Connect with us

Politics

Inside Joe Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking’

Published

on

Inside Joe Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking’

In preparation for the 2022 midterms, the president-elect is fusing his political operation with the Democratic National Committee. He is also considering sending a top communications staffer — among those discussed are top campaign spokespeople Andrew Bates and T.J. Ducklo — to the DNC for the next several months as an embed before that person heads to the White House themselves. The idea is to help ensure the DNC is integral to the Biden operation, a source close to the campaign said in an interview.

Biden is also empowering his former campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, with his political portfolio in and out of the White House. Dillon, herself a former top national party staffer, is steering DNC meetings in the run-up to the election of a new chair and officers later this month.

She’s brought in an ally, Emmy Ruiz, to become Biden’s White House political director. Longtime Biden confidant and incoming senior adviser Steve Ricchetti will also advise Biden on politics.

Biden is also committed to pumping resources into state Democratic parties that atrophied during the Obama years, according to a Biden official, cognizant of the shortcomings of the last Democratic president’s approach. Rather than build out his own infrastructure, like Obama did, his team is in conversations with battleground state directors about the upcoming midterms and preparing to bulk up outreach to rural voters, with early conversations about having Agriculture secretary nominee Tom Vilsack serve as a possible surrogate.

The strategizing comes as the Democratic Party navigates a new, unsettled landscape, with lingering questions about whether Biden intends to run for a second term. The stakes are high for the party, which must figure out how to keep a congressional majority in both houses and also contend with reapportionment in two years.

No modern president has had a successful first midterm absent George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11. After Obama’s “shellacking,” Trump was pummeled during the 2018 elections. But although history is unkind, Democrats say it’s too early to predict doom for Biden already. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the president-elect cannot “govern through the prism of maintaining majorities,” but at the same time, must advance concrete agenda items if he wants to have success in 2022.

“If you do small things and you do the bare minimum, you’re probably going to pay a price for that. It’s bad for the country and bad politics,” said Plouffe. “There will be polls saying, ‘voters only want Biden to deal with the pandemic.’ You can’t govern based on that. On climate change, on taxes, on voting rights on any number of issues, you’ve got to make progress in these first two years.”

But there is also some cautious optimism in the party. Senior Democrats predict that Biden is less prone to suffer the same political setbacks as his predecessors, including the man he served as vice president.

“He’s a different person than Obama,” said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Obama was very unique; he had a gift of communication. He could speak as well as anyone who’s ever held the presidency. Joe Biden is someone who is coming to the presidency as well prepared as anyone can be.”

Much of the success of Democrats in the midterms is tied to the legislative agenda they pursue before it — a reality that hasn’t escaped Biden’s allies and advisers.

Biden is preparing to push populist themes, like larger stimulus checks and mass vaccination programs for Covid-19 relief. Democrats believe they are the kinds of policies that could bring more immediate political returns than a sweeping overhaul of the health care system, which became a short-term liability for the party in 2010.

The focus on opening schools, small businesses and stadiums by the fall “is ultimately going to dominate the 2022 cycle in the same way that health care did in 2010,” said Tom Perriello, the former Democratic congressman from Virginia, who lost his seat that cycle.

“You need to deliver results that you can point to. If the original House version of the Affordable Care Act passed in the first 100 days, we would have all been fine in 2010,” Perriello said. “We would have had cheaper negotiated drug rates, for example, and by the fall of 2010, we could point and say, ‘You’re paying less for prescription drugs today.’ … That’s something you can run on it.’”

For Democrats, there are fears that getting a handle on the pandemic — while immensely difficult in its own right — will not be enough politically. Paul Begala, the famed Bill Clinton adviser, said the mantra of the 1992 campaign — “It’s the economy, stupid.” — still applies today.

“Taming Covid is necessary, but not sufficient,” Begala said. “Creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs by fixing bridges, repairing water systems, updating the grid, retrofitting buildings — a Biden jobs agenda can help stave off the midterm slump.”

But a popular agenda — even one that creates jobs — still has to be communicated to voters. And that requires an effective campaign infrastructure to be in place. On that front, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said there’s room for improvement.

A powerful Democrat from South Carolina who is close with Biden, Clyburn said that Democrats should expand their map in two years and invest more heavily in local canvassing and less in TV ads.

“We did door-knocking, that’s how we won Georgia. That’s how we win in the midterms,” Clyburn said. “If you do it in the midterms the way you did last November, we will lose the majority.”

