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On the roster: Power Rankings: New recruits, new ratings – Pennsylvania releases new congressional map – Mueller pursues lawyer involved in Russia probe – WH: Trump open to improving gun background checks – **Oxygen masks fall from ceiling**

Thirty-seven Tuesdays from today, Americans will choose the members of the 116th Congress and pick governors in 36 states.

But the process is already underway. Early voting is already on for the March 6 Texas primary. This is happening, people, whether you like it or not. And because this is the first midterm for a still-newish president, history suggests that there could be serious swings this fall.

As we go, we hope you’ll find it helpful to use our race ratings – the Fox News Power Rankings – to keep track of this huge herd of contests and know where to look to see who will control Congress and the majority of governorships in the country.

Our method is to divide races into five categories: likely Republican, leans Republican, toss-up, leans Democratic and likely Democratic. We will continue to keep an eye on those races that are in the “likely” categories, but it’s those that fall into “leans” or “toss-up” that merit the most serious attention.

The ratings are based on available polling. But, especially at this early date, we are also relying on electoral history, candidate recruitment, fundraising prowess and political climate to divide up the field. Race rating changes reflect changes in those circumstances.

A word about the House of Representatives: All 435 seats are up for election this year, as they are every two years. Certainly more than enough of those seats are in play to put the GOP’s 24-seat majority in jeopardy. 

As we get closer the election, we will be able to zero in on the two or three dozen contests that look likely to make the difference. For now, it’s probably most useful to keep track of our daily average of the generic ballot in the Scoreboard.

Whatever the overall climate ends up being once we get into the fall, the Republicans will at least have math on their side when it comes to the Senate. With Democrats defending 27 seats and Republicans only trying to protect seats, the GOP starts with a stout structural advantage.

But for the moment, we only see 11 races as being even somewhat competitive. The other 24 appear – again, for now – to be safely held by their respective parties. But that’s certainly enough to put the Republicans’ one-seat majority very much on the line. Though, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reason to be optimistic given that nine of the 14 are potential pickups for the Red Team.

There are only two changes since our January rankings. 

One is to slide New Jersey to “likely Democratic” after prosecutors dropped their corruption charges against Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez, which should probably spare him a potentially painful primary race. 

The other is also moving toward the Democrats: Michigan, where Republicans seem to so far be shying from the race to unseat Debbie Stabenow. Republicans have an appealing outsider candidate in businessman John James, but for now it’s not clear whether are going to take a chance on a potentially expensive long-shot contest.

Incumbent: Democrat Joe Donnelly, serving since 2013
Candidate filing deadline: Already passed 
Primary: May 8
2016 presidential result: Trump, 57 percent; Clinton, 38 percent
Potential general election challengers: Rep. Luke Messer, Rep. Todd Rokita

Incumbent: Republican Bob Corker, serving since 2007 (retiring)
Candidate filing deadline: April 5
Primary: August 2
2016 presidential election: Trump, 61 percent; Clinton, 35 percent
Potential candidates: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), Rep. Stephen Fincher (R), former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D)

Incumbent: Republican Jeff Flake, serving since 2013 (retiring)
Candidate filing deadline: May 30
Primary: Aug. 28
2016 presidential election: Trump, 50 percent; Clinton, 45 percent
Potential candidates: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), Rep. Martha McSally (R), former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R)

Incumbent: Democrat Bill Nelson, serving since 2000
Candidate filing deadline: May 4
Primary: August 28
2016 presidential election: Trump, 49 percent; Clinton, 48 percent
Potential general election challengers: Gov. Rick Scott

Incumbent: Democrat Claire McCaskill, serving since 2007
Candidate filing deadline: March 27
Primary: August 7
2016 presidential election: Trump, 57 percent; Clinton, 38 percent
Potential general election challengers: Attorney General Josh HawleyAustin Petersen

North Dakota 
Incumbent: Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, serving since 2013
Candidate filing deadline: April 9
Primary: June 12
2016 presidential election: Trump, 64 percent; Clinton, 28 percent
Potential general election challengers: Rep. Kevin Cramer, state Sen. Tom Campbell

West Virginia 
Incumbent: Democrat Joe Manchin, elected 2010
Candidate filing deadline: Already passed
Primary: May 8
2016 presidential result: Trump, 69 percent; Clinton, 27 percent
Potential general election challengers: Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Rep. Evan Jenkins, businessman Donald Blankenship


