POLITICO Playbook: Will Biden go to bat for Dems in the midterms?

POLITICO Playbook: Will Biden go to bat for Dems in the midterms?

Happy Mother’s Day to the women who never get enough credit for being every politician’s first general consultant. (After all, would it really be a Joe Biden speech without an “As my mother used to say…”?)

The big news today is all about intra-party divisions.

FIRST, THE REPUBLICANS: The ongoing civil war over DONALD TRUMP may effectively end this week if Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) is ousted from House GOP leadership for her continued criticism of his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. (Scheduling note: That vote is expected for Wednesday morning.)

The Washington Post has some juicy behind-the-scenes details of the infighting that led to this moment. They report that at a GOP retreat in April, the NRCC went over new polling results and deliberately “left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness,” namely that in battleground districts, his “unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones.” Leave out that data, and you’re going to warp members’ perceptions of whether to stick with Trump. More on that from WaPo

— A big question: We’ve all been scratching our heads about Cheney’s endgame. But the WaPo story suggests that she thinks that the fight is just beginning. Where does she go from here?

Meanwhile, NYT’s Maureen Dowd argues that Liz’s dad, DICK CHENEY, actually laid the groundwork for Trump’s “Big Lie” about the election by his own “Big Lie” about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. More from Dowd

SECOND, THE DEMOCRATS: It’s no secret that for years, Dems have had skirmishes over ideology, race, age and gender — and the differences between who makes up the party’s base and who ends up getting nominated for office.

As the 2022 primaries take shape, those fights are about to ramp up in a big way — and that could be a problem for JOE BIDEN’S agenda.

“The factions that set aside their differences to deliver the Democrats control of Washington are redividing along racial, gender and generational lines,” writes WaPo’s Sean Sullivan in a deep dive on the Dems’ Senate primaries, where white male candidates are becoming targets of anger for some base voters.

— Biden is taking a hands-off approach to the primaries, “and it’s a safe bet that will continue,” says White House deputy chief of staff JEN O’MALLEY DILLON. But that’s not sitting well with some in the party, who believe, in Sullivan’s words, that “Biden’s ascent to the presidency owes much to the support of Black women, and now he should return the favor.” Will he? And if he doesn’t, will there be a political price? More on that in Sullivan’s piece

Related: “Florida Democrats agonize over who should try to dethrone Rubio,” by Gary Fineout: “The race to challenge Sen. MARCO RUBIO may turn into another battle that pits the Democrats’ progressive faction against its moderate establishment — to Rubio’s possible benefit. Democrats initially hoped that Rep. STEPHANIE MURPHY, a moderate Democrat who fled Communist Vietnam as a child, would be the strongest challenger … While Murphy ponders jumping into the Senate race, she may find her path blocked by ARAMIS AYALA, a former state attorney whose political career was aided by billionaire GEORGE SOROS and who could be helped again by a network of liberal donors.”

BUT there’s one less competitive primary for Dems to worry about: In an interview yesterday with Alex Thompson, Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) announced that she intends to run for re-election in 2024, ending (for now) speculation about a primary between Rep. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-Mass.) and former Rep. JOE KENNEDY III. More from Alex

A STORY WITH BIG IMPLICATIONS — “‘Jugular’ of the U.S. fuel pipeline system shuts down after cyberattack,” by Gloria Gonzalez, Ben Lefebvre and Eric Geller: “The main fuel supply line to the U.S. East Coast has shut down indefinitely after the pipeline’s operator suffered what is believed to be the largest successful cyberattack on oil infrastructure in the country’s history — presenting a danger of spiking gasoline prices and a fresh challenge to President Joe Biden’s pledges to secure the nation against threats.”

Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.


Rep. JIM BANKS (R-Ind.) on Cheney on “Fox News Sunday”: “In her leadership post, she doesn’t just — any member of Congress doesn’t just represent their district, they represent 212 members of the Republican conference, and right now it’s clear that she doesn’t represent the views of the majority of our conference or the focus that all of us have to win back the majority.”

