With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
COACH BAGGAGE — Senate Republicans are set to discuss a possible resolution to Sen. TOMMY TUBERVILLE’s blockade of military promotions this afternoon, and, in a new exclusive this morning, Sen. KYSTEN SINEMA (I-Ariz.) speaks to Burgess Everett about how she worked to unstick the Alabama Republican — and build support among his GOP colleagues for an end-around.
“I still hope not to have to use a resolution” to quash Tuberville’s blockage, she tells Burgess. “The best way for this to be resolved is for Coach to choose a hostage that is appropriate.”
ELECTION DAY IN THE USA — For political junkies, off-year elections can feel like the Sunday before the Super Bowl does for sports fans. You’re hankering for the big showdown, but instead all you’ve got to watch is the Pro Bowl, and it’ll just have to do.
But this isn’t a meaningless exhibition game. Polls are opening this morning in nearly 40 states, with governorships, state legislatures and key policy measures, including abortion access, on the ballot. It’s the largest single day of voting till next November.
Each race has its own important stakes, and while we’d love to dive deep on, say, the Suffolk County executive race in New York, here’s our guide to the key issues for 2024 we might learn something about tonight:
— How much is abortion still motivating votes? … Over and over again since Roe fell, voters have taken their anger, fear and frustration out on Republican candidates who suddenly found themselves out of step with voters on abortion restrictions and without a cohesive message regarding their next moves on the issue.
The question is directly on the ballot in Ohio, making Issue 1 a litmus test for messaging and tactics on both sides of the debate. Democrats are hoping to find success here in taking a page out of the GOP playbook, using citizen-driven initiatives on hot-button issues to drive voter turnout in a possible model for other states.
The big proxy fight, however, is in Virginia, where key legislative races have been largely fought over the issue of abortion access. A net gain of three state Senate seats would hand Virginia Gov. GLENN YOUNGKIN a trifecta, while Democrats are trying to not only keep their Senate majority but flip the House of Delegates. What’s really interesting here is whether the GOP finds any success in its efforts to rhetorically moderate by coalescing around a 15-week cutoff for abortions, which is less strict than the bans that have been imposed in other GOP-controlled states.
Related read: “An Ohio amendment serves as a testing ground for statewide abortion fights expected in 2024,” by AP’s Julie Carr Smyth and Christine Fernando in Columbus
— How much of a drag is President JOE BIDEN? … Biden’s woes are no secret. He’s behind DONALD TRUMP in recent polling from key swing states. Survey after survey shows grave voter doubt about his ability to lead. And, as our colleague Alex Burns pointed out yesterday, he’s facing a pincer movement of resistance inside his own party from the center and left.
Yet it’s completely unclear whether any of it will matter in the two biggest races where Democratic executive leadership is on the ballot. Kentucky Gov. ANDY BESHEAR is one of the most popular governors in the country, running in a tight race against Republican AG DANIEL CAMERON in a state that Trump carried by more than 26 points. Mississippi Gov. TATE REEVES, meanwhile, is facing an unusually strong bid from Democrat BRANDON PRESLEY. Both are tight races that have seen polls narrow in the final weeks.
As our colleague Zach Montellaro writes in a curtain-raiser coming later this morning, Republicans have eagerly tried to pin Biden to Beshear and Presley, though neither have embraced him in any way.
“The contests are a test of the nationalization of politics — will Biden be a drag to races he isn’t talking about? — and a gut-check on whether Biden’s bad approval ratings are as dangerous for Democrats as they seem on paper, or more of an electoral mirage that suggests some voters are still open to pulling the lever for him, even if they aren’t necessarily happy about it.”
Related read: “Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hopes to show Democrats can win even if Biden is unpopular,” by ABC’s Tal Axelrod in Campbell County, Ky.
— Do Democrats have a Black and suburban turnout problem? … The slice-and-dice nature of modern politics means parties and candidates need to be hypersensitive to shifts among any subgroup of voters. But if you’re a Democrat worrying about Black voters and suburbanites, then you’re got a real big problem on your hands.
