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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, July 12, 2024

The Purgatory Presser

 Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance last week, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket. Some Democrats have gone on the record, but some are supporting him.

Until he stumbles again.

Politico Playbook:

BIDEN’S INK-BLOT TEST — It was arguably the most important news conference of Biden’s long career. Rumor had it that scores of congressional Democrats, expecting a disaster, had preemptively drafted statements calling on him to step aside as the party’s presidential candidate as soon as it ended. Some even privately hoped he would face-plant so that it could be a clean break.

Instead, Biden vaulted over the lower-than-the-Earth’s-core expectations. Now the Democratic Party’s path forward is even more uncertain than it was before Biden took the stage.

The fundamental challenge is that everyone saw a performance that seemed to reconfirm their prior beliefs about Biden.

Aides with the Biden campaign and White House were celebrating.

“He exceeded expectations. He answered really fucking hard foreign policy questions beyond my personal capacity to answer. And he also had a couple of great lines that we’re going to be able to use in the campaign,” one Biden aide told us last night. “It was important for the media, it was important for the Hill, it was important for an audience that we really need to show that we’re up to the task.”

“This is the worst of all worlds,” one Democratic aide texted us. It was “damaging for [Biden’s] prospects, but not so bad it [that] provides enough fodder to use this to dump him from the ticket.”

“After the first gaffe, President Biden spoke confidently on foreign policy issues with command. The problem is that he left us in purgatory,” a veteran Democratic operative told Playbook. “Candidates and campaigns are supposed to make you feel something — hope, optimism, courage — but instead most of us felt nothing after that presser. And feeling nothing is how you lose elections.”

“Biden has lowered the bar until it’s on the floor and Democrats have to decide if they’re going to go along with it,” added another. “Being able to get through a press conference and being able to beat Trump are not the same thing.”

Most Dems we spoke with last night — even those who are ready for him to depart — agree that the presser moved things in the right direction for Biden. And that while unscripted moments are the things he needs to do the most to make folks comfortable again about him as the nominee, those unscripted moments are what gives them heartburn.

For them, watching Biden make a statement — especially one in a dynamic and unscripted environment — is the political equivalent of seeing a high-wire act without a net: If they fall, it’s likely fatal; if they don’t, they’ve simply wobbled to the other side to survive one more day.

Indeed, several more congressional Democrats called on Biden to leave the race after the conference ended. Reps. JIM HIMES (D-Conn.), SCOTT PETERS (D-Calif.) and ERIC SORENSON (D-Ill.) joined the chorus. But nowhere near the hyped “scores” of House members some had predicted.

Some Democrats we spoke with dreaded the likelihood that Biden aides would spin the night as a big win that showed a president in full command of his faculties. And so, the Biden detractors will regroup. Many lawmakers had drafted statements and were waiting to release them after the NATO summit and press conference wrapped up. Will they release them today?

What’s more, Democratic leaders at some point will also have to speak to Biden about the situation. How frank will they be?

“The Super Friends are assembling,” said a House Democrat who did not believe Biden’s performance yesterday changed anything. “There’s a group of people who are going to go make their case to whomever they can get to at the White House that he needs to step aside and we’re going to get our asses kicked if he doesn’t.”

In an “ideal world,” this “Super Friends” delegation, the member said, would be Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, President Pro Tempore PATTY MURRAY, House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES, speaker emerita NANCY PELOSI and JIM CLYBURN.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Flashing Red Lights

 Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance last week, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket. Some Democrats have gone on the record, but some are supporting him.

Until he stumbles again.

FLASHING RED LIGHTS, PT. 1 — The Cook Political Report yesterday moved six states away from JOE BIDEN and toward DONALD TRUMP: Arizona, Georgia and Nevada have gone from Toss Up to Lean Republican; Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District have gone from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic.

This morning, Cook analyst David Wasserman writes that “Biden’s post-debate dip represents the biggest polling shift of the year,” with Trump leading Biden 47%-44% in their new national polling average. “Trump’s current numbers among Black and Latino voters are incompatible with any plausible Democratic victory scenario,” he adds.

FLASHING RED LIGHTS, PT. 2 — “Biden support slips in deep blue New York: ‘We’re a battleground state now,’” by Nick Reisman: “Elected officials, union leaders and political consultants are panicking over polls showing a steady erosion of Biden’s support in a state he won by 23 points four years ago.”

‘INERTIA PREVAILS’ — Biden’s firewall is holding. For now.

Biden’s almost Trumpian tactics — lashing out at his detractors and insisting that the conversation about him stepping aside is over — appears to be working on Capitol Hill.

Most Washington Democrats are either falling in line with Biden, meekly expressing a desire to see him do more to prove his viability or saying nothing at all.

As of this morning only seven Hill Democrats are on the record calling for a new nominee, a paltry number compared to what many (including us) were expecting earlier this weekend. And at least two senior House Democrats who privately expressed a desire to see Biden exit the race over the weekend now say publicly they support him.

