Fox News, CNN and the town hall wars
The prime-time public town hall has been a broadcast staple during election years, a showcase for earnest talk, policy declarations, chummy common sense and a nice warm layer of homespun wisdom. The nation is about to get a town hall blitz, as the format expands from its modest roots to a bodacious media entity.
Of much interest is Sen. Bernard Sanders’ appearance on Fox News for an hour at 6:30 p.m. EDT Monday, co-anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, broadcast live f rom Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The event comes at a time when multiple news organizations — including Fox News — are examining Mr. Sanders’ personal wealth. Though he is a self-described democratic socialist who rails against economic inequality, the Vermont independent is worth an estimated $2.5 million, accrued via book royalties, real estate, pensions and salary.
Progressives have criticized Mr. Sanders for appearing on Fox News, but the senator appears interested in wooing the network’s mammoth audience — the largest in the entire cable TV realm, according to consistent Nielsen ratings. Mr. Sanders revealed his motivation during a recent appearance on Comedy Central.
“It is important to distinguish Fox News from the many millions of people who watch Fox News. And I think it is important to talk to those people and say, you know what? I know that many of you voted for Donald Trump, but he lied to you,” Mr. Sanders told late-night host Trevor Noah.
CNN, meanwhile, is about to embark on an unprecedented town hall extravaganza.
The network has organized five one-hour presidential town halls in a row on April 22. Yes, all of them will air on one night, back to back, before a live audience at Saint Anselm’s College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics — described as the “largest national political event of the 2020 presidential primary cycle so far,” by Neil Levesque, executive director of institute. There’s also a strategic alliance. Harvard University’s Institute of Politics serves as a co-host, and will release a significant voter poll to mark the occasion.
It’s both a marathon and variety show, with a focus on issues of importance to “young voters.” CNN host Chris Cuomo will moderate the appearances of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the aforementioned Mr. Sanders; Anderson Cooper hosts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while Don Lemon sits down with Sen. Kamala D. Harris. Keep in mind that these are just five of the potential 40 Democrats who may vie for the presidency.
CNN’s efforts are aimed at the much coveted millennial voter bloc, which numbers about 62 million. They’re a picky demographic, though — preferring “experiential” outreach, custom-made for Instagram and social media. They favor involvement, though nothing too invasive.
But will they get to the polls? Maybe, maybe not. Only 31% of voters aged 18 to 29 cast ballots in the 2018 midterm elections, according to Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
TRUMP TRUMPS BERNIE
“Get ready for President Trump’s second term if Sen. Bernie Sanders is his Democratic opponent next year, with Trump edging Sanders 47% to 44%, with 9% undecided,” declares a new Rasmussen Reports survey of 5,000 likely voters.
“Sanders, the longtime Vermont senator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, earns just 74% support among voters in his own party. One-in-five Democrats opt for Trump — who has the backing of 83% of Republicans in a matchup with Sanders,” noted the poll, conducted March 31-April 11.
EDGING UP AND UP
President Trump appears to have a knack for the long march, persevering despite multiple challenges from political foes and a hostile media. That could be paying off.
“President Trump’s job approval rating increased relatively sharply over the past month to 45% in an April 1-9 Gallup poll, up from 39% in March. This marks the third time the 45th president has reached a 45% job approval rating in Gallup trends — his highest in the series,” writes Gallup analyst Justin McCarthy.
“The president’s improved rating is the result of small increases among independents and Democrats, whose ratings of the president have increased by six and four percentage points respectively. Republicans’ approval of the president remains unchanged, with about 9 in 10 Republicans approving of Trump’s job performance,” the analyst said.
THE CURRENT STATE OF THINGS
“Predicting what history will decide was significant is always dicey. But in the context of our fractured nation and the nonstop Washington tumult since 2016, events in the last three weeks have been nothing short of remarkable. Against an enormous army of antagonists, political and cultural, academic and judicial, Donald Trump is enjoying some of the best days of his presidency. His power and popularity are expanding,” writes New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin.
“Meanwhile, Democrats and the left, including the media, have suffered one crushing blow after another. Their recent confidence that Trump was not long for the Oval Office is suddenly morphing into a panic that he could win a second term,” he said.
The columnist cited such factors as the “no collusion” findings of the Mueller investigation, Attorney General William Barr’s conclusion that “spying did occur” on the 2016 Trump campaign, a roaring economy and emerging evidence of a real crisis on the southern U.S. border.
A MITCH MOMENT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell journeys to Michigan on Monday, set to spend time with the students of Hillsdale College, located in the town of Hillsdale, some 80 miles west of Detroit.
Mr. O’Connell’s speech is titled “How the Legislative Branch Can Restore the Constitution.” Now there’s a thought.
The Kentucky lawmaker will also receive an honorary degree from the campus, an independent college known for its focus on civil and religious liberty, and its “principled refusal” to accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies.
POLL DU JOUR
• 77% of Republican voters are “satisfied” with having President Trump be the only candidate running for the 2020 Republican nomination for president.
• 84% of those who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 also agree.
• 23% wish there were “more choices”; 16% of Trump voters agree.
• 70% of Democratic voters are satisfied with the number of candidates now running for their party’s 2020 nomination for president.
• 75% of those who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 also agree.
• 30% which they had more choices; 25% of Clinton voters agree.
Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,227 registered U.S. voters conducted March 31-April 2 and released Thursday.
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