With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
DEMOCRATS ON THE CUSP — The AP and TV networks all called the Arizona Senate race for Democrat MARK KELLY on Friday night after about 75,000 more Maricopa County ballots were counted. Kelly’s victory over BLAKE MASTERS means Republicans now have to maintain their slim lead in Nevada and win the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff to flip the Senate.
The GOP’s path is narrowing, with Democratic incumbent CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO continuing to cut into Republican ADAM LAXALT’s margin in Nevada, which now stands at 862 votes. Most of the roughly 40,000 remaining ballots, overwhelmingly from the state’s two historically Democratic urban counties, are set to be tabulated later today. Read Jon Ralston’s morning lookahead
ALSO CALLED FRIDAY — Republican JOE LOMBARDO unseats STEVE SISOLAK as Nevada governor while Democrats AARON FORD (attorney general) and ADRIAN FONTES (secretary of state) win down ballot … Nevada Democrats STEVEN HORSFORD, SUSIE LEE and DINA TITUS all keep their House seats … Democratic Reps. GREG STANTON (Ariz.) and DAVID TRONE (Md.) also hang on.
IS TRUMP STILL TEFLON? — In the days following the GOP’s abysmal Election Day performance this week, one big question has emerged: Given the obvious hindrance DONALD TRUMP was for his party Tuesday, is this finally the moment when Republicans turn away from him?
There were some early signs in that direction:
— RUPERT MURDOCH’s media empire, acting in apparent unison, fingered Trump as the reason for the party’s election woes, while prominent Republicans, including CHRIS CHRISTIE, publicly aired the same warning.
— Trump’s inner circle begged him to wait to announce his 2024 presidential campaign until after the Georgia runoff, recognizing his toxic effect on swing voters.
— A gun-rights group, the American Firearms Association,issued a news release detailing a poll of its conservative members, who have turned on Trump and now want RON DeSANTIS to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.
But just as after Jan. 6, we’re starting to see the Trump rebound effect. Look no further than the whiplash from Trump insider JASON MILLER. Earlier this week he told the AP he was advising Trump to postpone his planned Tuesday campaign announcement until after the Georgia runoff. But on Friday, speaking on STEVE BANNON’spodcast, Miller aired zero qualms about the forthcoming launch.
“President Trump is going to announce on Tuesday that he’s running for president, and it’s going to be a very professional, very buttoned-up announcement,” Miller said.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, most of the finger-pointing (the visible finger-pointing, anyway) has been directed everywhere but at Trump.
— A cadre of conservative senators is moving to shift blame onto Trump’s favored target: Republican leader MITCH McCONNELL. At least seven GOP senators want a delay in next week’s leadership elections — with one, MAGA darling Sen. JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.), demanding a leadership change altogether.
— Sen. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.), who ran the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, aired his theory of the case on Fox News Friday night: “I think we didn’t have enough of a positive message. We said everything about how bad the Biden agenda was — it’s bad, the Democrats are radical — but we have to have a plan of what we stand for.” (Remember that McConnell famously resisted issuing such a plan, while Scott’s personal governing agenda became a Democratic punching bag.)
— Rep. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-Colo.)told CNN on Thursday that it was “a lack of voter enthusiasm for her party’s candidates for governor and Senate” that upended her yet-to-be-called race.
— Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) raised the specter of election fraud in a private call with fellow Republicans Thursday, claiming that any Laxalt loss would be suspect. “There is no mathematical way Laxalt loses,” he said,our Natalie Allison and Zach Montellaro scooped. “If he does, then it’s a lie.”
The trend of casting blame on congressional leaders or election malfeasance indicates that the GOP is far from a reckoning moment on Trump. Instead of doing the deep and painful soul-searching they’ve long avoided, Republicans are seeing what they want to see.
As the NYT’s Jonathan Weisman notes in a story up this morning, those hoping for a sudden moment of clarity shouldn’t hold their breath. If past is prologue, he writes, “it’s unclear whether any of the Republican introspection about the election will make a difference.”
“After the party’s losses in 2012, a post-mortem by the Republican National Committee counseled a move to the center, especially on immigration, to appeal to Latino voters and other voters of color. Republicans did the opposite, turning to Mr. Trump, who vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with what initially seemed like positive results for the party. Since then, he has led Republican candidates to underperform in 2018, 2020 and 2022.”
Rep. PETER MEIJER (R-Mich), who lost his primary this year after voting to impeach Trump, tells WaPo in a big story about the GOP’s post-election freakout that the party “continued to sleepwalk down the path of crazy” following the Jan. 6 insurrection. “After Tuesday,” he said, “we have no choice but to heed voters when they say that ‘the grass is green, the sky is blue, and by the way, you just got your ass handed to you.’”
