Friday, June 14, 2019

Trump Tries to Climb Out of the Dirt

POTUS in damage control mode after saying he would take Russian election help.

My take: The president’s remarks will likely go down in history as among his most outrageous and controversial from his term.  Really, they are some of the most remarkable things any incumbent president has said in modern times. Although many Republicans on Capitol Hill uncharacteristically broke openly with Trump, they are in fact significantly more troubled by them privately than what their public comments suggested.  That almost certainly includes Mitch McConnell, even as the leader defended Trump on Fox over the comments.

Politico wrote no fewer than eight stories about what Trump said.  The statements are sure to dominate the news at least through the Sunday shows.

Trump’s bizarre tweets trying to defend himself by invoking his meetings with officials in the UK and the hard White House spin were acknowledgments that what the president said was beyond just problematic.

It would be nice to think that there would be consequences for Trump for this.  It makes impeachment incrementally more likely.  It adds to the private incredulity Senate Republicans have about the president’s character and political smarts.  Let’s see if the public engages on the matter.

Strong Op-Ed in Favor of Impeachment

Clinton, Obama adviser Todd Stern pens powerful case that Pelosi is wrong.

Another Sign of Warren Rise

California poll puts her above home state’s Harris.

My take: We are seeing a tipping point in real time in the Democratic nomination race. The chief animating question for the field is no longer, “How do we bring Joe Biden down to earth?” (although that is still a strong number two).  The main question now is, “How do we slow down Elizabeth Warren?” 

With the other women candidates failing to break out (the significance of Harris’ weak standing in that Cally poll and her potential fundraising struggles are not to be understated), Sanders’ poll numbers stalled, and Buttigieg still looking to build broader support, Warren continues to demonstrate polling, media, issue, and fundraising strength that makes her the undisputed momentum candidate right now.

On the current trajectory, it is not impossible that Warren could rise enough to create the impression that the contest is effectively a two-person race by the fall.  That isn’t a prediction, but it is now a real prospect. The other candidates in the field have to decide if they should continue to focus on Biden, or switch their focus to Warren.

The right choice isn’t clear.  Right now, Warren’s rise is good for Biden; for one thing, it helps him coalesce support from the establishment, which largely doesn’t want her to become the nominee. If she rises any higher, we will reach another tipping point and her ascent will be dangerous enough for Biden that he might be the one who has to go after the Massachusetts Senator.

Biden Did Not Have a Good Thursday

Abortion video, Beto attack previews frontrunner’s future.

My take: The former VP is going to face more of what he got as the week closed: opposition research drops (a 2006 video showing him talking about his skepticism of abortion rights is problematic) and aggressive attacks from his Democratic rivals (O’Rourke openly assailing Biden as a man of the past on “Morning Joe” crosses a dangerous tripwire). 

Team Biden and the candidate himself continue to do an effective job staying above the fray, and the media surprisingly continues to minimize the coverage of these types of developments.  But the day is almost certainly coming when Biden will be on-camera facing a crucible moment.

Top sports story: Raptors win in 6, Kawhi wins his second Finals MVP 

ESPN

Top business story: Stocks drop as Middle East tensions rise

Wall Street Journal

Top entertainment story: Taylor Swift releases a pro-GLAAD single and details about her upcoming album

Pitchfork

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Warren Rising Over Sanders

My take: As of now, Warren’s ceiling looks higher than Sanders’, and Biden would likely have a tougher time for a variety of reasons besting the Massachusetts Senator in a two-person race than he would beating her Vermont colleague.  Will there come a day when Biden might have to go negative on Warren? There is a real possibility of that now.  What material the former VP would choose to use, and how effective (and/or dangerous) such a move would be, are very much TBD.  Despite Biden’s claim that he plans to run a positive campaign, does he have an opposition research shop, and is that shop looking into Warren’s record and background?

Trump Would Take Oppo From Norway

My take: This is one of the all-time great “Trump has changed almost every imaginable standard” moments of the last four years.

Hicks to Testify in Private to House Committee

My take: Records will be broken for biggest Hill stakeout ever; potential to also break the record for “fastest leak ever” after her appearance next week.

