Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of our loyal readers from both sides of the aisle. Thanks to everyone who sent in your questions! We got so many that we’re going to split this up into another one or two newsletters. So, if you haven’t already put your question in the comments section, you’ve still got a Christmas chance for an answer!
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Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
Tracy Holmes: Murphy recommends the President shows some spirit and pick a fight - isn’t the fiery statement from the WH on Sunday evidence of that? Or is the recommendation to pick a specific fight?
GIBBS: Good question Tracy. And it allows me to insert a news clip I wanted to share. I don’t usually find political advice from Times columnists to be, well, all that good, usually. But this one is, as they say, a “must read”: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/22/opinion/wheres-joe-biden.html. I think the past several months have made this President far less commanding and far less Presidential. Spending three and a half decades in the Senate I think has something to do with that because he’s felt as much like the Majority Leader of the Senate than the President. A 50-50 Senate can also cause that. To me, the collapse of the Build Back Better plan gives him an opportunity to be Presidential again. But it will test him. Biden wasn’t elected for his speechmaking or his TV communication skills, but as this column suggests he needs to be more present. Hit the road more. Do more interviews. Lay out what’s at stake. In terms of a fight, create and better communicate the contrast Dems will need to force in 2022.
MURPHY: Tracy, I agree with Robert on the tactics, but tone-wise I’d say Hell yes. I want passion and fight out of Biden. I think the BBB plan was an overreach – as Manchin is proving – but fighting hard for some big chunks of it – stuff people can understand on a bumper sticker level – would do Biden a bunch of good politically.
Ellen-Ann Lacey: Do you think Joe Biden will run in '24?
MURPHY: He’ll try Ellen-Ann, all Presidents want to stay President. It’s not a job you pay the heavy price to go get if your ego doesn’t think you’re the best person in the universe to hold the office. But I think President Biden answered the question well this week; he has to say he’s running to avoid the lame duck trap but he wisely, and honestly, left a health loophole in his answer. If the D’s have an awful midterm, however, Biden will get blamed and potential primary challengers will start sniffing around… that might persuade the POTUS to pull the plug on a second term. So he’s running, but don’t bank on it with absolute certainly.
GIBBS: The answer to this question will tell us a lot about the next few years in American politics. Certainly, everyone knows Joe Biden is the oldest person ever to be sworn in as President. Donald Trump is the second oldest. Both have age going against them in 2024. And, let’s be very clear, if Biden knew he wasn’t running again, it would be incredibly stupid to say that now. Life in Washington is tough enough for Biden without telling the world he’s a lame duck. However, I think President Biden’s answer to ABC’s David Muir in an interview Wednesday is both his best answer on this to date and the best answer to give overall. When Muir asked if he planned on running again, Biden said, “Yes, but look, I'm a great respecter of fate. Fate has intervened in my life many, many times. If I'm in the health I'm in now… I would run again." I have no doubt Biden wants to run again. It’s sensible to plan (the key word in Muir’s question) that he will run again, but also sensible to evaluate your ability to serve another four-year term once that time comes.
Conan Campbell: Will Andrew Yang's Forward Party benefit from all the Dems and Repubs dysfunction since 2020?
GIBBS: This question comes around every so often, particularly at a time of political dysfunction as we are in now. Conan, count me as someone who thinks the Forward Party’s best days are behind it. That’s not a critique of it or Andrew Yang. But, I just don’t see, despite dysfunction, that people in each political party are so fed up with those parties that they think it’s time for a new one. Also, it’s incredibly hard to start, grow and maintain a new party. Ballot access is not easy in most states, not to mention the cost of building one of these. Now, Yang and the Forward Party certainly could come up with interesting ideas that impact the political debate. Ross Perot (and his big bucks) made deficits and a critique of federal spending something that became far more mainstream as part of the 1992 campaign and in the several years beyond that race, even if the Reform Party itself never amounted to much.
MURPHY: I was a bit soft on Yang; I own a Math cap and found Yang appealing when he ran for POTUS. But I think he’s over now… on a fast train to Palookaville. The NYC Mayoral race hurt him a lot.
(An Anonymous Reader): I can't believe I'm a Mike Murphy fan. Please don't tell anybody. Gibbs, the Axe, and my favorite guest Rahm Emanuel. Scariest moments: when Rahm Emanuel and Mike Murphy agree.
MURPHY: You think you are scared Anonymous?!? How the Hell do you think I feel!?! But Rahm is politically a very smart cat. So Great minds and all I guess!
GIBBS: Completely understandable that you would leave this comment only because of the cloak of anonymity. And, trust me, Anonymous, it’s painful when we write this newsletter and I find myself agreeing with Murphy, too! When Rahm and Murphy agree, it is indeed worrisome – like check the radar for asteroids headed towards Earth worrisome. But, it’s also nice to know that two can disagree without making it so personal. We miss that right now in our politics. And as an aside, congratulations to your favorite guest, Rahm Emanuel. If you missed it, he was sworn in this week as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan! See what being a guest on Hacks on Tap will do for your career!
