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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Mike Pence and Nikki Haley hedge their Trump 2024 bets

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

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Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II paid the first papal visit to the White House, welcomed by President Jimmy Carter. The get-together came some 60 years after the first papal audience for a sitting U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, in 1919.

The big idea

Mike Pence and Nikki Haley are walking a tightrope ahead of 2024

Mike Pence and Nikki Haley know they need to stay in Donald Trump’s good graces to have a shot at the White House in 2024. This week they hedged their bets on whether the former president will run again.

Their challenge: If Trump doesn’t run, GOP candidates will need his help. If he runs, Republican primary voters, over whom he still has extensive sway, are unlikely to go with a Trump-lite candidate (a Pence or a Haley) over the original article. If the Trump-lite candidates stay in, they’re probably betting Trump will demur.

Balancing act

It’s a delicate dynamic Trump himself captured in an interview with Yahoo! Finance published on Monday. If he ran again, he predicted, “I think most people would drop out.”

So his former vice president, Pence, and his ex-U.N. ambassador, Haley, this week each tried to paper over significant past breaks with Trump, declare themselves loyal to, and personally fond of, the former president, and keep their 2024 hopes alive as everyone awaits his decision.

Pence is attempting to step out of Trump’s shadow with 2024 in mind, according to a report fresh off the presses from my colleagues Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey. He presided last week over a rooftop gathering in Washigton of more than 100 loyalists to launch his new issue advocacy group, tape a conservative podcast and tout his new books (plural). He said Simon & Schuster sold him this way: 

"You know, you weren't born the day before Donald Trump called you to join the ticket,’” he said, describing the publisher’s pitch. "'We kind of like to know how you became you.’”

Pence's play

The former vice president has been “hopscotching the country giving six-figure speeches, sitting down for interviews with friendlyconservative media outlets and hosting fundraisers for Republican candidates and causes,” write Ashley and Josh.

And he is trying to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

In an interview this week with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Pence repeatedly professed to still have fond feelings for his former boss and tried to whitewash the actions of the Capitol rioters. 

“You can’t spend almost five years in a political foxhole without developing a strong relationship,” said Pence, in whose telling he and Trump “parted amicably” in January and have “talked a number of times since we both left office.”

Pence told the conservative podcaster last week he and Trump have spoken about a dozen times since Jan. 6, yet “someone familiar with the matter said Pence has so far declined Trump's entreaties to visit him at his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., or at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and that the two men have not spoken in recent months,” report Ashley and Josh.

That amicable parting came after Trump encouraged hundreds of his supporters, some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” to go to the Capitol and pressure the vice president to set aside the Constitution and deny President Biden’s victory.

Pence’s security team whisked him out the Senate chamber minutes before the rioters overran it, interrupting the election certification formalities in the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812.

It was “a tragic day in the history of our Capitol building,” Pence told Hannity. But “the president and I sat down a few days later and talked through all of it.”

Pence continued: “I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration's failed agenda by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believe we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.” Trump got not quite 63 million votes in 2016.

(By arguing that punishing the Jan. 6 rioters is equivalent to demeaning all Trump supporters, Pence made a version of the “Otter Defense,” from the 1978 comedy “Animal House.” With his fraternity on trial, Eric “Otter” Stratton argues the process is really an indictment of America itself and declares “you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you bad-mouth the United States of America.” But I digress.)

Pence’s biggest problem with the GOP base may be his Jan. 6 decisions

Ashley and Josh report that “for a contingent of hardcore Trump supporters, Pence is a turncoat — the coward who betrayed the former president when he refused to toss out the results of a free and fair election.” Said Lonna Black, 60, who attended a Phoenix rally last month to support the Jan. 6 protesters: “I think he only has like 1 percent support in the Republican Party, if I know right. Most people look at him as a traitor.”

Haley walk backs

As for Haley, the former South Carolina governor had to put some ideological distance between herself and her blistering comments about Trump in a February interview with Politico.

At the time, Haley predicted Trump would “find himself further and further isolated” and diagnosed “he’s lost any sort of political viability he was going to have,” effectively ruling out a reelection effort by the former president.

“I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture,” she told Tim Alberta. “I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.”

Haley said Trump “went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”

Her cleanup efforts began in April, when she said she would not run if Trump ran. By the time of her Tuesday interview with the Wall Street Journal’s John McCormick, all criticisms of Trump were gone

"He has a strong legacy from his administration," Haley said. "He has the ability to get strong people elected, and he has the ability to move the ball, and I hope that he continues to do that. We need him in the Republican Party. I don't want us to go back to the days before Trump."