Howard Schultz’s Bad Back Delays Presidential Decision

My take: Democrats need breaks to beat the incumbent. Biden’s strong start puts even more pressure on the Starbucks big to stay out of the contest – or be known for ever more as the person who re-elected Donald Trump.

Read This Dan Henninger Wall Street Journal Column

My take: His conclusion is something every Democrat who wants to win back the White House should consider: “Donald Trump has a catlike sense for the deep cultural unease this post-Obama coalition creates among many millions of voters. It is the one variable Mr. Biden won’t be able to fix from now until Election Day.”  Henninger knows a very special breed of cat, apparently. 

Blues Win Stanley Cup…Finally

My take: St Louis is truly one of the great sports cities in America.  Now they just need real pizza.

Durant Has Successful Surgery

My take: Get healthy and become a Knick.  And I don’t even root for the Knicks.

Top sports story: Kyrie parts ways with agent, looks to join Jay-Z’s Roc Nation

ESPN

Top business story: U.S. CEO Confidence drops to the lowest level of Trump presidency

Bloomberg

Top entertainment story: ‘Chernobyl’ sets record for HBO digital viewership

Deadline

Big Four

Iowa

Joe Biden says Democratic debate won’t offer a chance for ‘any real depth’.

“After ordering a short stack of pancakes at a local café….”

New Hampshire

Booker says he wants to win the primary ‘the traditional Granite State way’.

Nevada

Biden leads Democratic presidential candidates in Nevada poll.

Sisolak signs wage, sick leave, collective bargaining bills.

Las Vegas voter turnout third worst in 20 years.

Nevada law prevents most employers from rejecting pot-users.

South Carolina

Planned Parenthood forum on abortion drawing Dem candidates.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What We Learned

Trump-Biden Iowa faceoff is the media template – until and unless another Democrat can change the dynamic.

My take:

Politically, Biden needs to keep up the attacks on Trump. They reinforce the polls suggesting he would trounce the incumbent in a general election matchup. (Here’s Tuesday’s Quinnipiac poll showing Biden beating Trump badly nationally.). They rally Democrats to his side.  They help him avoid engaging with his party rivals.  They allow him to hone and brandish his general election message. And they keep him foursquare in the news, while the other Democrats struggle to get major coverage.

Politically, Trump needs to keep up the attacks on Biden. They make him feel good, since he has a primal need to go after whatever he perceives as the biggest threat to him at any given time (and media coverage and polls suggest that Biden is now the one).  They rally Republicans to his side. They allow him to hone and brandish his general election message.  And, if his jibes work (as they have against most rivals in the past), they increase the chances that he can decrease the chances of Biden winning the nomination.

The press wants Trump and Biden to continue to attack each other. For most of the media, the formula is simple.  Covering two dozen Democrats is difficult and expensive; covering a one-on-one fight that includes two nationally known political brands engaging in stinging name-calling sound bites is simple TV and lead writing. The media will stay slavishly devoted to having its coverage be driven by Trump-Biden until another Democrat can force herself or himself onto the stage and into the plot. 

The challenge for Biden’s Democratic rivals: what is required to change the storyline?

The most obvious answer is to rise in the national or key state polls, but that takes a lot of hard work on the ground, and with so many candidates in the race, the math is difficult.  It will be hard to break through in the debates.  Finding a critique of Trump that is more eye-catching or dramatic than those already on offer is probably impossible.

The best bet: organize, organize, organize in Iowa.

Again, Biden wants to fight Trump. Trump wants to fight Biden. The press wants to cover the fight.  That’s a formidable Iron Triangle to bust up.

Best news of the day for Biden: He got the exact coverage he wanted, with a well-written and well-delivered critique of the incumbent’s economic record and moral fitness.  He didn’t look sleepy, sick, or particularly old. Nice shirt, too.

Worst news of the day for Biden: Per the Wall Street Journal, “Antiabortion activists heckled Mr. Biden at all of his Iowa events Tuesday after he reversed his position last week to now oppose a ban on the use of federal funds for most abortions. One protester repeatedly trailed him at the events, yelling, ‘What about the babies, Joe?’”

