President Trump's struggles are clear: The most recent public polling shows him losing ground with a wide range of voters across seven states Trump won in 2016. Biden holds a slight lead in North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, and Michigan, key states on the path to the White House. The presumptive Democratic nominee also has a clear lead in Pennsylvania, which is considered more favorable to Democrats. And Biden is locked even with Trump in Ohio and Texas, states Trump won by 8 and 9 points, respectively, in 2016.
With its growing and diverse electorate, Georgia has also emerged as competitive after Trump nabbed it by five points in 2016. All of which suggests Biden may have a broader path to 270 electoral votes than previously anticipated.
- “We still look at the map in a very similar way,” a Biden campaign official told Power Up. "Three buckets of states: states we won in 2016 and need to hold on to; states [Barack] Obama won that we need to take back; and then there are these new emerging first time states – Georgia, Arizona, Texas – that we are frankly putting on the map for the first time."
The debate over expanding the playing field is a sign of Trump's weakness as he struggles to manage the coronavirus crisis. The president's approval ratings have plummeted as the number of cases and deaths rise, along with unemployment rates.
Biden's campaign is being cautious, setting its sights on the more conventional swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. But the campaign is starting to consider whether to plunk precious resources into previously red states, where Trump's slump is also dragging down GOP Senate candidates and exciting Democrats in places they haven't won in decades.
And not everyone associated with Biden is as convinced of the opportunities in places like Texas, where Democrats haven't won a presidential contest in over four decades.
- “Texas is 22 [expletive] media markets,” said one Biden adviser. “That is never going to happen. It’s just not going to happen. Everyone knows that. I don’t know why people are still even talking about it.”
- “Georgia is real and that’s a decision this campaign will have to eventually make but not until we feel really comfortable about the six core states — and we are going up in Nevada tomorrow just to make sure since it’s a state that gets squirrelly in a recession,” the adviser said.
- The adviser added there is “plenty of time” to invest in Georgia and credited ex-gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams's voter turnout operation for building out the Democratic infrastructure in the state.
- “You have to be realistic,” the adviser added, scolding critics who say the campaign is being too risk averse,
Democrats have made inroads in Arizona in recent years but Texas and Georgia are less reliable gambits. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the Lone Star States was Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win Georgia in 1992. The Biden campaign official said the campaign has long seen Texas and Georgia, along with North Carolina and Arizona, as targets due to diversifying and growing suburbs trending toward Democrats.
- “We also know we have a candidate that opens doors because of his unique qualities,” the official said. “He really appeals to a large set of voters and some of those more moderate suburban voters and disaffected Obama -Trump voters that really open up our lane in some of these tougher states.”
Texas dreaming: Texas Democrats are particularly enthused by chances up and down the ballot and have been pressing the Biden camp to run hard there. The state offers “House Democrats more pickup opportunities than any other state and the prospect of claiming a majority in the state House and on the state Supreme Court, both of which could prove pivotal for redistricting,” reported Jonathan Martin for the New York Times.
- Abhi Rahman, the communications director at the Texas Democratic Party, said the party has seen an uptick in interest from the Biden campaign there. The Biden camp launched its first general election ad in the state two weeks ago.
- “If the election was held today, Joe Biden would win Texas,” Rahman boldly predicted. “I think you’ll see palpable meaningful investment to make sure that not only Biden wins at the top but down ballot as well.”
- Rahman pointed to Trump's campaign travel schedule and ad spending as a sign of its real vulnerability in the state. Trump is visiting Odessa tomorrow — his 16th visit to the state and “one of his top destination states during his tenure in the White House,” per the Houston Chronicle's Jeremy Wallace.
Reality check: “This is a quad-annual hunt for fools gold,” Dave Carney, a Republican strategist and adviser to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), told us. “National Democrats always thing they know the fly over states better then folks on the ground.”
- “Biden is making the same mistake Hillary [Clinton] made thinking to go after these less competitive states instead of focusing on their own states. When swing voters in Michigan think Biden is not competent to serve in office,” Carney added.
- The Trump campaign echoed Carney's sentiment in a statement: “President Trump is going to again win the states he won in 2016 and will fight to win in states where he came close last time, like New Hampshire, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nevada. If Joe Biden wants to spend money in places like Georgia and Texas, we strongly encourage him to do so. He should spend a lot of money in Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas. Buy up a lot of TV ads in those markets for sure. ”
THE GOP HAS A $1 TRILLION RELIEF PLAN: “All parties faced a tight deadline for a breakthrough as expanded jobless aid benefits are set to expire later this week,” Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim report. Here's what's in it.
Don't bank on a deal: “The prospects for a bipartisan deal remained far from certain as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer met late [last night] with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to begin formal negotiations,” our colleagues write.
