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The big idea

Just a little less than one year away from the midterm elections, and both Democrats and Republicans are worried about their prospects of being in power in 2023.

Democrats are worried — and with good reason. The hand wringing isn’t just about next year’s contests for the Senate, the House, governorships and state legislatures, though of course they are concerned because history teaches that the president’s party is heading for a drubbing, especially with President Biden’s job approval rating below 50 percent.

As my colleague Tyler Pager reported Sunday night: “a growing number of Democrats worry that the White House has repeatedly underestimated the scale of the challenges facing the country — exacerbating the party’s political problems and making its already perilous path to holding Congress in 2022 even more difficult. They acknowledge the problems presented by the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and an uneven economic recovery, but fear that the administration’s tendency to downplay the issues has only made things worse.” 

Not so ‘transitory’ inflation

Tyler highlighted sunny White House forecasts according to which inflation was “transitory” (they really should have done a better job defining what that means), Biden’s confident promise in July that “the virus is on the run” and the administration playing down the prospects the Taliban would soon control all of Afghanistan.

Tyler also included this reasoning from the president’s camp: “Privately, many administration officials and allies contend that the state of affairs cannot get worse, thinking that Biden and the Democrats have hit their floor in negative approval ratings, according to people familiar with their thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private conversations. By next year’s elections, top Democrats say, the national environment will look dramatically different. They project confidence that the coronavirus pandemic will fade, allowing Americans to fully return to their normal lives, and that supply chain bottlenecks and inflation will also ease, allowing the economy to improve.”

Reader: Things can always get worse.

OK, but surely things are all smiles, rainbows and unicorns among Republicans, right? They just romped to victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, the skies seem to be darkening over Democratic hopes of holding on to their majorities next year and the GOP’s top man in the House has raised expectations for 2022, saying the GOP could capture more than 60 seats.

Well, not exactly, as my colleagues Michael Scherer and Mike DeBonis reported on Sunday.

The national environment could hardly look more favorable to Republicans one year before the midterm elections, with declining approval for President Biden, growing pessimism in the country and spiking prices for essentials like gasoline and milk,” they reported.

But Republican struggles to settle on candidates have left some wondering whether the party will blow its big chance to retake the U.S. Senate.”

Flawed GOP candidates

It’s not just difficulty picking candidates. It’s that some in the GOP worry the party’s potential standard-bearers might drive off suburban women, a crucial constituency.

“The party’s front-runner in Pennsylvania, Sean Parnell, is awaiting a judge’s ruling on accusations, which he denies, that he choked his estranged wife and hit one of his children. The top-polling Missouri GOP candidate, former governor Eric Greitens, is trying to downplay his resignation from office after allegedly tying up his mistress in the basement of his marital home. And in Georgia, the party’s likely nominee, Herschel Walker, is bracing for a Democratic advertising assault about his ex-wife’s claims that he threatened her with a gun.”


Mike and Mike also noted: “Competitive primaries elsewhere have pushed the debate in the Republican Party far outside the comfort zone of general election strategists, as the candidates fall over each other to indulge former president Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories. To top it all off, the party’s top Senate recruit, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, shocked party insiders last week by saying he didn’t want the job.”

On the other hand, the Mikes reported: “Other Republicans have argued that the national environment is so bad for Democrats that the primary fights and personal baggage of Republicans will fade into the background by next November.”

As they pointed out, there’s a recent historical parallel: 2010. That year, the GOP’s tea party tide swept 63 House Democrats from their seats, and Republicans gained six Senate seats but fell short of retaking the majority.

What about the people who will decide the results? They’re worried, too, as my colleagues Dan Balz, Scott Clement, and Emily Guskin reported on Sunday.

“Majorities of Americans support President Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and a pending bill that would spend nearly $2 trillion on social programs and climate initiatives. Yet despite the backing for these measures, Biden’s approval rating has ticked down to a new low, driven largely by more negative views among Democrats and independents, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

The defining feature of the poll might be how dour the national mood seems.