Anyone who has seen anti-abortion activists target a presidential candidate in Iowa know just how much of a challenge that can be for a campaign.

Per the Quad City Times:  “Mid-speech, as Biden was discussing the deadly Charlottesville protests involving white supremacists in 2017, one man rose and yelled at the former vice president over his recent change of stance on the Hyde Amendment. Other anti-abortion protesters were later ushered out of the room.”

Sanders Goes Back to Basics

In a bid to elevate his visibility, speak his heart, and ward off Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders will make the case for socialism in Wednesday speech.

My take: While Republicans want to paint whomever the Democrats nominate as so left they’ve left America, Sanders’ hope for taking the nomination is based on owning the socialist lane, which requires keeping Warren from winning over his supporters.  Most of the media still underestimates the support socialism has within the Democratic Party, but Sanders has a big challenge to convince the nominating electorate to choose him as their messenger.  The more Sanders talks about socialism, the more establishment figures, including donors, will come off the sidelines to support Biden as the best bet (right now) to stop both the Vermont Senator and Trump.

In other news:

Pelosi anti-impeachment stance still firm, based in part on whip count of House Democrats.

Tear gas used on protesters in Hong Kong.

Top sports story: Both managers get tossed in the Red Sox 9-5 loss to the Rangers

ESPN

Top business story: Kudlow says the U.S. will maintain 3% growth with or without a China trade deal

CNBC

Top entertainment story: Showing Disney’s power, Hulu and FX partner to purchase rights to Lionsgate films

Deadline

Big Four

Iowa

Des Moines Register

Joe Biden sidesteps media questions on abortion, Hyde Amendment in Ottumwa; answers them in Mount Pleasant.

 “’I’m not answering rope-line questions, because I don’t hear them, and they get me in trouble,’ he told a reporter in Ottumwa.”

Donald Trump touts ethanol victory in Iowa, but some leaders worry hardship waivers will undo gains.

New Hampshire

Klobuchar says she’ll beat Trump in the Midwest.

Lawmakers, governor differ on mental health funding details

Nevada

Candidate Swalwell to hold Las Vegas meeting on gun violence.

With bills, Cortez Masto targets epidemic of missing and slain indigenous women.

120 degrees in the shade?! Record-breaking, ‘dangerous’ heat wave bakes western U.S.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Trump Versus Biden

Possible general election match-up on display in Iowa Tuesday.

My take: Even though the president and the Democratic frontrunner are not expected to share any media market time in the Hawkeye State, their simultaneous presence in one of America’s premiere political spots puts pressure on both men to perform.  It is otherwise shaping up to be a slow news day, so this is the de facto main event.

Prediction: the national media will do more tire kicking of the pair than almost any real-life Iowan will.

This New York Times must-read story of the day is filled with the now-common tittle tattle from Trump aides, describing the president’s alleged simultaneous obsession with Biden, polling, and the minutiae of his own campaign AND an absurd lack of interest in important aspects of his re-election and of his presidency.

Make no mistake, right now, Trump and his campaign’s polling data see Biden as the biggest threat to creating the first defeat of an incumbent United States president in almost thirty years.

One sign of that reality, the AP curtain raises the trips by reporting that “Since March, Trump has mocked or criticized Biden on Twitter nearly 40 times.”

Trump “begins his trip in Council Bluffs to tour and speak at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, which produces and sells the corn-based fuel additive ethanol, before addressing an Iowa GOP dinner in Des Moines.”

Biden will start his two-day campaign swing in a section of southeast Iowa that was won by Obama-Biden but that turned Trump in 2016.  He holds a rally midday in Ottumwa.

“Outside a fundraiser in the nation’s capital on Monday night, Biden said he would ‘probably talk about [Trump]’ while in Iowa,” per ABC News

Probably.

So how are the two starting their respective Tuesdays?

Trump’s Enemies

The Internet isn’t big enough to chronicle them all, but I spy the following hot war feuds Donald Trump is currently engaged in: the Fed, Mexico, the media, the Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republicans, China.

