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The Daily 202

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

Moderate Democratic governors are having a boomlet

The Daily 202

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

Welcome to The Daily 202! On this day in 1988, Doug Williams became the first Black quarterback to start in and win the Super Bowl. Williams led the team now renamed the Washington Commanders to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos.

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The big idea

Moderate Democratic governors are having a boomlet

No, the menacing clouds of angry partisanship haven’t cleared, there hasn’t been a magical double rainbow, and no heavenly chorus has manifested to celebrate an outbreak of productive bipartisanship from sea to shining sea with a joyful singalong to “Kumbaya.”

But a handful of Democratic governors, some newly elected and others more established, are test-driving approaches — centrist? bipartisan? moderate? middle-of-the-road? — that seem almost alien given the partisan warfare in, say, the House of Representatives.

And while the tactics may hint at the newcomers’ aspirations — remember the strategic “triangulation” that eased Bill Clinton to a second term after the GOP romp in the 1994 midterms — they may also give a sense of whether and how it’s possible to bridge America’s partisan divides.

Enter Josh Shapiro

My colleague Colby Itkowitz paints the portrait here of one of the governors: “Josh Shapiro began his term as Pennsylvania’s new Democratic governor by nominating four Republicans to his Cabinet. His first executive order, which eliminates a four-year college-degree requirement for thousands of state government jobs, was praised by conservative media. He appeared on Fox News in his first television interview as governor.

“These early overtures by the 49-year-old governor signal an unusual posture he’s staking out as he takes the helm of a state roiled in recent years by election conspiracy theories and sharp partisan fighting. At a time of deep political polarization, Shapiro’s rare bipartisan moves are drawing cautious praise from Republicans and optimism from Democrats.” 

In November, Shapiro did pretty well with rural, White, working-class voters.

“Democrats need to show that they’re willing to show up anywhere and speak to people with respect, not ignore swaths of our communities that feel like time and time again, they’ve been ignored or talked down to,” Shapiro told Colby.

  • He may accommodate Republican goals like cutting taxes on businesses and individuals, promoting fracking, school choice, and hiring more police officers.
  • He won’t budge on access to abortion and contraception or LGBTQ rights and will shun anyone who “peddles lies and conspiracy theories and act like demagogues,” he told Colby. “I think you have to draw a line.”
The bench

Over at Politico, Jonathan Martin looked last week at Shapiro, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D), and Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) “who all thrashed MAGA’fied Republicans, were all born after 1970 and all have law enforcement or military credentials.”

Jonathan seated them on a promising “Democratic bench” and said the party’s hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing about a lack of future prospects was “mystifying…especially after the midterms.”

Thanks to billions in federal spending, “Moore and Shapiro will craft their first budgets with the chance to play Santa rather than the Grinch. Notably, though, what animates each of them is less any sort of spending wish list than a pair of non-ideological initiatives that just happen to be broadly appealing to general election voters,” Jonathan wrote.

“Both know what sort of message these proposals send about their party, and themselves, at a moment Democrats are fending off charges of elitism,” Jonathan wrote. “The two are eager to reclaim patriotism, faith and family, which were all on display at their inaugurations, mostly vividly through the presence and participation of their children.”

(Jonathan cannily notes Shapiro is likely to have to negotiate with a GOP-led Senate, while Moore will have to manage intraparty fissures in a state legislature held by Democrats, and both realities will shape what they can do going forward.)

Covid approach pays off out West

Then there’s Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D).

For Polis, a former House member, the end of the pandemic may have come in December 2021, when he declared: “If you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s really your own darn fault” and “those who get sick, it’s almost entirely their own darn fault.”

The Daily 202 chronicled his tough language (and its health policy implications) at the time. But the political value became clear when Polis easily won another term in November after a campaign in which he highlighted how he led his state out of covid restrictions.

In each case, are Americans getting ambition? Or accommodation? Or both? We’ll see.


See an important political story that doesn’t quite fit traditional politics coverage? Flag it for us here.

What’s happening now

Republican Rep. George Santos to step down from House committees

“Santos, who has admitted to fabricating key parts of his background since his election in November, said he would remove himself from his assignments on the House Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee, in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Tuesday,” Meryl Kornfield, Leigh Ann Caldwell and  Marianna Sotomayor report.

  • Santos told the meeting he will step down because ‘he’s a distraction,’ according to a Republican lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.”

FDA creates food safety, nutrition program in wake of baby formula crisis

The Food and Drug Administration will create a senior position to oversee food safety and nutrition after recent foodborne-illness crises, including a baby formula shortage, exposed major flaws in the agency’s structure and culture,” Jacob Bogage reports.

China accuses Washington of wanting ‘technological hegemony’

“China’s government accused Washington on Tuesday of pursuing ‘technology hegemony’ following news reports the United States might step up pressure on tech giant Huawei by blocking all access to American suppliers,” the Associated Press’s Joe McDonald reports.

U.S. to increase weapons deployment to counter North Korea

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday said the United States will increase its deployment of advanced weapons such as fighter jets and bombers to the Korean Peninsula as it strengthens joint training and operational planning with South Korea in response to a growing North Korean nuclear threat,” the AP’s Kim Tong-Hyung reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

$5.4 billion in covid aid may have gone to firms using suspect Social Security numbers

“The U.S. government may have awarded roughly $5.4 billion in coronavirus aid to small businesses with potentially ineligible Social Security numbers, offering the latest indication that Washington’s haste earlier in the pandemic opened the door for widespread waste, fraud and abuse,” Tony Romm reports.