Incumbent: Democrat Sherrod Brown, serving since 2007
Candidate filing deadline: Already passed
Primary: May 8
2016 presidential result: Trump, 52 percent; Clinton, 44 percent
Potential general election challengers: Rep. Jim Renacci, businessman Mike Gibbons

Incumbent: Democrat Bob Casey Jr., serving since 2007
Candidate filing deadline: March 6
Primary: May 15
2016 presidential result: Trump, 49 percent; Clinton, 48 percent
Potential general election challengers: Rep. Lou Barletta

Incumbent: Democrat Jon Tester, serving since 2007
Candidate filing deadline: March 12
Primary: June 5
2016 presidential result: Trump, 57 percent; Clinton, 36 percent
Potential general election challengers: Auditor Matt Rosendale, state Sen. Albert Olszewski

Incumbent: Republican Dean Heller, serving since 2011
Candidate filing deadline: March 16
Primary: June 12
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 48 percent; Trump, 46 percent
Potential general election challenger: Rep. Jacky Rosen

Republicans control about twice the number of governorships as Democrats – 33 to 16 – but will have plenty of trouble holding on to a margin so stout.

Of the 36 governorships up for grabs this year, 21 of those are so far somewhat competitive. And all but six of those represent potential GOP losses.

Only one ratings change this month, both in Republicans’ direction. 

A Democratic retirement without a clear successor and the very public consideration of another run by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is enough to move the Gopher State from solidly Democratic to “leans Democratic.”

Incumbent: Republican Doug Ducey, serving since 2015 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: May 30
Primary: August 28
2016 presidential result: Trump, 50 percent; Clinton, 45 percent

Incumbent: Republican Nathan Deal, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: March 9
Primary: May 22
2016 presidential result: Trump, 51 percent; Clinton, 46 percent
Potential candidates: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), former state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) and former state Rep. Stacey Evans (D)

Incumbent: Republican Kim Reynolds, serving since 2017(seeking first full term)
Candidate filing date: March 16
Primary: June 5
2016 presidential result: Trump, 52 percent; Clinton, 42 percent
Potential general election challenger: former state Democratic Chairwoman Andy McGuire  

Incumbent: Republican Jeff Colyer, serving since 2018 (seeking a first full term) Candidate filing date: June 1
Primary: August 7
2016 presidential result: Trump, 57 percent; Clinton, 36 percent
Potential candidates: Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer (R), businessman Greg Orman (I), state House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D), state Sen. Laura Kelly (D) and former state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty

Incumbent: Republican Larry Hogan, serving since 2015 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: Feb. 27
Primary: June 26
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 61 percent; Trump, 35 percent 
Potential general election challengers: Former NAACP President Ben Jealous, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and state Sen. Rich Madaleno

Incumbent: Republican Charlie Baker, serving since 2015 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: June 5 
Primary: Sept. 18
2016 presidential election: Clinton, 61 percent; Trump, 34 percent
Potential general election challengers: Former state Finance Secretary Jay Gonzales and businessman Bob Massie

Incumbent: Independent Bill Walker, serving since 2014 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: June 1
Primary: August 21
2016 presidential result: Trump, 53 percent; Clinton, 38 percent
Potential general election challengers: Former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives Mike Chenault and former State Senator Mike Dunleavy

Incumbent: Democrat Dan Malloy, serving since 2011 (not seeking re-election)
Candidate filing date: June 12
Primary: August 14
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 55 percent; Trump, 41 percent 
Potential candidates: Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin (D) former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D), Mayor of Danbury, Mark Boughton (R), Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti(R) and state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R)

Incumbent: Republican Rick Scott, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: June 22
Primary: August 28
2016 presidential result: Trump, 49 percent; Clinton, 48 percent. 