The party’s longtime base and the engine of its post-Trump transformation, respectively, those two demographics are key to the Democratic coalition. And with evidence mounting that Black voters in particular aren;t feeling very motivated to cast a ballot, party strategists are going to be closely watching Mississippi, in particular, for clues about 2024.
As for the suburbs, keep an eye on the Virginia results to see if the GOP has regained any ground in the sprawling suburban and exurban counties of the Old Dominion. Be sure to watch Kentucky as well, where Cameron has made a big play to cut into Beshear’s margins in the affluent environs surrounding Louisville and Lexington.
Related read: “How these suburban Virginia women vote could shape the future of America’s abortion debate,” by CNN’s John King
— Does any of it matter for 2024? … As political obsessives, it’s our job to put any scrap of available evidence — every poll, every interview and certainly every electoral outcome — under the microscope for clues to what’s ahead. That said, how much are we really going to learn about a presidential race that looks destined to match two historically unpopular candidates against each other?
We asked JIM MESSINA, who ran BARACK OBAMA’s successful 2012 reelection, what is signal and what is noise in the off-year elections. Messina, who is famous for telling Democrats to chill out, said the results won’t be a crystal ball into next year’s results but rather a X-ray machine revealing whether either party’s “theory of the case” holds water.
To glean those lessons, Messina said he’ll be paying particularly close attention to Virginia tonight, where both parties have devoted tons of money and attention to honing their abortion message. For the GOP, he said, “whatever their new thing is, they’re going to want to see if it worked.” And for Democrats, “You just spent a bunch of DNC money in Virginia. And those are obviously tests. … And so they’re going to be poring deeply over the data to say, what did we learn?”
Related read: “5 key races on Virginia ballots Tuesday,” by the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Andrew Cain
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: JOHNSON OPENS HIS BOOKS — “Newly elected Speaker of the House MIKE JOHNSON does not have a bank account.” That was the lead of a Daily Beast story last week that cited financial disclosure forms in highlighting Johnson’s relatively modest finances — and speculating about Johnson’s financial well-being and whether he might be “ripe for influence buying.”
The story prompted a host of follow-up articles, a late-night talk-show crack and a line of questioning on this week’s “Fox News Sunday.” Throughout, Johnson’s office declined to comment on the central claim — that he doesn’t have so much as a simple checking account.
But last night Johnson’s new spokesman, RAJ SHAH, reached out to Playbook to set the record straight: “Speaker Johnson has a personal bank account,” Shah said in a statement, explaining that the account is exempt from House disclosure rules because it is not interest-bearing.
You can file that disclosure under “better late than never,” and we’ll also file a friendly suggestion with the speaker: Don’t let inflation eat away at your scratch — savings accounts are paying over 4% these days!
On the Hill
The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. to take up a handful of nominations.
The House will meet at 10 a.m.
3 things to watch …
SCOOP:House Republican leaders will appear this morning with family members of hostages who are being held by Hamas inside Gaza, Playbook has learned. Joining the weekly GOP news conference will be the mother of GUY ILUZ, the brothers of ALON SHAMRIZ and the brother of ZIV and GALI BERMAN, as well as Rep. CORY MILLS (R-Fla.), who traveled to Israel after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack to help extricate Americans who were unable to return home.
- We’re getting more hints about what the “laddered CR” that Johnson floated last week might look like, and it might just have two rungs (more of a “stepstool CR,” as our colleague KTM put it). A proposal detailed in yesterday’s House GOP leadership meeting would set the next deadline for four approps bills before Christmas, while pushing the other seven out into the new year. That’s one option Johnson is likely to float in this morning’s GOP conference meeting as the Nov. 17 deadline fast approaches.
- There’s another deadline looming: So-called “702” surveillance authority for federal law enforcement agencies is set to expire at the end of the year, and there’s bipartisan agreement that changes are needed to existing law. Hashing out what those changes will be, however, will be tricky. The process kicks into high gear today with the release of a bipartisan proposal from Sens. MIKE LEE (R-Utah) and RON WYDEN (D-Ore.), while House Judiciary Chair JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) tells Jordain Carney he plans to mark up his own proposal by the end of the month.
