once mighty majority shrink in 2016 to the point that losing a couple of dozen races next year would put them on the outs. 

But what about the Democrats? 

Kraushaar is indisputably right that if the Republicans cannot demonstrate a capacity to govern, they will continue to bleed support from their core constituency: suburbanites. What we don’t know is whether Democrats will be in any condition to take advantage to take such an opportunity.

We saw Tuesday that the purge of the Democratic National Committee is underway as its two-headed leadership team of Chairman Tom Perez and his deputy, Keith Ellison, tried to get a grip on what can only be described as a failed institution.

There’s no doubt that the DNC, which was essentially moribund in the Obama era needs an overhaul. But to what purpose? 

The Republican autopsy conducted after the party’s 2012 embarrassment looks hilarious in hindsight. Republicans vowed to focus on outreach to minorities and women with an attitude of inclusiveness and readiness to lead. Let’s just say they went another way on that one… 

Republicans won not by embracing America’s demographic shift or courting younger voters but rather by an overt appeal to what President Trump calls “forgotten men and women,” a reference to his surprising support among traditionally Democratic blue-collar white voters of the upper Midwest.  

Republicans reached the wrong conclusion on the way forward because they made the wrong assumption on why they lost in 2012, or at least over emphasized one of the reasons for their defeat. 

Yes, Mitt Romney was the pits with younger voters and non-white voters but he also failed to generate anything like the support that George W. Bush had in the Rust Belt. 

Republicans created for themselves a false choice between diversification and building up their core. Now it would seem to be Democrats’ turn to do the same thing. 

Data whiz Nate Cohn at the NYT and his team just finished a long look at the 2016 results. They finally had the voter files to tell them how expectations matched up with reality on the ground in swing states. 

Their findings should be sobering for the Democrats urging their party to take a leftward lunge in a bid to recreate Barack Obama’s successful coalition. 

Conventional wisdom holds that Hillary Clinton lost because Democrats didn’t turn out to vote while Trump’s army stormed the polls. Cohn found plenty of evidence that support for Clinton, especially in African-American precincts, was relatively meager compared to Obama’s. And, they also found higher than expected turn out among white voters across most states. 

But that’s hardly the whole story. 

Cohn & Co. found that the surge in white voters didn’t just come among Trump’s forgotten. The greatest increases among white voters were found among those who were younger and unaffiliated. Long story short: White voters surged for Clinton to almost as great a degree as they did for Trump. 

And as far as the supposedly weak performance among minority voters, a slight surge in Hispanic voters should have compensated for the modest falling away among black constituents. 

The answer, according to the study’s findings, is that the big driver in 2016 was persuasion. Obama voters switched to Trump. 

Here’s Cohn:

“Take Schuylkill County, Pa., the county where Mr. Trump made his biggest gains in Pennsylvania. He won, 69 percent to 26 percent, compared with Mitt Romney’s 56-42 victory. Mrs. Clinton’s vote tally fell by 7,776 compared with Mr. Obama’s 2012 result, even though the overall turnout was up.

Did 8,000 of Mr. Obama’s supporters stay home? No. There were 5,995 registered voters who voted in 2012, remain registered in Schuylkill County, and stayed home in 2016.

There were 2,680 registered Democrats, 2,629 registered Republicans and 686 who were unaffiliated or registered with a different party. This is a place where registered Democrats often vote Republican in presidential elections, so Mr. Obama’s standing among these voters was most likely even lower.”

The evidence is overwhelming the huge numbers of Obama voters across America shifted to Trump. This is hard for partisans and ideologues to believe since they flatter themselves with the thought that voters are primarily responding to policies and not personalities. 

We know the truth: every election is a character election. Voters will support very liberal people and very conservative people, but it’s always about the people. 

Trump’s over-the-top antics may not have appealed to urban and suburban Democrats. But for those who felt left behind by their party and utterly neglected by Clinton, a candidate they did not like or trust, the Republican’s bluster might have sounded like hurricane-force winds that would blow over Washington.  

