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The big idea

Are we headed, again, for Biden vs. Trump, in 2024?

The prospects of a 2024 rematch between President Biden and former president Donald Trump just got a little more likely. White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday night that the president plans to run for a second term.

“Yes. That’s his intention,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Trump has been toying with the idea of running again ever since he was ousted from the White House. Such a rematch would pit the incumbent against the driving force behind Republican efforts to capture the machinery of elections around the country while insisting falsely he was cheated out of a second term. Trump was also central to fueling the anger that led hundreds of his supporters to ransack the Capitol in the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

According to Politico, the Republican has begun to poll test a comeback bid, focusing on the five states he lost to Biden last year. They are Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and a survey for the campaign by pollster Tony Fabrizio showed the former president leading in those states, Marc Caputo reports.

“In another sign that Trump is gearing up for a White House bid, his super PAC is holding its biggest planned fundraiser to date on Dec. 2, when the nation’s top Republican donors are expected to gather at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.,” Caputo writes.

Technically, Psaki’s comments weren’t big news. Biden gave essentially the same message to reporters at his first formal news conference back on March 25, barely two months into his term. “The answer is ‘yes,’” he said, “my plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.”

When pressed whether that was a “yes,” he would run again in 2024, Biden waxed a little philosophical. “I’m a great respecter of fate. I’ve never been able to plan four and half, three and a half years ahead for certain,” he said.

Still, Biden told reporters, “I would fully expect” Vice President Harris would be his running mate. As for whether he expected to face off again with Trump, Biden gave a long answer that began: “Oh, come on.”

“I have no idea. I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party. Do you?,” he continued “I know you don’t have to answer my question, but, I mean, you know, do you?”

It’s early, but …

But while Psaki’s comments weren’t news by themselves, they’re news because of the way the political context has radically changed since March. (The context reserves the right to change radically several more times between now and the 2022 midterm elections, never mind 2024.)

Over the weekend, my colleagues Michael Scherer, Tyler Pager and Sean Sullivan reported: “Biden and members of his inner circle have reassured allies in recent days that he plans to run for reelection in 2024, as they take steps to deflect concern about the 79-year-old president’s commitment to another campaign and growing Democratic fears of a coming Republican return to power.”

“The efforts come as the broader Democratic community has become increasingly anxious after a bruising six-month stretch that has seen Biden’s national approval rating plummet more than a dozen points, into the low 40s, amid growing concerns about inflation, Democratic infighting in Washington and faltering public health efforts to move beyond the covid-19 pandemic.

“The message is aimed in part at tamping down the assumption among many Democrats that Biden may not seek reelection given his age and waning popularity, while also effectively freezing the field for Vice President Harris and other potential presidential hopefuls.”

Their piece came after a Politico report from a week earlier about Democrats doubting Biden will run again and skeptical of Harris’s chances, leading to some other potential candidates to take steps that sometimes serve as the preamble to a run for the White House.

Over the weekend, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, tried to tamp down talk that he and Harris were effectively rivals.

“She and I are part of a team that is disciplined and doesn't focus on what's obsessing the commentators. We're too busy with a job to do,” said Buttigieg, who described the administration as “laser-focused on getting the job done.”

A few months ago the argument against Biden running again was that, at 78 (he turned 79 this past weekend), he was already the oldest president. He had described himself as a “transition candidate” in 2020. And there was the little matter of his slumping approval ratings, notably among Democrats and independents, and questions about whether he could turn them around.

Former senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), a longtime Biden confidant, recently expressed doubts Biden would seek reelection. A week later, in Mike, Tyler and Sean’s piece, he’d changed his tune.

“The only thing I’ve heard him say is he’s planning on running again,” they quoted him as saying. “And I’m glad he is.”

Here we go again

Trump famously filed for reelection at the dawn of his presidency, enabling him to fundraise throughout his four years. He has continued to scoop up donor cash, and now has amassed more than $100 million, though what he plans to do with it is anyone’s guess. 

