with Brent D. Griffiths

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The campaign

GRASS ROOTS AFTER GINSBURG: This is the moment that many of the pink-hatted protesters storming cities in 2017 feared at the start of President Trump's administration: His anticipated appointment of a third justice would make the Supreme Court the most conservative it's been since 1950. And a new 6-3 majority means that the right's decades-long mission to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide would finally be within reach. 

While Democrats are virtually powerless to stop the GOP-controlled Senate from confirming Trump's pick, many see the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a chance to galvanize the party's base — specifically younger voters and progressives that Joe Biden initially struggled to attract — on the issue of abortion rights.  

  • “This threatens to send us back to a time that young people have thought long passed they've lived in a society where access to reproductive rights has always been the law of the land,” Brent Cohen, the executive director of Generation Progress Action, told Power Up about the fresh opportunity conservatives might have to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • “I think you're going to see a real fear here,” Cohen predicted. “Young people always thought about this issue conceptually before but hoped would never come to fruition — and [it's] now a very real and concrete reality. If this goes through, without pushback, this means young people's lives could change for the next 40 or 50 years.”
  • “[Young people] want to honor her memory so there's a huge generational grass roots swell because of [Ginsburg] that could help Biden,” Heather Greven, the director of communications at NextGen America, told us.

Talk about abortion rights has been largely absent from the 2020 campaign trail in recent months amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. Activists believe the high court vacancy presents an opportunity for Democrats to reach a generation of voters under the age of 35 to prioritize Supreme Court issues, which Republicans usually cite as a driving issue in their votes. That Ginsburg was a feminist and pop culture icon after nearly three decades as the second female justice on the court only adds to the public attention, they say.

  • “Young people are still asking, ‘should I vote?’ We don't have to talk them off Trump but we need to them reasons to vote for Biden and have these kinds of detailed conversations,” Greven added.

But some Democrats are wary about abortion becoming a dominating issue in the final stretch: They warn the broad coalition that the Biden-Harris ticket has tried to stitch together could splinter if the debate alienates pro-life Democrats. 

  • “Not everyone who is a part of Biden's coalition views [abortion] the same way,” said Michael Wear, an evangelical Democrat who led faith outreach for President Obama's 2012 campaign.
  • A pivot now “would not be the wisest way to go about this,” Wear adds: “Folks should be cognizant of the fact that [Democrats] are on track for a victory in this election and [there are risks to pivoting] from an election that is focused on Trump — and is about a moral case against this toxic president — to in the last 6 weeks of this campaign make it about this highly divisive issue that cuts across Biden's coalition. If we make this about abortion, it'll be just like 2016 … I would urge us not to make that same mistake again.”

By the numbers: While support for abortion rights has broadly increased among Democrats over the past decade, according to Pew Research's Jeff Diamant, the generational gap on this issue could hurt Biden with senior voters and moderate Democrats. 

  • The political gaps in people's identification on abortion are most notable, with Republicans and Democrats being mirror images of each other: Seven in 10 Republicans identify as pro-life, while the same proportion of Democrats say they are pro-choice. An even wider gulf is seen between self-identified conservatives (77% pro-life) and liberals (78% pro-choice), with moderates tending toward the pro-choice position (55%),” according to a Gallup poll released in June. 

A new flank: Wear warned against Biden putting forth a list of nominees who might have leftist views on reproductive rights — and encouraged the campaign to stay focused on health care more broadly. 

Biden has said that he will not release his list of potential Supreme Court nominees before the November election and has largely steered away from discussing more divisive issues surrounding the vacancy. Over the weekend in Philadelphia, Biden did not mention abortion rights in a speech after Ginsburg's passing but instead focused on health care and climate change. 

  • If Trump's nominee is confirmed, Biden said yesterday, “women’s rights as it relates to everything from medical health care is going to be gone,” the New York Times's Sydney Ember reports. 
  • “Asked what he thought of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is considered Mr. Trump’s leading contender, Mr. Biden said: ‘I don’t know her. I just know what’s reported in the press,'" per Embers.    
  • But presidential nominees typically are not so circumspect about issues that energize their parties’ bases — especially, in Mr. Biden’s case, younger voters and progressives,” Embers writes.
  • A spokesperson for the Biden campaign told Power Up: “America mourns the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion for justice, liberty, and equity, Joe Biden will continue to make clear to voters that any future nominee to the court should respect foundational precedents like Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. As President, he will also codify Roe and build on his historic work with the [Affordable Care Act] to expand women's access to affordable, quality health care in their communities.” 
  • Note: Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Biden's running mate, has also called on Congress to write the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling legalizing abortion into law. “Harris has a 100 percent rating from the abortion rights group NARAL, according to its website, and she has co-sponsored many of the bills Planned Parenthood is advocating,” our colleague Paige Winfield Cunningham reports. 