My take: Forget my take. Here’s the take of a former White House aide, quoted in Politico:

“He has this insatiable need to impress people and demonstrate accomplishments and notch achievements. When he feels like he’s done something that should be recognized as a success and people are not recognizing it that way, it poses an existential threat to his sense of self — and this is what you get.”

Biden’s Negative Coverage Befitting a Frontrunner Blooms

Post pair: conservative Mike Gerson denounces Biden’s abandonment of Hyde + liberal Richard Cohen denounces Biden’s abandonment of Hyde

Politico pair: Biden isn’t giving Iowa enough love + Biden is running an uneven, centrist campaign

My take:  It follows as naturally as “SportsCenter” comes after the end of a baseball game. Now that Biden has gone for awhile as the undisputed polling frontrunner, almost all of the negative analysis pieces, columns, and news stories are about him, and they all get much bigger play than negative stories about his Democratic rivals. 

It is, in the immortal words of former Obama campaign manager (and Delewarian) David Plouffe, Biden’s turn in the barrel, where the press scrutiny is so relentless, and on one level, so truly unfair, that the frontrunner can begin to feel under siege.

We know this is how Hillary Clinton (twice), John McCain, and Mitt Romney all felt when their nomination frontrunner status earned them withering coverage.  It got inside their heads, and became a daily source of tension both between them and their campaign teams and between the campaign teams and the media.

This is new territory both for Team Biden and for Biden himself. He’s never been the frontrunner when he has run for president. He did, however, get a lot of negative coverage in both 1988 (when it drove him out of the race) and 2008 (when he literally started his campaign on a day when an earlier interview he had done was published containing remarks seen as insulting to Barack Obama). He didn’t handle either instance super well.

Trump is battle tested for war (even if he doesn’t win nearly as often as he thinks he does). Don’t be distracted by Biden versus Trump in Iowa today.  Play the longer game: how will Biden substantively and psychologically handle his own war with the media?

This is unaccustomed terrain of late for a man who as vice president had great relationships with the press and got mostly kind coverage.

But if you keep playing the dynamic out, Trump’s on-going attacks on Biden actually help the frontrunner in two ways.

One, it builds Biden up for Democrats as the candidate apparently most feared by the incumbent, which is what the party wants to nominate. 

Two, if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the anti-Trump media could be pushed by the president back into Biden’s arms.  Today is a possible test of that dynamic, which we all might be living with for the next seventeen months.

Politico on the Pelosi-Nadler impeachment feud.

Missouri abortion clinic stays open for now.

Top sports story: Durant tears Achilles in return, Warriors still hang on to force Game 6

AP

Top business story: Trump’s Fed hectoring only complicates Powell’s rate cut decision

Wall Street Journal

Top entertainment story: YouTube CEO apologizes to LGBTQ community, defends Crowder decision

Deadline

Big Four

Iowa

Kirsten Gillibrand is ‘glad’ Joe Biden listened and does not support Hyde Amendment

Iowa Poll: More than 3 in 4 likely Democratic caucusgoers say ‘a woman’s right to abortion’ is non-negotiable.

Bullock visits Siouxland, talks reaching the voters of Middle America.

New Hampshire

Sununu vetoes rate increase for substance abuse, mental health treatment providers.

Nevada

Southern Nevada Health District reports case of West Nile virus.

Hearing resumes before judge in Nevada pot license lawsuits.

South Carolina

Bernie Sanders’ SC campaign looks different this time. Is it different enough to win? 

Paper-based voting announced in South Carolina to replace paperless system.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The State of the Race

Biden leads, Warren moves, everyone else is looking for an opening.

My take: There are now three main possible scenarios for the Democratic presidential nomination fight.

1. Biden continues to rope-a-dope, his rivals continue to avoid effective confrontation with him, and he wins Iowa and New Hampshire in rolling to the nomination by March in relatively easy fashion.

2. Biden’s Hyde Amendment flip-flop-flip-flop performance is repeated on other issues, accompanied by opposition research drops, and all manner of Bidenesque gaffes, leading to a precipitous decline in his poll standing nationally and in the key states, allowing other candidates tbd to move up in the polls, and removing the frontrunner label from Biden’s back.