But while the almost Machiavellian pressure campaign has at least temporarily muzzled the Biden doubters, it has hardly alleviated their concerns: Most Democrats we’ve spoken to remain 100 percent convinced Biden will lose to Trump, and many privately want him to gracefully bow out — even some who are publicly supporting him as the nominee.

Witness the contortions of Sen. MICHAEL BENNET (D-Colo.) who went on CNN, after reportedly making similar comments in yesterday’s caucus lunch, and declared Trump “on track, I think, to win this election — and maybe win it by a landslide and take with it the Senate and the House.” But he refused to call on Biden to step aside.

As Rep. RITCHIE TORRES (D-N.Y.), a Biden supporter, explained to us yesterday: “In the absence of consensus, inertia prevails.”

SO WHAT HAPPENED? Put simply, Biden’s allies appeared to have outmaneuvered his skeptics. Many Hill Democrats, well-apprised sources told us, were expecting dozens of lawmakers — especially vulnerable swing-district frontliners — to come out of the woodwork and force their leaders to confront the president or his campaign.

Instead, Biden’s canny move to rally the Black and Hispanic caucuses, as well as high-profile progressives like Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.), has made members think twice about going on the record with their concerns, lawmakers and aides tell us. So, too, did the leaks of private, candid conversations from over the weekend.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Trump's Platform

Megan Messerly, Natalie Allison, and Irie Sentner at Politico:
The committee was largely deferential to the Trump campaign’s recommendations, receiving and adopting the proposed platform by lunchtime on Monday in a vote of 84 to 18. Trump called in to the meeting and addressed the delegates by phone. A platform committee member granted anonymity to speak candidly about the proceedings said “euphoric consensus” contributed to the quick approval.

Unlike the party’s platform passed in 2016, the text does not include a 20-week federal limit on abortions or call for states to pass the Human Life Amendment, which proposes to amend the Constitution to say that life begins at conception. The text instead says that states are “free to pass laws protecting” the rights granted in the 14th Amendment.

“After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the States and to a vote of the People,” the language states. “We will oppose Late Term Abortion, while supporting mothers and policies that advance Prenatal Care, access to Birth Control, and IVF (fertility treatments).”

The heading for that section of the proposed platform says that Republicans will “Protect and Defend a Vote of the People, from within the States, on the Issue of Life.”

Trump didn’t just edit the platform language, but wrote some parts of the 15-page draft himself, according to a person with knowledge of his involvement. The new proposed platform is significantly shorter than the party’s current one.

Representatives from Trump’s campaign walked around the room with a “vote yes” sign as voice votes were being held, and a motion by a top anti-abortion leader to hold roll call votes failed, according to a person attending the meeting. Debate was limited to one minute per speaker. One RNC member who was present inquired about why staff of the Trump campaign and RNC were taking photographs of delegates as they voted.

Trump's influence is evident in the weird use of capital letters:

In 2016, President Donald J. Trump was elected as an unapologetic Champion of the American People. He reignited the American Spirit and called on us to renew our National Pride. His Policies spurred Historic Economic Growth, Job Creation, and a Resurgence of American Manufacturing. President Trump and the Republican Party led America out of the pessimism induced by decades of failed leadership, showing us that the American People want Greatness for our Country again



Monday, July 8, 2024

BIden's Last Line of Defense

 Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance last week, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Some Democrats have gone on the record.  He is counting on his cornerstone:  Black voters.

Jonathan Martin at Politico:

Sitting on a panel here at Essence Fest, an annual gathering of Black leaders, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) brought the crowd alive here Saturday with a declaration: “It ain’t going to be no other Democratic candidate — it’s going to be Biden.”

More significant may have been the private forum Waters used to defend the president a day earlier. On a conference call Friday with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the 85-year-old House veteran urged the lawmakers to stand with Joe Biden, sending an implied but unmistakable message to her younger colleagues not to waver, a participant on the call told me.
As the president fights for his political life this week, and calls grow from party leaders that he withdraw his candidacy, he’s counting on the support of African American Democrats and his union allies as his last line of defense. It’s a playbook Biden has turned to in the past, portraying his detractors as mostly elite white liberals who are out of step with the more diverse and working-class grassroots of the party. That’s what propelled his nomination after a string of setbacks in 2020.


Sunday, July 7, 2024

Project 2025

Our recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Trump and his minions falsely claimed that he won the election, and have kept repeating the Big Lie And we now know how close he came to subverting the Constitution.   

He is planning an authoritarian agenda and would take care to eliminate any internal dissent.

“I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying and some of the things they're saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them,” he posted.

In response, DNC Spokesperson Aida Ross released the following statement:

“Donald Trump and Project 2025 are one big MAGA operation, coordinating on an extreme blueprint to rip away freedoms and undermine democracy—and they’ve made it clear themselves. Many of Trump’s closest former White House aides are leading the project and his campaign’s own press secretary starred in one of their recruitment videos,” the statement read.