MORE MIDTERMS FALLOUT
ANOTHER JUICY TICK TOCK — “How the 2022 Midterms Became a Squeaker,” by NYT’s Shane Goldmacher: “How the midterms turned out so improbably was, in many ways, a function of forces beyond Democrats’ control. A Supreme Court decision that stripped away a half-century of abortion rights galvanized their base. A polarizing, unpopular and ever-present former president, Donald J. Trump, provided the type of ready-made foil whom White Houses rarely enjoy.
“But interviews with more than 70 people — party strategists, lawmakers and current and former White House officials — also revealed crucial tactical decisions, strategic miscalculations, misreading of polls, infighting and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in both parties that led the G.O.P. to blow its chance at a blowout.”
Two buzzy anecdotes: 1) Hours after Lombardo distanced himself from Trump and his stolen-election lies in an Oct. 2 debate, Trump called RONNA McDANIEL and “fumed about withdrawing his endorsement, threatening to throw into chaos one of the nation’s most consequential swing states. … Ms. McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, pleaded with the former president. She asked him for one hour to fix the situation, according to people familiar with the call. Mr. Lombardo soon issued a statement calling Mr. Trump a ‘great president.’ The crisis was averted.”
2) “During the summer, STEVEN LAW, the head of a McConnell-aligned super PAC, told the financier PETER THIEL, who had spent millions supporting Mr. Masters, that Mr. Masters had scored the worst focus group results of any candidate he had ever seen, according to people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Law’s group later canceled all of its Arizona television reservations.”
DEMOGRAPHIC DIVE — “Why Independent Voters Broke for Democrats in the Midterms,” by WSJ’s Aaron Zitner in Washington and Eliza Collins in Paradise Valley, Ariz.: “Nationally, Republican candidates this year had the advantage of a favorable voter mix. Some 49% of midterm voters were Republicans, and 43% were Democrats, a 6-point GOP advantage, AP VoteCast, a large survey of the midterm electorate, found.
“The GOP edge was similar or larger in states with competitive Senate races: 5 points in Pennsylvania, 8 points in Georgia and 11 points in Arizona. … Undercutting the GOP advantage was that independents favored Democrats by 4 points nationally, the survey found, and by a far more substantial 18 points in Pennsylvania, 28 points in Georgia and more than 30 points in Arizona.”
— “Young Voters Helped Democrats. But Experts Differ on Just How Much,” by NYT’s Dan Simmons and Michael Wines in Milwaukee: “Preliminary figures indicate that Democrats, particularly in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan, benefited from a strong turnout of young voters, aged 18-29, the age group that regularly shows the strongest support for the party — and regularly votes the least.
“But less certain and much debated after Tuesday’s vote was whether the turnout was particularly strong this year, or more a continuation of support seen in the last midterm election in 2018 — which restored the party’s control of both houses of Congress — or the 2020 vote that elected President Biden.”
HOW IT HAPPENED — “How blood-and-guts headlines propelled Republicans in New York,” by Erin Durkin: “Republicans nationwide leaned hard on crime in the midterms — and mostly fell flat. But it did gangbusters in New York, where a tabloid drumbeat of chaos resonated with voters out in the city’s suburbs, helping the GOP claim one open New York House seat and wrest three more from Democratic control.”
— “Behind the scenes of Working Families Party’s push for Hochul victory,” by Sally Goldenberg, Joe Anuta and Anna Gronewold: “By the time New Yorkers hit the polls on Tuesday, the progressive third party had spent $500,000 on its eleventh-hour push: Organizing 60 canvasses and phone banks, sending 2 million text messages and making 250,000 calls. More than 300 volunteers hit polling sites across the five boroughs of New York City, imploring voters to give Hochul a chance, according to party spokesperson RAVI MANGLA.”
PHOTO OF THE DAY
6 MORE THINGS THAT STUCK WITH US
1. SETTING THE TABLE: “In an Era of Confrontation, Biden and Xi Seek to Set Terms,” by NYT’s Chris Buckley and David Sanger: “Just weeks after President Biden and his Chinese counterpart, XI JINPING, laid out competing visions of how the United States and China are vying for military, technological and political pre-eminence, their first face-to-face meeting as top leaders will test whether they can halt a downward spiral that has taken relations to the lowest level since President Nixon began the opening to Beijing half a century ago.”
— “As Biden and Xi meet, can their old connection avert a clash?” by WaPo’s Matt Viser: “Joe Biden shook hands with Xi Jinping that day in 2011 and the two vice presidents walked up a red carpet to the strains of their countries’ national anthems, until Biden paused unexpectedly before a Chinese official with a full head of hair. ‘If I had hair like yours, I’d be president,’ he cracked, breaking the atmosphere of stately diplomacy. Later in the whirlwind trip, Biden made a more serious point: ‘President Obama and I want to see a rising China. We don’t fear a rising China.’”