3. Biden goes into Iowa and New Hampshire as the clear frontrunner, but then loses one or both of them (or wins them only narrowly, losing the expectations game), leaving him wounded. Anyone who actually or symbolically bests Biden in one or both of those states would gain major momentum, setting up Biden’s chance at a comeback in Nevada and South Carolina – or setting up his elimination there.

Scenario (1) is pretty boring from an analysis point of view, so let’s focus on the other pair of possibilities.

Scenario (2) could actually be good for Biden. It would take some of the focus off of him in the balance of 2019, and allow him to play the Comeback Kid.  If he can fall in the fall, but not fall down, some sequence of strong performances (with, say, a solid showing in Iowa and a clear win in New Hampshire) would likely make him an even stronger frontrunner than he is now, allowing him to leave the Granite State with momentum and give him a big leg up on the nomination.  John Kerry and John McCain both won their nominations along these lines.

The question begged by that scenario and Scenario (3) is who will be the one, two, or three candidates who will be in a position to be in the narrative mix if Biden falters either in 2019 or in Iowa and New Hampshire?

Based on performance and “performance versus expectations,” only two candidates are having unambiguously strong runs at this point, besides Biden.

That would be Elizabeth Warren, who moved up in the new Des Moines Register poll (and a few other surveys), is getting under the skin of Team Sanders, continues to get positive reviews for the quality and quantity of her policy proposals and quick reactions to breaking news developments, and is said by sources to be having a solid fundraising quarter.

The other candidate still on a roll is Pete Buttigieg, who also moved up in the Iowa poll, continues to be a double threat fundraiser with both small donors and fat cats, and is generating crowd excitement with his message of generational change.

Most major polling suggests Sanders’ floor of support is lower than many thought it would be, and if Biden falters, most of his establishment support will end up somewhere else, with the former VP’s current backers looking for electability over socialism.

Kamala Harris could be the beneficiary of that, as she continues to hang on in the second tier. But she has yet to show polling growth or have the breakthrough moment required to be seen as the obvious establishment backup to Biden or a potential strong finisher in Iowa or New Hampshire.

It is an odd cycle, with so many candidates in the field and a shifted and shifting Democratic electorate, but the Iron Rule of nomination fights does not appear to be going anywhere: a win, place, or show in either Iowa or New Hampshire is almost certainly going to be required for someone to have a chance to win the right to face Donald Trump.

As for the other twenty candidates in the race, Sunday’s cattle call in Iowa proved what we already knew: it is humanly and practically next to impossible to break out in a field this big, with so much similarity between so many of the prospects. That will be true in the early formal debates as well.

Based on polling, organization, demographics, and the dynamics of this particular race, today, only Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg are positioned to win or place in the first two states. That, of course, could change between now and February.

But it is going to be super challenging for all the rest to get there, unless Scenario 1 occurs.  So one big question is, if Biden falls, where does his vote go?

And, another: if Biden does not fall, can any of the current second-tier candidates turn the contest into a two-person race coming out of New Hampshire?

And, finally, can anyone besides Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, and Harris break into the second tier in time to build fundraising and voter momentum?

It is notable that in a field of two dozen candidates, the trajectory of the race for the foreseeable future depends on the performance and prospects of just one of the candidates – Joe Biden, whose primary objective is to make nice with the other Democrats, stay above the fray, and focus on Trump.  But that is where we are right now.

Top sports story: Rask, Bruins force Blues into a Game 7
ESPN

Top business story: Chinese exporters dodge tariffs with fake ‘Made-In-Vietnam’ labels
Bloomberg

Top entertainment story: ‘Dark Phoenix’ flops with the worst debut in ‘X-Men’ franchise history
Variety

Big Four

Iowa

Iowa Poll: Joe Biden leads, followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

Defeating Donald Trump is the top priority for likely Democratic caucus participants.

New Hampshire

Climate change emerging as a top issue for 2020 Dems.

Nevada

US attorney in Nevada says pot prosecutions not top priority.

South Carolina

Kamala Harris says prosecutor past will help defeat Trump at SC keynote.

Wrecking ball or breath of fresh air? How Dick Harpootlian is shaking up the State House.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Biden Reverses on Hyde

Frontrunner bows to the politically inevitable.