The Trump allies Ross is referring to include: Trump’s former chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel and Management, Paul Dans; former associate directors of presidential personnel, Spencer Chretien and Troup Hemenway; former Trump White House aide, Johnny McEntee; former chief of staff Mark Meadows; and former Trump West Wing adviser Stephen Miller.

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Biden and the Almighty

 Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance last week, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Some Democrats have gone on the record.

A TV appearance last night was not quite a disaster, but not helpful, either.

Michael Shear at NYT:

President Biden on Friday dismissed concerns about his age, his mental acuity and polls showing him losing his re-election bid, saying in a prime-time interview that his sharpness is tested every day while he is “running the world.” He vowed to drop out only if “the Lord Almighty” told him to.

During a 22-minute interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, which aired unedited, Mr. Biden, 81, said there was no need for him to submit to neurological or cognitive testing. He said he simply did not believe the polls showing him losing. And asked how he would feel if former President Donald J. Trump were elected in November, he brushed off the question.

“I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about,” Mr. Biden said in an interview that was intended to assuage growing concerns about his age following last Thursday’s debate. But with him speaking in a hoarse voice and remaining defiant throughout, there was little indication that the interview would do much to stanch the bleeding during the deepest crisis of a long political career.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Democratic Splits

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance last week, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Some Democrats have gone on the record.

Jonathan Martin at Politico reports on D governors rallying behind Biden:
Most congressional Democrats simply see no path to take back the House and hold their Senate majority if they are led by a president who large majorities of the country, as new polls indicate, believe is too old for the job.

Yet by showing up at the White House and then, more significantly, offering public displays of support, the governors only encouraged a standard bearer many lawmakers feel is doomed — and will doom them. Most House Democrats are outrunning Biden in their internal surveys, I’m told by people familiar with the results. But they know they can’t overcome his drag if he’s losing their seats by 15 points rather than mid-single digits. “Hence the terror,” as one operative working on congressional Democratic races explained.
Even more infuriating to Democrats on Capitol Hill is the personal politics they sniff in the governors’ declarations of support. Few of the governors have to run for reelection this year, but more than a handful of them are eager to seek the presidency in 2028. And there’s no path for any of them then if Vice President Kamala Harris by then is President Harris seeking reelection. Moreover, if she runs a credible, last-minute race and loses narrowly this year to former President Donald Trump, it still may be difficult to deny her the nomination in four years.
“Sink Kamala so she’s not the nominee in both ’24 and ’28,” as one House Democrat texted upon hearing of the governors rallying to Biden.

Kenneth P. Vogel, Theodore Schleifer, and Lauren Hirsch at NYT:
After several days of quiet griping and hoping that President Biden would abandon his re-election campaign on his own, many wealthy Democratic donors are trying to take matters into their own hands.

Wielding their fortunes as both carrot and stick, donors have undertaken a number of initiatives to pressure Mr. Biden to step down from the top of the ticket and help lay the groundwork for an alternate candidate.

The efforts — some coordinated, some conflicting and others still nascent — expose a remarkable and growing rift between the party’s contributor class and its standard-bearer that could have an impact on down-ballot races, whether or not the donors influence Mr. Biden’s decision.

The president on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment to stay in the race amid criticism of his weak debate performance last week. But that has not placated donors or strategists who worry that he cannot win in November.

A group of them is working to raise as much as $100 million for a sort of escrow fund, called the Next Generation PAC, that would be used to support a replacement candidate. If Mr. Biden does not step aside, the money could be used to help down-ballot candidates, according to people close to the effort.

Supporters of potential replacements like Vice President Kamala Harris are jockeying to position their preferred successor. Other donors are threatening to withhold contributions not only from Mr. Biden but also from other Democratic groups unless Mr. Biden bows out.

There is a separate movement to steer money to candidates for lower offices. And financial supporters are urging elected officials at all levels to publicly pressure Mr. Biden to withdraw, signaling support for those who follow through. Some major donors like Reed Hastings have gone public with calls for Mr. Biden to stand down.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

If Not Biden, Then Harris

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance on Thursday, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Some Democrats have gone on the record.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Leigh Ann Caldwell and Nicole Markus at WP:
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is signaling to members that Harris would be the best option to lead the ticket if Biden chooses to step aside, said two people familiar with this thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), a high-ranking member of the House and a longtime Biden friend, has publicly said he would support Harris if Biden steps aside, adding that his fellow Democrats “should do everything to bolster her, whether she’s in second place or at the top of the ticket.

Note: Biden owes his presidency to Clyburn, a very smart pol.  It is a loud signal that Clyburn even entertained the Harris hypothetical.

If Biden is going to pass the baton to Harris, he must act soon.  She would need to pick a running mate, and a decent vetting would take weeks. The last overnight pick was Tom Eagleton in 1972, who had to withdraw after revelations that he had undergone electroshock therapy.

 Mike Allen at Axios:

If President Biden steps aside, Vice President Harris would be almost impossible to beat for the nomination, thanks to endorsements, money, optics and 2028 politics, top officials tell Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei for a Behind the Curtain column.Why it matters: All Harris needs is Biden's backing. If she gets it, the Obamas and Clintons likely would follow, makizg any challenge an affront to the sitting president and two former presidents.

