Weird scenes and fever dreams from the summer of ’15


From left: GOP 2016 presidential candidates Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Weird scenes and fever dreams from the summer of ’15
• GOP Power Index
• Must be bad! Hillary abandons Hamptons for Cleveland
• Warren won’t commit to another Senate bid
• No cause for alarm, ma’am. Just a manatee orgy

The mix of frenzy and anticipated relief you see in the eyes of every parent of school-aged children tells us that the summer is rapidly drawing to a close. And so too is the summer madness in politics. Reporters have filled the internet with the kind of drivel that reveals individuals desperate to file stories so they can escape to the beach… where they will still talk constantly about politics. (But they will guzzle pink wine instead of red and thereby convince themselves that they are on vacation.)

At the end of the most overheated summer of speculation since, well, the last one, we do know that some things are different this time around. The leader in the polls, billionaire businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump has some advantages that other summer flings did not: universal name identification, the ability to fund his own campaign and a gift for staying in the spotlight that few others can boast.

But the biggest advantage that Trump has is something unique to this cycle: 10 other candidates mounting credible (to varying degrees) presidential campaigns.

Trump is sparring for some votes with other insurgent Republicans, namely Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and, to a lesser degree, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. All three men will be campaigning in South Carolina today, a sign of things to come for what promises to be a more-insane-than-usual Palmetto stakes in February.

But as Trump’s Alabama Rambler on Friday showed, he is taking seriously the need to pay attention to organization, outreach and infrastructure. While previous summer flings couldn’t build out enough organization to stick around as the weather cooled, Trump’s business empire afforded him a pop-up campaign that he is now working to build out.

And it’s much tougher on the establishment favorite in the race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush is contending with Walker as well, but also businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and, most of all, his onetime protégé Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. While the establishmentarians in 2008 and 2012 had plenty of trouble subduing the more restive parts of the party, they did not have to fight long, expensive intermural bouts before getting on to the main event. And as Christie shows in a new ad out today, none of those folks is anywhere near the exits yet.

Add in to the equation the fact that the Democrats still seem bound to nominate Hillary Clinton, who has proven that failure is not always a great teacher. She is running a terrible campaign and giving Republicans scant motivation these days to tighten up and get thinking about the general election. If you’re a conservative activist who thinks the Democratic nominee may be delivering her acceptance speech from a correctional facility, electability arguments will sound rather hollow.

So, to say the least, it’s getting weird out there.

But as one of the great political journalists of the last century said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” And with that, gentle readers, we give you the latest edition of the Fox News First 2016 GOP Power Index.

(Remember, this isn’t just about a candidate’s place in the polls. It’s about how the rest of the party views them (Favorability ratings) as well as organization, funding and political expertise.)

1) Jeb Bush; 2) Ted Cruz [+1]; 3) Scott Walker [-1]; 4) Donald Trump [+4]; 5) Carly Fiorina; 6) Marco Rubio; 7) Ben Carson [-2]; 8) John Kasich [-1]; 9) Mike Huckabee; 10) (tie) Chris Christie [previously unranked]; Rand Paul

On the radar: Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Jim Gilmore

What would you say? – Give us your take on the 2016 Power Index we will share the best and brightest with the whole class. Send your thoughts to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM

[Watch Fox: Chris Stirewalt joins “The Real Story” in the 2 p.m. ET hour with the latest on who’s up and who’s down in the 2016 Power Index.]

Who was the only American president to command troops in the field while he held the title of commander in chief? On this day in 1814, President James Madison had traveled out from Washington to Bladensburg, Md. to observe the battle between federal troops and the fast-approaching British invasion force. The American defenses were quickly overwhelmed and Madison – who at 5-feet, 4-inches and 100 pounds never saw combat in the Revolutionary War – briefly took command of one of the remaining batteries before he too was forced to flee. By nightfall, the British were in control of Washington and officers were dining in the abandoned White House. Much of the city was burned by the occupying army before the British withdrew two days later.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval:
Approve – 43.6 percent//Disapprove – 51.6 percent
Directions of Country: Right Direction – 28.8 percent//Wrong Track – 62.8 percent

2016 Democratic Power Index: Joe’s back from the beach – 1) Hillary Clinton; 2) Joe Biden; 3) Bernie Sanders; 4) Martin O’Malley; 5) Jim Webb; 6) Elizabeth Warren; 7) Lincoln Chaffee; 8) Al Gore

Frontrunner Hillary Clinton is apparently so concerned by her email scandal – which California Gov. Jerry Brown called a “vampire” on her campaign – that she’s breaking into her Hamptons vacation for some Midwest image repair. Goodbye West Egg, hello Cleveland!

She’s got a lot to worry about, too, after a weekend confab between Vice President Joe Biden and populist darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. WSJ reports Biden is “…increasingly leaning toward entering the race if it is still possible he can knit together a competitive campaign at this late date…Biden’s meeting with Ms. Warren fueled speculation that he is sounding out support he might receive among those at the party’s progressive base should he seek to challenge Mrs. Clinton.”

With Clinton already facing serious problems among the general electorate, a Warren nod in Joe’s direction would put her presumed lock on the nomination in doubt, forcing her further to the left to shore up support of primary voters.

Does this scandal have a ‘gate’ yet? – “Until we start having debates, and offering those ideas that move our country forward, we’re going to be bogged down in questions of, what did Hillary Clinton know and when did she know it?” – Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, in an interview with ABC News.

The dude abides – Politico: “Biden declined an offer from the Democratic National Committee to join the party’s five declared presidential candidates in addressing the committee’s members at its summer meeting in Minneapolis this week.”

Warren won’t commit to another Senate bid – The Hill: “The liberal favorite elected to the Senate in 2012 said in [a WBZ-TV] interview said that it’s too early to talk about a second term, even as she expressed frustration at getting things done in Congress… Asked if that meant she’d seek another term to the Senate, Warren put up her hands: ‘Too early to talk about that.’”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “Bill Tudhunter, 57, was sitting on the back patio of his Fort Lauderdale home drinking a beer and enjoying the view of the Intracoastal Waterway, as he does every evening after work, when he noticed something odd in the water. A group of nine manatees had come ashore behind the home in the 2100 block of Southeast 21st Street. In what could only be described as a dogpile, they rocked with the wake, apparently mating as they floated in a few feet of water. Unsure of what to do, Tudhunter alerted his wife, Yasmine, who called 911 as well as wildlife authorities. … Yasmine Tudhunter, 54, said that in the five years she has lived in her coastal home she has never seen anything like this. ‘I was thinking they were in trouble — that they were dying,’ she said while picking up a bucket and towels she had brought out to aid the manatees.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily “Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including “The Kelly File,” “Special Report with Bret Baier,” and “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.