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The Daily 202

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

Democrats take a (big) chance on helping Trump-y GOP

The Daily 202

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

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to adopt the first of what would be three articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon.

The big idea

Democrats take a (big) chance on helping Trump-y GOP

It may be that “you can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy (and) you can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-America,” as President Biden said Monday. But maybe you can be pro-insurrection and get Democratic support in your GOP primary.

Around the country, in at least five states, Biden’s party and outside liberal groups are rolling the dice by meddling in Republican primaries, running ads designed to ensure the GOP nomination will go to candidates they hope are too extreme to win come November’s midterm elections.

The payoff is obvious, and so are the considerable risks: Even fringe candidates might actually win in the political environment of 2022.

Biden’s job approval rating is at 37 percent, according to an average of polls compiled by The Washington Post. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans say the country is going in the wrong direction and a majority of Democrats say the state of the national economy is poor.

  • That’s fodder for a wave election. (It’s too soon to say conclusively whether and how much a series of Supreme Court decisions, notably one rolling back a half-century of access to abortion as a constitutional right, have changed the national political mood in Democrats’ favor.)

And there’s little reason to think the Republican Party machine, to say nothing of GOP voters, won’t rally behind even the most extreme candidates. This could look more like Donald Trump ‘16 than Donald Trump ‘20.

“They’re playing with matches, and they’ve got lighter fluid on their hands,” longtime GOP communicator (and critic of former president Trump) Doug Heye told The Daily 202. “If one of these political candidates win, it’ll be arson.”

The Democrat’s view

A Democratic strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be more candid, told The Daily 202 the strategy “makes sense in places where we can win anyway because it will save us money if we don’t have to spend here, for example Maryland Governor. But that’s different than risking electing a MAGA Republican in a seat we’ll have a tough time to win in a rough election environment.”

My colleagues Colby Itkowitz, Dave Weigel and Arjun Singh looked at one of the races in question, the Michigan GOP primary pitting 34-year-old House freshman Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump, against former Trump official John Gibbs, who has said there were “shenanigans” in the 2020 election and baselessly claimed Biden’s victory looked “mathematically impossible.”

“Desperate to retain control of Congress in November in the face of stiff political head winds, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has become the latest party entity this election year to aid a Trump-endorsed Republican in a primary against a candidate who has resisted the former president. The $435,000 investment calls Gibbs ‘too conservative’ in ads and highlights his connection to Trump — a winking message meant to boost his appeal to conservative primary voters.

  • “While Democratic meddling is nothing new, it has taken on a greater significance this year, becoming a go-to tactic for well-funded organizations aligned with the party in some marquee statewide races where GOP candidates have embraced Trump’s false election claims and have run on hard-right platforms. The results have been mixed and the strategy will be tested again in the next round of primaries, even beyond Michigan.

My colleagues talked to Meijer, who told them “I assumed it might happen” and that the “high-minded rhetoric” of his Democratic colleagues, he added, had been “translated into galling hypocrisy” by a party committee running ads to boost his Trump-endorsed opponent.

Charges of hypocrisy

There were echoes of that complaint from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a sharp critic of Trump who is retiring. He recently said Democrats are going after the very kind of Republicans they publicly worry are going extinct.

It’s not just Kinzinger making that point. Here’s Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.):

With regard to political collateral damage, it’s also possible that the strategy reflects a sentiment you sometimes hear in private from some liberals: That the Trump era has proven there are no good Republicans, only those who have not fallen yet.

Or, as Brian Beutler, the editor in chief of Crooked Media, put it in the New York Times last week: Democrats “should hone a strategy that does more than simply elevate certain Republicans over the rest of the party simply because Democratic strategists believe voters will find them uniquely dangerous or threatening. That strategy obscures and diminishes the truth staring all of us in the face: that the Republican Party as a whole has radicalized against democracy and can’t be trusted with power.”

What’s happening now

After testing negative for covid-19, Biden touts U.S. response to virus

Speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House this morning, “Biden, who tested negative both Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to the White House physician, hailed his administration’s investment in booster shots, at-home tests and other treatment, such as Paxlovid, in countering the virus,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

Biden noted that his experience was dramatically different than when President Donald Trump contracted the coronavirus. ‘When my predecessor got covid, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center,’ Biden said. ‘He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered.’"

Senate teed up to pass chips bill and send measure to House

“The Senate is poised Wednesday to pass a bipartisan bill that would provide $52 billion of subsidies to domestic semiconductor manufacturers, and invest billions in science and technology innovation, in a bid to strengthen the United States’ competitiveness and self-reliance in what is seen as a keystone industry for economic and national security,” Amy B Wang reports.

Brittney Griner testifies at her trial in Russia, describes ordeal

“She began her testimony describing the search at a Moscow airport in February where she was arrested for bringing cannabis oil into Russia. Speaking to the court through a translator, Griner said that her rights were not read to her when she was taken into custody after customs officials found two cannabis vape cartridges in her baggage,” Robyn Dixon reports.

Fed poised to hike rates by three-quarters of a percentage point to fight inflation

“The Federal Reserve is expected to hike interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday, in the latest push to rein in inflation that remains at 40-year highs, is threatening the overall economy, and is weighing on families and businesses nationwide,” Rachel Siegel reports.