Here are Dan, Scott and Emily again: “The Post-ABC poll also showcases Americans’ current pessimism: Despite a mix of economic signals — falling unemployment and rising prices — 70 percent rate the economy negatively, including 38 percent who say it is in “poor” condition. About half of Americans overall and political independents blame Biden for fast-rising inflation, and more than 6 in 10 Americans say he has not accomplished much after 10 months in office, including 71 percent of independents.”

What's happening now

He's running

Beto is running

“Democrat Beto O’Rourke announced Monday that he is running for Texas governor, challenging incumbent Greg Abbott (R) in what could become one of the highest-profile races of 2022,” Mariana Alfaro reports.

At 81, Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy won’t seek reelection

“Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate, announced Monday that he will retire at the end of his term next year,” Amy B Wang and John Wagner report.

Bannon surrenders to FBI, is taken into custody

Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser who was indicted last week for defying a congressional subpoena, surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning and was scheduled to make his first court appearance later Monday afternoon,” Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Jackman report.

McConnell sought to disinvite Trump from Biden’s inaugural

“The then-Senate majority leader sought to have Trump disinvited from Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, a new book, ‘Betrayal,’ by ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl reveals. According to Karl, McConnell ‘felt he could not give Trump another opportunity to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,’” Politico’s Meridith McGraw reports.

Myanmar frees U.S. journalist after negotiations with ex-U.S. diplomat

“American journalist Danny Fenster was released from prison on Monday in Myanmar and has left the country, his employer and family said, following negotiations between former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson and the ruling military junta,” Reuters reports.

British police declare taxi explosion outside Liverpool hospital ‘terrorist incident’

“The blast occurred just before 11 a.m. local time as a taxi pulled up outside an entrance of Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Video footage shared on social media shows the blast ripping through the vehicle, which then bursts into flames. One passenger, who has not been publicly identified, was declared dead at the scene,” Karla Adam, Miriam Berger and Rachel Pannett report.

Astroworld death toll climbs to 10 as 9-year-old dies of injuries

“Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into how the crowd surge occurred. The boy was among at least 25 fans who were hospitalized when the crowd suddenly pressed toward the stage where [Travis] Scott was performing,” Rachel Pannett and Brittany Shammas report.

Despite COP26 rhetoric, China’s coal production is hitting all time highs

“China, the world’s largest polluter and consumer of coal, produced 357 million tons of coal in October, a level not seen in six years, according to data released Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics. In the grips of an energy crisis, China has ramped up coal production to address power shortages, stressing that energy security is the government’s top priority,” Lily Kuo reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Once more unto the breach: Pelosi strives to deliver an agenda that has divided her caucus, testing her power

On Oct. 28, the speaker attended “a meeting of the Congressional Progressive Caucus just before noon to check in on skeptical liberals who shared her desire to enact a bold agenda, if not always her strategy for getting there,” Marianna Sotomayor reports.

Reps. Mark Takano (Calif.) and Cori Bush (Mo.) voiced their opposition to Pelosi's plan. She quietly left the meeting after less than 15 minutes in attendance.

The message was clear: Even Pelosi’s vaunted ability to keep her caucus in line would not be able to overcome intraparty divisions at this point.”

  • “Still, Democrats said they have faith in Pelosi’s ability to deliver. If she does, it would likely serve as a capstone to a career that is already one of the most significant in modern congressional history.”

… and beyond

Republicans gain heavy house edge in 2022 as gerrymandered maps emerge

“A year before the polls open in the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans are already poised to flip at least five seats in the closely divided House thanks to redrawn district maps that are more distorted, more disjointed and more gerrymandered than any since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965,” the New York Times’s Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti report.

  • “The rapidly forming congressional map, a quarter of which has taken shape as districts are redrawn this year, represents an even more extreme warping of American political architecture, with state legislators in many places moving aggressively to cement their partisan dominance.”
  • “At the same time, Republicans’ upper hand in the redistricting process, combined with plunging approval ratings for President Biden and the Democratic Party, provides the party with what could be a nearly insurmountable advantage in the 2022 midterm elections and the next decade of House races.”