Though he is one of Biden’s most prominent allies, Clyburn was critical of the decision last year by the Biden campaign to halt door-knocking amid the pandemic. The campaign later reversed course, but Clyburn still blamed Jaime Harrison’s November loss to Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina Senate race on a lack of canvassing work.

“Jen O’Malley’s — all I’m saying is, is that her kind of politics? I don’t know,” he said of Biden’s campaign manager. “I remember her doing an announcement and we raised holy hell during the campaign.”

Those who have worked with O’Malley Dillon say that the criticism that she’s not attentive to organizing is off base. They note her own personal history in the field and that she was trying to balance the demands of a campaign with the realities of Covid.

“She’s just second to none when it comes to building a scaled field effort,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action and Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign manager. Groh-Wargo had brought in O’Malley Dillon to coach field staff and train local operatives in that campaign. “You have to make choices, and the Biden team was clear — all Democrats were clear in the general election — our No. 1 goal was to keep people safe, period. So up and down the ballot, Democrats were incredibly cautious on door-knocking.”

The Biden team is already connecting with battleground states operatives, including in Wisconsin, where a U.S. Senate seat and governorship are up for grabs in two years.

Ben Wikler, the Wisconsin Democratic Party chair, said he’d been in direct contact with the president-elect’s staff to talk “about the necessity for ongoing support and engagement for state parties and they are totally on the same page.”

Lauded for the work he’s done to build up the state party, Wikler said the Biden team shared his approach and, in fact, was already building on the existing state-level infrastructure.

“It’s worth underscoring, typically when a presidential campaign rolls in, they sweep the dishes off the table before setting up the new places,” said Wikler. “With the Biden campaign, they deeply integrated with infrastructure that state parties have been building for years.”

In many ways, Democrats say, Biden is the antithesis to Obama. The latter was never a creature of party politics. He shunned the DNC and, instead, launched a separate entity, Organizing for America, that essentially competed with the committee. Biden, by contrast, is a 78-year-old creature of Washington and is poised to work hand-in-hand with the party. O’Malley Dillon is sitting in on DNC discussions about officers and the next chair, a role Harrison is expected to assume, according to two sources close to the discussions.

Many of those comparing Biden and Obama as heads of the party concede that they arrived from very different places and at times in their careers that are hard to juxtapose. Obama ran against the Clintons — and all of their relationships and accrued power — before opting to create his own political apparatus.

The party suffered financially during the Obama years and kept its leadership despite severe losses in 2010. At the end of 2010, the DNC was $16 million in debt and had $9 million on hand.

Today, the DNC emerged from the presidential election with no debt and, as of a December filing, had $24 million on hand; though fundraisers warn they’re confronting donor fatigue and are embarking on an era in which Trump isn’t an omnipresent boogeyman to rile up donors.

“We broke every fundraising record in the history of politics, but that’s not sustainable,” said Rufus Gifford, Biden campaign deputy manager who served as DNC finance director at the start of the Obama administration. He said of efforts moving forward: “Party fundraising is a completely different animal than running against Donald Trump. It’s going to be tough, but it’s nice when you’re not starting in the red.”

As a model for the midterm elections, Democrats and Biden officials point to the Georgia Senate run-offs that gave the party a Senate majority for — in all likelihood — at least the next two years.

Biden’s team steered nearly $20 million to help Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock claim the Senate seats, including hard dollars and dedicating staff support and voter data. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who made a combined three trips to Georgia ahead of the November election, returned to the state in the closing days of the January runoff. President-elect Obama faced a similar decision late in 2008, and while he dispatched field organizers for that Senate runoff in December between GOP then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin, Obama refused to spend much of his own political capital on the election, and didn’t travel there late in the campaign, despite Democrats’ hopes of notching a 60-seat filibuster-proof Senate majority.

“We have learned lessons from the past,” a Biden official said. “Things did not work as smoothly and the work was not as closely aligned, and the president-elect wants to ensure there is cohesion and a seamless, productive working relationship that will support not only his agenda, but also lift up state parties and political candidates up and down the ballot.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Politics

Zuckerberg: Facebook to stop recommending political groups in bid to ‘turn down the temperature’

Published

on

Zuckerberg: Facebook to stop recommending political groups in bid to 'turn down the temperature'

A clampdown on political amplification: During the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Zuckerberg called the decision “a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations.”

The Facebook chief also said the company is considering taking new steps to limit the amount of political content users see in its News Feed.

“Politics has kind of had a way of creeping into everything, and I think lot of … the feedback that we see from our community is that people don’t want that in their experience,” Zuckerberg said on the call with investors.

