Tuesday, August 20, 2019


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Old and New

Something old:  The president used two Monday tweets to call for a Fed interest rate cut.

Something new: The White House is reportedly considering a payroll tax cut (except that it denied in a formal statement that it is considering a payroll tax cut).

My take: The administration is still largely in “don’t worry, be happy” mode in its  public economic messaging, not wanting to spook American consumers or businesses any more than they already are. 

But by purposeful or accidental leak, the White House clearly signaled Monday (with major Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal stories) that it is looking to have options to juice the economy as much as is necessary in time for November 2020.

The president must know that relying on jawboning the Fed is not enough to protect himself politically. But getting House Democrats to go along with tax cuts of any sort, even the type of payroll tax measures they typically support, is going to be next to impossible.

The important point is that the chief question has now moved from “Will there be a 2020 recession?” to “What does the White House think it can do to head off a 2020 recession?”

Something old: Economists predict a looming recession.

Something new: More say it will happen in 2021 than in 2020 now.

My take: This notion – the recession won’t kick in until after the president is, theoretically, safely re-elected – is probably driving White House rhetoric as much or more than any actual belief (despite Kudlow happy talk) that there are no real economic storm clouds on the horizon.

Something old: Planned Parenthood at odds with Trump administration.

Something new: Planned Parenthood withdraws from Title X funding.

My take: The issue of a reduction in reproductive and health services now moves from the theoretical and legal to the actual.  Real patients, especially in underserved areas, will now almost certainly have more limited access to not just abortion and birth control, but all of Planned Parenthood’s services.  This is clearly a public policy issue for those who support the organization, but it is too soon to say how big a deal the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee can and will make of this fight.

Something old: Elizabeth Warren deals with Native-American heritage claim.

Something new: Elizabeth Warren draws a rally crowd of 12,000 in Minnesota Monday night.

My take: I’ve lost track of the number of consecutive days it has been over which Warren has gotten nothing but positive coverage. As Donald Trump demonstrated in 2016, crowd size is often an actual indication of grassroots support. Warren seems to be leading the field in inspiring passion in progressive voters, and that is a metric that seems fuzzy but in fact could be determinative.  Ask yourself what it would take for Joe Biden to draw 12,000 people under any circumstances.

Something old: Bernie Sanders campaigns with a pop culture celebrity (Susan Sarandon).

Something new: Sanders’ celebrity pal seems to take a shot at Elizabeth Warren’s past Republican affiliation.

My take: Sanders eschews negative campaigning and he genuinely likes Warren. But under the normal rules of nomination politics engagement, even in a multi-candidate field, the Vermonter will at some point have to draw some sort of contrasts with Warren or risk being overwhelmed by her rising star. 

Was Sarandon freelancing or floating a trial balloon?  My Sarandon sources are on summer holiday, so I can’t answer that this morning. But it does seem clear that Sanders’ most logical negative frame to try to put on his Bay State rival is that she is not as true blue a progressive as he is – and her past GOP status is a potentially potent, potentially viral way to encapsulate the distinctions between them.

Something old:Trump waffles on background check measure.

Something old:Schumer and Pelosi assail Trump for his waffling on background check measure.

My take: Reporters are understandably trying to read the tea leaves on what will happen in September.

Here’s the Washington Post: “Trump’s campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month’s shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats…”

“’He is going to be very careful,’ said one person close to the president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. ‘He isn’t inclined to do much right now.’

“’I can’t think of a single time he has really pushed Republicans to do something they weren’t going to be doing anyway,’ said Brendan Buck, who served as a top aide to former House speaker Paul Ryan.”

And the New York Times: “White House officials insisted that Mr. Trump would shift back again toward supporting more aggressive legislation in the fall, when lawmakers return from their August recess. But they also said Mr. Trump had sounded less aggressive in private over the past week in discussions about possible gun legislation, a change that coincided with the N.R.A. mounting a full-court press.”

Status quo ante: significant new gun safety legislation will only happen if the president takes on a bold, aggressive, and detail-focused role on a project that will alienate some of his base. 

Donald Trump dreams of the votes of suburban women in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — but he has nightmares about losing the support of gun owners

Something old:Anthony Scaramucci takes his new anti-Trump stance to TV.

Something new: Anthony Scaramucci takes pen to paper, writing an op-ed for the Washington Post on why he turned against Trump.

My take: One of the potential game changing 2020 dynamics is if a serious contingent of prominent Republicans publicly abandons Trump’s re-election. Scaramucci suggests he want to lead that counter-movement. Doing so would require him to take on a bold, aggressive, and detail-focused role on a project that will alienate some of his base. 

The current betting is that Scaramucci is just slightly more likely to successfully pursue this gambit than Donald Trump is to sign a background check law in the Rose Garden with a smiling Nancy Pelosi standing behind him.

Something old: Another House Democrat comes out for impeachment.

Something new: This time, it is the #4 member of the leadership, Ray Lujan, who has a lot of influence over the House freshpersons he helped elect as DCCC chief.

My take: One the one hand, at some point, if enough House Democrats back impeachment, Speaker Pelosi will have no choice but to declare what Judiciary Chairman Nadler is already doing to be impeachment hearings.  On the other hand, if a careful roadmap and calendar isn’t put in place soon, we will be too close to the Iowa caucuses for Pelosi to give up and give in, given her strong, data-backed belief that impeachment could guarantee Trump’s re-election.

Pelosi’s best friend in this is the likelihood that the Democrats would have to win their current court battles to compel the testimony of key witnesses for any impeachment proceedings to go forward. 

One of the few areas of agreement between Pelosi and the president: they don’t mind at all if the wheels of justice grind sloooooowly on these cases.

Top sports story: On this date: Tiger Woods wins third straight major
ESPN

Top business story:Apple is spending $6 billion on original shows and trying to beat Disney+ to market
CNBC

Top entertainment story: James Corden Signs Deal to Host ‘Late Late Show’ Through 2022
Variety

Big Four

Iowa

Warren apologizes for heritage claims as Democratic presidential contenders woo Native Americans in Sioux City.

Michael Bennet banking on moderation in age of Trump.

New Hampshire

Gas prices still falling in northern New England.

Nevada

Las Vegas Monorail hits snag as Sisolak says no to plan.


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