My take: “Circumstances have changed,” Biden said, in announcing his decision to abandon a position he has held for decades and reaffirmed just on Wednesday.

The Washington Post has one of the most euphemism-filled quotes of all time, explaining the reversal:

“’It seemed like he heard a lot of feedback and opened his mind to thinking about this in a different way,’ Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in an interview after Biden announced his new position.”

Now that Biden has gotten right on paper with the pro-choice community, there

are three implications of this episode:

1. Biden’s rivals are now emboldened to probe and prod to look for political weaknesses.

2. Since Biden was willing to drop his long-standing principled view in support of Hyde, many are asking why didn’t he do it two days ago, thereby avoiding all this negative coverage.

3. We will have to see if Team Biden learns the obvious lessons from this episode, or if this is the beginning of a series of the kind of Bidenesque bobbles and gaffes that many thought would characterize (and perhaps sink) his third presidential bid.

Another National Poll With Basically the Same Numbers!

Consistent standing of top prospects is quite something.

My take: Look at these figures from the latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll and get déjà vu all over again:

Biden              31%

Sanders          14%

Warren              9%

Harris                 6%

Buttigieg             5%

O’Rourke             3%

“Among registered Democrats, 41% said the most important factor for a presidential candidate was his or her ability to beat” Trump. “

“In comparison, only 12% said they were looking for someone who was strong on health care, the top issue for Democrats over the past few years.”

Among registered voters:

Biden              50%

Trump            36%

This additional set of data that largely squares with almost every other recent poll, backs up the sense among Democratic strategists that the dynamics of the race are still relatively frozen. Despite the Hyde flap, Biden continues to raise money, garner political support, and ride high in the polls.  With the exception of Warren, no other contender is on the surface having a quarter that appears to have breakthrough potential.

Trump Tariff Stick Bringing Mexican Carrots

Status of US-Mexico talks the same as Friday dawns: POTUS still threatening Monday 5% tariffs, while negotiations continue to bring Mexican concessions on immigration.

My take: There’s no deal yet, with the talks awaiting the return of Trump from Europe to weigh in on whether Mexico is giving in enough on border enforcement and immigration processes to hold off Monday’s brandished tariff deadline.  Trump might not get the deal he wants, but there’s no denying his threat has pushed the Mexicans to agree to policy changes that they have never been prepared to make before.

Strengthening Trump’s hand: now there’s speculation that the Fed could cut rates, mitigating some of the damage from Trump’s use of tariffs for leverage over Mexico and China.

Trump Bashes Pelosi in Fox Interview

President calls Speaker “vindictive…horrible…nasty.”

My take: On one level, Pelosi will just brush the jibes off her shoulder; she’s not the least bit surprised at Trump’s remarks, just as he is not surprised at her saying she wants him in prison. On another level, to state the super-obvious, this war of words makes impeachment more likely, and trade and infrastructure deals less likely.

Top sports story: Blues take a 3-2 series lead in Boston

AP

Top business story: Global stocks climb while investors await U.S. jobs data

Wall Street Journal

Top entertainment story: Obama’s production group signs exclusive podcast deal with Spotify

Deadline

Big Four

Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds released from hospital after going to the emergency room for chest pain.

Kamala Harris ramps up staff, organizing in Iowa: ‘It’s game on.’

2020 Iowa caucus: Bennet hires Iowa state director, a former Indiana congressional campaign manager.

Klobuchar’s mental health policy inspires Iowa endorsement.

Beto O’Rourke stumps with his wife amid struggles with women.

New Hampshire

Judge rules N.H. school funding formula inadequate, unconstitutional.

Senate moves to rollback new low on voter residency rules.

Opioid crisis, system shortfall hurts New Hampshire children.

Nevada

Sisolak OKs test of pot banking, bans minors buying kratom.

Hot in here? Research shows extreme heat is killing Nevadans, and it’s only getting hotter.

South Carolina

Jill Biden takes notes of Spartanburg’s model schools.

SC lawmakers pass bill to stop future advertising of lab-grown ‘meat’.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Joe Biden Has a Problem

Re-stated position on Hyde Amendment creates slow-motion crisis for frontrunner.

