**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**On the roster: Biden raises the stakes for South Carolina – Republicans focus on Trump in N.C. special election – GOPers cancel primaries to frustrate Trump foes -  White House poll tests gun policy, backs away – You may want to check for hippies BIDEN RAISES THE STAKES FOR SOUTH CAROLINA Politico: “Joe Biden’s front-running presidential bid will live or die by the black vote. His campaign tacitly acknowledged it this week. Advisers to the former vice president began lowering expectations about winning both Iowa and New Hampshire … and directing attention toward South Carolina and the South, where black voters will cast a majority of the primary vote in a handful of states on Super Tuesday. It doesn’t mean Biden is conceding the first two nominating contests, just that his campaign views South Carolina … as the one early primary it absolutely cannot afford to lose. It’s the clearest evidence yet of his campaign’s theory of the case, which is rooted in Biden’s strength among black voters… African Americans back Biden by outsized margins in both the Palmetto State and nationally, which makes South Carolina the linchpin of Biden’s early-state strategy.”REPUBLICANS FOCUS ON TRUMP IN N.C. SPECIAL ELECTION  WaPo: “A political saga that has stretched over more than two years — exploding into allegations of ballot fraud that prompted state and federal investigations and the cancellation of November’s general election — is set to end Tuesday with an election destined to serve as a referendum on Trump and a key barometer for the 2020 elections. For Republicans, that would appear to be promising news in a district that preferred Trump by 12 percentage points in 2016. [Republican Dan] Bishop is showing no separation from the president, and his campaign’s closing TV ad prominently features footage of Trump attacking [Democrat Dan] McCready… Yet the race between Bishop and McCready is remarkably tight, according to the candidates, political operatives and public polls. … The stakes for the race go beyond a single congressional seat. For one, it will measure whether the ‘blue wave’ that swept House Democrats into the majority last year continues to roll…”Kentucky miners used in McGrath ad cry foul - Lexington Herald-Leader: “Two miners shown in a campaign ad for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Amy McGrath have sent a cease and desist letter demanding the campaign stop using their images, but the campaign said Thursday that both men signed a form giving their permission to appear in the commercial. The ad, which McGrath launched August 23, featured a reenactment of a group of miners who made a 10 hour bus trip to Washington D.C. to ask U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to restore a higher tax on coal companies to help fund the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. … Two of the miners who went on the trip and were featured in the ad, Randy Robbins and Albrow Hall, said through an attorney that they were led to believe the footage was being used for a documentary for the Black Lung Association and that they ‘did not know and were never told they were being filmed for a political advertisement.’”Behind the scenes of the race for Isakson’s seat - AJC: “On the surface, the jockeying for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat has seemed quiet in the week since the Republican upended Georgia politics by announcing he would step down later this year as he struggles with his health. But just out of sight, the maneuvering for Isakson’s soon-to-be-vacated spot has intensified as ambitious Republicans position themselves for Gov. Brian Kemp’s blessing and aspiring Democrats assess whether they should make a statewide run. Interviews with more than a dozen potential candidates, operatives and elected officials showed the shadow campaign is well underway, though few were willing to talk publicly. Many Republicans are wary of looking too eager or upsetting Kemp; many Democrats are waiting for the field to gel.”GOPERS CANCEL PRIMARIES TO FRUSTRATE TRUMP FOESPolitico: “Four states are poised to cancel their 2020 GOP presidential primaries and caucuses, a move that would cut off oxygen to Donald Trump’s long-shot primary challengers. Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans. The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination — or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him. Trump advisers are quick to point out that parties of an incumbent president seeking reelection have a long history of canceling primaries and note it will save state parties money. But the president’s primary opponents … [are] calling it part of a broader effort to rig the contest in Trump’s favor.”Farm loan delinquencies surge, a warning sign for Trump - Reuters: “Farm loan delinquencies rose to a record high in June at Wisconsin's community banks, data showed on Thursday, a sign President Donald Trump's trade conflicts with China and other countries are hitting farmers hard in a state that could be crucial for his chances of re-election in 2020. The share of farm loans that are long past-due rose to 2.9% at community banks in Wisconsin as of June 30, the highest rate in comparable records that go back to 2001, according to a Reuters analysis of loan delinquency data published by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. While the number of seriously delinquent farm loans is rising nationwide, the noncurrent rate has more than doubled at Wisconsin's community banks since Trump took office in January 2017. It now stands higher than in any other of the top 10 U.S. farm states as measured in production – a list that includes California, Iowa and Texas.”THE RULEBOOK: SAME OLD, SAME OLD  “But is not the fact an alarming proof of the danger resulting from a government which does not possess regular powers commensurate to its objects? A dissolution or usurpation is the dreadful dilemma to which it is continually exposed.