Potential candidates: Commissioner Adam Putnam (R), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R),Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) and former Rep. Gwen Graham (D) 

Incumbent: Republican Paul LePage, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: Partisan candidates, March 15; Independent candidates, June 1
Primary: June 12
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 48 percent; Trump, 45 percent
Potential candidates: State House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R), state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R), Former Rep. Mike Michaud (D)

Incumbent: Republican Brian Sandoval, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: March 16
Primary: June 12
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 48 percent; Trump, 46 percent
Potential candidates: Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak (D) and Clark County Commission Vice Chairman Chris Giunchigliani (D)

New Hampshire
Incumbent: Republican Chris Sununu, serving since 2017 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: June 15
Primary: Sept. 11
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 48 percent; Trump, 47 percent
Potential candidates: former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand (D) and independent candidate Jilletta Jarvis

Incumbent: Republican Rick Synder, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: April 24
Primary: August 7
2016 presidential result: Trump, 48 percent; Clinton, 47 percent
Potential candidates: former state Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer (D), Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley (R)

Incumbent: Republican John Kasich, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: Feb. 7
Primary: May 8
2016 presidential result: Trump, 52 percent; Clinton, 43 percent
Potential candidates: Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R), Republican Attorney General and former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and former federal bank regulator Richard Cordray (D)

Incumbent: Republican Scott Walker, serving since 2011 (seeking a third term)
Candidate filing date: June 1
Primary: August 14
2016 presidential result: Trump, 48 percent; Clinton, 47 percent
Potential candidates: Democrats have more than a dozen candidates already declared 

Incumbent: Democrat John Hickenlooper, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: March 20
Primary: June 26
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 47 percent; Trump, 44 percent 
Potential candidates: Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne (D), Rep. Jared Polis (D) andAttorney General Cynthia Coffman (R)

Incumbent: Democrat David Ige, serving since 2014 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: June 5
Primary: August 11
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 62 percent; Trump, 30 percent 
Potential candidates Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) and state House Minority Leader Andria Tupola (R)

Incumbent: Republican Bruce Rauner, serving since 2015 (seeking a second term)
Candidate filing date: already past
Primary: March 20
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 55 percent; Trump, 39 percent
Potential candidates: State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R), philanthropist Chris Kennedy and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker

Incumbent: Democrat Mark Dayton, serving since 2011 (not seeking re-election)
Candidate filing date: June 5
Primary: August 14
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 47 percent; Trump, 45 percent
Potential candidates: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R)

New Mexico
Incumbent: Republican Susana Martinez, serving since 2011 (term limited)
Candidate filing date: March 13
Primary: June 5
2016 presidential result: Clinton, 48 percent; Trump, 40 percent
Potential candidates Rep. Steve Pearce (R) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)

“How liable would she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 4

Atlantic: “What are your ears hearing right now? … Whatever the texture of the sonic landscape of your life may be, beneath it all is the same omnipresent din: the sound of cars. That might seem benign, or perhaps even endearing… But the din of vehicles, along with transit and industrial activity, is making people sick. People forget that noise pollution is still pollution. And noise pollution is everywhere. Unlike many other injuries, hearing damage is irreparable. It also functions differently. People tend to assume that hearing loss is akin to turning down the volume in one’s head… But it’s more complex than that. Sound at certain frequencies just vanishes… People can avoid using earbuds excessively or attending loud concerts. But people do not necessarily have the ability to avoid high levels of environmental noise—it’s in their neighborhoods, near their schools, at their workplaces. That makes noise pollution a matter of bodily autonomy.”

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Trump job performance
Average approval: 
38.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.2 percent
Net score: -17.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.2 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 37% approve – 59% disapprove; Fox: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; Marist College: 39% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve – 55% disapprove; IBD: 35% approve – 58% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 40.4 percent
Democratic average: 47 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.6 points
Change from one week ago: unchanged
[Average includes: Marist College: 49% Dems – 38% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems – 40% GOP; IBD: 46% Dems – 41% GOP; Monmouth University: 47% Dems – 45% GOP; Fox News: 44% Dems – 38% GOP.]

The Philadelphia Inquirer: “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday imposed a new congressional district map that upends previous boundaries, renumbers districts across the state, and gives a potential boost to Democrats in the 2018 House elections. Under the court’s redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines, and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts. In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is ‘superior or comparable’ to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.”

And state Republicans aren’t happy with it – Fox News: “Pennsylvania Republicans, egged on by President Trump, on Tuesday blasted a court decision to impose new congressional maps as a ‘power grab’ by Democrats and vowed to challenge the move in federal court. ‘This map constitutes a new standard for judicial activism,’ Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio said in a statement. ‘This power grab is an affront to over 200 years of precedent and nothing short of judicial-mandering.’ The Democratic-majority state Supreme Court voted 4-3 on Monday to impose the new congressional district map it drew, seen as a boost for Democrats. The map of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts is to be in effect for the May 15 primary and substantially overhauls a Republican-drawn map widely viewed as among the nation’s most gerrymandered.”