He has repeatedly flirted with running again, and even held campaign-style rallies. He has, however, suggested he might stay out of the race if his health doesn’t allow it — if he gets, as he put it, “a bad call from a doctor.”

Biden could always change his mind. Trump could make up his mind. Stay tuned.

What's happening now

A record Washington doesn’t want

D.C. records 200th homicide of the year, a mark not seen since 2003

“Killings across the country spiked nearly 30 percent in 2020, the FBI has said. Baltimore surpassed 300 killings for the seventh consecutive year, and homicides in Philadelphia reached 496 on Sunday, 13 percent higher than this time last year,” Peter Hermann reports.

“Killings in the District have risen each year since 2017, when 116 were recorded. Last year, the city counted 198 killings. Shootings, which spiked 48 percent last year, are down slightly in 2021. Crime involving juveniles is also up, police say, with 24 people age 17 and younger charged with murder in the past 22 months.”

Biden authorizes use of strategic oil reserves to combat high U.S. gasoline prices

“The administration said the Department of Energy will release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — an emergency pool kept by the United States — in conjunction with similar actions by several other countries,” Jeff Stein reports.

“The move comes as President Biden is under mounting pressure from Republicans over pump prices and as Americans are preparing for Thanksgiving travel. Some leading Democrats had called for the White House to take the action for weeks, but it could trigger a showdown with other major oil producing nations, which could allege the White House is attempting to improperly distort energy markets.”

Hong Kong independence activist who sought U.S. protection is jailed for 3½ years

“While out on bail in October last year, [Tony] Chung tried to seek asylum at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. He was apprehended by several men before he could reach the consulate’s gates. It is rare, but not unprecedented, for the United States to grant noncitizens protection or asylum at its diplomatic compounds. He had been detained without bail since then,” Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu report.

Malikah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, found dead at her home in New York

“Shabazz’s daughter found her at home and called emergency services, but officers who arrived at the Brooklyn residence found her unresponsive. The cause of death is not known but the NYPD said her death did not appear suspicious,” Annabelle Timsit reports.

“The news of Shabazz’s death comes just days after a judge dismissed the decades-old convictions of two of the three men found guilty of the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.”

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Investigation: How Trump partnered with local law enforcement on immigration

Under Trump, ICE aggressively recruited sheriffs as partners to question and detain undocumented immigrants

“Operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the program [287(g)] empowers state and local law enforcement officers to act with federal authority: questioning, reporting and detaining undocumented immigrants. Although ICE promised that the program would focus only on serious criminals, pro-immigration groups have repeatedly warned that the partnerships enable hard-line sheriffs to target undocumented immigrants leading peaceful lives,” Debbie Cenziper, Madison Muller, Monique Beals, Rebecca Holland and Andrew Ba Tran report.

Under Trump, the number of partners in 287(g) and a related program quadrupled, from about 35 in 2017 to more than 140 earlier this year. About 15 are sheriffs who have been publicly linked to FAIR, which has been described by pro-immigration groups and others as an anti-immigrant organization. FAIR has disputed that characterization.”

… and beyond

Newly obtained records reveal details about the final days of Epstein’s life

“After a life of manipulation, Mr. [Jeffrey] Epstein created illusions until the very end, deceiving correctional officers, counselors and specially trained inmates assigned to monitor him around the clock, according to the documents — among more than 2,000 pages of Federal Bureau of Prisons records,” the New York Times’s Benjamin Weiser, Matthew Goldstein, Danielle Ivory and Steve Eder report.

“The newly obtained records offer no support to the explosion of conspiracy theories that Mr. Epstein’s death was not a suicide. They also shed no light on questions raised by his brother and one of his lawyers that he might have been assisted in killing himself. But they do paint a picture of incompetence and sloppiness by some within the Bureau of Prisons, which runs the federal detention center.”