This is apparently lost on many in the Democratic leadership who believe maximal opposition to Trump, even on something like his well-regarded Supreme Court nominee, is the path back to majority. That’s not to say that they have to indulge Trump in his every whim, but it is to say that will not nearly be enough.

Just as Republicans should have taken a two-pronged approach after 2012 and found a way to strengthen their core while expanding their capabilities, Democrats now seem to be leaning towards similarly simplistic thinking. 

Obama’s coalition did include younger voters and minorities. But guess who else it included? White people in places like Schuylkill County, Pa. 

A party that cannot craft a message that appeals to both groups might win an occasional narrow victory but will never produce a governing majority. 

“As the natural limit of a democracy is that distance from the central point which will just permit the most remote citizens to assemble as often as their public functions demand… so the natural limit of a republic is that distance from the centre which will barely allow the representatives to meet as often as may be necessary for the administration of public affairs.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 14

WaPo: “Spiders mostly eat insects, although some of the larger species have been known to snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals. Given their abundance and the voraciousness of their appetites, two European biologists recently wondered: If you were to tally up all the food eaten by the world’s entire spider population in a single year, how much would it be? Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer published their estimate in the journal the Science of Nature earlier this month, and the number they arrived at is frankly shocking: The world’s spiders consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any given year. That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, who the authors note consume about 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.”

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Fox News: “A former top Obama administration official has acknowledged efforts by her colleagues to gather intelligence on Trump team ties to Russia before Donald Trump took office and to conceal the sources of that intelligence from the incoming administration. Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense under Obama, made the disclosure while on the air with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski. ‘I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill, it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration,’ Farkas, who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said. ‘Because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left, so it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy … that the Trump folks – if they found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.’” 

Nunes blames Dems for House Intel troubles – Politico: “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Wednesday tried to blame Democrats for the troubles plaguing the panel’s investigation into Russia’s apparent meddling in the election, as a prominent moderate Republican cast doubt on the future of the House probe…Nunes on Wednesday claimed it was Democrats who were not dedicated to the investigation. ‘We’re beginning to figure out who’s actually serious about the investigation because it appears like the Democrats aren’t really serious about this investigation,’ he said, as reported by NBC News. A spokesman for Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, blasted the comments.”

Coordinated? – Ryan Lizza explains how the White House and Nunes coordinated stories on Russia. New Yorker: “Since last Monday’s hearing, Nunes, who was a member of the Trump transition team, has spoken repeatedly about the issue of incidental collection, the intelligence community’s term for the communications of innocent Americans that can be swept up when the N.S.A. or other agencies legally spy on a foreign target. The Russian Ambassador, a legal target of surveillance, was recorded talking to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, who was a victim of incidental collection. The White House and Nunes were clearly coordinating this strategy.” 

[National Review’s David French says Nunes needs to step down.]

Fox News: “The specter of another government shutdown is emerging on Capitol Hill, amid concerns that Republican leaders who failed to unite the party last week on an ObamaCare overhaul will likewise struggle to finalize a spending package before the April 28 deadline. ‘We should not take things for granted, especially after what happened last week,’ Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole told Fox News. ‘The last thing we need is a self-inflicted crisis. … There frankly isn’t much time.’ Voters largely blamed congressional Republicans for the last shutdown, in 2013, when they engaged in a budget standoff with Senate Democrats and President Obama over ObamaCare funding.”

Why the White House is in for a tough battle with tax reform – Atlantic: “Tax reform has never been simple. The last time Washington passed a comprehensive tax overhaul, in 1986, the plan took almost two years to go from first draft to presidential signature. Ronald Reagan saw the first copy just three weeks after his reelection win, on November 26, 1984. The plan faced stiff opposition on K Street and almost fell apart immediately. Within weeks, one of its chief architects, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, was the subject of so much bureaucratic sniping and vicious media leaks that he begged the president to allow him to resign.”

