with Steve Clemons
| Washington|| Palm Beach|| London|
Good morning Washington! Good evening Bali!
Word from a couple of contacts flying on Air Force One after long trips to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and then to Bali, Indonesia is that they are tuckered out, but that President Biden continues to power through meetings and miles at a pace that leaves many of his staff in the dust. They say they see a post-election “spring in his step.”
Aides also feel he had a successful trip, capped by the fact that Biden and Xi Jinping didn’t come out of their three-hour, face-to-face summit spitting and seething at each other. While there are mountains of problems in the relationship, the two seemed to have established guardrails. This is a big deal.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is launching version 3.0 of his presidential campaign, which may look more like version 1.0, Shelby Talcott and Morgan Chalfant report. Senator Ron Wyden tells Joseph Zeballos-Roig that crypto consumer protections are on the way. And Chuck Schumer has the votes on a same-sex marriage bill this week, confirming our scoop yesterday morning. Wonder what Herschel Walker will say?
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☞ White House: Biden just held his first meeting with Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s new far-right prime minister, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit. Stateside, the White House is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the bipartisan infrastructure law. A new fact sheet says the administration has to date announced $185 billion in funding for thousands of projects across the country, including 2,800 bridges.
☞ Chuck Schumer: The Senate is moving forward with a vote to codify same-sex marriage rights this week, as Semafor first reported. Schumer set up a procedural vote on the Respect for Marriage Act for Wednesday.
☞ Mitch McConnell: The minority leader told reporters “of course” he has the votes to be reelected as the Republican leader. Many Senate Republicans are expressing support for McConnell and the effort by some in the caucus to delay the leadership election this week is “running out of steam,” The Hill reports.
☞ Nancy Pelosi: Speculation over the Speaker's future plans has some prominent politicians throwing their support behind her, including Rep. Ro Khanna, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Biden who declared his support by telling her “I hope you stick” during their phone conversation, per Politico.
☞ Kevin McCarthy: The Republican leader’s potential leadership woes are materializing. He faces a Speaker’s challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs with the House Freedom Caucus, while other members seem fine with bucking the minority leader, if, in fact, he can’t secure 218 votes.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. said he’s willing to work across the aisle with Democrats to elect a Republican speaker if his own party can’t produce one. “We want our country to succeed. We’re not going to shut down, so at some point you find the best candidate that can get 218 votes,” he told Semafor. NBC first reported Bacon’s position. Bacon told Semafor he plans to play an active role in getting McCarthy over the top “but at some point we want our country to win and succeed. I’m American first.”
The White House is preparing to ask Congress to approve $10 billion in additional funding for the response to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases during the lame-duck session, according to a source familiar with the plans, which were first reported by the Washington Post. The requested funds would support treatments, research and development of vaccines and therapeutics, long COVID research, and the global COVID-19 response. The Biden administration has tried and failed to convince Republicans to go along with additional COVID-19 funding before, and it’s hard to see how this time will be different. Biden is also expected to seek Congress’ approval for additional Ukraine aid and disaster relief as soon as this week.
Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping made incremental progress dialing back tensions and reopening lines of communication following their first in person meeting of Biden’s presidency. The two agreed to resume a dialogue on climate change and the U.S. announced tentative plans for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit China in early 2023.
— Kadia Goba and Morgan Chalfant
California: GOP Reps. Michelle Steel and Ken Calvert defeated their Democratic challengers in the 45th and 41st congressional districts, the Associated Press projected, victories that bring Republicans within one seat of winning control of the House.
Arizona: Democrat Katie Hobbs defeated Republican Kari Lake in the gubernatorial race, dealing a blow to another Trump-backed candidate. Meanwhile, the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman projects that Republican Juan Ciscomani defeats Democrat Kirsten Engel in the race for the 6th congressional district.
Ohio: JD Vance says don’t blame Trump.
Texas: The Texas GOP commissioned a poll showing Ron DeSantis defeating Trump by 11 percentage points in a hypothetical Republican primary in the state.
Punchbowl News: McCarthy expressed confidence he has the votes to become the next House speaker and appears open to bending to conservative demands to expand the panel that decides committee assignments.
Playbook: The DNC is launching a new embed program to “bracket Republican candidates on the trail.”
Axios: Sam Bankman-Fried (an investor in Semafor) gave millions to congressional campaigns — mostly Democratic ones — and some that haven’t already spent the direct donations have considered returning them.
In 2024, it's Trump versus the "Republican establishment" again
Former President Trump is expected to begin his third campaign for president in much the same way as he did his first — locked in a battle with members of his own party.
Trump has already ramped up attacks on Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, trying to shift blame following Republicans’ lackluster midterms performance, which many in the party attributed to Trump and his candidates. And two sources told Semafor that the former president will make attacking traditional GOP figures a key feature of his burgeoning campaign, which is expected to launch on Tuesday evening.
“The Republican establishment is as helpful of a whipping post for President Trump as the Democrats at times,” said one source familiar with Trump’s thinking, adding that if Republicans underperform “on their promises … he’ll be there to hold both parties accountable.”
A second source close to Trump pointed out that the former president “is much better as the outside candidate attacking both parties’ establishment.”
Trump had been planning to lean into attacks on GOP targets before the midterm results, even as he maintained a dominant position as the party’s de facto leader. But the ensuing criticism of his role in those losses may make his approach a necessity as he faces the possibility of a concerted effort by donors, conservative media, and national leaders to usher him off the stage.