Trump has repeatedly vowed to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. He has so far appointed two conservative justices — Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — to the court who voted in the minority to uphold the Louisiana abortion law that could have left the state with a single abortion clinic. Many antiabortion groups favor U.S. Circuit Judge Barrett as Trump's pick this time around — and she's currently at the top of the president's list. “A devout Catholic who is fervently antiabortion, Barrett appeals to Trump’s conservative base,” our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports

  • “During her confirmation hearing to the appeals court, Barrett said in that role she would 'follow all Supreme Court precedent without fail' and would regard decisions such as Roe v. Wade as binding precedent,” per Colby. But “she has previously written that judges shouldn’t be held to upholding Supreme Court precedents, such as Roe v. Wade.” 
  • “Her writings lead you to turn your head a little,” Timothy R. Johnson, a professor of political science and law at the University of Minnesota, said of Barrett in 2018. “It’s certainly troubling to the left because it does indicate a willingness to overturn Roe v Wade.”
  • The Supreme Court declined to take up several abortion cases pending before the court over the summer but they could return to the high court as early as next year: "[T]he justices, citing their decision in the Louisiana case, also sent back to a lower federal court two challenges to two Indiana laws — one signed in 2016 by then-Gov. Mike Pence, that required an ultrasound and an 18-hour waiting period before an abortion and another that requires minors to obtain parental consent before the procedure. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals previously blocked the restrictions from taking effect, but the Supreme Court threw out its ruling and asked the 7th Circuit to revisit that decision,” Politico's Alice Miranda Ollstein reported in July.

Biden himself, a devout Catholic, has struggled with the issue of abortion throughout his career: He supported moderate restrictions on abortions in the 1980s and 1990s before coming out in support of Roe v. Wade. It was only last year that Biden rejected the Hyde Amendment, which bans taxpayer dollars from being used for abortions, after supporting it for decades. And this year's Democratic National Convention notably omitted speeches around abortion and contraception policies in August — a departure from the 2016 convention that featured then Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards as the first DNC speaker and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

Biden addressed his views on abortion during the 2012 vice presidential debate. 

More to come?: The Supreme Court is one of six topics expected to be discussed in the first presidential debate next week  — and abortion rights activists hope Biden will take the opportunity to address his stance to the nation.  

NARAL's Hogue says that those who believe that abortion could be a losing issue for Democrats need to “get with the program: “People need to know that everyone in the Democratic Party asking for their vote has their back” on this issue. 

  • The proof is in the fundraising, the group says: NARAL's fundraising is up 1,800% compared to this time last year, while turnout for volunteers to make virtual calls have doubled.
  • Millennials and Gen Z see abortion rights as proxies for other social issues, Hogue argued: “The Federalist Society chose abortion and Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for conservative minds because it was the perfect proxy — if you opposed abortion, you usually opposed marriage equality and LGBTQ rights … so the threat to Roe is super relevant and the younger generation sees it on a spectrum.”

At the White House

TRUMP REFUSES TO AGREE TO PEACEFUL TRANSFER OF POWER: "Trump refused Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, asserting that if he doesn’t win, it will be because of fraudulent mail-in voting and not because more Americans voted against him,” Colby Itkowitz reports.

  • More details: “His latest comments came after he has spent months making unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail is corrupt and will lead to a ‘rigged’ election. In fact, states that have embraced universal mail voting have documented tiny rates of possible ballot fraud, data shows."

Trump's full statement:

Asked on Sept. 23 if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, President Trump said, “We’re going to have to see what happens." (The Washington Post)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is the most prominent Republican to weigh in thus far: 

TRUMP ON RACE: “In unguarded moments with senior aides, Trump has maintained that Black Americans have mainly themselves to blame in their struggle for equality, hindered more by lack of initiative than societal impediments, according to current and former U.S. officials,” Greg Miller reports.

  • Other private comments: “After phone calls with Jewish lawmakers, Trump has muttered that Jews ‘are only in it for themselves’ and ‘stick together’ in an ethnic allegiance that exceeds other loyalties, officials said. Trump’s private musings about Hispanics match the vitriol he has displayed in public, and his antipathy to Africa is so ingrained that when first lady Melania Trump planned a 2018 trip to that continent he railed that he ‘could never understand why she would want to go there.’"
An in-depth look at how President Trump and Joe Biden have approached criminal justice and race issues throughout their public lives. (The Washington Post)

For Trump, this is nothing new: “He has confronted allegations of racism in nearly every decade of his adult life,” our colleague writes.