(In February, she had said Republicans should “take the good that he built, leave the bad that he did, and get back to a place where we can be a good, valuable, effective party.”)

Haley did not repeat her promise not to run if he does.

"In the beginning of 2023, should I decide that there's a place for me, should I decide that there's a reason to move, I would pick up the phone and meet with the president," she said. "I would talk to him and see what his plans are. I would tell him about my plans. We would work on it together."

The former president himself doesn’t seem to be in a stronger-together mood. In the Yahoo! Finance interview, he was asked about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose Trump-like appeal to the GOP base translates into strong showings in polls about 2024.

“If I faced him, I'd beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump said. But “I think he would drop out.”

What's happening now

Four people were injured during a shooting at a Dallas-area high school

Police in Arlington, Texas said one student pulled out a gun during a fight between students on the second floor of the school this morning. The shooter has been identified as 18-year-old Timothy George Simpkins who is now at large and considered armed and dangerous, ABC13 reports.

Senate Democrats huddled this morning to discuss the debt ceiling 

Senate Democrats huddled this morning to discuss the debt ceiling 

They are weighing a change to the filibuster to solve the issue, the New York Times’s Carl Hulse reports, but “it is not clear whether enough people are drawing that conclusion,” since the usual holdouts – Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) – remain.

  • The idea: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a Biden ally, said the likelihood of Democrats using a filibuster carve-out to deal with the debt ceiling is “very strong” if Republican opposition continues, per NBC News’s Frank Thorp. “My hope is that after today’s vote, Republicans will rethink their approach,” he said.
  • Remember: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants Democrats to supply all the votes for such an increase but has filibustered their efforts to do so.
  • “Stay tuned,” is all Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the debt limit after leaving this morning’s meeting, per CQ’s Jennifer Shutt.
  • But, but, but: Manchin told reporters this morning that nothing has changed on his position on the filibuster, our colleague Seung Min Kim reports. He still, however, believes the U.S. is not going to default. “We should not have these artificial crises. We are not going to default on our debt,” he said.
  • And Sinema didn't respond to CNN's Lauren Fox when asked whether she'd be open to carving out the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling.

Politico's Burgess Everett: 

Meanwhile, as the debt default looms, the White House is warning of a financial crisis

  • “A default would send shock waves through global financial markets and would likely cause credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge,” officials at the White House Council of Economic Advisers warned, per the NYT’s Jim Tankersley. “Employers around the world would likely have to begin laying off workers.”
  • “The potential for an ensuing global recession, they wrote, could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis, because it would come as countries continue to struggle to escape the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Pentagon also warned of a crisis:

A majority of Americans support the infrastructure bill and the social spending bill 

  • Per a Quinnipiac University poll, 62 percent of Americans say they support the $1 trillion spending bill on infrastructure, while 57 percent support the $3.5 trillion bill on social spending.  
  • Americans are pretty upset at both parties in Congress. Democrats in Congress have a 30 percent approval rate, while Republicans have a 28 percent approval rate.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

The Pandora Papers illuminate the lives of billionaires. “When three of Africa’s wealthiest people wanted to win favors from the Nigerian oil minister, they didn’t pay cash, according to company filings and court papers describing the alleged transactions. Instead, the oil tycoons arranged to influence her with shell companies, each one holding a valuable piece of London real estate, according to the documents,” Peter Whoriskey and Agustin Armendariz report.

  • “While cash may be the traditional means of providing untraceable gifts to politicians, the very wealthy often turn instead to the offshore world to produce an alternative currency: companies registered in secrecy havens and stuffed with valuable assets.”
  • “It is often difficult to know from the records why a billionaire has set up an offshore company. In some instances, the reason may be as simple as privacy. But there are other uses.”

Documents offer new insight into the strategy of shuttling former HHS secretary Tom Price around America. “One of the final trips [detailed in the documents] came in September 2017, when health officials chartered a jet for Price, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and their aides to fly round trip between Washington and Philadelphia — at a cost of $14,955 to taxpayers, according to government records,” Dan Diamond reports.

  • “In an email to The Post, Price defended his travel record, sharing a pair of analyses by law firm Steptoe & Johnson that argued the former secretary’s charter flights were necessary for his schedule and that faulted the inspector general’s report.”
  • “Conway, a former senior adviser to President Donald Trump, said in an interview she immersed herself in helping promote the administration’s agenda and was unaware of potential problems with her plane travel with Price, including joining him at events to discuss opioid addiction. ‘I didn’t know the rules about planes,’ Conway said. ‘This is my first government job, and I never had security in my life. I did what they told me to do, I went where they told me to go, and I used whatever mode of transportation they told me to use.’”
  • “The travel controversy that ended Price’s short tenure began within a day of [a] failed trip to Los Angeles, as his HHS deputies began erecting a system to ensure Price would never again need to scramble for charter jets, according to the documents obtained by The Post.”