Cole Phillips: The national political environment favors Republicans, but I feel like the Senate environment favors Democrats. I think the Democrats will win PA and Wisconsin, while losing Georgia. In the other states like AZ, NH, and NV I would not be shocked if Republicans win, but I think Democrats in those states should be the favorites. So, my question is why does there appear to be pro-Republican sentiment in the Senate when the map favors Democrats?
GIBBS: Cole, I think you’re right that the same political environment can impact the House and Senate races differently. As the states have gone through redistricting this year and others will finish soon, House districts have tended to become even more aligned with one party. The number of real honest to goodness swing Congressional districts has dwindled even further. But statewide races tend to offer political terrain that isn’t as monolithic. While the GOP are the clear favorites to capture control of the House, I do think the Senate is more of a jump ball. States have safe Dem territory, safe GOP territory and swing areas. 2022 is going to be a brawl for control of the upper chamber of Congress as there are Senate races in the top 7 closest Presidential states from the 2020 campaign: Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The number grows to 7 if you throw in New Hampshire, based on raw vote but not percentage. All but one of those states (the exception being NC) were won by Biden. I’m not sure I’m ready to predict the outcome of the Senate because there are a lot of primaries in these states that will determine their overall competitiveness, but you can definitely bet it’s going to be close and fun to watch.
MURPHY: I agree with both of you, but the Senate could still go sour on the Dems for big national reasons. It’s true that the key swing suburbs in the key Senate races should feel a pull toward the Democrats over Trump, potentially Roe, and other branding issues. Plus the GOP primary world has shown plenty of Trump-driven insanity which could lead to loser candidates being nominated. (Though it is too early in the 2022 primary season to know for sure; Trump’s had a mixed record in primaries so far.) With all that said it remains true that nothing is quite as powerful in the midterms as the view voters hold of the incumbent President (not the former one.) If an anti-Biden/Democratic wave builds – and inflation plus no improvement in President Biden’s shaky poll numbers could crescendo into exactly that situation – a big tide could still deliver the Senate Majority to the Republicans. Such a tide could propel even dud R candidates to victory. That’s why it’s so important for Democrats to get Biden’s numbers back up.
Louis DelValle: When will we know that Trumpism is a spent force? When do you expect it to happen? Will it gain a second life with the likely House takeover of @GOP? Would it help Biden's reelection having bat guano crazy Republican in the house? I just see attention at America's expense.
MURPHY: Louis, I think the 2022 primary season will be the first canary in the coal mine re: Trump, followed by the 2023 early primary season. That’s the mark to market moment for Trump. And who knows, the Trump we have today may not be the same Trump we have in a year. Legal trouble, age, meat loaf consumption, and general increasing craziness all could have a material effect on his political strength. I think Trump will be weaker by 2023-4. To me the big question is less about Trump and more about whether or not the Biden Democrats are able to stop the clown car stuff and fix themselves or will they still be in so much trouble that even a hot mess like Trump could actually win a general election and, shudder, be back in 2024.
GIBBS: Agree with Mike here that Trump has a good bit riding on 2022 and his legal troubles are real. But, if he decides to run again in 2024, I’d bet he’s the GOP nominee. His grip on the party is real and, as I see it, it’s getting stronger not weaker. Your question is a good one because I also believe Trumpism will far outlast Trump himself. I think he’s unleashed forces that simply can’t be reeled back in. I fear Trumpism lasts a very long time.
John Parker Ford: Immediately after Manchin tanked BBB (at least for now), progressive Democrats began saying it's proof they were right about keeping BBB and Infrastructure tied together for leverage. Isn't that a ridiculous conclusion to draw? Manchin was either going to vote for Infrastructure by itself or vote no on a joint BBB+Infrastructure deal. If I'm right, what do progressives' delusions signal for the short-term future of the Dem Party?
MURPHY: Yup, totally nuts. I’ve been howling about this for months. They took a huge, shiny, politically strong accomplishment and then bolted it on a jalopy and entered a Demolition Derby. Now, many argue on the left that Biden had to do it or the Progs would have killed infrastructure in the House. I think that was a bluff and Biden should have called it and forced an early vote, after making some solemn commitments that BBB would come next. I think he could have pulled it off and would be in better shape today if he had. I think Beltway CW is full of these “had to” rules and most of total bullshit. (Like, for example, Biden “had to” pick Kamala as VP. If he had a time machine now, I doubt he would of and he did not have to at all.)
GIBBS: From their point of view, and I think they’re right, Manchin would have continued to negotiate down the amount in BBB and eventually vote for both bills. Once the fate of those bills were no longer linked, using infrastructure to gain something was also gone. I think the next couple of months will be interesting to see how pragmatic the progressives can be. My hunch is they know that BBB is the last big dollar, long-term bill this Dem Congress will do. And they’re not likely to be in control in 2023. So, this will quickly be the last exit for gas and I bet the progressives find a way to take it, even if it isn’t as big as they’d like or contain all or even many of the policy priorities they’d like to see passed.
Thanks for all of your questions! We’ll be back with more answers next week so if you have any more questions, leave them in the comments section!
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!
Murphy and Gibbs