- Pelosi speaks: “We hope that we would be able to reach an agreement,” she said after the meeting. “We clearly do not have shared values. Having said that, we just want to see if we can find some common ground to go forward. But we’re not at that place yet.”
- Ride on: “But the GOP legislation contains a number of provisions not directly related to the coronavirus, including $1.8 billion for construction of a new FBI headquarters in Washington. President Trump has taken a personal interest in this project, but White House officials have not stipulated why they believe the language needed to be inserted in the coronavirus bill. Critics have alleged Trump is trying to keep the FBI building at its current location, which is diagonal from a Trump hotel property in downtown D.C.”
‘HEALS’ versus ‘HEROES,’ unpacking the GOP's proposal: Acronyms are far from the only differences between the two plans. There's a $2 trillion gap, a major cut to pandemic unemployment benefits and funding to keep the FBI building in downtown D.C., Jeff Stein, Laura Meckler and Tony Romm report. Democrats passed their plan, the Heroes Act, in May with only one Republican, Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), voting for it.
Unemployment benefits: As expected, this remains a major disagreement. Democrats want to extend the $600 weekly payments that 20 million unemployed Americans are receiving which are set to expire at the end of this week.
- Under the GOP plan, sates would have until October to adopt a new system that would give people 70 percent of what they made in their jobs (current legislation provides $600 weekly in supplemental unemployment benefits.) Until then, the federal government would provide $200 weekly, $400 less than currently on offer.
More stimulus checks: A rare area of bipartisan agreement.
- Virtually everyone who received a stimulus check last time would receive another $1,200 payment. The GOP's “HEALS” plan also tweaks the eligibility of dependents so they can access a $500 supplement if they are older than 17. (Democrats would give Americans $1,200 per dependent.)
No new money for states or local governments: Governors amped up bipartisan pressure to get Congress to allocate more money, but the GOP's plan includes no new funding. (Democrats approved $1 trillion more in their plan.)
- Instead of increased funding, the GOP would allow more flexibility for the $150 billion states were previously allocated, something governors have also asked for.
Money to help reopen schools: $105 billion for education, with $70 billion targeted to K-12 schools. Of that, two-thirds of the funding is reserved to help schools reopen for in-person instruction.
- Trump has threatened current funding for schools that don't reopen full-time, even though he doesn't have the power to do so. By tying a majority of the new dollars to reopening, GOP lawmakers may be hoping to appease those demands. ("Senate Democrats are demanding more total money for schools, although House Democrats’ package has slightly less," per our colleagues.)
More funding for public health agencies. Republicans overruled the White House on this issue after some administration officials argued there should be much less devoted to this area given unspent dollars from previous efforts.
- What that means: $16 billion in funding for coronavirus testing, $16 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A “liability shield”: McConnell has repeatedly said this is his “red line,” so not surprisingly it's in the bill.
- Businesses, hospitals, universities and schools would receive protections for five years to help them avoid lawsuits over coronavirus-related damages.
The red herring: What is funding for a new FBI building doing in a covid relief package? When reporters asked Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), a key negotiator of the stimulus package, he paused and said “Good question,” Jonathan O'Connell, Seung Min Kim and Erica Werner report.
The White House demanded the money: Initially, the request was denied, but $1.75 billion is in the bill. Both parties and the FBI agree their current headquarters are inadequate, but Trump is fixated on keeping the bureau in downtown Washington versus in suburban Maryland or Virginia.
- Schumer claimed it benefits the 'Trump hotel': “Before Trump was elected, officials at his company raised concerns about a competing hotel possibly being built in place of the Hoover Building should the FBI relocate to the suburbs,” our colleagues write. The Justice Department's inspector general is already investigating the administration's scuttling of new headquarters plans that were in place before Trump took office.
On The Hill
BARR PLANS DEFENSE OF TRUMP: “Attorney General William P. Barr will tell the House Judiciary Committee [today] that [Trump] has not inappropriately intervened in Justice Department business — even though Barr has more than once moved in criminal cases to help the president’s allies — and he will defend the administration’s response to civil unrest in the country …,” Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian report.
- This is Barr's first appearance in front of the powerful panel since Democrats took control: “According to a Democratic committee counsel, lawmakers will ask Barr about his role dispatching federal agents to respond to anti-police-brutality protests that have at times grown violent — first in D.C. and more recently, in Portland, Ore. Several Democratic leaders — including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) — have asked the Justice Department and Homeland Security inspectors general to probe the federal government’s actions in those cities and raised questions about whether they were legal,” our colleagues write.
Quotes from Barr's opening statement: The hearing begins at 10 a.m.
- Defending Trump: “From my experience, the President has played a role properly and traditionally played by Presidents,” he will say.