Rep. Rooney announces retirement plans – WaPo: “Five-term Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of the year rather than stand for reelection, leaving behind a deeply conservative district in central Florida. Rooney, 47, was considered a rising star among Florida Republicans, but he never hid his frustration with the gridlock that gripped Congress for most of his decade in office. He becomes the 28th House Republican to quit politics — at least for now — this election season. That group includes several committee chairmen and a handful who resigned in pursuit of private-sector jobs or amid scandal. Fourteen more House Republicans are leaving their seats to run for another office. Eighteen House Democrats have announced that they are not seeking reelection; half are running for higher office.”

Despite rocky relationship, Trump endorses Romney for Senate – Salt Lake Tribune: “President Donald Trump gave his blessing to Mitt Romney’s Senate run Monday night. Shortly after the president’s endorsement, Romney tweeted his gratitude for the nod. … The president’s Romney endorsement was not a sure bet, given the often contentious history between the two.”

DCCC adds six more candidates to their ‘Red to Blue’ program – Roll Call: “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is adding six more candidates to its Red to Blue program, which helps congressional hopefuls stand out to donors and gain access to committee resources. The candidates must meet goals for fundraising and grassroots engagement to be added to the program. The candidates will also be able to benefit from additional DCCC staff resources, guidance, trainings and organizational support. … Democrats now have 24 candidates in their Red to Blue program. The additional candidates include: Lauren Baer (FL-18) … Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02) …  Andy Kim (NJ-03) … Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02) … Elaine Luria (VA-02) … Lisa Brown (WA-05).”

Georgia debates going back to paper ballots – Fox News: “A unique effort is underway in Georgia to safeguard elections by taking voting machines back to the future. ‘The most secure elections in the world are conducted with a piece of paper and a pencil,’ said Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner. ‘It allows you to continue into the future to verify the result.’ Turner has proposed a bill that would retire Georgia’s electronic touch-screen voting machines and switch to paper ballots that voters would fill out and then be counted by optical scan machines. The technology has been in use for decades to score standardized tests for grade-school students. … But Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, also a Republican, said the electronic voting machines currently in use in Georgia are accurate and efficient and replacing them with paper would be a step backward.”

Illinois gubernatorial race rakes in the big bucks – Chicago Tribune: “The latest $7 million Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker gave to his campaign puts him at more than $56 million for the primary, surpassing the $50 million ‘first installment’ Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner pumped into his re-election bid in late 2016. Pritzker reported his latest self-funding over the weekend, his eighth deposit of exactly $7 million. Playing off Pritzker’s total, fellow Democratic candidate state Sen. Daniel Biss said on Monday he’d write his campaign a $56 check. Biss recently reported raising $758,500, including a pair of $250,000 contributions. One came from Charles Ashby Lewis, a retired investment banker from Evanston. The other came from Stephen Schuler, an Oak Park trader and investor. And Chris Kennedy‘s campaign on Monday said it was notified that a March 5 debate in central Illinois has been canceled and blamed Pritzker’s decision not to participate.”

Poll shows Maryland Gov. Hogan holding on to approval ratings – Baltimore Sun: “Gov. Larry Hogan continues to have strong approval ratings from Marylanders as he heads into his re-election effort, according to the latest Goucher Poll. Sixty-one percent of Marylanders approve of the job Hogan is doing as governor, according to a poll of 800 adults taken last week. Of those polled, 18 percent disapproved of Hogan and 19 percent didn’t know. The results for Hogan are virtually unchanged since the last Goucher Poll in September, when the Republican governor had a 62 percent approval rating. Hogan’s highest approval rating in the Goucher Poll was 70 percent in fall 2016.”

Bloomberg: “U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller intensified legal pressure on ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, by filing a false-statements case against a lawyer who did Ukraine-related work with the two men. Prosecutors accused the attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, of lying to the FBI and Mueller’s office about conversations related to a report supporting the legitimacy of a Ukrainian criminal prosecution of a former prime minister. That report has already come under the glare of Mueller’s team, which has previously accused Manafort and Gates of secretly funneling $4 million through offshore accounts to pay for it. The two pages of accusations against van der Zwaan, filed on Feb. 16 and unsealed Tuesday, came in the form of a criminal information, which federal prosecutors typically file before a guilty plea.”