The big picture: If she gets Biden's endorsement, the only way a top-tier Democrat could challenge her would be to risk their future by saying "not your turn" to the first woman vice president, first Black American vice president and first South Asian vice president.Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chaired the House Jan. 6 committee, told Axios' Hans Nichols that Harris is "incredibly strong ... You can't say Biden has done a good job without saying she's done a good job." For her to be pushed aside from consideration, he said, "would be the kiss of death for the party."

Of course, all this may take a while. Biden stunned lots of powerful Democrats yesterday by digging in ahead of his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos (now being shown as a prime-time special at 8 p.m. ET Friday).After publication of a new poll showing him losing ground to former President Trump, and breaking-news stories suggesting he might quit, the 81-year-old president joined Harris on a campaign all-staff call. He insisted: "No one's pushing me out ... I'm not leaving."

 The intrigue: Biden and his closest advisers have long felt Trump would beat Harris. They question her political skills and likability beyond the liberal bases. But polls show her running no worse than Biden in a hypothetical match-up with Trump.And in some cases, better: A post-debate CNN poll found Harris in a statistical tie with Trump and slightly stronger than Biden because of broader support from women (50% of female voters back Harris over Trump vs. 44% for Biden) and independents (43% Harris vs. 34% Biden).
Biden's private worries wouldn't necessarily keep him from endorsing her publicly. It's called politics. Biden would push to pair her with a moderate Democratic governor like Pennsylvania's Josh Shapiro (51), Kentucky's Andy Beshear (age 46), North Carolina's Roy Cooper (67) or Illinois' J.B. Pritzker (59).

 How it works: We gamed out potential scenarios with some of the nation's most experienced Democratic operatives. Most feel strongly that for both political and practical reasons, Harris looks all but unbeatable.If Biden "got there" on deciding to throw in the towel, top Democrats expect he would announce he was endorsing Harris — his running mate in 2020, and partner in governing for the past three years. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during her briefing yesterday that one of the reasons Biden picked her back in 2020 "is because she is, indeed, the future of the party."
One reason to go that route is to avoid the mayhem of a wide-open convention in Chicago beginning Aug. 19. That would take Democrats' focus off Trump while they scrambled, knifed and preened.
Harris as nominee, or perhaps president, would become part of Biden's legacy, which matters a lot to him — a proud, stubborn man who's been in public life for 50+ years.

Then there's the practicality: If you're eyeing the 2028 nomination, you're thinking about the base. Do you really want to torpedo Harris' chance to become the first woman president of color?What are your real chances of defeating Harris and her formidable apparatus (White House, DNC, Biden-Harris campaign) when you're less well-known nationally than she is — then beating the Trump machine, with its huge head start, in the 75 days between the Democratic convention and Election Day?

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Voters Should Care About Democracy, but They Just Don't

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellioncoups, and secession.

A reality check from Ruy Teixeira:
1. To begin with, preserving/defending/whatever democracy persistently trails the economy/inflation as the issue voters think is most important, even when the democracy issue is specifically mentioned as part of a list.

2. And when respondents’ most important issue is solicited in an open-ended format, where respondents give an unprompted, top-of-mind answer, democracy simply does not rate very high. In the most recent Gallup poll, only 4 percent fall into a bucket they term “elections/election reform/democracy.” This vastly trails key economic problems, immigration, etc.

3. Even more recently, the new New York Times/Siena poll finds just 5 percent of voters (3 percent of working-class voters) saying “the state of democracy/corruption” will be the most important issue in deciding on their November vote, again substantially trailing the same set of issues. In an interesting followup, the poll asked voters who they thought could do a better job of handling whatever issue they designated as most important. By 14 points (24 points among the working class), voters thought Trump could do a better job than Biden of handling that issue.

4. Further undercutting the Biden campaign theory, an earlier New York Times poll asked voters what was the one thing they remembered most from Trump’s presidency; that most definitely was not January 6th. Just 5 percent mentioned it, again dwarfed by other events and trends.

5. And, as John Sides has pointed out, Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 was not attributable to running on democracy or anything like that. Campaign messages and advertisements focused instead on the economy, the pandemic, health care and other less abstract issues. If there was a broader theme, it was a return to normalcy not saving democracy.

6. So, democracy does not appear to be the mega-salient issue the Biden campaign is envisioning. What makes the apparent drive to center the issue in the Biden campaign even less understandable is that the issue, as an issue, does not even cut very much in Biden’s direction unlike, say, abortion rights or health care. This is because preserving/defending democracy means different things to different voters; many voters don’t see the choice between Biden and Trump on the issue as blindingly obvious. They don’t, as the Democratic faithful would have it, believe Biden = democracy and Trump = fascism. Many see Trump as their paladin and view Biden and the Democrats as privileging the interests and preferences of their supporters, especially educated elites, in a distinctly non-democratic way.