The Biden agenda

Biden and Xi: It's complicated

A complicated relationship: Biden and Xi prepare for meeting

“As the two leaders prepare to hold their first presidential meeting on Monday, the troubled U.S.-China relationship is demonstrating that the power of one of Biden’s greatest professed strengths as a politician — the ability to connect — has its limits,” the AP’s Aamer Madhani reports.

“‘When it comes to U.S.-China relations, the gaps are so big and the trend lines are so problematic that the personal touch can only go so far,’ said Matthew Goodman, who served as an Asia adviser on the National Security Council in the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations.”

Biden to propose 20-year drilling ban around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a sacred tribal site

“The Biden administration on Monday will propose a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling in Chaco Canyon and surrounding areas in northwestern New Mexico, a sacred tribal site that also contains valuable oil and gas,” Joshua Partlow and Darryl Fears report.

“The plan for Chaco Canyon, which is in the home state of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary, would direct the Bureau of Land Management to start the process for removing from leasing federal lands within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.”

Biden’s $1T infrastructure bill historic, not transformative

“Historians, economists and engineers interviewed by The Associated Press welcomed Biden’s efforts. But they stressed that $1 trillion was not nearly enough to overcome the government’s failure for decades to maintain and upgrade the country’s infrastructure. The politics essentially forced a trade-off in terms of potential impact not just on the climate but on the ability to outpace the rest of the world this century and remain the dominant economic power,” Josh Boak reports.

Biden’s child care plan faces resistance from religious groups

“A coalition of conservative religious groups is waging an intensive lobbying effort to remove a nondiscrimination provision from President Biden’s ambitious prekindergarten and child care plans, fearing it would disqualify their programs from receiving a huge new infusion of federal money,” the New York Times’s Luke Broadwater reports.

“Some of the faith groups are pressing lawmakers to scrap or modify the nondiscrimination language, asserting that it would essentially shut them out of the new federal program unless they made major changes to the way they operate. For instance, it could bar federal funds from going to programs that refused to hire a gay employee, gave preference to applicants of their faith or failed to renovate their facilities to accommodate disabled students.”

Biden’s approval, visualized

“Majorities of Americans support President Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and a pending bill that would spend nearly $2 trillion on social programs and climate initiatives. Yet despite the backing for these measures, Biden’s approval rating has ticked down to a new low, driven largely by more negative views among Democrats and independents, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll,” Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin report.

Hot on the left

Is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce trying to silence sexual harassment victims?

“In a familiar tactic, the Chamber manufactures an alternative to a broadly bipartisan effort to end forced arbitration for workplace sexual misconduct cases,” the American Prospect's David Dayen writes.

“The Chamber of Commerce has never formally opposed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, though they have focused intensely on arbitration issues in registered lobbying in 2021. Instead, they’re attempting to use weak substitute legislation to peel off support for the more aggressive version.”

Hot on the right

GOP weighs trapping Democrats in Trump’s budget

“With a government shutdown deadline approaching, Republicans are flirting with forcing a longer-term freeze on funding levels — forgoing the potential for extra defense spending in order to jam Democrats into Trump-era domestic limits,” Politico's Jennifer Scholtes, Caitlin Emma and Burgess Everett report.

“Even as Congress prepares to kick the next spending cliff from Dec. 3 to the holidays, Democrats are clamoring to begin bipartisan negotiations on a sweeping government funding deal. But the GOP's burgeoning hardline approach to the talks threatens the majority party’s hopes of ushering in their own spending priorities.

Today in Washington

At 3 p.m., Biden will sign the bipartisan infrastructure package into law and Vice President Harris will deliver remarks.

Biden will then meet virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping at 7:45 p.m.

In closing

ICYMI Sunday, Elon Musk really went for it on Twitter.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.