— Related read: “Computer chip ban signals new era as Biden and Xi meet,” by AP’s Josh Boak
2. POTUS ABROAD: “Biden pledges US will work with Southeast Asian nations,” by AP’s Seung Min Kim and Zeke Miller in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: “President Joe Biden promised Saturday that the United States would work with a strategically vital coalition of southeast Asian nations, telling leaders that ‘we’re going to build a better future that we all want to see’ in the region where U.S. rival China is also working to expand its influence.”
— Related read: “Why it will be hard for Biden to woo Southeast Asia,” by Phelim Kine
3. JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH: “Jan. 6 committee staffers told preliminary plan for final report would focus largely on Trump, not on law enforcement failures, sources say,” by NBC’s Ken Dilanian, Ryan Reilly and Jonathan Allen: “Last week, committee staffers were informed via a phone call that material prepared by several of the teams whose work did not directly link to Trump would largely not be included in the final report, according to the three sources. One source said a ‘pens down’ order came after the call.
“As it was described on the call, the sources said the committee’s final report would reprise the case against Trump that was made during the committee’s televised hearings and not fully lay out the work of the separate teams of investigators examining other aspects of what happened.”
— “Trump sues to block subpoena from House Jan. 6 committee,” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney: “The lawsuit, filed in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., Friday evening, argues that the subpoena intrudes on executive privilege still guaranteed to him by the Constitution even though he left office more than 21 months ago. The suit also challenges the committee’s authority on other grounds. … Trump’s lawsuit effectively dooms any chance for the panel to compel his testimony, ensuring a complex and lengthy legal battle that is sure to last beyond the committee’s lifespan. The panel is slated to dissolve at the end of the year.”
4. THE LOAN LITIGATION: “Biden Administration’s Student-Loan Forgiveness Faces Mounting Legal Hurdles,” by WSJ’s Gabriel Rubin: “Biden administration officials have been quietly preparing for the possibility that a court would strike down the program, according to administration officials, and have been discussing both legal and policy responses to such a move. In particular, it remains unknown whether the administration will seek to extend the pandemic-era pause on student-debt payments. Interest has been frozen and payments have been suspended since March 2020, but the administration was planning to end the pause as of Jan. 1.”
5. SPY GAMES: “Internal Documents Show How Close the F.B.I. Came to Deploying Spyware,” by NYT’s Mark Mazzetti and Ronen Bergman: “The documents, produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times against the bureau, show that F.B.I. officials made a push in late 2020 and the first half of 2021 to deploy the hacking tools — made by the Israeli spyware firm NSO — in its own criminal investigations. The officials developed advanced plans to brief the bureau’s leadership, and drew up guidelines for federal prosecutors about how the F.B.I.’s use of hacking tools would need to be disclosed during criminal proceedings.”
6. CLIMATE FILES: “U.N. climate talks near halftime with key issues unresolved,” by AP’s Frank Jordans in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “How Democrats Avoided a Red Wave,” by The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein: “The traditional midterm-election dynamic — wherein the president’s party takes a major hit — appears to have failed to materialize.”
— “The Message of the Midterms,” by Yuval Levin for the National Review: “For Republicans, it should be clearer than ever that they have trouble reaching potentially winnable swing voters because of the unhinged appearance and revolting character of the party’s Trump-era incarnation.”
— “The Normie Center Strikes Back,” by Andrew Sullivan on Substack: “Democracy works, survives, and can surprise us (including me). A great night.”
— “Hispanic and Working Class Voters in the 2022 Election,” by Ruy Teixeira on Substack: “Despite Beating Overall Expectations, Democrats Still Have Big Problems.”
— “After the midterms, America and its democracy look stronger,” by The Economist: “On top of his other flaws, the former president is a serial vote loser.”
— “‘Canary in the Coal Mine’: Is Elissa Slotkin’s Win a Warning for Political Extremists?” by Kathy Gilsinan in East Lansing, Mich., for POLITICO Magazine: “The Michigan Democrat had been targeted by the GOP, but she beat them by stealing away some of their own weary voters.”
— “David Shor’s (Premature) Autopsy of the 2022 Midterm Elections,” by N.Y. Mag’s Eric Levitz
— “Toward a Conservative Popularism,” by City Journal’s Jesse Arm: “If they want to win majorities, Republicans should emphasize issues on which the public supports their positions.”