7. That explains why Biden is not typically preferred by much over Trump on democracy and related issues. One of the most favorable results is in the latest Fox News poll where Biden is preferred over Trump by a modest 6 points on “the future of American democracy.” Even here, Trump gets the nod over Biden by 4 points among working class voters.

8. And there are many results that aren’t nearly so favorable. A March Wall Street Journal poll of battleground states had Biden ahead by just a point on “protecting democracy.” Similarly, over two waves of Democracy Corps’ battleground surveys, Biden and the Democrats were favored over Trump and the Republicans by an average of only 3.5 points on “presidents not being able to act as autocrats,” by 2.5 points on “democracy being secure,” and by 2 points on “protecting democracy” (first wave only). And Trump and the Republicans were favored over Biden and the Democrats by 1.5 points on “opposing extremism” (!) and by 5 points on “protecting the US constitution” (!!). All this hardly makes the democracy issue seem like a slam-dunk for the Biden campaign.

9. Even more devastating, a massive (3,500 registered voters) Washington Post/George Mason Schar School April-May survey of the battleground states found Trump favored over Biden by 11 points on who could do a better job handling “threats to democracy in the US.” And among a group of voters the survey dubbed “the Deciders,” more peripheral voters who will surge into the voting pool in 2024 and likely decide the election, Trump is favored by 9 points over Biden to safeguard democracy.

10. Looking over these data, one must conclude that the Biden campaign plan is to somehow dramatically raise the salience of democracy and January 6th among ordinary voters in coming months and simultaneously generate a robust advantage on the issue among these same voters. This is not impossible but it does not really seem advisable; a little like drawing to an inside straight in poker. You might make it but you probably won’t.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Biden in Trouble

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance on Thursday, there has been off-the-record talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Today it's going on the record.

 Bethany Irvine at Politico:

— Rep. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-Texas) called on Biden to step aside — complete with an LBJ reference, via Erik Wasson: “I represent the heart of a congressional district once represented by LYNDON JOHNSON. Under very different circumstances, he made the painful decision to withdraw. President Biden should do the same.” More from the Texas Tribune’s Matthew Choi

— Rep. JIM CLYBURN (D-S.C.) told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he “will support” VP KAMALA HARRIS if President Biden “were to step aside. (h/t NBC’s Gary Grumbach)

— Former House Speaker NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.) on MSNBC: “I think it’s a legitimate question to say, is this an episode or is this a condition? When people ask that question, it’s completely legitimate — of both candidates.”


More from Anthony Adragna: “Pelosi said it would be ‘essential’ for Biden to do ‘not one, maybe two’ unscripted interviews with journalists to demonstrate his capabilities without a teleprompter. ‘That would be a great thing for him,’ she said.”

— Sen. PETER WELCH (D-Vt.) lambasted the Biden campaign for its “dismissive attitude” towards questions about Biden’s age. “[T]hat’s the discussion we have to have,” he told Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig. “It has to be from the top levels of the Biden campaign to precinct captains in the southside of Chicago. … The campaign has raised the concerns themselves … So then to be dismissive of others who raise those concerns, I think it’s inappropriate.”

— Rep. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-Ill.) told CNN’s Kasie Hunt that Biden must “be honest with himself” about how his performance can impact Democrats’ chances of winning congressional races: “We have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn’t just a horrible night … I just want him to appreciate at this time just how much this impacts not just his race but all the other races coming in November.” More from Andrew Howard

— Former Rep. TIM RYAN (D-Ohio) called for Biden to step aside and allow Harris to become the nominee in an op-ed for Newsweek.

And on the state side ... CNN’s Jake Tapper reports that Democratic governors convened a call to discuss Biden’s debate performance and are pushing for a meeting with the White House to assuage concerns.

Key lines: “On the call, the governors expressed surprise that none of them had heard from Biden himself. There was a strong sentiment on the call that they needed to hear from the president directly. … The governors, one of the sources said, were worried about going public with their concerns out of fear that it would lead to Biden digging in further.”

Monday, July 1, 2024

Why No Serious Democrat Challenged Biden

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance on Thursday, there has been talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  Why did Democrats wait until now?

Jim Rutenberg and Adam Nagourney at NYT:
Many of them, including the president’s top aides, drew what could prove to be overly encouraging lessons from Mr. Biden’s victory against Mr. Trump in 2020, his run of policy victories as president and the party’s surprisingly strong showing in the midterm elections of 2022.

“It was the ’22 elections,” said David Plouffe, who was the senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. “We’ve had three good elections in a row. The feeling was, ‘Let’s stay the course.’”

And some 50 years after the Democratic Party rewrote its rules to marginalize the role of political bosses, there was also no leader to step in and quietly prepare a Plan B. Other key Democratic figures who might have pressed Mr. Biden to consider retiring, or suggested an alternate plan, like Mr. Obama or Bill and Hillary Clinton, have moved on to their own post-White House lives and, operating outside Mr. Biden’s close circle of advisers, did not to appear to be in position to engage the Bidens in such a sensitive conversation.