  • The facts: “In the 1970s, the Trump family real estate empire was forced to settle a Justice Department lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination against Black apartment applicants. In the 1980s, he took out full-page ads calling for the death penalty against Black teens wrongly accused of a rape in Central Park. In the 2000s, Trump parlayed his baseless ‘birther’ claim about Obama into a fervent far-right following.”

Outside the Beltway

NO HOMICIDE CHARGES FILED IN BREONNA TAYLOR KILLING: “A Kentucky grand jury determined that two officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor were justified in firing their weapons into her apartment, while another was charged with recklessly firing rounds into a neighboring unit, an outcome that has inflamed racial protests nationwide,” Kevin Williams, Tim Craig and Marisa Iati report from Louisville.

Two Louisville police officers were shot last night: They were shot “around 8:30 p.m. as they responded to shots fired in the area of a large crowd, police said,” Derek Hawkins and Hannah Knowles report.

  • What we know: “Both officers are in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries, said Robert Schroeder, the interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department. One officer is alert, he said at a news conference, while another is undergoing surgery, and a suspect is in custody.”
Protesters took to the streets of Louisville on Sep. 23 after learning that no police officer would be charged in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor. (Nate Spicer/The Washington Post)

The grand jury's decision was announced after a four-month investigation: “Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) said the two officers who shot Taylor while serving a warrant at her apartment after midnight were justified in firing at the 26-year-old emergency room technician because her boyfriend fired at them first after they used a battering ram to break into the unit,” our colleagues write.

  • On the officer who was charged: “Brett Hankison, who was fired from the force in June, was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for allegedly firing multiple rounds that tore into a neighboring apartment. A judge set Hankison’s bail at $15,000.”


Trump mostly praised Cameron, who recently spoke during the GOP's convention: “Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is doing a fantastic job, I think he's a star,” the president told reporters.

Biden initially rankled some activists: Asked about the case, “Biden said he understood there would be protests  … Assured that there were indeed demonstrations, Biden said, ‘Well, they should be peaceful,’ according the pool report. ‘Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence. It’s totally inappropriate for that to happen. She wouldn’t want it, nor would her mother, so I hope they do that,’” Darren Sands reports.

  • “Tamika Mallory, a co-founder of the group Until Freedom, called Biden’s statement’s ‘triggering’ because it singled out protesters and associated their cause with violence,” our colleague writes. He later issued a fuller statement: 

Harris implored people to never forget Taylor

Attorney Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights lawyer representing Taylor’s family, slammed the lack of additional charges:

NBA superstar LeBron James, who has spoken out repeatedly about the case:

THE SUMMER OF PROTESTS GETS A FRESH IMPETUS: On a crisp, early fall day in Kentucky’s largest city, the reaction reflected a broader truth about America’s racial reckoning: After a summer of nationwide protests, outrage at the injustice of the country’s law enforcement system has in no way ebbed. If anything, the anger has continued to build with each new case of a Black man or woman who dies at the hands of police — and each officer who is allowed to go free without facing punishment for the killing,” Griff Witte and Mark Berman report.

  • Demonstrations took place around the country: Thousands protested in New York, including a crowd of nearly 2,000 people that shut down traffic on Manhattan Bridge, per the Times. About 200 people marched through Washington last night. 300 protesters gathered in Portland, Ore. At least four marches unfolded across Chicago.

In the media


Anthony S. Fauci finally lost his patience with Sen. Ran Paul (R-Ky.): “Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, pushed against Paul’s claim that New York has overcome the pandemic because it achieved herd immunity, telling the Republican lawmaker he’s ‘not listening,’” CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn reports.

Remembering Gayle Sayers: “Sayers, who became a Hall of Fame football star as an electrifying running back for the Chicago Bears and found wider fame through “Brian’s Song,” a poignant television movie that chronicled his friendship with a cancer-stricken teammate, died Sept. 23. He was 77,” Harrison Smith writes in The Post's obit.

When Bibi comes to town, it's clothesing time: “Over the years, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has developed a reputation among the staff at the U.S. president’s guesthouse for bringing special cargo on his trips to Washington: bags and suitcases full of dirty laundry,” John Hudson reports.

  • Officials have tried to change the Tide, but Shout(ing) about the odd behavior has failed to net any Gain(s): “The Netanyahus are the only ones who bring actual suitcases of dirty laundry for us to clean,” one U.S. official told our colleague. “After multiple trips, it became clear this was intentional.”