My take: No matter how Biden tries to caveat his support for a long-standing measure barring federal funding for abortion, his position puts him at odds with his Democratic rivals for the nomination, leading abortion rights groups, and, most importantly, Americans who feel Roe and reproductive freedom are under assault.

The caveats: Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress did not overturn Hyde as the law of the land; public opinion surveys generally suggest support for the concept embedded in Hyde; Biden is otherwise mostly in sync with support for abortion rights; and Biden’s campaign says he is open to revisiting the issue if abortion rights come under more siege.

The reality: None of those caveats matter to those who object on principle to Biden’s position, and the political dynamics going forward are as obvious as they are dangerous for Biden.  His competitors for the nomination will continue to come after him hard on this.  The press will push Biden to explain his complex position (something that does not play to his strength). And abortion rights supporters, especially young women, will now have grave doubts about the concept of Joe Biden, wire-to-wire frontrunner.  Don’t underestimate the strong principles and emotions animating the opposition to Biden’s stance.

If you think this isn’t poised to be a full-blown crisis for Biden, read this paragraph from Danielle Campoamor in a Washington Post op-ed:

“If Joe Biden wants to carry the banner of a party that claims to champion, protect and uphold the inalienable rights of black, brown and poor people, he must reverse his support of the Hyde Amendment and follow the lead of his fellow Democratic candidates. Anything less would be the former vice president throwing under the bus the people whose support he needs most directly, at a moment when they are uniquely vulnerable. These positions may not stop Biden from getting the Democratic Party’s nomination. But they make him unfit to lead.”

Perhaps Biden will flip flop and change his position. That would create for him a new set of problems. It appears he is clinging to his long-held stance out of principle, not in some Sister Souljah move to help him in a general election by standing up to the left. 

The danger for Biden here is much bigger than just his alienation from abortion-rights supporters.  There already was an Iron Triangle wanting to knock Biden from his frontrunning perch: the other Democratic candidates, the press (which wants a competitive race to cover), and the Republicans, who need a contested primary on the other side to weaken the eventual nominee.

Now Biden has a fight on his hands with one of the Democratic Party’s most important constituencies, a fight that is filled with the symbolism and substance of all the doubts many progressives have about the former VP: that he is too tied to the past, too centrist, and too out of step with a changing and changed Democratic Party.

The fact that a new poll shows Biden topping Trump in Texas is washed away by that reality.

US-Mexico Tariff/Immigration Talks Continue

More mixed signals from Trump as Monday deadline looms.

My take: With border crossings and apprehensions reportedly surging, the House Republicans standing with Trump’s tariff threats, and the Mexicans looking to appease Trump in order to stave off the economic danger and save the broader North American trade deal, it appears the president might get a deal he wants and will back down.

But the greatest sign that Monday’s deadline might be delayed comes from this Washington Post reporting about a person who is generally as frustrated with Trump as Chuck Schumer is:

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has asked White House officials to postpone any decision until after Trump is able to personally hear lawmakers’ concerns, said two people familiar with the exchange…Such a scenario could require the White House to delay the tariffs.”

Pelosi Still Fighting Off Impeachment

Judiciary Chair Nadler pushing for probe.

My take: As the drumbeat for a formal inquiry gets louder, the Speaker likely needs to offer the left more than the status quo to keep the dam from bursting. The pro-impeachment forces want to be on a more clear track to impeachment hearings, as opposed to just “investigations that might lead to impeachment hearings.” Pelosi thinks she knows what’s best, and/but she also knows what the traffic will bear.  Her allies still think she is right on the politics to avoid a formal impeachment process that would help Trump politically. But they also know she might have to change course if she can’t stop the momentum running against her.  She needs a little luck to stave this off now, like some new storyline that unites the caucus.

Top sports story: Curry’s 47 points aren’t enough as the Raptors take Game 3

CBS Sports

Top business story: U.S. futures rise and crude oil rebounds with rate cut optimism

Bloomberg

Top entertainment story: YouTube opts to demonetize Steven Crowder for his homophobic language

CNN