At key moments, those who tried to sound the alarm about Mr. Biden’s potential weaknesses — among them David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief strategist, and James Carville, who helped elect Bill Clinton in 1992 — were slapped down by Democrats, often in the brutal discord of social media sites like X, and chastised by top Biden aides for being disloyal.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Kamala Harris is the Only Plan B

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

After Biden's bad debate performance on Thursday, there has been talk about replacing him on the Democratic ticket.  There is only one option.

Eugene Daniels at Politico:

Some allies of the first Black and South Asian woman to be vice president fumed Friday about the lack of attention Harris drew as a possible replacement — not a surrogate — for Biden, passed over in the Beltway chatter for the likes of Newsom, Whitmer and even Govs. JB Pritzker of Illinois and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania.

“The fact that people keep coming back to this is so offensive to so many of us,” one veteran Democrat and Harris ally said. “They still don’t get that the message you’re saying to people, to this Democratic Party, is, we prefer a white person.”

Owen Tucker-Smith and Sabrina Siddiqui at WSJ:

The Biden-Harris campaign has raised a considerable amount of money toward his re-election, and campaign-finance experts say that cash can’t simply be transferred to another candidate if Biden drops out—unless that candidate is Harris, who would just inherit the campaign committee. Were Harris to assume the top of the ticket, funds donated toward the Biden-Harris campaign would be at her disposal since she and Biden were running together.

Should Harris succeed Biden, “she would maintain access to all the funds in the committee and could use them to advance her presidential candidacy,” said Shanna Ports, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Why Biden Ran

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

In light of  Biden's poor debate performance, many political observers are wondering why he ran in the first place.

Peter Baker at NYT:

If any of the president’s advisers has ever addressed Mr. Biden’s age with him in a forthright way, they have not acknowledged it. According to recent interviews with dozens of his closest aides and friends, the president engaged in no organized process outside of his family in deciding to run for a second term.

None of the advisers described a meeting or a memo that outlined pros and cons of a re-election campaign that might have addressed the consequences of age. None said they discouraged him from running or, for that matter, discussed how to address his age if he did. Instead, he simply told them to assume he was running unless he decided otherwise.

Such a conversation would be painfully difficult for presidential aides. There is something fundamentally different about raising such a personal issue with a boss as opposed to impersonal factors like battleground states, polling or policy questions.

Mr. Biden’s closest current and former aides, like Ron Klain, Anita Dunn, Jeffrey D. Zients, Steve Ricchetti, Mike Donilon, Jen O’Malley Dillon and Bruce Reed, deeply admire and respect the president. They would not want to hurt him and they see the best in him, according to fellow Democrats.

“He’s famous for having really, really loyal people,” Ms. [Elaine] Kamarck said. “He’s like a father to Ron Klain. What do you say to your father? This is tough, very tough.”


Indeed, given his age and experience, Mr. Biden has few people he truly sees as peers, as much as anyone could be a peer to a president. His relations with Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama are complicated, and some Biden advisers said he would bristle if either of those former presidents had told him last year not to run or told him now to think about dropping out. Most of the senators Mr. Biden served with for so many years, the ones whose opinions he valued, are largely gone. Ted Kaufman, his close friend and longtime aide who succeeded him in the Senate, has been one of the most supportive of a re-election bid.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Biden Botches Debate

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  It is a fight between two very old men.

Jonathan V. Last: "When people say Biden is `old' what they mean is `frail.' Trump is functionally the same age as Biden, with a muc worse BMI and cognitive functioning. But because Trump can yell at the moon like a mad dog, people see him as `vigorous' and age isn’t a problem."

Peter Baker at NYT:
President Biden hoped to build fresh momentum for his re-election bid by agreeing to debate nearly two months before he is to be formally nominated. Instead, his halting and disjointed performance on Thursday night prompted a wave of panic among Democrats and reopened discussion of whether he should be the nominee at all.

Over the course of 90 minutes, a raspy-voiced Mr. Biden struggled to deliver his lines and counter a sharp though deeply dishonest former President Donald J. Trump, raising doubts about the incumbent president’s ability to wage a vigorous and competitive campaign four months before the election. Rather than dispel concerns about his age, Mr. Biden, 81, made it the central issue.

Democrats who have defended the president for months against his doubters — including members of his own administration — traded frenzied phone calls and text messages within minutes of the start of the debate as it became clear that Mr. Biden was not at his sharpest. Practically in despair, some took to social media to express shock, while others privately discussed among themselves whether it was too late to persuade the president to bow out in favor of a younger candidate.


Thursday, June 27, 2024

Steve Garvey's Mysterious Finances

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.

David Lightman at McClatchy:

The taxes on the home listed as Steve Garvey’s Palm Desert address are being paid by Sisters in Christ LLC, an organization that includes his sister-in-law as a manager.

The group, based in Utah, has paid $119,203 since 2017 in taxes on the property, according to Riverside County Treasurer-Tax Collector records. Data prior to 2017 was not available. Sisters in Christ is listed as the property owner on tax records as of late March.