… and beyond

The elections in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are taking a new significance for Democrats. “At stake are how easy it is to vote, who controls the electoral system and, some Democrats worry, whether the results of federal, state and local elections will be accepted no matter which party wins,” the New York Times’s Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti report

At the table

Today we’re lunching with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). Gallego attended Harvard University and served in the Iraq War as an enlisted Marine infantryman. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Knox: Congress has undertaken several reviews of Afghanistan. At this point, what are some of the big questions to which you want answers?

Gallego: The big question that we really have to answer is what was the disconnect between the intelligence that helped shape the actions of the White House, the intelligence that the Pentagon had and that was going to Congress and why it was that far off. Because if you had talked to the people before the fall of Afghanistan, many people at least thought that the military would hold out a little, that this wouldn’t be as quick a rout as it ended up being.

And so the question is: How did this happen? And what were the intelligence failures that led to it, and how can we avoid them in the future?

Knox: When he ran, President Biden said U.S. officials had lied to the public about how the war was going over two decades? Is there any mechanism for holding them accountable? Or do we just have to accept this?

Gallego: I don’t think that we have to accept this. One of the things that’s been my biggest frustration is we’ve allowed this to happen [across multiple] administrations.

Many of these men and women were not at the end of their careers. As a matter of fact, this was a stop along the growth of their career. And I think that we in Congress and especially the Senate who has control over nominations should start exerting a lot more influence when it comes to this, especially with those that lie and manipulate data when it comes to issues of war.

Knox: Shifting gears to campaign politics. As you look at the 2020 map, what do Democrats need to understand about Latino voters, who are of course not monolithic, to be successful in 2022?

Gallego: If you want Latinos, you have to speak to them. And number two, you need to make sure that they are employed — and happily employed. Especially when it comes to swing Latino male latino voters. If a Latino male voter does not feel the economy is working for him, is going in the right direction, their family is safe and secure, then they’re not going to vote, or not going to vote for Democrats at the rates we expect them to.

 Knox: Do you think the Democratic Party takes Latino voters for granted?

Gallego: I do think they’ve taken Latino voters for granted in the past. I think where they haven’t taken advantage of them in the past and actually have talked to them and run campaigns that are consistent with the values of the Latino community, you’ve seen some successes   — for example, Arizona. Where you ignore them for too long, and don’t really have a functional political campaign around them, then you end up having losses, like you see in parts of Texas as well as parts of South Florida.

Knox: Some progressives in Arizona want to enlist you to make a primary challenge to Sen. [Kyrsten] Sinema. Is that something you’re open to?

Gallego: At this point, I really can’t answer anything because I’m focused really on now and 2022. So now we need to pass reconciliation, because I don’t think we can win 2022 without this reconciliation bill happening. And I think, on 2022, my district needs to turn out. If it doesn’t turn out, [Sen] Mark Kelly [D-Ariz] doesn’t win.

So my goal, my only goal, for the next two years is to run again, get reelected, help get other Democrats elected, not looking at 2024 at this point.

The Biden agenda

The Biden administration temporarily expanded student loan forgiveness program for public servants 

  • The Education Department “will temporarily allow all payments borrowers made on federal student loans to count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, regardless of the loan program or payment plan. It estimates the move will bring more than 550,000 people closer to debt cancellation, including 22,000 who will be immediately eligible,” Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports.

Covid cases in kids, visualized

In August, for the first time in the pandemic, the rate of coronavirus infections among children topped those for adults ages 18 to 64 and seniors, driven by the highly contagious delta variant, according to a Post analysis of CDC data.”

Hot on the left

“How AT&T helped build far-right One America News,” Reuters’ John Shiffman reports. “AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.”

Hot on the right

Idaho Gov. Brad Little left the state on Tuesday. His lieutenant governor took power and banned state vaccine mandates. “As acting governor, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R) issued an executive order Tuesday afternoon banning state officials from requiring covid-19 ‘vaccine passports’ from new or current employees. Little quickly promised to undo McGeachin’s order as soon as he returned from touring the U.S.-Mexico border with a group of fellow Republican governors,” Jonathan Edwards reports.

Today in Washington

Biden will hold a meeting with business leaders and CEOs on the need to address the debt ceiling at 1 p.m. 

Harris will meet with the Council of Presidents of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at 2:30 p.m. 

In closing

Will you fall into the conspiracy theory rabbit hole? A new quiz by Post Opinion’s David Byler and Yan Wu can help you figure that out.  

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.