Under pressure: Tech companies are facing immense political scrutiny for the role social media platforms played in the insurrection at the Capitol.

Dozens of Democrats last week called on Facebook and other social media companies to overhaul their recommendations and algorithms to reduce the spread of incendiary, divisive and violent content on their platforms. The lawmakers railed against the companies, saying that by creating a “digital echo chamber,” they had contributed to the radicalization of those who stormed the Capitol.

“Perhaps no single entity is more responsible for the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories at scale or for inflaming anti-government grievance than the one that you started and that you oversee today as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,” they wrote in a letter to Zuckerberg.

The issue has also drawn bipartisan concern. A group of Senate Republicans and Democrats in 2019 teamed up on legislation to require platforms to give users the option of experiencing sites without algorithmic recommendations.

Continue Reading

Politics

Black Veterans’ group calls for representation at VA

Published

on

Black Veterans' group calls for representation at VA

The letter comes as Veteran’s Affairs Secretary-designate Denis McDonough is scheduled to testify at a confirmation hearing on Wednesday afternoon. McDonough, a former chief of staff and deputy national security adviser under President Obama, said in an op-ed for the Military Times that he is committed to revitalizing the department, particularly as it relates to its ability to address the health concerns of an aging veteran population. Still, his nomination vexed a number of veterans’ advocacy organizations, whose leaders said they would prefer a veteran be picked for the job.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been weathered by a number of internal staffing and regulatory issues. In addition to its track record of quick turnovers in top staff positions under President Donald Trump, the agency has faced accusations of retaliation against employees who have reported instances of malfeasance under the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.

The group, however, said that a large number of the issues at the VA disproportionately impact veterans of color.

The push to install Black leaders at the VA comes on the heels of Biden’s first series of executive orders advancing racial equity — an issue that minority-led organizations across the issue advocacy spectrum have been especially attuned to. Victor LaGroon, the president of the Black Veterans Empowerment Council and the letter’s sole signer, pointed to the role that voters of color played in securing Democratic wins up and down the ballot. Given the large number of Black veterans who were part of that group, he said, they should be represented both in top cabinet positions and mid-level staff.

“It is great to see the general [Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin was recently approved and appointed and sworn in,” LaGroon said in an interview. “But that’s one person who will now be working at SecDef. How many people under him will be men of color?”

Member organizations within the council supported the letter on behalf of disabled, woman and LGBTQ veterans. They expressed concern about patterns of discrimination against their members in the past and optimism about improvements to the Veterans’ Affairs Department under President Joe Biden. LaGroon said he is optimistic that the new administration will heed their suggestions and plan to present officials with suggestions for who they feel should fill those roles.

The group also expressed concerns about the patterns of discrimination against Black veterans in their letter. Racial inequities within the department are often swept under the rug when there are few people of color in leadership positions, it argues.

“There’s always been deficits as far as representation across the board,” LaGroon said. “Whether it’s from clinicians, where veterans are getting primary and specialty care, whether it’s a difference in the quality of care that veterans get… obviously, some VA centers or hospitals are better than others.”

Continue Reading

Politics

A top MAGA gathering finds life complicated after Trump

Published

on

A top MAGA gathering finds life complicated after Trump

Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller said that Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago abode is less than 2.5 hours away from the Orlando hotel where this year’s conference will occur on Feb. 25-28, is not currently scheduled to make an appearance. Meanwhile, a senior American Conservative Union official would not answer whether Pence, who drew MAGA world’s ire for certifying Joe Biden’s election, had been invited to speak at this year’s conference. A spokesperson for the former vice president did not respond to a request in time for publication.

ACU chairman Matt Schlapp said he is convinced this year’s conference will be no different from past years. “CPAC is going great,” he told POLITICO on Tuesday, before then saying that his quote needed to be attributed without his name. Schlapp did not address questions about why some sponsors were not continuing their CPAC sponsorship. But after those questions were posed and additional questions were sent to CPAC sponsors — including whether the Jan. 6 Capitol riots impacted their thinking about sponsoring again this year — ACU General Counsel David Safavian accused POLITICO of “tortious interference with business relationships” and attempting “to ‘cancel’ both CPAC and the American Conservative Union itself.” The group then tweeted a copy of a letter from Safavian that included a litigation threat.

“We fully intend to explore our legal rights to hold Politico fully accountable for what we see as tortious conduct,” the letter stated.

How well CPAC goes this year will provide one of the first public indications about the health of the MAGA movement with Trump out of office and with the Republican Party divided over just how loyal to the former president it should be.