At the White House
Biden and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the morning. In the afternoon, Biden will tour demonstrations at “American Possibilities: A White House Demo Day.” Press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE and JOHN KIRBY will brief at 2 p.m.
DEMS’ DILEMMA — With roughly a year to go before the 2024 election, the Biden reelection campaign is taking a hard look at where it stands among voters after an early decision to bolster Biden’s image rather than attack Trump.
“That bet has so far not paid off. Trump has largely skated through the primary without being attacked by his opponents. And Biden’s numbers have not budged,” our colleagues Jonathan Lemire, Adam Cancryn, Holly Otterbein and Elena Schneider write in the latest look at the hand-wringing among Dems over the best path forward for the president.
“Recently, some on the president’s team have begun revisiting the strategy. Several prominent Democrats close to the campaign, granted anonymity to speak more freely about internal operations, said discussions are taking place among Biden brass about how much to prioritize positive campaigning over negative. And allies are calling directly for a more aggressive approach.”
Fuel to the fire: And WaPo’s Tyler Pager and Dan Balz report that Biden’s allies are “growing increasingly anxious” as they believe the reelect team is “ignoring warning signs and not taking action to correct course amid increasing indications that Biden is likely to face a tough race” against Trump. Top of mind amid these concerns is Biden’s standing among Black voters.
Related read: “‘Five-alarm fire’: Democratic frustrations with Biden spill into the open,” by NBC’s Peter Nicholas, Megan Lebowitz, Katherine Doyle and Alex Seitz-Wald
More top reads:
WHAT’S THE DEAL — A group of Senate Republicans are “demanding a crackdown on asylum claims at the southern border and other policy changes as a condition for backing President Biden’s $106 billion request for supplemental funding for Israel and Ukraine,” WSJ’s Michelle Hackman and Lindsay Wise report. “The one-page proposal, put forward by a group of Republican senators including Sens. JAMES LANKFORD (R., Okla.), LINDSEY GRAHAM (R., S.C.) and TOM COTTON (R., Ark.), represents the opening bid in negotiations with Senate Democrats and the White House.” Read the proposal
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: A bipartisan group of 139 mayors from 39 states penned an open letter to Congress, underlining their support for the president’s supplemental request that includes additional funding for immigration. “While we welcome migrants to our cities, we need more help to provide them food, housing, services and access to employment,” they write. The letter is signed by notable Democratic mayors, including New York City’s ERIC ADAMS, LA’s KAREN BASS and Chicago’s BRANDON JOHNSON. Read the letter
Related read: “Eric Adams’ legal woes overshadow NYC’s migrant crisis,” by Emily Ngo, Nick Reisman and Jeff Coltin
More top reads:
SCOTUS WATCH — The Supreme Court today is set to wade back into the debate over gun rights when it hears arguments on whether it’s unconstitutional for the government to take away guns from people under domestic violence restraining orders, Josh Gerstein writes in a preview of the showdown. “Some critics see the domestic violence case as a chance to point out the absurdity of the high court conservative majority’s increasing reliance on historical arguments to assess laws’ constitutionality. At first glance, looking to the 1700s or 1800s to justify keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers seems like a fool’s errand.”
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Appeals court mulls reviving Sarah Palin’s suit against New York Times — again,” by Josh Gerstein
TRIAL BALLOON — Special counsel JACK SMITH’s team argued in a new filing yesterday that Trump’s “bid to subvert the 2020 election was far from a case of misplaced ‘advocacy’ or constitutionally protected speech, and he urged the federal judge presiding over Trump’s Washington, D.C., trial to sweep aside Trump’s bid to ‘sanitize’ his conduct,” our colleague Kyle Cheney writes.
