Good morning! It’s Tuesday, April 25, 2023. The 2024 elections are 560 days away. Read this newsletter in your browser.
Biden’s in, Tucker’s out
President Joe Biden announced this morning that he will seek a second term, releasing a campaign video that asked Americans to help him “finish the job” in countering the threats to democracy posed by Donald Trump.
Biden, 80, is the oldest president in American history; he launches his re-election campaign in the face of doubts, even from some in his own party, about his age. His two years in office have included major legislative victories (including on infrastructure, gun control, climate change, and manufacturing), as well as successes curbing the coronavirus pandemic and holding together a coalition of Western allies to counter the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, while the unemployment rate has dipped to record lows during his tenure, Biden has struggled to combat persistent inflation and soaring migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. His approval rating dipped underwater in August 2021, during his chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and it has remained there ever since.
What he said: Biden’s message in the video was an extension of the same case he has made to the American people since 2020. “When I ran for President four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America,” he says at one point. “And we still are.”
Understanding that his polling is shaky but Trump’s is worse, Biden’s video seemed to be a crystallization of the maxim he has frequently returned to in the last two years: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.”
His message, however, has notably broadened since his first campaign, no longer aimed just at evicting Trump personally from the White House but also at combatting the larger MAGA movement.
“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take those bedrock freedoms away,” Biden says in the video, name-dropping threats to abortion rights, voting rights, Social Security, “banning books, and telling people who they can love.”
“This is not a time to be complacent,” he adds, as scenes from the January 6th riot and protests after the Dobbs decision play in the background.
Why now: Announcing today was partially an act of symbolism (and superstition) on the part of the president: Biden announced his winning 2020 campaign exactly on this day four years ago.
But announcing now also has its perks logistically, since the most recent fundraising quarter just came to a close on April 1. That means Biden will have the benefit of raising money for almost a whole quarter before he has to report his haul on July 15 — as opposed to entering later in the quarter, and having a smaller amount to report on the mandatory filing deadline.
According to several news outlets, there was a split among Biden advisers about whether to announce now or wait until later in the year, with some White House aides seeing little benefit in rushing to an announcement. It has already become clear that Biden is receiving little more than token opposition in the Democratic primaries; why, this thinking went, bring any headlines to Biden when he could just sit back and watch the Republicans attack each other in their more crowded primary field?
In the end, though, Biden chose to put any doubts to rest before other major Democrats could get antsy and consider runs of their own. “Let’s finish this job, I know we can,” he says in the video.
What’s next: Still, it’s not as though being an announced presidential candidate will change much for Biden. Aware of his mixed abilities on the stump — and the natural advantages that come with incumbency — Biden is not expected to immediately begin campaigning in earnest.
Instead, he will carry on with the same type of official events he has done all year, many of which subtly (or not-so-subtly) reinforce his campaign themes by promoting his economic record.
The spotlight, then, will remain firmly fixed on the Republican side, as a growing crop of primary candidates takes on the formidable task of running against Trump, the current frontrunner. If the former president is renominated by the GOP, it will be the first time since 1956 that both major parties have nominated the same presidential candidates twice in a row. According to polling, it is a rematch that few Americans are looking forward to.
The political world is still grappling with the fallout from Monday’s surprise announcement that Fox News has parted ways with its star anchor, Tucker Carlson.
Carlson was the highest-rated host on cable news, commanding a nightly audience of more than 3 million viewers. He used his perch to push the Republican Party in a more populist and nationalist direction, urging the U.S. to limit immigration (including by promoting so-called “replacement theory”) and cut off aid to Ukraine (including comments that often sympathized with Russia).
The “why now” for Fox and Carlson still remains unclear: several news outlets have reported on different motives behind his ouster, including:
- His coverage of January 6th, which often featured false claims and conspiracy theories. (Los Angeles Times)
- A recent discrimination lawsuit filed by former producer Abby Grossberg, who accused Carlson of creating a hostile work environment that included frequent sexist and anti-semitic jokes. (Los Angeles Times)
- Comments he made about Fox leadership that were unearthed as part of the discovery process in Fox’s recent legal fight with Dominion Voting Systems, which was settled for $787.5 million. (The Washington Post)
- Emails that came out in the Dominion discovery showing him using the c-word when referring to Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. (The Daily Beast)
The decision to fire Carlson was reportedly made personally by Fox News boss Rupert Murdoch; Carlson was not informed until 10 minutes before the news was made public.
Also: Fox wasn’t the only cable network to part ways with a top anchor Monday. Don Lemon is also out at CNN after reports that he had mistreated female colleagues.
White House: President Biden’s first day running for re-election will look similar to most of his days recently, with events geared at highlighting his economic accomplishments (a speech on manufacturing) and his relationships with foreign allies (a meeting with the president of South Korea).
Congress: The Senate will vote to advance a Department of Veterans Affairs nominee. The House will vote on six pieces of legislation, including a resolution encouraging more countries to normalize relations with Israel, building on the Trump-era work of the Abraham Accords.
Supreme Court: The justices will hear oral arguments today in a case testing whether a Russian citizen can sue another Russian citizen for RICO violations in U.S. court. The court also announced yesterday that it plans to hear a case asking whether public officials can block their critics on social media.
What else to watch today: Jury selection is set to begin in New York City in a trial stemming from E. Jean Carroll’s rape and defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump. Carroll, a longtime Elle magazine columnist, has alleged that Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s; Trump has denied the claim, insisting that Carroll is “not my type!”
On the campaign trail: Nikki Haley will deliver remarks in Virginia clarifying her abortion stance, as the Republican Party continues to wrestle with whether or not to push for a national abortion ban. Trump recently called for the issue to be left to the states, a position that earned him backlash from pro-life groups and potential 2024 rival Mike Pence.
- As his allies prod him to speed up his presidential preparations, Ron DeSantis is in Japan to burnish his foreign policy credentials. DeSantis’ trip will also take him to South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
- Trump continues to rack up support from Republican leaders: Monday brought endorsements from Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the chair of the Senate GOP campaign arm, and former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), whose stronger-than-expected gubernatorial bid last year gave him rising star status in the party.
Sudan: Two warring generals who have engulfed Sudan in violence agreed to another ceasefire Monday, announced by the U.S. State Department. It is the third ceasefire in the fighting so far; none have lasted long.
North Dakota: Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) signed a bill Monday banning most abortions in the state. Under the new law, exceptions will be made for cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies for the first six weeks of pregnancy, and then only for medical emergencies after that. North Dakota will be the 14th state to implement a near-total abortion ban.
Georgia: Atlanta prosecutor Fani Willis said she will announce in late July or August whether she plans to charge Trump or any of his allies in her investigation into their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Here’s something cool: Brain images just got 64 million times sharper.
That’s the headline of a recent announcement from Duke University, where researchers achieved a breakthrough in dramatically improving the quality of MRI brain imaging.
Their new techniques allowed the researchers to capture the sharpest images ever taken of a mouse brain, going from the scientific equivalent of “a pixelated 8-bit graphic to the hyper-realistic detail of a Chuck Close painting.”
“The researchers say new insights from mouse imaging will in turn lead to a better understanding of conditions in humans, such as how the brain changes with age, diet, or even with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” according to Duke.
Thanks for reading.
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Thanks so much for waking up to politics! Have a great day.— Gabe