Sen. BILL CASSIDY (R-La.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “If you look at polls, there’s a whole group of folks that agree with Liz Cheney, and, and so for us to win in 2022 and 2024, we need everybody. We need those who feel as Liz; we need those who feel as [Sen.] LINDSAY [GRAHAM].

Maryland Gov. LARRY HOGAN on the state of the GOP on “Meet the Press”: “We had the worst four years we’ve had, ever, in the Republican Party, losing the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. And successful politics is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. … It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the dear leader, or you get kicked out of the party.”

Rep. JIM CLYBURN (D-S.C.) on Cheney on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “I don’t agree with Liz on much politically, but that’s how we grow as a country. This whole thing that everybody ought to be marching in lockstep, that is what leads people to destruction. People ought to have a diversity of thought. Diversity is very, very important.”

Clyburn on Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL’s comments that his focus is on “standing up to” the Biden administration: “Mitch McConnell has some personal animus toward Democrats that ought not be. We are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Let’s operate like that. This Republican Party is losing its way on all fronts. And Mitch McConnell is contributing to that in a big way.”

Clyburn on police reform legislation: “If we don’t get qualified immunity now, then we will come back and try to get it later. But I don’t want to see us throw out a good bill because we can’t get a perfect bill.”

BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president will arrive at the White House at 8:35 p.m. VP KAMALA HARRIS has nothing on her public schedule.


BIG MILESTONE ON WEDNESDAY — “Infrastructure Talks Could Set Course of Biden Spending Plans,” WSJ: “On “Wednesday, Mr. Biden will hold his first formal meeting since taking office with top congressional leaders: House Speaker NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The meeting will touch on several topics, but is expected to focus in part on the president’s spending proposals, White House aides said.”

HOW BIDEN THINKS ABOUT IRAN — “The one that gets away: Joe Biden’s jaded romance with Iran,” by Nahal Toosi: “A POLITICO review of available records, speeches, and congressional statements found that when it came to Iran, Biden has long tried to walk a careful path, one that is wary, yet hopeful; politically aware, yet politically risky; and often focused on incremental gains in the hopes of seeding long-term results.

“Today, as president, Biden is in an increasingly tense faceoff with Tehran over how, or whether, to salvage an internationally negotiated 2015 deal that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The stakes are high: If the deal collapses, it raises the odds of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and pushes Iran toward a more open conflict with Israel and some Arab states. The politics, meanwhile, are toxic: pitting the U.S. against close friend Israel, straining America’s ties with its European allies, and giving Republicans a cudgel with which to pummel Biden. Yet, Biden appears willing to give nuclear diplomacy with Iran a shot, at least for now.”

A STRATEGIC PIVOT — “White House, state officials scramble to get docs’ help with lagging vaccination effort,” by Rachael Roubein and Dan Goldberg: “For months, doctors have lobbied the White House and states to ship them doses, but officials instead focused their efforts on mass vaccination sites and other places that could quickly immunize hundreds or even thousands of people daily. With demand for shots now slipping faster than health experts expected, officials are now trying to steer doses to smaller, local sites like doctor offices that can make targeted efforts to reach people who are hesitant to get vaccinated or have faced other obstacles like lack of transportation.”


HOW EARMARKS ARE PLAYING LOCALLY — As earmarks return to Congress, local news outlets are diving into the requests made by their representatives. Here, a roundup of some of this week’s local coverage:

California: “Map: See where Bay Area reps want to spend federal pork,” SF Chronicle

— Colorado: “Colorado Democrats in the U.S. House want nearly $200 million for earmarked projects,” Colorado Sun

— Florida: “16 Florida congressional reps file 167 ‘earmarks’ seeking $316M in project funding,” Center Square; “Congress can now control more money, and two South Florida Reps. will play a big role,” Miami Herald

— Georgia: “Georgia earmark proposals near $100M despite few requests from Republicans,” Atlanta Journal Constitution