More details: “In a 79-page filing, Smith’s team articulated its clearest case yet for Trump’s prosecution, repeatedly characterizing Trump’s false claims of election fraud as knowing lies aimed at defrauding election officials — from secretaries of state and governors to his own vice president, MIKE PENCE. Smith also indicated he intends to introduce evidence in Trump’s March trial that Trump stoked the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and then used it to further his effort to derail Congress’ proceedings that day.” Read the filing
More top reads:
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
UNDER THE INFLUENCE — NYT’s David Sanger is up with an incisive news analysis examining the president’s role in both the Middle East and Russia’ war in Ukraine: “Biden’s influence over how his allies prosecute those wars seems far more constrained than expected, given his central role as the supplier of arms and intelligence. But because the United States is so tied to both struggles, as Israel’s most powerful ally and Ukraine’s best hope of remaining a free and independent nation, the president’s legacy is tied to how those countries act, and how the wars end.”
DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — “Top Biden administration officials head to Asia to show China remains a top priority amid Israel-Hamas war,” by CNN’s Haley Britzky
POETIC LICENSE — Acclaimed poet RUPI KAUR “rejected an invitation from the White House to attend an upcoming Diwali celebration” that was set to be hosted by Harris, WaPo’s Herb Scribner writes, over the administration’s support for the Israeli campaign in Gaza.
Mike Collins might be the best hype man that House Republicans have.
Mitch McConnell wasn’t a fan of Barack Obama’s comments over the weekend.
Mark Meadows is getting threatened with a lawsuit by his book publisher.
George Norcross wants to sue the NFL after he was booted from the Philadelphia Eagles game for displaying a banner that combined the American and Israeli flags.
Matt Boyle might be your next congressman, Jacksonville.
MEDIA MOVE — Dee J. Hall is now editor-in-chief at Floodlight. She previously was co-founder and managing editor of Wisconsin Watch.
TRANSITIONS — Joshua May is now deputy chief of staff at OMB. He most recently was deputy White House liaison at the Transportation Department. … Cole Leiter is now senior director for strategic comms at the Hub Project. He most recently was director of public affairs for the Federal Highway Administration and is a DCCC alum. … Emma Llansó has joined NTIA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Development. She previously worked at the Center for Democracy & Technology.
ENGAGED — Tim Cummings, chief of staff for Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.), and Katie Webster, senior manager of government affairs at Growth Energy, got engaged last week at their apartment in D.C. They met while working on the Hill in 2019.
— Sarah Wood, creative director for the NRCC, and Luke Nardone, research analyst for the Senate Leadership Fund, got engaged in Key West on Saturday. The two started out as friends and coworkers when they both worked for Marco Rubio’s 2022 reelection campaign in Florida.
WEEKEND WEDDINGS — Nick Runkel, legislative director for Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), and Megan Cunningham, an oncology nurse, got married this weekend at Christ Church in Alexandria, which is where the groom’s parents were married and George Washington was once a parishioner. The ode to history didn’t end there. Following the ceremony, guests were ushered to the Torpedo Factory by following a pre-recorded history walk created by Nick. SPOTTED: Rep. Steve Womack and past and present members of Team Womack. Pic … Another pic
— Jonathan Cannon, policy counsel at the R Street Institute, and Emily Cairns, research associate for health policy at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, got married Sunday at District Winery in Washington, D.C. They shared their first date at District Winery in December 2019. SPOTTED: Anthony Patrone, Frank Russo, Walker Gallman, Carrie Coxen, Olivia Sheir, Callie Coker and Gavin Logan. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.) (6-0), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas) and Rick Allen (R-Ga.) … Sheila Nix of the Education Department … Liz Allen … POLITICO’s Jose Fernandez, Elena Schneider and Sean Reilly … NBC’s Jen Friedman … Caroline Tabler of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) office … Kate O’Connor of House Energy and Commerce … Jose Diaz-Balart … Donald Kohn … Brunswick Group’s Siobhan Gorman … Brad Woodhouse of Protect Our Care (56) … Aanchal Sahay of Planned Parenthood Federation … former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) (93) … Michael Kratsios … former CIA Director David Petraeus … George Thompson of FleishmanHillard … Jeff Bjornstad … Pat Devlin (57) … Allison Rivera of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Bethany Irvine and Andrew Howard.