Mueller’s investigation into Kushner continues to grow – CNN: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry. This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China. US officials briefed on the probe had told CNN in May that points of focus related to Kushner, the White House senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, included the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation, his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians.”

NBC News: “The White House supports efforts to strengthen background checks for gun purchases in the wake of last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump is open to bipartisan legislation to shore up the background checks system, which is supposed to prevent people with severe mental illness and serious criminal records from purchasing firearms. ‘The President spoke to Senator [John Cornyn, R-Texas] on Friday about the bipartisan bill he and Sen. [Chris Murphy, D-Conn.] introduced to improve Federal Compliance with Criminal Background check Legislation. While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,’ Sanders said in a statement. A senior administration official told NBC News over the weekend that while Trump supports the concept of improving the background check system, the language may end up needing to be tweaked.”

Poll: Most Americans say lack of addressing mental health issues is real problem, not gun laws  – WaPo: “More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with most Americans continuing to say these incidents are more reflective of problems identifying and addressing mental health issues than inadequate gun laws. In the poll conducted after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school last week, more than three-quarters, 77 percent, said they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the shooting. The Post-ABC poll also finds that 58 percent of adults say stricter gun control laws could have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but there is no rise in support for banning assault weapons compared with two years ago and the partisan divide on this policy is as stark as ever.”

Immigration stuck in a congressional standstill – WashEx: “The Senate’s failure to pass an immigration reform proposal last week casts a spotlight on the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan has pledged to take up legislation next month. But the House poses an even tougher hurdle for immigration reform. While the House can pass legislation with a simple majority and does not require the more difficult 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate, lower chamber lawmakers have historically failed to find consensus on the issue. This time, it’s shaping up to be just as difficult. ‘I think it’s hard because it’s such a fractious issue in both chambers,’ Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said. ‘In some ways, it’s easier for us if they [the Senate] take the lead.’ Future Senate action, however, is now uncertain. The Senate tried but failed to pass either of two major immigration reform proposals introduced last week, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not promised any additional floor time to debate the issue.”

Senate looks to undue bank regulations made after Wall Street crash – Politico: “U.S. senators are planning to mark the 10th anniversary of Wall Street’s meltdown this year with a gift to the nation’s banks: a bill that would unravel regulations put in place after the crisis. The proposed rollback of some key post-crisis rules – which could advance in the coming weeks – is one of the few examples of bipartisanship in Washington since President Donald Trump’s election. Yet the bill is driving a wedge between Democrats and threatening to magnify the party’s divisions as it fights to win back Congress this year. On one side are moderate Democrats such as Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester from Republican-leaning states who support the legislation because they say it will provide relief to small and regional banks and boost rural economies.”

Report: Trump Jr. to give speech on foreign policy while in IndiaThe Hill

Mattis will release policy on transgender troops Wednesday USA Today

“Let’s clear this up for everyone. It’s liars like you in politics that have prompted me to run for office myself.” – Rachel Crooks, Trump’s latest accuser and candidate for Ohio state legislator, tweeted from her campaign account on Tuesday. The president has denied the allegation, calling it, “Another False Accusation” on Twitter.

“The internet has made it way too easy for people to beat up on each other anonymously and sucker people into believing all sorts of ridiculous garbage. If people would do more listening and less talking, we would all be better off. I don’t think the public realizes that the national pols do actually do that and a lot of horse trading behind the scenes. However, to keep their supporters happy, they stage a dramatic political soap opera to encourages their true believers that all they do is beat up on the other side. I think it is going to be a long haul before civility becomes popular. Thanks for your insights.” – Joe Milkes, Plano, Texas 

[Ed. note: And thank you very much, Mr. Milkes, for your kind words! The thing about civility is that it is like a lot of other things in life: Unpopular but needful. While it is true that we would enjoy living in a more civil society on the whole, individually people like to be bad and take cheap shots against their rivals. That’s not new. But you are quite right that the internet has accelerated and intensified those pre-existing conditions.]