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 38TIME OUT: A MITZVAH  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Staffers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were surprised to learn April 15 that, along with the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, came a monetary award of $15,000. The newspaper was honored with a Pulitzer for its coverage of the shooting deaths of 11 people and the wounding of seven others Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill. … But what to do with that $15,000? Staffers felt the horrendous events of that day made it difficult to fully savor one of the country's highest honors for journalistic achievement. And splitting the monetary award among those who had participated in the news coverage just didn’t seem right. PG Publisher John Robinson Block had a suggestion — donate the prize money to Tree of Life to help it repair its bullet-riddled temple in Squirrel Hill.On Aug. 29, in the Post-Gazette newsroom on the North Shore, the newspaper’s executive editor, Keith Burris, presented a $15,000 check to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and Samuel Schachner, president of the congregation.”Flag on the play? - Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.SCOREBOARD DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKINGBiden: 28 points Warren: 18.2 pointsSanders: 14.8 pointsHarris: 6.4 pointsButtigieg: 5 points [Averages include: IBD, Quinnipiac University, USA Today/Suffolk University, Monmouth University and CNN.] TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE Average approval: 40.2 percentAverage disapproval: 55 percentNet Score: -14.8 percentChange from one week ago: down 1.8 points  [Average includes: IBD: 39% approve – 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve – 56% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 44% approve – 54% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approve – 57% disapprove; Monmouth University: 41% approve – 53% 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!WHITE HOUSE POLL TESTS GUN POLICY, BACKS AWAY NYT: “President Trump assured Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, on Thursday that he was still considering legislation that could include background checks for gun buyers. But White House aides said they had polling data showing that gun control was politically problematic for the president, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Inside the White House, the issue of new gun control measures has largely been theoretical. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has cautioned that it will be the president who will have to press his party to act. To help guide Mr. Trump’s decision-making, White House aides commissioned a poll to determine where his supporters stood on different measures. … But the polling data, White House aides said, indicated that the issue does not help the president with his core base of supporters…”Preps alternate legislation - Fox News: “The Department of Justice has sent a package of legislative proposals on gun violence to the White House, a person familiar with the matter told Fox News, as the debate rages over how lawmakers and the president should respond to a recent spate of deadly mass shootings. The White House has had the proposals for two weeks, according to the source, but has not yet sent anything along to Capitol Hill. It was not immediately clear what proposals are included in the DOJ package. President Trump has signaled a willingness to at least consider new measures – while insisting he will also defend Second Amendment rights. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates have gone so far as to urge mandatory gun buyback programs and other far-reaching measures.”SCHULTZ FIZZLESFox News: “Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced Friday morning he is officially abandoning his exploration of an independent presidential campaign, but the billionaire said he plans to spend significant funds to ‘transform our broken system.’ Schultz, in a letter posted to howardschultz.com, cited general voter apathy, institutional roadblocks to an independent candidacy and back woes among the reasons for not seeking the presidency. … [Schultz wrote] ‘I will spend this election cycle and the years ahead supporting bold and creative initiatives to transform our broken system and address the disparity of opportunity that plagues our nation.’ The 66-year-old's intended center-left candidacy was seen as a possible impediment to whoever wins the Democratic nomination for president and was particularly threatening to the more moderate candidates – such as front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden – who are running, something Schultz acknowledged as he bowed out.”PLAY-BY-PLAYShutdown showdown set to begin Sep. 16 - Roll CallHow a law professor became Italy’s prime minister… twice - WaPoAdministration rolls out plan to put Fannie, Freddie back to pre-panic roles - WaPoAUDIBLE: PLAY FREEBIRD  “You come to the show, and you know ex­actly what you’re go­ing to get — all of the hits and maybe a few sur­prises, too.” – Michael Telesca, one of the self-described “Front Row Joes” interviewed by the WSJ who travel near and far to attend dozens of Trump political rallies. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. 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 “Last Wednesday, Mr. Kent Haldorson of Beaverton, Oregon wrote touching on the great divide we face in our country today, by lamenting the lack of bipartisanship in our current political system. He said, ‘Progress and accomplishment take a fair amount of working together.’ Your response catalogued how we arrived at our two party system which is at the root of the bitterness we see today. Perhaps a parliamentarian system would better serve the country’s 21st century needs? I am constantly amazed at the unbelievable (supernatural?) wisdom of our founders. They understood that no system of organized government could survive the human frailties of its politicians (can I hear support for term limits?) Samuel Adams, architect of the original TEA Party in Boston nearly 250 years ago said, ‘If ever the time should come when vain and aspiring men (or women) should possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.’ The vanity and personal aspirations of our current federally elected officials of both parties are readily evident… but their patriotism is not nearly so…if it were, the drive to fix our broken immigration system would not be languishing in the corridors of Congress waiting for an ‘experienced patriot’ to champion a solution without concern for who gets the credit.” – James Kinney, Capt. USN (ret), Hoschton, Ga. [Ed. note: Looking at Britain staggering through Brexit doesn’t exactly inspire one to think that a parliamentary system would be preferable! But that would sort of be like pointing to the weather to discuss the climate, wouldn’t it? I think we would do well to remember the object of our system of separated powers. Majorities are quite powerful in a parliamentary system. Once you have the votes, you can rock and sock ‘em. Our system is based on making it hard for the government to exert itself, that’s why we cut it into pieces. You need the cooperation of two houses of Congress and then two branches of the government in order to get things done. Those actions can then be derailed by the third branch if the move is found to be contradictory to the Constitution. We wanted a system that was responsive to popular demands… but only up to a point. The Founders were not optimists about human nature and therefore skeptical of the abilities of humans to make sweeping, far-reaching laws to govern each other. They preferred a less-powerful, inefficient government to a too-powerful, efficient one. As for the two-party system, I think we’ve got way too much partisanship, but that’s substantially the result of the parties themselves being weak as institutions. Rather than acting as mediating forces that force popular sentiment into mainstream vessels, they have become little more than the organizers of quadrennial conventions. I think you’re quite right about the self-serving ambitions of politicians, but I think we should be looking for ways to build a system that discourages individual achievement in politics in favor of cooperation. To my mind, that means strengthening our existing federalist, republican system rather than just lowering the bar for enacting legislation.]     “Thanks Chris for the outstanding summary of God’s Blessing to us of the American Constitution. Don’t write these very often, but this is too good to pass up. Proud (and grateful) to be a citizen of the USA.” – John Battenburg, Vacaville, Calif. [Ed. note: I’m glad (and grateful) that you made an exception!] Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK FOR HIPPIESWaPo: “The town of Cheverly in Prince George’s County [Md.] – population 6,173 – has a new, strange odor that’s been so strong at times that it’s awakened some sleeping residents, and town officials say they’re trying to figure out what it is. Officials said in a statement on the town’s website that some of the odors have “also caused residents to gag and experience a burning feeling in the back of the throat.” In the posting that went up Wednesday, they said the reports of the smell started Tuesday evening, but it’s not clear where the stench is coming from. Officials said they’ve reported the conditions to the state’s Department of the Environment and also reached out to the local fire department, Washington Gas, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Pepco. … Mayor Laila Riazi said Thursday that she didn’t want to comment further because ‘we’re looking into things.’”AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES… “Prized also because, in our politics, success is self-validating.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 5, 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.

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