— From the archives: “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” by Richard Hofstadter in the November 1964 issue of Harper’s Magazine
OUT AND ABOUT — Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez hosted a dinner at their Kalorama home on Friday night to celebrate the honorees of tonight’s National Portrait Gallery Portrait of a Nation Gala. Jewel performed and José Andrés curated the dinner menu. SPOTTED:Dolly Parton, Clive Davis, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Hillary Clinton, Ron Howard, Diane von Furstenberg, Mark Ein, Steve and Jean Case, Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve and Amy Ricchetti, Anthony Fauci and Christine Grady, David Rubenstein, Caryn Zucker, Kim Sajet, John McCarthy, Susanna Quinn, Carol Melton, Ryan Williams, Robin Reck, Lonnie Bunch, Karen Knutson, Fred Ryan, Stacey Rubin, Kristin and John Cecchi, Wayne and Catherine Reynolds, Baratunde Thurston, Teresa Carlson, Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Roger Sant.
— SPOTTED at Cafe Milano’s blowout 30th anniversary party on Friday night: Franco Nuschese, Jonathan Karl, Wolf Blitzer, Bob Johnson, Kaitlan Collins, Chris Licht, Olivia Nuzzi, Sally Quinn, Bob Woodward and Elsa Walsh, Maureen Dowd, Jonathan and Betsy Fischer Martin, Alex Marquardt and Amanda McClements, Bret and Amy Baier, John Legittino and Lauren Pratapas, Robert and Elena Allbritton, Dionne Warwick, Kellyanne Conway, Ted Olson, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mary McAuliffe, Terry McAuliffe, Newt and Callista Gingrich, Carl Hulse, Steve Clemons, Tony Powell, Tammy Haddad, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Gen. Michael Hayden, Dan Glickman, Carlos Gutierrez, British Ambassador Karen Pierce, Nicholas Alton, Francesca Craig, Gen. Jim Jones, UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and Robert Stryk.
— SPOTTED at a 40th birthday party for HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney on Friday night at the Queen Vic: Ryan Grim and Elizan Garcia, Sam Stein, Mike DeBonis, Amanda Terkel, Igor Bobic and Valerie Chicola, Gabe Joselow and Mélanie Gouby, Tara Golshan, Elise Foley, Ryan Reilly, Jen Bendery, Dave Jamieson and Jenny Rogers, Ned and Lauren Kraemer, Akbar Ahmed, Matt Fuller, Kevin Robillard and Paul Blumenthal.
TRANSITION — Justin McFarlin is now deputy assistant secretary of Defense for industrial base development and international engagement. He most recently was director of corporate strategy at L3Harris Technologies.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Kristin Shapiro, of BakerHostetler and a DOJ, OLC and House OGC alum, and Ilya Shapiro, of the Manhattan Institute and professor emeritus at Georgetown Law, this morning welcomed Oliver “Ollie” Elijah and Galina “Lina” Diane. Ollie is slightly bigger than Lina, and they join big brothers Jacob and Charlie. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) … Jeff Zients … Dr. Elena Allbritton … PBS NewsHour’s Stephanie Kotuby … POLITICO’s Debra Kahn … Protocol’s Bennett Richardson … Harlan Hill … Steve Guest of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) office … Anchor Change’s Katie Harbath … Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group … Katie Stuntz … Ryan Coyne of Olympic Media … Jenn Ridder … Kevin Gundersen … Lauren Peikoff of MSNBC … British Robinson of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy … Crozer Connor … Maria Cardona of the Dewey Square Group … Roger Ream of The Fund for American Studies … Erica Sackin of Meta … former Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) … Jessica Kahanek … Kara Gelber of Morning Consult … Alex Griswold … Marguerite Sullivan of Latham & Watkins … Katelyn Beaudet of ROKK Solutions
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
ABC “This Week”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. Panel: Jonathan Karl, Chris Christie, Donna Brazile and Michelle Cottle.
CBS “Face the Nation”: Anita Dunn … Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) … Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). Panel: Leslie Sanchez, Ashley Etienne, Joel Payne and Brendan Buck.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) … Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore. Panel: Karl Rove, Chad Pergram, Mary Landrieu and Mo Elleithee. Panel: Mark Meredith, Aishah Hasnie, Alexandria Hoff and Rich Edson.
CNN “State of the Union”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan … Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer … Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro. Panel: Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Brad Todd, Karen Finney and S.E. Cupp.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Paul Kane, Rachael Bade, Eva McKend and Melanie Zanona.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) … Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … Anita Dunn. Panel: Stephen Hayes, Hallie Jackson, Symone Sanders-Townsend and Jake Sherman.
Did someone forward this email to you? Sign up here.
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton, digital editor Garrett Ross and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.