- On Black Lives Matter and the focus on police misconduct after George Floyd's death: “The threat to black lives posed by crime on the streets is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct.”
- On sending federal agents to help local officers: “When the police are attacked, when they are defunded, when they are driven out of urban communities, it is black lives that will suffer most from their absence.”
In the Agencies
MORE AGENTS SENT TO PORTLAND: “The Trump administration is sending more federal agents to Portland, Ore., already the site of aggressive policing tactics that activists and city officials across the country say are inspiring more-violent clashes and re-energizing protests,” Devlin Barrett, Nick Miroff, Marissa J. Lang and David A. Fahrenthold report.
What's happening, according to internal emails our colleagues obtained: The U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security plan to send more federal agents to the city. DHS is considering sending as many as 50 U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel.
- Key stat: “There were 114 federal agents there in mid-July — though it is unclear how many existing personnel could be sent home after the arrival of at least 100 reinforcements, according to internal Marshals emails.”
VEEPSTAKES HEATS UP: Biden shared a brief face-to-face encounter with Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.), reportedly on his short list as a running mate, after paying his respects to civil rights icon John Lewis. Their brief meeting was just one of a handful of developments as we get closer to August, when Biden is expected to name a No. 2.
The quote about Sen. Kamala D. Harris everyone is talking about: Harris famously leveled Biden during a primary debate over busing. Such moments are not uncommon (voodoo economics, anyone?), but the Trump campaign would almost certainly weaponize the exchange. The California senator was reportedly asked in private whether she regretted the exchange as she continued to be vetted as Biden's running mate.
For now, Harris remains near the top list, per Politico: “Interviews with more than four dozen elected officials, strategists, former Biden advisers and plugged-in donors said they think Harris is the closest Biden has to a ‘do no harm’ option.”
- What happened: “'She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,' former senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a member of Biden's vice presidential search committee, told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to Politico, Natasha Korecki, Christopher Cadelago and Marc Caputo report.
- Dodd is so worried about Harris that he is pushing Bass: “'Dodd felt it was a gimmick, that it was cheap,' the donor said. The person added that Dodd’s concerns about Harris were so deep that he's helped elevate [Bass] during the vetting process, urging Biden to pick her because ‘she’s a loyal No. 2. And that’s what Biden really wants.’ Through an aide, Dodd declined to comment. Advisers to Harris also declined to comment,” Politico reports.
The Susan Rice boomlet: The former U.N. ambassador and Obama national security adviser has been the subject of multiple profiles over the last week, including two on Monday. The New York Times's Alex Burns explored the extent of Rice's consideration of running against Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), something that was far more serious that previously reported.
- Key quote: “He has seen her not just in good times but on really hard and challenging occasions,” former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told Politico. “There is a level and depth to her experience which would be a real asset.” Jarrett said she's not endorsing anyone, but she's repeatedly commented on Rice and Biden's close relationship — something our colleagues Sean Sullivan and Karen DeYoung also explored.
- A fact to keep in mind: “She would be the first person chosen for vice president without prior elected experience since 1972, when the Democratic ticket included R. Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps director and John F. Kennedy’s brother-in-law — like Rice, a diplomat closely linked to a president sorely missed by his party,” the Times reports.
In the Media
Lawmakers honor Lewis: “John Lewis made his final trip to the Capitol, where lawmakers paid tribute to the late congressman and delivered a standing ovation when a recording of his booming voice — a clarion call for racial justice — echoed through the Rotunda,” Paul Kane, Felicia Sonmez, Meagan Flynn and Michael Brice-Saddler report.
- Trump said he will not be attending any events to honor the civil rights icon: Vice president Pence and second lady Karen Pence stopped by the Capitol Monday evening.
The president was so annoyed with Anthony S. Fauci that he scheduled a first pitch for the Yankees without telling anyone: “Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of [Trump’s] schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff,” the New York Times's Katie Rogers and Noah Weiland report.
- The president made his declaration shortly before Fauci threw out a first pitch: The Nationals had asked Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, to throw out the first pitch on MLB's long-delayed opening game. Trump, the Times reports, was annoyed by Fauci's moment, so he declared he was taking up Yankees president Randy Levine on his outstanding offer to throw out a first pitch in New York. But over the weekend, Trump abruptly canceled those plans for Aug. 15.
Outbreak won't derail MLB for now: “Major League Baseball’s first existential crisis in a season unlike any in its history came on the fifth day of its 2020 schedule, before half its 30 teams could even hold their home openers. It arrived in a way that would not surprise an epidemiologist: with a coronavirus outbreak focused on a team whose home city is a hot spot. And it has placed the remainder of the season in a precarious position,” Dave Sheinin reports.