One year ago, CPAC was in a far different place. The 2020 gathering was, for a brief moment, a crowning achievement for the conference’s organizer, Schlapp. Delivering a 90-minute, chest-beating victory speech, Trump showed up to hype his survival of his first impeachment. Vice President Mike Pence came as well. Indeed, more than 30 Trump aides and officials in all spoke at the conference, ranging from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to senior White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

But within days, the appearances were overshadowed by news that an attendee who’d been in direct contact with Schlapp had tested positive for Covid-19. Organizers were forced to warn nearly 100 conference-goers of potential exposure and the president’s chief of staff went into self-quarantine, though only one actual case ended up being traced to the event.

The pandemic is even more of a complicating issue this year, compelling Schlapp to move the event to Florida precisely because there are fewer restrictions on such gatherings in that state. Whether guest speakers will follow him down there will determine much of the conference’s success.

A full agenda and list of speakers will be posted two to three weeks before the conference begins, according to the CPAC website, but several past speakers contacted by POLITICO said they were still deciding whether to attend given the added distance and the possibility that Congress could be in the middle of negotiating another coronavirus relief package in late February. An aide to Donald Trump Jr. said he would “probably” attend the conference, as he has done in past years, but that it was not currently on his schedule.

CPAC organizers did announce three speakers for the upcoming conference after POLITICO began inquiring about the lineup. In separate tweets on Tuesday from the @CPAC2021 Twitter account, it was revealed that former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, former Deputy White House National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a rumored 2024 hopeful, would all deliver remarks at the conference next month. No other speakers have been publicly announced as of the time this article was published.

For those planning this year’s CPAC, the main questions are not just whether Trump will be there, but how much his presidency and future should dominate the proceedings. Members of the planning committee began meeting virtually in November, after the 2020 election, and were expected to convene at least five times before the conference begins.

“Do we pull the Nancy Pelosi option and try to expunge Trump from public life or do we try to build on the movement he created and make it tenable? It’s messy,” said a person involved in the CPAC planning process.

So far, this person said, this year’s theme is expected to focus on the fundamentals of conservatism as opposed to any individual political figure — borrowing a page from the Obama years when conservatives lacked an ally in the White House. Topics are likely to include the rule of law, protecting the legislative filibuster and the current structure of the Supreme Court, and defending the Electoral College, among others.

As for this year’s sponsors, some of whom spent as much as $250,000 in past years for exclusive benefits and branding opportunities, several said they were still evaluating the benefits or had decided not to sponsor at all due to mediocre returns on the investment or changes to the conference structure. Gryphon Editions operations manager Michael Hawkins said his company did not plan to sponsor the conference this year after being informed that the CPAC bookstore, which has been set up for attendees in past years, would no longer be available due to Covid-19 precautions.

“They don’t want everybody huddling around,” Hawkins said.

Laura Merriott, president of the anti-abortion nonprofit Save Unborn Life, said her group “didn’t get much response [from] donors last time” after paying between $1,000-$3,000 for a sponsorship and creating a pop-up exhibition.

“It doesn’t pay for itself when you go and set up and you don’t get” enough new donors to make it worthwhile, she said.

Other past sponsors — including the Washington Examiner, Republican National Committee, Turning Point USA, Heartland Institute and Save our States — said they had yet to make a decision as of last week about sponsoring again. Gerrit Lansing, president of the GOP fundraising platform WinRed, said his company would forgo a sponsorship this year, unlike last year, because they “don’t need to” be a sponsor.

“I didn’t even know they were having a CPAC this year,” he added in a text message.

Three previous sponsors who responded to POLITICO inquiries — the Heritage Foundation, Fox Nation and Let Them Live — do plan to return as sponsors this year. “It’s a great venue for us to reach potential donors and supporters,” said Let Them Live executive director Nathan Berning. Twenty-five other sponsors who sponsored CPAC last year did not respond to requests for comment on if they will sponsor again this year, while two additional sponsors were unable to be reached.

Besides canceling its bookstore, where speakers and up-and-coming conservative personalities at past conferences could sell their latest books to fans, it is unclear if CPAC organizers plan to implement further restrictions to protect attendees of this year’s conference from contracting Covid-19.

The Orlando Hyatt Regency, where the conference will be held, requires guests to wear protective face coverings inside the complex, but neither the hotel nor conference organizers specified whether social distancing practices would be implemented or an attendee cap imposed. According to its website, the Florida Department of Health currently encourages people in the state “to avoid congregating in groups larger than 10.”

Meridith McGraw and Tina Nguyen contributed reporting.

Continue Reading

Trending