A conservative judge helped stop Trump on Jan. 6. He wants to finish the job.

What began as a late-night phone call has turned into the quest of a lifetime for [Michael] Luttig, the pinnacle of a long and storied career, highlighted last summer by his stirring appearance before the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol and by the committee’s final report released in late December, which mentions his name more than 25 times,” Manuel Roig-Franzia reports.

  • “'Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy,' Luttig told the committee on live television. But Luttig wasn’t just condemning Trump and Trumpism. He was trying to bring a nation to its senses.”

… and beyond

For Giffords, progress on gun safety is like her recovery: ‘Inch by inch'

“Ms. Giffords, 52, who goes by Gabby, is arguably America’s most famous gun violence survivor. She had come to [the headquarters of the gun safety group that bears her name] in Washington for an update and a strategy session. The timing of her visit underscored two competing truths: The gun safety movement she helps lead is stronger than ever. But the nation’s gun violence epidemic is worsening,” the New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports.

States miss deadline to address Colorado River water crisis, pressure builds on California

“The seven states that depend on the Colorado River have missed a Jan. 31 federal deadline for reaching a regionwide consensus on how to sharply reduce water use, raising the likelihood of more friction as the West grapples with how to take less supplies from the shrinking river,the Los Angeles Times’s Ian James reports.

FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried sought leniency from foreign regulators, says Justice Department

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried attempted to stall bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. in November in order to transfer assets from his crypto exchange to foreign regulators, the Justice Department alleged in a filing Monday,” the Wall Street Journal’s James Fanelli and Vicky Ge Huang report.

Rep. Nancy Mace warns her party to adopt a more ‘centrist’ abortion agenda or lose women voters

“If Republicans don’t back away from an anti-abortion agenda that includes strict bans, and shift to a more ‘compassionate’ view of unwanted pregnancy, the overturning of Roe v. Wade could come to be the party’s death knell, says GOP Rep. Nancy Mace,” the 19th’s Mel Leonor Barclay reports.

The latest on covid

Biden to end covid national emergencies in May

President Biden told Congress on Monday that he will end the national emergencies to combat the coronavirus outbreak on May 11, a move that will restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic nearly three years after the virus first arrived in the United States,” Tyler Pager and Lena H. Sun report.

The Biden agenda

Biden administration to strengthen Obamacare contraceptive mandate in proposed rule

The Biden administration wants to make it easier for women to access birth control at no cost under the Affordable Care Act, reversing Trump-era rules that weakened the law’s contraceptive mandate for employer-provided health insurance plans,” CNN’s Tami Luhby and Jacqueline Howard report.

The U.S. on Israel’s far-right government: It is what it is.

President Joe Biden and his aides are making nice with Israel’s new far-right government — and they’re doing it in a highly public fashion,” Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports.

  • The choice to engage the coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu was clear Monday, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on a two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank. Blinken’s trip follows separate visits to Israel by U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William Burns. It also comes amid a spike in violence between Palestinians and Israelis.” 

The cost of electric vehicles, visualized

Electric car sales rose sharply last year to claim 5.4 percent of the U.S. market, with many models attracting long waiting lists of buyers. But consumer worries about high prices, sparse charging infrastructure and the risks of road-testing new technology are still obstacles to mainstream acceptance, analysts and car buyers say,” Jeanne Whalen reports.

Hot on the left

Some Democrats are worried about Harris’s political prospects

“Concerns about Harris’s political strength were repeated often by more than a dozen Democratic leaders in key states interviewed for this story, some speaking on the condition of anonymity to convey candid thoughts. Harris’s tenure has been underwhelming, they said, marked by struggles as a communicator and at times near-invisibility, leaving many rank-and-file Democrats unpersuaded that she has the force, charisma and skill to mount a winning presidential campaign,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports.

  • “As Biden passes the halfway point of his term, Harris faces a critical moment. If he seeks reelection as expected, she would be a central part of the campaign, making it a high-stakes dress rehearsal for her own potential bid in 2028. If Biden steps aside, she would instantly move to center stage as his potential successor, facing the heightened attacks and scrutiny that accompany such a role.”

Hot on the right

RNC urges GOP candidates to ‘go on offense’ on abortion in 2024

“After GOP underperformance in November’s midterm elections, the Republican National Committee is doubling down on its antiabortion stance, formally urging GOP lawmakers and campaigns to ‘go on offense in the 2024 election cycle’ and to pass the strictest antiabortion legislation possible,” Amy B Wang reports.

  • At its winter meeting, the RNC passed a resolution that called on Republicans to push ‘laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn,’ referring to ‘heartbeat’ bans on abortions, which would outlaw the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy — before many people realize they are pregnant.”

Today in politics

At 12:30 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in New York City.

Biden will participate in a Democratic National Committee reception at 3:30 p.m.

At 4:45 p.m., Biden will depart New York to return to the White House.

In closing

The 118th United States Congress: A Knives Out Mystery

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.