Two ex-officers face sentencing for violating George Floyd’s civil rights

“A former Minneapolis police officer who helped restrain George Floyd, and another who held back bystanders as Floyd gasped for air beneath Derek Chauvin’s knee, face sentencing Wednesday for violating the Black man’s federal civil rights,” Holly Bailey reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

ICYMI: WaPo Exclusive

Justice Dept. investigating Trump’s actions in Jan. 6 criminal probe

“Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation,” Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Spencer S. Hsu report.

  • New phone records: “Justice Department investigators in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter. That effort is another indicator of how expansive the Jan. 6 probe had become, well before the high-profile, televised House hearings in June and July on the subject.”

The key takeaway: “The Washington Post and other news organizations have previously written that the Justice Department is examining the conduct of Eastman, Giuliani and others in Trump’s orbit. But the degree of prosecutors’ interest in Trump’s actions has not been previously reported, nor has the review of senior Trump aides’ phone records.”

… and beyond

GOP’s links to extremism surface in congressional primary

“A congressional candidate whose compelling personal story of military valor and unfathomable loss helped him win former President Donald Trump’s support has connections to right-wing extremists, including a campaign consultant who was a member of the Proud Boys,” the Associated Press's Brian Slodysko reports.

“Republican Joe Kent, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state in the Aug. 2 primary, has also courted prominent white nationalists and posed recently for a photograph with a media personality who has previously described Adolf Hitler as a ‘complicated historical figure’ who ‘many people misunderstand.’”

How the Fed’s inflation battle is already slamming the economy

“Mortgage rates have doubled in the last six months. Consumers are paying more to tap credit lines than at any time in over a decade. Lenders are setting aside cash as they brace for a wave of corporate defaults. And layoffs are slowly ticking up,” Politico's Victoria Guida reports.

“As the Federal Reserve prepares to deploy another supersized interest rate hike Wednesday, its inflation-fighting campaign is already ripping through the economy, slowing down business activity and sparking fears that the U.S. is tipping into recession just two years after it emerged from the last one.

The latest on covid

Scientists hone argument that coronavirus came from Wuhan market

“The coronavirus pandemic began in separate viral spillovers — at least two but perhaps as many as two dozen — from live animals sold and butchered in late 2019 at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, according to two papers published Tuesday in the journal Science,” Joel Achenbach reports.

The Biden agenda

White House braces for grim news on economy

“Senior administration officials are hitting the airwaves and arm-twisting reporters in private, imploring anyone who will listen that the economy — despised by majorities of both Republicans and Democrats fed up with inflation — is still healthy,” Politico's Ben White reports.

Biden considers new pause on paying back student loans, $10,000 relief

“President Joe Biden is considering extending a pause on student loan repayments for several more months, as well as forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower, according to people familiar with the matter, as he seeks to appeal to young voters ahead of the November midterms,” Bloomberg News's Nancy Cook reports.

Xi, Biden to speak as possible Pelosi Taiwan visit looms

“Biden is planning to speak with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the first time in four months, with a wide range of bilateral and international issues on the table. But a potential visit to Taiwan by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is looming over the conversation set for Thursday, with China warning of a severe response if she travels to the self-governing island democracy Beijing claims as its own territory,” the AP reports.

More: Biden administration working behind the scenes to convince Pelosi of the risks of traveling to Taiwan

Suspects charged for the Jan. 6 riots, visualized

“The Washington Post analyzed court filings, case documents and other public information about those charged and sentenced as of July 18. The most common felony charges suspects face fall into three categories: interfering with police, obstruction of an official proceeding and trespassing. Defendants in the more than 500 ongoing cases together face almost a thousand felony counts,” Aadit Tambe, Sahana Jayaraman and Adrian Blanco report.

Hot on the left

After Roe, Democrats say they, not the GOP, are the party of freedom

“In the weeks since the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion rights, Democrats are gravitating toward a freedom-focused message more commonly used as a rallying cry by Republicans. After years of ceding to the right an ideal central to the nation’s identity, Democrats now see an opening to establish their own narrative around personal freedoms. National Democratic strategists are encouraging their candidates to use the Roe decision as a catalyst to frame all issues facing Americans — from economic woes to health care to voting rights — as threats to their freedoms,” Colby Itkowitz reports.

Hot on the right

As Trump speaks in Washington, his allies prepare for a second term

“Taken together, the apparatus of Republican groups are laying plans to transform the federal government, slashing the administrative power of agencies, making it easier to fire career civil employees, cutting the roster of those working for the government and vetting a generation of new loyalists to take positions to enact conservative change,” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report.

Today in Washington

The president will deliver remarks in the Rose Garden at 11:30 a.m. He does not have any public events scheduled this afternoon.

In closing

Is the economy working for you? This quiz will tell you.

“I’ve teamed up with my colleagues to build this quiz to help you figure out how current economic events could impact your finances,” Michelle Singletary writes.

“There’s no right or wrong answer. The questions are a way for you to gauge where you stand financially. Your score — and our financial advice — could help you prepare for what’s coming if the economy gets worse.”

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.