“While I can agree with your 5 rules for us Americans to get smarter, I just can’t generate that much concern about Russia ‘goading us into destructive factions.’ I think we’re doing a great job of that on our own. In today’s social media reality, we’re always going to have our hands full separating the wheat from the chaff. In that climate a few extra racially charged tweets or ads doesn’t seem to pack much of a punch. It’s just noise. Of far greater impact is the corrosive effect of so-far unsubstantiated accusations of treasonous collusion with an enemy power; accusations which seem to have been started and nurtured by government officials belonging to the party which held power at the time. Many Americans were going to have a visceral negative reaction to Trump no matter what, just like many had a visceral negative reaction to Obama. But the collusion allegations by most office holding Democrats have for the most part not been walked back, despite zero evidence so far and despite the recent indictments. Hopefully Mueller provide the final answers before finishing his 2nd year of looking. I’d be willing to put a fifth of Absolut on the line that a) he won’t find any collusion and b) it won’t even matter at that point to the Trump haters, thereby handing Putin a victory not even of his own making.” – Russ Kiekhaefer, Midland, Mich.

[Ed. note: If you add a c) to your list, you’d have an even better bet: The president’s supporters will turn a blind eye and deaf ear to whatever Mueller finds that is unflattering about Trump and his team. Selective listening in this case is hardly limited to Democrats. You are quite right that the enormous cache of negative energy toward Trump about Democrats was going to alight somewhere and that Russia just happened to be the place of first accommodation. You are also quite right that it was not Russia who put America in this civic swamp. We got here all by ourselves. The Kremlin just tossed out some extra gator bait to make our time here even more anguishing and harmful.]
“Hi Chris, Before you get too high up on your high horse, remember that President Obama’s DACA XO is the only reason this issue is even up for debate. Had he treated them just like every other illegal instead of overstepping the bounds of his power (as he so often did) to ever-so-benevolently grant status from his marble throne, the Democratic Party would not be using them as chips and emotional appeal pawns to the American people. The fact that Trump is even playing their game is ridiculous. I understand that for these kids too many years and too much assimilation has happened, and you can’t summarily deport them anymore without being cruel, but you, Mr. Stirewalt, cannot pretend that every illegal granted status of some kind is a vote for the Democrats whereas there otherwise would not and most likely should not be that vote. That alone is the cause and consequence of this issue for the left, and that is why those of us on the right are so often harshly judged by ‘centrists’ such as yourself. We remain principled and fair despite feelings.” – Sean White, Trinity, Fla.

[Ed. note: Gracious sakes, Mr. White! The reason our first rule in Monday’s note, “be generous,” is that questioning the motives of other people is not only bad for our national discourse, it is usually counterproductive. In your telling, you place yourself above Democrats and centrists both for your “principled and fair” approach to this issue rather than what you presume to be the unprincipled and unfair stances of others. Maybe yes, maybe no; but that and $5 will buy you a Frappuccino at Starbucks. What you’re engaging in here is a strawman argument in which you decree the thoughts and feelings of people with whom you disagree and then torch those imagined scarecrows. I take no position on what federal government ought to do about immigration. You did not say what you would do, but I assume from your mention of “consequence” and your lamentation that the president is engaged in “ridiculous” negotiations that you are with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and others who consider the president’s proposal on immigration a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. That’s fine, but we would also remember that just as Democrats are exploiting the hardship of hundreds of thousands of young adults to score points against Republicans, Republicans are exploiting the DREAMers’ plight themselves in order to obtain reductions in legal immigration and border security. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those things. It is not immoral to negotiate over policy. And, as long as that cruelty you mention does not come to pass it will be a matter of little lasting significance. My encouragement to you is to try to be skeptical without being cynical when it comes to politics. You describe me as one of those “centrists” who you say are often picking on you and your fellows. Whatever my personal politics may be, this note is not a space where we look to pick on anybody because of their point of view as long as they are doing so in a forthright manner. I do not think it is a particularly ideological stance for us to say that Americans across the political spectrum need to do a better job at talking and reasoning with each other. Our inheritance as Americans is simply too wonderful to squander on counterproductive, spiteful discourse – especially on the issue you mention where the overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of party favor pretty similar solutions. We don’t want you or anyone to feel persecuted, just encouraged and, we hope, empowered to be the best citizens we can be.]

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KHOU: “According to reports, an airline had to make an emergency landing after a fight broke out onboard over a passenger who allegedly wouldn’t stop passing gas. It has been reported that two passengers on the Transavia Airlines flight from Dubai to Amsterdam Schiphol asked the man who was passing gas to stop, and he refused. Allegedly, the flight crew did not help the passengers after they complained and it led to a fight between the men. The pilot of the airplane warned the passengers, but the altercation continued and forced the plane to be redirected to Vienna Airport where it made an emergency landing. Police then boarded the plane and removed four passengers.”

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.