It’s not uncommon in California for an LLC to deal with real estate. In addition to some tax advantages, adding “an extra layer of privacy for any buyers that might not want their name to appear in countless public databases, where anyone can find out where they live,” said a 2023 article from Newport Beach-based Lucas Real Estate.

The Garvey campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Garvey, a former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres baseball star, is vying with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff for a U.S. Senate seat in California.

It’s not clear what Sisters in Christ’s activities include. It is not affiliated with Sisters in Christ International, a Florida-based religious organization dedicated to helping women.

The Sisters In Christ LLC that pays the taxes on Garvey’s home is based In Utah.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Bye Bye Bowman

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.

Nicholas Fandos at NYT:

Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York, one of Congress’s most outspoken progressives, suffered a stinging primary defeat on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, unable to overcome a record-shattering campaign from pro-Israel groups and a slate of self-inflicted blunders.

Mr. Bowman was defeated by George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, in a race that became the year’s ugliest intraparty brawl and the most expensive House primary in history.

It began last fall when Mr. Bowman stepped forward as one of the leading critics of how Israelis were carrying out their war with Hamas. But the contest grew into a broader proxy fight around the future of the Democratic Party, exposing painful fractures over race, class and ideology in a diverse district that includes parts of Westchester County and the Bronx.

Mr. Bowman, the district’s first Black congressman and a committed democratic socialist, never wavered from his calls for a cease-fire in Gaza or left-wing economic priorities. Down in the polls, he repeatedly accused his white opponent of racism and used expletives in denouncing the pro-Israel groups as a “Zionist regime” trying to buy the election.


A super PAC affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, dumped $15 million into defeating him, more than any outside group has ever spent on a House race.


Mr. Bowman, 48, struck a defiant tone in his concession speech. He accused AIPAC and other super PACs involved in the race of spending huge sums to “brainwash people into believing something that isn’t true” and contended that “when we say ‘Free Palestine’ it is not antisemitic.” [He defended the annihilationist phrase "From the River to the Sea."]

“I would like to make a public apology for sometimes using foul language,” he said. “But we should not be well adjusted to a sick society.”

 Politico Playbook notes that it was not just about Bowman's radicalism and antisemitism.

— Mind your voting record and personal behavior: As our colleagues Nick Reisman, Rich Mendez and Emily Ngo write, the ads against Bowman barely mentioned Israel. Instead, the focus was largely on Bowman’s votes against Biden’s infrastructure law and against raising the debt ceiling.

And then there’s the fire alarm. As NYT’s Nicholas Fandos writes, the timing of the episode that resulted in a misdemeanor plea and House censure “could hardly have been worse. Opposition researchers turned up old blog posts dabbling in 9/11 conspiracy theories and publicized video of Mr. Bowman calling reports that Hamas sexually abused Israeli women during its attack ‘propaganda.’ (He later apologized.)”

— Don’t alienate your friends back home: A more skilled politician might have survived those travails with a local support network in place. Bowman didn’t have that; local political leaders instead flocked to Latimer, who as county executive had built close ties with mayors and town councilors, as AP’s Anthony Izaguirre writes, while Bowman had his eye on the national stage.

That relative lack of local backup extended to a notable Brooklynite — House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES, who helped Bowman with a $5,000 leadership PAC donation and a late robocall, but did not exactly move heaven and earth to rescue him, as Akela Lacy of The Intercept reports.

— Don’t alienate your colleagues in Washington: Expect to hear plenty in the next few days about what Bowman’s loss means for the progressive movement writ large. But we heard yesterday from a House Democrat who represents a competitive district who wanted to vent about how Bowman’s loss was completely avoidable.

It was less about ideology, this lawmaker said, and more about how he went about his job: “Nobody who cares about them tried to help, tried to stop them, tried to say, ‘Hey, there's a better way. You don't need to do this. You can advocate for your position without alienating the vast majority of voters.’”

The frustration inside the caucus, the member continued, isn’t about any other member’s particular views on Israel or Medicare for All or any other issue. It’s about a lack of focus on winning a majority and focusing on the job of passing legislation.

“If you're going to start huge fights as opposed to governing,” the person said, “there are consequences.”

Russell Berman at The Atlantic:

Bowman’s progressive allies tried to rescue him in the closing days of the race. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont headlined a rally for him in the South Bronx on Saturday. But despite being billed as a “get out the vote” event, the rally took place outside Bowman’s district, about seven miles away from any of his constituents. Three days later, they voted him out.


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Dobbs Plus Two

Our 2020 book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Abortion was a big issue in the 2022 midtermIt will be a big issue in 2024.