Hurt’s So Good: What’s in the ‘hot blather’ – The sage of Pittsylvania County, Charles Hurt, explains what the failure of TrumpCare really means: “All the failure of this bill means – once you mute all the hot blather and red-faced hyperventilating around here – is that this specific repeal-and-replace bill was not appealing enough to get the necessary votes to pass the U.S. House…So why is everybody around here going absolutely berserk over the demise of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace plan? …The only reason all these people are freaking out right now is because they are desperate to blame Mr. Trump and Republicans for everything that goes wrong.”

Fox News: “Just weeks after House Speaker Paul Ryan guaranteed the Republican ObamaCare replacement bill would pass the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell guaranteed President Trump’s Supreme Court pick will be confirmed. ‘He’ll be on the floor of the Senate next week and confirmed on Friday,’ McConnell said, according to Politico. ‘We are optimistic that [Dems] will not be successful in keeping this good man from joining the Supreme Court real soon.’ McConnell refused to say whether or not he would employ the ‘nuclear’ option to confirm Hon. Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch’s confirmation to the high court appeared at one time to be very likely. He needs 60 total votes to avoid a Senate filibuster. Republicans hold 52 seats.” 

But can he deliver? – Fox News: “With 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats in the chamber, the majority party needs eight Democrats to join them to break a filibuster (which takes 60 votes). All Republicans are expected to back the nominee. But if they can’t get to 60, they could deploy the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to lower the threshold and push through to confirmation on a simple majority — a major change in Senate precedent.”


House Republicans block Dem resolution to get Trump tax returns – 
The Hill

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., trying to prevent Ryan from resurrecting health bill – Politico

Poll: Republicans blame bad health bill, not Trump for failure to pass – CBS News

White House staff boycotts Correspondence Dinner – Fox News

Va. Poll: Gillespie dominates GOP gubernatorial primary, Dems divided – Christopher Newport University

Britain files to start Brexit process – AP

“Whether it was the White House or Waffle House, what difference does it make if the information is reliable and authentic?” – Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., in an appearance on “The First 100 Days with Martha MacCallum,” discussing the provenance of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ alleged bombshell information about surveillance of the Trump transition team.

“I can’t help but notice that you have had your ‘digital’ removed recently. Hopefully it was painless. Is there a big difference now that you are the non-qualified (not unqualified) politics editor?” – Jim Tansey, Coralville, Iowa

[Ed. note: Well aren’t you kind to notice Mr. Tansey! I guess you could call it a promotion, but I think it is best regarded as a reflection of the end of platforms. Twenty years ago, when I started as a full-time reporter, the internet was a little curiosity. After it ate the newspaper industry alive, though, people began to take the little bugger more seriously. The solution for about a decade was thought to be a “multi-platform” approach in which news organizations sought to have presences in multiple media: print, broadcast, online and puppet theater, or whatever else a consultant could think of to rake a few more dollars off the table. But as consumers have become more sophisticated and news organizations have become more nimble, we’ve come to the realization that people care less about what kind of device they are watching or reading when they consume news then anyone ever imagined. Old blurry lines are being swept away entirely as, thankfully, forward-looking organizations come to the understanding that we will be judged by our product, not our platforms.]

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

NY Post: “A 25-year-old Indonesian man was swallowed whole by a python on the island of Sulawesi, villagers and news reports said. A six-minute video on the website of the Tribun Timur publication shows villagers slicing open the python’s carcass to reveal the legs and torso of the dead victim, named AkbarJunaedi, secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi province, told the Associated Press that villagers began searching for Akbar on Monday night after realizing he hadn’t returned from working on his palm oil crops the previous day. Junaedi said Wednesday that the search party found scattered palm oil fruit, a picking tool and a boot, then spotted the engorged 7-meter (23-foot) reticulated python. ‘When its stomach was cut, we first saw his boot and legs near the neck,’ he said. ‘It seems he was attacked from behind because we found a wound on his back.’”

“I think it’s perfectly reasonable that they couldn’t negotiate a deal among themselves, and I do think that in the fall when Obamacare’s problems are going to…come to the surface again…there will be less nostalgia for Obamacare than you have found in the current debate.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons and 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. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.

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