The Biden agenda

Some Democrats question Biden’s low-profile media strategy

Biden’s low-key media strategy draws allies’ concern

“So far in his tenure, the president has given far fewer one-on-one interviews than his two predecessors. Some Democrats are asking if he could be making better use of his White House pulpit,” the NYT’s Michael M. Grynbaum reports.

  • “After nine months in office, Mr. Biden has conducted roughly a dozen one-on-one interviews with major print and television news outlets. That compares with more than 50 for Mr. Trump, and more than 100 for Barack Obama, in the same period, according to West Wing record keepers.”
  • “ … some Democrats have asked if the president has yielded too much control of the public narrative of his administration to others. ‘What I believe in is sell, sell, sell,’ James Carville, the veteran Democratic strategist, said in an interview. ‘What they’re missing is salesmanship. Everybody wants to be a policy maven, and no one wants to go door to door and sell pots and pans.’”

Why Biden picked Powell

“Perhaps the biggest reason of all: The path to confirming Biden’s other finalist, Brainard, a loyal Democrat, looked thorny at best in the face of potentially strong GOP opposition and even some trepidation from moderate Senate Democrats, who favor Powell,” Politico’s Ben White reports.

“In the end, Biden did what many close to him expected: He took a longer-than-anticipated amount of time to arrive at a reasonable, moderate decision that thrilled few but carried limited risk.”

White House largely pauses new staff hiring

“The White House has largely paused the hiring of new personnel in recent weeks because of budgetary shortfalls, even as multiple staffers have departed, according to three people familiar with the situation,” Tyler Pager and Ashley Parker report.

“The budget problem stems from the short-term legislation Congress passed in late September to avert a government shutdown, which one official said did not provide enough money to cover all of the White House’s operating costs.”

Competitive House districts, visualized

“From Texas to Oregon, competitive congressional districts are disappearing. As states finalize new borders ahead of the 2022 midterms, state legislatures are approving maps they hope will advantage one party in the coming struggle to control the narrowly held U.S. House,” Ashlyn Still, Harry Stevens and Kevin Uhrmacher report.

Hot on the left

The Democrats’ last chance to make Build Back Better … better

The American Prospect's David Dayen has a pitch: address the life spans of the policies.

“We’ve seen throughout U.S. history imperfect social programs perfected over time, from Social Security to Medicare. But from their inception, those programs were permanently in place, creating a virtuous cycle of constant improvement. The BBB programs will have to fight for their very survival, and may not even be in a position to be improved, as the political fight will be around their existence. Furthermore, their design renders them less popular, making extension less likely.”

“But the Senate can remedy this mistake.”

Hot on the right

Opinion: How can Republicans court more diverse voters? Turn to Ronald Reagan.

“Reagan’s speech, given on his birthday at the 1977 Conservative Political Action Conference, explored how to combine different types of conservatives into ‘a new, lasting majority.’ To bring together economic and social conservatives, even though they did not see eye to eye on every issue, he argued that this required ‘compromise, but not a compromise of basic principle.’ Reagan’s success in creating this new synthesis set the basis for the modern, pre-Trump GOP,” Henry Olsen writes

Today in Washington

At 2 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks on the economy. 

Biden, the first lady, Harris and Doug Emhoff will participate in a service project at DC Central Kitchen at 4 p.m.

At 5:55 p.m., the Bidens will depart for Nantucket, Mass., where they will arrive at 7:10 p.m.

In closing

The Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade will return this year in (almost) full force.

“With the city reporting that more than 80 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, the parade is expected to return with all its helium-filled pomp and corporate-branded holiday cheer — with an asterisk: children under 12 will not be allowed to participate in the parade itself. They will, however, be allowed as spectators along the two-and-a-half-mile parade route, as well as at the ceremonial inflation of the balloons on Wednesday afternoon around the American Museum of Natural History,” the NYT's Julia Jacobs reports.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.