Charlie Sykes at The Atlantic:

Although there has been progress in some states to strengthen the safety net for women and children after Roe, those steps have been overshadowed by the rush to enact punitive criminal bans. In the past two years, 14 states have enacted near-total bans on abortion, while three states have imposed six-week bans. Oklahoma is among the states that have banned abortion, with the only exception being to save the life of the pregnant woman. Some legislators want to go even further: A freshman state senator in Oklahoma has proposed legislation that would charge women who terminate a pregnancy (with limited exceptions) with murder. After Ohio enacted a sweeping ban on most abortions, young girls who had been sexually assaulted—including a 10-year-old—reportedly had to cross state lines to terminate their pregnancy (the Ohio law is no longer in effect—the state has enshrined abortion rights in its constitution). In Texas, the strict new abortion laws have generated confusion over how doctors should treat miscarriages, and the state’s “fetal heartbeat” law appears to have been associated with an increase in infant deaths, according to a new study. Last month, Texas’s supreme court ruled against women who said that the state’s abortion ban put their health at risk.

The fallout has dramatically shifted the public’s perception of the issue. As the reporter Kate Zernike writes in today’s New York Times, “The question is no longer just whether you can get an abortion, but also, Can you get one if pregnancy complications put you in septic shock? Can you find an obstetrician when so many are leaving states with bans? If you miscarry, will the hospital send you home to bleed? Can you and your partner do in vitro fertilization?”

The political backlash has been intense, badly damaging the GOP in the 2022 midterms. In state after state—including deep-red states such as Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana—voters turned out to pass initiatives to protect abortion rights or to defeat anti-abortion measures. This fall, referenda on abortion will be on the ballot in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and South Dakota. Other states, including Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Nevada, may join them.

 Megan Brenan and Lydia Saad at Gallup:

A record-high 32% of U.S. voters say they would only vote for a candidate for major office who shares their views on abortion. The importance of a candidate’s abortion stance to one’s vote is markedly higher among pro-choice voters than it was during the 2020 presidential election cycle, while pro-life voters’ intensity about voting on the abortion issue has waned. Also, voters’ greater intensity on the issue today compared with 2020 is explained mainly by Democrats, while Republicans and independents have shown little change.

An examination of voters’ responses to this question based on their stance on abortion shows that pro-choice candidates stand to benefit more than pro-life candidates from single-issue abortion voters. Specifically, nearly twice as many pro-choice voters (40%) as pro-life voters (22%) say they will only vote for a candidate who agrees with them on abortion. This is the third consecutive year that abortion-centric pro-choice voters have outnumbered abortion-centric pro-life voters in the U.S., marking a reversal of the pro-life advantage between 1996 and 2020.

As a result of these changes, the 32% of all registered voters who say they will only vote for candidates who share their views on abortion now includes 23% who are pro-choice and 8% who are pro-life. (Another 1% don’t identify with either label.)

Before 2022, electoral energy was more balanced or leaned toward the pro-life side. During this time, no more than 10% of voters said they were pro-choice and would only vote for those with the same beliefs and no more than 13% of voters identified as pro-life and would only support candidates with the same position.
The increase in pro-choice Americans who say they prioritize the issue when voting may have helped Democrats blunt Republicans’ anticipated gains in the 2022 midterm election and would appear to be an even greater advantage for the party today. One cautionary note is that all of the increase since then in voters saying they will only support candidates who share their position on abortion has occurred among Democrats. A slight majority of Democratic registered voters (52%) now say this, up from 37% in 2022.

In an era of hyper-partisanship and where candidates generally align with their party’s position on the abortion issue, this isn’t likely to affect whom Democrats vote for, but it could help drive Democrats to the polls. Meanwhile, independents’ and Republicans’ focus on the issue has been steady at just over 20%

Monday, June 24, 2024

Trump Catches Up in Campaign Finance

Elena Schneider and Lauren Egan at Politico:
Joe Biden’s campaign planned to bury Donald Trump in an avalanche of cash.

Instead, his allies are bracing for a slugfest without the benefit of a fatter wallet, as financial reports showed Trump outraising Biden in back-to-back months, hauling in huge sums after his 34 felony convictions and erasing Biden’s longstanding financial edge.

Democrats in recent days largely downplayed Trump’s new financial lead in the same way Trump’s allies had when Biden was running ahead in the money race — saying the president would have enough money to compete.

But privately, several Democratic strategists and donors were reeling.

“There was the strategy of raising all this money on the front end so we could have this huge edge,” said one Biden bundler, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “The whole point of it was to come out with a sizable cash advantage and, you know, we’re now even and it’s June. … I have no other word for it other than ‘depression’ among Biden supporters.”

Another major Biden bundler, also granted anonymity, called the development “disappointing, but not surprising.”

In the 2024 money race, not only was Trump out-raising Biden, but he also had more cash on hand. And Republican megadonors, too, rolled out enormous checks for Trump in recent days, including $50 million from longtime GOP donor Timothy Mellon to a pro-Trump super PAC.

Several Biden donors insisted that they expected — and planned — for Trump to close the gap after he clinched the Republican nomination, comparing it to when Mitt Romney caught up to then-President Barack Obama in fundraising over the summer of 2012. Part of the disparity between the campaigns was that Biden was spending more heavily, building “out an unbelievable campaign structure in battleground states,” while “Trump has done nothing,” said Chip Forrester, co-chair of the Biden-Harris Southern finance committee.