Wednesday, August 28, 2019


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Pre-order my new book, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take” here.

Wednesday’s Savory Seven

1. Tom Friedman’s New York Time’s op-ed calling for a six-month truce in the U.S.-China trade war.

My take: Friedman is right to inject some new thinking into this clear and present danger to the world, but he predicates his argument on Donald Trump joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and fully linking arms with Europe on trade, rendering a column with a smart premise useless as a practical matter.

But there is no doubt that the world economy and Trump’s reelection need a resolution of the China situation, because, for one thing…

2. The New York Times says farmers are mad about the uncertainty caused by the trade war.

My take: This story has lots of caveats, and doesn’t really demonstrate conclusively that farmers have lost patience with Washington (any more than usual).  But because it is in the New York Times, it will worry the White House and the president’s campaign team. A lot of variables will go into determining if the president wins in 2020, but to get 270 electoral votes, he needs to expand support in rural areas from his 2016 levels.  Obviously, contracting support there makes him all but a sure loser. 

And he can’t necessarily rely on selling an overall booming economy, because…

3. Steve Rattner’s meticulously argued New York Times op-ed shows the Trump economy is not much different than the Obama economy in important respects, and has failed to live up to the promises Trump made.

My take: Regarding the economy as it relates to presidential reelection, statistics, like Rattner’s, matter less than how people actually feel.  But that should give Team Trump little comfort because there are plenty of signs people (especially business leaders and investors) are feeling worse lately, and the ongoing China standoff will only exacerbate those concerns.

And there are limited tools in the Oval Office toolbox to try to turn things around, even if one considers…

4. A Wall Street Journal news story framed as a hopeful push from moderate/Texas Democrats for a vote on the new North American trade deal, which actually contains just as much data to suggest a rough road ahead.

My take: This is right now the sleeper issue of the fall. The economic and psychic impact of Nancy Pelosi allowing a vote on the USMCA would be significant, both for the markets and the real economy, and thus for the president politically. Practical patriot Pelosi wants to find a way to keep free trade flowing between the three North American nations, but substantive and political considerations have kept her from getting to “yes,” and may continue to do so.  This one remains hanging very much in the balance.

Which makes the president’s latest fight with Fed World even more unsettling, as…

5. A recently departed Fed bigwig basically suggests his former colleagues should use their powers on behalf of the Resistance and save the world economy by keeping the president from four more years.

My take: The Fed’s reaction to this renegade view tells you all you need to know. This float was a bad idea, threatening to undermine the Federal Reserve Board’s authority and independence even more than Trump himself has been able to do.  The last thing our country needs right now is more conspiracy theories about the most important matters facing the United States.

Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read….

6. David Von Drehle’s engaging Washington Post column exploring the economic and political weakness of Russia and Putin, and asking, with passion and purpose, the same question we have all grappled with: what does Donald Trump see in Vladimir Putin that causes him to offer up so much support to a dictator who works worldwide against American and Western interests?

My take: Despite the China standoff, the angry farmers, the arguably overrated economy, the stalled North American trade deal, the Fed revolt, and the Putin mystery, the biggest boost establishment Democrats will get from their August morning reading time hooked into their breakfast nooks with a protein shake is…

7. Joe Biden’s gaffe-free, on-message, calm, reasonable, comfortable, and semi-stirring ninety-minute talk with African American journalists.

My take:  Biden has good days and bad days.  Given the Warren Mania that has broken out around him, he picked a good day to have a good day.  Pundits were overrating his chances to be the nominee before – now they are (mildly) underrating his chances.  And/but as strong as the former VP was in this roundtable interview, the most fundamental dynamic of his candidacy remains: he has done nothing to mitigate what many see as the fatal flaws in his candidacy, largely because there is NOTHING he can do to mitigate those flaws.

Two new polls:

USA Today/Suffolk University shows a big Biden lead:

Biden 32, Warren 14, Sanders 12, Buttigieg 6, Harris 6.

Biden supporters will rightly ask if this survey will get as much attention as the one suggesting Biden had lost his lead.

The unfair answer is: no.

But their case will be helped if Wednesday’s Quinnipiac poll backs up what USA Today found.

Correction: In Tuesday’s edition, I misspelled “voila.”  My thanks to the many of you who took time from your busy days to point this out.


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