Well, we begin the week with lots of activity on Capitol Hill from the January 6th hearings to an apparent bipartisan deal on guns. Plus, a recent NYT story on Joe Biden’s political troubles inside the Democratic party is sparking plenty of chatter about Biden’s political future.
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MURPHY: These hearings have been impressive. Watching the various Trump enablers back pedal and spring for the tall grass has been quite a weasel Olympics! Nothing like watching henchmen try to contort themselves into good Germans now that the war is over. Bill Stepien’s attempt to divide Trump world into team “normal” and… well who cares, was particularly loathsome. There is no team normal in Trump world, just slick complicit operators with a cynical eye on their personal careers, versus team insane knuckle draggers. The Stepiens would have you believe they are the heroes when to me at least, the knuckle-dragging lunatics hold the higher moral ground; at least they were crazy enough to believe the Trump madness. The cynics of Team Stepien knew better yet they didn’t care. They chose to join Trump’s guttersnipe mob. In fact, most of them jumped at it. They are even worse.
GIBBS: Murphy, you are on fire! For the Committee to put this positioning mainly in the words of those closest to Trump, the impact has been big. While I'm no Republican aficionado, it seems to me like Rupert Murdoch is trying in the spaces of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post (even if the hearings can’t break through on the primetime airwaves of Fox News) to send as much of a hint as he can to Trump, somebody who doesn't actually get subtlety or hints, that maybe he should spend more time in Mar-a-Lago. We always knew that when the curtain was truly peeled back (and kudos to reporters for already getting a lot of this), the details of this were going to be worse than bad for Trump. No, it won’t move his base, but it can and will turn off the general election voters that didn’t vote for Trump in 2020 and sour them even more on 2024. Democrats are not likely to see a political lift this year as a result of these hearings given the political environment, but I think real damage has (and will) be inflicted on Trump. For Republicans, eager to take back the White House, many more may start to look elsewhere for a different candidate. Most even marginally good political operatives can recite the obvious “elections are about the future” and nothing about the 2020 election fraud lie is focused on the future. Yet, it’s the only thing Trump is focused on and I doubt that will change.
MURPHY: Yup, the facts are getting through and they are Miracle Gro for Republican Trump fatigue. They're amplifying the Trump craziness, and that's not good for him.
MURPHY: By the way Gibbs, it turns out even as there are entire hearings about how awful Trump is, the Democrats’ favorite Holy Writ, New York Times, isn’t doing President Biden any favors for his political future. It’s typical Washington sport for the big broadsheet papers to launch the occasional White House in trouble torpedo at the President during a high stakes midterm election, but this weekend’s harpoon was something else. Basically, it reported growing whispers around the idea that the party ought to dump Joe Biden. This is far sharper stuff than the White House in trouble stories which have been peppering the media for the last few months (most of which now land on the idea that new super comms staffer Anita Dunn will now quickly reverse the slide and turn things around, according to unnamed high level White House sources that rhyme with Bonita Gunn).
The bottom line is the 2024 primary season starter gun has now sounded, before even Labor Day of 2022? Now, I’ve thought for a while that, should the midterms go poorly and President opted to run again, he would indeed face a primary. But even I thought it would take till next Spring for the Democratic sharks circling Joe Biden rumblings to really start. But nope, the first flash of grey fins have now popped up in the paper of Democratic record, before Labor Day of 2022! Yikes. Clear proof the old rules of courtesy and slow treading have left us in this new digital media jungle. The only good news for this is should Biden catch some breaks and avoid a midterm Democratic wipeout, he is set for tremendous comeback story. We’ll see.
GIBBS: I think the most damaging quote wasn't actually in the story. It was when AOC was asked about the story and whether she'd support Biden and it was very dissembling. Biden's always talked about himself as a transitionary figure. And quite frankly, the White House would likely admit they've got some work to do on strengthening his political position within the Democratic Party. There's some CNN polling from much earlier this year that showed 51% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents wanted the party to nominate someone other than Joe Biden. Coincidentally, the same poll showed similar numbers for Trump on the GOP side. That this chatter is starting this early underscores the polling and the precarious position the President finds himself in at the moment.
But Murphy, it turns out, according to the Washington Post, that not everyone in your party is waiting on these January 6th hearing to wrap before they turn on Trump either. What did you make of that story?
MURPHY: While I don’t think these hearings will turn the midterms into the Aaron Sorkin movie the Dems are hoping for, I do think the impact on Trump has been big and important. As the grim-faced insurance adjuster soberly tells the motorist after a car wreck, “it looks like the frame has been badly bent. That car will never be the same.” The hearings have given us the most vivid, fact-based picture yet of what a seditious, unhinged bastard the POTUS is. As this story unfolds, I can feel the air slipping out of the Trump 2024 balloon even inside the GOP. He is badly damaged, moldy goods. DeSantis and others? Call your office.
MURPHY: This gun bill is a solid step forward on a hugely difficult political issue. It’s not the leap forward many want, nor even a steady trot. But it is something and something good. Take the win people. We are in a politics where National Turnip Day is a battle to pass. And long journeys start with first steps. My salute to the Senators in both parties that got this done.
GIBBS: Yeah, this isn't close to what we need to do to on gun safety in America, but like you said, I think everybody understands how important and monumental this agreement can be both for policy and political reasons. The last time they did anything on guns was 1994 when Joe Biden helped pass the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban into law. So this is a tremendously important step because, most importantly, it might prevent somebody else from doing something terrible and from innocent people having their lives ended due to gun violence. But, politically, it's imperative for Republicans and Democrats alike to be able to take these even small steps and not all lose their seats because of it. Let’s be honest: people haven’t acted because they were more afraid of losing the election than anything else. Unless you can show people the path for the important policy journey, it's going to be hard to make any real progress. And again, I get people's frustration. I think it is looney tunes that anyone not in our military needs an assault rifle, but this is where we sadly are in the realities of the gun debate.
MURPHY: Yeah, electeds have to survive this deal so it can encourage more good behavior to hopefully get even more done in the future.
GIBBS: Finally, this is our weekly reminder of the big primaries happening today, especially in Nevada and South Carolina for the GOP. Very interested to see who is nominated in the Nevada Senate race in that toss up seat, plus Rep. Nancy Mace and Tom Rice try to buck Trump and win in a very, very red state. And speaking of primaries, it looks like Sarah Palin gets to continue her attempt at a re-boot in Alaska. She leads the initial balloting with a little more than 54% of the vote counted. She even beat Santa Claus! Among GOP candidates in the race, she got almost 50% of those votes. Normally, she’s be sitting in a very strong spot. Murphy, thoughts on your favorite former Vice Presidential nominee?
MURPHY: Ranked choice voting, new to Alaska, is about being first, second and even third choice of voters. With 1/3 of the vote, Palin has a solid base of first choicers. But that can also be a ceiling for polarizing candidates like her. We’ll see if she can grow, but I think she’s in for a tough race.
See you on Friday!
Murphy and Gibbs