— Hawaii: “Case, Kahele Make Their Pitch For $57 Million,” Honolulu Civil Beat

— Massachusetts: “Members Of Mass. Congressional Delegation Request $100 Million For ‘Community Projects,’” WGBH

— Michigan: “What Michigan’s lawmakers want in spending wish lists totaling $195M,” Detroit News

New Hampshire and Vermont: “Twin State delegation hails earmarks’ Leahy-led return to Congress,” Valley News

— Ohio: “Northeast Ohio Congress members seek big money for local projects through earmarks,” Cleveland Plains Dealer

Oklahoma: “Oklahoma lawmakers list road improvements, medical research in earmark requests,” The Oklahoman

— Texas: “Texas delegation, including 8 Republicans, requests close to $2 billion in funding request ‘earmarks,’” Dallas Morning News

— Utah: “Utah Republicans on board with earmarks,” Salt Lake Tribune


CRIME SCENE WALKTHROUGH — “Attorneys of alleged insurrectionists are given tours of U.S. Capitol,” CNN: “Attorneys for dozens of the defendants accused in the January 6 attack are getting the chance to walk through what remains a crime scene. … They’re promised up-close looks into the locations that became ground zero on January 6: the House and Senate chambers, where people wearing combat gear forced lawmakers into hiding; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office … and the Speaker’s Lobby, outside of which Air Force veteran and avid Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was shot trying to enter. …

“The first scheduled tour happened Monday, and four subsequent tours are scheduled throughout this month and into the next.”


TURNING DOWN DOSES — “States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes,” AP: “States asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses. From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated to them. The turned-down vaccines amount to hundreds of thousands of doses this week alone, providing a stark illustration of the problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S.”

FLORIDA POLITICS AFFECTING BIZ — “Cruise Line Threatens to Skip Florida Ports Over Proof-of-Vaccination Ban,” NYT: “Norwegian Cruise Line is threatening to keep its ships out of Florida ports after the state enacted legislation that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination against Covid-19 in exchange for services. The company … will offer trips with limited capacity and require all guests and crew members to be vaccinated on bookings through at least the end of October. During a quarterly earnings call on Thursday, FRANK DEL RIO, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line, said the issue had been discussed with Florida’s governor, RON DESANTIS, a Republican. Mr. Del Rio said if the cruise line had to skip Florida ports, it could operate out of other states or the Caribbean.”


BETO FOR GOV? — “Beto O’Rourke on possible run for governor, gun and voting laws,” Austin American-Statesman: “Former Texas Congressman BETO O’ROURKE spoke about voting rights, gun control and whether or not he plans to run for governor at a press conference in the Capitol in downtown Austin Saturday afternoon after a rally against voter suppression on the steps of the capitol building.

“On whether he plans to run for governor in 2022, O’Rourke said he will assess his next move when he finishes teaching his courses at the University of Texas and Texas State University. ‘I’m going to think about where I can play the most positive role for Texas, whether that’s running for office or supporting those who do run for office,’ he said. ‘I’ll think of any and all ways that I can be helpful.’”

VIRGINIA GOP WAITS — “As convention ends, Virginia Republicans wait for governor nominee to emerge,” WaPo: “Voters appeared to turn out in large numbers — by convention standards — although the party did not have a total available by Saturday evening. …

“A crew of about 60 will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday to tally the ballots by hand, a method three gubernatorial contenders demanded amid fears that vote-counting software the party was considering could be rigged against them. Determining a winner will be no simple matter. Convention rules require the nominee to secure a majority, not a mere plurality. [The ranked-choice] ballots will be tallied over and over, with the lowest vote-getter dropping off after each round.”

TWO QUESTIONS IN MICHIGAN — “A Chief James Craig candidacy for governor? It’s both simple and complicated,” Detroit Free Press: “Ultimately, a JAMES CRAIG candidacy [against Democratic Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER] must answer at least two questions: What issue can Craig campaign on and credibly promise Michiganders he can resolve? Can Craig bring lost Republican voters, particularly suburban women who have voted Democrat in the last two election cycles, back into the GOP fold?”