In recent days, for example, Rupert Murdoch’s news conglomerate has abandoned the former president for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump's top rival. The conservative group Club for Growth, which opposed Trump in the 2016 GOP race, then became a top ally, and has now grown critical again, released a group of polls showing DeSantis beating Trump in hypothetical primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and Georgia.
SHELBY AND MORGAN'S VIEW
Voters, tired of traditional lawmakers and intrigued by the idea of a businessman, pushed Trump to a win in 2016 against all odds. Trump essentially ran as a third party candidate within the GOP, attracting virtually no institutional support until late in the race and attacking everyone from top donors to former presidents along the way. In that context, getting back to basics makes sense.
But in 2016, Trump was also seen as heretical by conservative elites on a number of issues — including immigration, trade, health care, entitlement spending, national security, and possibly taxes — as well as in his rhetorical style. Since then, the policy gap with the party has closed and rivals like DeSantis borrow heavily from his bombastic approach.
Trump campaigning as an outsider also has a different feel after he was in the White House for four years. For all the criticism he’s gotten recently, Trump is still the standard bearer of the GOP until a 2024 primary tells a different story. It’s hard to claim the underdog role when you have an army of MAGA allies who are well-practiced in defending your every move and crushing any rivals who get in the way.
ROOM FOR DISAGREEMENT
Alex Conant, who helped execute presidential bid announcements for Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Marco Rubio during the 2012 and 2016 cycles, respectively, argued that Trump’s decision to open his campaign with broadsides against other Republicans is a flawed one.
“Trump using his launch to settle intra-party scores and tear down fellow Republicans is very dumb. Republican voters desperately want to win the White House in 2024 — every candidate announcing needs to convince primary voters that they’re the best choice to win,” Conant told Semafor.
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— Shelby Talcott and Morgan Chalfant
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. talks crypto crashes and the Democratic agenda
Few Democrats were more influential in building and passing President Joe Biden's agenda than Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whose Finance Committee shepherded the Inflation Reduction Act into law. Shortly after casting his first vote of the lame duck session on Monday, Wyden talked to Semafor about why he thinks Democrats overperformed in November and what the party’s to-do list in Congress looks like. You can read the full interview here.
Joseph Zeballos-Roig: What's the takeaway from this election season?
Senator Ron Wyden: I think the takeaway is that voters are savvy about who is actually focused on stuff that helps them and who is just kind of going through the motions.
On prescription drugs, from the beginning, we had a focus on getting real results. We tried to be bipartisan, as we did in the Finance committee with the bill I had with Senator Grassley. But when they wouldn't use common sense negotiation, we went off and put in place policies that really helped people.
Joseph Zeballos-Roig: Does the debt ceiling get harder to address next year if House Republicans only win a narrow majority? Should reconciliation be on the table in the lame duck?
Ron Wyden: I think that this is an issue where the far right, these conservative Republicans, are looking for ideological trophies. That's what's behind their proposal, for example, to sunset Medicare and Social Security programs. They’re looking for ideological trophies. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, that’s not going to happen on my watch. These programs are a guarantee. I think you'll see a lot of Democrats say here in the next few days nothing's off the table in terms of what we're gonna look at.
Joseph Zeballos-Roig: Sam Bankman-Fried (Note: Bankman-Fried is an investor in Semafor) has been in the news for the epic collapse of his crypto exchange FTX. Does this change any of your views about crypto regulation?
Ron Wyden: I've been working for some time on some consumer protection efforts that I hope we'll be able to have ready to talk about here before too long.
What I've been most interested in is innovation, and particularly the blockchain, I've always thought had a lot of potential for getting around some of the big bureaucracies and the way they just keep on coasting because there’s not anybody challenging them.
One Good Text With ... Ezra Levin
- Of all the unexpected winners in last week’s elections, Liz Cheney could top the list. She lost her Wyoming House seat but now enjoys a sense of “quiet vindication,” as Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post, as her relentless campaign against election deniers ultimately paid off.
- As the midterms blame game continues on the right, Kathy Young of The Bulwark rises to the defense of one popular target: single women who voted Democratic. Or as a Daily Caller headline asked: “Are lonely wine Karens ruining our country?” No, actually, Young writes, suggesting that the Republican online “manosphere” consider the impact of the Dobbs decision on women voters — and the costs of insulting a powerful voting bloc.
- The world may have breathed a collective sigh of relief after President Biden’s seemingly productive meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday. But potential flash points between the two nations very much remain — and none more ominous than Beijing’s designs on Taiwan. U.S. officials tell the New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins that the chances of an attack are greater than ever.
WHAT THE LEFT ISN’T READING: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) asked for an investigation into what he said were “widespread problems” with Harris County’s elections.
WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: Kentucky’s Supreme Court is about to hear arguments over a statewide abortion ban imposed by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
— with our partners at Ground News
Join me in Washington DC or online Nov. 18 for our third event on the future of news.
Semafor Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith will be speaking with the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, author of “Confidence Man,” the definitive new portrait of former President Trump. I will be chatting with former presidential spokesfolk Symone Sanders, Jason Miller, Joe Lockhart and Anthony Scaramucci as well as Senator Amy Klobuchar. Semafor Executive Editor Gina Chua will be sitting down with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
RSVP here to join us virtually — or to join us in person for the event and the happy hour that follows.
— Steve Clemons
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