POLICY TRENDWATCH — “GOP governors slash jobless aid to try to force more Americans to return to work,” WaPo: “The new GOP cuts chiefly target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received for months in addition to their usual unemployment checks. Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week, in a move that signals a new effort on the part of Republicans to try to combat what they see as a national worker shortage. … [P]arty leaders nationwide have grown more emboldened in recent days, particularly as the U.S. government on Friday released new data showing the economy added only 266,000 jobs in April.”

CONSERVATIVES OPEN TO CANNABIS — “America’s most conservative states are embracing medical pot,” by Mona Zhang, Paul Demko and Natalie Fertig: “Medical marijuana bills are advancing in the Republican-controlled legislatures of North Carolina, Alabama and Kansas for the first time. Efforts to expand limited medical programs in bedrock conservative states like Texas and Louisiana also appear close to passage. … The progress in some Republican-controlled state capitals suggests a shift away from the hardline positions long held by social conservatives and have buoyed the pro-marijuana movement. The final weeks of legislative sessions could bring more wins for advocates.”

INTRIGUE IN L.A. — “Is Garcetti going? Los Angeles waits with uncertainty as city faces major crossroads,” LA Times: “With Mayor ERIC GARCETTI again in the running for a post in the Biden administration — this time as U.S. ambassador to India — politicians, bureaucrats, activists and others are trying to figure out what a mayoral departure would mean for the city and its most pressing issues.

“An early exit could reshuffle the race to replace Garcetti in next year’s election. And it would likely trigger another, behind-the-scenes competition for the post of interim mayor — a choice that would be up to the City Council.”

CUOMO INQUIRY WIDENS — “Andrew Cuomo Investigation Expands as State Attorney General Looks at Aide’s Calls,” WSJ: “Investigators have interviewed at least three Democratic county executives who said they were surprised to receive calls from LARRY SCHWARTZ, a volunteer adviser who oversaw vaccine distribution for the state, asking whether they would be calling for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation, the people said.”

RIP FORMER FIRST DOG BO — Former President BARACK OBAMA tweeted that one of the family’s first dogs, BO, passed away Saturday. “For more than a decade, Bo was a constant, gentle presence in our lives—happy to see us on our good days, our bad days, and everyday in between,” Obama wrote. The Twitter thread

SPOTTED: Kevin Sorbo, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Brexit leader Nigel Farage and Karyn Turk at Mar-a-Lago for the “Helping a Hero” Gala on Friday.

MEDIAWATCH — Fox’s White House correspondent Kristin Fisher heads to CNN to cover space, Deadline reports.

TRANSITION — Justine Sanders will be comms director for House Armed Services ranking member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). She previously was comms director for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.).

WEDDING — Melanie Baucom Lawhorn, press secretary for Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Donovan Lawhorn, a senior associate at Fannie Mae, got married on May 8, 2020 with limited guests and celebrated with family and friends on Friday. The two met on Bumble, then the Capitol Hill Starbucks in 2017. Pic Another pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Danielle Quercia, scheduler for Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Jon Quercia, an engineer at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, welcomed Leo Reid Benjamin Quercia on Thursday. He came in at 8 lbs and 13 oz. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NYT’s Mark Leibovich and Ezra Klein … Facebook’s Joel KaplanParker Poling … Third Way’s Jon Cowan … Fox News’ Dana Perino, Garrett Tenney and Jordan PowellStu Sandler … Veho’s Theo LeCompteTaylor Andreae … POLITICO’s Victoria Guida and Chris ReShoreFabion SeatonNihal Krishan of the Washington Examiner … Gregg KellerAshley SchapitlDavid PereraChris Ullman of Ullman Communications … Gregory WhittenLauren DecotJason Linde of Food Allergy Research & Education … Justin Miller … White House’s Dhara NayyarKent Knutson … Harvard’s David Gergen, a CNN senior political analyst … Danielle Friedman … former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt John McEntee Aaron Krejci … former A.G. John Ashcroft … former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) … Drew Sullivan … Hungarian President János Áder

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.

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